This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Communion is inescapable

Now we will more directly address the social nature of evil, how it is communicated, and its inescapability.

The modern world operates on an individualistic anthropology that is not only anti-spiritual but is even anti-social. We could even say that our civilization is sociopathic because the truths that it ignores are essential to the healthy flourishing of human communities. It not only does not pursue these truths, but actively undermines them. One such ignored truth is the community of persons in good or evil. Were this understood, it would be easier to comprehend the duties and obligations such a ‘universal connectedness’ would impose on people who live together.

The first thing to be said is that the human person is a complex of body, psyche, and spirit. Today only the first term is acknowledged. The second (psyche) is talked about but misunderstood to be but an extension of the first term, situated on its level, and so only presents itself in a degraded form. For all intents and purposes, the psyche and the spirit are unknown, and our anthropology is stunted accordingly. If these terms were rediscovered, it would open vast horizons for mystery and self-exploration that are currently closed off. Self-knowledge is only a part of a part of a part. The truth is that most people know themselves very poorly. A counterintuitive result of this self-ignorance is that we do not understand how enmeshed we are—how open our hearts are to the influences of the world. Our inner lives are not nearly so private as we imagine them to be. My mind and will are hidden from me to the degree that I am ignorant, but they are not hidden from the world by virtue of my ignorance. The world is what it is, and it touches us deeply, moves us in ways we do not notice.

Since our anthropology has simplified things to their most superficial level, we in turn develop an utterly simplistic view of the self, and based on a few half-baked notions about personality, we think that we have insight into our being, when we have hardly scratched the surface. From this poor starting point, we rest easy and assume that we all know ourselves completely. We assume that our secrets are ours to keep, and that what we reveal and what hide are under our full control. We project this fantasy of privacy onto the people we meet.

The truth is quite the opposite. We reveal almost everything immediately. We may dress as we wish but there are no clothes for the psyche. Even on a purely physical level, the body discloses much of our inner condition through posture, gait, mannerism, and facial expression, and the only reason we think we have secrets is due to our inability to see ourselves and the fact that, even admitting this disclosure, there are few people who can consciously interpret these silent communications. It is here that the unconscious becomes important, because here much of the ‘communication’ and ‘communion’ takes place in terms of subtle bodily and psychic signs. It is here that the communication of good and evil becomes inescapable. Since the modern world is blind to this subtlety, the social trafficking of good and evil takes place entirely in the shadows.

We imagine that we are free to associate with only people we choose, or that we find agreeable, but the fact of our bodily-psychic-spiritual complexity means that we associate to some degree with everyone we encounter. Every day when we get out of bed we enter into a collective flow of reciprocal inducements. We exchange influences with the world around us, even people we did not notice and whose names we never learn. It is terrifying to truly comprehend our vulnerability. We live in a psychic chaos.

All of this is a matter of involuntary human experience and does not cease to operate simply because we do not consciously pursue relationships with people.

Part of the difficulty here lies in the perceived ‘total separation’ between mind and body. We could blame Descartes, but this error naturally presents itself in the absence of a true spiritual anthropology. We struggle to see that the attributes of the soul ‘bleed into’ the body and through it, into external actions. This should come as no surprise to those acquainted with Catholic anthropology, wherein the soul is the ‘form of the body’. The body speaks volumes about that which informs it. We walk around with far more on display than we would like to admit.

This is made more complicated by the fact already mentioned, that we do not know ourselves very well but think we know all that there is to know. Even if you tried to veil the signals you conveyed to others, you could only control those you knew about, which are the minority.

One result of this constant communion between beings is that we always know far more about people than we think we know, and that much of what we know has never been consciously disclosed to us by the person we are observing. We find that we just know. Most of this ‘data’ is perceived unconsciously or semi-consciously, so it never rises to the level of conscious admission. It is felt as an impression, and the fact that many impressions are false does not mean that there is nothing to them. It only means that we are incompetent in our conscious, rational interpretation of these subtle communications.

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