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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Liberalism and myth

We have mentioned that in addition to the gradual discovery of the self, a new mythology also had to be built up which would more firmly plant Liberalism in the Western soul. This new mythology which would form the unconscious faith of the new order. Yet a distinction is in order. The mythology in question here is not the traditional type, which is alien to the modern man and has no meaning for him. Instead, we are dealing with a ‘wordly myth’, one that has its basis in psychology more than divine revelation. It is the ‘national myth’, myth on the social level. This type of myth was described well by Jacques Ellul:

The myth expresses the deep inclinations of a society. Without it, the masses would not cling to a certain civilization or its process of development and crisis. It is a vigorous impulse, strongly colored, irrational, and charged with all of man’s power to believe. It contains a religious element. In our society the two great fundamental myths on which all other myths rest are Science and History.[1]

Although traditional mythology, which conveys metaphysical truth in a narrative and symbolic form, is only found in the ancient world, we can say that every civilization has a mythology in Ellul’s sense, even, and perhaps especially, our own; we differ from the ancients only in the style of the presentation and the metaphysical level of the meanings conveyed. Traditional cultures, being personalist in outlook, chose gods and demigods, and they provided detailed narratives in order to explain themselves to themselves (for this is the function of the myth). We moderns, however, prefer abstractions, and so we turn to ideas and processes rather than divine beings. As Jacques Ellul remarked, our foundational ideas—our guiding myths—may be reduced to two: Science and History.

Science, because we look to it as the guardian of and guide to the truth, the director of all our endeavors. If something is not scientific, it has no business claiming to be true. This development can be attributed in part to the scientific developments of the 18th century. These, combined with the material progress they enabled, fostered an unprecedented degree of optimism about man and his earthly destiny. Hence, along with a materialistic scientism there came a reversal of the old view of history.

No age before our own looked forward to a Golden Age and backward to a Dark Age. Every people previous to us looked backward to Eden and forward to Apocalypse—the Golden Age was the first, and the Dark Age was the last. In this sense, we represent the reversal of all traditional wisdom regarding historical development.[2] And so, whatever the causes that led to this reversal, we now firmly accept the myths of Science and History, which is to say, Materialism and Progress. But these only form a basis, and in the style of the Greeks, we build many sub-myths on this foundation. Ellul continues:

And based on [the myths of Science and History] are the collective myths that are man’s principal orientations: the myth of Work, the myth of Happiness (which is not the same thing as the presupposition of happiness), the myth of the Nation, the myth of Youth, the myth of the Hero.[3]

The myth of Work is that through which productive work of any kind is an unquestionable good. This should be seen as a natural outgrowth of the primary belief in Materialistic Progress. The myth of the Nation, likewise, is but the materialization of social consciousness. In various ways, each separate myth combines in the self-centered man to become an,

all-encompassing, activating image: a sort of vision of desirable objectives that have lost their material, practical character and have become strongly colored, over-whelming, all-encompassing, and which displace from the conscious all that is not related to it. Such an image pushes man to action precisely because it includes all that he feels is good, just, and true…Eventually the myth takes possession of a man’s mind so completely that his life is consecrated to it.[4]

Ellul does not exaggerate when he says that the modern man is religiously consecrated to his mythology. Secularism is, as we have already said, a new kind of faith. There can only be migrations of the scared—never an elimination of it. And for us the sacred has migrated to these material and ideological myths, and these are further interpreted within the framework of Progress, a view of history that promises future Utopia, if only we keep treading blindly forward, because in a pure materialism more is always better.

[1] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, p. 40. See also pages 116-117 of the same work.

[2] It is interesting that the Hindu scriptures predict just such a reversal of views as an indicator of the Dark Age.

[3] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, p. 40. See also pages 116-117 of the same work.

[4] Jacques Ellul, Propaganda, p. 31.

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