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).

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

Various related problems

The man who does not find his identity in God has no backbone. He cannot have integrity because he does not know who he is. He is like a poet or an author who spends his time trying to imitate Whitman or Dickens, and never gets around to writing anything that is really his own, and so whatever gifts he has and the purpose for which he was given those gifts are never seen.

The poet or the author who writes only to sell books, to please the crowd, to win an audience, is also without integrity because although he does not choose another ‘self’ over his own in imitation, he does allow his art to be dictated by the tastes of the crowd, and this is perhaps even worse because the crowd has no taste.

Do not place too much emphasis on either conformity or nonconformity with the world as you find it. The world is often wrong, but it is also sometimes right, or at least it is sometimes right to conform to it as a matter of humility and following one’s vocation with prudence. Do not follow the crowd, but you should also avoid the urge to distinguish yourself by rejecting everything it does. The person who is a ‘nonconformist’ on principle is really just a conformist in reverse. Seek your identity, know the Self, and everything else will follow.

Do not allow yourself to assume that just because the world does not conform to you, that it is wrong. Even if you achieved perfect self-knowledge and lived a life of pure integrity, it would not be good for others to do what you do, read what you read, eat what you eat, live as you live. In some ways, perhaps, but you have a vocation and a self that is not theirs and you must respect that enough to let them seek it, even if their actions are not always according to your tastes, convenience, and temperament.

Unity in God does not imply uniformity among personalities. One cannot make a complete body using only toes or fingers.

Humility means acknowledging your frailty, which can also mean your inferiority with respect to others who are strong where you are weak. Yet we cannot forget integrity, which requires that you acknowledge your superiority, not from arrogance, but from honesty.

In a society that idolizes equality and uniformity, it takes a special kind of humility to acknowledge that one is superior, that one has gifts that go beyond one’s neighbors, and to combat the guilt that egalitarian society would place on such a person simply for acknowledging the truth.

Integrity is when you can look at ‘classic’ manual for prayer or spiritual development and, in the face of almost universal admiration, set it aside as not applicable to your specific vocation, temperament, or method. There is nothing wrong with ignoring ‘The Imitation of Christ’ as if it were a book written for a different human type other than yourself. Integrity is being honest enough with yourself to know when that is the case, and honest enough with others not to hide it or to pretend otherwise.

Sometimes it is necessary to explore new spiritual methods or ‘ways’ that are alien to us in order to learn more about ourselves and what profits us, but with this comes the temptation to adopt externals, whether rituals or postures or techniques or even doctrines, that may apply to others but not to us. To accept a practice that does not fit your human type is to where a spiritual disguise. You might be able to fool yourself into thinking you are called to be a hermit, or a Benedictine, or a Carmelite, or a Sufi, but you cannot fool God in this way, and often you can’t fool anyone else either.

The road to sainthood begins in the realization of one’s integrity, and most people do not know what to make of this when they observe it from the outside. Has this man simply become ‘too good for us’ that he no longer does this or that thing? Or has he given up the faith? Do not worry too much about them, because they are not God and they are not you and so they cannot see the relationship between yourself and God. But if you maintain your integrity, they will sooner or later recognize at least that in you, even if they don’t know what to make of you in general.

Trauma precedes the discovery of one’s integrity. It occurs at that moment when we realize that the abstract notion of ‘a good Christian’ or the ‘spiritual person’ cannot be applied to us–that what is offered to us as good behavior is not good for us, and even though the only alternative we’ve ever been given to this is to become a ‘backslider’ or a non-believer, we know that we have nothing to do with those things, and so we are plunged into limbo and loneliness. It is there, at that moment, that integrity–a kind of certainty about oneself–is discovered. Then we feel a new kind of strength build in us, and if we permit this strength to come to fruition, we become unshakable.

The person of integrity does what he does because he knows who he is, and wishes only to be more fully who he is, and disdains what would make him less himself. It has nothing to do with practicality. You must not do what you do, believe what you believe, love what you love, because of the promise of Heaven or the threat of Hell. These are motivations for children and those who never become more than children in knowledge.

I do nothing in order to avoid Hell. I grant that an individual’s journey to the Truth might initially be motivated by a fear of damnation, but once you reach maturity I don’t see any need to think of Hell at all. Punishments and rewards are for children, not men of full stature, for whom only the Truth matters.

