Two weeks ago, in the first part of this sequence of posts, we explored the way that Oswald Spengler’s insights into the cycles of history can be used not only to make sense of the past, but also to get some idea of the shape of the future ahead of us. That’s explosive stuff, because the future thus revealed isn’t the one demanded by the cultural obsessions of the present day.
Every great culture, to use Spengler’s phrase, has its own vision of what the future ought to be like. In Apollonian culture—the great culture of the ancient Mediterranean basin, which hit its cultural stride in classical Greece and metastasized beneath the eagles of Rome—the future everyone expected was the present endlessly prolonged. The vision of time and change that guided Apollonian culture in the centuries of its maturity had three phases: first, things were in chaos, then a mighty power arose to set things in order, and that order endured forever. In religious terms, the mighty power was the god Jupiter taming the Titans with his thunderbolts; in political terms, the mighty power was the Roman Empire bringing the warring kingdoms of the world under its sway; the same logic applied to classical philosophy, which sought to teach the rational mind how to reduce the chaos of the self into an enduring order, and so on.
In Magian culture—the great culture that emerged in the Middle East as Apollonian culture peaked and began to fade, hit its cultural stride during the Abbasid caliphate and metastasized under the Ottoman Empire—this vision found few takers once the Apollonian pseudomorphosis faded out. The Magian vision of time and change, rather, is the one familiar to most of my readers through its reflection in Christian theology. The universe in this view is a stage on which the mighty drama of human salvation is played out; it runs in a straight line from Creation, through the revelation of the one true faith, to a cataclysmic finale, after which nothing will ever change again. At the center of the Magian experience, in turn, is the sense of being part of the community of the faithful, resisting the powers of evil while waiting prayerfully for the one true God to bring on the apocalypse.
As we saw two weeks ago, Faustian culture—the great culture that emerged in western Europe around 1000 CE, which hit its cultural stride in the Renaissance and metastasized in the gargantuan European empires of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—still carries remnants of Magian culture with it, which were picked up through the normal historical process of pseudomorphosis and remain more or less fossilized in place. (We’ll talk later on about why those fossils are so much more common and influential here in America than they are back in the Faustian homelands of Europe.) At the heart of the Faustian worldview, though, stands a vision of time and change starkly opposed to the Magian vision, and reminiscent of the Apollonian vision in a certain highly qualified sense.
In the Faustian vision, it’s not chaos that characterizes the original shape of things, it’s stasis. Think of all those old childrens’ stories about the first caveman to discover fire, or the echo of the same mythic narrative in the opening scenes of Stanley Kubrick’s movie 2001: A Space Odyssey; think of the folk mythology that surrounds the Scientific Revolution; think of the rhetoric that still frames every one of the grand crusades for social betterment that hasn’t yet crumpled under the weight of its failure and turned to Magian apocalypticism instead. (When a social movement in the modern Western world starts shouting “The world will end if we don’t get what we want!” you can safely bet that it’s already failed and its days are numbered.)
The story starts in darkness and squalor and stasis, with everyone trudging through centuries-old routines under the leaden weight of superstition and ignorance. Then some bright individual has the “Aha!” moment that changes everything. He—it’s usually a man, at least in the myths—of course has to do battle with the entrenched forces of superstition and ignorance, but of course he wins in the end; darkness and squalor give way to something shiny and new, stasis gives way to movement, and the grand march of progress takes off toward the stars.
That’s where the Faustian myth seems to depart most obviously from its Apollonian equivalent, but the difference is less important than it looks. The word “progress,” after all, literally means “continued movement in the same direction.” Thus, in the Faustian myth, the pace of progress can change but the direction can’t. That’s why, to cite an example, the scientific establishment freaked out so comprehensively in the 1970s when various circles of avant-garde researchers started to find common ground with mystics and occultists. The definition of progress accepted then and now in the scientific mainstream consigned mystics and occultists to the dustbin of superstition and ignorance, and the so-called “skeptic” movement was the inevitable backlash.
It’s easy to make fun of the dogmatism and intolerance of the insufficiently skeptical skeptics who insisted that they were fighting against dogmatism and intolerance, but their holy war was the necessary consequence of the central logic of the Faustian cult of progress. Since, by definition, progress is what brought us here out of the squalor and ignorance of the benighted past, and since, by definition, continued movement in the same direction is going to lead us onward and upward to a shining techno-utopian future, any attempt to revisit the scientific community’s dogmatic rejection of spiritual experiences can only be seen as a surrender to the forces of superstition and ignorance that alone can deny us all our destiny among the stars.
That same logic pervades Faustian culture at all levels. Have you noticed how common it is, for example, for people who come up with a diet that’s good for their health to insist to all and sundry that the same diet must be good for everyone’s health, that every other diet is bad and evil and wrong, and that if only everyone can be browbeaten into following the one true diet, all illness will go away? It’s the identical way of thinking, transposed into the key of crank diets. The food crackpot seeks to occupy the culturally mandated role of the bright individual with the “Aha!” moment that changes everything, so that the one true diet can become the fixed direction along which dietary progress can then march onward forever. It’s central to the entire Faustian vision that progress is a straight line going in one and only one direction and everyone has to be made to follow it.
It’s when the onward march of progress falls flat on its face, in turn, that the downside of the Faustian narrative becomes painfully clear, because it has no way to deal with failure.
That’s something that varies dramatically from one great culture to another. The Chinese and Indian great cultures, for example, differ in immensely important ways but approach time and change through a broadly similar scheme: a vision of cyclic movement. Hindu philosophy has one of the two most richly elaborated schemes of cyclic time in any recorded high culture—its only rival is the equally intricate system of nested cycles worked out in equally immense detail by the cultures of native Mesoamerica. In both these traditions, everything that happens has happened countless times before and will happen countless times again, and if hard times come, why, that’s just another incident in the spinning of time’s vast wheel.
The Chinese vision of time is somewhat different, but equally cyclical. The I Ching, the great Chinese textbook of time theory, identifies sixty-four basic conditions of time, each of which can morph into any of the others by way of specific transformations. Thus the rise and fall of nations and dynasties isn’t fixed quite so rigidly on the wheel of time as in India; a government that pays attention to the way that time is flowing can often prevent the conditions of downfall from coming into play—in traditional Chinese terms, to keep hold of the mandate of Heaven and prevent it from shifting to new hands. In the Chinese way of seeing things, in turn, when hard times come, that just means that the bureaucrats in the capital have failed to judge the temporal flow correctly, and the situation will be rectified just as soon as the bureaucrats either get a clue or have their heads displayed on bamboo spears by the soldiers of the incoming dynasty.
The Magian culture doesn’t have a cyclical sense of time—there’s no other great culture that has had so strictly finite a vision of history—but the inherent flexibility of the Magian temporal scheme makes it relatively easy to deal with failure and defeat. In the Magian worldview, after all, the community of the faithful is constantly beseiged by the powers of evil, who are permitted great leeway by the one true God for His inscrutable reasons. Someday the Messiah or Christ or the Mahdi or whoever will show up and transform the world utterly, but no one knows when, and in the meantime the faithful must expect to have their faith tried in the flames of worldly disappointment and suffering.
The Apollonian great culture had none of these resources to hand. In the Apollonian vision of history, again, once the universe is set in order by the might of its rightful ruler, and everyone accepts their proper place in the order of things, that’s the way it’s supposed to stay forever. The fall of the Roman Empire was thus a shattering experience for those who lived through its more drastic phases. A strong case can be made—and indeed it was made, early in the fifth century CE, by Augustine of Hippo in his polemic masterpiece The City of God—that the fall of Rome disproved the most fundamental assumptions of the Apollonian worldview. That experience of cognitive dissonance was what left the field clear for the rising Magian culture to seize the imagination of the ancient world and impose its own religious and cultural vision on the disillusioned masses of the late Roman Empire.
The Faustian culture, though, is even more vulnerable to the same sort of disillusionment. If we were to set up a spectrum of resilience to the experience of failure among great cultures, with India and China way over to one end of the spectrum, Faustian culture is about as far as you can go to the other end. For the Faustian sense of time to remain intact, after all, it’s not enough to survive; it’s not even enough to establish the sort of steady state to which Apollonian culture aspired, and which it achieved for centuries at a time. The Faustian sense of time requires progress—continued triumphant movement in the same direction. When that movement stops, or even slows down noticeably, the widening gap between what’s supposed to happen and what’s actually happening becomes a source of massive cognitive dissonance, and if that condition keeps going for more than a little while, people start to wig out.
Parenthetically, that’s the best explanation I’ve been able to come up with for the astonishing craziness of the US political mainstream today. In the early 1980s, a set of economic policies—free-trade agreements, tacit encouragement of unlimited illegal immigration, and ever-expanding government regulations that benefited big corporations at the expense of small businesses—got assigned the role of the fixed direction that economic progress would thereafter follow. About a decade later, the ideology of political correctness, with its fixed allotment of the roles of “victim” and “villain” by gender and ethnicity and its systematic erasure of the realities of social class (and middle-class bigotry toward the working classes), got assigned the same status in terms of social and cultural progress.
Both the policies and the ideology failed to achieve their ostensible goals; neither the general prosperity that was supposed to result from the former nor the increasing equality that was supposed to come out of the latter ever got around to showing up. The result was a forceful backlash, spearheaded in the usual manner by those who were expected to carry the costs of both the policies and the ideology while receiving none of the benefits. At this point the backlash has put opponents of the policies and the ideology alike into decisive positions in the executive and judicial branches of the US government, and the grassroots economic boom that free-trade policies were supposed to provide has now been set in motion by the abolition of free-trade policies.
In response, the defenders of yesterday’s version of progress have done what failed causes normally do in a Faustian society, and reverted to the habits of the Magian pseudomorphosis. Thus you get the shrill moral dualism, the posturing as goodness incarnate, the increasingly frantic insistence that the backlash against their version of progress can only be motivated by deliberate evil, and the rest of it. On cue, in turn, we’re starting to see articles in the media insisting that the end of the world will follow promptly now that the self-anointed “good people” have failed. If supporters of Donald Trump know their way around the history of ideas, they’re reading these articles with glee, since—as noted above—such diatribes are the death rattle of a modern social movement.
Keep in mind, though, that the antics we’re seeing in US politics today are a mild preview of the far more drastic disillusionment that’s already beginning to take shape as the entire Faustian project of perpetual progress betrays the hopes that have been placed on it. The difficulty that the Faustian culture has never grasped is that any attempt at continued movement in the same direction is subject to the law of diminishing returns. Scientific discovery and technological progress aren’t exempt from this law; it’s worth noting that the cost of each generation of scientific and technological advances has increased steadily with each passing decade, while the benefits provided by each decade’s advances, on average, has turned out to be more and more marginal where it hasn’t yet dipped well into negative numbers.
We’re already seeing people going back to an earlier generation of cell phones because the latest gimmick-laden smartphones are literally more trouble than they’re worth. In exactly the same way, manned space flight has become a publicity gimmick for ambitious nations and billionaire celebrities, and as orbits fill up with junked satellites and space debris and the risk of a Kessler-syndrome catastrophe rises, the smart money is moving into the early 20th century technology of high-altitude balloons to fill many of the roles now filled by satellites.
The entire narrative of human expansion into outer space is perhaps the most typically Faustian of all our dreams, the ultimate expression of a culture that loves to imagine itself zooming out to infinity in all directions. Scientists have known for decades that it’s not going to happen—outside of the Earth’s magnetosphere, space is so full of hard radiation that prolonged exposure to it will guarantee death by radiation poisoning, and neither the Moon nor Mars nor any other body in the solar system that human beings can visit has a comparable magnetosphere to keep out the lethal rays that stream from the ever-exploding thermonuclear bomb at the center of the solar system. The continuing hold of the myth of space colonization on our collective imagination, in the teeth of such scientific details, may turn out to be the weak point that brings the whole dream crashing down; if it’s not that, though, it’ll be something else.
Thus technological retrenchment, not perpetual progress is the wave of the future. As the failure of the grand myth of progress becomes increasingly hard to avoid, more and more people are turning their backs on the latest dysfunctional upgrades and new-but-emphatically-not-improved technotrinkets to return to things that actually work. Expect world-class meltdowns as that reality begins to sink in.
Thus I expect Faustian culture to undergo the same kind of catastrophic disillusionment that swept the Apollonian worldview into history’s dustbin. If anything, to judge by the foreshocks of that event that can be seen in the Western industrial cultures today, the rejection of the myth of progress may turn out to be even more sudden and sweeping. That won’t necessarily involve the collapse of nations—I expect that, too, but it’ll happen in its own time as a result of other pressures—but it’s pretty much certain to involve the overthrow of most of the automatic assumptions that govern public policies and personal lives alike just now. Many of my readers have already been through the tectonic shift that follows when it sinks in that the future really isn’t going to be better than the present. (The rest of you might want to brace yourselves, since you’ll be having the same experience soon enough.)
This brings us around finally to the theme I began to explore two weeks ago in the first post in this series, the likely emergence of two new great cultures in the post-Faustian world, one in eastern North America and one in Russia. Will these be the only great cultures to be kickstarted into motion by the failure of the Faustian dream? I have no idea. Certainly there’s every reason to think that the still-vital Chinese and Indian great cultures will respond to the shock of the Faustian era by cycling back around to some new version of their classic cultural themes; it seems likely, similarly, that Magian culture will continue to thrive in its Middle Eastern heartlands, and could well finish up its long and bitter struggles with Faustian culture by expanding north and west in the wake of the Faustian disillusionment, and imposing its rule on the exhausted nations of Europe for a time.
The wide, fertile, and climatologically fortunate watersheds of the Ohio and Volga rivers, though, are likely to play distinctive roles in the post-Faustian future. The two valleys and the cultures that emerge from them, though, will not follow identical trajectories by any means. Two crucial factors distinguish them. One has already been mentioned in this series of posts: Russia is already in its second pseudomorphosis, while America has so far experienced only one. The other is a subtler but more pervasive factor, rooted in the land itself. Two weeks from now, with the help of Carl Jung and Vine Deloria Jr., we’ll follow that subtler factor to its roots and try to make sense of the way it will shape the cultures of the future.
Hey hey JMG,
Not exactly on topic but interesting and possibly relevant. I was reading an article that states 80% of Americans think political correctness is a problem:
And I followed the links to the source research, which was fascinating, that talk in great depth about the polarised wings of American politics, identity, and core beliefs. It talks about the extremes being diametrically opposed on some things like identity politics and totally unwilling to compromise about it and an “exhausted majority” with more moderate and nuanced views that is seeking compromise:
Well worth the the time to read it.
PS Looking forward to the Carl Jung and Vine Deloria Jr post.
“the still-vital Chinese and Indian great cultures will respond to the shock of the Faustian era by cycling back around to some new version of their classic cultural themes”
At the moment, the millennials of China have witnessed within their own lives to date an enormous shift in standards of living. Everyone knows someone who has studied abroad for instance, which was rare in the earlier generations.
The narrative of progress, however, is less evident in China.
I’ve observed that the national narrative revolves around order versus chaos. Various forms of advanced state surveillance and policing (social credit system, cameras on street corners that identify faces, etc.) are often regarded as legitimate means to ensure the nation doesn’t descend back into the chaos it witnessed in living memory only a few decades ago.
Basically, the despotic bureaucracy is tolerated so long as it preserves order and safety (Chinese dynastic history repeating itself!).
I don’t get the impression that most people there expect the economic miracle to continue indefinitely, and there’s even resignation to the reality that it might not get much better, so the country is transitioning into a model of consolidation. Even if economic troubles continue, most people there won’t get overly upset, so long as the infrastructure is operating properly and their kids can get a good education.
Thanks for the essay. In fact, right now the breakdown of societal communication that the USA experienced beginning in 2016 is drawing Brazil into a whirlwind – traditional media are (rightly) discredited, but in their void has stepped a network of WhatsApp lies. Millions of people find it easy to believe that marches involving hundreds of thousands of people simply didn’t happen, that one of the main presidential candidates, a staid family man, former secretary of education and mayor of the biggest city in the country, defended incest in one of his books, that his vice-president used a T-shirt “We are more famous than Jesus” during the campaign, and many other equally incredible fabrications. If I had ever believed that humans are on a march towards increasing discernment (which is rather hard for a German to believe in), I would have lost that faith by now. It is truly staggering to see how a seemingly solid institutional framework can melt into nothing in the space of five years, and I am sure it is (directly or indirectly) connected with physical limits like Peak Oil.
I’m eagerly anticipating the continuation of this series, so again, thank you.
A few personal thoughts and experiences on the cognitive dissonance resulting from the failure of expected progress. I recently saw someone comment, pondering out loud essentially: since nearly all minorities are liberal, nearly all women are liberal, and nearly all young people are liberal, how can the Republican party still exist? Why haven’t they died off yet?
Secondly, I’ve seen ads for the up-coming film “First Man,” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. I find it interesting how little has been made of the fact that the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing is also the 45th anniversary of the last Moon landing…
I do wonder how hard the failure of progress is going to hit us, the American psyche in particular.
One a final note, I’m curious what might have produced the more linear forms of thought in the West and Middle East on the one hand (counting perpetual stasis as linear) but more cyclical perceptions of time in the East on the other? Might we end up with, say, a more circular view coming out of the Ohio river valley, for example, if other factors come into play?
Thank you for this article.
After a turbulent time with Magian and Faustian cultures’ conflict, could we expect a revival of the Danube basin? If yes, what could be the timing in your opinion? For example, Hungary has a quite strategic position and vast amount of fertile land. It might explain its long history (and future ?) of invasions and conflicts.
Tim, many thanks for this! The exhausted majority is where the real action is, of course.
Jeffrey, thanks for this also. That’s what I’d expect; the core themes and values of Chinese culture remain intact, and so the same patterns repeat in forms reshaped to fit the needs of the time. I’ve read in several places that the study of the Confucian classics is coming back into fashion, for that matter.
Matthias, that’s fascinating. How deeply is the myth of progress woven into Brazilian culture and the national sense of identity?
David, funny! I’m going to have to post something one of these days on the political synecdoche in which the Left is mired these days, in which “women,” for example, refers only to women from the privileged middle classes or from a handful of narrowly defined ethnic groups who support the Democratic Party — that is to say, a rather small fraction of the total number of women in the United States. A majority of white American women who voted in the 2016 election cast their votes for Donald Trump, but they don’t count as “women” in the liberal mind.
As for the origins of the linear sense of time we see in western Eurasia, that’s a really good question to which I don’t know the answer. More study needed!
Foxhands, the future of central and eastern Europe depends in large part on three factors. The first is how the inevitable implosion of the EU works out; the second is whether mass migration to Europe from the Middle East and Africa continues or is stopped; the third is how soon the rising Russian great culture expands its power and influence westward. By and large Hungary’s in a good position for the future, as it won’t be drowned by rising sea levels and should be able to adapt fairly well to the other impacts of climate change, but a lot depends on details of future history that aren’t settled yet.
This goes some way toward explaining why some great cultures die while others (the Indian, the Chinese and the Magian) are still with us. A culture can receive a devastating physical impact, as did the Mesoamerican, or it can be killed by a fatal blow to its deepest spiritual idea, as was the the Apollonian.
The Apollonian ‘body’ which remained (peoples and political institutions) was partly decomposed into the soil of the future Faustian culture and partly drawn into the orbit of the rising Magian culture: from the third century on the Eastern Roman Empire was almost always the lesser partner of the Sassanian Persian Empire, and its newfound Christian faith was explicitly Magian in origin and in worldview.
One of the key areas where I think Spengler’s vision has room for improvement is in his definition of the Magian Culture. He relies too much on Byzantine history, which I think is better regarded as an Apollonian fossil. When exactly did the Magian culture begin, and hit its stride, and then reach its brittle empire stage? The evolution of the Sassanian kingship and the influence of Zoroastrianism on the three Abrahamic faiths were not very well understood by Europeans when Spengler was writing, and even now I find scholarly works in English to be much sketchier than I would like. This would surely have a bearing on your reinterpretation of the pseudomorphosis concept.
Dylan, agreed. My take, for what it’s worth, is that the Magian civilization emerged in Iran as the Mesopotamian culture slid over into civilization; Zoroastrianism is the original template on which the other Magian faiths are modeled, and most of the other features of mature Magian culture can be traced easily enough in Zoroastrian Persia. Byzantium is simply the western end of the Magian cultural sphere, and medieval Christian Europe one of two pseudomorphoses it inspired (the other, of course, being medieval Russia).
Re the concept of “women” in the liberal mind
Quite so. “Gender traitor” is a term I’ve seen bandied about recently. (There seems to be much glee in the liberal press that educated, suburban Republican women appear to be deserting the Republican camp. Little discussion, however, of working class women.) And of course, folks like Mia Love and Tim Scott aren’t “really” black, or else they’d not be Republicans.
Re the shape of time
If the native perceptions become more prominent here in the Americas, perhaps a cyclical structure might arise on that basis. As to *why* Eurasian thought has tended toward linearity, I’d be most curious to see what hypotheses are brought forward, should that research be done. Nature versus nurture? Was there an event in the distant past, for example, which the ancestral memory of Eurasians might have included that the other early seedbeds of civilization didn’t, which sent their perception of time in that particular direction. (E.g. an “Atlantis” or other catastrophic experience.)
There is a very long tradition that Brazil is “the country of the future”, but I have always felt few people actually consider themselves as entitled to a glorious future as they were, maybe, in North America and Western Europe some years ago. The prevailing mood in the 1990s and early 2000s, as I felt it, was quite cynical, though I would like to hear other people’s opinions (packshaud ?).
The feeling of enormous material and social progress was rather short-lived, from 2003 to 2013. The realisation that this progress has not endured is surely the most important factor in the current crisis, since the party that governed Brazil during that decade is now blamed for all ills.
I have never seen the need to believe in magic as explanation for anything happening around me, but what has been happening over the two months is a truly frightening case of mass psychosis, whatever the explanation may be.
Another great article, thank you JMG!
Since learning earlier this week that one of my brothers has converted to Judaism, I’ve been researching some of the tenets of the faith. I noticed how easily I was drawn towards something that was new to me, and yet familiar. There exists the idea of a single god, a community of saved people, and a hope of salvation which is in the future. Then I began to realize how these ideas easily morphed into the more current forms of Christianity. Various peoples were never able to reconcile that their perspective of god’s meaning wasn’t the right one and thus schism after schism happened. In my mind, this is an obvious result of not being able to have a faith with multiple gods. One core idea which has made the tenets of these faiths survive is that of the resurrection. A transformation if you will. It’s something we can find a lot of in faiths of many Native Americans, which are tied into the land. It’ll be difficult to reconcile monotheism with polytheism, but I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow using the idea of rebirth/resurrection that some narrative will develop. I’m not sure how much a change from the current Faustian narrative we’ll have. Even Russia at this moment still seems deeply connected with their Russian Orthodox faith and are almost assuredly looking at this period of time as a resurrection of sorts.
Sorry if it’s a bit too much to ask, but could you give a slightly more detailed description of what you think the fundamental vision is in Indian culture, as opposed to Magian or Faustian? Is it just a view that history is cyclical.
Also, there is a sect of Islam called the Ahmadiyya and according to them, the Messiah and Mahdi (same person according to Ahmadiyya) has already arrived.
His name was Mirza Ghulam Ahmad and he was born in Punjab province in British Raj 1835.
His community has millions of followers worldwide now. Heavily persecuted but mainly by Muslims. Peaceful people. Ahmad also viewed history as cyclical…
Pakistan constitution considers them heretics.
Do you think the Magian pseudomorphosis of the Muslims of Subcontinent is opposed to Ahmadiyya because the Messiah and Mahdi already came, according to them, but there was no apocalypse? Thus creating cognitive dissonance in the minds of those with the Magian view of history?
He has more followers in subcontinent than elsewhere maybe because they are not bothered by cyclical view of history?
Last point: the community has some interesting resemblances with Sikh and both from Punjab.
Sorry I wrote so much but I’m curious to know your thoughts!
David by the Lake, JMG, all
Is our more linear perspective of time the sign of a relatively new tradition still being developed? Or do you feel it may be a bit more complex than being in infancy?
I work as a solicitor in Calgary up here in Canada. I just wanted to know your opinion on whether Calgary specifically and Canada as a whole would be more likely to be protected than the rest of the West since we have more oil reserves per capita (though we’re wasting them at a rate that makes me shudder).
Is it possible for humans to prosper without a meta-narrative?
My family and I were contemplating moving to Iceland from the UK, partly owing to family reasons. While we have decided on the move, do you think it is a good decision, based on the fact that Iceland is likely to have better future energy reserves and access to resources than the UK? It is also fairly isolated and so I doubt it’s got a high likelihood of being invaded in future by hostile and desperate powers.
Since I’m also learning Icelandic, do you have any books/sagas do recommend reading?
Thanks, JMG. As a result of your writing, I think I will be able to relate to Jung in two weeks. But Vine Deloria Jr. is a name I know, but have read very little. Will “Custer Died For Your Sins,” be preparation, or did he write other material relevant to this series?
David, exactly. I’ll be talking at some length in a future post about the way a certain tempest in several media teapots going on right now reveals way too much about one of the core delusions of our culture — the notion that the human race is divided into a supposedly innovative and enlightened minority, who are the people who matter, and everyone else, who are, ahem, nonplayable characters in the global video game. As for the roots of the vision of linear time, I’m still trying to sound out directions for research…
Matthias, fascinating. Thank you for this!
Prizm, I’ll be talking about Russian Orthodoxy quite a bit in a future post; the schism that has just divided the Russian Orthodox Church from the rest of the Orthodox communion is, to my mind, far more important than it seems — as important as the split between the Roman church and the Orthodox Church back in the day. As for the meeting ground between monotheism and polytheism, there must be something in the air — I had several people talk about being drawn to that in this week’s Magic Monday ask-me-anything post over on my Dreamwidth journal.
I have been fascinated by this series of posts so far. I’ve heard of Spengler before, but never seen this sort of analysis coming from his historical construction.
One thing that I am interested in seeing is a Spenglerian survey of human cultures going back as far as the Indo-Europeans and the Ancient Egyptians (at a minimum, the Persian/Babylonian culture that preceded the Apollonians), so as to see the civilizational life cycles with a few more data points, and also with a more complete knowledge of eastern civilizations. I have a hard time believing that the Chinese man of today is the same in his cultural ideals as a similar man from the 10 kingdoms period or from Chin’s day. Or is it that western cultures are just unusually short-lived?
I don’t expect you to answer all of those questions in comment form, but if you know of a book or other resource that addresses them, please let me know!
The delusion of “a supposedly innovative and enlightened minority” sounds suspiciously like the theme of a certain hefty, didactic, and speech-laden novel that has been mentioned in past discussions 😉
Re the linear shape of time
As I mentioned above, I wonder if there wasn’t an experiential contribution, where the Eurasian contingent of humanity saw or experienced something that the other bands of humans did not, which nudged them in that direction via their myths and the like. No real basis for that hypothesis, however, only a gut supposition.
@ JMG, Prizm, et al.
One more musing on the “shape of time”
It occurred to me to ask why I thought one or other of the shapes was the the “norm” from which the other deviated.
Given the cyclical nature of, well, Nature and the cycles of the natural world around us generally, I think such is a reasonable basis to hypothesize that the cyclical shape of time is the baseline and the linear shape is the anomaly. And then I’d hypothesize that said anomaly had some kind of cause (or at least a catalyst) which resulted in the deviation.
JMG, It seems like a good possibility that one of the core narratives of the future culture to emerge from the upper Midwest is one of decline or shrinking as virtue. As the years leading up this culture will involve much downsizing and de-teching a successful narrative will embrace this path and give its early adherents an advantage in adaptation. Perhaps some tenants of Buddhism where success is found in paring away all that is not necessary will mix with stoicism to help forge this new culture.
The Volga basin as the the once and future heartland of a great civilization, that’s very cyclical indeed.
The Volga basin is where it all began 6000 years ago, with the domestication of the horse and the coagulation of the population into the recognizable Proto-Indo-European culture.
The wheeled cart was invented about 3300 BC, and it quickly spread to the entire area from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. Just about that time, the first waves of Volkswandering PIE speaking pastoralists spread east to Mongolia and west to Europe.
The pattern was set very early. They brought new genes, new technology, a new language, a warrior elite based on the rigors of horse focused warfare, and the seeds of destruction in the form of plague carrying rodent hitchhikers. They married local women. We have only speculation and reconstruction based on artifacts to reach their spiritual beliefs, but it’s a good guess that they also brought the archetypes that are still present today.
The expansion of Europe into the Americas, Australia and whatnot was a further outward pulse. After taking over much of the world, it will be interesting if another great civilization arises in the PIE heartland.
JMG I like you to display thoughts I can easily connect with.
Having gone trough the disappointment and depression of the idea of progressing into some higher echelon and friendly metastasize throughout the universe to fail, was really bitter.
Yet now I feel sometimes a growing satisfaction by seeing us all on earth being on a playground. Such going on for now over 4.000.000.000 years. Evolution we call it. While our western hegemonic grandiose schemes of a thousand years empire are falling apart, I see that it’s a play going on in every phase. Up from jolly enjoying down to bitterly battling.
Whilst we are embedded deeply, in a matrix of age old handed over behaviour and knowledge, which do form our societies in a similarly general matrix. While the grandiose imperial structures do regularly collapse, that underlying matrix continues to outlast much of the turmoil’s whatsoever.
Hence I hopefully imagine, that societies fate in new great cycle sets, is recognized by humans all over, entrusting to be connected with all that breath, especially our ancestors throughout the ages, weaving us all together. Such I perceive the reality.
And the rest is the play of life all around from pleasure to tragedy.
Thank you for this, JMG. The explanation you give of Faustian Culture having the structural problem of inability to handle failure really rings true with me, and helps contextualize the sort of madness that stalks the collective unconscious. I do not look forward to this cognitive dissonance growing worse. People all around seem like they’re approaching a point of literal insanity. Several people I know have aged tremendously in the past few months as delusions become harder to maintain with no safety valve to let out some of the pressures of disappointment.
As for Vine Deloria, I’ve been really digging into God is Red and my, the Euro-American Psyche really has a huge crack in it. Describing simultaneous, unplanned and spontaneous instances of White youth exhuming Indigenous remains in order to preserve First Nations culture while claiming to be their spiritual inheritors, he writes:
“America attempted to find authenticity in American Indians, manifesting this effort in a number of diverse ways some of which bordered on the on the bizarre. Many years before William Carlos Williams wrote; “The land! Don’t you feel it? Doesn’t it make you want to go out and lift dead Indians tenderly from their graves, to steal from them – as it must be clinging even to their corpses – some authenticity”
In 1971, of course, many Americans did just that. Exhausted spiritually, they began seeking the reality of Indian life in the American Indians’ bones and resting places. That Christian people or even quasi-Christian people could commit such an outrage is perhaps an indication of the extent of their desperation.”
This intersects of course with Carl Jung, who wrote in 1930:
“Man can be assimilated by a country. There is an x and a y in the air and in the soil of a country, which slowly permeate and assimilate him to the type of the aboriginal inhabitant, even to the point of slightly remodeling his physical features.”
“The foreign country somehow gets under the skin of those born in it. Certain very primitive tribes are convinced that it is not possible to usurp foreign territory, because the children born there would inherit the wrong ancestor spirits who dwell in the trees, the rocks, and the water of that country. There seems to be some subtle truth in this primitive intuition. That would mean that the spirit of the Indian gets at the American from within and without. Indeed, there is often an astonishing likeness in the cast of the American face to that of the Red Indian… .”
And, of course, Oswald Spengler has a dog in the fight too!
“A race does not migrate. Men migrate, and their successive generations are born in ever-changing landscapes; but the landscape exercises a secret force upon the plant-nature in them, and eventually the race-expression is completely transformed by the extinction of the old and the appearance of a new one. Englishmen and Germans did not migrate to America, but human beings migrated thither as Englishmen and Germans, and their descendants are there as Americans. It has long been obvious that the soil of the Indians has made its mark upon them- generation by generation they become more and more like the people they eradicated.”
I’ve thought long and hard on these quotations, and believe that they may explain a lot about the peculiarities of non-First Nations Americans. I am reminded of Darwin, in how he discusses the way slight changes of environment can totally alter a species ability to reproduce, and I wonder how the environment subtly effects other aspects of inner and outer orientation. Also of Genii Loci and their effects on the inner side of lived experience… I look forward to reading your thoughts on this matter!
I would suggest that one contribution to Faustian culture was the widespread mastery of long distance sailing. The Romans had been pretty much confined to the Mediterranean sea with forays to the British Isles. Their empire had a set of natural boundaries on most sides–the African deserts, the Rhine and Danube and the Syrian deserts. But once Europeans pushed out into the Atlantic the possibility of new empires opened and were realized. The real and substantial changes in European life that these explorations made possible would have fed into the idea of a world susceptible to improvement. I am thinking of the new food crops, such as maize and the potato, new vegetables and seasonings and medicines (quinine for example). Then you got a self reinforcing cycle. New food crops allowed increased population which then needed new lands to expand to, leading to exploration in search of land to colonize. Simply the knowledge that there was a world unknown to their ancestors and unaccounted for by Scripture helped weaken the hold of the Magian culture.
