This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

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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10.10. Evolution and Original Differentiation

The need for cosmology

A grounding in cosmology would go a long way toward resolving many of the debates that spring up between ‘science and religion.’ The argument about the origins of man and of species in general is one of these debates. As is often the case, the opposition between the two views is irreconcilable mostly because the question itself is improperly framed. They each misunderstand the nature and the limitations of the means they employ to carry out their investigations. Evolutionists attempt to deal with problems of origins through empirical methods; creationists attempt to address it through a literalistic interpretation of Scripture. Neither of these approaches is capable of providing a clear understanding of the problem, because the problem is a metaphysical one and metaphysics is alien to both of these groups.

In other words, although both possess a means of exploring the question, the means are limited, although in different ways. By misunderstanding these limits, they deploy their means improperly and so arrive at absurd conclusions. It would be more accurate, in fact, to say that the knowledge provided by these means will always be, on this particular question, inconclusive. Since that is unacceptable to both parties, they draw conclusions anyway, and these wind up being nothing but the result of their own imaginings. On this point we can at least say for science that it proves itself artistic and even poetic in its delusions; the creationists, on the other hand, seem to have no poetic sense whatsoever, set as they are on reducing the significance of their own Scriptures to the level of children’s storybooks. The two parties in this debate have perhaps gone to these extremes in response to one another, allowing their mutual incomprehension to push them beyond the bounds of good judgement.

Myth and the loss of the symbolical mind

To begin, we can first address the means deployed by the creationists. Properly understood, the Scriptures dealing with origins present a mythological narrative. Myth is one of the most powerful tools of doctrine because it is capable of conveying truths at a higher level than any other form of writing. The problem is that myth is only capable of speaking to a symbolical and objective humanity: by this we mean a humanity oriented toward the real, seeing things as significant not merely with reference to the human observer, but as they are in themselves, which is to say, seeing each thing as having significance in itself and beyond itself, and readily conveying traces of the Absolute.

Mythological narrative is not an account of an event that took place at a given time in the past: the event described in myth unfolds now and forever. Events are depicted as successive (occurring one after another in time), but since the setting itself stands outside of time, this must be understood to signify a logical priority rather than a temporal one. To say it another way, mythological narrative usually instructs us on principial relationships, the nature of Being, and the hierarchical structure of things: its truths are therefore much more significant than mere ‘historical fact.’

Again, myth deals in symbol and if it refers to historical fact this is only as a prop to convey the meaning that is behind the fact: the timeless truth of which the historical fact is merely the contingent expression in time and place. The creationists, through their principle of literal interpretation, have insisted on a superficial reading of their own myths, which amounts to denying their mythological quality and making of them a set of children’s stories devoid of higher significance and permitting only the most vulgar interpretations.

What, then, of the traditional cosmology that these ‘stories’ were meant to convey? It is forgotten, or denied as unknowable. It is precisely this cosmology that we will try to describe here as it relates to the origin and differentiation of species.

Quantity cannot explain quality

Quantities can be added to one another, but the qualities possessed by a thing are more than the sum of its quantitative combinations. A quality is manifested by a certain unity that can be ‘attained’ by a thing but which is not inherent in any of the parts. It is an acquisition from outside, as if by an ascent. To say it another way, there is continuity between the addition of quantities and the coming into existence of the quality, but it is a discontinuous continuity that cannot be accounted for by the quantities alone.

To illustrate what is meant by this, we can observe the process of development that occurs in the lifetime of a single organism. The organism develops through certain stages, or ‘states,’ and acquires qualities that cannot be attributed to the acquisition of matter. Taking for example a bird, we can say that there is genetic continuity between the egg and the bird that emerges from the egg, but the bird is not an egg with some extra matter added to it: the bird possesses qualities that the egg does not.

What this demonstrates is that a being in its development ascends through various states and obtains qualities thereby, and that these qualities cannot be explained in any meaningful way only through an examination of matter. The idea of ‘ascent’ introduces a vertical dimension into the development of a being, in addition to the horizontal dimension–the acquisition of new matter–which is the only one admitted by empirical science. The horizontal dimension is the dimension of quantity, matter, and outward expansion: a being may ‘develop’ horizontally and ‘materially’ but will be incapable of rising above itself and obtaining new qualities without the intervention of some superior principle.