When I see signs along the road asking me where I will spend eternity, telling me in an obnoxious capitalized font that I need Jesus in my life, I do not think of Jesus but of the people who put up those signs, and how intolerable their Christianity must be to non-believers. They do not spread Jesus. They spread themselves, and they preach ‘their Jesus,’ and I think their counterfeit Jesus is just another obstacle the devil places between Jesus and the lost.

Many Christians carry with them an imaginary Jesus that is actually just a projection of themselves clothed in a white robe. They are Evangelize, but only for the sake of this projection. They are really just trying to make the world in their image.

Do not let the false Jesus of bad Christians become a barrier between you and Jesus.

To resent people and things is to be attached to them in some degree, and so it is contrary to freedom. Sometimes those things we most resent are those to which we are most attached.

Sometimes we resent the things to which we are attached by necessity, but to resent necessity to resent God. It is to resent reality. It is to resent truth. This does not make it easy to set resentment aside. It is an incredibly difficult thing to live in the modern world, see how it dehumanizes people, see how it destroys beauty everywhere it is found, how it despises knowledge–it is an immense challenge to see this system, work in it, be unable to escape it, and to not resent it for its cruel power. But here is the truth: it is not you who is subject to the Prince of the World. It is the false self. The false self lives under the power of the world and will die with it. Know the true Self, and identify yourself with it, and you will finally see that subjection is a subjective state, and that it cannot apply to you. The you that matters–the you that is real and is immortal–can never be a slave and is always free under any and all external conditions. To what degree you experience and appreciate this freedom depends on your progress in self-realization, and how much you’ve been able to leave the superficial self to its own distresses.

Is this or that job, this or that person, this or that attachment, preventing you from doing what you would do ‘if you were free’? Imagine you were suddenly released from all of these limiting conditions. Follow the thought to completion. What would you do with your supposed ‘freedom’? Have you considered that your external subjection is the context in which you are best able to work out your inner freedom, which is of a higher order? There are some who throw away any chance they ever had as assuming their true identity when they insisted on their ‘freedom’–by which they mean the mere ability to do whatever they want whenever they want.

When someone or something is preventing you from being free or happy, ask yourself if you really know what it would take to make you happy. We tend to focus on what is unpleasant about where we are, and we assume that a change of scenery is what we need. We go to great lengths to escape our situation and the people who are ‘tying us down.’ And then, in a new apartment in a new city with a new wife, we wake up to the fact that we are still unhappy, and that we did not really understand what it will take to become happy. We finally come to the realization that it was not the place or the person making us unhappy, but we ourselves. We were living in subjection to ourselves, to our ignorance or our passions or our egoism, and we changed the external conditions of our lives, burning bridges and wounding people as we fled, but since we could not escape ourselves we merely carried our slavery to this new place.

We enter into ourselves to create; we enter into God to be created.

It is said that men kill one another because they are afraid of one another. I say they fight because they are afraid of everything. Afraid of themselves. Afraid of their children. Even afraid of the dark. I’m not sure there are any human activities that do not have some grain of fear embedded in them. Fear is a basic element of the human experience of life.

Good men are those who have learned to deal with fear by loving, and bad men are those who deal with it by hating.

We explain the sins of others by saying that they are evil; we explain our own sins by talking about how the devil tempted us.

On those rare occasions when we admit that the evil we do is ‘within us’ and is part of us, we cannot help but try and excuse ourselves by downplaying the severity of our particular brand of evil while we exaggerate the evil we see in others. We might be bad, but at least we’re less bad than everyone else. In other words, we are still ‘better than them.’ Therefore, we are good.

War is fought for noble and ignoble reasons, although it is most often the latter.

The reasons for war are usually simple, but they vary depending on the group in question. The average man on the street goes to war for freedom, out of patriotic feeling, or because he has nothing better to do and to gain a sense of belonging in a tightly-knit group. But the average man on the street is not the one who chooses to start wars–he only answers the call. And those who make that call have much more nefarious reasons for starting their massacres: power and greed. Bad wars that are initiated by bad men for bad reasons are always fought by good men for good reasons, and since most people only look at the fighters, the bad men who started it all are enabled to hide behind a mask of nobility and sacrifice.

There is something in us that refuses to accept the good intentions of others. It is our selfishness.

