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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1.3. An Overview of Present Conditions

The importance of understanding your situation

It is a matter of prudence that you understand the unique characteristics of your time and place. If a person intends to travel into a hostile wilderness, he is a fool if he does not, at the outset, make efforts to learn the conditions and environmental forces with which he will have to cope. Is he in the desert or in the arctic? What is the season? Is it day or night? Are there indigenous people with peculiar customs? Are they Christians, communists, or cannibals? Your acquaintance with these things will decide whether you reach food, water, and shelter, or on the other hand, confusion, hunger, and death. If this is important with respect to your geographical situation, it is also essential when it comes to your historical situation. Therefore, your first task must be to identify the ambient conditions of the modern world, and this will enable you to seek out what is healthy and beneficial, and avoid what is toxic.

The doctrine of Progress

First and foremost, you are not where you think you are. You think you are on the peak of history, looking down from these glorious heights with pity at your ancestors who are below you; who stare up at you with their dirty, diseased, ignorant, ape-like faces; who would deeply envy your existence, except that they are not even intelligent enough comprehend its greatness, and so cannot even come close enough to you, intellectually speaking, to envy you. Is this not what you have been taught for as long as you can remember?—even if you don’t believe in Evolution, you almost certainly accept the same type of thinking applied as a general worldview: that all things have been building up to the great masterpiece of evolutionary genius which is you, the modern, free, educated, civilized man; you the great envy of history, the pinnacle of the human form. And if you are an American, well, you have the privilege of extending this a priori self-satisfaction to your country as well. The greatest nation in the world, right? And not just the world today, but, in the history of the world. What an exquisitely convenient doctrine!—It is the doctrine of Progress, with a capital ‘P’. According to Progress, which serves as the universal religion of the modern world, historical development moves from worst to best, corruption to perfection, disorder to order. Not only is this held to apply biologically, via evolution, but even mentally and spiritually. Not only do primates become persons, but primitive ignorant persons become modern, intelligent, freedom-loving Americans. In short, Progress upholds a view of creation which places Hell at the beginning of time and the Garden of Eden at the end. Paradise ceases to be a reminder of human frailty—a reminder of a lost perfection leading to present brokenness—and becomes instead a future destination—an inevitable future destination—toward which humanity is moving; the New Jerusalem will be the result of a natural law rather than a supernatural intervention on the part of God Himself in order to save a decaying cosmos from annihilation.

Progress makes knowledge of history unnecessary

In addition to being flattering, this doctrine has the benefit of rendering unnecessary any real knowledge of history. Since we already know we are superior to our ancestors and are only going to become more superior as time goes on, why would we try to understand them, much less learn from them?

This is the precise opposite of what all religions have taught since the beginning of time. They present history as a process of involution, according to the law of increasing entropy—and this is the very antithesis of evolutionism. Evolutionism is the result of a biological process adopted as general philosophy, and it is typically bad philosophy.

We must insist (and we will elaborate on this point in our section on anthropology) that an objective look at reality supports the religions. History properly understood moves down rather than up, and it is rarely flattering. The true story of ‘progress’ is a tale of progressive decadence. The scientists themselves would see this quite clearly if only they would examine their own ‘laws,’ namely the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is really just a restatement of the metaphysical law of involution we have already mentioned, but applied to physical systems.

The quadripartite division of time

In accordance with this law of involution, the traditional world developed for us an indispensable paradigm or ‘key’, vital to understanding the direction of history and man’s place within it. This cosmological key, which unlocks and brings into focus the past, present, and future, is the traditional doctrine of the Four Ages.

In accordance with the gradual process of dissolution, it is said that the world passes through four distinct Ages (also called eras, “generations”) each characteristically different than the one preceding it, and always accompanied by spiritual atrophy and distinct alterations in physical conditions governing earthly life. This four-fold division was often symbolized by metals of decreasing purity and resilience, usually listed as gold, silver, bronze, and iron. These are referred to then as the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. We should point out also that these are not to be confused with the terminology used in modern anthropology and archeology, where descriptive names for historical periods are chosen based on tools or materials believed to have been discovered at certain moments, a purely secular convention that has nothing to do with metaphysics or the nature of historical progression.

Judeo-Christian tradition

This doctrine presents itself in the Hebrew and Christian tradition through their respective scriptures, specifically the book of Daniel where finds two separate and distinct expressions. First it is elaborated through Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, in which a statue appears with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of clay mingled with iron. Within this passage, the image is explained to King Nebuchadnezzar as a sequence of “kingdoms.” Exegetes have, of course, gone to great lengths in their attempts to pin down precisely which historical kingdoms are in question, but this is not our concern at the moment. Traditional representations were understood to contain multiple levels of meaning, and thus traditional interpretation took this into account. So, while the attempt to link the “kingdoms” to specific historical peoples may be a valid pursuit, it is ultimately an inferior one, limited as it is to the historical layer of meaning, which is the lowest category of traditional interpretation. We are concerned here rather with the deepest and most profound category, which was called anagogical. In an anagogical context, therefore, the four metals do not correspond to four historical and geographically positioned peoples, but rather to the four Ages: Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. The last substance (clay mingled with iron) represents the period of indistinction and chaos which we know as the Apocalypse.

The fact that modern exegetes do not mention this interpretation is a great demonstration of why ‘private interpretation’ of scripture always horrified the Church: it shows how much what we already think we know determines what we will get in our ‘Bible studies.’ Christians who do not attach themselves to a traditional framework are doomed to be limited by their methodology, not to mention their mentality, to discovering only the most literal and superficial meanings in their Scriptures.

There is some irony here: today’s Bible apologists lament about how methodologically narrow their atheistic, scientific, and materialist opponents have become, using this to explain their blasphemous conclusions. In all this they are correct, except that they have adopted the same narrowness in their own field, and it has had the same blasphemous results. A long history of exegetical technique was discarded, resulting in all interpretive possibilities reduced to only the literal, only the most perspicuous. Luckily this was not always the case, and therefore we find in St. Jerome’s writings the doctrine of the Ages clearly stated as well as man’s current position on the timeline properly identified. Another early Christian exegete of the Four Ages, Hippolytus, even went to far as to identify the “clay mingled with iron” with democracies!

Further, we are affirmed in our interpretation by Daniel’s second statement of the doctrine. The prophet receives a vision of four great beasts, each distinct from one another, each appearing more terrible than the one previous. The final beast is nothing if not an example of formlessness, multiplicity, and chaos, armed specifically with “iron teeth.” As the angel proceeds to explain, these beasts represent four periods of increasing disorder, the fourth of which will “devour the earth.” This should also be connected with the great “conglomerate beast” which appears in the book of Revelation.

Greek tradition

We should not be surprised, due to the relative proximity of the Greek and Hebrew civilizations, to find their language identical in this matter. As enunciated by the poets Hesiod and Ovid, the quadripartite division appears again as the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. The Greek tradition also goes into greater detail as to the conditions of earlier ages, something Christian writers were less concerned about. The Golden Age, it is said, was characterized by justice, harmony, and peace. Here men did not have to labor, for the earth provided its fruit willingly. Throughout the Silver and Bronze Ages, man becomes progressively more malicious and given to worldly concerns. According to the law of entropy, man’s contact with the spiritual becomes obscured as his reality is overcome by ‘solidification’. The result is that he gives up on transcendence as it seems to withdraw from his experience of life. The gods eventually taken notice. Zeus, disgusted when he is offered a child-sacrifice, decides to destroy the earth and bring an end to the Bronze Age. A deluge comes, and the earth is wiped clean, all except for the Deucalion (son of Prometheus) and his wife, Pyrrha, who survive the flood by constructing a “chest” or “ark”. The couple repopulates the earth, with their most notable child being named Hellen, who would become the matriarch of the Hellenic race. This moment (the destruction of humanity via a great flood) marks the end of the Silver Age and ushers in a new era of tribulation, the Iron Age. This Age is the furthest from the Gods, where men are not only malicious, but also impious, having very little awareness of the Divine. Disorder reigns, men live without honor, and the human race will degenerate to such a degree that, according to Hesiod, babies will be born with grey hair on their heads.[1]

[1] Works and Days, 174.

Hindu tradition

Hindu tradition contains perhaps the most developed form of this doctrine. Here the ages are termed yugas, and are themselves placed in the larger context of a cosmic “cycle” known as a manvantarra. The ages are, respectively, the Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and the Kali Yuga. Symbolically, each of these four represents one of the four legs the great bull of dharma, which is the traditional law. At the end of each age, one of the four “hoofs” of dharma ceases to function, symbolizing the loss traditional truth and the obscuring of man’s primordial spirituality.

Other traditions

This same doctrine appears again in Persian and Chaldean forms, and can be seen across the Atlantic in the Mesoamerican doctrine of the Five Suns. Each tradition has its nuances, but principle and basic structure is universally acknowledged. Always the progression is in the same direction, which is completely opposite the supposed “progress” in which our contemporaries delight.