On a different topic, most of the comment about “Cornerstore Caroline” the white woman who falsely accused a 9 year old black boy of grabbing her buttocks and called 911 to complain have focused on the racism in her actions. I don’t know if anyone has commented on the sexual aspect–the idea that a casual contact in crowded area must have been an assault. From the video of the boy’s backpack brushing against the woman it is obvious that nothing resembling a “grab” occurred. How is this sort of thing going to affect reception of victims of actual deliberate, unwanted bodily contact? It is just a step from “white women be crazy” to “women be crazy.”
A little off topic but your prediction about Trump and marijuana reform seems like it may actually come to fruition.
Dylan, great points re: the Persian-Zoroastrian influence on the Magian culture. This is indeed something that’s still not fully grasped to this day. And the whole history is quite a convoluted serious of events and transformations. There’s still a ton of Biblicist bias that does everything possible to keeping banging the drum which claims Hebrew myths as being the ultimate origin of all post-Assyrian Near Eastern civilization and religion — when in fact the priest-scribes who wrote much of the Hebrew Bible we know of today, were dutiful subjects of the Achaemenid Persian Shahs. And thus any attempt to shift of the origin story of Abrahamic religion over to another culture (like the Persians) gets shooed away by those who want to keep believing their own religious mythology as being empirical-historical fact.
Of course Zoroastrianism itself was not immune from he process of pseudomorphoisis. It started off as Mazdaism in Central Asia (probably around modern-day Tajikstan around the foothills of the Pamirs) within the old Indo-Iranian culture with the great magus Zarathustra (Zoroaster) developing his own system out of the archaic Vedic Aryan spirituality of the late Bronze Age. By the time the Iranian tribes practicing Mazdaism slowly inched their way across the Iranian plateau and ever-closer to old Mesopotamia about 1,000 years after Zarathustra’s time, the culture and religion has assimilated myriad Near Eastern features and superstitions. It essentially incorporated anything useful from the collapsing Mestopotamian civilization, which entered it’s “Winter” phase around the time of the several Neo-Assyrian and Babylonian empires. The Iranian Medes and Persians were the new spring chickens on the otherwise-smoldering scene, along with the young Aramean-Chaldean “fellaheen” culture they liberated from the oppressive Assyrian elites; these two cultures together fused and formed the Magian culture that would soon rise up and become the dominant cultural force of the Middle East. We see this union symbolized by Cyrus’ restoration of Marduk (the hero god of the Chaldean peasantry) to the top of the Babylonian pantheon. Cyrus’ successors then went about the process of repatriating the various Aramean populations back to the original homelands West of the Euphrates; they had been forcibly relocated by the aforementioned Empires of Old Mesopotamia as a part of their imperial conquest schemes.
JMG, would you say the whole core of Magian thought is a mix of rigid moral dualism with fatalism, all within the framework of a microcosmic time-scale? see: modern evangelical Protestant ‘young earth creationism’ as the most vulgar and materialistic example of what I mean by a micro-cosmic time-scale.
The Russian Orthodoxy schism from Constantinople is certainly an opportunity for a new spiritual rebirth in Russia. The connection between Putin and the Russian Orthodox clergy, Putin’s interest in pilgrimages to sacred sites.. perhaps these are signs which portend something bigger in the works. We live in very exciting, interesting times!
>we’re starting to see articles in the media insisting that the end of the world will follow promptly
I know you have before expressed the viewpoint that the current state of affairs will not go with a bang, but slowly morph into something else. I am referring in particular to the “Collapse now and avoid the rush” post, which I have gone back to reading a few times since you published on the ADR.
What you say seems logical: I have read enough history to know that civilizations decline and fall in spans of centuries. Italy, where I am from, has collapsed and risen a number of times since Roman times. So why should this time be any different?
However, none of the previous civilizations had messed up world ecology so bad, and none had nuclear weapons. Both the ecological mess we are in and a nuclear war can make the planet uninhabitable for humans (not by coincidence, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists just warned that the IPCC is too optimistic).
So are you 100% sure of your “long descent” hypothesis? Is it grounded in druidic wisdom?
I mean, humans are bound to go extinct eventually, so one civilization is bound to be the last one.
In The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram links linear time to phonetic writing and widespread literacy – writing things down makes it a lot easier to see how this event is different from a similar earlier event.
If the failure of Faustian notions of progress tend to prompt a return to Magianism, then the final collapse of Faustian progress could be the key to the arrival of another of Spengler’s concepts – the second religiousness.
As such, the second religiousness would be a return to a variation of Magian religion, perhaps not specifically Christianity of Islam, but a religion that is a mixture of the two, or a bric-a-brac of various Magian concepts, or even a “new” religion that is essentially Magian in form.
Fascinating blog and comments. I wonder if maybe our culture is now post-Faustian and deserves a new name. I’m thinking of those tins of fish marked “Warning: this product contains fish”. Has this level of banal, inane mass-stupidity existed at any previous epoch in the history of the world?
Next year, the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and the 100th of the Treaty of Versailles, and the 150th of the Us transcontinental railroad, and the 200th of the first great US financial panic, should be interesting. It’s like the heart of history beating.
I believe C.S. Lewis eloquently outlined most of your points in his essay “The Funeral of a Great Myth”. He perhaps labeled Faustian society as “evolutionism” but his observations seem in line with yours. He also labeled it a mythology. Call it a mythology, school of thought, or the grand unlabeled religion of our time, IT is an out of control hurricane of dogmatic “Je ne sais quoi” with no shortage of evangelists. Can’t we just fast forward 100 years or so? I think I suffer from POFS, postmodern outrage fatigue syndrome.
RE: Linear Time Development, David, et al
Assuming that cyclical time is the norm from which to deviate, which in itself might be a deviation 😉 since i don’t like making assumptions, this is one of those areas in which I think a god, or the gods may have helped in forming these thought patterns 😉
Your reference to the mass migration of North African and Middle Eastern migrants brings up an interesting article I read today, which referenced an interview with the French interior minister who has recently left Macron’s government. This politician, a Socialist, warns of a coming civil war given that Islamists have taken over the migrant ghettos in many French cities.
This issue is rarely mentioned in the European media who seem to prefer to pretend it isn’t happening but France is in an advance state of this decomposition of the French state vis v vis a radicalised minority (or majority?) of French Muslims.
How will this interact with your thoughts on the future of Europe, the EU and the potential expansion of the Magian civilisation into Europe?
I also note that Brazil appears increasingly likely to vote for a “far-right” candidate in the elections. This seems to be part of a global trend towards embracing Ceasars, strongmen who can restore order in troubled states. The Saudi crisis over the apparent murder of the journalist is also a fascinating story – MBS has over-reached himself this time and it will be interesting to see if the royal family step in and regain control over the state. Would be interested in your thoughts on this.
In regard to central/eastern Europe, I know from personal experience that Poles are very hostile to the concept of mass Muslim migration into their country and these feelings are shared by the majority of central/eastern Europeans. Whilst the majority like the EU, for economic and geopolitical reasons, disillusionment as began to spread among some of the population.
My own view is that central-eastern Europe is unlikely to “go down” in the likely event of future mass migrations and Russia would step in to ensure that its neighbors were not overrun by future Islamic armies invading Europe.
p.s. the Brexit negotiations appear to be heading towards no-deal as you forecast. The only question left is whether May will try and push through a deal or accept that the terms the EU are prepared to offer will be unacceptable to her party and the DUP and prepare for no-deal Brexit.
What I find interesting is how this gullibility is becoming evident to me in various parts of the world, and the role that the media plays in it. They seem boldened.
One thing this topic of essays has shown me is the snottiness of the liberal middle class toward the low class. I see that they are loving toward all minorities to a self-negating and even suicidal degree, but quite nasty toward white lower classes.
I find the article you linked rather amusing: it assumes as a matter of course that everyone knows about global warming, therefore the only reason people are opposed to actions to address it is because they want it. It’s actually rather funny to read….
JMG, Laughing Sage, what concerns me about the timing of the Magian springtime is that Spengler’s system is inelastic- each culture must go through the stages of development in a fixed timespan of 1200 or 1000 years, depending on where you mark off the beginning and ending. If we begin with Cyrus and end with the Ottomans we get a span of 1900 years, which is too long.
My take is that Cyrus corresponds roughly to Charlemagne in that he temporarily united a swath of dark age polities using political forms borrowed from the prior civilization of that region. Then the true springtime occurs under the Parthian empire, which corresponds to the German Holy Roman Empire in being less of an empire and more of a feudal union. (The predominance of aristocratic cavalry over infantry warfare is a key indicator of this stage). The Sassanians promote a ‘Renaissance’ of Achaemenid Persian cultural motifs just as the Italians of the 14th century reclaimed Apollonian motifs in opposition to the Faustian substrate of their own culture.
The Sassanian Shahs bring the Magian culture into its high summer and autumn of cultural achievement, notably under Khosrow Anoshirvan, who puts down a serious rebellion of the nobility and centralizes the state tax collection… which would make Muhammad and his generals the Napoleons who overthrow the established divine kingship and replace it with a much more financialized and expansive colonial empire. And that’s where my scheme begins to feel unsteady, since the religious zeal of the young Muslim Umma does not correspond to the rational atheism of the young French Republic.
Maybe all this sounds like nonsense to any modern reader belonging to the Magian culture (if the category so defined even rings true at all), in which case I hope to be corrected.
JMG, RE: The abandoning of the latest technological gimmick, see: thelightphone.com.
I know nothing about this phone, its the thought that counts, and the trend.
I still have my slide rule…
G’day John Michael!
Faustian culture feels to me like an oppressive weight of ever cascading failures. On the other hand I reckon embracing failure and examining it, is a way to move forward. It just might not be in the direction that promoters of Faustian culture would like it to be. Such a culture can’t allow that thought to creep in otherwise…
Whenever we completely stuff something up here, we have a postmortem and discuss what went wrong and why, and then ask the hard question: Can we do anything about this? And more importantly, is the system important enough to put further resources, time and energy into it?
Incidentally, the cost of regulation is completely bonkers for small business. I can only describe it as extortionate.
Maybe I’m just feeling grumpy and out of sorts this morning because I have to completely re-wire the battery room in the house today! 🙂 Who would have thought that this stuff is simple in the components and mind bendingly complex when put together as a working system. As a suggestion, if anyone ever suggests that they know a lot about renewable solar energy, well I reckon they’re talking a lot of rubbish – and it ain’t possible at all to run the sort of civilisation that we enjoy now using the stuff. Not possible, not now, and not ever.
Ooops! Almost forgot to mention this indication of the fragile state of this continent: Eastern Australia receives historic grain import volumes as drought creeps further south.
Nothing says you’ve reached your worst case scenario carrying capacity like having to import basic food items… This minor side article should be front page news…
I’m thinking about beginning growing grains next year (wheat is usually a fall planted crop, but thrill seekers can try for a spring planting – it will produce something).
JMG. What are the best exemplars of Faustian culture in classic literature (magian also)? Thanks. This blog is so fun.
My ancestors emigrated from the UK to Australia to become farmers. Being a farmer in Australia is a brutal education in the cyclical nature of life – in order to prosper, you have to learn to bank your surplus carefully in the good times. When the bad times come, you spend your surplus but also cut your spending back to the bone to avoid damaging the productive potential of the land. If in desperation a farmer lets his sheep eat the grass down to the roots, the pasture will be too damaged to recover quickly when the rains come again. Better to sell the sheep very early in the drought, let the pasture die back and then watch it grow again in the good times.
If you’re good at it and don’t get taken out by random catastrophe, each time the cycle goes around your surplus will get a little bigger and you can invest in the land again, leading to greater surplus on the next cycle. But chasing greater production every year, expecting every year to be better than the last, is a great way to crash and burn.
Re: Hidden Tribes report
There are actually two reports. The summary report is here: https://hiddentribes.us . What you linked to is the detail report. What looks like a slightly more up-to-date version of the detail is here: at least, it’s labeled 1.0.2 while the one I got originally doesn’t have a version number.
I think this needs a thorough discussion.
Re: Country of the Future
When I see this, I’m reminded of Chief Vitalstatistix’ classic pep talk: “Men, the only thing we have to fear is tomorrow. But then, tomorrow never comes.”
The origin of the Indo-European language family is still hotly debated within the linguistic community. The effects of the waves of conquest and slaughter by the herding cultures of Central Asia are pretty well documented, however.
Re: Origin of Hebrew Bible
There’s a very unorthodox viewpoint that the main parts of the Hebrew Bible were actually written in the early Hellenistic period, possibly in Alexandria. The primary evidence is a large amount of material that seems to come from Classical Greek culture, especially Plato, rather than Mesopotamian sources.
@JMG – re American Politics: I recall at some point during 2016, back when you were writing on the ADR, you suggested that the Red team could be seen as the party of progress, since they most closely matched a worldview revolving around continuing current policies, and that the Blue team would more accurately be called the conservative party because they advocate keeping many public policies the same. That idea made an impression at the time and I think it has held up over the past two years or so. I’m curious if you still hold to that view, and if not what changed it?
re the Russian Orthodox Church: when I lived in Russia (2003-2004), almost none of the young people had any interest in the Orthodox church, in part as a result of Soviet atheism and in part because of the influence of Western materialism. Granted, that was longer ago than I care to admit, and things could have changed since then, but I never got the impression that Orthodoxy was anything more than a relic of the past that provided lucrative tourist attractions.
re Magian culture: if Magian culture has a similar problem with the direction of time, how long can Magian culture really outlast the Faustian? Also, I have my doubts that the middle east will remain habitable due to climate change, so I suppose Magian culture could migrate en mass to Europe as set up a new cultural heartland there, but that seems a pretty traumatic event for a high culture to survive…
David by the lake, i think time in agrarian culures moves cyclically. time in desert cultures moves linearly. I am from australia and even although seasons change, especially in desert regions infinity is a linear concept. i moved to north west china and the changing of the seasons is shocking clear and cyclic in a way not evident in much of australia.
@ John Beasley, Shira Raphanus and JMG:
Oswald Spengler was working on a follow up to The Decline of the West but never finished it due to declining health and the fact that he spent the last few years of his life under house arrest because his last published book got him into serious trouble with the Nazis. He tentatively called this projected book “The Epic of Man” and it would have included his theories of human prehistory. He apparently didn’t get very far with the project and the only thing surviving were some notes, few if any of which have ever been translated into English.
According to scholars who have studied those notes, Spengler concluded that what Arnold Toynbee called the “first generation” civilizations of the Old World were descended from three great “cultural amoebas”, a concept Spengler borrowed from the great German anthropologist Leo Frobenius and his studies of African tribal cultures. The first of these “cultural amoebas” Spengler called “Atlantis”. It stretched from Egypt to Ireland and was based on the cult of the dead. The second extended from the Red Sea to India. He called it “Kush” and believed it was centered on temple cults and astrology. The third was a warrior culture that emerged on the Steppes of Central Asia. Spengler referred to this third cultural amoeba as “Turan” and maintained that both the Indo-Europeans and the great cultures of Northeast Asia, including China, Japan and Korea, were offshoots of it.
Fascinating as ever. So much I see that makes sense in this.
I don’t want to belabour the point after last time, but just to re-state that I am flummoxed by your repeated suggestion that the Trump government is some kind of departure from the significant economic changes that people date back to the 1980s.
As I understand it, the most significant aspect of those changes was not those made to the trade policies or the regulatory environment for transnational corporations, or to immigration into the labour market. Rather it was the opening up of private finance, the rise of Wall Street such that the economy was no longer managed by government, but by ‘the market’. From then on, Wall Street was effectively ungovernable.
Trump is a rentier, and as such the epitome of the endgame of this process that really got going forty odd years ago -i.e. the financialisation of everything. As such I do not see him as a reaction at all. Those around him who advise him and fund his political platform have ushered in the opposite of ‘a grassroots economic boom’, rather a huge financial bubble that funnels ever increasing rent up to the plutocrats.
As said, bemused by your opinions on this matter, the fundamentals have not changed, but accelerated under Trump.
On Indo-European sailors (this week, and also last week):
Just let’s not forget that the greatest sailors in the world were the Polynesians, that the Phoenicians reached the British Isles and apparently circumnavigated Africa in in the Pharaoh’s service, that Arabian ships reached China and Chinese ships reached Africa before Vasco da Gama and Columbus… Some Northwestern Europeans were great sailors, sure, but that is not what marks them out from other cultures.
The great and courageous Islam scholar Patricia Crone once summed up all the theories about European exceptionalism as (paraphrasing) “they didn’t know when to stop”. Actually, she then compared European culture to a cancer metastasizing all over the planet (a metaphor our host used today for several cultures).
Finally, Spenger was supremely scornful about supposed genealogies from prehistoric people to great cultures – he speculated about a Babylonian trade mark on a cooking pot reaching prehistoric Germany and now being venerated by nationalistic scholars as typically Germanic…
There is almost always a biological continuity in one place over the millenia, and I am looking forward to hearing about the influence of the land itself in the next installations – but there is also the phenomenon of radical cultural change, and according to Spengler it is strongest at the inception of a new great culture.
What I learned in a course on the (Hebrew) Bible as history in a state university about fifty years ago, and what I’m studying now in a series of adult education classes taught by a rabbi with a doctorate agrees pretty well with what Laughing Sage wrote above. The Israelite religion had distinctive features, but it wasn’t monotheist. Monotheism was imposed later by religious and civil authorities who were restored to power by Persians.
Although a linear quasi-historical narrative is central to the Jewish religion, Judaism contains an element of cyclical time. The Jewish calendar has lunar months, with every month starting at the new moon and the full moon falling on the fifteenth day. (A thirteenth month is added at prescribed intervals to keep the solar year in line with the seasons.) Some Jewish holidays commemorate historical or allegedly historical events. Many holidays are either purely commemorations of an agricultural holiday in ancient Israel (e.g. Sukkhot, a harvest festival), or are about an event in history with some seasonal tie-in (Chanukah commemorates a real military victory; it falls near the winter solstice and is a fire festival.) Then there is Purim, for which a story was concocted to give Jews an excuse to celebrate a cross between the Persian New Year and Mardi Gras.
“the smart money is moving into the early 20th century technology of high-altitude balloons to fill many of the roles now filled by satellites.”
I hope the smart money is going to do something about the utter waste of helium in disposable party balloons. From what I’ve read, the primary source of helium is a byproduct of natural gas production, and that is a finite resource.
A few thoughts
Yay you’ve started taking about the failure of faustian dream (from the spenglarian perspective), I’ve been waiting for this for a while! So thanks 🙂
I remember when I first started reading the ADR back in 2013, and learned the myth of progress was a lie. I can’t say I was too upset, because I felt as though I’d known this on a deeper level for quite some time. Even so, reconciling my life around the end of ‘progress’ and the industrial age has taken time. The emotional stage was first, and that took about 3-4 years (and I’m someone who was quite open accepting of the end of progress). I’m into the practical stage now. I expect that to last a few more years at least. I am immensely grateful I ‘collapsed ahead of the rush’ as you used to repeatedly advised (Or at least I’ve been through the emotional collapse, though not quite the economic collapse).
I reckon people with TDS (Trump Derangement syndrome) are simply being driven mad by the failure of the faustian myth. To be honest, though I’m reasonably immune from the syndrome and I completely understand the cultural/economic forces in play, a small part of me wants to sheik and scream whenever I see trump. Because he just seems so ‘wrong’, wheres the nice neat suited suave politician telling me even things ok and the ‘progress’ is on track huh?!
I suspect the High depression and suicide rates among (though certainly not exclusive to) young men are being driven by the fact that our whole sense of self as Men as ‘conquerors of the darkness of ignorance and superstition’ is dying, making many of us (young or old) extremely defensive or sensitive to any criticism of what privileges or sense of identity we have left. Far too many disillusioned young men I fear will be easy fodder for not so benign populist demagogues… Is the failure of the faustian myth (slightly) easier to deal with for women I wonder?
“Man should be the sum of his story”- I’ll finish with a song by a favourite band of mine (Last- by The Unthanks):
@Violet, :Hi! I’m reminded of a Bradbury short story, I believe the title was ‘Tall They Were, And Golden Eyed’, in which the human settlers of Mars are gradually subsumed, shall we say, by the planet itself: they take on the mental, physical, and spiritual characteristics of the people who lived on Mars before them…
I miss Bradbury.
Speaking of the upper classes wigging out, here is an over-the-top hysterical piece in the Washington Post, written by an upper-middle-class privileged white woman:
Thanks for not raping us, all you ‘good men.’ But it’s not enough.
I am on the other side of the world now, so I am not personally worried. I am in my sixties, so I don’t think anyone will perceive me to be a threat.
However, I am worried about my nephew, who is looking to emigrate from the U.S. as we speak.
Apparently, to upper-middle-class privileged white women, all straight white men are evil just for the dastardly crime of existing, exactly as with the Jews in Nazi Germany. I fear that there may come pogroms against straight white men, such as occurred against the Jews in Tsarist Russia.
JMG, what do you think is the likelihood of that? I know that the existing social order is going down no matter what, but a lot of innocent people are likely to die in the process.
re coming to terms with energy descent and the death of the progress myth – David Holmgren’s new tome Retrosuburbia has been quite the success here in Australia – it is in its second printing already. When I ordered a library copy I was 113th in the queue, although clearly the library has bought a few extra copies since. I think there is a real turning towards the possibility of a different future, a recognition that we will be living differently.
Holmgren’s work is a very practical manual detailing ways to think about all aspects of thriving in suburbia in a future of energy descent. The first chapter is a fictional narrative centring around a typical suburban street from the 1950s through the 2020s, as its inhabitants travel up the slope of prosperity and down again, and the practical workarounds they develop to thrive in changing economic situations.
In explaining the concept of energy descent, Holmgren references one John Michael Greer, adding in a footnote:
“John Michael Greer, author of The Long Descent (2008), has been the most prolific and influential writer about energy descent futures; see ecosophia.net”
I have noticed that the normal person on the street doesn’t think I am as weird as they used to when I start to talk about ways I am thinking about how to be resilient into the future. I find this both interesting, comforting (no-one likes to be the weird one) but also a little ominous.
Interesting post, as always. It’s an interesting take to consider the cycles of history and their respective visions of the future, within the backdrop of the decline of the American empire and the end of an era of cheap and bountiful energy. There is so much stress and frantic hand waving and shedding of tears over all this, while various causes and their effects are blamed. But I really think much of it can be explained by the increase in the cost of energy and overshoot, and how the American wealth pump has kept the game going by picking the pockets of the Middle Class, and that party is, as you might say, past its pull date.
For me, my “tectonic moment” was when Obamacare was passed. That’s when I realized “the republic was lost”, and without major political upheaval, we’re not going to transition, smoothly or otherwise, into a very pleasant future. It’s when I realized that the road of decline doesn’t mean just getting poorer in terms of material wealth – it means that others who don’t cope with the process as well as bureaucratic institutions that can’t adapt are going to impact the lives of all of us.
The linear conception of time proper to what JMG has termed Magian civilization has a very straightforward origin: The Judeo-Christian Scriptures, and the view of salvation history that this collection of writings embodies. The Messianic idea of a divine savior figure who will save the entire world from sin and evil goes back as far as Genesis 3, with God’s promise to Eve that her seed would eventually crush the serpent – i.e., Satan. This Messianic idea is then developed throughout the Old Testament, and the antiquity of many of the events and revelations in question – as well as of the writings recording them – antedates the origins of the Avestas of Zoroastrianism by a considerable margin.
As a faithful Christian, I would maintain, of course, that the linearity of salvation history is thus divinely revealed.
Also, JMG, I would not necessarily assign too much significance to the recent discord within Eastern Orthodoxy. The phenomenon of schism occurs quite routinely within Eastern Christianity, and typically does not touch in its origins upon core tenets of the Christian faith. It is rather a dispute about the legitimacy of ecclesiastical authority; and unlike in Roman Catholicism, such questions about ecclesiastical authority in Eastern Christianity are generally understood to involve mere historical contingencies that do not call into question the essential teachings of the faith.
Even as we speak, for example, there are two Catholicos-Patriarchs of the Assyrian Church of the East (aka Nestorians) who are in mutual schism – one in Iraq, and one in the greater Chicago area. In the grand scheme of things, this is not a matter of great concern.
“Scientists have known for decades that it’s not going to happen—outside of the Earth’s magnetosphere, space is so full of hard radiation that prolonged exposure to it will guarantee death by radiation poisoning”
Here’s the strange thing I’ve noticed: Yes, the information is out there, and has been for decades… and yet a great many scientists, and even more “fans of science” simply do not take it into account.
You still have David Brin, who has a PhD in space science, insisting (at the top of his digital lungs) that humanity will one day bestride the stars. There’s Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who has a PhD in astrophysics, calmly discussing manned flights to Mars. There’s Stephen Hawking worrying that aliens are going to follow our radio signals to our solar system and steal all of our natural resources.
None of these people are stupid, but it would seem that the basic assumptions of Faustian society blind them to a number of basic, obvious facts.
Also, in the first post in this series, you gave a reply to James Jensen, along the lines that it’s a common modern daydream to think we can completely escape into a different culture, and so you’re content with Faustian longing for infinity as expressed in Druidic Revival spirituality.
That struck me as a fairly intricate idea – by accepting a longing for infinity, you’re actually accepting a limit upon your worldview (which is a somewhat distasteful idea in the Faustian view, it would seem).
My first reaction was that this invalidated any spirituality developed in modern times, as it would have that culturally-determined longing. But I came to realize that, even though we’re talking about the many faults of Faustian culture, it has to have some valid insights and practices – otherwise, it could never have become a great culture.
Not a revolutionary insight on my part, but I find I often have to correct myself away from the One Drop Fallacy.
Rajiv, I’m going to recommend you read Spengler’s The Decline of the West,, which covers the various great cultures in more detail. As for the Ahmadiyya, I see that as an example of the Magian pseudomorphosis in India being drawn back into classical Indian thought patterns — the replacement of apocalypse with cyclic time, and of the Mahdi as apocalyptic figure with the Mahdi as basically an avatar of that sort that, in Hindu tradition, appears at intervals.
Prizm, I think it’s more complex than that.
Robert, nope. The western half of North America, to judge by paleoclimatological equivalents, is going to turn into nearly uninhabitable desert, and the oil you’ve got just guarantees that your local ecology is going to be devastated and the region itself may become a target for invasion and conquest once the current nation-state system comes apart. The eastern third or so of Canada is a much better bet — that, or the high Arctic.
Dashui, it’s impossible for human beings to exist without a metanarrative. Anybody who thinks they don’t have one simply hasn’t noticed it.
Ellen, you’ll have to ask someone who knows Icelandic literature about reading material, but Iceland ought to be a good choice so long as you’re willing to accept the local language and culture wholeheartedly.
Mac, the book I’ll be citing specifically is God is Red.
One thing I think is worth noting (for my sake if no one else’s) is that it seems to me that in this and the previous post in this series, you’ve never presented Faustian culture as Evil. It’s just falling apart. Clinging to it in the face of its mounting dysfunctions is like staying put in the valley when the dam’s sprouting more and more leaks.
JMG, If I’ve understood some comments you’ve made in the past, one of the time-honored ways of coming up with something genuinely new is to try to do something old. Hence a revival of certain aspects of Apollonian and Magian culture may not be out of order?
John, well, you might consider going straight to the source and reading Spengler’s The Decline of the West — the two-volume edition is the one to get.
David, why, yes, it does, doesn’t it? I bet it was written by someone who came from one of the Faustian pseudomorphoses — you don’t tend to get that crude of a statement of a core cultural theme from those who are actually native to the great culture. 😉
The default shape of time, to my mind, is something like the Australian aboriginal concept of the “Dreamtime,” which you find in most hunter-gatherer societies. The idea is that there’s a “real time” in which everything important took place, which is simultaneously in the distant past, the far future, and in the present but hidden from us. Ordinary time, by contrast, is simply the endless serial rehashing of the patterns laid down in the Dreamtime, with no particular motion of its own. The cyclical and linear time-senses veer away from that in different directions.
Clay, that’s certainly possible. You ought to write a story about that for Into the Ruins!
Shira, the Volga basin is a good place for cultures to get started, due to geographical features; I suspect that it may have done so long before the Indo-Europeans, and will do so long after the last Indo-European language is forgotten.
Hubertus, good. I tend to approach it all the same way — deep time is a great cure for taking one’s own time too seriously.
Violet, got it in one — and I’ll be talking shortly about the ways in which the cultures (plural) of modern North America are gradually drifting away from the Faustian pseudomorphosis into something a lot closer to Native ways of thinking.
Rita, the Faustian culture was far from the first to get into long distance sailing, but when it did show up in Europe, yes, it had an immense impact. As for “Cornerstone Caroline,” that strikes me as a good example of the way that the #MeToo movement is canceling itself out by going to self-defeating extremes.
Grey, yep. I expect movement on that right after the midterms, and once Congress passes the legislation in question, I also expect Trump to arrange for clemency for a vast number of people who are in prison for simple possession without any other crime. Once that happens — especially since a disproportionate number of people in jail for cannabis possession are black, and the Democrats could have done that a dozen times over but never got around to it — Trump’s reelection will be a slam-dunk.
Sage, those are among the core elements but it’s more complex than that. I’d recommend a good close reading of Spengler, who discusses the matter in some detail.
Prizm, I see it as the breach that allows Russian Christianity to begin moving away from a purely Magian pattern and become the religious frame within which the new Russian great culture will begin to develop.
Discwrites, every year since before I was born people have been insisting that the end of industrial civilization will be a sudden cataclysm. Meanwhile, the end of industrial civilization is already taking place around us. It’s 45 years since the last human being walked on the Moon; most of the great technological advances that were supposed to make the future happen either didn’t happen at all, or turned out to cost more than they were worth; climate change and resource depletion are already clamping down, and global population growth curves are flattening out rapidly at a rate that should lead to declines within my remaining lifespan. The long descent is already happening. The Faustian imagination can’t handle the thought of decline, which is why people flee into apocalyptic fantasies — but year after year, decline happens and the apocalypse doesn’t. I rest my case!
Sofie, yes, but he’s quite wrong. India has had phonetic writing for a very long time, and it’s got a cyclic sense of time; as for widespread literacy, that didn’t happen in the Western world until many centuries after linear time got established. I wish more pop-culture intellectuals would learn the basic lesson of the scientific method: when you come up with a hypothesis, see if you can find an example that disproves it.
Phil, good. My working guess is that in Russia, it’ll be a new religion emerging within the existing Magian forms, and in America, it’ll be a different pseudomorphosis.
Robert, we’re clearly not post-Faustian yet! It’s not at all surprising that a culture that fixates on going to extremes would work so hard at going to the extreme of idiocy…
Dave, I’m quite sure Lewis read Spengler — most intellectuals of his time did — so there may be some direct influence there. As for Postmodern Outrage Fatigue Syndrome, just remember the professionally outraged are simply trying to claim unearned power in a way that guarantees blowback. What’s more, the blowback is building…
Forecastingintelligence, large parts of Europe are going to have to choose fairly soon whether they intend to control their borders and restore the rule of law to their immigrant ghettos, on the one hand, or become part of the Dar al-Islam on the other. There isn’t a third choice as far as I can see. As for Brazil, Spengler talked at length about the rise of Caesarism, and we seem to be getting a fairly widespread round of it just now. The Khashoggi case? Business as usual in the Middle East; such things were being done as a matter of course in Sumerian times.
Your question “Is the failure of the faustian myth (slightly) easier to deal with for women I wonder?” Nope, or at least not for this middle class, relatively privileged white woman in Australia with some knowledge of history.
I agree that a stair step relatively gradual descent is much more likely than sudden wide spread apocalypse (though obviously localised apocalypses are likely due to wars and natural disasters). Men have to deal with the loss of their identity due to the failure of progress in this process but the thing that the myth of progress promises women like me is personal safety – for myself and my children – a high level of it now and increasing into the future. It was very confronting to lose that illusion.
Women definitely tend to benefit from a state monopoly on violence, at least in the upper and middle classes. Australia’s place in the empire also means that we are very shielded from the effects of war. Our relative freedom from violence will change due to local wars and general chaos. A loss of current trade links will mean massive food insecurity – we have 25 million people, indigenous Australians maintained a stable population of around 1 million but we have despoiled the most productive areas and and depressed the fertility of the remainder by around 90% (absent current constant large scale inputs). It’s not nice but in Uni I learned that famines often disproportionately affect women and children compared to men. Add in reductions/lack of access to modern medicine which I feel impacts women and children more than men. I thought I had accepted what life would be like in a deindustrial future including DIY medical care – then I had a very premature child and a birth that would have killed us anywhere except a first world tertiary teaching hospital. That was confronting.
I am sure that there are potential positives for women in the rise of a new culture. However, the loss of my faustian illusions of safety led to just as much denial and grieving as any loss of identity, and took much the same length of time to work through as the process you have described.