Traditional hylomorphism

This brings us to the classical theory of hylomorphism, which states that beings are not purely material composites but are the union of form (the vertical, qualitative dimension) and matter (pertaining to the horizontal, quantitative dimension). Hylomorphism explains that the qualities possessed by material bodies are the result of a form which, in a sense, ‘descends’ into the matter and acts as the ordering principle for the bodies of material beings. The form ‘inheres’ in the matter and any material additions or rearrangements are the result of the presence of form. Since the form is ‘qualitative,’ it is on account of the presence of form that the being makes its ascent through various states and acquires new qualities that the matter alone did not possess. The qualities that emerge are understood as the expression of those qualities possessed by the form from the beginning. In Christianity this is part of the traditional anthropology and its most famous formulation is that “the soul is the form of the body.”

A form can be described as the aggregate of qualities pertaining to a being or thing, and is the individuated version of the immutable essence, the divine ‘idea,’ that is never itself manifested.

Here we can also draw attention to another contemporary debate that is solved immediately by traditional hylomorphism. It is said by some Christians that a fetus, from the moment of conception, is truly a human being. Science protests, seeing only a clump of cells devoid of any decisively human qualities. But if the soul–the form of the body–possesses the totality of qualities that define a human being, and if the form inheres in the matter of a being from the very beginning of its coming into existence, then we must admit that the ‘clump of cells,’ possessing as it must the form that is to determine its future development, does in fact possess all of the qualities of the most developed adult human. The only difference is that the possession is virtual (not yet ‘actualized’); it is real even if the qualities have not manifested themselves through material development guided by the inhering form. Moreover, the humanity of the being is just as real even if some of these qualities never become manifest due to developmental deviation or violence of some kind. In other words, the soul makes the being human and is the real reason the human body becomes what it does, and the soul is necessarily present from the earliest moment of development, which is to say, from the moment of conception.

Modern science, with all of its theories, has never been able to replace the traditional one just stated. It deals only with the horizontal dimension and refuses to deal in ‘qualities,’ much less immaterial realities like form and essence. What we have described as qualities are to modern science reducible to material quantity and its arrangements. Nothing more.

The limitations that result from such a reductive view are obvious, but what we are interested in here is the theory of evolution, which has become an all-encompassing pseudo-doctrine which explains-without-explaining everything that used to be explained in terms of hylomorphism, and in such a way that the purely quantitative limitation of modern science need not be challenged.

Multiple states of being

First, a remark on the doctrine of the states of being. The individual domain in which we move and interact with other individual beings is the result of the conjunction of form and matter, and for this reason it is also called the ‘formal’ domain. The individual domain is further subdivided into the subtle and the corporeal orders. The corporeal order includes the ‘matter’ we can touch and hold, and is the only order acknowledged by modern science. The subtle order has a similar structure but a different kind of matter, sometimes called ether. Beyond the individual domain (subtle and gross) is the supra-individual domain which includes the essences or archetypes of things. We say that these are ‘supra-individual’ because they are never clothed with form and so never individuated. When a form is joined with matter, we are dealing with a process of ‘individuation,’ which is to say the production of a particularized specimen of a supra-individual essence within the individual domain: in this situation, the form represents the archetype or essence and impresses its qualities on the matter in which it ‘inheres.’ Matter is thus the ‘principle of individuation’ because each individual is made unique only by the matter it possesses, whereas all men are identical in terms of form. All men possess the form of man, but all men are individuals by their matter, which is unique to each union.

To bring this back to our discussion, what we call a species is one of the supra-individual archetypes, and all of the beings belonging to a species are particularized specimens of the archetype, individuated by their matter but not by their form, which is possessed in its entirety by all members of the species. The shared form conveys to each individual the qualities of the archetype, even if these qualities express themselves differently and in varying degrees depending on material conditions such as time, place, and development.

Archetype and species

The archetype or species itself is never manifest because it is supra-individual and thus supra-formal. It cannot be clothed in form. What we see in the many individuals of a species are the expression of its possibilities, which will be indefinite in number and, in a manner of speaking, inexhaustible in variety.

Species can be envisioned as an immutable and immaterial form: that is to say, no evolution is possible although individuals will necessarily manifest themselves according to all possible variations. These variations, however unique they may appear, are what they are–branches of a trunk–and cannot become detached from it.

Coming to Darwinism properly speaking, it is founded on the confusion of simple variation (within one and the same species) and specific differentiation (differences that separate one species from another): when simple variation occurs in its more eccentric forms, it is interpreted as the emergence of a new species.