Inseparability of the physical and spiritual

We typically envision reality as being constituted by two orders: spiritual and physical. This is not quite adequate, as we will see in our discussions of cosmology and spiritual anthropology, but since it is the normal way of seeing things in our time, we can begin here and insist that, even within this simplistic paradigm, we must understand the spiritual and the physical as intermingling. The physical cannot invade or assert itself against the spiritual, because it is of an inferior order, but the spiritual and invisible can and does intermingle with everything we consider ‘physical’. Nothing is ‘purely physical’ and there is, from the point of view of metaphysics, no such thing as ‘matter’ as we normally imagine it. In other words, all beings are in some sense like man, who is at the same time spiritual and material, yet always directed primarily by his invisible principle, else he would cease to exist immediately, in the same way that even the body of a dead man ceases to be a body, strictly speaking, as soon as life is no longer present, and enters ‘decomposition’ at that very moment.

In the beginning, man was ordered to perfection by the superior spiritual principle, and the spiritual will always have the final say, just as all material effects can be traced, ultimately, to an immaterial cause. For primordial man, the spiritual predominated almost completely over the physical—and this is why men communed so easily with the gods in the beginning, almost to the point of walking and speaking with them as if they were literally in their midst. However, as the laws of dissolution proceed (after the ‘Fall’) he becomes progressively disordered, both visibly and invisibly. Chaos begins to assert itself. In fact, we could envision the history of the world as a process of cosmic collapse, so gradual as to be imperceptible. As the cosmological hierarchy collapses, the physical begins to predominate over the spiritual, the visible over the invisible. This is what we mean when we speak of the ‘solidification of the world’.

Entropy increases constantly on every level. For this reason, the increasingly chaotic nature of each age presupposes changing conditions not only in the world but within man himself. Man is always man, but due to progressive degeneration it is possible to distinguish between men of different ages based on the stage of degeneration in which they find themselves.

Again we can refer to the modern scientific law of entropy, simply expanding that law to man’s spirituality in addition to the physical orders of the cosmos. Remember that it was not until later Ages that man was forced to toil for his daily bread. This is a natural consequence of dissolution in the physical order, which causes earth stop willingly yielding its fruit, and instead of Edenic coexistence, the Earth and all life on it becomes somewhat antagonistic to man: plant life ceases to present itself as a plentiful garden and instead becomes instead a field to be tilled and nurtured against draught; wildlife becomes elusive, withdrawn, predatory; even the biological system that is the body is assailed by disease and imperfection. Thus, man develops agriculture to coerce the hostile ground into providing him his daily bread. He must hunt and butcher to acquire meat. He will even learn to amputate his own limbs and remove his own organs when they fail him and turn against him.

This is not a denial but an affirmation of the doctrine of the Fall. Man’s spiritual disorder must have been introduced before any disordering in the earth itself. In whatever manner we envision it—literal or symbolic—we must insist that, by the very order of things, the spiritual offense preceded the material consequences.

Escapism and religion

It is sometimes said that religions were invented so that early men could “escape” into the heavens, presumably out of fear and ignorance. But is this accusation in the end a projection? Is it not the modern man who escapes to the heavens—in the most literal sense—in his spaceships?

This is, of course, what we should expect from the progression of the Ages:

As man’s spirituality becomes more and more obscured, he can no longer speak with his god directly; he becomes blind. As the physical order of reality asserts itself over the spiritual, both within man and without, he begins to feel alien and discontent on the earth; this agitation leads him to develop navigation and travel through physical space. He says to himself that he is “conquering the earth” as an act of courage, not knowing that he is driven in this fashion only because the material order is conquering him. He can feel the walls closing in, and even the whole world feels much too small. The materialist is naturally claustrophobic, and this is because he populates a world that is a fraction of a fraction of the reality he was originally given to explore. The spiritual frontiers, which far exceed anything that can be reached beyond the moon, are closed to him.

The colonization space, by which man goes to insane lengths just to float outside his own atmosphere, is the final proof of our alienation, choosing the void over our own home—and on this we congratulate ourselves! We launch ourselves in fragile capsules into the cold emptiness, and we call ancient man the escapist.

The Dark Age

We have briefly outlined the doctrine of the Four Ages. We can now turn to the question of where precisely we stand on this cosmic timeline. Here tradition is unanimous in its response: We live in the final period—the Iron Age. Norse myth calls it Ragnarok (literally “Twilight of the Gods”), or the “Age of the Wolf.” In Hindu terminology, it is the Kali Yuga (literally, “age of vice,” or “age of the demon”). This Age is characterized by strife, moral debasement, and spiritual inertia. Even more specifically, tradition teaches that modern man finds himself near the end of the last Age, for it is said that the Dark Age began long ago, before what we know as ‘recorded history’ even began. This means that we stand on the last stretch of a long descent into a dark and treacherous valley, at the center of which  is the final chaos.

This is not some rash proclamation that the Apocalypse is upon us, as we would find on a pamphlet handed out on a street-corner. We should in fact be very cautious about trying to precisely predict the end of things. We can prophecy an end, since that much is metaphysically undeniable, and we can identify characteristics that will necessarily accompany it, which is what we have been doing here, but to preach that the end is coming tomorrow or next year—this is all a bit simpleminded, resulting from literalistic readings of scripture that have no respect for symbolism.

The ages may last many thousands of years. To say that we are in the last phase of the last Age is not to speak with any kind of precision. There is really no reason to suspect that the end of our current period is immanent. Nor are we concerned about that kind of knowledge—for it is, in truth, better not to know and not to try to know.

Why, then, do we dwell so much on this doctrine? The real significance of this knowledge, for us, lies in its interpretive value, because all traditions assumed that certain characteristics accompany each age and make it distinct from those before or after. Each epoch and each civilization is therefore unique—history can never repeat itself. Looking at the characteristics of the Dark Age, we can then understand our environment, adjusting our expectations and guiding our actions accordingly so as to avoid the mad confusion that afflicts our contemporaries due to the fact that they are in no way acquainted with the reality of their situation. After all, it is also said that spiritual methodology alters throughout the ages. At one point man spoke directly to God, at another, he can hardly admit God’s existence. By understanding how and why this is the case, we can further understand why the religions provide the means of spiritual realization that they do, and what techniques might be most effective. We learn about our historical situation, not in order to fear the Apocalypse, but simply in order to know ourselves as deeply as possible, so that we may pursue, based on this self-knowledge, our spiritual development.

Characteristics of the Kali Yuga

Because the Hindu doctrine tends to state this matter in its clearest and most detailed form, we will here list a few of the developments which manifest themselves in the Kali Yuga, and which demonstrate its presence. Remember that, in the Hindu doctrine, the bull of Dharma has been reduced from four legs to only one, which suggests a cosmic destabilization, causing morality and spiritual vitality to deteriorate. Consider your current surroundings as you reflect on the following prophesies, which are but a few:

Rulers will stop promoting spiritual truths among their people.
Some will claim that it is not even the responsibility of rulers to promote religion.
Greed, a vice of the lower castes, will reach to the rulers.
Avarice itself will prevail among the people.
Ignorance of the moral law becomes normal.
People begin to think it natural to hate one another.
Sexuality will come to be seen as central to life.
Making and breaking of vows will occur in quick succession.

Each of these lines warrants its own commentary, in particular the claim that rulers have no business promoting religion, which would receive universal applause in today’s secular states; and also the idea that people will “think it natural to hate one another”, a context in which the term hate means something more like “to turn away from and look to oneself”, and this is essentially identical to the doctrine of self-interest as preached in the philosophy of Ayn Rand and ideologies like Capitalism.

The use of the term “generation” in the Gospels

The word genea, used repeatedly by Christ while lamenting the state of mankind, is translated in English bibles as “generation.” Due to the belief of our contemporaries in the perspicuity of scripture, this term, a loose translation at best, is then taken in its most superficial meaning, assumed to mean nothing more than “those men alive and surrounding me at this moment,” since that is how we use the word today. Yet this renders much of Christ’s speech meaningless or absurd. When Christ speaks of the apocalypse and then says that “this generation will by no means pass away until all these things are accomplished,” his words become nonsense if taken in that narrow and superficial sense. The term, then, must have a deeper meaning. Either that or he is simply mistaken, which, needless to say, is not an acceptable proposition for any Christian.

Some interpreters, noting the problematic nature of such a narrow definition, suggest that a more appropriate interpretation for genea might be “race.” This is closer to the truth, but only if we take it to mean the human race as a whole, and not just one race in particular. Modern confusions aside, then, we should understand the term genea to signify a specific chronological category which includes not only the contemporaries of Christ, but also those living thousands of years later, extending even to the end of time. In short, it makes the most sense to take the word “generation” to signify each of the Four Ages; and, from the way Christ specifically links his “generation” with the “fullness of time” as well as the “last days,” it is quite obvious that he is identifying ours as the final Age—or, as we have just said, the Dark Age.