Russia fascinates me, because somewhere (I forget the source) I read that Russian culture assigns the determination of most cultural values to the leader, whether that be the Tsar, General Secretary, or, ahem President. In a massive country with many ethnic groups, this strikes me as a strategic advantage in a tumultuous future as other cultures decline. It is of course vastly different to the West, where a contest of values determines whichever ones are to be held at any one time. I am fascinated to see if you pick up on this in your discussion about cultural archetypes.
I see you too have found Umair Haque. 🙂
I think there is some cause to expect things to get better in Russia in the near future, if only because it’s hard (not impossible) to do worse than much of the last 100 years (the longer term is a different matter, as we are sadly not immune to global problems). I’m thinking about the Bolshevik and the Market Bolshevik shocks and their after-effects especially. That’s rather worse than anything that happened in the other Faustian nations, to the point where I am at a loss as to just how it fits into Spengler’s theory. The Bolsheviks of both types certainly fit the Faustian model themselves, promising More Wealth through More Progress along either socialist or free market lines – but one would think that such rude interruptions of progress as took place repeatedly under the Soviet rule, some of them much worse than anything happening in America or Europe today, would have interfered with the overall Faustian direction of the culture under this model. Since they have not observably done so, I wonder what it would take to do that in America. Or I suppose it would require a wholesale collapse of the entire civilisation, rather than any local difficulties?
Re: Orthodoxy – it is hard to appraise its current state, partly because it is of varying strength from one place to another. I live in a major cosmopolitan city. I know quite a few young Orthodox people here, but on the whole it, like Communism, is seen as mainly the religion of the elderly (or of the old women especially, who notably outnumber the old men here). On the other hand, the south of European Russia (including parts of the Volga region) is much more religious, and there are some signs of a revival in what is left of the countryside. As for a new religion, well, people have been predicting it for some time now. Roza Mira comes to mind. So far it’s still largely on the prediction stage, though. Even the cults are mostly foreign ones.
I look forward to seeing your thoughts about the ROC – and also the Old Believers, as I think I may have already mentioned. Their history has been a very interesting one, though it is hard to say what role their surviving communities may play in the future.
Within the framework of pseudomorphoses, what were the Celts? Were they pre-Appolonian? Does anything remain of it in the areas that still identify as celtic, or the Anglican Church (or is this all from the 18th century revivals)?
On that note, do you think contemporary (meso/neo)paganism/nature religions have any staying power, or are the Magian derived cultures of Orthodox Russia and the Islamic Middle-East the only likely players in Europe for the forseeable future?
(The Chinese seem to be busying themselves with Australia and Africa, and I don’t expect them to enter Europe in the same way.)
JMG, readers of this blog may be interested in the science (specifically medical science) end of the progress narrative, which is just now tearing the Cochrane Collaboration (long a watchword for reliable evidence) into two warring factions. One is the old-timers, who think that being trusted with your evidence reviews will inevitably bring you in conflict with certain commercial interests, but keep the public in general trusting you. The other is seeking to turn Cochrane into another corporate “brand” selling a “product” (reviews) and also, as part of that project, embedding more closely with the corporations who produce the products (pharmaceuticals) that are being reviewed.
This blog has a series of posts on the ins and outs, the last one here: https://davidhealy.org/cochrexit/The blogger is a psychiatrist who is critical of the science cum marketing behind some of the drugs produced for his field, and is relating the account with a sense of solidarity with the Cochrane old-timers, one of whom was recently expelled from a position on the Board, after publishing a criticism of a Cochrane review of the HPV vaccine in the BMJ.
In other news, what passes for discourse on vaccinations, (that I cannot help witnessing in the course of trying to research the features of the injuries I see in the clinic, and how trace their aetiology and prognosis), this phrase of yours is thoroughly apt: “the human race is divided into a supposedly innovative and enlightened minority, who are the people who matter, and everyone else, who are, ahem, nonplayable characters in the global video game. ”
Up to now, “the innovative and enlightened minority” (who also run corporations and regulatory agencies) can see a vision of humanity progressing past the need for any medicine at all, once every disease can be prevented beforehand with a wonder immunisation, but the stubborn and unmissable existence of people who know they were injured, plus the rising incidence of a seemingly unpreventable chronic disease burden in children and adults highlights the issue of diminishing returns. Yet if you point out the diminishing returns, you are an “anti-vaxer” (ie an infidel or heretic) and if you have been injured you are (I love this expression!) obviously, merely an “unplayable character in the global video game.”
I had wondered about where the interests that those who favour the mythic view of vaccines being all-safe and all-powerful lie, but not all of them are paid shills. Some are simply true believers.
What I am waiting to see is what happens within the Cochrane Collaboration, now that the deep divisions between proponents for highlighting trustworthy evidence vs the proponents for bringing “evidence” in line with the mythic (and also corporate) narrative have been exposed. How it plays out may be indicative of other faultlines and schisms developing within the science magisterium.
Re Faustian culture and idiocy: I take your point, JMG. Come to think of it, Faust himself was the quintessence of “idiot”: who with any brain would make a pact with Mephistopheles and expect to get away with it? Goethe’s play, with all its wonderful poetry, lopsidedly leaves out this simple point.
JMG – If “Antifa” knew the history of the 20th century, they’d know that street violence against “the Fascists” has the effect of driving the Anxious Center into the Law & Order Party… the very ones they claim to be fighting. Fighting against “Fascism” is like trying to put out a fire by spraying alcohol onto it. After a while, it worked; after everything that could burn was consumed! (The German Nazi’s promised to control the street violence of the Communists, and the average German citizen was just fine with that, and willing to look the other way regarding the Nazi’s extreme views.)
Civil disobedience is a tool for political change on the part of people who have no hope that “regular order” will achieve the change they want. Sometimes that’s justified, as in the Voting Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. But for a formerly respectable and powerful political party to tacitly acknowledge that education, persuasion, and organization are not going to be sufficient to win at the ballot box is indeed a dangerous turn for the party of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama.
Hello Mr Greer
Did not the ancient Greeks view their history as a decline from a golden age long before themselves. Would a future great culture in the West view are current age of great material wealth as a golden age? How do you think such a meme would shape a future great culture?
Regards Philip Hardy
It’s not at all settled that the Indoeuropeans carried plague with them to Europe. If they did, it had the historically unprecedented effect of killing overwhelmingly the male part of the population while leaving sufficient women alive for the ‘migrants’ to ‘marry’. By which I mean, the far more likely explanation is that the Indoeuropeans invaded and genocided the indigenous European male farmers, to a greater or lesser degree depending on the geographical area, and raped the women. They may have brought plague, but it didn’t do the replacement job.
Uncanny. My current project is a book of Pagan apologetics and one of the themes I’ve been meditating on is the shape of time and its implications. It’s durability in the face of crisis is one I hadn’t got to. Thanks for the excellent insights and thought-fodder. I’m guessing the insights about time are your own, read onto Spengler’s framework? Or does he discuss this at all? I have his abridged edition but haven’t delved in yet.
P.S. I appreciated your pointing to Zoroastrianism as the origin of Judaism’s apocalypse meme, monotheism, and linear time in your Apocalypse book. An idea that seems obvious in retrospect but is so often overlooked in Biblical scholarship.
Ellen – for Iceland, you’ll want to read The Eddas by Snorri Sturlison, in a good readable translation. The Prose Edda is fun; the Poetic Edda is full of poetic theory and its value to moderns is in the pieces used as examples. There is also a fat book called Sagas of the Icelanders. Not all the sagas by far, but a good sampling. Egil’s Saga for the craziest genius of the entire early medieval period; George R.R. Martin couldn’t make up that tale and be believed. Also, for a different take on the Germanic stuff, The Saga of the Volsungs. Siegfried, here called Sigurd, in an older and more down-to-earth form than either the German courtly Nibelungenlied or Wagner’s 19th Century pomposity. Sigurd and Gudrun and Brynhild shown as real people in a real barbarian setting.
Also there is a movie put out by the Icelandic government called The Outlaw, based on Gisli’s Saga for the schools – not in commercial distribution in the states, I watched it as part of a Medieval Studies class. Very historically accurate including the costumes and attitudes.
For modern Iceland back in the 19th and early 20th century, Halldor Laxness’s Independent People.
I have The Poetic Edda, translated by Carolyne Larrington, and Anthony Faukes’ “Edda” from Everyman Library, with lots of suggestions for further reading. But if you ever get to Iceland, all these works will be all over the place, being their national literature. And of course, for modern Iceland, lots and lots of murder mysteries, Nordic Noir having been very fashionable a few years ago. Maybe still is.
Oh, and get a good history of modern Iceland, which I can’t advise you on, and before contemplating a move, do a search for Icelandic food. It seems to be the sort of stuff you either like or loathe.
P.S. Ellen – for the Icelandic wisdom literature/proverbs and maxims and good advice, put into the mouth of an old Wyoming rancher, just for kicks and giggles, check out The Cowboy Havamal. I can easily imagine Odin speaking pure Cowboy English! He was just that sort of ornery old coot. If I can make time I intend to find the complete text and download it for myself! But then, I’m here in the tail end of the Rocky Mountains and culturally attuned to that sort of thing.
I wanna second Nestorian. We were told in World Civ in 7th grade that linear time was the great contribution of the Hebrews b/c it was necessary to mark time for the coming of the Messiah.
John, et. al.–
Re the shape of time
I hadn’t thought about Dreamtime, though that does make a good bit of sense. As I recall your discussion of one (five-fold) division of the planes previously, the material and etheric were in “normal” time, while the mental and spiritual were outside of time, with the astral being in its own distinct time. Since Dreamtime is accessible by humans, would it correspond (possibly) to the astral time, rather than the non-time of the mental and spiritual planes? In which case, the other various shapes (linear, cyclic) would be, as you suggest, various forms in the “normal” material/etheric time. That is an interesting construct, certainly.
The Russian Orthodox schism is definitely a platform from which a new religious framework can be develop for the Russian culture. It will be exciting to see how it changes, and the influence of the land from which it comes helps shape the direction of their spirituality. I also have joked often with my wife that Putin is Rasputin’s second coming, since Rasputin was the “first” Putin. My intuition tells me that with the worldwide admiration that Putin has received, he has the likelihood of becoming a holy figure in the distant future. And I think this separation is just the platform to help make that possible.
I really appreciated your comment with those quotations from Vine Deloria, Carl Jung, and Oswald Spengler. One of the things missing most from the American culture is a form of spirituality. There certainly is a substitute for it right now in the form of business, and you can see that with how our CEOs, business persons, and other leaders dress up in their religious garb of business suits. But it is a substitute and one which many are realizing doesn’t satisfy their deeper needs. From my childhood I’ve had a deep interest in the ancestors of this land we live in. But I never really made those connections which Deloria, Jung, and Spengler made, even when I felt the thing that needed to be done in America was to go back to living the life of the Native Americans. Reflecting on those quotes helps me to understand why I’ve always had this desire to understand the Native American cultures more. And why my daughter, who has only been living in the USA since March, has such a strong interest now in the Native American stories we’ve read together recently. I am under the impression now that embracing this interest and encouraging it for my daughter is not a bad thing at all. Thank you!
@Chris at Fernglade
Planting wheat is a good idea. Allow me to offer a sugestion. Plant also holm oak and cork oak From what i see in your blog, the climate in your farm looks like the south of Portugal..Both olm oak and cork oak have sweet acccorns that an be eaten as they are without any extra work, but can also be conserved like chestnuts or turned into flour. It can also atract more wild life to your land. As a side note, cork oak is fire resilient and in some cases patches of those trees have stopped the propagation of fire.
@JMG: “That experience of cognitive dissonance was what left the field clear for the rising Magian culture to seize the imagination of the ancient world and impose its own religious and cultural vision on the disillusioned masses of the late Roman Empire.”
Everyone prefers to assume that the early Christians simply won out in what we call “the marketplace of ideas.” I recently read an excellent new book called The Darkening Age (by Catherine Nixey) that describes what really happened – in particular, how the early Christians mounted the greatest campaign of destruction of fine art and architecture in recorded history. We hear “monks” and imagine holy fellows on their knees praying all day. In 400 AD, monks often were gangs of brutal goons beating and killing pagan leaders and intellectuals in the streets, smashing down doors in the night to look for books to burn and idols to smash, and tearing down beautiful buildings in front of horrified onlookers.
The book emphasized that it was impossible for a major religion to be completely eradicated in a short time because every one of its millions of followers voluntarily preferred to give it up. Many only did so because they were afraid of being killed, or were killed or driven into exile because they refused to do so. Thus, Christianity won so completely not because its vision was universally considered superior, but because its followers were superior in viciousness and in organization of their will to violence even before they seized political power.
In my humble opinion the crucial lesson to be learned from the “imposition of Magian culture” is that if there is something you treasure, and there are organized, violent people who wish to destroy that thing – and you if you try to keep it – then your basic choices are to knuckle under and become what they order you to be, or to arm yourself, organize, and be ready to use equal violence in your own defense. Had the bewildered pagan believers and philosophers of the late classical era recognized what was happening to them and chosen the latter, our world might be very different today.
Hi, I am a Spanish reader of yours, I would like to recommend a philosopher from my country that is really amazing. His name is Felix Rodrigo Mora. http://www.felixrodrigomora.org/
I confess an enduring respect for Apollonian conception of order, even if ‘lasting forever’ reliably turns out to be rather shorter than first conceived. Well, we lead rather short lives alongside ‘dreamtime’. (I don’t alas have a good take on ‘dreamtime’ except it might be poetic, which is real enough.)
I had a curious experience yesterday of serendipity, not all that uncommon, while following up on Dion Fortune and her reference to Athanasian Creed which led me to ‘Anathema’. Leaving those thoughts to brew, I was drawn to a book in front of me from my early youth and opened it at random – I have not read it in perhaps decades and my eye fell immediately on ‘anathema’, in this case at the opening of a small amusing biographical tale of an English pre-war classicist teacher in one of his pursuits; ‘angling’. The teacher could break the rules, which was ‘anathema’ to the angling authority. He addressed the fish and the afternoon aloud with the aid of Shakespeare, sometimes calling on the immortal gods in Latin, and where needed, cursing in Homeric Greek.
English rivers – even now can still in parts, have some of the quality derived from the old agrarian landscape once woven so intimately round their wild nature. The English culture that grew from Classical sources – see much English poetry – was naturally an eclectic mix. We did not entirely get it, but chose such nearest representatives – rivers and the like – for companion examples.
‘Order’ has its appeal as it gains in longevity and sustainability and thereby is woven with nature in the human landscapes. I suppose it will come again for whiles. It’s not really about ‘rules’ and might be called ‘a great culture’ when it is conceived from embedded knowledge; quote: “Evolution constrains development according to successful precedents.” I borrow this last from an extraordinary – to me – recent review article on the development of brains. Neurology does not just happen. Likewise culture as it arises betimes, even perhaps from our eclectic if now very disheveled mix.
PS The Classics teacher admonished one of his pupils, the young ‘alchemist’ who confessed to looking for and achieving the big bang, thus: ‘the educational value of chemistry is almost exactly equal to that of a jigsaw puzzle. Make stinks for fun, but if you want to learn things, stick to Virgil. You can go.’
out of the topic, but still interesting to share: there is a project called fermes d’avenir https://fermesdavenir.org, meaning farms of the imediate future, very interesting for permaculture about which a doc was broadcast in french television. So the founder of the project said that he started this business when he realised the energy aberration that is modern agriculture where the “progress” decreased the energy efficiency 25 times since 1940. Back then 1 cal of fossil energy would produce 2,4 food calories, whereas now it takes 7 to 10 fossil fuel calories to produce 1 food calorie. These numbers shocked me I think more people should know about it!
Still it is conforting to know the seeds of a better future are already in the soil with projects like this, I pray and hope they can grow and live through the turbulent times that are comming.
“Aberration” sounds appropriate for the world we live in.
Fascinating post John. I had a friend, now retired, who worked for the US Forest Service in Oregon many years ago. He told me once how impressed he was by how the locals there would brag about the beauty of “their” forests in the Pacific Northwest – to the point of regarding them as something sacred – but, at the same time, seemed absolutely determined to cut down every last tree. This contradiction seems to go back to the earliest European settlers, who thought they had arrived in a new Eden but then set about transforming it into something unrecognizable, turning forests into cities and consumer-driven shopping malls and small farms into chemically infused, massive industrial operations cranking out food products in the blink of an eye. I see that contradiction still at play, as we set aside certain parcels of land as holy shrines (National Parks and Monuments) while the rest of the parcels are open to devastation, I mean “development”. We seem to worship nature while simultaneously being hell bent on destroying it. Could this be an example of Faustian culture meeting Native American culture, as Vine Deloria wrote about in his book, “God is Red”, and morphing into something else? Native people, after all, haven’t gone away like they were supposed to. They’re still here, alive and speaking out, like America’s guilty conscience…
“(When a social movement in the modern Western world starts shouting “The world will end if we don’t get what we want!” you can safely bet that it’s already failed and its days are numbered.)”
Does that include Too Big to Fail Banks? Obamacare? The Remain Campaign? Vaccination even perhaps??
I always here things like we have to have at least 90% (or whatever) compliance to make _____ work. When you travel to a foreign country do you call ahead and have their population appropriately vaccinated for your visit, or do you just get a couple of shots yourself? Why does it work that way but not the other? Do vaccinations work or don’t they? Or are they just an ENORMOUS cash cow for all involved?
Seems to me that a viable business/politics/economic modality, etc, will act as a rising tide, sweeping up a following as it goes. On the other hand, if it’s not a viable whatever, you might just have to force and coerce and threaten to fine, and so forth (cough cough Obamacare, cough, cough), to even get it off the ground.
This is probably the best piece you’ve ever written in my opinion. Going back to reread it in 3…2…
“We’re already seeing people going back to an earlier generation of cell phones because the latest gimmick-laden smartphones are literally more trouble than they’re worth.”
Windows 10 was the final straw for us. We kept avoiding downloading it as long as we could, but then it forced itself on our laptop and nothing worked right after that. Seeing a great example of progress past its prime with no hope of return, we took the obvious action of selling said laptop, and are now relying on a public network with full-time tech support at the library instead. Even for running our business. Isn’t that the obvious action? 😉
We wouldn’t have a smart phone either if my ma-in-law had respected my wishes after the last one got blown up by lightning. She pays for it for us because she/Progress thinks we should have one. It is handy for taking credit card payments, admittedly…
OK, back to rereading.
Re the nature of decline, etc.
FWIW, in the handful of conversations I’ve had with folks on that topic, I’ve more or less said the following:
“Gaia [referring more to the planet and biosphere than the goddess, in this particular instance] is far stronger and far more robust that you give her credit for. Intense climatological change is coming, most definitely. Life will survive. Humanity will survive. Our modern industrial civilization will not.”
The issue for most people, as I see it, is that the latter two concepts are equated: “humanity” is seen as identical to “our modern industrial civilization,” thus the end of the latter is seen as the end of the former, even though that is not the case.
I expect the last humans will die off in some remote corner of the globe some millennia hence, even as the next dominant species is already stepping into that abandoned niche…
The acceptance of our sheer unimportance is probably our biggest psychological hurdle at this juncture.
Not only is helium a finite resource, there is now a worldwide shortage that no one is talking about. It’s so bad that my husband, who works on a particle accelerator at a national lab, said the lab is prepared to spend millions on new technology that reduces their dependence on helium. Scientists are freaking out. More “news” no one seems to hear about…
This was a great essay, so much to digest. Count me in as one of those who woke up to the fact that “progress” did not equal “good” a few years ago. As someone who still works in technology (and is working on escape), it was not any easy thing to come to terms with. I am also still struggling with the consequences of that realization mentally and emotionally.
It occurred to me that Christianity, as a Magian religion, has suffered at its shoehorning into Faustian culture. Darwin is where Christianity finally had to capitulate to Faustian notions of time and progress and Christians took one of two roads: Liberalism and Fundamentalism. Liberalism submits Christianity to secular progress and Fundamentalism substitutes its own vision of progress, rooted in Biblical literalism. The fate of both is to die, Liberalism by surrender and Fundamentalism by slow decline through increasing irrelevancy. And they both are already dying the death of a 1000 cuts by pretty much every church group and denomination being found to engage in child abuse, this compounding surrender and irrelevancy with a profound loss of both institutional standing and general goodwill.
Christianity had a specific role to play in its culture and time. It may still be able to play a role in the future but not until Faustian culture – basically the current worldview of “the West” – dies.
TamHob–yes, lack of medical care, particularly for childbirth, will be a disaster for women. There is a blogger “The Skeptical OB” who consistently points out that childbirth was the great killer of women and their babies in earlier times. The idea that you can just trust nature is a luxury of modern, urban women with EMTs at their call. She calls the fad for unattended home birth, birthing with the dolphins, birthpools and so forth, ‘stunt birth’ and regards it as a great insult to the millions of women who still lack basic competent obstetric care, either in third world countries or in minority communities.
On ocean travel–it is true that many cultures developed long distance travel before the Early Modern Europeans–but, when the Romans destroyed the Carthaginians they ended extended travel from the Mediterranean into the Atlantic. So Western Europe itself developed as a culture constrained by the former limits of the Roman Empire until changes in naval technology sent explorers out past the Canary Islands. In addition, I don’t think that exploration further and further around continents known to exist had quite the same psychological and cultural effect as the discovery of lands that had never been known before. There was Africa, a known land and sailing further south is an accomplishment but not a revolution. The same is true of sailing to rather than walking to India. We knew India was there, it’s just a matter of route. But the Americas’s–new lands, new peoples, new plants and animals. It is rather as if our first rocket around the Moon had discovered life and a civilization on the hidden side. If that had been the case I would bet that a really concentrated attempt to reach Mars would have been next–no matter the practical obstacles–it would have been the Faustian thing to do.
Despite their talents at sailing, the Polynesians just didn’t have the resource and population base to become a major civilization. They could travel long distances to colonize new islands and island groups, but maintaining communication between them was just not practical. Look at the fate of Easter Island, for example.
The Chinese are an interesting case–if one believes the tales of the great fleet of Zheng He traveling as far as Africa and perhaps the West coast of the Americas, the technology was available, but political movements turned against the idea of international exploration and trade and China abandoned its navy.
As for the essay by the woman about “good men”. I’m afraid I will have to chime in with a ‘you don’t get it.’ It isn’t just catcalls on the street, though those are wearing; it isn’t just the constant attempts by mostly male lawmakers to control women’s bodies; it isn’t just the constant diet of “great” literature and philosophy portraying women as lesser beings, mentally incompetent, ruled by their unreliable hormones; it isn’t just the constant message that you are a slut if you like sex and a prude and a tease if you don’t; it isn’t just growing up with the assumption that certain careers are off limits, certain subjects too complex; it isn’t just the knowledge that every interaction with a car mechanic or appliance technician or construction worker may result in being cheated or misled—-it is just knowing that one is always and always will be ‘the Other” as so clearly described by Simone Beauvoir in “The Second Sex.” I agree that some tactics of the ‘me too’ movement are misguided and that people like Cornerstore Caroline are setting up other women for a world of grief. I even have the radical position that the current women’s movement is putting too much emphasis on sexual assault and harassment—but that is an essay of its own. I have mentioned here in earlier comments and in comments on the ADR that I am disturbed by male commentators on this blog and other’s, such as Club Orlov and Jame Howard Kunstler, that seem to look forward to a society in which women will be back in the kitchen and homosexuals back in the closet. This is usually casually assumed as a natural result of the fall of the current order.
@Nestorian Christian: You said,
“This Messianic idea is then developed throughout the Old Testament, and the antiquity of many of the events and revelations in question – as well as of the writings recording them – antedates the origins of the Avestas of Zoroastrianism by a considerable margin.
As a faithful Christian, I would maintain, of course, that the linearity of salvation history is thus divinely revealed.”
It is highly likely that the Old Testament underwent massive revision during the Second Temple period (516-70 BCE) so I wouldn’t be so quick to claim divine revelation for a theory of linear anything.
For more on the potential of a Second Temple OT revision, see
The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It)
by Thom Stark, John J. Collins
“just remember the professionally outraged are simply trying to claim unearned power in a way that guarantees blowback. What’s more, the blowback is building…”
That, in a nutshell, is what’s happening in Brazil.
To begin with, we are a country and culture that never ceased to be a colony since the portuguese first plugged the empire pump centuries ago. This left us with a typical colonial elite, what we here call “mutt syndrome”, the overwhelming feeling that “the europeans/americans/japanese/etc are so civilized and better, nothing here works”.
This changed dramatically during the Lula government, which prompted a professionally arranged outrage nuclear bomb, by the media and opposition parties alike. To this day coverage is so slanted against his party that it borders the ridiculous, and has been analized in studies that measured time spent criticizing him vs. other parties in power. All in an effort to take down his party from power outside the political process.
Since this didn’t work for 4 presidential elections, they went for a “soft coup”, and expected to win the next election. What happened, instead, was that the creature turned against it’s creator. In a Jungian collective shadow projection, the “anti-PT” crowd abandoned the opposition parties that started the movement and embraced the guy who says everything people secretely wanted to say, because it was never said aloud and worked through, about our dictatorship, slavery, women, political parties, etc.
When trying to take a party out of power by discrediting it, it discredired all of them, but the one who says it will tear everything down.
All this to say that it might be a standard way democracies (specially in colonies) destroy themselves, but it might be part of a local resistance to Faustian culture as well. We’re apparently half-way there, a recent poll showed many western countries around the world don’t conside Brazil western at all. Interesting!
All the best!
@John Roth and team10tim,
The “Hidden Tribes” report is very interesting. It confirms my intuited notion that the two extremist wings are getting a lot of media and internet space but don’t actually truly represent a majority of Americans. The report is laudable for trying to get beyond the red/blue, right/left cliches and stereotypes that obtain throughout so much of the media landscape, cliches which, unfortunately get repeated so often that people start to believe them, distorted though they are, especially if they don’t actually know any “liberals” or “conservatives.”
I agree, this does bear discussion.
Thanks for your ideas about Trump as a rentier enabling the increased flow of wealth to the plutocrats, Including himself (while also protecting fossil fuel interests). That is my reading as well. A key “tell” is the people he has put in place to head various agencies and what their policies are. Whom do the policies most advantage? Often it’s the wealthy/corporate friends of the heads of the agencies.
And so it goes. No one is going to be able to be president if they haven’t been backed by a sizable number of individual members of the plutocrat class as well as corporations, who are going to make sure that whatever the president does is going to help them out one way or another. I wish that wasn’t true, but there’s plenty of evidence to support that thesis.
Looking forward to the discussion about the land remaking people. I have long subscribed to that notion. Also looking forward to the discussion of “God is Red.” Though emphatically not Native American, I work in landscape restoration, and have spent some time studying Native culture and ideas. For some of us here on Turtle Island, there is the 7th fire prophecy to consider as a path forward.
Here’s a refreshing bit of non-Faustianism in an otherwise Faustian world:
“Almanzo asked Father why he did not hire the machine that did the threshing. Three men had brought it into the country last fall, and Father had gone to see it. It would thresh a man’s whole grain crop in a few days.
“‘That’s a lazy man’s way to thresh,’ Father said. ‘Haste makes waste, but a lazy man’d rather get his work done fast than do it himself. That machine chews up the straw till it’s not fit to feed stock, and it scatters grain around and wastes it.
“‘All it saves is time, son. And what good is time, with nothing to do? You want to sit and twiddle your thumbs, all these stormy winter days?’
“‘No!’ said Almanzo. He had enough of that, on Sundays.
“They spread the wheat two or three inches thick on the floor. Then they faced each other, and they took the handles of their flails in both hands; they swung the flails above their heads and brought them down on the wheat.
“Father’s struck, then Almanzo’s; then Father’s, then Almanzo’s. THUD! Thud! THUD! Thud! It was like marching to the music on Independence Day. It was like beating the drum. THUD! Thud! THUD! Thud! …
“Before Almanzo tired of swinging the flail, it was time to use the pitchforks. …”
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy
It seems to me that any sort of monotheism with an omnipotent deity lends itself really well to linear time, as it helps deal with the problems of theodicy. If you’ve got a polytheistic system, you can easily imagine a natural cycle where various forces are in strong or weak points at a certain time and then wax and wane. Just like an ecosystem – the more complicated the system is, with various negative feedback loops, the more likely it is to achieve long-term stability. If you’ve got an all-powerful, benevolent deity in charge, though, the faithful rapidly start to wonder why life is so painful all the time when they’re all trying their best. The various other arguments for the existence of evil all address this, of course, but it seems most monotheistic religions need to believe that at some point, a loving God will say, “OK, everyone, good enough” and step to bail us out.
Christianity then doubled down on linear time by putting its Messiah firmly in historical time and setting up the world as operating on different rules Before and After Salvation, and by the time Islam arrived on the scene it used the same system. It’s a lot harder to believe in cycles or stasis when you think that the fundamental theological rules of creation changed on a specific date not really all that long ago.
Thanks for your response. I guess I more asking the question about women to see if there might be any strategic advantage for women in being less bound up in the faustian identity of ‘man conqueror of nature’, thus freeing energy up for getting things done, but yeh if women (or at least upper middle class women) are worrying about a loss of general safety in an age of decline I guess it cancels out any advantage.
For what its worth, I don’t expect a ‘return’ to a stereotypical pre-industrial male dominated society (if such a society truly existed- in the stereotypical sense anyway). The long decent I expect will feature plenty of prominent women. Though I hardly expect it to be safe for women (or anyone for that matter). In fact I remember Arnold Toynbee arguing somewhere that the coming of the dark ages can sometimes for good for women, as the structures of society break down, and so do ‘traditional’ gender roles.
As for gender roles in future great cultures? who knows. Though a balance of the sexes in any great culture would be good.
JMG, as you say, new civilizations arise at the frontiers of civilizations. This is also described by Peter Turchin in “War and Peace and War”. Without outside pressure to unify them, old civilizational cores slowly hollow-out and fall into disunity and in-fighting.
Ask yourself, is the Ohio Valley still a frontier now that the Indians are gone? What outside culture does it border? NYC-Washington? While West Coast cities are hemmed in by geography, forcing rich and poor to live side-by-side (thus increasing social mobility and resource distribution), flat MidWestern sprawl is leading to increasing economic and social stratification between rich suburbs, poor inner cities, and poor countryside. Every year, de-facto racial segregation INCREASES East of the Rockies, as society attempts to re-assert a racial caste system.
It seems JMG is repping the Midwestern Temporal Mythology, which makes sense since that’s where he’s embedded:
Midwestern Temporal Mythology:
Past: “Good old days”, glorified memories of “western civilization”
Now: Too much change, imposed by “Coastal Elites”
Future: Return to the good old days. Return to what worked. “Make America Great Again.”
Is this a NEW culture? No, it’s an ossification and decadence of an old one. As JMG said in his parable of the beaver, by holding themselves in contradiction to a perceived enemy, the MidWest digs in its heels and ossifies.
If there IS a new civilizational form arising in the USA it is coming from the West Coast (aka “Left Coast”). The West Coast doesn’t see itself in opposition to the MidWest. We don’t really think about them much at all, except as a kid-brother or distant cousin. When they do well we applaud, when they fuck up, we cry, but mostly go on our merry way.
West Coast Temporal Mythology:
– Diverse groups of conquering / conquered people all over the world.
– We (or our parents) moved to the West Coast to start a New Life.
(Much less than 10% of West-Coasters’ grandparents are from the West Coast. 50% of us were born here, 25% from other US states, 25% from other nations.)
– Diverse groups all brought together, mix together, spinning off new unpredictable technical, political, and cultural forms. “As goes California, so goes the nation”
– Utopian but Anti-Establishment and Pluralistic. It comes from the fusion of New England Puritanism and Appalachian Roughneck-ism. More assimilationist and syncretic than New York / Dutch culture. Paradoxical, but true – see Colin Woodard’s “American Nations” for more.
– Dual imperative to enjoy life, but also adapt and prove your worth (since everyone’s parents schlepped so hard to get them there). Those who can’t “cut it” move to less competitive western states to make way for new aspirants.
– Value immigration, not “slamming the door behind you”. Encourage semi-assimilation. Not full assimilation (e.g. MidWest) nor zero assimilation (e.g. NYC). New comers are welcome, but they must learn to be part of our communities, and add their own “something special” to the pot.
– Increasingly unpredictable, non-linear, accelerating change (not always “progress”).
– Envisions an endless quest to hammer out a stronger collective political system to guide the change or help us collectively adapt, balancing technocrats, federalism, and bottom-up democracy & social movements.
– “The City on a Hill”
I know the West Coast is endlessly demonized by the MidWest/East Coast media, but please, see it for yourself. Get to know some people here. We are open to people from all over – including other parts of the US ;).
clay dennis said: “As the years leading up this culture will involve much downsizing and de-teching a successful narrative will embrace this path and give its early adherents an advantage in adaptation.”
Just one of many angles pointing at that narrative for sure, but with our children we get some mileage out of the idea that the creatures and forces that are needed to re-enchant the world REALLY don’t like copper wiring, or piping, and generally don’t care for plastic either. That idea definitely carries some weight with our daughter, if not both of them.
Time will tell, I guess, whether or not it sticks, but we’ve certainly tried to fire up the beginnings of a new narrative with them..