By denying the reality of form, species becomes merely a descriptive tool for a set of material coincidences. In other words, species aren’t real–they are simply words we have chosen to describe groups of similar beings. Being only this an nothing more, no reason is seen why an exception should not be interpreted as the emergence of a new species from an existing one. On the other hand, from the point of view of traditional hylomorphism, this is strictly impossible since a being cannot possess two forms at once. (We say this for the purposes of this discussion because it is true with regard to substantial form, which is the idea intended here, although it is not true of the accidental forms, which are possessed in addition to the substantial.)

By allowing a kind of fluid impermanence to species, which is to say by reducing species to the individual level where it is constituted not by an essence but by nothing more than the individuals who are grouped under its name, and by adding to this the assumption that the development of life proceeds along purely material lines, it is easy to arrive at the conclusion that complex beings are the product of the coincidental transformation of species through advantageous variation and subsequent proliferation.

The transformist illusion

We must insist on the term transformation rather than evolution, because trans-formation (the movement from one form to a different form) is precisely what is being postulated by the evolutionist hypothesis.

What we actually find, as is well known, are separated species with no transitional examples to speak of. Yes, there are fish that use fins to crawl on land, but there is nothing in this example that suggests the beginnings of an arm. Despite the exceptional behavior it displays, its qualities coincide perfectly with those of the rest of its kind. It must be insisted that eccentricities do not prove special differentiation except to the most credulous and suggestible, and those searching for affirmation are the most suggestible of all personalities.

We have, then, a great variety of species but no legitimate transitional forms to connect them and to prove that species is capable of fluidity; all that we do have is ample evidence that simple variation is possible and that all possibilities must, as a metaphysical necessity, express themselves. The fish crawling on land is one such possibility and so its manifestation is not at all puzzling.

In spite of this it is postulated that not only did transitions, or rather transformations, occur between very similar species, but that they occurred between reptiles and birds, and so on. But we still must insist that the specific articulation observed in, for example, the jaws of a bird, not to mention its unique hearing apparatus, are plainly of an entirely different ‘plan’ than what is found in reptiles. Even an example like the famous Archaeopteryx is, from a qualitative point of view, plainly a bird. Nothing in its structure offends the basic special qualifications that indicate this.

On the absence of intermediate forms

When pressed on the absence of intermediate forms, a common response is that transitional forms were exceedingly rare and short-lived since their variations were imperfect and their survival precarious. Yet this is odd because it contradicts the basis of the argument, which is that the variations that resulted in the transition were advantageous for survival.

Secondly, we should insist that if ‘trial forms’ are to be the explanation for the transition from one species to another, then the trial forms ought to be plentiful, in fact we should be stumbling onto them at every turn, since these transitions, occurring as they must without intelligent guidance, would have to present themselves in great numbers and in all sorts of variations before they actual succeeded in manifesting the stable species we now know.

Another point here is that if there are such things as intermediate specimens, then all specimens should be seen as potential intermediates: if all life is a chain from simple to complex, then the species we see should not be neatly divided as between so many disconnected links, but would themselves be the links connecting what is with what will be. If transformation really occurred, why did it conveniently stop short of the vision of those who created the theory and all those they’d like to prove it to?

Scientists are, in many cases, aware of these problems. It was said not too long ago by one notable biologist:

The world postulated by transformism is a fairy-like world, phantasmagoric, surrealistic. The chief point, to which one always returns, is that we have never been present, even in a small way, at one authentic phenomenon of evolution…We keep the impression that nature today has nothing to offer that might be capable of reducing our embarrassment before the veritably organic metamorphoses implied in the transformist thesis. We keep the impression that, in the matter of the genesis of the species as in that of the genesis of life, the forces that constructed nature are now absent from nature.[1]

This biologist, after such an admission, can also say the following:

I firmly believe–because I see no means of doing otherwise–that mammals come from lizards, and lizards from fish; but when I declare and when I think such a thing, I try not to avoid seeing its indigestible enormity, and I prefer to leave vague the origin of these scandalous metamorphoses rather than add to their improbability that of a ludicrous interpretation.[2]

Would that all could be as honest and at least stop insisting on the ‘ludicrous interpretation.’

[1] Jean Rostand, Le Figaro Littéraire, April 20, 1957.

[2] Ibid.

