This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt


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.

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