Why does political life usually devolve into two parties who believe that the other is completely, in every way, wrong about everything? Think of yourself and when you face the prospect of having to cooperate with someone you don’t like, who has offended you in some way in the past, or whose habits or religious beliefs or looks offend you. You look for an excuse not to cooperate. You do not want them to want to work with you because you do not want to work with them. You would prefer the conflict, and so that is what you will find.

Contrary to the modern myth, religious conviction did not cause as many conflicts as political convictions in the absence of a larger religious framework. In other words, secularism kills more people than the crusades. This is because religious conviction could to some degree satisfy the religious impulse on the social level; within secularism, the religious conviction persists but attaches itself to political ideals, and then a terrible thing happens. Political problems always have more than one answer and these answers are more a matter of cooperation and compromise and fellow-feeling–in other words, a willingness to get along–among participants. When the religious impulse tries to find satisfaction in politics, political opinions begin to seem like dogma, and are clung to in the same way and elevated well beyond right reason by those who hold those opinions. And since there are many legitimate opinions, for example held by different parties, then these parties no longer become men of good-will who reached different legitimate conclusions, but opposing religious sects.

When political opinions are held in a way that is idolatrous, it becomes impossible to see any goodwill in those who think differently than us, because we have ceased to see our political opinions as opinions and started to see them as absolutes. Our opponents, who deny these absolutes, can therefore only be absolutely wrong. This makes our job much easier: we need not offer them conversation. We only have to condemn them as heretics.

There may be some who think that it is necessary to have this passionate conviction in one’s ‘rightness’ in politics, lest we fall into complacence. That is true to a small degree, but it is more important to acknowledge, from start to finish, that we are all the problem and that the solution is found not by everyone listening to me but by all men of goodwill contributing something.

Even if we discern that our opponents do not have pure intentions, it is enough that they have partially good intentions. They need not be pure, since no one is, for us to be obligated to accept their goodness and try to meet it. The refusal to accept mingled intentions usually leaves us a situation in which one side will have nothing to do with the other until the other converts completely to its ways, which never happens.

I would not ask you to trust anyone who clearly could not be trusted. We do not need to pretend that men who have sinned are not sinners. We need only remember that we too are sinners, and when we make ourselves vulnerable to other sinners we are not so much trusting their sin as we are trusting whatever good we find in them, which is to say, we are trusting God.

We mock God when we pray for peace and then go about doing things and implementing policies that make war inevitable. We mock God when our leaders stockpile weapons capable of destroying life on earth, and then those same leaders accept Nobel prizes for peace. We are like sick men who beg God with pretended sincerity to be cured, and in between breaths we drink from a bottle of hemlock.

If a person wants peace, that person must stop sowing seeds of discord. Sometimes the seeds of discord are profitable. Sometimes the seeds of discord work to the benefit of a particular party. America learned long ago how to stay on the winning side of conflict, and has grown fat on its fruit. At this point it would require great sacrifice to the American ‘standard of living’ in order to really work for peace. This is why America is never likely to be a force for peace.

Some of our leaders really do want peace, but what they mean by peace is simply the ability to do whatever they want without limits and without fear of retaliation when the ignore the international law or the dignity of foreign people. Their notion of peace is ‘peace for me, and to hell with the rest.’ This is no peace at all.

Peace without justice is nothing more than the tyranny of some men over others.

Always remember that evil is not a positive thing–it is the absence of a perfection that ought to be there. Something that is utterly evil cannot exist, because the total absence of perfection means the total absence of anything. It is for this reason that we can say that no one desires evil for evil, since that would mean the desire for nothing; people appear to desire evil because people desire what is good, or what they believe to be good, and there is always something of the good mingled in each evil thing, however diluted that good may have become.

Evil, being the diluted version of some good, is always relatively boring.

All men desire the good, and when men choose evil they are, in a sense, like the unfortunate animal that chooses the bait in a trap. That is not to say they are blameless in the matter, because unlike the animal we know the trap is there, but it does mean that the degree of blame is usually not as bad as it would seem, because even when we suspect the trap the reasonable attractiveness of the bait must be taken into account. This is why a starving man who steals a loaf of bread is hardly guilty of anything at all.

When we are one with God, all created things are our allies; when we have no relation to God, all creation aligns itself against us. This is why the Taoist say that whoever has the Tao has no enemies.

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