The futility of the debate

This basic critique of evolutionary theory is not new. Everything I’ve said will be familiar to most who take an interest in the subject, and transformists have their answers to what I’ve said. If pursued, the debate proceeds much like the numerous theological battles carried out by Augustine and his contemporaries, back and forth without end or result. The value of the above was not to allow you to debate anyone with any success, because the reason this position is held is deeper than reason; my primary purpose was to familiarize you with some ideas and to provide an introduction to what follows, which is the explanation of the problem in terms of traditional doctrine. I think you will find, all things considered, that the traditional explanation is more sound, but it only has value for one who is of the traditional world. And so again, I say that what follows is for you and not for the purposes of apologetics or debate.

It should be admitted that just because an objection can be answered does not nullify the objection. All objections can be answered, and any debate can go on interminably in an endless exchange of sound objections and sound responses. Such are the resources of rationality, which at the same time demonstrate its limits. The point is not to pretend that any of these objections are decisive, but that evolutionary theory is highly problematic.

The ascending presentation of animal forms

If we can say that contemporary paleontology proves anything to us in this regard, it is that the various animal forms presented themselves in a vaguely ascending order, moving from single-cell organisms to vastly complex ones. It should be noted, of course, that even the simplest organisms are themselves vastly complex. The appearance of these forms does not move in a continuous line but seems to jump from category to category, and with each jump we see the appearance of many kinds of animals at once without any apparent predecessors.

There is however a structural commonality between organisms that becomes more apparent the higher the organism and the more ‘consciousness’ begins to play a role. This is taken by transformists as a suggestion of ‘common ancestry’ but what it represents from a metaphysical point of view is the traditional relationship between microcosm and macrocosm, wherein man, being the center of life, is built on a pattern that is analogous to the created universe. As animal species are further removed from the center and becomes more ‘peripheral’ their structure will be less obviously like man’s but will still show signs of similarity, such as through corresponding sensory organs.

What transformists call common ancestry is for the traditional doctrine a common Being, which is to say all life is patterned for existence within this world under its conditions and this implies similarities. What it does not imply is an unbroken chain of successive transformations wherein one species springs forth from another, and in fact this offends the basic laws of metaphysics. The possession of a form (an aggregate of qualities) means that reproduction results in new expressions of those qualities through different matter but it does not permit of new qualities to be introduced. This would amount to claiming that one form could produce a completely different form possessing qualities not present in the first, which is absurd.

This difficulty does not present itself to the transformists. By denying the existence of forms they interpret all qualities in terms of quantity, and if qualities are the productions of quantity and its combinations, then of course it is very believable that the variety of species we see were produced by material addition, subtraction, and reorganization, without the intervention of any immaterial principle.

A mimic is not a missing link

What evolutionary theory sometimes presents as evidence of transformation and as “missing links” could be more accurately described as imitations. A certain animal or insect might mimic a species foreign to it in habit, habitat, or appearance, but without stepping outside of the qualitative framework established by its own species. Whales are perhaps the most common example of this. Being mammals, they imitate the appearance and habitat of fishes; likewise the armadillo appears to be a lizard but is still quite strictly a mammal.

What should be kept in mind here is that in examples of imitation what we find is that a higher species is mimicking a lower one. In the two cases just mentioned, we find mammals (whale and armadillo) taking on the appearance of reptiles and fish. This fact alone–that it is a higher form imitating a lower–demonstrates that they cannot be ‘intermediate forms’ unless we are not to believe that evolution works in the reverse. Nor can they even be examples of simple adaptation since there is no conceivable transition between a land mammal and a whale. What these imitative forms present to us are the extremes of variation within a species, but there is nothing to prove that they are more than that.

What all of this means is that the essential forms themselves are never blurred, and the only reason that animal kinds seem to blur into one another is that science refuses to take essential forms into account.

In response to the discontinuous emergence of species in the fossil record it has been suggested that evolution occurred by leaps and sporadically. As evidence for these we are directed to the sporadic mutations that occur in the species we before us today. There are several problems with this response, the first being that in many examples the organisms in question are of the lowest order: bacteria for example. Here a mutation, if it is beneficial, can result in the development of immunities and so on in a population. But this is only tenable because these organisms are so simple and their lifespan so short. Furthermore, the ‘adaptation’ is never quite permanent. For example if a certain microorganisms are normally killed by an antibiotic and some mutation renders them immune, this new strain proves itself more suited to survival only in that one respect but at the same time its mutation makes it a degenerate specimen under normal conditions. Thus, when normal conditions are restored (the antibiotic removed), we find that the ‘normal’ strain quickly replaces the degenerate one and takes back over.