Sins of the fathers

This interpretation clarifies the oft-repeated saying of the Old Testament about God “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” The meaning now begins to take shape. The sins of the Adam’s generation (the Golden Age), are to be visited upon his children’s children through all subsequent periods, even to the third and fourth (Bronze and Iron) generations. Opting to translate these passages using the term ‘race’ instead of ‘generation’, the meaning becomes easier to grasp and conveys what we have said about each age producing (or ‘generating’) a certain human type, and so we would have the ‘race of Adam’ and so on, down to the third and fourth generation, or ‘unique human type generated by the ambient conditions of the Age’.

A historical difficulty

If we agree that we are indeed in the Dark Age, a follow-up question might be: When did this period begin and the previous one end?

Specific dates cannot be given, simply due to the very nature of the problem of changing conditions throughout the ages. The methods used by modern science to ‘date’ artifacts are dependent on static conditions in the environment. For example, carbon dating assumes a constant rate of radioactive decay over time. In other words, the map of history proposed by science is dependent on the physical and mental conditions that of the here and now and if these conditions are not constants throughout all of history, then the map is invalid. The traditional theory of time, on the other hand, assumes constantly shifting conditions, and this tends to render incomprehensible the nature of previous Ages, making their very existence difficult to perceive, and indeed this is why we find that modern science is completely incapable of reaching beyond a certain point in the past. The story of human history proposed by science is therefore only sufficient for examining periods and peoples very close to ourselves on the timeline. Eventually a ‘barrier’ is encounters and at that point the ‘evidence’ seems to evaporate and become undetectable to the tools we have developed for the purpose of measurement.

Barriers separating this age from the previous

Despite these difficulties, we can use the very limitations of modern science to vaguely identify the beginning of our present Age. We can do this by marking the point at which those methods of measurement break down. The physical and spiritual shifts marking the transition from one age to another will erect a ‘wall’ beyond which our historians will be unable to see. If we can identify such a wall, we can approximate the genesis of our era. And indeed we do find such a wall situated somewhere near the 6th century B.C. It is here, according to our enlightened experts, that ‘pre-history’ ends and ‘history’ begins, which is a way of saying that, although history existed for thousands of years before, it is here that it finally becomes observable to us. We do, of course, know something about much older civilizations like Egypt, India, and China, but our understanding of those peoples are so far removed that our experts are wise not to include them in their timeline.

Cleansing waters

Although we have said that the genesis of our Age could be no nearer than the Greek period around the 6th century before Christ, we should be careful not to draw the conclusion that it is therefore no further that this point. In fact, it seems most likely this moment signifies not the beginning of the Dark Age, but, more accurately, the beginning of its final phase, and this would imply that the Dark Age itself has been in progress for some time previously. The precise beginning, however, begins to melt into myth as we move into the past, and so it is precisely into myth we must go to find it, as techniques like scientific dating and archeology are now categorically useless to us.

To reinforce the point, we will say again: once we move beyond the reach of modern science, our primary sources become myth, and myth becomes, in a sense, the best history we have. Here things become delicate, since once we enter into the interpretation of myth we must adopt a radically different way of thinking if we are to draw any meaning from the data provided to us.

The book of Genesis is a reasonable example and starting point, since it is familiar territory. Genesis recounts the narrative of a great flood, which is mythological (and this does not mean unhistorical) in character. Although this is not the place to expand on its significance, we find that all peoples around the world speak of this same flood, usually elaborating on it by describing profound changes in the world and the life of man that took place afterward. In traditional symbolism water represents cosmic substance and it was from ‘the waters’ that creation was originally brought forth. We can take the flood as a kind of secondary ‘substantial reorganization’ of man and of the earth. It is here, after the global cataclysmic geographical and ecological shifts, even resulting in a dramatic decrease human lifespan, that we must look to find the true beginning of our present era.

Genesis of the modern period

We have said that there were four Ages and that ours is the last. We have said that this last age, the Dark Age or Kali Yuga, had its beginning at the Great Flood to which all peoples round the globe trace their origins. Further, we have said that within the Dark Age itself there are smaller divisions, and that the latest division lies near the Greek civilization which marks what we call the “historical period.” Very good—we are getting very close to man’s current location! But now we must dissect this “historical period” itself, for it is very clear that the contemporary man is of a very different character than his ancestor who lived in Greek or Rome. He thinks differently, feels differently, in many ways inversely, than his predecessor, whom we will call “traditional man.” We find that traditional man is in many ways as incomprehensible to the modern mind as Egypt is to the modern historian. And there again lies our key: we know that in times of profound shift a wall of incomprehensibility is erected, rendering the men on one side alien to those on the other. We’ve approximated the division between the Ages, but can we also find walls that divide this age, and the men who populate it, from one another, allowing us to perceive sub-divisions within historical times? More specifically, can we identify the moment at which traditional man died out and “modern man” was born?

For the Western world, the death of the traditional coincides with the demise of the medieval civilization as developed throughout the Middle Ages. The celebrated humanist movements known to history as the Renaissance (“rebirth”) and the Reformation were really nothing but manifestations of this death. Just as a lifeless corpse might expand and disperse into the ground through the process of putrefaction, so the decaying civilization may heave and display agitation, in a sort of mockery of life, even though it is deceased and dissolving into the earth. The false nature of the productions of the Renaissance are betrayed in the simple fact they are but imitations of the superficial characteristics of a period far superior and ancient—the Greek. Renaissance art is simple nostalgia, just as an old man speaks dreamingly of the days of his youth. After all, we would not call his daydreaming a “rebirth” just because the dreams were beautiful, would we?—No, we would take it instead as proof that little life was left in him and that, with little life to look forward to, he was trying to find some joy in a lost and distant past. The Reformation, on the other hand, resembled the decay of death in a much more obvious fashion. No one would deny that it worked upon the unity of the “body” which was Christendom in the same manner, slowly breaking it down into fragments until, as we are seeing today, there remains little more than the “molecule” of the individual. No body, no unity, only the constituent parts atomized to the greatest degree possible—“to dust” civilization has returned.

The extinction of certain types

As civilization transforms and man conforms to the set of altered conditions, the prevailing human type becomes unsuited for survival in the new environment. He becomes as alien to it as it is hostile to him. As a result, a new type of humanity comes into being that is better adjusted to the conditions of a new age or era. This can be identified via the presence or absence of concepts or else the inability of historical periods to understand one another, as if they were ‘from another planet’ or were an entirely different species, so odd do they seem. Consider, for example, the fact that ‘wisdom,’ in the traditional sense, really has no place in modernity. It is not discussed, publicly pursued (either as a matter of education or as a matter of ‘popular culture’), and the class of being who were once considered its embodiment are set aside as ‘useless’. The class we have in mind just now is the elderly. The elderly have traditionally played the part of guardian and disseminator of wisdom. So what of the elderly in the modern world? We find that the aged have no place, no role, here in our civilization. They are ‘in the way’ more often than not. Our social structures are utterly hostile to the old man, and this is a necessary corollary of our total lack of appreciation for the social value of wisdom, or of its basic meaning, for that matter. When the prevailing system rejects the demotes the value of wisdom—the human manifestation of the principle is necessarily devalued as well. Thus, the elderly are becoming ‘extinct’ in a practical sense, since their participation in modern life is drastically minimized and even their bodies are systematically removed from view as much as possible, even if they still technically ‘exist’ in society. Someday this might no longer be the case.

The disbandment of the warriors

In speaking of ‘extinct’ vocations or types, we can also say that the modern world has no place for the traditional warrior type in either its philosophy and social structure. As with the elderly, the modern mentality isolates and destroys this type; but unlike the elderly who represent a stage man cannot yet avoid, the warrior represents instead a particular vocational path, and so unlike old age, a vocational path can be circumvented and removed completely. The process is convoluted and requires a more detailed overview than we intend to provide in this section but suffice it to say that extinct types are usually replaced by a surrogate, and in this case the ‘warrior’ has been replaced by the ‘solider’. Every modern nation possesses the latter in great abundance–the former only in a veiled way and as an anomaly. Because of this, we can use those historical events which represent the destruction of the warrior path as another set of ‘markers’ which identify the genesis of the modern world and the death of the traditional spirit that animated the Middle Ages as it animates all traditional worlds. For examples, we can point to two very clear markers of this type, one in the West, and one in the East. These are the chivalric knight, and the samurai.

Chivalric orders of medieval Europe

In the West, the warrior ideal was embodied by the chivalric military orders of medieval Christendom. The highest of these was the Order of the Temple, also called the ‘Knight Templar,’ whose rule was authored by none other than St. Bernard. Such a path man was considered one of the holiest of all vocations, for the Templars were ascetics as well as fighters, and their initiatory vows resembled that of the priesthood: poverty, chastity, piety, and obedience. Under the influence of King Philip IV of France, members of this order were arrested, tortured, and burned alive on charges of treason. In 1312, pressure reached a sufficient level to coerce Pope Clement into issuing bulls to disband the order, the remaining members of which were absorbed into other groups, retired, or lived in exile. This event serves as a marker because it represents both an usurpation of spiritual authority by a temporal power (the king disbanding an order over which only the pope ought to have had authority), and a destruction of a traditional ideal—two violent deaths which point to a rupture of worlds.

