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).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

Preliminary warning

Due to its subject matter, this manual is not intended for general audiences. No book on metaphysics and doctrine could possibly be ‘popular’ in terms of readership. The content demands a level of familiarity with history and world religions, as well as a natural aptitude for dealing with abstract concepts. That is why I must insist that the mental discipline and flexibility that is required to understand what I have to say is not possessed by the average reader. This should not be taken as an insult to anyone, for the same reason that it is no insult to suggest that the average reader probably cannot rebuild a carburetor or transplant a kidney. Every specialized area of knowledge is naturally exclusive to those whose mental attributes coincide with the demands of the specialization. It is easy to see how this is true when it comes to open heart surgery, and this is why we do not often encounter an untrained individual who wants to attempt the procedure. Unfortunately, it is much more difficult to see when we are dealing with abstract ideas and systems. Take, for example, political philosophy, a field which is rife with contradictory concepts and competing ideologies. In such a context it is very difficult to know when you’ve gone astray or even completely botched the job. Unlike open heart surgery, the incompetent philosopher can quite easily avoid seeing the fact that he has murdered his patient. He can only disfigure his ideas, and ideas cannot sue for malpractice.

All of this is not even to mention the problem of historical and cultural prejudice. Prejudice is, in our view, a natural and healthy sentiment, which should be expected in most people to some degree, as this is what helps to protect a civilization from disintegration. It is necessary to be a ‘tribe’ and to prefer one’s tribe to all others. Nonetheless, these sentiments, although natural, are not permissible for the philosopher. The philosopher must be able to set aside his ‘worldly’ loyalties in pursuit of the truth, in the same way that a physician must sometimes set aside the natural human distaste for blood if he is to adequately pursue the health of his patient. In order to even begin to discuss traditional doctrine, the student must adopt an attitude of sincerity, which is to say openness to change and to contradiction, and this is first and foremost to become vulnerable, since it implies that if the truth destroys a belief we hold dear, that we will permit that belief to be destroyed, no matter the pain. That is why sincerity of this kind is so rare, and so difficult to maintain. Even when we say we wish to hear the truth, we do not typically lay aside the armor of our prejudices. This vulnerability is the essence of what it means to ‘have ears to hear’. Are you willing to risk having your preconceptions deconstructed? Can you stand by and watch your ideological golden calves be melted down and poured in the dirt? Can you set aside a lifelong education that has always assured you that the modern world is the greatest of all possible worlds, that the United States and its ‘immortal principles’ are the height of human achievement and nobility, that all humanity before us was primitive and ignorant, and all that history really has to teach us is how pitiable they were, and how great we are, and how we ought to pity them for not being like us? If you can’t, then we cannot even begin to discuss the nature of medieval Christendom, or the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, since you will have already ensured your own deafness to their value.

These are the challenges presented by the content of this manual, and this is why I am taking time to suggest that what I write is not for everyone. Here I will echo D.H. Lawrence, who said that it was “a mistake of our mistaken democracy that every man who can read print is allowed to believe that he can read all that is printed. I count it a misfortune that serious books are exposed in the public market, like slaves exposed naked for sale. But there we are, since we live in an age of mistaken democracy, we must go through with it.” That is what I am doing—I am “going through with it.” I feel safe in this, because the primary audience I have in mind is my children, and they will, if they wish, have an adequate preparation. But it may happen that this manual is also read by someone else, and that might not go so well. This is not arrogance, nor ‘intellectual pride.’ It is experience, and I have accumulated quite a bit of experience, all of it proving to me that even basic logical problems can be insurmountable obstacles for most people, especially when prejudices or preconceived notions are involved. Whether this is because they can’t understand or don’t want to try because it demands too much vulnerability and takes too much work, I can’t be sure, but the result is the same: they do not understand. Of course, I am less distressed than Lawrence. Not burdened by any kind of fame, I don’t have to worry about my work being ‘exposed naked’ before the public. I think it is very unlikely that anyone outside my small circle of acquaintances will ever read this. I am for the most part safe—safe from being listened to but not heard. Still, I wanted to offer this note to any and all readers here at the outset: this manual will be meaningful only for a very specific type of person. I won’t hold any grudges if you decide now that you simply aren’t of that type. If you aren’t, and you choose to proceed anyway, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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