What we’ve just said above proves the case in most mutations or extreme examples: giantism or dwarfism, or albinism. In all of these cases the individual is an anomaly and not a new species. And as with the cases just mentioned, we have yet to be presented with a mutation that is ‘beneficial’ without qualification.

Regarding the impossibility of mutation or a string of mutations leading to the establishment of a new species, we can quote the hermeticist Richard the Englishman:

Nothing can be produced from a thing that is not contained in it; for this reason, every species, every genus, and every natural order develops within the limits proper to it and bears fruits according to its own kind and not according to an essentially different order; everything that receives a seed must be of the same seed.[1]

The evolutionist hypothesis supplants not so much the ‘miracle’ of creation is it does the entire supra-sensory order, since cosmological principles are of precisely that order, and insofar as the Biblical narrative outlines them it is by way of symbol.

[1] Quoted in The Golden Treatise, Museum Hermeticum (Frankfurt, 1678).

The traditional theory of emanation

The only way to grasp the significance of the ascending emergence of species is to approach the problem through the traditional cosmology and the concept of the progressive solidification of the corporeal state. This process is most effectively described by Titus Burckhardt:

This solidification must obviously not be taken to imply that the stones of the earliest ages were soft, for this would be tantamount to saying that certain physical qualities— and in particular hardness and density—were then wanting; what has hardened and become fixed with time is the corporeal state taken as a whole, with the result that it no longer receives directly the imprint of subtle forms. Assuredly, it cannot become detached from the subtle state, which is its ontological root and which dominates it entirely, but the relationship between the two states of existence no longer has the creative character that it possessed at the origin; it is as when a fruit, having reached maturity, becomes surrounded by an ever harder husk and ceases to absorb the sap of the tree. In a cyclic phase in which corporeal existence had not yet reached this degree of solidification, a new specific form could manifest itself directly from the starting-point of its first “condensation” in the subtle or animic state; this means that the different types of animals pre-existed at the level immediately superior to the corporeal world as non-spatial forms, but nevertheless clothed in a certain “matter”, namely that of the subtle world. From there these forms “descended” into the corporeal state each time the latter was ready to receive them; this “descent” had the nature of a sudden coagulation and hence also the nature of a limitation and fragmentation of the original animic form.[1]

In simplest terms, the animal forms that appear in the fossil records always existed even before they appears but manifestation had not reached a degree of solidification that would cause them to ‘condense’ in such a way as to emerge from the subtle and into gross manifestation: that is to say, they would have been there and been composed of matter but not of the matter of the subtle order, which is the order immediately superior to gross or corporeal manifestation.

We could compare the process to the fatty elements of a broth which remain liquid at a warm temperatures but, as temperatures drop, they begin to congeal and ‘emerge’ as they separate from the liquid. This is a change of state and although the substance was present all along it was not discernable because it belonged to a different state. This analogy helps illustrate the cosmological ‘solidification’ that results in ‘appearances’ at different stages in the solidification process. The weakness of the analogy, which is in fact an important one, is that in the case of the fatty substance it could be envisioned as ‘dispersed’ and intermingled with the other elements of the liquid and so not really existing in pure and complete form until solidified: in the case of cosmological solidification, this is of course not the case and the forms that emerge should be understood as pre-existing in their integrity, although the ‘state’ to which they belonged was the subtle or animic order, and the ‘matter’ of the subtle order is not tangible in the way that gross or corporeal matter is tangible and visible, so that no imprint in the fossil record could be expected even though these forms were as ‘real’ in the subtle state as they became when they transitioned into the ‘solid’ state.

[1] Burckhartd, Titus. The Essential Titus Burckhardt: Reflections on Sacred Art, Faiths, and Civilizations (Perennial Philosophy Series) (p. 35). World Wisdom. Kindle Edition.


Hierarchy and progressive solidification

Here we will emphasize that between all states there is a hierarchical existence, just as the entire created order presents itself as a hierarchy: the great chain of being. The higher not only ‘precedes’ the lower but also determines it entirely. Thus, it is important to acknowledge that although we have described the ‘solidification’ of the corporeal state as a progressive process it is also true that no corporeal thing can ever become fully disconnected from its subtle form, since it is determined by that form. To say otherwise would amount to saying that the body becomes, once developed, entirely disconnected from the soul, which is its subtle form.