I agree with Rita and JMG about “Cornerstone Caroline”. Watching video footage of an innocent nine year old African-American boy sobbing after being publicly and falsely accused of sexual assault was heartrending. No child deserves be treated like that, ever. According to some of the press reports I have seen, this wasn’t the first time the woman who made the accusation has engaged in that sort of behavior. Apparently, there have been several other incidents involving the same accuser making similar accusations and calling the police, and in each case, her accusations were found to be without merit.
I think that part of the problem is that the liberal establishment in the public school and higher education systems have spent the last few decades encouraging people to obsess about every petty little thing that happens to them that they don’t like. Thus, we have people getting worked up about “microaggressions”, “trigger warnings” and so on while looking for things to be offended about so they can use them as an excuse to indulge in passive-aggressive power games.
When I was a kid, we were taught not to get upset about the petty stuff and were taught adages like “let it roll off your back like water off a duck” and “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me” in response to petty insults, slights and the other minor annoyances of life. Now, we have a couple of generations of young people who have been taught to wallow in victimization and obsess about every minor little thing that happens to them, no matter how innocuous or accidental. Add to that the entitlement mentality that so many people from affluent backgrounds, particularly affluent liberal backgrounds, have been inculcated with, and you have a recipe for serious social problems, followed by a major backlash as the rest of us get fed up with the incessant temper tantrums, Rescue Games and other bad behavior from “Special Snowflakes”, “Social Justice Warriors” and the like.
We know that sexual assault is a huge problem in many societies including our own and that a great many rapes go unreported. One of my biggest concerns is that the behavior of people like “Cornerstone Caroline” is going to make it even harder for actual sexual assault victims to be taken seriously, as if overreaching by the #MeToo movement and the Democratic Party’s disastrous mishandling of the Kavanaugh/Ford fiasco hasn’t already caused considerable damage in that department.
With regard to a Russian temporal mythology, according to Russian Nationalist Alexander Dugin, the future of Russia is likewise syncretic – needing to emphasize a fusion between Russian culture and the Islamic elements to its south in the Middle East, as it expands its influence southwards.
Islam was in fact VERY present on the Russian steppes. The Tatars are Russia’s largest minority group, ethnically muslim, and these days, among the most educated and “modern” populations of Russia, and the only group with a positive population growth.
Dugin seems to propose pivoting Russian-ness away from Orthodox Christianity and towards a geographical localism, traditionalism, and spiritualism. Similar to JMG’s emphasis on the concrete-local truths, over abstract-general truths. In its own way, the emphasis of local-truth over universal-truth is a powerful tool of pluralism and empire building. Remember in polytheistic Rome, every conquered village could add it’s gods to the “roman” pantheon. On the other hand, utopian (Magian) monotheism was a much more motivating cause to kill and die for than pluralistic (Globalist) empire-building.
Really, Russia is at an end-road and will soon collapse. It’s economy is roughly equivalent to Spain’s, and once the price of oil tanks, it will not be able to govern it’s Eastern Flank. If they jettisoned everything past the Ural Mountans, they’d be in a bit better position. Already siberia is being settled by chinese peasants looking for more farmland.
All of the west isn’t necessarily drier during past warm periods. The mid-Pliocene is sometimes considered an analog of what climate change could bring, and there were lakes in the Southwest that are just dry lake beds today. The interesting thing is that cooler periods also led to more lakes in that region as well, the climate of the Holocene has brought drier conditions there than either warmer periods or colder periods in the past.
Really, I cannot believe you put Russia above China as the next hegemonic culture.
As for oil, China is HEAVILY investing in non-oil infrastructure (solar, wind, electric vehicles, etc.) since they know they could be cut off at any time, while Russia is heavily invested in oil infrastructure.
As for technology (and its diminishing returns) this is mostly due to being locked into the old generation’s technology. There is no appetite for radical change when the old thing “already works” as you point out. But in places where the old infrastructure isn’t built yet, it makes more sense to build the latest and greatest infrastructure, which allows them to leap-frog ahead. E.g. using smart-phone for payments for everything instead of checks or plastic credit cards.
Since China has been transitioning from 90% state-run in 2000 to 90% private-sector today, the society has experienced constant low-level chaos, which the Chinese people have by now taken for granted and become incredibly adaptable, flexible, and pragmatic. The people always just look one-step ahead (future is too unpredictable), while the government is always looking decades ahead (unencumbered by electoral short-termism). I guess in this regard Russia may be a bit similar.
Thanks for another interesting post.
Linear time is a strange one. Some posters suggested an event, that affected some areas, but may I suggest that it would have had to be more like a process going on for some time. All the time moving into the same direction.
The end of the last glaciation might have been just that. The glaciers retreating thousands of kilometres over a couple of thousand years might heve been perceived as a linear, progressive process.
Peoples in the Eurasian steppes would have been more affected than most others.
That timing is a bit off, but I don’t know how long something needs to ferment in the collective unconscious before it becomes a potent brew.
Anyways, just an idea.
It seems your Faustian culture is spanning some vastly different views of history and time that most historians would divide differently. You are lumping late medieval Europe with Renaissance Italy, Luther’s Germany, Henry VIII’s England and Inquisition Spain together with the later era of European colonial empires and assigning to all of them the cultural identity of the modern cult of techno-progress. The Christian church has always had a mixture of “this world is not my home” (apocalyptic) thinking and “The kingdom of heaven is advancing among us” (progress) thinking. Both what you call Magian and Faustian were available to be adopted as convenient to thinkers and leaders in Christian Europe. I think the story of progress as a uniting cultural movement understood as built with human technology and not tightly connected to specific religious doctrines should be traced as a new culture that grew out of the rationalist ideas of the renaissance and has been competing with the older Christian European culture. I see 16th through early 19th century European as evolving expressions of the old Christian Europe, but by the mid 19th century, the enormous economic and military power available by making the techno-progress cult the central organizing feature of a society brought on a new era. Through the 20th century, many different cultures tried to syncretize their traditional cultures with the techno-progress cult, producing some truly crazy ideologies. Now that it is becoming clear that techno-progress isn’t delivering the fantasies so many people have come to expect, we can expect some dramatic cultural shifts. I am looking forward to your vision of culture and place. It would be nice if we returned to culture more rooted in place. I loved your story of Retrotopia. But I don’t yet see how place can return to prominence while global travel and communication allow fragmentation of cultures in a single place.
The dispute in the 4th century was between Christianity, Mithraism and a reformatted “Pagan Church”, as espoused by the emperor Julian, which had its own holy books, saints and hierarchy and was quite different from the numerous old local cults. According to Spengler, all of them, including Julian’s pagan church, were expressions of the Magian culture. He sums it up as “there is only one God, and Julian is his prophet”.
Apart from that, there was certainly, and sadly, a lot of violence, but I have heard that “The Darkening Age” is not entirely trustworthy. For a complex view of late antique violence, see our host’s essay on Hypatia’s end from some years back.
Not to derail the comments, which I greatly enjoy, but when you travel to a foreign country, you get a vaccine AND make sure you are healthy before you leave. Small children, old and immunodeprived people try to avoid traveling. In some cases, you make a test that you are now immune before you leave. Herd immunity is to protect those who can’t get their own immunity.
Re: Catherine Nixey
Before you go whole hog believing Nixey’s stuff, you might want to read Tim O’Neill’s review, where he essentially eviscerates that dog.
Tim starts out: “Catherine Nixey, The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World, (Macmillan, 2017) 305 pp. Her publisher’s blurb informs us that Nixey’s book tells “the largely unknown – and deeply shocking – story” of how a militant Christianity “extinguished the teachings of the Classical world” and was “violent, ruthless and intolerant” in an orgy of destruction and oppression that was “an annihilation”. On the other hand, no less an authority than the esteemed historian of Late Antiquity, Dame Averil Cameron, calls Nixey’s book “a travesty”, roundly condemning it as “overstated and unbalanced”. And Dame Averil is correct – this is a book of biased polemic masquerading as historical analysis and easily the worst book I have read in years.”
While Tim is an atheist (his blog is History For Atheists, where he attempts to set right a lot of historical misconceptions in the atheist community) a lot of what he’s attacking is fake history masquerading as “common knowledge”. You’d be surprised at how much you think you know just isn’t so.
Scotlyn, et al,
It occurs to me that vaccination may be another item which is already in the diminishing returns category. The first several vaccines were all against highly contagious and often deadly diseases, and if the vaccines also confused the body’s immune system it was not by much, due to its being restricted to just 4 or 5 jabs. Then thy got greedy and tried to vaccinate against everything, causing the vaccine injured and chronic diseases in children and adults to rise and rise.
I understood what you were getting at. I was trying to express that for a woman like me, in my society, an assumed increasing level of safety forever is one of the rocks on which we shape our identity. How we socialise, our risk tolerance, express conformity v difference, all heavily shaped by perceptions of safety, all habits of thought that over time are formative to a woman’s identity. While men in Faustian society are invested in conquering external nature I think maybe Faustian women are more invested in conquering human nature and frailties.
I’d have to disagree with your views re male-domination of society in the future and the potential benefits of breakdowns in gender roles. Based on my reading of Viking Scandinavia, Medieval Europe and Early-Feudal Japan, I think any hope to avoid a heavily male dominated society is very contingent on a number of conditions. In particular: widespread education of females in martial arts which compensate for weakness (eg distance weapons, jujitsu, strategy, tactics), literacy, history and philosophy and widespread access to basic sanitation, medicine and mid-wifery (societies give up on investing in their children let alone the females if most die young). Most societies don’t meet these conditions so strong young men tend to dominate power relationships in times of chaos and crafty/networked/educated old men in times of stability.
Yes, I am very well aware of the assertion that the Old Testament underwent a massive revision during the Second Temple period. This is one of the core theses of the so-called “Higher Criticism” that has monolithically dominated academic discourse about the Bible in the West for over 100 years now (outside of obscure and marginalized traditionally oriented circles of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).
However, monolithic dominance is by no means the equivalent of proof. Rather, the views involved in the “Higher Criticism” are based on a maze of patently subjective textual interpretations and circular argumentation. The intellectual bankruptcy of the “Higher Criticism” has been demonstrated by writers as able as they are ignored, such as William Henry Green and Robert Dick Wilson, among many others.
There is no good reason to doubt the historicity of even the very earliest parts of the Old Testament, other than an a priori commitment to the idea that manifestations of the divine in human history (in the form of miracles, prophecy, revelations, and theophanies) are impossible. Such an a priori assumption is an unproven, and unprovable, scientific materialist dogma.
Onething, I’m not arguing…
Will, good. I’ll be addressing that in a future post.
Dylan, fair enough. I’m by no means convinced that Spengler’s timeline is as inevitable as he thinks it is — it seems to me that it’s more of an average than an inevitability.
Michael, yes, I’ve seen that! I have several slide rules, and what’s more, I’ve learned how to use them.
Chris, sorry to hear about the battery room. Of course you’re quite right about complexity; it doesn’t matter how simple the components are, complexity increases more or less as the square of the number of interacting components, which is one of the reasons that industrial civilization won’t survive. As for grains, Australia used to be a massive exporter — something has clearly gone very, very wrong.
Will O., I’m going to assign that to you as an exercise. Read Spengler, and then make your own lists. Yes, you may post them here.
Kfish, my understanding is that being a farmer anywhere provides the same education, provided that either (a) you don’t have lots of fossil fuels or (b) you stick around long enough to see the disastrous consequences of too much fossil fuels!
Ben, what happened was Donald Trump. He’s basically spearheaded a populist revolution against the GOP’s old guard, and kickstarted the process of transforming the GOP into a radical populist movement — a process that still has a long ways to go but is picking up momentum. Either party could have become the vehicle for the populist backlash against the policy consensus of the last forty years, but at this point the Democrats are digging in as the party of the status quo, so it’s pretty clear which way things will go from here. As for Magian culture and its ability to handle hard times, you may want to reread my post, because I discussed that in some detail.
Azure, fascinating. That makes a great deal of sense.
Mog, that is to say, you’re talking about a different set of changes than I am. I get that, but the changes I’m talking about are the ones that Trump has made, and they’re having a fairly dramatic effect on the US economy right now — check out the changes in the rates of job creation and of small business creation over the last few years, for starters. Are there other things the Trump administration hasn’t changed in its first twenty-one months in office? Sure, but that doesn’t change the fact that the changes I’m talking about have happened, and are having a huge impact. To say “the fundamentals haven’t changed” when I’m talking about different policies than you are is a little like if you were to respond to my saying “November is coming” by insisting that I’m wrong because tomorrow is still a Friday.
Deborah, as far as I know every calendar has cyclical as well as linear features. The thing that’s at issue, in the analysis I’m trying to present, is the overall shape of time on the largest scale. As for helium, yep — our old friend depletion never sleeps.
BB, at the moment Trump Derangement Syndrome seems to be somewhat more widespread among women than among men, so I don’t think women in general are having any easier a time dealing with the death of the myth of progress.
Michael, people like the one who wrote that article are a small minority even among American women. (Remember that a majority of white American women who cast ballots in 2016 voted for Donald Trump.) The shrill and violent tone you’re hearing is the sound of a privileged minority losing its grip on the levers of influence, having already lost track of the fact that nobody else on the planet has to agree with them. I don’t think they have long left.
Jo, thanks for this. I’m glad to hear that more people are letting go of the dysfunctional myth of progress!
Drhooves, agreed. Behind all the yelling and handwaving are the facts that the US empire is in decline, industrial civilization is also in decline, and the surpluses on which certain comfortable classes have depended for their lifestyles and their political and cultural influence are going away. I probably should have realized just how thoroughly people would wig out about that.
Nestorian, no doubt that makes sense to you from within your own religious worldview; from within mind, it’s not a valid statement about history. The Jewish scriptures as we know them, and a great deal of the Jewish faith as we now know it, were both assembled after the Babylonian captivity — the Books of Nehemiah and Ezra in the Old Testament discuss that process — and the end of the Babylonian captivity was brought about by the Zoroastrian Persians, who already had the features you assign to the Jewish and Christian traditions. I don’t doubt that there were features in ancient Judaism that made it easy for Jews to adopt those features into their own faith, but that’s not the same as showing that those features were there all along. Raphael Patai’s The Hebrew Goddess is a good counter to the habit, pervasive among Magian faiths such as yours, of backdating religious innovations to the creation of the universe.
Cliff, I know. These are people who insist that they believe in an evidence-based view of things, and still dismiss any evidence that conflicts with their grand myth of salvation via rocket ship. As for Faustian culture and my own spirituality, exactly — it’s one of the great illusions of the Faustian mind that it’s possible to overcome one’s own cultural background and occupy some sort of Archimedean point of unvarnished truth outside all worldviews. Not so; my thoughts and opinions in this life are products of the Faustian pseudomorphosis in North America, and they can never be anything else, no matter how hard I pretend. I prefer to ditch the pretense and instead make use of the Faustian inheritance in as nuanced and undogmatic a fashion as I can.
“I’d have to disagree with your views re male-domination of society in the future and the potential benefits of breakdowns in gender roles. Based on my reading of Viking Scandinavia, Medieval Europe and Early-Feudal Japan, I think any hope to avoid a heavily male dominated society is very contingent on a number of conditions. In particular: widespread education of females in martial arts which compensate for weakness (eg distance weapons, jujitsu, strategy, tactics), literacy, history and philosophy and widespread access to basic sanitation, medicine and mid-wifery (societies give up on investing in their children let alone the females if most die young). Most societies don’t meet these conditions so strong young men tend to dominate power relationships in times of chaos and crafty/networked/educated old men in times of stability.”
I remember JMG (and other people) talking about Men and Women in Medieval Europe or even viking Scandinavia . While its true that both were certainly male dominated societies, they were hardly male dominated in the Victorian Britain, or Saudi Arabian sense (not that that’s saying much, but you get my drift) Womens power in medieval Europe was of course greatly diminished by the witch burnings. I remember reading about the effect metal tools had on societies in the Papa New Guniea highlands. Quite a lot of the mens time, prior to the introduction of metal tools, went into sharpening and maintaining the tools. suddenly, with the metal tools, the men had lots of free time and just as much energy as before. The women on the other hand were not advantaged by new technology to anything like the same extent. I wonder how much this disruptive pattern is still playing out around the world today? My Guess is the Human race still has some time before a reasonable balance of the sexes is established again, taking into account humans now living in civilisations.
As for martial arts training/ eduction for women etc, yup I agree thats probably necessary to restore the imbalance of physical strength, although I would observe that one people/ nation dominating another often has little to do with the sheer physical strength of one party over the other, but rather, technology, tactics, strategic advantage etc. Europeans or Romans hardly managed to carve out big empires because they were on average physically stronger than the people they conquered. Its potentially an advantage to be sure, but hardly a decisive one. Physical strength matters for less if everyone has guns. Plenty of women I know for a fact would make far better soldiers than I ever would!
Thanks for this discussion by the way!
These are people who insist that they believe in an evidence-based view of things, and still dismiss any evidence that conflicts with their grand myth of salvation via rocket ship.
At times it can seem like contemporary science and deep reflection are almost mutually incompatible modes of thought. Perhaps if you stress the adjective contemporary, they actually are.
I am familiar with the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and there is nothing in them to indicate that these figures engaged in the kind of whole-sale rewriting, splicing, and dicing of earlier texts that the “Higher Criticism” ascribes to them. This is all based on sheer speculation of the sort that I described in my comment to DT.
Classic refutations of these speculations that I cited in that comment are simply ignored by the mainstream. With all due respect, those who ignore such refutations and refuse to engage the argumentation showing the circular and subjective nature of the “Higher Critical” position can hardly simply be accepted as having the last word on what constitutes genuine history and what does not. Did Rafael Pettai seriously engage these arguments? I seriously doubt it; he probably merely took the premises of the “Higher Critical” position for granted, as does virtually everyone who writes about these matters within the academic mainstream.
As for the alleged influence of the Persian Zoroastrian culture on the Hebrews, why should the situation not be entirely the reverse? What definitive proof is it possible to offer against the proposition that it was in fact contact with the Hebrews in the exile, and with their religious revelation, that decisively influenced and reshaped Zoroastrianism in the way it ultimately came to be formulated in the Avestas, so as to make it more closely resemble the revelation entrusted to the Hebrews? The favor shown to the exilic Jews by the Emperor Cyrus would tend to lend circumstantial support to such a speculation, it seems to me.
A similar situation obtains, by the way, with the Gilgamesh epic: It is commonly held that the latter is the source and origin of the biblical flood epic, but it actually seems more likely that the opposite is true, and that the Gilgamesh epic is in fact just one of the many hundreds of corrupted and distorted versions of the flood epic that have been found preserved all around the world. Certainly, it is not possible to disprove the claim that the Biblical flood narrative precedes and is the model for all the others, and any attempt to do so inevitably involves a considerable amount of unprovable speculation, given the paucity of genuinely ascertainable facts that are available extra-biblically concerning very early human history.
Thinking about rationalism’s irrationality, I just had a thought: a lot of theorizing in contemporary rationalism, especially in its sophisticated forms (e.g. Marxism, LessWrong), is an attempt to reduce the need for agency, either as an explanation or as a facet of life. Determinism’s the easy target here, so let’s move on to more interesting ones:
Utilitarianism is basically the rationalist ethical system par excellence, since it offers an in-principle algorithmic approach to ethics. It can tell you what to do in any given situation provided enough information. (Virtue ethics, which seems to me to be the “default option” for ethics in the same way that the Dreamtime may be for models of time, cannot do this and doesn’t even try, and is often rejected on those grounds.)
Bayesian statistics provides an in-principle algorithmic approach to epistemology: simply update your confidence in your beliefs in accordance with Bayes’ theorem. Couple this with “Occam priors” (aka Minimum description length) and the subjective element is basically eliminated. There’s a theorem proving that two good Bayesians will converge to agreement on every issue, so you don’t even have to ever agree to disagree!
(The alternative to Bayesian epistemology is to use the various assortment of heuristics that we all actually use to muddle through. The alternative to “Occam priors” is of course to use the priors you actually have. But those would be messy; i.e. they would reintroduce aspects of agency.)
David Chapman, who is currently writing a book explaining/promoting what he calls “meta-rationality,” has pointed out that both utilitarianism and Bayesian epistemology take difficult problems (what do in a given situation, or what to believe given available information) and make them special cases of in-practice impossible problems (since the required quantification of utility or confidence cannot be effectively done), then declare victory. What you get are slogans that feel good, feel rational/scientific, but break down pretty quickly in practice.
Spengler might have put it more succinctly: they’ve stopped talking about the world actually live in in favor of talking about their models. We’re in the endgame of our culture’s rationalist phase.
Still, the extent to which Faustian rationalists have attempted to deny agency seems like it might be peculiarly Faustian.
I had to look up “wig out,” but oh yes, what a good description of my Hillary-supporting relatives. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head over what is driving progressives to such desperation. I know my father, God rest his soul, would have taken Trump as the end of the world, for the very reasons you outlined. I managed to explain my thoughts on Shinto to him in a way he could understand and accept, but all the time I was growing up, it was one of a myriad examples of ignorance and superstition impeding scientific advancement. He was no dummy, and he could see our advancement was inevitably going to hit limits. In the face of that, he turned his focus to astronomy.
To anyone returning to the old flip phones, beware the effects on your brain of holding the phone close to your head. According to the late Dr. Neil Cherry of New Zealand, the blood-brain barrier is breached within a few short minutes, allowing molecules to penetrate that are normally excluded. Because it is an article of faith that wireless, and particularly digital is the “smart” way forward, the warnings are lost in the small print and ridiculed everywhere else once liability is not involved. Don’t hold the phone to your head, and that goes particularly for so-called “smart” phones. Do you really want to have to carry your brains around in your pocket (also not recommended)?
@Ben Johnson, were you in a city in Russia? I spent quite a bit of time in Russia a few years earlier than you, but almost entirely in deeply rural communities. They were very quiet about religion, probably recalling the persecution they’d recently faced, but they cleaned out old churches that had served as barns for decades, putting a lot of their ample time and scarce resources into it, and they had decent attendance once they opened. Virtually everyone I met paid respect to shamanism as well. I took a group of Japanese tourists to see a community of Old Believers, whose communities and culture were still intact after such a long time of persecution. Facing severe economic hardship, the rural communities may have been more eager than urbanites to turn to religion for solace and strength.
This is timely; my wife and I had a long conversation the other day about the Faustian nature of western culture — and how I figured it was doomed, even if we did put off collapse from resource constraints, because it is running out of notional space. I told her if (by some bizarre miracle) we could downshift into a sustainable economy, the lack of Progress in such a steady state would lead to our culture ‘dying on the vine’, much as you describe happening to the Apollonian culture. So I’m with you there… but she blew my mind with her rebuttal.
My wife has never believed in Progress.
She is very much a product of Western culture — born white, middle class, Canadian. Yet some of her earliest memories are those of a worried child seeing through the acculturation to the idea of progress we all take in with our mother’s milk. Near as I can tell her time sense seems Magian — but a secular, scientifically Magian time sense, spanning not from Creation to Apocalypse but the formation of our planet to its inevitable demise at the hands of a dying sun. The core mythic idea of her world, the idea that cannot be challenged without severely distressing her isn’t any sense of scientific, technological or social progress (as it was for me) but something else.
I very much was raised in the secular religion of progress, and I’m still dealing with the psychological ramifications of apostasy 5 years after I gave it up and admitted Gott ist tott. I assumed that was normal for everyone aware of our global predicament. Now I have two questions.
One, to the readership: how many of you, like my better half, aren’t apostate because you never belonged to our civil religion?
And to JMG specifically: Could my better half be an early arrival from a future byzantine to our Rome? In your Retrotopia you had an outwardly-western culture operating on very different basic assumptions. (We both loved the book, by the way.) Did you have a sense of what drove the Retrotopians– what their mythos or their time sense was like, given that as a society they did not seem to hail the idea of progress?
Pardon me, but according to that article Australia isn’t importing grain from overseas just yet. Eastern Australia is importing grain to feed its livestock from South Australia. It’s still the lowest harvest in about 20 years, but things haven’t gone THAT wrong so far.
JMG, one thing that I’ve always been curious about in my readings of Spengler is to what extent the borderlands of a great culture truly adopt that culture. In the case of America and Russia, as both you and Spengler himself have noted, there seem to be distinct, independent cultures arising. However, what about the cases of places like Japan, Korea, maritime South-east Asia or even South America?
I myself am from Singapore, whose population is largely descended from immigrants who came here after British colonization. I don’t feel like the culture here is predominantly either Faustian or Chinese.
I feel like there is room in a Spenglerian worldview for “local cultures” centered around places which might adopt various pseudomorphoses but still remain distinct. For example, while both Korea and Japan adopted much of Chinese culture and even preserved much of what was lost in China itself over the centuries, they also adapted and transformed what they adopted in distinct ways. Even in the Faustian heartland of Western Europe, there remain distinct cultural differences across regions, but I think the differences are more distinct in the peripheral regions of a great culture.
I’m curious if you or any other readers of Spengler here have thought about this.
On a side note, this post made me think of all the little spin-off religions/cults in China based on Christianity. They are not even a new phenomenon, having a history that dates back to at least the first Protestant missions in China such as, most infamously, the Taiping Rebellion. They arguably have non-Christian antecedents such as the Yellow Turbans stretching way back into the final years of the Han Dynasty.
I was wondering whether all of these apocalyptic cults could be rooted in Magian pseudomorphoses meeting native Chinese culture — there certainly was some contact with Magian cultures by the time of the Han, and again with Christianity later on.
most people in the US consider Latin America non-Western, and I think that Latin America’s connection to the West is tenuous at best, considering that it wasn’t settled by families that brought the culture over intact, the way North America was settled. That being said, I think that the South/Confederacy is way less Western and much more similar to Latin America b/c of the strong African influence/population.
I wish I could share your optimism in Trump’s performance, as I’m still in many ways coming to terms with the fact that ‘progress’ is a myth, so I could at least have a spot of brightness, a brief happy respite, if you could convince me of this!
However, when I look at his tax cuts going to the wealthy, and see the upcoming budget proposals that cuts services to so many of our disadvantaged citizens, and can’t find any proof that he has indeed created many jobs, well I feel depressed. I think he’s pretending to be populist but is really just doing more of the same…funneling money to the top.
I come from a Social Work background before veering off into art, and still have friends in the field. We are shocked at what’s going to happen to so many disadvantaged populations if he completes his plans (homeless vets, people of color, mentally and physically disabled people, etc.).
More to the issue of the efficacy of public political magic than this week’s post, but it was at least a Russian newsfeed 😉
You might have seen this already, but a story on RT caught my eye this morning:
It was also interesting to note that in addition to the professionals working to counter the Resistance’s magical efforts, that some number of ordinary Catholics were also apparently entering into the fray with prayer-and-fasting regimes.
Absolutely fascinating to watch this play out.
Hi JMG, all,
Great post and discussion — can’t wait to hear your thoughts on the mechanics whereby the land can gradually shape or reshape the cosmologies of the people living on it, and love your thesis that Dreamtime is the default shape of time from which linearity or cyclicality are then derived. As an early modern historian and Islamicist, moreover, I very much agree that the Mediterranean zone specifically has long bred a monomania for linear time, for all that the conception may have first crystallized in Iran, such that the Ottomans — *despite* their Persianate culture, not because of it — came to conceive of themselves as the last world empire in history (aka New Rome) and midwife of the eschaton.
But this was very much in contrast to what was going on imperially and culturally in the rest of the post-Mongol Persianate world, which saw a huge boom in neoplatonism-neopythagoreanism on the one hand and what we might call “astrological consciousness” on the other, both of which inspired new cyclical theories of imperial time, as well as a resurgence of specifically *Helleno-Perso-Islamic* forms of reincarnationism. The Mughals (i.e., Indo-Timurids) are here a case in point: I would argue that Emperor Akbar openly scorned Mediterranean young-earth-creationism and apocalypticism and embraced Indic theories of deep time and cyclicality precisely as a *Westerner*, conscious heir to a new-old Alexandrian-Mongol Helleno-Persian tradition especially privileging astrology and astral magic as scientific basis for universalist claims. (The Mongols heavily patronized that occult science in particular as proof and symbol of their imperial transcendence of all organized religions, an attitude carried on, however paradoxically it may seem to us, by quite a few of their Turko-Persian Muslim successors.) In other words, he was a quintessential early modern Magian, not an Indian. At the same time, the Timurid line could have only produced such a flamboyant Muslim reincarnationist and cyclicalist as Akbar because of its forced transplantation to India from Iran and Central Asia, leading to an extremely culturally and economically productive hybridization of “West” and “East” in the wonderfully fertile soil of the Subcontinent. (My chapter on this comparative theme is here for those interested: https://tinyurl.com/yd54bqcs.)
In short, Spengler’s model of Magian culture as being exclusively fixated on linear notions of time is simply incorrect, at least outside the Mediterranean zone. (It’s not his fault, of course, given the very rudimentary state of Islamwissenschaft in his day.) Here I think *reincarnation theory* provides the crucial index: whenever it pops up in Islamdom, central expression of that Magian culture, as it sporadically did from the 8th century onward, it generally seems to do so on the specifically Platonic-Pythagorean model (though with likely Buddhist inputs), wherein both evolution and devolution (reincarnation in animal and even plant form) are possible; linear, upward progress is in no way a given, but must be striven for over many lifetimes and in the face of constant setbacks. (As far as I know, this is also how reincarnation works in some strains of Jewish — though certainly not Christian! — kabbalah.) And this jibes quite nicely with the modern Western dual cyclical-linear model of reincarnation you laid out here a few months back; indeed, the added Darwinian framework only further attenuates the anthropocentrism and goal-driven tenor (ascent to reunion with the One) of its classic Greco-Islamic iterations.
What it doesn’t jibe so well with, though, is baseline Apollonian-Mediterranean culture as characterized by Spengler. How do you think good old-fashioned Greek reincarnationism might be reconciled with its host and successor cultures’ obsession with linearity? Or was that precisely why the doctrine was increasingly suppressed and finally mostly extirpated in western Christendom, but lived on just fine in that other great expression of the Hellenic-Abrahamic synthesis, Islam? And what do you suppose is it about the Mediterranean zone, or rather its ruling land, river and sea divinities, that prompted such a development?
Either way, delicious food for thought, thanks!
Do you think that from a leadership perspective “same = safe from blame” is the reason why no one challenges the progress narrative despite diminishing returns?
The west likes to pride itself on being risk takers but it sure seems like no one wants to put their own skin in the game anymore.
I feel that one of your opinions on Elon Musk is slightly off. I may be misstating your opinion but I think I remember that you think that he is using Government subsidies to get rich (kind of an opportunist).
The below quote is from a recent interview he did with Joe Rogan:
“I think that a future where we are spacefaring civilization and out there among the stars… this is very exciting, this makes me look forward to the future. This makes me want that future. You know there are thing, they need to be things that make you look forward to waking up in the morning, you look forward to the day, look forward to the future. A future where we are a spacefaring civilization and out there among the stars, I think that is very exciting, that is a thing we want. Where as if you knew we would not be a spacefaring civilization but forever confined to earth, this would not be a good future, that would be very sad I think. We don’t want the sad future”: https://youtu.be/Ev6_FmIDc8I?t=389
From what Elon Musk has said I’d say that he is a ‘true believer’ in Progress and he truly believes the missions that he has chosen in life (which is some sort of combo of transition to Green energy and Mankind in Space). I say this because he didn’t need the government subsidies to get rich as he already had $130 Million dollars from being one of the co-founder of Paypal (got the $165 million from Paypal’s sale to Ebay I think).
He spent his full fortune on starting his three (hobby) companies (Solar energy ($20 million?), Electric cars ($70 million), & Rockets ($90 million)) (he at one point was borrowing money from friends and family to pay his person bills because he’d spent this fortune on the three companies). i.e. He didn’t need Gov subsidies to get rich, he needed Gov subsidies to pursue his extraordinarily expensive hobbies (which center around his believe in the progress narrative.
I also think it is a good bet that the best way to make a small fortune by starting a Solar PV Company, Electric Car company, & Rocket company is to start with a large fortune (Without the government subsidies he’d have definitely have lost his fortune pursuing these goals/hobbies).
As a side note, I’ve been air drying my clothes for four years and have finally bought a Pulley clothes line that is destined for my back porch. My washing machine is still limping along despite the fancy electronics having started to malfunction over 5 years ago (it randomly beeps, which is easily fixed with a power strip with an off switch).
@ Nestorian Christian:
Just as all scientific investigation can only yield provisional results, subject to correction as new evidence may be discovered, so all scholarship in the humanities–including, trivially, the “Higher Criticism” of the Bible–can only yield provisional results.
There is no *absolute* certainty to he had by any human being in any area whatever of their material life, since neither mundane the senses nor memory or any other function of the nervous system mirror the real world with either completeness or accuracy. The best they are ever able to do is provide “good-enough-for-getting-through-life” approximations. Even the “truths” found in mathematics are wholly dependent on the mathematician’s arbitrary–and thus inherently imperfect–choice of axioms and postulates from which he or she reasons.