The samurai of Japan

The Japanese samurai represent the Eastern parallel to medieval knighthood. Their vocation presented the same hallmarks of a traditional warrior vocation. The samurai followed a strict rule of dress, behavior, honor, and diet; and they too slowly found themselves amidst a civilization which had neither use nor room for their ideals, and which eventually swept them from the face of the earth, not without violence. The transition from warrior to soldier came much later in the East than in the West, and in fact it seems that it was the direct result of Western intervention. Japan had, as everyone knows, maintained a policy of isolation, protecting itself, its personality, and its traditions from modernist encroachment. Eventually the outside world could no longer tolerate such rejection. In 1853, United States war ships arrived on Japanese shores and demanded access to trade. The tactics of intimidation used are easily found in history books. The Japanese capitulated in the shadow of this foreign power, and sweeping modernizations followed almost immediately. One of those modernizations was the dissolution of the samurai class in favor of firearms and other up-to-date military technologies. So quickly did the Japanese ‘catch up’ to the rest of the developed nations that by external appearances it is impossible to tell that Japan had ever resisted the modern transformation. In some ways Japan shocked the world by surpassing even the most powerful nations with its ‘advance,’ which is to say, its cultural and spiritual defeat.

When and where

We have completed our introductory chronological approximation, placing man within the “modern” era, specifically toward the end of the Dark Age, also called the Iron Age or Kali Yuga. We have answered the question “When?” Now we must answer the question: “Where?”—in the specifically geographical sense. At present we find ourselves in the United States, and so it might be reasonable to assume that, beyond my own family, most of those who encounter this manual will also be Americans. The United States is perhaps the most ‘modern’ of all modern nations, and even if that is not the case it is certainly the most outspoken proponent of the basic tenets of modernity: namely, Progress, Technology, Materialism, Liberty and Equality. The United States is the intellectual product of the Enlightenment, and the religious product of the Reformation. When you live in such a nation, at such a time, you have certain advantages. You will be able to the unfolding of the Dark Age ‘from the driver’s seat’, which is to say, in terms of cause and effect, you would be situated at the level of causes. If you were in a third world country, you would find yourself situated at the level of consequences, suffering mostly the secondary results of what has transpired in the developed world. Yet, that very advantage will also be your disadvantage. You are too close to the thing, and it is too familiar. The very symptoms of decadence and dissolution are second nature to you, so you will have difficulty bringing them into focus. What I point out as a sign of decay, you will have been trained to see as a proof of advancement, a badge of honor. For example, the Renaissance, which from the point of view of this manual ought to be considered the moment of death for normal civilization in the West, has always, from the point of view of the modern world, been celebrated as a moment of birth. John Locke is a new Moses leading the new chosen people out of their religious ‘captivity’ of ignorance into the Promised Land of liberty, equality, and secularism. Nonetheless, I think you will not find these difficulties impossible to overcome. After all, I can only assume that you’ve read this far because it has made some amount of sense to you. Just remember, as we move forward in our discussion, that you are on the crest of a giant wave; and although the exhilaration and beauty of your present elevated circumstances may certainly offer you a blissful view of the horizon, you might also ask what worlds have been crushed and buried deep beneath your feet, and what destruction looms ahead.

The long night

How does one cope with this situation? We will get much deeper into this question in a later section of this manual. For now, the best advice came from Christ, given to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Stay awake.” How easily we are lulled to sleep throughout our lives. That’s your first task—to be awake. You’ll find it hard enough. After all it is the goal of every ascetic practice and the essence of every spiritual discipline there ever was—to be found still burning your oil at the end of the long night. Begin there. Complacence and inner inertia are deadly. Inner stagnation is in fact the best explanation for all the external agitation you see around you. Men who can maintain a healthy a balance between internal lucidity and external activity are at peace with themselves, they have harmonized their body, soul, and mind. Those who lose the balance fall into existential lopsidedness, and this usually amounts to a lifetime of mindless agitation. On the broad social level this leads to the cult of “busy-ness,” the obsession with “hard work”—only a world that has lost the concept of contemplation could elevate vain activity and economic drudgery to the status of virtues in themselves. “Still waters run deep,” the saying goes. When was the last time you stood still long enough for the surface of your consciousness to come to rest? The average person today knows nothing of stillness and spends each day splashing around frantically trying to find something secure to hold onto. This is why the Greek Fathers in particular developed the concept of ‘watchfulness’—they knew that everything hinges not so much on action as lucidity—and that lucid action has the potential to be meaningful. Your experience will be no different, if you can avoid being taken in, overrun and lured into a semi-conscious life.

Signs of the times

If what we’ve said above is true then certain results, trends, and transformations will naturally follow. If this is the Dark Age, we should expect certain signs to accompany it, representing the establishment of conditions specific to this age. I will enumerate these conditions briefly, meaning that I will not so much explain them as state them since the bulk of this manual constitutes their elaboration.

Reduction

Things falls apart. This is the universal law. Everything for modern man is an impoverishment of what was before. This law of dissolution affects both the visible and the invisible realities of the world. We might also use the term ‘negation’, and say that the modern world can be described in terms of what is absent or missing, in the same way that disorder and sin imply the absence of order and perfection—a deviation from a course. This reduction can be likened to those processes of breakdown which accompany death and which result in a movement away from the unified whole which is broken down into its various constituent parts—what was once an organic whole disintegrated until it is broken down into the smallest possible units and cannot disintegrate any further. This explanation for many of the social phenomena that many contemporary writers lament, but usually they are described in a haphazard fashion, using terms like materialism, nihilism, positivism, scientism, etc., but they all have a common root cause. What is materialism, after all, but the inability to see anything but the lowest order of reality?—the lowest grade of significance in every phenomenon? Materialism sees nothing that those before did not see—man has always seen the corporeal makeup of things. Materialism is not some new vision—it is a new blindness. When materialism prevails, the vision of reality accounts for the corporeal order and nothing else. Hence, the term nihilism is closely linked to materialism, since a philosophy of meaning, when it can only work with the lowest level of things, with only the most superficial, immediately must decay into a philosophy of no meaning whatsoever. This is the abyss, and reduction is the path leading to it.

Quantity

Reduction is evident in the way modern man has become incapable of making qualitative judgments of any kind. Quality has been reduced almost entirely to quantity; or, said another way, the only ‘quality’ men are now capable of conceiving lies in measures of quantity. This is the basis of the political theory of democracy, which teaches that truth is not discovered by discerning the qualities of things, but is decided via a quantity, in this case, ‘majority rule’, and truth becomes equivalent to whatever is the majority opinion. The ‘quantitative worldview’ is also at the heart of the socio-economic obsession leading nations to direct all their policies and efforts toward production and exchange, assuming that quality of life is directly proportional to the quantity of goods produced and consumed. In America, this sort of ‘quantity monomania’ has developed so far as to have created an entirely new form of aristocracy based on quantitative accumulation. No other civilization in history equated wealth accumulation with worth or virtue. Ancient kings were wealthy because they were believed to be kingly men, to be superior men, but they were never considered superior simply because they were good at accumulating wealth. Wealth may be a consequence of superiority, but it is not evidence of it. In our modern money aristocracy the traditional principle is reversed: men become kings simply because they are wealthy, and nobility and wealth mean precisely the same thing. This does not bode well for the poor, who are likewise appraised according to their aptitude for wealth accumulation (which is of course inferior) rather than any qualitative measure based on virtue, nobility, dignity, social function, etc. Such is the result of an outlook on life that discerns quantity instead of quality. Indeed, the modern term “quality of life” itself is measured entirely by quantities: life expectancy, income, years of education, etc. Set this in contrast to the ancient wisdom which saw something demonic in quantitative obsessions. Consider the Old Testament prohibitions against census-taking. The counting of heads, which seems so normal to our understanding, would have seemed perverse to the Hebrew people who could sense the underlying truth of the matter. Even today it is possible to encounter this sensitivity in certain less developed societies. There are shepherds alive today who will tell you that more animals die when the heard is regularly counted, as opposed to when they are left to themselves. It is probably no coincidence that Christ came at the time of a great census. There is just something infernal in quantitative reductions, and something like a ‘social security number’ would likely have horrified a traditional people. Further, modern man seeks quantity not only in his pursuits, but in his fears as well. When he thinks of his extinction he thinks of overpopulation. He thinks of emissions and temperature changes, both quantifiable measures. He thinks of these things because he senses the presence of a danger but cannot discern its nature because its subtlety surpasses his impoverished perception; and so he concentrates on superficialities. He concentrates on those things which, although they present truths of a sort, are only the most exterior and secondary aspects of the spiritual darkness he feels enveloping him.

