This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Agnostic by birth

Paul van den Bosh wrote of his generation:

“It seems to us that God has died of old age, and we exist without a goal…We are not embittered; we start from zero. We were born among the ruins. When we were born, the gold was already transmuted into lead.”

This constitutional agnosticism is the expression of the modern soul situated as it is in a world where ‘God is dead’, which is to say, where God is excluded from life as commonly lived, and to such a degree that the only possibility of spiritual experience is to reject every practice and principle you’ve ever been given.

Again: you cannot help being influenced by this environmentally determined agnosticism. Since you were born and raised in a thoroughly materialistic, disordered civilization, you should expect to be severely impaired when it comes to rising above these conditions, or seeing beyond them. I do not mean the type of agnosticism that is acknowledged and professed as a conscious decision made about the world or about a god. I’m not referring to anyone’s “convictions.” This agnosticism is not so much about religion as it is about things in general, although religion is of course included.

The people of this agnostic age will tend to struggle with a basic uncertainty about people, traditions, institutions, and especially about ourselves, even if this is veiled behind everyone’s fervent worship of the idols of nation and ideology—in fact we can say that our worship of these things proves our inability to sustain real faith and experience real certainty.

Here in America this seems to afflict today’s youths, the upcoming generation, more than the generations immediately preceding them. This cannot be because the young are somehow more conditioned by the ignorance of the Dark Age than those who came before. It seems to me that what is happening is simply that preceding generations in America were unusually given to the prevailing ideologies and for them ideology was a pseudo-religion, and this gave to generations like the ‘Baby Boomers’ the appearance of certainty; but since this was a precarious and vulgar type of certainty, based on propaganda and political fervor, it couldn’t help but dissipate and dissolve. A generation was bound to come along and reject the ideologies that their parents had worshipped, since for them it would be clear that the dream had become a nightmare. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. For now I’ll merely say that if I seem to speak of and to ‘the youth’ it is because they present a relative contrast to the current status quo.

Everyone ‘wants to believe’—maybe not in God, but at least in something—because belief represents certainty, and certainty represents comfort. You long for that comfortable rootedness and security. You just can’t seem to find it; and if you find it you can’t seem to maintain it for any period of time.

Therefore, it must be understood that humanity, as conditioned by the Dark Age, is ‘agnostic’ in the broadest possible sense, beyond simple religious beliefs and down to the core of spiritual sensitive in itself. Because this is simply part of our ambience, it should not be seen as some kind of moral failing. This holds true whether the individual happens to be Christian, atheist, or even a consciously professed ‘agnostic.’ Everyone is subject to the same conditions and is to some extent a member of an agnostic age. It isn’t the kind of agnosticism that comes after a person “rejects God,” although our civilization has certainly done that. We are agnostics fundamentally and not necessarily by any conviction. It is actually quite the opposite of a conviction: we are agnostics by an utter incapacity to maintain any sort of conviction about anything. The claim that something might be true ‘once and for all’ presents serious, often insurmountable, difficulties, and we reject it almost instinctively. Nothing can be taken on faith. We cannot give anyone the benefit of the doubt, because we can’t even give it to ourselves.

Some lament about ‘moral relativism’; they think that this is what plagues society. They prove their own superficiality by staking out their high ground at the moral level, as if the transcendent were merely a code of conduct. They bombard us with arguments about “right” and “wrong,” trying to convince us that these things do exist and that they are certainties. But again, we cannot trust these things—that is what they miss, and that is why they miss the whole point. They think that the relativism of modern people is a cause of something, but it is an effect, and a very late effect at that. It is the inevitable result of the state of things. It is the only moral philosophy a lucid person in today’s world could possibly maintain—it is the philosophy of “I don’t know.”[1]

What I’ve said so far applies more to knowledge than to passions. In other words, we do not have certainty of mind but we have sentiments to the extreme. We are all activists, and activists fight for ‘causes,’ not beliefs. They are often very worthy causes, but they are still not convictions. They always stop short.

We’ll fight for our neighbors too. Again, we do have hearts and a great depth of feeling. We are great humanitarians, and that is perhaps one of our most respectable qualities. But we won’t fight for any particular truth about our neighbor. We just fight for him when we feel he is suffering injustice. Sometimes we get confused, however, because justice requires absolutes. We don’t have absolutes, so we don’t always know what we are fighting for. Nonetheless, we are willing to fight.

So that seems to be the starting point of people brought into the world today. Doubt is a miserable starting point, I admit, because doubt is paralyzing. It can render you inert, and it takes a massive effort of the will to overcome this paralysis which is your constant mental companion. It’s a miracle we get out of bed in the morning. But we must begin from zero.

[1] There is of course a valid relativism which is merely the admission that any that operates in the order of dualism must be relative, but this will be discussed later. For now, the type of relativism in question is not that of someone whose view transcends right and wrong, but rather of those who cannot even rise to the level of that distinction.

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