For this very reason–the extreme limitedness and incapacity of the human sensorium and nervous system–all ordinary human knowledge of anything, even the Divine, involves a balance-of-probabilities. The “Higher Criticism” of the Bible is no exception to this; neither are any claims whatever by any theologian in any religion, even when those claims are only about mere humanity or the cosmos, not even about Deity.
And as for extraordinary human knowledge, obtained in the ecstasy of the mystic or stillness and silence of the visionary, it is trivially easy to show by many examples that this knowledge varies from one mystic to the next, from one visionary to the next, in ways that cannot possibly be reconciled into a single consistent body of human knowledge. One can only choose, arbitrarily, to agree with some one subset of these mystics and visionaries, to the exclusion of all others.
You have made your choice, and I do not doubt that it is absolutely the right choice for you. (Of course, that cannot possibly mean that it is the right choice for all other persons: always there is the need to weigh balances of probabilities.)
But I have to insist that your arguments against the “Higher Criticism” of the Bible are merely a special application of arguments that can, and often have been, advanced against any and every attempt of human beings to know anything with absolute certainty.
I’d just like to share a personal anecdote as a real-life example of your point about the law of diminishing returns as applied to technological advancement:
I am writing this comment from a co-worker’s computer because just last week an automatic operating system update somehow got corrupted on its way across the internet into my computer and burned out both the hard drive and the backup disc. The IT guy called me yesterday all pleased and excited that he found a way to rescue all but the most recent 3 weeks of data – but needs until Monday to get it done. Just a couple of decades ago this sort of thing was unlikely to ever have happened in the first place, and even if it did it wouldn’t be the catastrophic disaster that it has become – and neither would it have taken so long to fix. Let’s hear it for progress!!
Interesting to imagine that the Mars colony could be my culture’s equivalent of the Moai – or at least of our myth of the Moai, I have no idea what was really up with them. I could certainly imagine myself lobbying to send *just one more* support flight to the fourth planet until the end of my days. Something I’ll have to watch myself for I suppose.
Regarding the origins of linear time, might that have been Egypt’s innovation? They certainly liked their linearity, I’m thinking in particular of the depictions of Nut and the literal ‘lines’, or queues, of figures in their artwork. We think of the Egyptians as having circular time, but if they were in pseudomorphosis from a circular precursor culture that very linear Egyptian wall art may have been the early intuitions of a new way to view time even while their inherited wisdom didn’t include it.
Will O., I’m going to assign that to you as an exercise. Read Spengler, and then make your own lists. Yes, you may post them here.
Oh Man i got a homework assignment. That sounds like a worthwhile activity. Spengler is on his way but it will take me a while I move very slowly through big books. In some months i will post my list on an open post week
Thanks for the reply John.
Can only find articles about ‘highest confidence in the small business sector since Reagan era’ and no stats other than a steady decline in unemployment since 2011 ish.
I think I must be missing something.
The state of finance relates to the state of business in a way comparable to the way that the progression of the days of week relate to the changing of the month. If the US gov were serious about promoting SMEs they would unravel the permanent power of international finance and create publicly accountable local/ regional banking that could fund new enterprises and infrastrucure. They would invest in education to create a skilled workforce.
I think you know all this, in fact I think I have read your writing to this effect.
I’ll leave it there, confused at your view of Trump.
I reread CS Lewis’ “The Funeral of a Great Myth” at the link you posted. In his retelling of the myth he has the fabulous line “Passing hastily over the historical period (in it the upward and onward movement gets in places a little indistinct)”. It is so much easier to make up progress myths when one doesn’t have to account for much actual history.
It seems my thinking is following Lewis, tracing the techno-progress myth as a more recent development, built from parts of what Spengler calls Magian and Faustian cultures, but discontinuous enough with the core principles of both as to require a new name. Lewis was right that by the 1940s, the progress myth was going into disrepute in literary and philosophical circles. But the post-modernism that tried to take its place was obviously useless. The post-world war II economic growth and development of digital technology that followed have produced some of the most compelling stories of growth in history, so the progress myth is now more deeply entrenched in the average human mindset than it was in the 1940s. Now as the myth crashes into reality, we have many people struggling to cope and willing to grasp at straws like Donald Trump or politically correct outrage.
“If supporters of Donald Trump know their way around the history of ideas, they’re reading these articles with glee, since—as noted above—such diatribes are the death rattle of a modern social movement.” They do, they are. And not just Trump supporters, many here in the old world are seeing the same process unfolding.
Hi, James M Jensen, thank you for that little thought gem on the theme of agency being what Faustian culture is trying to exclude (though frequently referred to as “subjectivity”). I had not hitherto connected subjectivity so clearly to agency, although in my own mind I have often found myself secretly siding with the subject (and subjectivity) over the object (and objectivity).
Riffing on this some more, incorporating your term agency into the picture, I see that the subject is an agent who acts, whereas the object is the non-agent which is acted upon. (I usually think of this as “person” vs “thing”, and of the fetish for objectivity as a fetish for “thingifying”). I prefer to think of the world as being full of agents, and the relationship between one and another being one of inter-subjectivity, where both remain agents, interacting, rather than either becoming the thing that is acted upon by the other.
In Martin Buber’s language, an intersubjective relationship would be what he named an “I/You” relationship, whereas a subject/object relationship is an “I/it” relationship. However, if we get caught up in the pursuit to remove agents, agency, and subjectivity entirely, then we ourselves must in the end accept our own status as objects, which means our relationships cannot rise above “it/it” relationships, and well, there we seem to grind to a halt. Because somehow the objects that all these “objective” thinkers must consign themselves to be must be continually undermined by their own inner agency yearning to be free (and thus make them – horrors! – “subjective”). Another very large fissure of cognitive dissonance, indeed!
Anyway, James, thank you for the idea that striving to remove “agency” is at the heart of the fetish for “objectivity” (and war on “subjectivity”). Much to meditate on there.
JMG (in answer to Michael Martin):”… The shrill and violent tone you’re hearing is the sound of a privileged minority losing its grip on the levers of influence, having already lost track of the fact that nobody else on the planet has to agree with them. I don’t think they have long left.”
While John was replying in regards to an article on an upper-middle class white woman losing her grip and shame-screaming at her husband (one of the “good men”), I think that goes for all of the haughty judgmental types who title themselves progressive; they don’t have long left to perform their antics before an increasingly shocked audience. The crowd will soon tire of the play and walk out, perhaps after heaving a few (or many) rotten tomatoes at the stage first. The progressives are not only losing the battle to win converts among the masses, but are losing people among themselves in the groups they frequent. I see that Liberal religion is going through a tug of war, a revolt against the progressive culture filtering down from their headquarters, as shown in this Reddit thread.
This happened before in this denomination back in the 1990’s. There was an attempt to introduce anti-racism training, and many felt that the program chosen did not support the worth and dignity of everyone involved. There was even a book written about the situation by a person who worked in the religious organization at the time, with names changed to protect the innocent and the writer himself of course! It’s called, simply and appropriately, The Antiracism Trainings. It’s aptly described by a reviewer as “…about a faithless Jewish editor of a magazine published by a post-Christian secular religion depicts a world where orthodoxy has replaced belief, where ideology has supplanted intelligence–a world easily mistaken for our own”. (You can check it out and read selections at Amazon, but if you want to buy it, please seek out a local bookseller!) That sure does sound a whole lot like what’s going on now, not just with racism, but the whole progressive shebang that’s been building throughout the years.
Apparently, church headquarters has learned nothing. Maybe they think “it’s different this time”, therefore onward and upward! Gee, where have I heard that before?
If revolt is happening in the churches, how long before it occurs in corporate boardrooms, city council meetings, private charities, and elsewhere? I just hope it steps things back to where we can view each other as human beings, with similarities amid our differences and individual uniqueness among group members; yet instead I fear revolt will bring back active racism, sexism, etc. as a reactionary over-correction. Not good.
Re: Higher Criticism
Originally, the term Higher Criticism was distinguished from Lower Criticism, which is now called text-criticism. It’s simply the investigation of a book on literary terms to place it in its historical-cultural matrix and attempt to discern the author’s intent.
It can, of course, be engaged in by people whose orientations range from the hard-core atheistic materialist to the equally hard-core believer, and the explanations, as well as what is ignored or explained away, will inevitably reflect the scholar’s orientation.
It’s always possible to create more and more baroque “explanations” for discrepancies between what looks like evidence to most people and firmly held beliefs. Since I am not a Christian of any variety, I have no particular reason to accept that specific claim of divine revelation. I have my own claims of supposed divine revelation to deal with.
@James M. Jensen II
Re: Bayesian Reasoning
I tried using Bayesian reasoning when I read Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise. I found, very quickly, that the result depends on the probabilities you assign to each item of new information. Sometimes you can get a decent estimate — Nate Silver’s example of the 9/11 attack on the twin towers is a good example. And sometimes you can’t, and the probabilities you assign are simply a measure of your own biases.
To use a very hackneyed phrase, your wife is probably an older soul, or has recent incarnational experience with cultures that don’t believe in Progress.
To use the reincarnational scheme I laid out a while ago, Progress is very much a belief of the third tier, which has a firm belief that there is no limit to personal achievement. Once one grows up a bit more spiritually (which is usually going to take a number of lifetimes), unlimited personal achievement and hence Progress isn’t of interest any more: there are other things to do.
People tend to hang on to what they are familiar with rather than leaping off into the unknown, even when what they’re familiar with isn’t working. Change is going to be incremental and slow.
James, excellent! You get today’s gold star for catching that. To my mind, it’s just as idiotic to insist that Faustian culture (or any other culture) is evil as it would be to insist that it (or any other culture) is good and everything else is evil. Here is a lake, or a mountain, or a species. Is it good or evil? Of course not. Human cultures are just as much organic products of the cosmos as lakes and mountains and species. Faustian culture isn’t bad, it’s just passed its peak and, due to the downsides of some of the same characteristics that made it so successful for a while, it’s not likely to stick around the way (say) Chinese culture has.
Peter, I’ll be talking about that from a different angle, I’ll be interested to hear what you think of it.
Daniil, I expect things to improve generally in Russia for quite a while to come, partly because (as you’ve pointed out) the twentieth century baseline is so low that almost anything would be an improvement, and partly because large parts of Russia will be receiving the benefits of climate change. Siberia, like Canada, will have its climate completely transformed once the Arctic Ocean becomes blue water and begins pumping water vapor into the atmosphere every summer. The valleys of the Ob, Irtysh, Yenisei, and Lena, among others, are likely to become major agricultural regions in the centuries to come, and the impact on the economy is likely to be immense and positive.
As for Russian Orthodoxy, a great deal will depend on just how things unfold in the wake of the recent schism. The history of religions is only partly a history of what human beings do; there are also deeper factors, and those pretty reliably can’t be predicted in advance.
Brigyn, the Celts were among the many local cultures on the fringes of Apollonian culture; some Celtic regions took on some degree of Apollonian pseudomorphosis, and all of them got overlaid with Magian and Faustian cultures. As for modern Pagan revivals, my guess is that fifty years from now most of them will have about as much importance as Theosophy or Spiritualism has today, but it’s possibel that one or more of them will become the seed from which something much more enduring will emerge.
Scotlyn, thanks for this. I’d wondered how long it would take before the skeptic movement would start to crack open along those fault lines.
Robert, that’s why, for all Goethe’s brilliance, I prefer Marlowe’s version of the Faust legend. Marlowe got the psychology of Faust down cold; it’s indicative to me that when the demons are hauling Faustus away, his last words are a plea for Mephistopheles to save him.
Lathechuck, and the GOP is right on top of it. Have you seen their latest slogan? “Jobs Not Mobs.” The Democrats may have just handed them a lethal weapon.
Philip H., remember that Hesiod — the original source for the Greek notion of decline — was one of the earliest Greek authors whose works survive, and wrote well before the classical era. He was reflecting, quite sensibly, on the long bitter decline from the Mycenean society of the past to the harsh realities of his own time. By the time of Alexander the Great and his successors, that attitude was a literary affectation.
Peter, a lot of my take on the shape of time was guided by Spengler, who discusses it at some length, though I’ve taken it somewhat further than he did.
Shane, and of course what you were told in an American public school is necessarily a convincing argument…
David, ding! We have a winner. Yes, exactly.
Prizm, hah! I missed that — it’s been too long since my high school Russian language classes — but you’re right, of course; Ras-Putin is followed by the second Putin…
Dewey, I’m quite familiar with the roles of mob violence and systematic state persecution in the destruction of classical Paganism. The thing I’d point out, though, is that in the days of their confidence, Apollonian societies were perfectly able and willing to eject or annihilate hostile minorities; consider what happened to the Bacchic cult in the days of the Roman Republic, or for that matter the treatment meted out to the Druids. It was precisely because the certainties of Apollonian culture had so obviously failed that the persecution of the Christians was so half-hearted and ineffectual; the charisma of the rising Magian culture was able to capture the classical imagination, as it would not have done had Apollonian culture had a shape of time more resistant to failure.
Re perspectives on Trump
FWIW, I’ll give my thoughts, which are decidedly mixed. It is, in the end, a matter of relative comparison and perspective. I most certainly would have preferred a change-agent from the leftward end of the spectrum. Despite my many disagreements with his policy proposals, I’d have voted for Sanders over Trump in a heartbeat. That option wasn’t given. For all his flaws (and they are legion), Trump nonetheless does represent change from the bipartisan status quo, which HRC manifested in spades. Trump, recall, ran against the Republican orthodoxy in the primary and won. He ran against the bipartisan orthodoxy in the general and won. (Again, my assessment of the 2016 election remains: “I’m not exactly happy he won, but I am extremely relieved that she lost.”)
No member of the establishment, Democrat or Republican, would be invoking the use of tariffs as he has, wedded as they are to the notions of free-trade. Similarly, Trump deep-sixed TPP. He forced a renegotiation of NAFTA and, as I understand it, stripped the US-Canadian agreement of its ISDS provisions while also significantly scaling back those of the US-Mexican agreement. These are significant deviations from the status quo and are quite revolutionary in nature. Yes, there is much he hasn’t done that I’d like to see: withdrawing from our numerous foreign adventures, for example. But reducing federal bureaucracy? Decentralizing governance back towards the state level? These are necessary steps in preparing for the difficult descent ahead, however accidental or inadvertent they may be.
Give me a leftward candidate willing to do these sorts of things and continue this new direction: I’ll vote for him or her over Trump in ’20, hands down. But the Dems are more than likely going to consolidate their position as the party of the old-guard orthodoxy (given the action-reaction dynamic) and will undoubtedly nominate someone who will push for a return to the previous policies. I’m reserving judgement at this point, but I’ll say this — if Trump does push through something like marijuana reform legislation coupled with a wave of clemency actions and/or pull us out of one or more of our foolish Middle East quagmires (**cough** Syria **cough**), then I may well be voting for the man two years from now. And I can’t tell you how crazy it is that I can even write that.
And, mildly OT, concerning one of our age’s great counter-Progress myths, from TOR books:
Rita Rippetoe – Your point about the often unsafe nature of childbirth is correct. However, I would encourage finding more moderate proponents of medicalized childbirth than Amy Tuteur, the “Skeptical OB”. This woman actually got pushed off “Science”-Based Medicine a few years back for being too ignorant of real science and too viciously abusive towards people who want autonomy as patients or who question any aggressive intervention whatsoever. E.g., she has produced spittle-flying rants about how those women graciously permitted to deliver vaginally should shut up and submit to episiotomies, which have been clearly proven to do more harm than good when universally inflicted. If you want an enraged diatribe about how there is “wastage” in nature (that used to be one of her favorite words) and therefore all things natural are bad, she’s your gal. But don’t take what she claims to be scientific fact seriously.
I don’t know, there IS one element of resiliency in “science” that you happened to leave out of your analysis: one of the myths that go along with it (taught in every classroom) is that all of its accomplishments are provisional and subject to change/reinterpretation, even if they seem universally accepted at any given time, and the popular history of it rather emphasizes that between periods of breakthrough, there are long periods of stagnation and going down blind alleys (or taking an initially good idea and going too far with it). It’s widely taught that those that end up being accepted as correct may spend most or all of their lives getting ridiculed or ignored (Pasteur; germ theory. Wegener; continental drift). So the route to “neverending progress” is full of zig-zags. For example, the sharp shift of direction from Newtonian physics to Einstein’s relativity and quantum mechanics.
Some things even go in a sort of full circle… such as the phenomenon of “sleep paralysis”, which went from being accepted medical science in the Renaissance, to baseless superstition in the Enlightenment, to accepted medical science once again in the 20th century. (I recently read Shelley R. Adler’s excellent book on the subject: “Sleep Paralysis: Night-mares, Nocebos, and the Mind-Body Connection”)
Or another example: Masanobu Fukuoka (“One Straw Revolution”) who went from being ignored for most of his life as an outdated throwback, to being renowned and acclaimed for his *ahem* “progressive”, “innovative” farming practices.
It’s…. just a matter of presentation, perhaps. Dress your throwback idea up in the language of the Faustian culture (or at least don’t object when others do that for you), and it stands a fair chance of getting embraced, if it’s a good one.
On the other hand, this constant self-doubt also means that the scientific method contains within it the roots of its own demise. As seen in the current “replication crisis” ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Replication_crisis ). I think it would be capable of helping bring about its own demise with both eyes open, if it came to that… (and it well might)
BB, I have a quibble with one of your historical statements, “Womens power in medieval Europe was of course greatly diminished by the witch burnings.” In Western Europe, the Church didn’t go in much for witch burning until the tail end of the Middle Ages. Many more people were put to death for this crime during the early modern period.
During most of the medieval period, religious authorities discouraged belief in the power of witchcraft. Trials did occur, but trying accused witches was a low priority for religious and secular authorities, who had limited resources for exerting social control. Witchcraft was understood as a crime of individuals. The accused were not pressured to denounce others. People sometimes were able to get acquitted by producing character witnesses. The usual penalties for those who were convicted were public penance or exile. Capital punishment was rare.
During the run-up to the Protestant Reformation, there was an intellectual shift in western Christianity from regarding witchcraft as the practice of a few deluded or superstitious people to seeing it as a vast Satanic conspiracy. It is in the sixteenth, seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries that religious authorities actively organized witch hunts, torture was used to extract confessions and force prisoners to denounce others, people were tried in groups, and capital punishment became a regular penalty.
@Matthias and John – Thanks for your comments on Catherine Nixey. I did read quickly through the long review. It is true that Nixey has biases and that the work is a polemic rather than an unemotional historical summary; I should have noted that.
However, I don’t think it is wrong to present a polemic forcefully representing one side of an argument when the other side has gotten 99% of the press! The review notes that the Romans also committed plenty of violence that is not discussed. I might compare Nixey’s work to Terry Jones’ Barbarians, an alternate history arguing that northern European “barbarians” also had sophisticated cultures, and that the fall of the Roman Empire actually benefited Europe by prying its boot off the necks of those cultures. Jones therefore spends lots of time describing Roman oppression, Nixey almost none, because of their topics and the axes they have to grind. Neither can be dismissed as false, but one has to read multiple sources to get at anything close to the whole truth.
The review is itself polemic, and spends enough time sniping at Nixey’s parentage and childhood to make me wonder how many generally accepted facts are really inconsistent with her thesis. In the middle it concludes: “Imperial disapproval and some limited Christian violence did indeed help the demise of classical religion, but overall it died a natural death, as most religions do, from indifference and a shift in people’s priorities.” That, I find impossible to believe. After that, did everyone in northern Europe, as they too were conquered by Christianity, also find themselves becoming indifferent and their priorities shifting? All the old European religions are gone, while elsewhere, minority religions like Zoroastrianism or Jainism have hung on among small groups for millennia. As Nixey says, despite outbreaks of Roman persecution of Christians, who were then a small minority, Christianity or its followers were not eradicated wholesale. How is it possible to believe that the Roman persecutions were so much worse than the later Christian persecutions when the latter seem so much more effective?
@Luna “However, when I look at his tax cuts going to the wealthy, and see the upcoming budget proposals that cuts services to so many of our disadvantaged citizens, and can’t find any proof that he has indeed created many jobs, well I feel depressed. I think he’s pretending to be populist but is really just doing more of the same…funneling money to the top.
I come from a Social Work background before veering off into art, and still have friends in the field. We are shocked at what’s going to happen to so many disadvantaged populations if he completes his plans (homeless vets, people of color, mentally and physically disabled people, etc.).”
Here is an excerpt from an article from The New York Times published on October the 5th of this year (two weeks ago). If The New York Times sees this news as fit to print, a paper whose editors so far as I can tell have no love for Donald Trump, then I think we can safely credit it as real news, not fake news.
“With 8 Years of Job Gains, Unemployment Is Lowest Since 1969.”
“The unemployment rate fell to a nearly five-decade low in September, punctuating a remarkable rebound in the 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers set off a global financial crisis.
“By almost any measure, the American economy is humming. Gross domestic product is on pace for its best year since the housing bubble of the mid-2000s. Consumers and businesses are the most confident they have been in years, if not decades. Stock market indexes are near record highs.
“The latest milestone came in a Friday report from the Labor Department: The unemployment rate fell to 3.7 percent last month, the lowest since December 1969, when hundreds of thousands of working-age Americans were serving in Vietnam.
“‘I view this as the strongest labor market in a generation,’ said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at the career site Glassdoor. ‘These really are the good times.’
“The turnaround from a decade ago is hard to overstate.”
“Crucially, the recovery is reaching groups that struggled in the early years of the recovery. The unemployment rates for African-Americans and Hispanics are both near all-time lows. Teenagers, less-educated workers and disabled Americans have also made progress in recent months. And anecdotal reports suggest that companies are becoming more willing to hire people with criminal records or to waive drug-testing requirements.”
I disagree with John on one thing when it comes to Donald Trump: he is not a politician. He is a businessman. He is doing precisely what at the time the world’s wealthiest man, the Mexican Carlos Slim, advised the United States: “Aside from lowering taxes, we should be directing more money to the real economy, not to the financial economy. The volatility of the markets is so great that more is won or lost in a single day than in five years of accumulated interest. And that’s not a good thing. … You don’t need to raise taxes on rich people, because they create capitalization and investment. … ‘The welfare policies that you are following—you and Europe—are unsustainable,’ Slim argues. ‘You cannot have people retiring at 60 years old, and you cannot provide universal health care the way you do. That’s crazy. The focus should be the support of small- and middle-size business. That is where the employment is. And there should be investment in the real economy. Infrastructure is an example. And the best way to do that is with the private sector. It’s more efficient.'” (“Carlos Slim on How to Fix the U.S. Economy”, 09.27.11, https://www.thedailybeast.com/carlos-slim-on-how-to-fix-the-us-economy) What’s Donald Trump’s business? Real estate. The real economy, not financial speculation. I find it ironic, actually, given some of his policies, that Trump is following, in effect, the advice of a Mexican.
Two other things about Trump. He is independently wealthy, so wealthy that he doesn’t have to listen to anybody else, and clearly doesn’t. Does that scare you? Think about it. A person who cannot be effectively lobbied. Sure, he needs backers, but he can choose who those are. The precedent here is what the next billionaire president, if the United States has one, will or will not choose to do.
Second, for want of a better word, the one consistent thing about Donald Trump is that he is an isolationist. I think he realizes that the United States can be self-sufficient, and is pursuing foreign policy with that goal, and so far he’s winning. The question in my mind is, Are Americans up for that? Or are they content with or do they want to go back to being mere players at various negotiating tables? It is possible that Trump’s weakness, his fragile ego, may also be his strength. He might not be content with being President of the United States. He might want to be President of the greatest economic power on the planet. For him, that might be the measure of (his) success. Again, he is a businessman. If that is what it takes to satisfy his over-sized ego, well, are Americans up for it, or not? This is the question that I think Americans have to honestly face. If the answer is yes, well, then you put up with him. If it’s not, then you need to live with that yourselves.
I will freely admit that the man is not a role model, except that he doesn’t drink. But when I get on an airplane, I don’t ask about the moral character of the pilot. I want to know that they know their job. And that they don’t drink.
As a follow-up to a previous comment, I think that Spengler’s concept of “cultural amoebas” as predecessors to the early civilizations of Eurasia and North Africa was one of those brilliant insights of his and it’s a pity he didn’t get the chance to develop and expand upon the ideas he was working on for “The Epic of Man”.
His thesis could help explain why we see early great cultures spread out over a wide area that have both distinct similarities and distinct differences, for instance, the monumental architecture which appeared in ancient Egypt, Neolithic Europe and Neolithic Anatolia seems to have been motivated by an underlying cultural motif, namely the cult of the dead as the central organizing principle. At the same time, there are differences in the way that cult was expressed in each of those areas. It’s also very curious that we see so many of the same cultural motifs in Mesoamerica. Was there contact between the early Mesoamericans and ancient Egypt and/or Neolithic Western Europe? Spengler used the term “Atlantis” for the Western cultural amoeba purely as a metaphor, but perhaps it was more apt than even he realized at the time.
When Toynbee wrote A Study of History, it was generally assumed that the Indus Valley Culture was an offshoot of the Sumerian civilization, but we now know from archeological evidence that the Indus Valley Culture emerged around the same time as the Sumerian culture. While there were similarities and unmistakable evidence of trade and cultural influence, there are also distinct differences between the two. If both emerged independently from the cultural amoeba Spengler called “Kush”, that might explain why we see a pattern between those two analogous to the relationship between Egypt, Neolithic Europe, Neolithic Anatolia and possibly Mesoamerica.
Another fascinating possibility that Spengler brings up in the notes for his unpublished book is the idea that both the Indo-Europeans and the cultures of Northeast Asia come from a common source that emerged on the Great Eurasian Steppe, the cultural amoeba Spengler called “Turan”. Scholars have long noticed similarities between Sanskrit and archaic Chinese, which would make more sense if both cultures are ultimately descended from the same source but diverged several thousand years ago. This in turn fits with the Borean Hypothesis, a theory first developed by Soviet scientists in the 1970’s. According to the Borean Hypothesis, the Indo-Europeans, the Semitic and Hamitic peoples, the Native Americans and the peoples of Northeast and Central Asia are all descendants of a group of people who lived in Central Asia during the last glacial cycle.
Even though Spengler only left fragmentary notes, the ideas he outlines are well worth following up and could help a great deal in understanding the origins of not only early civilizations, but other peoples such as the nomadic tribal cultures of the Eurasian Steppe.
@JMG: “It was precisely because the certainties of Apollonian culture had so obviously failed that the persecution of the Christians was so half-hearted and ineffectual; the charisma of the rising Magian culture was able to capture the classical imagination, as it would not have done had Apollonian culture had a shape of time more resistant to failure.”
That’s a plausible argument, but off the top of my head I can’t think of any religions that the Romans did completely exterminate. Thuggish they certainly were, but exterminating large numbers of taxpayers would have been the exception and not the rule. Therefore, I am not sure that their failure to do so in the case of Christianity can be confidently attributed to the decline of their own culture. (Nor do I think the victory of a religion that did pursue campaigns of violence, and that after obtaining political power set the goal of completely eradicating paganism or its followers, can be attributed solely to its superior “charisma.”)
Alvin Leong wrote:
JMG, one thing that I’ve always been curious about in my readings of Spengler is to what extent the borderlands of a great culture truly adopt that culture. In the case of America and Russia, as both you and Spengler himself have noted, there seem to be distinct, independent cultures arising. However, what about the cases of places like Japan, Korea, maritime South-east Asia or even South America?
I myself am from Singapore, whose population is largely descended from immigrants who came here after British colonization. I don’t feel like the culture here is predominantly either Faustian or Chinese.
I feel like there is room in a Spenglerian worldview for “local cultures” centered around places which might adopt various pseudomorphoses but still remain distinct. For example, while both Korea and Japan adopted much of Chinese culture and even preserved much of what was lost in China itself over the centuries, they also adapted and transformed what they adopted in distinct ways. Even in the Faustian heartland of Western Europe, there remain distinct cultural differences across regions, but I think the differences are more distinct in the peripheral regions of a great culture.
In the last volume of A Study of History (Volume XII, Reconsiderations), Arnold Toynbee introduced the concept of “satellite civilizations”, smaller civilizations that are closely related to and heavily influenced by a neighboring great culture, which have developed their own distinctive culture and sense of identity, but which are unable to break free and form independent civilizations of their own. He lists Japan, Korea and Vietnam as satellite civilizations of China, the Canaanites, Moabites and Edomites as satellite civilizations of the Mesopotamians and the Anasazi and Cahokians as satellite civilizations of Mesoamerica. This is another useful concept that really needs to be explored and could help explain a great deal.
Spengler, Toynbee and Greer have all discussed how peripheral cultures tend to emerge on the fringes of a civilization and a few eventually give rise to great cultures of their own, with North America and Russia currently playing that role vis-a-vis the Faustian Culture. Perhaps these cultures could be viewed as satellite civilizations that became large enough and successful enough to break away and form their own great cultures.
I would like get your thoughts on this as well.
Tacitus, writing in the 1st century AD, saw that Rome was spiraling downward because the Roman government had lost all virtue. One can safely conclude that he had given up on the Apollonian ideal…He didn’t make a lot of noise about it, being an important Roman official from a well known family, but it’s there. Rome put up a good front, however, until sometime after the death of Marcus Aurelius…About 260, the Emperor was captured and enslaved after another ill considered war against the Parthians, and the currency was debased to zero.Yet Rome staggered on by splitting into Eastern and Western empires and adopting Christianity. Anyway, societies changed slowly in those days….
Modern society, however, is leveraged to the eyeballs on every front…When “just in time” turns to never, things can collapse in a matter of weeks..But biologically, we have a lot of trouble accepting that.
I just started on Democracy in America, and there’s an Alexis de Tocqueville quote that seems rather apt…
On that tongue of arid land [the eastern seaboard] were born and grew the English colonies that were one day to become the United States of America. There one still finds the home of power today, while behind it are assembling, almost in secret, the true elements of the great people to whom the future of the continent doubtless belongs. (Mansfield and Winthrop translation)
His focus was more on the Mississippi valley as a whole. Regardless, things have been brewing in that general region for quite some time.
Assuming the United States doesn’t disintegrate first, perhaps even the actual capital would eventually shift from DC to somewhere in the heartland. Stranger things have certainly happened.
One thing that is interesting to me is the comparison between public health crises in 1990s Russia and 2010s America. In both places, once “progress” stopped happening and went into reverse for much of the population, an epidemic of hopelessness broke out. Rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide skyrocketed, resulting in declining life expectancies. The hardest-hit demographic in both countries has been middle-aged men of the dominant ethnic group, who lost the expectation of steady improvement in their careers and social standing.
There are differences, of course, but the differences are largely in the details. The biggest one is that Russia’s collapse was sudden and marked by a definite event, so the transition happened more abruptly. The US is in more of a slow burn. Obviously there were differences in the drug problems, with Russia featuring more alcohol-related deaths and the US more opioid overdoses. But the similarities are striking.
It occurs to me that both countries elected authoritarian-leaning leaders in the depths of their respective crises, with broad support among the working and middle classes but much less of it among the elites. Trump and Putin get along well together for a reason, after all.
Is there something of a “collapse syndrome” throughout history that occurs when people stop believing in the myths that undergird their respective societies? I’m wondering if this phenomenon has historical analogues.
Autoxuga Movil, thanks for this; I’ll put him on the look-at list.
Phil H., the Apollonian culture retains a potent influence in the Faustian world, for good or ill — and it does go both ways. One of the things I expect to happen in future ages, as the total body of recorded history and remembered civilizations expands, is the gradual expansion of such influences; ten thousand years from now, for example, a great culture may have eight or ten or twelve such older cultures feeding into it, giving it a wider range of possibilities to choose from. That seems helpful to me.
Elodie, thanks for this! That strikes me as very sensible.
Kurt, I see conservation and environmentalism as early stirrings of the post-Faustian worldview. We have a long way to go before the contradiction between these ideas and the Faustian dream of limitlessness finally gets resolved.
Tripp, why, yes, those are good examples. The entire creaking, crumbling mass of modern American society relies on that logic — “if this goes away, it’s back to the caves!” The problem is that more and more people are starting to think that back to the caves is a better deal, and you know, they’re by no means obviously mistaken… 😉
As for laptops, I’ve got several running Windows 7; I’ve set my computer not to download updates unless I tell it to, and that’s worked just fine.
DT, the thing to keep in mind is that American Christianity, and more generally Christianity anywhere west of Istanbul, is Magian in name only. It embraced the Faustian vision, and is going down with it — after all, if you’ve bought into the idea that the perfect future involves converting everyone on the planet to Christianity (a common article of faith among US Christians a century ago), and it’s gotten brutally obvious that that’s not going to happen, the cognitive dissonance gets very hard to deal with, and sooner or later your clergy is going to be dominated by scoundrels and the unusually clueless.
Jackfruit, fascinating. Thank you for the update on matters in the fifth largest country on the planet.
Adrian, well, I hope I won’t disappoint.
Flow, thank you for this! That earns you this evening’s gold star.
DaveOTN, exactly. Linear time with a starting point and a stopping point is pretty much hardwired into Magian monotheism.