Materialization

We can speak of a lower limit beyond which this reductionism cannot proceed. This limit is the material plane of atomization, the point at which every composite is reduced to its smallest parts.[1]

Notice that here we speak of materialization rather than materialism.

Materialism is a mode of thought, a particular mentality, and it will be examined later. For now, we are more concerned with materialization, which is a process of ‘solidification.’ If man’s reality was once experienced primarily in terms of being, and only secondarily or subordinately in terms of the visible realm of becoming, the process of materialization means that the visible, corporeal order will encroach upon man’s perception of the invisible and finally overwhelm it—depriving him of spiritual sightedness, of the ability to sense things relating to essence and being—and this will continue to such a degree that he will sooner or later forget that anything exists beyond the physical.

Thus, we can say that materialism is a product of this progressive materialization, which is itself only one aspect of the overall process of cosmic dissolution. It cannot be stressed enough, however, that we are not only concerned with man’s perception, which would make this a subjective observation that does not have a bearing on the world, which is to say, the objects of perception. This would be misleading. Man does not simply become more materialistic in a subjective sense, as if the world around him were remaining unchanged throughout the centuries. Both orders change together, and, in a way, he has a valid excuse for becoming blind to that which transcends the corporeal.

Remember earlier that the visible and the invisible realms are enmeshed, and so the things that happen to man on the inside are at the same time happening to the physical and external. If man’s perception becomes primarily material, it is indeed due to the decay of his spiritual awareness, but at the same time, the exterior world is changing in precisely the same way. He loses awareness of the spiritual because the spiritual withdraws. He forgets the gods because the gods themselves retreat to Valhalla, or to Avalon, or to some other mythical domain, all of them symbolizing this transformation.

The Christian doctrine of the Garden of Eden and the Fall convey this truth by saying that, at the moment of disunion, death entered not just into the subjective awareness of man, but into the world as a totality.

To say it another way, man’s perception gradually becomes more focused on the physical plane because the physical plane itself solidifies around him as if he were being encased in a shell. If at one time the spiritual was visible through the medium of the physical, the physical loses its transparency and becomes opaque. As a result, man begins to experience his physical body as his predominant reality, as the entirety of his world.

We can say then that as man loses touch with or, out of negligence, disregards his spiritual development, his physicality expands and compensates for the loss, dominating his sense of meaning.

The narrative of the Fall teaches us a moral lesson, yes, but more profoundly it teaches the relationship between anthropology and cosmology, and that the world fell with man. It was Adam who caused the world around him to be reduced to the physical—and it is man who to this day works to solidify himself and all things in such a way that, while God made man in his image, man has produced a world in his image, increasingly disordered, materializing, and collapsing.

Can we really blame the modern man, in such circumstances, for his obliviousness to all things invisible? The law of gravity, for him, is more pressing that any commandment, the cold of winter more piercing than any beatific vision. We cannot excuse him but at the same time we hesitate to blame him for his limited perceptions. The stone is more solid for him than it was for his ancestor—how could he possibly believe that for Moses it produced running water.

[1] We are aware of the fact that atoms are not actually elementary particles, much less are they indivisible. This is just a manner of speaking.

Unity and uniformity

Some have recognized the problem of atomization on the social level, and there are frequent attempts to correct the disintegration of the social body and bring together again what has been fragmented, making true ‘communities’ possible once again. Unfortunately, the attempts seem to mistake unity, which would be healthy, with uniformity, which is something else altogether.

The human body is a unity—a coordinated and functional whole capable of feeling itself united with its component parts. Hence, I speak of my hand as my hand. In the unified setting of a vigorous community, we find the same identification of one part with another, hence my neighbor and our city.

Alternatively, a handful of dust is called a uniformity—a collection of similar particles brought into contact only circumstantially and held together artificially, but not unified in a meaningful way and incapable of possessing an identity. Instead of my neighbor, members of society are individuals held together by material necessity and cooperating mostly by force of law.

Although there are many aspects to this issue, one of the major distinctions between unity and uniformity is that the former possesses both identity and diversity, in the same way that the body has hands, feet, and head, and is empowered by diversity. Uniformity, on the contrary, is a mere collectivity, similar everywhere with little discernible variation, either in function or aesthetic. The ‘social body’ is composed of a hundred thousand right-hands, and an entire town might be sustained by the employment of one or two large industries.

The socio-political make-up of the Middle Ages, with its centrifugal tendencies, resulted in a varied spectrum of local personalities. Today there is no such thing as variation. Every American city has a Wal-Mart, a McDonalds. This is not unity—this has nothing at all to do with unity—it is uniformity: this is the handful of dust, coordinated and consumed by a carefully engineered industrial machine. It is the role of the individual, more the most part expendable, to manage this machine, and within the economic collectivity, no part can be differentiated from any other part, either cities or persons.

The traditional ideal is one of unity, since only unity brings about cooperation and community while at the same time permitting variation enough to satisfy the daunting range of human personalities and vocations. For the traditionalist, each community member plays a different role within one great web of meaning, and from the point of view, uniformity is a sign of death.

We speak of uniformity, but this process can also be referred to as ‘individuation’ since, instead of supporting the emergence of human personality, it demands its suppression, since the no machine can operate on a fuel that is varied, since in this context variation is equivalent to imperfection.

Industrial society does not need personalities, it needs employees. It needs a homogenous ‘workforce’ of machinery attendees, cash register operators, elementary school students with good grades who can all follow the same textbook. Uniqueness and variation lead to breakdown and inefficiency, and so industrialism seeks the disappearance of all uniqueness. It seeks uniformity, and it succeeds.

Pope Francis recently lamented the fact that the earth was becoming a perfect ‘sphere’ with no one place retaining any mark or contour distinguishing it from all the others. Adopting this geometrical representation, he argued for the ideal of the polyhedron:

“Here our model is not the sphere, which is no greater than its parts, where every point is equidistant from the center, and there are no differences between them. Instead, it is the polyhedron, which reflects the convergence of all its parts, each of which preserves its distinctiveness.”[1]

Ivan Illich provided another image. He spoke of the ‘funnel’ system currently at work, driving everything together into a mass; he called instead for the image of a ‘web’—a network widely dispersed susceptible to irregularities and imperfection, but all hanging together in a delicate, organic, and beautiful accord, all with a shared meaning and purpose.

[1] Evangelii Gaudium, 236.

Inversion

All these conditions combine produce a unique perspective in modern man, a perspective which is the reverse of what traditional man would call normal, and which is indeed the precise inverse of the true order of reality. Whereas ancient man perceived the invisible as more profound than the material, his subsequent and on-going materialization rendered the invisible realm nonexistent, leading to the elevation of the visible order in his consciousness.

Reduction, which we mentioned first, produces an inversion of values, and the latter follows necessarily from the former, just as Lucifer (representing the denial of the hierarchy and all that is superior) eventually became Satan (representing the inversion of the true order of things, the lower actively usurping the place of the higher). To refuse to accept that which is above might begin in indifference but it ends in blasphemy—this is a law.

As an example of denial followed by inversion, or, to use the above terminology, Luciferianism followed by Satanism, we can frame the evolution of Western political philosophy as follows:

The ancients, and Catholicism after them, taught that governmental power descends from heaven; modern man, having first lost the perception of the heavenly, teaches that governmental authority ascends from below, from the people, the demos. Denial, and then inversion. This tendency follows naturally from process of reduction, and reversal of proper hierarchy almost always follow when realities are reduced to their lowest orders (reduction).

Consider almost all of modern man’s pursuits, particularly education, in which the entire world of the transcendent, even the science of aesthetics and beauty, is excluded or minimized, and children are nourished on formulas and piles of data devoid of any real meaning. In fact, what the ancients meant by ‘true’ is entirely absent from the contemporary educational mentality, wherein the true is limited to what is empirically demonstrable.

The consequence of this inversion is that our vocabulary itself becomes confused and the paths to meaning obscured. For example, in order to find an authentic tradition (in our sense) we might be forced to undergo an outright rejection the pseudo-traditions of our own society. In order to show respect for truth, we might have to disrespect the authority of our elders as counterfeit and groundless, basing itself, as it does, on the inferior rather than the superior. In order to find religion, we may be forced to avoid respected religious teachers.

Do not take this as an argument for the shameful idea that one can be ‘spiritual but not religious’, which is completely ridiculous. What we mean here is simply that modern churches have, by and large, been consumed by the modern mentality and suffered their own kind of reduction and subsequent inversion of truth. Protestantism is itself a symbol of this fact, where there is no longer any such thing as authority or unity, and where each man is now elevated to the level of priest. A better case for the process could not be identified: Luther reduced institutionalized religion to the level of the individual, throwing off the shackles of authority, destroying the traditional hierarchy. This destruction bred a new and false type of authority, the authority of each and every private individual to pronounce and to teach any idea that seems true. Religion, after Luther, became democratized. Authority was not simply removed but was replaced by a counterfeit—the process of reduction and then inversion was complete. Look for this process around you, and you will find that more examples readily present themselves.

