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).

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Traditional and Western civilization

We hesitate to separate tradition from the concept of civilization, because in the case of traditional civilizations, the two terms are synonymous. What we mean is simply that for a civilization like that of the Hindus, the entire way of life, from the structure of the family, to the sciences, to the laws themselves, are simply adaptations of transcendent knowledge contained in the tradition. Civilization is in every way an ‘expression’ or a development of the tradition, and all is attached to that point as the spokes of a wheel are attached to a hub. Everything has its ‘principle’ in the doctrine and is but a secondary application of it. However, this is only the case with traditional civilizations.

When we move to the West, particularly after the period of the Middle Ages, we see a stark contrast. In the United States, for example, there is no authoritative doctrinal center to act as the organizing principle of American civilization lending order, form, and unity to all its various parts. On the contrary, Western civilization in general has, willfully and without reservation, divorced itself from ‘the oppression of tradition’ by means of very meticulous anti-traditional processes.

The revolutionary period could be described as a far-reaching act of ‘shrugging off’ the last vestiges of tradition in Europe; and with the Declaration of Independence in America, we saw the first ‘nation’ built entirely upon anti-traditional principles. For post-revolutionary Europe and America, social institutions are, by design, unable to be influenced by any superior, unifying principle and instead are seen as ‘autonomous.’

Law itself comes to be seen merely as an expression of the ‘will of the people’; work life ceases to be a ‘vocation’ with religious undertones, and instead becomes merely a way of ‘making a living’, in other words pure toil. The sciences have likewise staked out their own independent spheres where they develop themselves chaotically without reference to any traditional metaphysic, denying their dependence on anything but their own theories, which they draw from their observations of matter, which is to say, from below, rather than from above.

Nothing in the West is required to justify itself with reference to a superior principle. Rather, everything is left to the manipulations of the scientists and the ‘freedom of individuals.’ Social development is determined by either materialism or anarchy. That is why it should be remarked that only in the West can we speak of ‘civilization’ as something separate from ‘tradition,’ since only here do they present themselves as almost entirely distinct.

It is, perhaps, no accident that it was Western civilization that brought the term civilization into being, which it would then use as a kind of ‘patent’ granted by itself to itself as a way setting itself over any culture that does not mirror its values. ‘We are civilization. They are unlike us. They are un-civilized.’ For our purposes, however, and due to the familiarity of the term, we will refer to both Eastern and Western groups as ‘civilizations,’ acknowledging that in the East, life is characterized by the presence (even if fragmentary) of tradition, while in the West, life is characterized by its conspicuous absence.

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