Nicholas, I was born in Washington state, and lived there until 2004; I finally left the west coast for good, with a definite sigh of relief, in 2009. I do in fact know the culture out there fairly well. I’d be curious about whether you have anything like that level of knowledge of the Ohio valley and the Rust Belt generally — in case you didn’t hear this, I lived in a Rust Belt town for eight years before moving on to New England. From my perspective, your sense of historical time is far too short — remember that I’m discussing a timeline of centuries here — and you’ve failed to factor in the impact of climate change and the vulnerability of the west coast to mass migration in the centuries ahead. Nor does your frankly simplistic view of the culture of the Ohio valley have much in common with what I’ve encountered during my many trips there!
Oh, and your view of Russia also shows a very narrow temporal focus. Of course there’s going to be plenty of disruption in the centuries immediately ahead; that’s normal in the formative period of a great culture.
Kashtan, interesting. That differs sharply from what I encountered in my reading, which was that the big pluvial lakes of the southwest were a product of late Pliocene and Pleistocene cooling, and that warm intervals saw pervasive desertification across the western half of the continent. Can you point me toward some written or online sources for the data you’ve presented here?
Nicholas, perhaps you can show me where I said that we were talking about the next hegemonic culture. (Hint: you can’t, because I didn’t say anything of the kind.) The decline in basic reading comprehension skills these days is really quite embarrassing.
Ganv, it’s Spengler’s basic thesis that there’s an essential cultural continuity that spans Western and Central European societies from roughly 1000 CE to the present. I think he makes a good argument for that. As for current transportation and communications technologies, why, I’ve discussed at some length why I expect those to sunset out in the century or so ahead of us.
JMG, good as always. One huge difference between your thoughts and Spengler’s is that you attribute Faustian culture decline to the end of the possibility of expansion and peak oil, while Spengler believes that decline is embedded in any culture life cycle, expressly dismissing the possibility of decline due to resource depletion. He believed that eventually Faustian men would shift their interests toward inner life, abandoning interest in machines and industry. Spengler obviously did not believed that resource depletion could be an insurmountable problem, but maybe he had a point: if Faustian culture managed to develop some viable energy source, such as fusion, or even economically viable nuclear fission, it probably would keep lingering on for at least a few centuries more.
A jobs report like that is typical of the economic boom and bust cycle in its boom phase. Trump did not cause it. Obama deserves some credit for giving the Federal Reserve some extraordinary tools and then getting out of the way, but that’s all. If anyone deserves credit, it’s Janet Yellen, Obama’s Fed chair.
Our economy goes through boom and bust cycles. The recovery from the 2009 bust is pretty typical of financial crashes like 1929; the only significant difference is that it’s gone on longer than expected.
Michael has said they see efforts to tame the economic cycle beginning in 2025 or so.
Re: Ancient people
Ancient DNA studies are upending most of what we thought we knew about who was doing what, where and when. I wouldn’t put much credence in older studies: the field is simply changing too rapidly. I can’t say a whole lot specific since it isn’t my field; I’m just watching from the bleachers.
Yeh that’s also more or less my understanding of witchcraft and the witchburnings in europe. What I meant to say was, much of the power women had during the middle ages was diminished by the witchburnings, beginning in the late medieval to early modern period.
James, the sad thing about that is that science started out as an instrument of reflection. There’s a bitter irony in the way that it’s turned into its own opposite.
Nestorian, why, the fact that Persian Zoroastrianism, complete with monotheism, hard moral dualism, a Messiah myth, and a fully developed linear view of history from creation to apocalypse, can be quite easily proven to have existed in fully developed form centuries before Persia conquered the Babylonian empire and had its first encounter with the petty ethnic kingdoms west of the Tigris-Euphrates valley, of which Judah was one. There’s zero evidence of Jewish contact with Persia in the formative years of Zoroastrianism; there’s massive evidence of Persian contact with the Jewish people in the formative years of post-exilic Judaism. Thus it’s pretty clear which one influenced the other.
I know perfectly well that this can’t matter to you. That’s the thing about the Magian monotheisms. They all claim to be the one true religion that was handed down by the one true God at the beginning of time, and then obscured by human sinfulness and error until the time came for its renewal by the founder of the religion. They all claim that all the other Magian religions are copies of theirs, that their miracles are real and everyone else’s are (insert one: fake, muddled borrowings from the one true faith, or the activities of demons) — and those claims are essential to their faith, in a way that makes very little sense from the point of view of any non-Magian religious tradition.
If a Catholic, a Muslim, a Jew, a Zoroastrian, a Mandean, a Manichean, and a follower of any other Magian religion that still survives all came onto this blog, we’d have a fine donnybrook, with every one of you deploying the identical arguments against all the others and never noticing how that demonstrates the essential vacuity of the arguments. To you, the differences that separate your particular Magian faith from all the others are immense; to me, and to others who are outside those faiths, it’s like the differences between individual cookies all cut out from the same cookie cutter. Yes, that makes communication difficult between us!
James, that’s fascinating, and it meshes neatly with what I’ve been seeing — and with certain other patterns that seem to focus on the abolition of personal responsibility for anything. Hmm. That bears some serious thought.
Patricia O, thanks for this. I certainly agree about cell phones; I learned enough about the dangers of RF radiation while studying for my ham radio license that I really don’t want to press a microwave transmitter against the side of my skull!
Dusk Shine, I never had a strong faith in progress, and lost it in childhood, so I’m an apostate only in a formal sense. As for Retrotopia, I don’t know — that wasn’t something I explored in the course of writing the book, and like my other novels, once it’s done I leave the world behind and can’t really reinhabit it. It’s certainly possible, though. (BTW, if you don’t mind my asking, what is the thing that would disprove your wife’s faith?)
Kfish, you’re quite correct, of course.
Alvin, good. Of course there are areas that are outside the core region of any great culture, which develop their own distinctive cultural forms and worldview. Spengler didn’t really get into that — he was focused entirely on those great cultures large and charismatic enough to go through the historical cycle that was his central interest — but it fits very well into his scheme. Singapore, for example, is peripheral to three great cultures (Indic, Chinese, and Faustian), and has certainly developed its own distinctive cultural bricolage from those and other raw materials. It’s not impossible that at some point in the future, that bricolage could become the basis for a great culture of its own.
As for the Magian pseudomorphoses in Chinese culture, bingo; one of the things about Magian religious forms is that they travel well and routinely inspire local adaptations and reinventions along similar lines. The Chinese apocalyptic cults are good examples; another is Wicca, which (like any other Magian faith) claims (or used to claim, during its era of greatest vitality) that it was the original religion of humanity, obscured by persecution and error, but leaping forth at the hands and, ahem, other bodily parts of Gerald Gardner et al. in the usual manner. It’s a very appealing way of thinking about religion for many people, though I find it uninspiring at best.
Luna, you might want to look at this article from Forbes on the current boom in manufacturing jobs. Right now millions of Americans who were driven into destitution and misery by free trade and open borders are seeing better times for the first time in four decades. They were also disadvantaged, you know, but got zero sympathy from the Democratic Party — quite the contrary, I’m sure you’ve heard the hate speech that’s still routinely directed at working class Americans by the left. Unfortunately the polarization of American society is such that these days, disadvantaged groups have become captive constituencies of one or the other party, and when their party loses, they get clobbered.
David, yes, I saw that. I’ll be discussing it on my Dreamwidth journal in a little while. The soi-disant Magic Resistance really does seem to be doing everything it can to become an object lesson on how not to do effective magic; convincing experienced ritual specialists from the world’s largest single religious denomination, with eighteen centuries of practice dispelling hostile magical energies, to weigh in against your working strikes me as a high water mark for magical failure that may not be reached again for some time.
Mmelvink, fascinating. Did Islam in the Persianate sphere discard the idea of a Last Judgment and the end of the ordinary world of limitation, then?
GH, I think that’s an important part of it.
David, that’s plausible enough. It simply strikes me as interesting that every one of his business enterprises is propped up with government subsidies.
Steve, that’s a great example. Thank you.
Christopher, I suspect that’s a very good description. “If we can raise just one more Moai all our problems will be solved!” As for Egypt, I’d have to study their surviving literature more closely to be able to offer any kind of educated opinion on that.
Will, delighted to hear it. I’ll look forward to your report.
Mog, you might want to read the article I linked to above in my response to Luna. The steps you’ve described aren’t the only way to pursue an expansion of employment — in fact, one of them (more money into education) has been tried repeatedly and failed just as repeatedly, since training people for jobs that don’t exist enriches the education industry but does nothing to make those jobs show up. Cutting the regulatory burden that chokes off new business formation, and removing free trade and open borders policies that drive down wages and working conditions, seem to do a much more effective job.
Mike, I kind of figured you were, but it helps to remind people that this happens, is happening, and will continue to happen.
Joy Marie, things really do seem to be moving in that direction, but we’ll see.
Patricia, Numenor is Atlantis even in name — in Elvish, after all, it’s Atalante, the Downfallen.
Esn, there’s a complex balance between that element of the scientific myth, on the one hand, and the increasingly dogmatic way that defenders of science treat current theory as eternal truth, on the other. The current state of the balance is that scientists are allowed to doubt existing theory but laypeople are not. That’s not wearing well just now…
Dewey, I certainly don’t agree with the attitude of the review; it simply isn’t true that classical Paganism died of natural causes — it was murdered, and the bloody fingerprints are still all too clearly visible. The point I was making is that the collapse of the Apollonian vision made it impossible for it to defend itself effectively.
Azure, thanks for this. I’m definitely going to have to chase that down.
Dewey, I don’t think the Romans would have needed to exterminate all Christians. If they’d treated them the way they treated the Jews, for example, they’d likely have gotten the same results: on the one hand, a vast number of corpses and an expanded reputation for ruthlessness; on the other, a largely peaceful and law-abiding religious minority that knew better than to try to interfere with anybody else’s worship.
Azure, that’s basically my take on things.
Pyrrhus, people keep on insisting that everything could collapse in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile the Long Descent goes steadily onwards, collapsing everything in a matter of centuries. I honestly think that two hundred years from now, when the deindustrial Dark Ages have arrived, there will still be people eagerly waiting for a sudden collapse.
Bipeninsular, that’s why I put the capital of Meriga (America, c. 2480) in Sisnaddi (we spell that “Cincinnati” now) in my novel Star’s Reach. Once sea level rise takes off, Washington DC is toast, and a new capital somewhere well inland is a gimme.
Grebulocities, that’s a good point. I don’t know whether it’s a more widespread syndrome, though the literature on culture death suggests you may be on to something.
Bruno, got it in one. If Faustian culture hadn’t made itself dependent on fossil fuels, it would have had a slower trajectory of decline, at least in Europe.
People in Brazil sort of bought the idea that eventually, everyone would have an American lifestyle. The myth of progress still have a firm grip over the population, even with the problems. I think the current problems are seen as a minor bump in the road.
From the 1990-2000 period I remember the people in my state, Rio Grande do Sul, being quite upset because of America going full freedom after the fall of the Soviet Union. Everyone had this feeling that the US was a villain, no longer the good guys. Back then, the state capital, Porto Alegre, was enraptured with the Workers Party. In March 2001, the US dropped the Kyoto Protocol. Everyone was fuming, then in September that happened. People here were… kinda cheering.
In the early nineties Brazil was creeping into hyperinflation. In 1994 it was brought under control. The currency was changed, but stability was achieved with usurious interest rates. Eventually, the left, tired of losing all elections, dropped some of the more radical points, and because of this, Lula, from the Workers Party (PT, “Partido dos Trabalhadores”) won the election in 2002.
PT was stable in power up to 2008, when the economy crash happened. After that, as the party in power, it got blamed. All the time, the media tried all dirty tricks in the book and then some to remove PT from power. Eventually, a white coup succeeded. In short, the book was thrown over the uncharismatic technocrat president Rousseff, impeached for a minor technical detail.
The chaos raised by this made the political situation quite unstable. The deepening of the economic crisis increased violence in the country. This and several other problems made the far-right candidate popular.
I am at a loss to explain what happened in the last few years. The people in the country are, as you said, in a truly frightening case of mass psychosis.
News were making me really sick, so, in preparation for The Long Descent, I am putting my finances in order. As a result of this, I am disconnected from contact with other people, and I can’t really talk about recent developments. Just now I am checking the current political situation here.
I don’t want to sound like a bad case of Bolsonaro Derangement Syndrome, but I have this dreaded feeling that if he wins the election, Brazil is done for.
People are exploited regardless of sex when trying to repair things. I could tell you horror stories from the computing area. I am totally sure man are exploited the same way as women in this area.
To a point, I was a good citizen, a firm believer of the progress narrative, albeit a bit of a heretic. My school was full of book from the seventies, narrating the horrors of resource depletion and pollution. I always wondered why the problem disappeared from public discourse. I was always seen as a doomer nutcase for worrying with it. Then 2008 came, I started to read doomer sites, eventually these led me to The Archdruid Report… I almost can’t believe the changes in my worldview in the past decade, and yet here I am.
“Jobs, not mobs”
I can see how that could be a very successful slogan for Trump and the populist right, especially considering the behavior of the Antifas and SJW’s.
We just had another round of rioting in Portland, OR, one in which the mayor, a standard issue Democratic Party political hack who doubles as police commissioner, ordered the Portland PD to stand down and do nothing while Antifas went on a rampage and smashed windows, vandalized cars and beat up passers-by who refused to comply with their demands. They even doxxed an elderly man after chasing him down and smashing his car. When the mayor was criticized for refusing to allow the police to deal with the rioters, he tried wrapping himself in the flag by saying those who objected were bad mouthing the police and thus out of bounds.
Also, have any of you seen the latest talking point from The New Republic? According to a recent op-ed published by them, they claim the Democrats have a winning issue for the 2018: defending Obamacare. My instinctive response on reading that was, are these people really that delusional and out of touch? Sometimes it seems to me the people running the Democratic Party are almost as dense as a neutron star.
The recent news about past lakes in the Southwest stems from this journal piece, https://pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/geology/article-abstract/46/4/355/528314/warm-and-cold-wet-states-in-the-western-united?redirectedFrom=fulltext
I’ve seen other indications of a wetter climate in portions of the west during the mid-pliocene, such as https://www.uv.es/pe/2001_1/climate/climate.pdf
Couple of stories about Russian Christianity from a website called Russian Faith, founded by an American convert to Russian Orthodoxy. The first is about the revival of Christianity in Russia. The author writes
Now, according to the latest statistics (Get this!), an average of three churches per day, PER DAY, are opening throughout Russia, which is averaged out to over 36,000 churches in just three decades. I mean, think about that now. Russia’s gone from just a few hundred churches under Stalin to over 36,000.
Now, if construction continues at this pace, it’s estimated that Russia’s churches will exceed pre-revolutionary levels in a matter of just a few decades, perhaps within 25-30 years. They have been averaging about 1,000 new churches opening per year, which averages to about three per day. And this statistic applies to the entire Russian Orthodox Church, so we’re talking Russia proper, but we’re also talking Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, the Baltic states, which all told account for about 900 churches in 60 different countries. And this astonishing growth includes monasteries as well. Remember, they virtually ceased to exist under communism. Today, there are over 900 active Russian Orthodox monasteries, which is almost reaching pre-revolution levels.
The other is about the schism between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Patriarchy of Constantinople.
Members of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) are now forbidden to pray and receive communion in the monasteries and churches on Mount Athos, said Igor Yakimchuk (spokesman for Patriarch Kirill) and Alexander Volkov (secretary of the Moscow Department for External Church Relations). For prayer in any churches of the Constantinople Patriarchate, Russian Orthodox Christians will have to repent of this sin at confession.
Regarding the broken relationship between the Russian Orthodox Church and Constantinople, Mr. Volkov explained that “from now on, until Constantinople changes its position, Russian Orthodox Christians will not be allowed to participate in worship, communion, or prayer in churches under the Patriarch of Constantinople. Nor will they be allowed to participate in any other sacraments.”
“For refusing to follow these prohibitions, Russian Orthodox clergy will be censured, and for laity, repentance and confession will be required, due to their disobedience to the Church,” Mr. Yakimchuk told Interfax.
I agree with JMG: this isn’t just a schism, it’s a declaration of independence by Russia and is in keeping with recent acts of defiance and assertions of independence versus the American Empire.
If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend the Sisnaddi Zoo.
@Shane, interestingly, my Japanese husband feels stronger affinity for my southern relatives than my northern ones. Northern culture grates on him. They seem inclined to take advantage of kindness or even despise it, criticizing it as “people pleasing,” and act without regard for others. They Southerners have traditions of superficial politeness. They are like the Japanese in this regard and certain others, such as being more likely to judge on the basis of appearance.
Japan is also climatologically similar to the American south, and I’ve wondered if that has an impact on how a culture develops. With the American north more climatologically similar to northern Europe, they may have maintained that culture better.
@Dusk Shine, count me in! I cannot recall a time when I imagined myself actually having children. By the time I was seven I’d heard dire warnings of Peak Oil and environmental devastation at the hands of technological progress. This was in Salt Lake City, a valley where the amount of air pollution increased notably year after year and a striking example of environmental devastation (the Jordan River) ran through my neighborhood. By the time I was 13, I’d viscerally forsworn reproduction (the religion around me encouraged women to have as many children as possible), hoping that whatever resources my allotment would have used would help someone else’s kids have a better life, since I could see no hope for a rational approach to confronting the inevitable problems technology was bringing on. Of course all the “optimists” around me said “Have faith in progress!” I thought they were [full-caps] idiots.
Of course I was, as JMG has perceptively noted, a product of Faustian culture, in that I believed in a rational solution, though I also knew rationally that it wouldn’t work. I just didn’t believe in any other. Now, happily ensconced in an eastern culture, I’m all for rolling with the punches!
“the grassroots economic boom that free-trade policies were supposed to provide has now been set in motion
You have my sincere condolences. I used to attend a UU Church in Houston back in the 1980’s. It was a really nice environment, with a senior pastor who I would describe as an Arian Christian. I liked it for many years.
However, I went to the General Assemblies and got the same repulsive impression that you did. Ultimately, I left that denomination in 1992, and spent the next few years in the spiritual wilderness until I found my home in Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
I hope you can find the same refuge I did.
One of the most interesting, and under-examined, aspects of the Faustian ideology of progress is how it operates a good cop/bad cop routine. Any new innovation is always presented with a bad side that is at least as powerful as its good side. We can see this in action with the dystopian hyperbole that surrounds the latest Faustian fetish with “Big Data”.
The point of this dystopianism is not to discredit the latest innovation, but to enhance the perception of its power – the message is that whether wonderful or terrible, this new thing is unstoppable. The possibility that Big Data or AI might end up being a damp squib is the one message that cannot be allowed to propagate.
Personally, I’m getting a bit sick of the way that the technologists, scientists, entrepreneurs, corporate executives and politicians are given endless slack by the media to basically frighten and intimidate us all in this way. As Big Data will be placed in the hands of the same people who failed to predict the Great Financial Crash, Brexit and Trump, I strongly suspect that it will only result in a modest enhancement to their general foolishness.
“Sometimes it seems to me the people running the Democratic Party are almost as dense as a neutron star.”
Possibly the best sentence I’ve ever read, My facial muscles sure got a good workout out of it. 🙂
The following is a reply to Luna’s comment, but I welcome feedback from John and other readers.
Luna says: “I come from a Social Work background before veering off into art, and still have friends in the field. We are shocked at what’s going to happen to so many disadvantaged populations if he completes his plans (homeless vets, people of color, mentally and physically disabled people, etc.).”
I don’t doubt that there will be some public and private assistance available (though shrinking as industrial society slow-collapses through the years) for necessary categories; the disabled, the homeless, etc., but the idea that “people of color” is a category that constantly needs help comes from Upper Class Elite Savior-ism, which is just another form of The Messiah Complex. People of non-white races are just as capable of supporting themselves and living freely as the so-called white people; to think otherwise is to infantilize these groups. To me, the whole idea of social assistance is to train* and aid those who are able to become independent to do so, and thus be cut free of dependency on and control by the system**; the only ones to remain on continuous aid would be those permanently disabled in some way and cannot maintain their own support. But of course, the more people/groups you can keep in the system, the more money you need to run the system, and (most importantly) the more people with social degrees to be hired and their job security will be guaranteed. I’ve come to believe that, while social workers, care givers, companies running hospitals and institutions, public “servants” etc. say they worry about the effects of cuts on the people they serve, they really are deep down worried for themselves as their income depends on government programs and moneys. And don’t be fooled if a company providing services is private, religiously run, and not-for-profit; it follows the same game and is dependent on public funds. I used to work for such a company (not salaried, but as a hands-on, hourly worker***) that ran group homes for those with developmental disabilities. There was once some law up for a vote that would funnel more funds into such facilities, and in a meeting we were told that if the law passed, we all could get a raise. So (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) vote for the law, is how I interpreted their message. I thought that the bulk of the money would go to the company headquarters, I might get a small raise, my taxes would go up to pay for it all, and nothing would change for the group home residents.
*When I say train, I mean in a real job, usually in hands-on vocational/technical crafts and fields. Plumbers, electricians, skilled manufacturing (tool makers, process techs, etc.), nurses, etc. College, if necessary, should be in these areas, not some “XXX studies” degree.
**System = State, Government
***Often its the hands-on people on the bottom instead of those degree holders on top, who know whats really going on. Those with the salaried positions often spend more time in meetings, training sessions, and writing reports or treatment plans than with the people they supposedly serve.
Love the article, love the comments! Also very synchronistic as I have been observing certain features of my own intuition. Add that Goethe’s Faust is a text I have felt is formative to european culture.
Faust starts his adventures because he is dead bored in his scholarly life. The dog/devil he lets in waves a possibility of a fair maidens love in front of him. That is how it begins. The adventures, to me, come about as Faust serially gets bored and disillusioned about every new project as the externalities of the activities start to show. In whole, I sometimes think Goethe’s story is a sort of a spell, that keeps pushing for change. Don’t think it is so much motivated by belief in progress. More like chasing your dreams made into a life purpose.
On the shapes of time: when humans make paths naturally, they are never straight , they always meander. In Tibet and India circling around stupa, holy place, holy figure is a form of veneration. A common shared ritual that joins people across time – something that also affects brain. Shared activity makes people feel more friendly towards each other. A culture-building activity. And then: horses, when moving fast, go straight. And cover greater distance than humans on their own. So a human augmented with horse capabilities had more scope in their actions. A possibility to leave when things started to become stale in one place, find a new place and start anew. Somewhat faustian.
Really lookong forward on the next article! Oh, are you familiar with the Anastasia movement in Russia? Very congruent with resilience ideas and a sort of new spirituality, too. Started by a series of books https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Megre
I want to say that in regards to my comments, on the present and on other posts, I have made on Unitarian-Universalism, I really don’t mean to take over John’s topic to knock and run down that particular religion. It just happens to jibe with the whole social justice/progressive narrative that is playing out in today’s world and that is discussed on Ecosophia, which is why I provided the reddit link earlier. Plus, as a former attendee who has soured on the organization, I’m probably working through some issues left over from those years. I went through the same thing for a few years when I disengaged from Christianity; eventually I wasn’t so obsessed with its failures and abuses. I’m still alert when something comes to my attention in the Christian world, but I don’t purposefully go out digging for dirt. I recognize the problems in all groups and organizations come from dealing with human beings, and so will crop up where ever I go, because humanity isn’t perfectible.
Also, while I have an idea of what Faust is about from reading ideas and comments on the story through the years, I have never read the work. So that is now my goal for the weekend, as it should help with understanding this week’s post more accurately. In case anyone else would like to give it a read and doesn’t have a copy, you can read The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe here:
Just to provide an extra more internal perspective on the skeptics movement as you mentioned. I got involved in the movement in about 2005 and found I it to be a good thing to me, at least initially. I followed it until about 2015 which may have been about 3-4 years too many. It was a great resource to learn logic and reason but eventually I drifted out of it as their bias really started to show.
A good thing to go through but in terms of learning to identify scammers and lies being spread about in the media but their insistence on “absolute logic” and “rationality” proved to be their down fall. Their insistence on the future growth divine, instilled in technology advancement to solve all problems is something that I found to be utterly distasteful.
You mentioning the spiritual element is something they try to ignore at all costs and that will be the area that they will ultimately fail in.
The movement has so much potential in terms of teaching people to think about the world around them more than just accepting the messages signaled to them; but as a whole they end up limiting themselves but that comes down to the base ideology they subscribe to.
Many thanks for the excellent suggestions and information regarding cork oak and holm oak. Incidentally, the holm oak trees can be purchased from the local gardening club inoculated with truffle fungi. I’ve seen examples of both trees around here and the trees grow really well. The cork oak has amazing bark. Thanks, I’ll get some. I’m beginning to think that my foray into walnuts may end up being a waste of time and I might switch over to such hardy plants as those oaks. I grow plenty of other nut trees here and they all seem to do better than the fussy walnuts.
Thanks for reading the blog too!
G’day John Michael,
“complexity increases more or less as the square of the number of interacting components”
Exactly! Exponential growth in problems with the solar power system due to the sheer number of components was a real drama. And what isn’t lost on me is that I suspect that in the future as the components in the solar power system age, they’ll begin to emit even more electrical interference. What that means in practical terms is that I may have had the chance to rectify the problem for a long while, but it ain’t a forever thing, and I may have to move the components further apart in the future.
Anyway, I mostly completed the re-wiring job as the sun set this evening. On one hand the job was a real pain and a lot of complicated effort and expense. But on the other hand, I wonder how many people get the chance to stuff things up, and then set about correcting them? Dunno. What do you reckon about that? It is possibly a sweeping generalisation on my part.
Just for your interest, I may have mentioned to you that another Prime Minister was recently deposed and replaced. Don’t worry about him, we have plenty more where he came from. Anyway, the now ex-Prime Minister quit Parliament and so a by-election had to be held. A seat which had been safe since Federation, appears to have fallen to an independent – and voting is compulsory down here. I can’t imagine that result would be lost on the two major parties? Given the state of your politics it is possible they won’t get the message! 🙂 Anyway, we may now have a hung Parliament.
Wentworth by-election: Kerryn Phelps claims victory, Government loses majority .
Re changes in worldview
I’ve kept (on and off) a journal for several years recording my thoughts and observations about politics, ecology, and the general themes of the rise/fall of societies. It begins about 2014.
The early entries are all about trying to find a way to “save the system”. Later, I work through the agonizing realization that the system cannot be saved. Now, the focus is very much on “how can we make the path before us as ‘less bad’ as possible.” Quite an evolution, and very stark as I read back through it.
Thanks for the links, Flow & JMG.
Joy Marie, it takes a long time to overcome the affects of abuse, and that’s why I’d still include “people of color” in an assessment of who needs help in our society. Not all people of color, of course.
I’d like to believe we are at a place (or that we would get to a place) where placing “people of color” into the category of disadvantaged citizens would not be necessary — but we’re not there yet. Perhaps we never will be, and that is probably one of the biggest pains for me regarding letting go of the myth of progress — I once thought that society would evolve to a place where respect for all could be achieved, but that’s not possible I fear. Sadly, as soon as times get tough many tend to look for an ‘other’ to scapegoat.
“That’s why, to cite an example, the scientific establishment freaked out so comprehensively in the 1970s when various circles of avant-garde researchers started to find common ground with mystics and occultists.”
But, as you’ve said so many times, isn’t often the response to a bad idea is yet another bad idea?
For Zach Bender
Here’s a real world data point. We’ve lived in Hershey (the sweetest place on earth!) since July 2001. We’re a tourism town in addition to making chocolate.
For the first time in over a decade, there are signs and billboards all around the township saying ‘We Are Hiring’. Not just Hershey Park either. Restaurants, other attractions, hotels, the grocery store, even ‘real’ jobs at places like Haller Enterprises (an HVAC company).
These signs have been up for months. Normally, everyone hires in late spring for the summer season and by July, the signs are down. Not this year.
This is a new and positive omen.
Teresa from Hershey
“Southerners have traditions of superficial politeness. They are like the Japanese in this regard ”
Our host penned one of the best lines on the subject I’ve ever seen in his novel “Retrotopia.”
““I hope you didn’t have to deal with the Confederate ambassador too,” I said.
“I did, but that was easy. John Bayard MacElroy is your basic Confederate gentleman. He might shoot you dead in cold blood and feed your corpse to his hound dogs, but he’ll be the very soul of politeness while he does it.””
Even if it’s superficial I prefer it to northern brashness!
“As for laptops, I’ve got several running Windows 7; I’ve set my computer not to download updates unless I tell it to, and that’s worked just fine.”
Yeah, us too! That’s why I consider the Windows 10 invasion nothing short of rape! And did what any self-respecting rape victim would do: went as far as necessary to prevent another attack. 😉
I’d still run Windows 97 if I had the option…but then, I’m not exactly known for my technophilia…
@JMG, Chris, et al
You said: “complexity increases more or less as the square of the number of interacting components”
That’s true – if the complexity isn’t managed properly. The internet, just to name one example, would have collapsed long since if that were, in fact, universally and inevitably true. There are indications that Windows 10 is suffering from that particular malady.
It’s quite possible to manage complexity so that its growth is closer to linear than quadratic in the number of components. Systems that figure out that trick survive; those that don’t fail.
Very interesting post JMG
It seems to me that of the four heresies mentioned by Toynbee that accompany the decadence of civilizations, two of them are present with great force in the US:
a) Archaism: Making America Great Again. Return to the golden age of civilization, the return to traditions, the union of the group around what gave it strength, confidence and prosperity in the past
b) Futurism: Silicon Valley, delving into scientific and technical developments to solve all the problems of society: cure of all diseases, death, the need to work, the conquest of space, transhumanism, singularity, etc …
I believe that these two heresies predominate in the initial phases of decadence, but when it becomes more acute, the other two that Toynbee mentions will assume a greater role: the Detachment and the Transcendence
One question: Do you think that a form of Neo-Stoicism can become predominant in our society in a similar way to the decadence of the Roman Empire? (for Spengler socialism fulfills a similar role)
Hi Chris, solar system design and implementation is not a trivial task and once purchases have been made we generally have to make due with what we have and focus on improving the current system. If you need more AC power you will be making another major investment and then have an opportunity to put in place a well designed system or not. I designed and purchased my system in the winter of 2016 and it became operational spring of 2018 at my remote off grid location on Grandy’s River in Newfoundland Canada. The system provides two 120 V circuits at 20 A max each and one 240 V circuit comprised of the two 120 V circuits. I have 8 plugins in the kitchen and 15 in the dining/entertainment room. Wire the plugins such that the plugins on the top connect to the first 120 V circuit breaker and the plugins on the bottom of the duplex receptacle connect to the second 120 V circuit breaker. This allows you to balance load by plugging into the top or bottom. I have yet to run the generator and we have had some very foggy, cloudy and rainy weather so far. The lowest I have seen battery state of charge is 65 % so far but we will see what the winter brings. Angle of the solar arrays is fixed to maximize power during winter as we will live here year round with this winter being the first. As a note to readers, my system cost $CAD 30,000 – 40,000 plus double that if you have to pay for labor or expertise.
I know this is a big deal for many trying to collapse now and keep some of the luxuries. If anyone would like to correspond, I may be contacted at email@example.com
Don’t put much faith in that book.
Not only because there are lots of much better historical accounts that contradict it (Cities of God, by Rodney Stark is a much more accurate description), but also because the core idea doesn’t even make sense.
You can’t force people into your religion by violence, unless you already have the numbers in your favor (it would be much later that Christians got political power on their side. For their first 3 centuries they’d be ignored and then persecuted, and still rise greatly in numbers).
When Constantine switched to Christianity, it was a political calculation to take advantage of the power of the new religion (who was already dominating numbers wise).
Christianity rose because it was a good fit for slaves, women, poorer folk, and so on — a large chunk of humanity neglected from the old religions. It also addressed issues of the changing times that the culture had tried for centuries to address, already abandoning the old religion in the process.
At the time Christianity rose there were tons of religions and wannabe spiritual leaders the people half-believed in. It wasn’t like the early days of Rome, or ancient Greek, where the dodekatheon was firmly established. Lucian of Samosata describes the situation well in one of his satirical dialogs, as do others.
And when Julian (a later emperor) tried to switch back to the older religion, he found that the masses were indifferent and even hostile to his idea. He writes so in his book Misopogon.
Before a went to Siberia, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea about what the ‘land makes the men’ means. The place is so vast, so harsh and so generous that it forces a constant awareness of its inhabitants, it is hard to explain. I have been in Califórnia some years ago, it is also vast and the lanscapes toke my breath away, but Califórnia doen’t live in Californians the way Sibéria does in Siberians. Maybe because it is more urban?
I read your Retrotopia, and I must tell you I grow up in a retrotopia myself. In the Portugal of the late sixties, no macdonald’s, no cars everywhere, no dishwasher machines, no big retail stores. I remember going to the seamstress in September with my friends that had most their clothes made that way. My mother brought my clothes in Paris grands magazins and I always felt a little shabby compared with my friends from school.