The supra-individual nature of the thing

Now, a bit of advice as to how you might approach the world in light of this data.

First and foremost, you should accept at once that there is no ‘man behind the curtain’, no mastermind adjusting those gears which you see grinding men into nothing. This evil is beyond you, in the sense that you cannot truly stop it. There is no villain to fight and no dragon to heroically kill. You can withstand it, of course, and therein lies the whole warrior-ascetic vocation—but you cannot destroy this force or reverse the work being done, any more than you can ‘turn back the clock’ on history.

The evil we describe is supra-human. Do not, therefore, mistake your neighbor for the devil. He is capable of evil acts, as are you, as are we all, and some of us more than others, but no one person or group or movement could possibly shoulder the blame for all of this. To try and ‘locate’ your enemy in anything more than a relative sense will only lead you to exaggerate human evils and lash out day after day at men who may be participating in the chaos, but whose powers you vastly overestimate by assuming they actually know what they are doing.

Ambient disorder

These conditions are inescapable in terms of your lived experience,[1] and you will need to accept this in the same way that you would have to reconcile yourself with a permanent bodily affliction. Chaos and materialization characterize your life: body, soul, and spirit. You may find respite in contemplation or in communion with like-minded people, but for the most part, the very air you breath will impart a sense of agitation, dispersing your concentration. This will cause you pain, and you will want to seek out and destroy the source, and you will find many things and people to blame for it, and perhaps this is justified, but the true source is not in the men around you, but in the qualitative character of the Dark Age. The world itself may feel alien to you, but this is not because it is not what it should be, but because you are not what you should be, and because you are likely of a particular spiritual temperament that puts you even more at odds with your ambiance than other people you encounter, such that they will never understand your natural alienation. You must acclimate to this chaos without being consumed by it and learn to acknowledge it while at the same time working to overcome it from within, since only in your spiritual depths are you truly beyond its reach. You were born in the long night, and it does no good to demand the sun. It cannot come. It sets according to providential laws that are not for you to comprehend, put in place since the foundation of the world. You can only work to realize the light that is in you, and your vocation is not to bring back the day, but to light the darkness, knowing all the while that it is indeed within this darkness that you must live and breathe, however stifling it is to breathe it.

[1] We are not ignoring the possibilities of spiritual realization and method, which of course present ways of finding peace in this life. We are simply addressing a specific context and ‘the facts’ of the human condition.

Avoidance of romanticism

Any student of the traditional doctrine faces a danger when approaching history.

If the danger for modern ‘progressives’ is their tendency toward condescension, the danger for us is a tendency toward romanticism. Instead of worshiping ‘human progress’ and looking at the past with an arrogant self-satisfaction, we might tend to view historical periods through rose-colored glasses, and the more distant the event, the rosier the tint. This error is perhaps less harmful since it permits us to appreciate what good is present in distant ages, but both tendencies will skew the truth by exaggerating certain qualities of the past either for better or for worse. We must be wary of this. We do ourselves no favors by harboring our own illusions.

Part of this stems from over generalization, extending a certain area of superiority to everything. Having discerned the superiority of some previous civilizations in the area of doctrine, we too easily grant them—without thought or justification—a corresponding superiority in manners, social conditions, leadership, or discipline. Often this is all true, because true principles (provided by the doctrine) are more likely to lead to proper applications in the sphere of action and governance; but it is also true that human nature, no matter what point in history we address, is subject to the conditions of the Dark Age, and man is morally weak and prone to stupidity and violence as far as the historical eye can see.

Even during those epochs that possessed and promoted an authentic doctrine, and which seemed on the social level to have been well-ordered (such as the Middle Ages), we should not assume that daily life was colored by a respect for justice and that men all loved one another any more than what we see before us today. Right principles support right action, but they never guarantee it. Even when this translation is successful, it is never completely successful. We have already noted and rejected the prejudice of the moderns toward history. My warning to you at the outset is to be wary of the opposite prejudice in yourself.

The science of history and the historical sense

Since we spend so much time speaking of history, it would be good to offer a few remarks on how best to approach this subject. Or, to put it bluntly, is it even legitimate that we interpret history at all, since we are not professional historians?

First, we should admit that deliberate study is always important, and that it is ignorant to speak about anything unless one has ‘done the reading’. However, we can also say that in order to discern the meaning of events, more than general erudition is required. One must possess an awareness of analogy and correspondence, not to mention a balanced intuition, that allows him to get beyond ‘the facts’ while at the same time stopping short of purely poetic and imaginative interpretations of events based on sentiment and prejudice. Spengler called this ‘physiognomic tact’, but to avoid using his rather obscure terminology, we will refer to it as the ‘historical sense’.

History should not be imagined as a constant. It is not synonymous with ‘the past.’ The past is constant, but in itself is inaccessible to us. What is accessible to us is history, and history is in this sense the relationship between the past and present, and because the present is always changing, so is that relationship.

When it comes to the general view of history accepted by a given civilization, what we have is a history-picture, which is creative production based on the historical sense possessed by that civilization.

To put it another way, we only ‘do history’ within the context of our own vocabulary and conceptual framework, so that no matter how intelligent we are, and no matter how many ancient documents we unearth, we will ‘modernize’ what we find as soon as we begin to interpret it and give it meaning. To propose to write history ‘as it really happened’ is childishness. History is always an expression of the soul, and that remains true whether we are dealing with the work of a particular historian, or the larger, more generalized history-picture used by a civilization to explain itself to itself.

Consensus is meaningful, but it is not everything. If this or that interpretation of an event in the past happens to become the consensus of the ‘experts of history’ in the modern West, this may tell us something about that event, but it tells us just as much, sometimes more, about the spirit of the modern West and its way of interpreting things.

Consensus does not mean objectivity, not in any field, but especially in history. Consensus only imparts rank, which is to say it grants priority to a certain interpretation over others, while the lack of consensus deprives an idea of rank. Ideas of the highest rank in any society are not true in the absolute sense but are always true expressions of the spirit of that time and place.

We need to admit a kind of relativity to truth in history. We must do this because, as was said already, history is not a set of facts but rather a relationship between past and present, and relationships vary by time and place and person. A certain history-picture will therefore be true for the type of person to whom it conveys its meaning, but it will not be true for another type of person who belongs to a different time or place or culture, not because its meaning has changed but because the type of person we are dealing with has changed.

We could also say that history is always objective and subjective at the same time. These are its aspects, and a history-picture is the result of the unique relationship between these two aspects. The relationship is determined by the spirit of the culture, and this is why it will always vary without necessarily becoming false.

An example of the relativity of history and history-pictures: today we look upon the ancients, like Plutarch, who were respected as historians within their own world, and we see naïve storytellers with no sense of scientific inquiry or method. This tells us less about them than it does about ourselves.

Perhaps it would be better to say that there is not a single ‘historical sense’ that the historian must possess in order to produce history, but that the historical sense itself is what varies by time and place. Does this mean that there is no such thing as error in historical interpretation? Of course not. What it does mean is that we need to allow for a multiplicity of human types, each with its own way of understanding meaning, and without denying that some history-pictures are more accurate than others, while some are downright delusional, we should not be so narrow as to assume that there is only one formulation good now and always, and try to retroactively just a different civilization’s interpretation of history and of itself just because it is not identical to our own.

The West is in some way super-conscious of its own historical origins. Due to its situation, it differs from past cultures in that it ‘sees’ its beginnings and has evidence of those beginnings. Whereas cultures of the past could rest in myth, which was a kind of supra-historical narrative and which explained man to himself more totally, and not only ‘materially’, the modern man of the West is tied to one or another version of ‘recorded history’, and while it would seem that this kind of availability of information about ones actual origins would be more comfortable since more tangible, it actually brings him into a very intense relationship with his own history and the facts and figures tied to it. There is a disproportion between the quantity of available facts and the range of meanings he is able to draw from them.

To say it another way, he has more ‘evidence’ available but finds that he is unable to utilize it to answer his most pressing questions. In the past, the reverse was true. The ancients may have had very little in terms of museum-pieces, but they possessed a myth-narrative capable of providing a very thorough anthropology, even when it skimmed over historical fact.

Because Western man can, at least theoretically, grasp his own history in this unprecedentedly concrete way, he feels compelled to do so. He fixates on the material, and in this sense his history-picture becomes materialistic. Moreover, since the facts are plentiful, he begins to assume that the entirety of the history-picture can be produced from this data alone. He has been working feverishly on this project since the birth of the modern world, but is his material up to the task? Does it lend itself to the production of meaning? Or is he, so to speak, trying to ‘sculpt with watercolors’.

It should be clear by now that any attempt to assess the data of history necessitates a creative process. Anyone who thinks they have all of the facts presented to them and that history is self-explanatory is a ‘believer’ and not a knower. This person takes what they are given and does not actively participate in their own understanding of history.