Another analogy is helpful: the solidification in question, particular with respect to the relationship between the matter we see and the form we don’t, can be likened to a fruit which, in its early development is attached to a vine a receives life and sustenance from that vine, and is at this stage tender and vulnerable but also vivified and protected directly by a superior principle. At a certain point, however, this fruit developed an outer husk and seals itself off from the vine. Again, the analogy is weak because the matter of our bodies is never truly sealed off from the subtle forms by which they are determined, but the image of outer solidification and loss of support from the superior principle is apt.

To describe this in a Biblical terminology, the cosmos had to undergo several levels of preparation before it was ready to receive the animal forms in the corporeal state. First the spatial condition was needed, and this is outline clearly enough in the Genesis narrative. And because the higher forms of life depend for their existence on the lower, and since ‘what is below reflects that which is above as in a mirror,’ then once the basic conditions were prepared, the corporeal state could begin to receive the beings into itself beginning with the lowest and proceeding upward until it reached the apex, which is man. First in order was the mineral world, then vegetable life, then animal, then human: each of these depending on the previous.

It is also important to observe that this order follows the degrees of consciousness present in each type of being. For example, rational thought belongs to the subtle state, and so those beings who participate in this activity and are characterized by it would be the last to emerge and take on corporeal bodies, whereas the mineral order is furthest from consciousness and would be the first to emerge, simply as a matter of the qualities it possess.

The corporeal world received each animal kind as soon as it was ready for them and no sooner. This is why they tend to appear in groups, since what is decisive is the level of consciousness: it is no more surprising that single cell organisms appeared first than it is surprising that bare earth emerged first: it is not due to chance but to the nature of the things themselves.

Consciousness rather than chemical distinction

Here another point that seems minor but is in fact vital: as we ascend through the forms of life, we find that at the lower levels the various species or groups are structurally or chemically distinct from one another to a far greater degree than at the higher levels. To the scientist who deals only in these types of distinctions (chemical, biological, structural), it will appear that there is a profound difference between kinds of bacteria whereas animals near the top of the chain are hardly distinct at all. Hence the tendency to try to group human beings with those lower animals having the closest resemblance, and also the constant talk of how apes and humans differ only in the smallest genetic way. This kind of observation, however, takes for decisive what is actually most superficial. What is decisive is not difference of genetics but difference of conscious level. The moment we change our focus from biological or chemical distinction to distinctions of consciousness, then it becomes blatantly obvious that man cannot be grouped with ape, and that bacteria, however distinct its various groupings might be from one another chemically, are from the point of view of consciousness at precisely the same level. What this also means is that the discovery of a fragment of bone or even the discovery of an entire skeleton that is identical to the human one is not enough to establish when man, properly understood as ‘rational animal’ came into corporeal being, because bone cannot prove rationality, and that is what is necessary to ‘prove’ the point. We have already addressed the problem of mimics, and it is certainly no surprise that we might find specimens of creatures that, in skeletal structure, look very much like man, but are not.

The mythological account and correspondences

Another point: in Biblical terminology, this process is described from the point of view of the ontological hierarchy, and since the spiritual, the subtle, and the corporeal are related to one another as superior and inferior, any movement from the spiritual to the subtle, or from the subtle to the corporeal, is a ‘descent.’ Thus, the animal forms each descended into the gross state in their turn. From the point of view of man, however, the terminology is modified by the moral point of view with which the Jewish Scriptures are concerned, and it is no longer a descent but a Fall. Descent implies an objective change of level, and can even imply something noble, such as the descent of Christ into Hell; Fall, on the other hand, implies an accident, a mistake, and a degradation.

To refer to a traditional example of how the process above is described, we can take the Tibetan cosmology. Here we are told of the combat of the devas  and the asuras. The devas created man with a body that was fluid, translucent, insubstantial: in other words, they created man as a subtle form. The asuras attempt to destroy man by bringing about his subtle petrification, causing him to grow opaque and to solidify into a solid, immobile skeleton and imprisoning his greatest asset–the mind–in a closed skull. The devas respond in such a way as to turn evil into good. They break the skeleton at certain points in order to create joints, and they pierce the skull to reopen the pathways to the senses and permit the exercise of the mind.