About the ‘magean’ character of christianity, it comes in many flavours: in Siberia where I have been going often lately, among the people I met, some extremely well educated, neither the devout christian, neither the stubborn atheist show the smallest hint of scorn for shamanism. It is common there that working class parents produce world class scientists, and because they are very friendly you will meet people of different education levels in the same family, it is fascinating. In Portugal, where I still have a foot, the masses are poorly attended but the marian cult is as strong as ever. There is a shrine to our lady that is particularly successful, where the catholic church built a huge temple, very modern, with one door for each apostol, nut no door to mary. No one goes there. I was told that people will stay outside, under the sun or the rain facing the little shrine where the apparition happened, back turned to the new temple where the priest and bishops are. The elites are increasingly living in the world of their own. What good is to command if there is no one to obey? I am starting to fill sorry for them…
IDK about climate, Canada resembles the American South manners wise, and they’re more polite and friendly than the South now (from my perspective, the predictions of I’ll Take My Stand regarding the New South have totally come true, witness the cancers most sprawling Southern metropolises have become–at least in my neck of the woods)
I heard an advertising slogan for Audi on the radio today: “Progress is never satisfied!” A fine example of Faustian thinking, and one that easily could have slipped by my ears unexamined without this series of posts!
@JMG (or indeed anyone else), can you point me to any reliable reporting on this (alleged) trend of European immigrant neighbourhoods moving towards sharia law, and the national rule of law not applying in immigrant communities and the immigrants building their own state within a state with their own rules etc with a view to (long term) taking over?
I imagine you were probably talking about France and Germany and I am not familiar with those. Britain is different and I am not sure if you were including the UK in your comment (the major immigrant communities – specifically the Muslim immigrant communities – in the UK are the long term Pakistani/Bangladeshi ones, and more recently Africans like the Somalis – but you don’t have the Turks and the North Africans to the same extent you do in France/Germany, and the demographics of the groups, education levels etc are all different too).
However, I am very familiar with some similar communities in the UK (I did a lot of work dealing with the public in one and my wife taught in poor state schools in two other such communities) and I simply don’t see such trends. Yes, they are poor, and as a result in large part of that, there is a high rate of violence/crime/gangs mainly because of lack of opportunity and economic deprivation. Yes, there is a strong tendency in local government and policing to be wary of making any kind of critique or taking any action that could be painted as racist (although this attitude did not cause the crimes of course, it is a big part of the reason that the sexual abuse and grooming (by mainly – but not entirely – Muslim immigrants) of many underage (white, working class) girls in such communities went untouched for a long time and it is only in the last 5 years after national press attention that the convictions have started rolling in – another big reason was also that the victims were white working class, and simply weren’t a “victim priority” for the police as they weren’t part of the elite).
While such things do happen, I have simply seen no evidence – except in the most ridiculous right wing extremist corners – that there is some kind of drive to make the UK part of some Islamic caliphate, set up a parallel government etc (I’m not talking about explicit plans – I mean, the vast majority of people I meet simply don’t seem to be interested in politics or religion in that way at all – they are mostly focussed on getting ahead economically, having a safe and stable life for their families. The “bad guys” get into crime sure, but that’s not some long term revolutionary strategy. There are certainly no parallel courts or justice systems (actually there is a form of Jewish community arbitration I believe, and in certain Jewish communities in North London, there is actually a volunteer Jewish security force and paramedic team who are a public resource assisting police and ambulance services in the local area).
And they seem to integrate reasonably into the local culture within a generation or two. Those who come from middle or upper middle class backgrounds and have money, integrate into the British middle and upper classes, while those from poorer backgrounds take on the attitudes of the working classes. It *is* true that there is less integration (things like interracial marriages etc) between some of the poorer Muslim communities and the white majority (as compared to say Caribbean immigrants who have been in England much longer), but that is also changing and they are newer immigrants, and there are wide variations even between Muslim communities, so I am not sure that’s a “Musim” thing. My wife has an amazing story about taking a group of poor Muslim and black teenagers on a school trip to a wealthy, prosperous and very white village outside London with basically no immigrants or non-white people and how one kid was offered and started eating a bacon sandwich and my wife told him – in public – that it was a bacon sandwich, and he said loudly where everyone nearby including the host school and teachers etc something like “Miss, if Allah didn’t want us to eat bacon, he wouldn’t have made it so delicious” (as he kept munching), and she likes to say that boy did more good for integration in a few moments than any number of government videos and educatio sessions.
Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on for so long. My point is not that UK Muslim communities are some kind of haven of prosperity – they are mostly poorer, less educated and less integrated than most other communities (compared to say Hindu Indian immigrant communities, or Caribbean ones), but more to say that despite those things I see no tendency in the UK to form some kind of parallel state or the rule of law not applying to such communities etc.
I’d love to see some good (informed) writing on the subject – I’m open to being proved wrong.
You must’ve gone down to the five and dime and bought a new pack of gold stars. You’re giving them out again!
Azure, dear gods. It’s as though they want to lose.
Kashtan, many thanks for these! I’ll give ’em a read as soon as time permits.
Azure, thanks for these also. That makes a great deal of sense to me — as a high culture moves into its formative stages, formal separations from other high cultures are standard practice. (The separation of the Roman church from the Orthodox, again, comes to mind; that was Faustian culture’s declaration of independence.)
Pogonip, thanks for the suggestion!
Zach, try this for starters. Then go look at the last year or so of stats on unemployment and job creation, and focus in particular on unemployment and small business startups in the African-American community, which are at multidecade record lows and highs respectively.
Phil K., that’s an excellent point and one worth serious reflection. Thank you.
Joy Marie, that all seems plausible to me.
Kristiina, that certainly makes sense of Goethe’s Faust; I like to contrast that with Marlowe’s Faustus, and watch our culture waver between them. As for the Anastasia movement, yes, I’ve heard of it, though I haven’t read any of Megre’s books yet — so many books, so little time!
Michael, many thanks for this. As I never got involved I know there are aspects of the movement I don’t see.
Chris, I’ve come to think that one of the main causes of the industrial world’s current dysfunction is that too few people ever have the experience of making a mess and then being made to fix it! As for hung parliaments, an English friend of mine likes to say that she’s in favor of a hung parliament only if it can be a public hanging…
Meta 4, the opposite of the rejection of all spiritual ideas by scientists is the uncritical acceptance of everything that claims to be a spiritual idea in contemporary pop spirituality. The midpoint between them is the thoughtful examination of spiritual ideas by people who know their way around both science and spirituality, and that’s what was tentatively under way in the 1970s.
Tripp, I won’t argue. I need several computers to do the job that pays my bills, but yeah, I’d use Windows 97 too if I could get it.
John, thanks for this. That’s a useful point.
DFC, I think Spengler is right in that Faustian culture has a very hard time dealing with the idea that a way of thought or a set of policies can be appropriate for some people and not for others. Socialism (in his somewhat nuanced sense of the word) is the notion that the solution for all social ills is government programs that impose The Right Answer on everyone whether they want it or not — very Faustian! A neo-Stoicism can indeed emerge, but only as Faustian culture finishes fossilizing into a civilization and loses its inner logic; it’s precisely in cultures that have passed that state that you get the ability to pick and choose from other cultural forms without forcing them completely into your own culture’s mode.
Elodie, thanks for this. I’ve had a similar experience in moving from the west coast to the Allegheny mountains, and then to New England. The land really does shape human experience; it’s a very different thing to live in the Puget Sound basin, where the mountains rose from sea bottom only a few tens of millions of years ago and everything is still raw and new, and then living on land that’s geologically identical to the western parts of Britain, where the mountains rose up before the first dinosaurs! As for the church, it’s good that it’s adapting — for a religion, fossilization is death.
Steve, an excellent point.
BXN, the existence of Muslim-dominated “no-go zones” in Europe has become a major rhetorical football on both sides, with the right insisting that they exist and the left insisting that they don’t. I frankly have no idea who’s right, as both sides have a well-displayed willingness to lie themselves blue in the face. My comment about the Magian culture conquering Europe for a time wasn’t a reference to that — it’s a reference partly to the demographic consequences of unlimited immigration into Europe from the Dar al-Islam, and partly a reference to the coming age of mass migrations as climate change makes large areas of the Middle East uninhabitable.
“I am not responsible for anything” really is the flip-side to “you create your own reality,” isn’t it? Like Progress vs. Apocalypse, it seems we Faustians really like our false dichotomies.
David Chapman, in the web-book I linked to earlier, has an interesting discussion of this in terms of nebulosity and pattern. Something that’s nebulous is cloudlike: it can seem to be solid and have sharp boundaries from a distance, but the closer you get to it, the fuzzier it gets, until finally it can seem to vanish altogether. Something that’s patterned resists this: it really is solid and sharply-defined.
The problem is that with a very few possible exceptions, everything we deal with in life is both. This includes meaning, ethics, objects, people, you name it. nebulosity vs. pattern is a sliding-scale, not a dichotomy, and if you try to treat it like one, you’re going to have a bad time.
So, for example, the pattern of progress is the real and touted benefits that have come with increased complexity (e.g. I’m still alive because artificial insulin exists); the nebulosity of progress is that—well, I disagree with Thomas Sowell on a lot of things, but he put it best: “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.” I’d add that frequently these exchanges are made across time: in exchange for lower available energy in the future, we get the Internet now.
So you can look at Progress and Apocalypse as each grabbing on to either the pattern or the nebulosity of increasing complexity, as if only that part was really valid. (Incidentally, Chapman points out that using phrases like “X is really Y” is usually an attempt to get to accept something uncritically.) These are what Chapman would call “confused stances.” Both share the false assumption that economic/moral/technological complexity is an all-or-nothing issue: either onward to the stars and utopia or back to the caves where we enslave our women and kill each other for sport.
The “complete stance” would be, obviously, Limits: the recognition of both the benefits and the costs of complexity are real, and that there are in practice bounds on complexity from both above and below.
@ Dusk shine
The first decade and a half of my life I did not believe in Progress, and made a poor fit in a Faustian culture. I was a very philosophical and spiritual child, and spent a lot of time in nature and the library. I was rather introverted, and machines overstimulated me, so I avoided the city and electronics.
As a teenager I grew cynical, fearful and disillusioned, and for about a decade I committed to science and Progress in order to try to solve or prevent the seemingly inevitable problems our society would encounter. In my early to mid twenties, having actually become a scientist, I became aware that no manner of technological progress would fix our predicament, since we’re running into natural limits one after the other. If we had free limitless energy we’d still warm the surface of the Earth ever more as we expend more energy, eventually we’d have global weirding of the weather despite not using any fossil fuels. There is no way to gimmick around it.
The past 5 years or so, I’ve come full circle and deeply immersed myself into spirituality once more. I’m rather more serene in my outlook now, as I have discovered that most problems by far are only solved by looking within ourselves. We need less than we think.
For continental Europe watch the recent video by Tim Pool on Youtube as a starting point. All the supporting information is out there, from nice respectable sources, if you look. Google translate helps for German and French particularly if you have some basic knowledge of them.
“the immigrants building their own state within a state with their own rules etc with a view to (long term) taking over?”
This is not an accurate description of what people are discussing. A small but violently intolerant minority (not mostly of immigrants, mostly 2nd, 3rd or 4th generation descendants, plus their international allies) have a long term goal of establishing beachheads and taking over in time. They work on a timescale of centuries. Groups like the Muslim Brotherhood operate this way – you can read their US strategy for yourself in their memorandum found by police in the Holy Land trial. The rest of the community are divided between varying degrees of sympathy for the fundamentalists and fear of them. There is no opposing force equal in both numbers and ruthlessness within such communities. That’s why the moderates, the apolitical and the proud bacon-eaters that are so useful for chirpy multiculturalist anecdotes are irrelevant.
The integration problems have little to do with whether the immigrants/descendants are Pakistani or Somali, Libyan or Iraqi. Islam is transnational (obviously it predates all of those ‘nations’) and a majority of muslims worldwide wish to live under sharia (they differ somewhat in what they mean by that exactly). But there’s no such thing as Algerian sharia or Indonesian sharia. Look up the populations of the countries listed here, work out the percentage from it:
Turks and some north Africans are actually less supportive of theocracy than Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Afghans. And of course the diaspora have their own views – many of them are now more fundamentalist than their countries of origin, a trend which seems to date from the 1970’s religious revival. There has also been selective immigration – as in the case of Abadi senior the Libyan jihadist being given refuge by the British. Religious fanaticism is not caused by stupidity, lack of education or poverty. That’s Enlightenment rationalist silliness passed down mostly through the left.
“There are certainly no parallel courts or justice systems”
“I have simply seen no evidence – except in the most ridiculous right wing extremist corners…”
There are ridiculous people on the right wing. There are also people who simply know a lot more about what’s going on than those dismissing them as ridiculous do. If they had been listened to when it could have made a difference, a lot of girls would not have been raped and a lot of people would not have been blown up and stabbed to death.
Academic social work departments are built on creating justifications for extracting more funding for the field and each new generation of graduates are indoctrinated into whatever the current fad is. As soon as one rent-seeking scam takes a knock, another is created. Some do seem to break out and think for themselves, usually as a result of the ground floor experience you describe. Others simply continue to interpret everything they experience through the ideological lens they were given. Not least because anything else would be incompatible with career advancement.
The latest ones include latching on to research on PTSD, domestic violence and childhood abuse. Slavery and Jim Crow are now traumas/abuse (in the PTSD sense) passed on generationally through epigenetic mechanisms. Because something vaguely like that happened to some unfortunate lab mice once… It’s scientific nonsense but the ideologues have never cared about that. Science is a tool of the cisheteronormative white supremacist patriarchy anyway. Like stereotype threat (which it’s intended to replace), unconscious bias, low self esteem or so many other theories, it’ll be dropped quietly when the evidence against it becomes too embarrassing a decade or so from now.
The default shape of time, to my mind, is something like the Australian aboriginal concept of the “Dreamtime,” which you find in most hunter-gatherer societies. The idea is that there’s a “real time” in which everything important took place, which is simultaneously in the distant past, the far future, and in the present but hidden from us. Ordinary time, by contrast, is simply the endless serial rehashing of the patterns laid down in the Dreamtime, with no particular motion of its own. The cyclical and linear time-senses veer away from that in different directions.
JMG – does this definition of “dreamtime” correspond to Dion Fortune’s idea of “tracks in space”?
The whole “epidemic of hopelessness” the Grebulocities talked of is interesting. I agree that in the US it’s been more of a “slow burn”. If I can be slightly critical of the working class (my class) we’ve been incredibly slow to accept the handwriting on the wall. The industrial age is coming to a close, not overnight, but slowly and steadilky, and inevitably.
We’ve spent the better part of 4 decades going deeply and disasterously in debt to maintain the illusion of economic well being, We’ve told ourselves that green tech will allow us to maintain the lifestyles made possilble only by usiing fosil fuels. Trump’s MAGA line is, in large part, an attempt to ignore the inevitable decline by pretending that a few tweaks will return us to 1965. (This does not mean I disagree with him about tariffs and NAFTA we should do what we can to soften the blows that are coming)
The fallout will hit the working class before the salary class (the salary class is largely unaware there is a problem) so it’s up to us to start thinking about how to make the transition. I can’t help thinking that the epidemic of hopelessnees would be less severe if we just faced facts. We’re doing a slow burn because we’re slow to accept reality. We take refuge in drugs and alcohol because we can’t face reality. I knnow it’s hard to face but it’s still a better alternative than death by drugs/alcohol.
Someone above pondered whether substance abuse death and suicide of working age men was a common symptom of culture death, and a few people have been discussing the fate of women in declining/ collapsed cultures; I think the data point for both of those that I think may build well into JMG’s next topic and Vine Deloria’s writing is what happened to indigenous groups in North America and Australia during colonization
There was a lot of regional variation depending on whether disease got there first, how much the cultures wanted guns to wipe out their current enemies and so had a much more welcoming posture to European settlement at first (see for example the different Maori experience in New Zealand, the Iroquois Confederacy) so I can’t see similarities in the first part of the trajectory – I guess because it wasn’t forgone. But once cultures had collapsed, you see that the despair turns to substance abuse and violence – both domestic, and ultimately suicidal attempts to defeat the external enemies like the Sioux Wars (so I would see antifa violence and the more usual Proud Boy or Sons of Odin violence up here as a symptom of the same collapse syndrome as opioid addiction – if you believe the threat to your society is fascists…or on the other if you believe the problem is “social justice warriors” – pick your enemy).
At the same time, despite suffering the usual way women do from colonization, described well by Caroline, above, it’s the women leading the cultural renaissance/recovery movements out of the worst collapsed cultures, or at sharing leadership roles. I see it in the US too, actually, in black feminism. The background community building, Tiny House Warriors, downtown eastside social support and overdose prevention. Neighbourhood antiviolence movements. All that mutual aid going on in Puerto Rico.
I muse on whether Judaism explicitly passes through the mother’s side due to the repeated persecution of Jews due to that fact – culture rebuilds from the women, because who knows who the fathers will be after… A paternity dominant passing of culture, such as Faustian or more common Magian, is built for conquest, ever expansion, not resilience to collapse.
Notably, a lot of social justice commentary on the left is dissecting how white women – corner-store Caroline; bbq Becky; Trump mouthpieces, even pussyhatters who would never of course, attend a black lives matter march – are pivotal in leadership trying to re-assert white colonial culture power. As the feminism of this century have been primarily about getting white women into the patriarchal power roles of white men – not destroying the patriarchal basis of that power at all – this makes sense. Whether on the right or left, they are keepers of the Faustian culture while the men lead in collapsing it and suffering the collapse, because in our case, it isn’t an external cause of collapse, we are destroying ourselves. It is thus the perverse truth that women have never had it so good in our society, and men have never had it so bad, and women will never achieve actual parity in the roles considered valued by that culture – that’s built into the way collapse staggers within a patriarchal culture.
To link it to our other author of study, Dion Fortune, she discusses in her writings on the Cabala that men are physically masculine – agents of force, fertilization – but spiritually feminine – agents of form, reception, and women vice versa. I have found this very fruitful to explain a lot of marriage dynamics! But it also explains this role in culture collapse and retention.
So I wonder if in fact for those looking for a hallmark of post-Faustian protoculture seed ideas/cultures is in fact how strong a role women have in leadership, and the goal for both sexes is spiritually “feminine” – creating community, inward looking – rather than “masculine” – save the world, save democracy, globalization solutions.
OT, but I sent in my ballot. Only the second time in recorded history that I voted GOP. There’s no love loss for the candidate I voted for, but, as the Dems are now the establishment/anti-change party, I had no choice but to do my part to make sure the “blue wave” crashes and goes back out to sea. Our Congressional district may be competitive enough that every vote will count.
I, for the life of me, can’t understand why Yankees get so bent out of shape over Southern manners. It’s really not THAT hard to see through–I always thought Yankees were gullible and naive for taking everything at face value and not scratching below the surface. Come on, people, it’s not THAT hard to discern a Southerner’s true intentions.
umm, Michael, Chris is in Australia, so standard mains voltage there is 220-240V–110-120V is only the norm in the Americas from Canada to Colombia/Venezuela (mostly)
You said “I’d like to believe we are at a place (or that we would get to a place) where placing “people of color” into the category of disadvantaged citizens would not be necessary — but we’re not there yet. Perhaps we never will be, and that is probably one of the biggest pains for me regarding letting go of the myth of progress — I once thought that society would evolve to a place where respect for all could be achieved, but that’s not possible I fear. Sadly, as soon as times get tough many tend to look for an ‘other’ to scapegoat.”
There seems to me a quite big difference between having a position on whether or not people of color should continue to be given special assistance versus not having respect for all and using them as a scapegoat. To me, that was a red flag which tells me this is an issue not being approached honestly and rationally.
I wonder how many generations of special privilege people of color should receive in such things as hiring and entry to college. I find it a tough issue because I really agree that recovering from abuse takes time. But I also realize that for every young black student who is admitted to college with a lower score than the general requirement, a particular other person gets rejected. It is not something that ‘society’ pays, it is something that individual and invisible people pay. There are other problems with it as well which backfire eventually.
I’m not saying it should not have happened, although it probably shouldn’t have. But I do think it is probably time to phase it out. I also don’t think that people of color are subjected to almost any disagreeable public behaviors at all. That sort of thing is almost entirely in the past. Unless we’re to get to the point of thought crimes, I think it’s time to stop focusing on it and let people heal. But because I think that, you apparently will assess me as someone who does not care about people and want a scapegoat.
As far as this disproving the myth of progress, it really is hard for me not to feel a bit angry at that! That insults millions upon millions of white people who have genuinely let go of racial prejudice, who have good will and are judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. And I see it everywhere. The change which has occurred in my lifetime is amazing. Very real progress.
Hearing the above will make half the people in this country either roll their eyes or just give up and pull back their good will, as they just got slapped in the face for it. A lot of black people in the #Walkaway movement have found themselves feeling refreshed by the quiet acceptance without fanfare that they say they are getting among Republicans.
“One of the things I expect to happen in future ages, as the total body of recorded history and remembered civilizations expands, is the gradual expansion of such influences; ten thousand years from now, for example, a great culture may have eight or ten or twelve such older cultures feeding into it, giving it a wider range of possibilities to choose from.”
In other words…every influence that plays upon human society is registered in the reaction of stresses within our social structures, so that we return to cultural equilibrium infinitely more complex with each journey into civilization?
Re longer-term migrations and in the vein of your response to BXN
This is one of the areas I get turned around on when I look ahead to the future paths of the US. On one hand, I’d argue that a renewed nationalism, disengagement from the broader global economy, pro-active dismantling of our empire, and a reassertion of control over the flow of goods and people across our national borders are all necessary to make our path forward “less bad” (given that none of the paths forward are “good”).
On the other hand, and as you have pointed out, the long-term ecological dynamics make the northward migration of peoples inevitable as certain regions (including regions of the present US) become uninhabitable or capable of supporting only very limited populations. One might consider a parallel with Rome: the German tribes are coming, regardless of what walls and defenses one might build.
Given this, what is the optimal approach? What policies and strategies would best deal with these circumstances? In a military context, I think the solution is readily apparent: if one is holding an untenable defensive position, one conducts a controlled, strategic retreat to prepared positions which consolidate one’s resources, giving up the territory one is most likely going to lose control of anyway.
In the political context, this is not an option. We can’t say, for example, “The new southern border of the US is here” and construct a more manageable borderline further north while abandoning the territory below it.
So, I keep gnawing at the problem of what our best policy options for our current situation are and I can’t come up with anything that is more than a temporary band-aid (and not a terribly good one, at that).
@JMG re “It’s when the onward march of progress falls flat on its face, in turn, that the downside of the Faustian narrative becomes painfully clear, because it has no way to deal with failure.”
Defining progress would be a good place to start. If progress strictly means machines/systems keep getting more powerful and pervasive while humans remain roughly where they were 2000 years ago in terms of wisdom, philosophy, self-governance and other upgrades, then, I’ve got to agree. Excepting literacy improvement, and some math, I don’t see any evidence that humans have improved at all. Indeed, with natural selection pressures substantially on holiday for the last 100 years, I would expect devolution on both biologic and social levels has already set in.
However, I’m not aware of anything which constrains humans to never improve personally … nor in terms of social / institutions, are you? It seems to be mostly laziness and — probably to a very large extent — that our overlords don’t WANT us to actually become “lords and owners of their faces” on scale…as that is their territory and would make us harder to rule.
Anyway, there are opportunities for improved practices all around us — scarcely explored. I find the waste shocking — most of it dumber than a doorknob. Or do you disagree?
‘Phil K., that’s an excellent point and one worth serious reflection. Thank you.’
Regarding Phil’s pointing to the ‘bad cop / good cop’ routine serving the ideology of Progress.
I echo the thanks. I came across exactly that in a blog by Jeremy Leggett of Solar Century. I like & respect Jeremy who wrote the book that got me to give up flying in 2005, and I am sure it’s unconscious. He was alarmed in this case by the prospect of AI getting together with quantum computing.
@JMG and others,
I am a little confused about where you actually mean when you refer to the Ohio Valley. I thought from other threads Kentucky was a no-go land where dark forces dwell, but from my understanding the Ohio Valley includes Kentucky. What exact region are you referring to?
The talk of a coming financial crash seems to have to have gone more and more mainstream lately. I keep wondering if one gets ginned up just in time for the 2020 elections. As for the timing, well I sure all the groups charged with keeping the economy going do get tired and foot-sore from having to hold the petal to the metal all time – no other reason of course.
If that does happens, it might possibly reveal a rather interesting situation – where while it might be raining stockbrokers and bond salesman down on the sidewalks of Wall Street, Joe Average over in flyover country is learning that there really is such a thing as too much overtime (surely HR came find more bodies, can’t them?). In other words, have we possibly managed such a complete separation between the financial and the main street (real) economy that the first could crash without seriously damaging the second? Another way of looking at looking at this the difference between the dying imperial economy and the hopefully growing national economy.
While I am not at all certain whether this phenomena would be seen or even possible at this point, it would certainly be fascinating if it did show up, as well as being frustrating and embarrassing for the elite of this country.
Alvin Leong, Azure Dragon and J. M. Greer, I have read in a forum on the internet (i don’t know which one) that Oswald Spengler wrote somewhere about non-civilized cultures, which adopt technologies and cultural forms of a High Culture, but aren’t themselves of it, like in the case of Ghana adopting Western ideas and technologies. He called such culture moonshine civilizations.
Re: A Catholic, A Muslim, a Jew, a Zoroastrian, a Mandean, a Manichean walk into a bar….
Having grown up in a protestant famly, members of the One True Faith, I can understand the deep tracks it leaves in your thinking. The study of natural history and history may leave one to abandon the One True Faith for things less confining, but patterns of thinking linger. I’ve been reading your essays and books for I think around 10 years now. Reading essays by someone who has held a high office in what appeared to me to be somewhat of a religious organization, AODA. Why was the Archdruid not explaining how everyone else’s religious views are wrong? It was puzzling, and it took me a while to answer that to myself.
Looking back, the answer to any challenge from history or natural history was that the data was simply wrong, or misinterpreted. With it in the rear view mirror it seems a bit arrogant after the fact; to claim to be one of the few that have recognized Absolute Truth.
@ Chris Hope
FWIW I find myself arguing (and voting) against the near-term goals of my own class (very much salaried) in that I see that my long-term interests are vested in the maintenance of our broader society and the well-being of all classes generally. I don’t know that my efforts will amount to much, but they are there nonetheless. I count myself fortunate to have a good salary in a reasonably stable industry (power and water utilities) that actually works for the public good (as a nice, socialist, municipal utility should).
I, too, voted against the “Blue Wave” (TM) at the federal level, even though this resulted in my voting against a Senator with whom I’m generally in agreement policy-wise. The Dems have just collectively pissed me off.
Re Southern politeness
Having been in Yankee (Midwestern) territory for a while now, I’m still acclimating. My wife, a midwestern native, occasionally accuses me of being overly passive when I’m just trying to be polite. It is very much a meeting of cultures…
I have been pondering your response to dot for a while now and still don’t quite understand it: “In the days of their confidence, Apollonian societies were perfectly able and willing to eject or annihilate hostile minorities; consider what happened to the Bacchic cult in the days of the Roman Republic, or for that matter the treatment meted out to the Druids. It was precisely because the certainties of Apollonian culture had so obviously failed that the persecution of the Christians was so half-hearted and ineffectual.”
Do you mean to say that the Bacchanalia, the Druids or the Christians were actually hostile to the Roman state or to Apollinian culture, or do you say that the Roman elite was hostile towards them? In a previous comment you said the Roman state should/might have acted towards Christians as it did towards Jews. The point is that (a minority of) Jews had actually risen up in arms three times and was then militarily defeated. In the case of Druids, I could only think of local resistance movements like Vercingetorix’ or Boadicca’s, while in the case of Oriental mystery religion and Christianity (which you might lump together), I don’t know of any acts of hostility against the Roman state, even under persecution.
To me, the pattern of persecution against Christians suggests the Roman state felt an increased need towards ideological homogeneity and total allegiance after the crisis of the third century, which was acted out first against the Christians and then turned around against non-Christians. Would you agree with that?
In any case, your larger point stands: a vigorous Apollinian polytheism might not have succumbed to monotheism, or only by using much more than the relatively local and intermittent violence that actually happened.
Ladies, firearms are not going away-they can be made perfectly well with pre-industrial revolution technology-so our descendents will have a huge physical advantage over our ancestresses who were stuck with weaponry for self-defense that required high upper body strength.
That alone will give a different shape to gender roles in society than the need to pull a heavy bow or throw a spear or wield a sword did.
For Rita R and others; I thought that “don’t ask, don’t tell” was a perfectly good policy and that it should have halted there, at least for a while, in that state of equilibrium. To quote Dion Fortune in last week’s topic, “… a phase of development is succeeded by a phase of equilibrium during which that which has been developed is maintained but nothing becomes….” However, maybe it has been a case of a “bridge too far,” yielding the sort of backlash to which you have referred.
Long distance sailing goes way back before Faustian culture. Way back. Highly recommend Brian Fagan’s Beyond the Blue Horizon as a good intro to earlier sailing, if you’re interested in the exploits of earlier mariners.
I’ve never been, but my understanding of the area is that many of the rivers in the Siberian region (perhaps slightly north of where you’re imagining, but close) flow northward… with the side effect that they stay frozen at the mouth longer than at the source. With nowhere to go because ice still clogs they exits the water spreads out, making things very swampy, marshy and not great for farming. Are you thinking south of this region or after rising temps and sea have already solved this problem (again).
Dear Mr. Greer, Umar Haque, to whom you linked in the above essay, distinguished himself in an earlier effort with the following statement:
America had just a few brief decades to attempt being anything resembling a genuine democracy — from 1970, or thereabouts, to 2010 or so.
Many if not most of us, including me, think that 1970 or thereabouts is when things began to go bad in the USA. Not because of migration, but because that is when greed became good.
I would remind Christian conservatives that greed, also called avarice, is a deadly sin and the myth of Progress is a heresy.
I just heard a radio advertisement for a landscaping company which included an appeal to students who need jobs to contact the company. Rides to and from work were even offered.
I agree with the poster above that the experience of deep water sailing in the North Atlantic might have contributed to a belief in limitless expansion. When Danes, I think it was, finally settled in Normandy, they were uninterested in worshipping in churches which resembled beautifully decorated caves. Their experiments with spires and pointed arches were taken up by the master mason, we don’t know his name, engaged by Abbott Suger to rebuild St. Denis. It occurs to me that the ecclesiastical architecture miscalled ‘Gothic’ seems to be almost deliberately Not Islamic. Instead of no graven images, statues 12′ high and literally hundreds of them on each cathedral. Depictions of the tasks of everyday life including an honored place for domestic animals instead of glorification of the life of cultivated leisure in which invisible others do the work of keeping the society going.
Onething, the supply goes up and down. 😉
James, got it in one.
Phil, possibly. Certainly the Dreamtime functions as the sum total of established tracks in space that all things follow thereafter.
Fred, excellent! Why, yes.
David, all political choices consist of temporary bandaids. It’s rather like health care; sooner or later, you’re going to die anyway, but there’s a point in delaying the inevitable for a few more decades!
Gnat, the improvements we can make in ourselves don’t fit the myth of progress, because they’re not cumulative — each of us start from wherever we are, and our gains are not passed onto our descendants or to anyone else. The myth of progress requires that gains be cumulative, so that the vision of a perfect future can be dangled in front of people like a carrot in front of a hungry donkey.
Tude, did you notice that I’m talking about five or six centuries from now?
John, I think it’s quite possible that there could be a sharp downturn in elite wealth — stocks declining hard and not rising again, high-end real estate crashing, a lot of other investments losing a lot of their value — while the economy on Main Street does just fine. Economic policy for the last forty years has concentrated wealth in investments and starved the productive economy. Now that that’s being reversed, it’s entirely possible that the flow of wealth back into the productive economy could leave the investment economy twisting in the wind.
Booklover, I’ll take a look when I next have time to read Spengler.
Rabtter, you’re far from the only person who found that puzzling!
Matthias, the Bacchic movement wasn’t actually a threat to the Roman state, though the Druids were — they put a lot of energy into encouraging resistance to the Romans. The point was that the Romans saw them as a threat, and acted with their usual energy and efficiency. The persecutions of the Christians, by contrast, were haphazard, and you could get out of trouble by the simple expedient of burning some incense to the Emperor’s genius — the people caught up in the backlash against Bacchism didn’t have that out!
SNG, that’s one of the things that global warming will change. Once the Arctic ocean is ice free, those wetlands will dry out, leaving rich agricultural land.
Nastarana, that’s very telling, since the period from 1970 to 2010 was the heyday of the managerial aristocracy, the period during which they imposed on the US a consensus that benefited them at the expense of literally everyone else. “Real democracy” in Haque’s mouth clearly means “we get what we want and everyone else gets fracked.”
the comments about KY’s bad egregore right now were mine, not JMG’s. JMG has conspicuously declined to respond when I’ve asked him to speculate just what is going on in KY right now, as has everyone else I’ve ever asked the question. Of course, the US as a whole is pretty nuts right now, so maybe KY is not really a special case.
the idea of the vulgar, unsustainable colonial overlay going away in the next few centuries, to be replaced by an organic society founded on an appropriate, indigenous archetype is a very comforting thought for me.