When interpreting historical data, there are physical facts, such as location, names, materials, and so on; secondly, there are events, which are things that happen in the stream of time. While the physical facts are usually straightforward and for the most part accessible to anyone whether or not they possess the historical sense, events are not.

The meaning conveyed by a history-picture is also depending on the type of questions we have in mind before we even look at the evidence. As with any intellectual endeavor, the answers will be determined ahead of time by the questions. The West is characterized by its tendency toward action rather than contemplation. It wants to know what it ought to do, it wants to hold and to manipulate and to accumulate. Based on these impulses it approaches history with a certain set of questions, questions that may not have been shared by previous civilizations. Why should we be shocked, then, when the West finds very different answers, and that its history picture conveys a very different category of meaning.

Since the West, consciously or not, looks to history in order to understand how it should direct its compulsion to act, it derives from history a sense of mission. Included in its history-picture is not simply an interpretation of what came before, but also an intimation of its imagined future destiny, hence the temptation toward world-mission and delusions of utopia. That is why history-narratives are so important for the modern world, and so dangerous. America, for example, draws its entire identity not from what it is and does in the present but from the stories it tells itself about its history, from its history-picture, and from this it determines its destiny. Thus, by understanding itself as the beacon of liberty which overthrew tyranny, it sees itself as an apostle of freedom meant to liberate the world, and so on.

Part of the historical sense is knowing that what is significant in a distant age is not determined by what is significant in this age. A man possessing the historical sense will take it as incredibly significant that the geocentric model was taken for granted in the Classical world, whereas the man who can only see history within the framework of modernity will see in this fact only a ‘stage of development’, an example of ignorance, on the way to the heliocentric model of the solar system, which is another step on the way to space travel, and so on. He is inundated with the notion of Progress, and he is only able to allow historical facts to acquire significance in light of that idea. Hence, they are only significant in light of his concerns, which is to say, their significance for the civilization he is studying has no value.

History is both linear and cyclical. It is cyclical on the whole, and as with any circle, linear if viewed only between two distinct points. This is why small minds and small-minded ages view history as only linear, since from the point on the circle at which they stand, they see a short distance in two directions, and that is all.

The idea of Progress is the product of a narrow, linear view of history which sees the past as a great chain of events leading up to the present. We stand at the apex of history and all that came before is a priori inferior.

The battle of history is usually presented as that between young and old, such as between some new theory and the enthroned error of previous times. This is true only within a certain period, that is to say from the linear point of view, and not true of time on the cyclical level where ‘old’ and ‘new’ make less sense, where other cultures are unfolding simultaneously and according to their own laws, and where there are rebirths of a sort. This is why we can say that certain stages occur and do not recur, but that on the whole, history repeats itself.

The origin of society

Origin of society has a number of theories, or ‘ways of putting it’. Don’t get too wrapped up in the correctness of any particular theory, since anything touching origins must take on an aspect of myth. We need only allow that in these theories what is essential is not so much their historical precision as their underlying principles, and that some are more true than others, and some are simply nonsense.

One way of putting it, used by the Catholic popes, is that the family is the fundamental unit of society. This is true and for all the reasons they say. However, another way of putting it is to say that society has its origins in the bond between men, giving rise to a hierarchical group ordered on the basis of ability and strength, mutual fidelity and risk, and that this provides the basis of civilization, and all else follows from that. This is also true, and for all the reasons they say.

We’d be in trouble if we tried to accept one and exclude the other. They go well, and they balance each other by painting the picture from a slightly different perspective. There are also many others which we won’t mention.

So long as you are certain that they are true and good, it does not so much matter how many of these theories you take into consideration. You only get into trouble when you either adopt one true observation to the exclusion of other true observations, or else you allow a false one to come in and poison the whole lot.

Exclusivity and error. Those are the dangers. Inclusivity is never a problem so long as what you are including is true and so long as you combine these truths in such a way that they do not contradict one another but instead fit together to form a coherent and properly ordered whole. Failure to properly integrate various truths results in syncretism and is a result of one’s inability to competently handle the material. What is to be aimed at is therefore not syncretism, but synthesis.

The regression of the castes

Although it will be mentioned elsewhere, it will be helpful to introduce here the concept of the regression of the castes.

The four principal castes are the sacred authority (priests or brahmins), the royal power (princes/knights or kshatriyas), the merchants/tradesman (vaishyas), and the laborers (peasants or shudras). This social organization can be seen in its full development in both European feudalism and Hinduism.

In traditional civilizations based upon caste, the beginning of the end can be indicated by observing the breakdown of this hierarchy. They collapse one level at a time, from the top down.

For Europe, King Henry VIII provides for us an excellent example of the first stage of regression in which a secular authority refuses to acknowledge the spiritual authority, and then claims the role spiritual authority for itself. King Henry did not simply break from Rome, but also established a new church of which he himself was to be the head. Thus we see an exact reproduction of Luciferianism followed by Satanism, representing one complete stage of the regression.

However, we must continue, because, as we said, the regression must continue downward until it hits the bottom caste.

With the priests disenfranchised, it is only a matter of time before the royalty is consumed in the very blaze of rebellion which it ignited. This can be seen in the great revolutions of America and France, spawned in part by Enlightenment thinking, secondly by economic concerns, which is to say, by the third level of the hierarchy, the merchants. During this period the validity of royal authority is called into question, and rightfully so, for without spiritual authority above it, it renders itself completely illegitimate. The merchants, inspired by the rebellion of the nobility, rebel against the nobility. After the dust settles, the roles of priesthood and the nobility become dispersed amongst the merchant class, and so the age of democracy begins, which tends to be but another name for plutocracy.

Remember that this third class, the merchants (vaishyas) possessed aptitudes belonging to the economic order. Thus, civilization in this era comes to be dominated by economic ideology, since that is the ruling mentality of the merchant caste. Every political question is formulated and answered in economic terms and society quickly comes to be ruled by those with the highest economic aptitudes. Those who are most economically oriented, which is to say, those who can make the most money for themselves or for society at large, become the new aristocracy and gain for themselves the esteem previously reserved for royalty and priesthood. Morality itself evolves to promote and esteem the virtues of moneymaking and economic success. Society’s highest virtues at this point will be “productivity” and “hard work.” Western civilization is currently within this stage of regression, moving slowly but surely to the last and final stage of hierarchical disintegration, which has reared its head but has been thus far only partially successful.

Here we arrive at the necessary offspring of capitalism, which is the ideology of socialism or communism, as the case may be, through which the merchant caste is finally overthrown by the lowest and most animalistic elements of society. At this point, the only morality is embodied in the ‘general will’ of the proletariat (a classification that applies to all wage slaves, which is to say, almost the entire labor force of today, even in developed countries).

In short: the Middle Ages marks the last ‘normal’ stage civilization to exist in the West. It fell at the Reformation when the spiritual authority became decadent and was overthrown. The royal authority, rendered illegitimate in its own turn and by its own actions, was then dismantled by the rising merchant class, leading to the age of industrial capitalism. Finally, because the laboring class sooner or later perceives the illegitimacy of the authority lorded over it by its moneyed masters, they too revolt, completing the process and bring civilization to a natural end be reduced centuries of social development back to the ‘lowest common denominator’.

The spiritual barbarian

We will have occasion to refer to certain aspects of modern civilization as barbaric. To call a people ‘barbaric’ is, in one sense, to describe the state of their soul, condemning their mentality or philosophy as godless. It may have nothing at all to do with superficial material conditions. A rich man can be a barbarian as easily as anyone else.

The Japanese traditionalists expressed just this when they made their anti-Western slogan: sonnō jōi or “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians.” By ‘barbarians’ they of course referred to the Western powers, with their extravagant wealth, their vulgar manners, their secular governments, and their materialistic attitudes. In this slogan they identified both the problem and the solution, for they not only sought a rejection of barbarian ideals, but also a return to proper spiritual hierarchy, headed by a divine emperor. However, once the flood gates were rammed open by American battleships in 1853, the modernization of Japan began, and a new slogan was created: fukoku kyōhei or “enrich the country, strengthen the military.” The depth of the transformation is evident. Reverence for spiritual authority is dropped in favor of “enrichment,” while the growth of a “military” is adopted in place of a traditional warrior class, since at this same time the samurai of old were discarded.

This barbarism has also been condemned in a different context and by another term, infidel, which means precisely the same thing: it refers to a godless people who lack awareness of the divine, and who live their lives in ignorance of the truth.

In response, we Americans call our accusers ‘religious extremists’, and in part this is true, but to be completely honest, anyone who does anything in the name of God appears to the West as a ‘religious extremist’. To be religious today is to be an extremist. That is why we also use the same term against Christians who, on the basis of traditional religious belief, reject abortion and homosexuality.

We could say without risk of exaggeration that ‘religious extremist’ today refers to anyone who is not a spiritual barbarian.