The emergence of man

We will emphasize once more, as we near the end of this discussion, that it is man who, being most closely bound up with the higher states, would have been the last to take on the corporeal form, but this does not mean that he did not dwell in the world prior to that moment: and if he did dwell in the world all the while, it goes without saying that his experience would have been Paradisal, being still enwrapped in the bosom of God. He would have been immune to all of the weaknesses of the corporeal state: he would not have had to suffer pain, he would not have aged, nor would he have left any mark on the fossil record. In fact, for him death would not yet have entered the world because he would not have had a corporeal body with which to suffer that event. Lastly, we can observe that such a being as ‘original man’ would know things as they are, by direct perception, and would not be subject to the blindness that comes with mere sensory perception which deals only in ‘reflected knowledge.’ Original man would not be subject to that profound ignorance that would be the fate of later human experience. All that is to say, only once he emerged in corporeal form could he taste the knowledge of good and evil.

Since we just mentioned the experience of death, it is also conceivable that during that period of transition when man began to take on corporeal bodies, their spiritual state could have been such that, until a certain point of materialization was reached, the corporeal body was reabsorbed into the subtle body at the moment of death, and this would remain the case so long the subtle predominated over the corporeal. This would present cases where man lived and acted and could even have left traces of his presence in the corporeal world, but without leaving any skeletal matter behind after death.


The transformist thesis is based on an absurdity: that the higher can be produced out of the lower, that quality (life) can be produced spontaneously from quantity (matter). This is enough to condemn it, but it does not stop there and proceeds into outright dishonesty and delusions of grandeur. It establishes itself as authoritative based on indecisive data that is only convincing if one adopts a certain reductionistic and wholly superficial framework of analysis where only matter has reality and immaterial realities like consciousness are excluded from consideration. Even if we were to grant this view (a generous act required much imagination), we are offered as ‘proof’ a few skeletons, or fragments of skeletons, which prove nothing except that something with a skeleton lived at some point. Nor does the existence of apes who are similar to many in many respects except that of his reason prove that one emerged from the other: because the anthropoid form can exist without the addition of reason, it does: this is the law of the necessary manifestation of the possible.

While it is necessary to deny unequivocally the emergence of the human species (or any species) from a lower form, it is also necessary to point out that certain specimens of ‘ape-like men,’ if they be found, would represent either a human race that is now extinct and that is not necessarily an ancestor of the present humanity, and that it is possible to come upon types of a ‘degenerate humanity’ the racial development of which proceeded in a negative direction and eventually died out. In these cases, even if the specimen appears ‘ape-like,’ we are not dealing with an ancestor but rather a ‘branch’ of tree of which we are a part, and on this tree there are lower and higher branches, some dead, some alive, but without any of the main branches springing forth from one another or from some other kind of tree.

One of the problems with materialism is that it can influence one’s mentality without entering one’s awareness, with the result that even when we speak of spiritual things and engage in spiritual work, we wind up transposing our materialism into that order. When a powerful and sensitive mind falls victim to this ‘sublimated materialism,’ the result is sometimes very convincing to those who want to escape scientific materialism but can’t escape the materialist mentality.

Teilhard de Chardin is one such example of this problem. He attempted to integrate the knowledge of paleontology into a spiritual view of man, but because he accepted all of the false premises we have been discussing, his attempt to reconcile the profane and sacred really amounted to profaning the sacred. In essence, he simply extended the mania for a progressive evolution beyond the material order and into the spiritual, such that man is no longer the center but is merely a step along the way to a kind of cosmic entity that will be united to God. Here we see the same failures to distinguish between orders, and for Teilhard the mind seems to be nothing but a metamorphosis of matter. An unfortunate result of the Teilhardian imagination is that it fosters the same historical condescension that characterizes all modern disciples of Progress. Here we are the wisest and most intelligent men ever to walk the earth, and the prophets and sages of old stand humbly below. As always, the traditional relationship of Eden and Apocalypse is inverted, and we are not headed toward an age of chaos and an end, but rather a peak and a Paradise.

It is precisely this kind of pseudo-spiritualism that Guenon had in mind when he spoke of fissures that open up in the mental life of a solidified humanity: closed to what is above, and yet weary of the dead world of matter, it opens the only direction it can, toward the below, and takes for spirituality what is actually a kind of plunge into imagination.