I’m of the opinion that the financial economy can crash and burn while the goods & services economy keeps humming. In fact, Trump has signaled that he will set a match to the financial economy, and I wouldn’t put it past him to do that as the next downturn gets good and going, while setting up a second New Deal to make sure the goods and services economy keeps functioning while the financial economy implodes.
I don’t think they are fooled by polite manners so much as they are offended by what they perceive as insincerity and dishonesty. Ogden Nash expressed it well in his short, discriminatory poem about the Japanese smiling and saying “This ours now, please.” In Japan, politeness is so highly developed that if you go into a different community you are apt to run afoul of it. For a famous example: in Kyoto, but only Kyoto, if someone invites you to his house, you act delighted and decline, and you don’t go until he’s asked you three times. As you can imagine, this kind of politeness works well as a glue at a local level. The unified school system teaches kids how to get along at the national level, but until recently they taught English as a sort of “dead language,” not meant for practical use, and the result is the deliberate confinement of the vast majority to their little archipelago, venturing forth in tight,nervous groups.
These kinds of differences can blindside people. My mother was intensely offended when after years of believing we’d been accepted in a Japanese-American community but her daughter had emotional-discriminatory issues, she obtained proof that in fact the children were rejecting me. That may be part of what drives northerners’ dislike of politeness. (My mother was from the northern side of the family.)
OT, too, but I am aware of a lot of quiet people sharing your impression of the Democrats right now. We’ll see how many of their own the Democrats can rally with their hysterics.
@Christopher L Hope,
For a while I was leading “ecotours” to Siberia really for the purpose of showing people what exists on yonder side of economic-political crash. They could see for themselves vivid examples of how to face it (e.g.,creative homebuilding by hand) and how not to face it (e.g., alcoholism in children). Very few verbalized it, but I could sense that it inspired them at a deep level, probably for the very same reasons it had inspired me. Deep down, I think most people realize it is inevitable.
Connecting various “dots” here (forgive me!) I wonder if the same dynamic happened with early Christianity as we are seeing with phenomena like ISIS, with a violent minority taking charge in times of upheaval, and leading them to obliterate all other cultures around them, until only little hints of the former cultures remain that somehow managed to sneak through.
“I’d like to believe we are at a place (or that we would get to a place) where placing “people of color” into the category of disadvantaged citizens would not be necessary — but we’re not there yet. Perhaps we never will be, and that is probably one of the biggest pains for me regarding letting go of the myth of progress — I once thought that society would evolve to a place where respect for all could be achieved, but that’s not possible I fear. Sadly, as soon as times get tough many tend to look for an ‘other’ to scapegoat.”
What I was trying to say here was that I do believe we still need to help people of color (blacks & native americans) as I think even today many are still at a disadvantage, yet I’m wondering if this will do any good when looking at this over the long-term, from a meta-level perspective or extended passage of time, as we will never arrive at some kind of perfection where everyone gets along, and to believe we will arrive somewhere is the myth of progress.
I was not calling anyone a ‘scapegoat’ if they do not believe affirmative action is necessary anymore.
Regarding college entry, you said:
“But I also realize that for every young black student who is admitted to college with a lower score than the general requirement, a particular other person gets rejected.”
**The above is one of the myths of affirmative action — that a good person is victimized while the less competent woman or person of color gets the prize. In reality, the applicants are usually equally qualified, but the person of color or woman is chosen when affirmative action is in place.
However, I was more thinking of Head Start and programs for disadvantaged kids. That’s the time to influence the best — when young and impressionable — show them a love of learning and that they have a place in society. Keep their belly full with a good lunch that is likely missing in their impoverished home. Unfortunately, I have seen cuts to these programs happen when Republicans came into office — watched the kids suddenly be expelled due to lack of funding. Not that I’m on the left or a neoliberal by any means, but at least, historically, they more often throw a few bones to the poor.
“As far as this disproving the myth of progress, it really is hard for me not to feel a bit angry at that! That insults millions upon millions of white people who have genuinely let go of racial prejudice…”
**I’m not insulting anyone because you and I are talking about different things when we use the phrase “myth of progress”, plus I agree that many white people have let go of racial prejudice in recent years. But over time, over centuries, we’ll keep having to repeat the same thing I fear. No heaven on earth 🙁
Anyway, I could sure tell you some stories that might make you agree there’s still a heck of a lot of prejudice around, but honestly I don’t even want to think about that right now.
“Hearing the above will make half the people in this country either roll their eyes or just give up and pull back their good will, as they just got slapped in the face for it”.
**Well they might if they misinterpret what I said like you did.
A question though — if it was really “good will” or a sincere change of heart would they give up and pull back according to how I (or the group you think I belong to) would evaluate their performance?
That does make sense! I definitely agree that something crucial is being denied in the quest for pure objectivity.
I think the issue of agency is part of why I’ve always been drawn to pragmatism. As neopragmatist Hilary Putnam put it, “The heart of pragmatism… was the insistence on the supremacy of the agent point of view.”
Oh, Bayes’ theorem is a powerful tool when you can perform the needed quantification. Absent that ability, it’s a set of heuristics like any other.
JMG, the subject of moonlight civilizations was, as far as I know, not in “The Decline of the West”, but in one of his other writings.
re: my wife’s apathy to progress & other narratives,
What seems to serve her instead is, near as I can tell, the protestant work ethic. The ideal of an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work — that hard work brings rewards — that ‘albrecht macht frei’ as the Germans used to say before that phrase got so very badly misused during the war.
(That might not be exactly it; like most people, she wasn’t quite sure herself and we had to narrow it down by questioning her beliefs and seeing which she could not stand to have questioned.)
Having re-read Retrotopia this weekend, I’d say she’d fit in just fine there.
And if my experience is anything to go by, I expect Peter Carr to end up in a bit of a funk back in the Atlantic Republic with the narrative kicked out from under him. Of course I was far more into progress than just a minority benificary like Mr. Carr– I was an acolyte to its priesthood when I finally gave up on it.
My story is relating to progress a bit different from the others who post here. (I thank those who did for their stories). I was raised on a steady diet of Star Trek and Robert A. Hienlein, with ample supplements of Carl Sagan. (Imagine a church-going fundamentalist family, but with Progress.) Next, I was the smartest kid in school — not hard, in a small town. Small population means the tails of the normal distribution don’t get populated too far out. In a big city, I’d probably not have been anything remarkable at all. Back home, though… teachers told me I was going to do great things for the world. Make great discoveries. Be somebody. All through middle school and my formative years — one teacher pretty much went so far as to say “They’ll think of something” means “Dusk Shine will think of something!” No pressure, eh?
Yeah, that fracked me up. Messiah complex, big time. Of course when I got out into the world I realized I wasn’t the genius saviour of western civ–I kinda knew that already, to be honest–but I was also going to do my best to help. I could be one of those thinking of something. I saw the problems, but did not recognize them as predicaments. A couple degrees and a lot of thinking later, with JMG’s help I recognized the truth.
You’d think the realization that there are no solutions to find would be liberating. If they can’t be saved, I don’t have to save them! It wasn’t, though. I shaped myself to carry the weight of that narrative. As I have said before, I have been pretty well adrift without it. Somehow I can’t seem to find a replacement.
Re politics, temporary band-aids, and long-term strategy
It seems to be another of those confounding situations (akin to a Seldon crisis, where events bottle-neck one’s options) in which the social and political dynamics prevent the most effective longer-term strategy from being adopted, thus ensuring that the system takes a less-favorable path. (Rather like our empire, where the best going-forward strategy would be to walk away, pull-back from our global enterprises, and construct a domestic economy reliant primarily on our own resources, but no candidate espousing that kind of policy platform will be able to get elected. And by the time such a platform becomes politically feasible, the opportunity for its most effective implementation will have already passed by.)
It will be interesting to see to what degree border-issues (immigration, trade, tariffs, national sovereignty) become key points in the political re-alignment underway in the US right now. If the outcome is along the lines of what I’ve guessed — nationalism (Republicans or, more likely, that party’s successor) versus globalism (Democrats) — then those issues should be very much front-and-center.
I stumbled across a site yesterday:
I haven’t decided if I am grateful or suspicious. I know that JMG has enough time to slog through Spengler. My personal experience is that my brain hurts at the end of an hour or so of reading.
The course seems to do a pretty fair job at extracting the meat of the original.
Have fun y’all
Greer, you could have used another example – the political choice of delaying consequences just a bit longer got us where we are now.
Between the Retrotopia story, and this series of essays, I’ve noticed a lot of interest in the Ohio River Valley area, and the Great Lakes. I can’t say I haven’t thought about relocating to those areas now myself. The idea that in the future it will be an area developing a higher culture is magical! There’s definitely some advantage to moving there now in that you’d have a connection with the land and thus the gods there, plus setting things up for your family to have some roots in the area. Moving there now for prosperity reasons though … there’s no guarantee! There’s still a lot of work to be done, and the area will be prosperous in a different way about 500 years from now!
Though not mentioned in the essay, Prometheus seems to loom large in Faustian civilization. After all, he is the model for the various individuals that discover, invent, or inspire breakthroughs that deliver the fire of or otherwise advance Progress. Our society celebrates and venerates these Promethean individuals. In technology and science, we have Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Edison, Wright Brothers, etc. In other fields of Progress, we have Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, FDR, Gandhi, MLK Jr, JFK/RFK, Friedan, Steinem, etc. Perhaps, Jesus is even seen as an early model of such. The common refrain of “they will think of something,” is the faith that some latest version of Prometheus is toiling away somewhere to steal and bring back another fire that will continue Progress. However, while these individuals delivered fire, it seems our descendants will be the ones chained to a rock, having their livers eaten every day over the next few centuries. And, while many hope for the Hercules version of the myth, the reality of limits and unintended consequences has a different story to tell.
@JMG – “The point I was making is that the collapse of the Apollonian vision made it impossible for it to defend itself effectively.”
Okay, that makes sense.
@David, by the lake – “Later, I work through the agonizing realization that the system cannot be saved. Now, the focus is very much on ‘how can we make the path before us as ‘less bad’ as possible.'”
I was going to post this anyway, and it seems to share your perspective.
This is an unrefereed paper claiming that we’re facing climate catastrophe sufficient to cause social breakdown within a decade, and that since we can’t or at least won’t stop it, the best we can do is “deep adaptation”, i.e., prepare for fast collapse. My husband found it online and my initial reaction was that it was foolish of the author (who is not a climatologist) to make such an extreme prediction, because what if you are wrong, even just in timeframe, and then get used as a synecdoche for all scholars who speak on climate? However, interestingly, the author claims that the paper was rejected by a journal not because the predictions were not supportable, but because (a) he did not review prior literature [which largely doesn’t exist] on global-scale collapses and (b) the conclusions were depressing and a real bummer. Well, that is very scientific! [sarcasm alert]
@onething – “I also don’t think that people of color are subjected to almost any disagreeable public behaviors at all. That sort of thing is almost entirely in the past.”
Sorry, have you not seen the videos of white people viciously haranguing people of color on planes or in delis, calling 911 on them for being in public spaces, etc.? There are plenty of them, and while you might say that the numbers are small in a nation of 300 million people, most antisocial behavior by private individuals isn’t filmed, even these days. Hard statistics from some jurisdictions show more aggressive policing of minorities or different disciplining of white and minority children in schools. Those things are “disagreeable” to those on the receiving end. I recently heard a teenage African-American girl describe how, while living in a mostly white neighborhood, she and her brother had been stopped and questioned or searched by cops while walking the dog so many times that she became afraid to leave the house. There is no dismissive response to the plethora of similar accounts that does not itself prove that America still has a race problem.
Again, more near-term than the blog post, but I’ve seen a rash of comments recently regarding how “red” states are leeches on “blue” states’ wealth-creation and would collapse without that support. These themes are not new, as I’ve seen them before and I believe they surface periodically, but for some reason it struck me how similar it sounded to the complaints toward the end of the British Empire that India “no longer pulled her weight” (after having been systematically looted by said British, of course). Another indication, perhaps, of where we are along that trajectory…
In regard to the rise of no-go zones in Europe and the sinister plans of the Muslim Brotherhood, I would highly recommend watching this video. You hear it from the horses mouth so to speak!
The “soft jihad” speech televised in Istanbul by the head of the Muslim Brotherhood at the beginning of the video was particularly chilling in their open plans to take over Europe within 20 years or so.
Even Frau Merkel has admitted in a speech that these places exist!
No go zones are also well documented in France, Belgium and Sweden.
In regard to the UK, I don’t think its quite as bad as the Continent although its getting worse. There are certain areas that police and solders are advised for their own safety not to wear a uniform and this is partly due to gang violence as well as the rise of Islamist extremism.
As for sharia law, this is common in Muslim communities and is well documented. Anybody who claims that Muslim communities aren’t operating under a shadow sharia system is in total denial.
Or this local report on a no go zone in Birmingham (a stronghold of Islamist fundamentalism) – https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/the-area-of-birmingham-that-are-no-go-areas-for-white-237564
“The report quotes an anonymous male contributor, aged in his 40s, who notes that others from outside the area would consider his neighborhood a no-go area for them, too.
The report states: “He talks of a few incidents that have occurred over previous years, including a road sign in an area with a high Asian population, on which was sprayed the phrase ‘No Whites after 8.30’.”
Just in case you dismiss the above as not “credible”, here is a police chief talking about the rise of a state within a state…
“Mr Winsor worries that certain ethnic groups are turning their backs on the police. “There are some communities born under other skies who will not involve the police at all,” he says. “I am reluctant to name the communities in question but there are communities from other cultures who would prefer to police themselves. There are cities in the Midlands where the police never go because they are never called. They never hear of any trouble because the community deals with that on its own . . . They just have their own form of community justice.”
He has spoken to chief constables who say the calls they receive are “close to zero” from some areas. “It’s their belief that those communities are administering their own form of justice,” he says.”
He goes on to refer to honour killings, which is particularly bad within Muslim communities and of course, within the Midlands there are entrenched Muslim enclaves. Its obvious that the police chief is referring primarily, if not exclusively, about Muslim populations.
Anyway, whatever the scale of the Islamist enclaves, is or isn’t within western Europe, as John notes, climate change and continued legal and illegal immigration from the Muslim world will violently transform Europe within decades. I have written about this in my blog post.
Apologies for the OT nature, but today’s installment of TDS:
Trump might disallow the Democrats’ rightful majority in the House. Government officials may soon have to choose whether or not to obey illegal orders from the White House. Our very existence is in peril!
Sigh. Haven’t we heard this song before? I’m betting we’ll hear it again two years from now.
Ad the “good men” and the ensuing debate.
I think I have something to contribute and will try to put it clearly, since that isn’t always my strength.
My initial point is a general view of sexuality and our society. From my elders I know that my city, Vienna, for example has been sexually more liberal than in the seventies it is today, and that is additionally an ongoing trend as of recently, as also younger people who haven’t missed out much with their sexuality give witness.
It is no surprise as it was a socialist yet democratic country with a vibrant socialist working class. Also Eastern Germany was sexually very liberal, and it seems no coincidence that the common culture of mass naked bathing came to an end when the German wall fell. Westerners didn’t like this…
Now we also have the competitive situation of our consumerist individualism where sexuality becomes a product and in turn, also products become the status symbols that indicate sexuality.
Feminism in a wider sense has become a part of mass culture, while in a narrower sense it has also become an elite culture.
But there’s more! The working class of Austria is nowadays, even in the majority, conservative and islamic. The orient has turned to very conservative within generations, as a look into the past shows clearly, when countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt were temporarily going the same way we do now.
Now you even have the situation that elite feminists demand concession to their morality on the one hand while repeatedly ALSO demanding tolerance for islam with “islamophobia” as a term.
Well, of course “Islam” can be understood in many ways and yes there are many secular “muslims” for whom this is just lightweight tradition, but political Islam as it appears across Pakistan, Turkey, the gulf states… cannot be understood as a sexually liberal movement in any form whatsoever.
Monotheistic religions especially have a way of making the laps of their women the initial point of an expanding movement. Strict regulation of sexuality certain allows a high birth rate and young men willing to go into war.
Control the sexuality and you control the people – this goes for market capitalism as well as for politically religious monotheistic movements!
And now in all this somewhat contradictory atmosphere you have many people who don’t particularly lean to any side and furthermore, who lose in the consumerist competition of marketing their individual.
(I think in general, there is a great deal of emotional repression growing).
Remember that also western women sometimes convert and enter a religiously conservative or even fundamentalist movement, which includes marriage.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they were proud of their new status and responsibility in some greater cause, where in the liberal society they might simply be unloved and ignored, and sex frequently comes without love or any commitment.
And now, finally, I’ll try to make a point: you have got a pool of sexually frustrated, emotionally repressed men and boys in the middle, who, driven by pressure of constant competition for popularity and attention get exhausted, and are increasingly open for reactionary thoughts. (over-indulgence in diversions like video games comes first)
All of these things already make a toxic brew, wouldn’t you agree? And just imagine, when a rotten egg within the feminist movement with a hidden agenda of personal gain attacks on such initially harmless yet sad individuals, for establishing dominance and gaining attention? You plow fertile grounds for backlash.
I am very interested to look behind the curtains there, just look at the online debate about “nice guys” and feminism, and the angry potential everywhere – I think to understand what REALLY goes on, one has to read between the lines, of the various people involved with their manifold needs and grief.
“I’d like to believe we are at a place (or that we would get to a place) where placing “people of color” into the category of disadvantaged citizens would not be necessary — but we’re not there yet…”
This is basically a meaningless, throwaway, virtue signalling line. “Let me polish my halo, I’m SUCH A GOOD PERSON!” Sigh. Time to close the chapter on the civil rights era, we’ve accomplished all we possibly can w/in that paradigm, and it’s time to move on to other, more pressing issues.
kristiina, thank you for the link, it really caught my interest. About ten years ago I had a dream clearly based on the Bolshevik revolution which centered on the Anastasia figure, I wonder if there is some kind of connection… Would you recommend the English translations?
Late in the comment cycle, but I only thought of this now:
re Dusk Shine’s post:
“A couple degrees and a lot of thinking later, with JMG’s help I recognized the truth.”
Yeah, that hits home. As I recall, when I started my master’s degree in Aerospace Systems Engineering, I explicitly thought that space colonization and expanding out into the stars was the whole point and justification of civilization from basic agriculture on up. Wow, that feels weird to actually say now. (Also rather in that category: thinking in undergrad that being a Von Neumann probe one day was actually a [i]plausible aspiration[/i].) But during those studies, I think, was when the cracks really first started to show. One bit I particularly remember was happening to buy, in the campus bookstore, a book called Why Nations Fail and wondering why it was [i]so[/i] focused on [i]growth[/i] (and trying to reconcile how odd that focus on growth seemed to me with “Of [i]course[/i] humanity has to expand out into the stars; we might as well have not invented farming.”). Then a bit after graduating, I met the friend who introduced me to the writing of JMG, and, well, it took time for it to really sink in, but that was pretty much it. A fair bit of “Oh, that makes so much sense. Well, expletive.” (I used to think running out of oil was no problem, certainly less than running out of helium, because we could just [i]make[/i] more oil chemically. “With what source of energy for the synthesis?” was a question I don’t recall even thinking of, then.)
(Interestingly, I’d noticed and isolated Progress as a cultural trait, rather than not seeing it at [i]all[/i] around me, long before (though I wasn’t sure what to call it; I think I was conceptualizing it as something like “the idea of getting better through science and technology”). I did, though, at the time think it was an unalloyed good and that any given culture would always be better off with than without it.)
Shane, I agree – and funnily enough, rather than ‘decentralizing whiteness’ or whatever progs are saying these days, the definition of a person of colour is “not a white person” – but if “white” is a social construct…
The reality is that for people in the privileged classes, the racial spoils system is hugely profitable. In Canada, for instance, having an Indian Status card is worth barely anything to someone living on some godforsaken reserve in the middle of nowhere. That same card, if you have a middle class job, is worth about $10,000 a year in tax reductions. If you’re in the position to get a highly paid sinecure at a university or government org (and such a card is very helpful for that), easily millions over a lifetime.
Thank you for your response. It sounds a bit more reasonable, and no, people in general would not actually pull back on their good will to a great degree, but let’s not ignore the ability of positive energy of good will and attitudes among people to drive the real changes I have seen. A kind of good will and openness that I think has become quite common among black and white, and with the strident political correctness and shrieking at white people that there is simply not enough they can possibly do other than give their houses away to black families, yes, it would tend to make people just give up.
I have to also disagree that particular persons are not hurt from affirmative action. There are whole areas of employment, such as DMV and the post office in some cities, where all the hires were black. And lowering acceptable SAT scores for admission certainly means what I said it means.
I am glad if the DMV and post office have lifted many black families into the middle class. But these are tough issues and life is quite a struggle for a large percentage of people. At what point is it unacceptable to discriminate against anyone based on their race?
Of course I can suppose that there are a few people who will behave as you mentioned in public. What I am saying, though, is that I am 60 years old and have lived in many places both rural and urban, and I have never, never once in my particular life seen it.
Considering the level of propaganda and agendas floating around, I’d be very careful of believing just any you tube video. I have seen them get video get twisted to show very different things than what was actually happening.
But anyway, it cuts both ways. The school where my kids went they could not discipline the black kids and all the kids had to suffer because of it. And if black girls bullied the white girls, the white girls did not try to defend themselves. They just yielded. It’s true that the whites were mostly solidly middle class and the blacks came from a housing project, so the real problem was the broken homes.
Shane W – “Time to close the chapter on the civil rights era, we’ve accomplished all we possibly can w/in that paradigm, and it’s time to move on to other, more pressing issues.”
What qualifies as the civil rights paradigm, what issues are more pressing … and who has the status and power to decide? Minority communities do not find it satisfactory that since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, some states are doing everything feasible to suppress minority voting, or that their children and young people suffer far more from militarized policing than whites do. You have the right to feel that these issues are not pressing, but they have the right to feel that they are – and every time someone asserts that the perspective of a minority community is ipso facto invalid, it proves that racism is still a real problem. (If someone should accuse me of Virtue Signaling for suggesting that blacks’ perspectives are legitimate, I will be forced to respond that I prefer it to vice signaling.)
“This is basically a meaningless, throwaway, virtue signalling line. “Let me polish my halo, I’m SUCH A GOOD PERSON!” Sigh. Time to close the chapter on the civil rights era, we’ve accomplished all we possibly can w/in that paradigm, and it’s time to move on to other, more pressing issues”.
We took so much from Native Americans when we stole their land, and so we owe it to them to assist now in any way possible.
If the reservations didn’t have such rampant rates of alcoholism I might think we’ve done all we can do. But the effects caused by divorcing them from the land is still there for many communities. The least we can do is choose one of them to enter college over an equally qualified white person, or provide adequate funding at a preschool that might provide the needed impetus for a young child to succeed in life (among other worthy endeavors).
Virtue signaling? Please go back to Facebook.
I had similar formative experiences and a similar reaction once I read, understood and accepted the implications of the end of Progress (though, as I explained to BB above, my grieving process was also deeply connected to the loss of perceived safety). My way out of the loss of purpose was to identify the one thing about my society that I think is most worth trying to save in the long-term and then throw my spare resources into trying to save it, in various ways, in amongst my work on personal collapse to avoid the rush.
I excluded the things that I think will inevitably survive or revive (eg cloth making), the things that I have little aptitude for (eg music) and the things that are valuable but too resource intensive for a dark age (eg virtually all non-herbal medicines). Also, thinking systematically about critical dependencies is important – to my mind there is little point building a library without fostering a local culture of literacy and the local production of books in low tech ways using local materials. Probably, even with the concentration of my efforts, my mite will make little difference to the survival of my ‘thing’ and none at all to the trajectory of my society. However, it satisfies the remnants of my messiah complex and gives me purpose and optimism. 🙂
David, by the lake
It’s rare that someone doesn’t see their own class interests as synonomous with the good of the nationl. Hat off to you.
I suspect you’re correct that people know it deep down. I also suspect that American culture encourages people to look for short-cuts or baind aiids rather than face harsh reality. As we continue our downward trajectory there will be people who face reality and those who try everything to avoid facing it. But, again, I think you’re right, they know.
@Luna What I was trying to say here was that I do believe we still need to help people of color (blacks & native americans) as I think even today many are still at a disadvantage, yet I’m wondering if this will do any good when looking at this over the long-term, from a meta-level perspective or extended passage of time, as we will never arrive at some kind of perfection where everyone gets along, and to believe we will arrive somewhere is the myth of progress.
Luna, I live in a Black neighborhood. I am not African American. I am accepted and included, despite my skin color, precisely because I am of the same social class as my neighbors. I uphold the same values. There are some Blacks/African Americans outside of this neighborhood who are not accepted as I am because they are perceived as being of a different social class. It is not on account of the color of their skin. It is because they are perceived as not upholding the same values. It is not the color of the skin that matters; it is the social class. I have learned this by experience, not by political philosophy.
Before this I lived for ten years in a predominantly Mexican American neighborhood. I am not Mexican American. However, on the basis of that experience, anyone who tells me that Mexican Americans by and large (not those few who live la vida loca) are not the paragons of what it means to be an immigrant to these United States, don’t know that they’re talking about, and that includes Donald Trump.
If you’re going to talk about “people of color”, first please note that that in my opinion is a supremacist form of expression. Only from a certain perspective are there “people of color”. If you honestly think that “they” are “all the same”, then I’d like to respectfully suggest that that is because you have lived amongst none of them. I have lived amongst Hispanics, African Americans, poorly paid artists, and made a pilgrimage to Pine Ridge because I wanted to visit and pay my respects to those killed, and a culture forever wounded, if not forever killed (hopefully not), at Wounded Knee. “These/those people” are not all the same. They have different histories and different trajectories. “People of color” is, at most, at best, at worst, in my
opinion, a supremacist formulation.
That having been said, Donald Trump talks a lot out of his hindquarters. But now let us imagine that he doesn’t do anything more or less than what he has so far done and meets the jackal-headed god, or the guardian of the gate, or whatever. Said god or said guardian says, Dude/Donald: you were wrong about the Mexicans. You were wrong about this, that and the other. Said Donald might resist this, that, or the other for a time, but given some of his brainless, thoughtless comments, and how, even if rarely, he has retreated even a bit from some of them, do you honestly think he won’t listen “at the end of the day”? He does listen occasionally in life, though only as an afterthought, and only after a very long time. Compare Donald Trump to Bush the Younger and Tony Blair, who colluded with the concocted evidence against Saddam Hussein, which led to countless of dead, the raping of Yazidi women, so on and so forth. Trump’s a fool. The others?
Trump has a vision for America which is, so far, paying out. The guy’s got one thing going for him when he’s confronted with the guardian of the gate, because “at the end of the day”, people have to eat, send their children to school, so on and so forth. Trump, in my opinion, and for what it’s worth, will shuffle through the next life pretty much as anyone else has who’s ripped off contractors, so on and so forth, not the most stellar track record, but hardly the worst one, either. Yes, he will have debts to pay, as all of us will. But given his track record so far, and compared with some others, do you think it will be all that bad, compared with some others? Please answer that honestly.
I suspect that it might be, precisely because of his thoughtlessness that, if JMG is correct, Donald Trump is doing the will of the gods. I credit his current, stellar success, to Barack Hussein Obama. Why? Because Barack Hussein Obama said, Yes, we can, and his followers “affirmed” it. After eight years it was clear, “No we didn’t.” Obama had his shot at history,
he had his shot at immorality, when instead he declared, to the financial sector, “I have your backs.” And he bailed them out. Can you imagine if he had not bailed them out? That would have made history. He would have been a man to equal to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One Nobel Prize to match the other. But it didn’t happen, did it?
I am not knocking Barack Hussein Obama. He is a man of principle, and he sticks to his principles. He, like Donald Trump, is not a politician. These are both people of whom a lot (I hope) will be written in future. But when one campaigns on a promise of “Yes, we can”, and at the end of eight years the result is, “No, we didn’t”, and when two candidates appear, one Bernie Sanders and the other Donald Trump, both of whom are, in effect, “Yes, we can II”, though in different flavors, and when one of them is sidelined, to perhaps the eternal detriment of their party, and when the other one wins the election, perhaps to the eternal detriment of their party (because, “that is really not what we meant”), then we are living in interesting times.
However, if JMG is right, then with respect to Donald Trump’s being the Changer, or Transformer, or as some would say in the secular press, the disrupter of the status quo, then it is precisely Donald Trump’s cluelessness that, I would say, makes him a[n unwitting] friend of the gods. Why? Because Barack Hussein Obama said, Yes, we can, but after eight year the conclusion so far as I’m concerned was, No we didn’t. However, today I think we we can fairly say, Yes, we might, though this is not exactly what everyone/anyone had or has in mind.
Be careful what you wish for.
I may have overreacted, seeing your following post, but I do so tire of Social Justice preening, seeing as it gets us nowhere…
my point is not that we’ve somehow accomplished equality, or that the -isms that SJW’s like to fixate on have been fixed, just that the whole toolkit of the civil rights era has accomplished all it possibly can, and now it’s time to realize the limits of that particular toolkit, and move on to other issues, working from a class conscious point of view. Now it’s just nothing but worthless rescue games.
if poor white rates of heroin addiction weren’t rising to match Native rates of alcoholism, I might tend to think you have a point, but what privileged people don’t seem to wrap their heads around is the the Long Descent means, over time, in the future, privileged people’s lifestyles and standards of living are going to lower to those of the currently disadvantaged, not that the currently disadvantaged are going to get middle class lifestyles. Equality, when it comes, is going to come from downward pressure, not upward. So yeah, you’re demonstrating that you don’t get it.
Yes from what I’ve read that seems likely. I’ve certainly seen the same dynamic at work in far left activist groups. I don’t think it’s caused by times of upheaval though. Mostly, it seems to me to be the other way around – the upheaval is caused by the lunatics always taking over the asylum. It’s just human group dynamics. The consequences for out-group members of course varies.
In Islam it seem to happen in generational cycles – a generation of puritans get ragey about the immorality of their parent’s generation and go jihadist. Their children grow up stifled by fundamentalism and rebel. That cycle continues independent of external upheavals like climate change, population explosions, wars or the decline of civilizations.
“the applicants are usually equally qualified”
Are you seriously claiming that they are equally academically qualified? Or are you going for the Harvard game where personality counts as a qualification?
What is fascinating is that black unemployment remained stubbornly high during the terms of our first black president, only to plummet during the presidency of someone reviled as “racist”. It was interesting to watch people in the media awkwardly and embarrassingly note that Obama’s presidency failed to benefit the black community materially in the form of increased wealth and job opportunities–indeed, economic indicators for the black community never budged, and, in many cases, declined, during his presidency.
the Trumpists, and, to a lesser degree, the Socialists/Berniecrats, are forcing the dialog and focus away from the SJW/”approved” -isms to other issues, and they are succeeding, and those “resistors” trying to redirect focus back to SJW/”approved” -isms are failing.
TamHob – If I may ask, what is the one thing you most want to devote yourself to saving?
“…the downside of the Faustian narrative becomes painfully clear, because it has no way to deal with failure.”
Not at all. Baked into the Faustian story is failure, and the prescribed response is to be dragged screaming into hell. The prescription, in Marlowe, at least, is do everything you can possibly think of to escape your consequences, up to but not including repenting. And then be dragged screaming into hell.
Shane W – I agree with you that far more attention needs to be paid to class. And the goal needs to be NOT just making it easier for lower-class kids to go to elite colleges, say. As for race-based aid, helping a few individuals from the bottom strata to rise to the top simply facilitates the lie that everyone who does not so rise is personally unworthy and deserves their fate. Rather, the primary goal needs to be to make America a country where the millions of working-class people who must always exist can have decent and dignified lives. That would probably require, among other things, restoring widespread union membership. But even complete success in that goal would not mitigate the separate problem of racial bias, which is a drag on the performance and safety of non-white Americans at all economic levels.
@Dewey, quite right, but I think we are trying to stamp out something that exists as a natural if unfortunate part of human nature. Unless you’ve been really sheltered, chances are you’ve experienced it yourself somewhere. I’ve brought up here before how I was a “girl of privilege” required as a child to serve an “ambassador” to a racial/religious minority community. I had cousins on my mother’s Quaker (I love the Quakers) side of the family who underwent a similar experience in Canada, with the same results: intense bullying that was all but invisible to their parents. The adults of each community were so mortified that their own children would act just like whiteys that they were in denial and the topic was completely off limits, even among the children, who I am sure realized that their parents did not approve of such behavior.
In the adult world, it is harder to spot, but my husband very occasionally encounters someone in America who is implacably hostile to him over his appearance. In Russia, it was more commonly encountered, where they haven’t had a civil rights movement and efforts to address racism. I find the same true in China versus Japan, where if they have hard feelings, they attempt to hide them.
There was another little boy in our community, as white as the midday sun, adopted by a lady there. From what I could see, he was subjected to much more intense bullying than I. The last I heard is that he was doing famously in China. My childhood experience was distressing and puzzling, but very very good in that my attempts to get along despite it all bore fruit later on.
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