The banality of the end

Authentic teachings about the end of the world should not be confused with those ridiculous ‘doomsday’ sermons of modern times involving mass destruction, fire, brimstone, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. These are nothing more reflections of secular anxieties, and they have only begun to become religious opinions as true doctrine has begun to wane.

Conditions that characterize the end times are not sudden or abrupt shocks which overturn an otherwise peaceful existence, as if things could have gone on quite well had the higher powers not intervened to rain down chaos and destruction. On the contrary, traditional religions agree that those characteristics of the ‘last days’ are not novel but simply continuations of trends which we can already see. The end is nothing but the culmination of things that are already happening. It will come about perfectly naturally, as well as supernaturally. This does not mean that it will not be horrifying, but do we not witness horrifying things every day?

We must remember that the intervention of the divine acts primarily as a redemptive and not a destructive force. Thus, things will come to an inevitable finality through a cataclysm that certainly began long ago. Chaos will not be introduced which is not already in the works.

The evils of the last age will be evils of banality, passivity, and cowardice. That period may indeed be an epoch entirely free of physical pain, and because physical pain is a natural necessity and a created good, we can rest assured that in its absence a more sinister type of suffering will creep into man’s existence, one that was held at bay only so long as man possessed ways of coping with his mortality. Therefore, the end may be an age of anesthesia and ‘deadness’ to feeling, but it will be no less agonizing for that fact. The most painful tortures are not primarily physical. If we analyze the trends now underway, following them to their logical conclusion, we can see that this is quite clearly the direction we are moving. It is already apparent that what is pleasure for some is pain for others, what is noble for some is villainous for others. At some point, as this inversion is universalized, it may be that at the time of man’s greatest suffering, he believes that he is in perfect health, and at the time of his greatest poverty, his is unprecedentedly wealthy. So it is said:

“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, not hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest: I am rich, and made wealthy, and have need of nothing: and knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”[1]

[1] Revelation 3:15-17.

Scientific causality and the life of cultures

Each culture can be viewed as a living organism grown up in a specific environment and constituted in a peculiar way with its own attributes and powers. However diverse this culture-organism might be in terms of its members, it has its own soul shared by all.[1]

By adopting the view of cultures as pseudo-organic beings of their own order—not in the same order as individual beings, but of the supra-individual order—we are liberated from the materialistic view of history which traces all happenings to the most inferior of causes. This is because each organism is a kind of being, and as the ancients tell us, every being has a soul even if not all souls have intellect. Since each culture has a soul, it has a lifespan that includes gestation, birth, growth, maturity, decadence, death. And like the living being, after death its most external parts either return to the earth or are appropriated by whatever living beings take up where it left off—but these things are no longer part of the dead culture. Lastly, a culture-soul, once dead, is gone and cannot come again. Any view of history should take into account these basic realities.

Scientific thinking, or thought based on the principle of material causality,[2] comprehends extension but not direction. It does not understand ends. It must deny purpose or what is called teleology. This is why we say that science cannot comprehend life, since each living being possesses an end toward which it is orientated and in which it is to find its fulfillment. Causality says that the tree can only be understood in terms of the seed. Teleology says that the tree can only be understood in terms of the fully developed Oak in all its glory.

Causality understands extension; teleology understands direction. Both are necessary, in balance. Causality deals with abstract, therefore timeless, space. Only teleology can deal with the progression of time. Causality deals with dead matter, which possesses extension but no direction—that is why it loves to experiment on dead matter and dwell on the results, which are repeatable and controlled and easily classified. But what can it do with life, where each being is different and unrepeatable, where ‘experimental constants’ are in short supply, where time intrudes always and changes everything from instant to instant and thereby shatters the illusion of control? This is why causality, applied to life, becomes a millstone for the mind. Because life can only be understood within the context of time, where it unfolds and comes to fruition.

Time is change, and the whole cosmos is subject to it. This change never ceases. That is why, even if science with all its controls could duplicate a particular being based on DNA and subject it to conditions externally identical to the original, the clone would be unique and something quite different, because it was born at another point in time and, for that reason alone, subject to temporal conditions qualitatively different from those to which the original being was subject. Life can never repeat itself.

Every living organism follows a line of development according to its inner possibilities, possibilities to be actualized within a certain external framework, and these possibilities belong to it alone and will never appear again on the face of the earth.

We can comprehend history because history is itself a record of fulfilled destinies: of culture-souls, of individual beings, of art-forms, of religions, of ideas. If one attempts to understand history in terms of causality-thinking, one only comes up with a history of facts which are meaningless. Only through an understanding that transcends physical causes can we look at the stream of incidents and ‘facts’ and comprehend the organism—the soul—which is expressing itself through those facts, sometimes in cooperation with them and sometimes in direct opposition to them. History has a way of defying incidental pressures. Or to say it another way, life has the power to defy causality.

The type of thinking that see everything as incident, and eventually concludes that life itself is the product of ‘chance or accident’ is obviously the result of a mentality that is locked in the confines of Causality. This mentality will naturally lack any historical sense, and will never understand the soul that is the determining factor in all of History, but will instead only see a mass of accidents which could have been any other way and in which there is no significance whatsoever.

It could be said that the attempt to see behind incident and into the soul of cultures in order to interpret history is to delve into the subjective. This is true, but even the ‘objective’ presentation of history is highly subjective, for the ‘facts’ once collected must be selected, prioritized, organized, and ordered. Much, in fact, must be excluded altogether. Thus, histories written in such ways wind up being just another type of subjective creation. Even a book of nothing but dates undergoes a process of selection.

When ‘scientists’ set out to write history in an objective way, tracing its developments with impartiality, they inevitably run into situations where ‘the evidence’ they have is too scant or too overwhelming, and at these points they must depart from their objectivity and either emphasize what they prefer or else, when evidence is lacking, use the poetic imagination or their intuition to fill in the gaps.

We can see this process displayed in absurd fashion when it comes to the ‘scientific evidence’ for the theory of evolution, which scientists have been in such a mad fever to ‘prove’ for some time now. So passionately and subjectively do they pursue this theory that almost every bit of ‘evidence’ they present is the production of an artist or else is explained by some childish narrative that is obviously a product of fantasy—and a superficial imagination at that. What the evolutionary scientists do with their craft, so do scientific historians. The only difference, in comparison to historians like Spengler, is that the scientists deny the operation of their intuition, and so it operates without their control or conscious engagement, and so haphazardly and without moderation.

There is no ‘calculus’ or method to determine the importance and right ordering of historical events. Only the ‘historical sense’ matters, and a proper understanding of history is dependent on whether or not the historian possesses this sense. It is not a technique, and there is nothing ‘impartial’ about it.

[1] Here we will be speaking metaphorically about culture-souls, and do not intend this to be taken as a point of doctrine.

[2] Again, for clarification, we should say that here we mean causality in the limited materialist sense. These limits would not apply in the context of a more comprehensive causality framework such as that of Aristotle or Aquinas, where we are presented not only with a material cause, but also an efficient, formal, and final cause. The latter categories are in fact what we have in mind when we contrast physical causality with purpose and therefore teleology.

Dissolution and inversion

We can say with finality, then, that there is no such thing as Progress. The proper perspective, which we maintain throughout this work, is the opposite of evolution, and can therefore be called involution.

As involution proceeds, and we move further into the “Dark Age” of dissolution, we can expect to see increasing physical decay in the world, such as in the human genome and in the environment itself (shorter lifespans, extinction of animal species, etc.).

Alongside the increasing physical disorder we will also see increasing spiritual disorder. The further man moves from the pole of Paradise, the more obscured man’s original spiritual virility will become. He will be increasingly “deadened” to the truth, and therefore the church will be increasingly reduced to a “remnant.”

The belief in Progress represents an inversion of the truth, causing man to look backwards into time with disgust, and forward towards the cataclysm with a blind nostalgia. Such an inverted perspective results in condescension toward the ancient past and delusional optimism about the future.

Dissolution and the inversion of proper relationships are two defining characteristics of the Dark Age. The complete replacement of the “long defeat” with its exact opposite, “Progress,” is just one example of this inversion. Other examples will abound for anyone who chooses to look for them.[1] All such attempts to reorder or invert the truth are, by definition, Satanic:

‘Luciferianism’ is the refusal to recognize a superior authority whereas ‘Satanism’ is the reversal of normal relationships and of the hierarchical order, the latter being often a consequence of the former, just as after his fall Lucifer became Satan.[2]

[1] Consider also the modern reversal of the hierarchical relationship between church and state. Political authority, which is to say temporal power, is subject to spiritual principles and therefore in some sense must remain subordinate to the spiritual authority. This is why the state was traditionally situated beneath the church as far as the overall organization of society was concerned. Modern society, on the other hand, has completely subordinated the church to the secular state, allowing the profane to rule over the sacred, with the inevitable result being that nothing at all in society remains sacred.

[2] Rene Guenon, Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power.