The last three posts in our ongoing discussion of the history of enchantment have examined the work of three influential writers on the history of consciousness—Ken Wilber, Owen Barfield, and Jean Gebser. All three of them, as we’ve seen, discuss the state of consciousness summed up in the word “enchantment,” the condition in which the world is experienced as alive, conscious, and magical. Its opposite is the state of disenchantment, in which the world is experienced instead as a random assortment of dead lumps of matter bobbing about in the void.
All three of the thinkers just named follow the usual conventions of our time and relegate the condition of enchantment to the past. To Wilber and also to Gebser, who was Wilber’s source for this concept, enchantment belongs to the magical structure of consciousness, appropriate in the past but (at least in theory) long outgrown by the inhabitants of modern industrial societies. To Barfield, similarly, enchantment belongs to the state he describes as original participation, which he explicitly identified with Paganism and so, as a devout Christian, rejected with pious horror. All three portrayed the transformations of human consciousness over time as a one-way trip in which enchantment belonged permanently to the past.
All three of them went on to argue that our current state of disenchanted consciousness will be replaced sooner or later by some new and improved post-disenchanted state. Gebser, as we have seen, believed that the integral structure of consciousness was emerging all around him in early twentieth-century Europe; Barfield, more cautious, was careful to place his hypothetical state of final participation somewhere out there in the distant future. For his part, Wilber noted that the longed-for state of second tier thinking was taking its sweet time to show up, and speculated that a “mean green meme” was holding the current state of consciousness stuck in place long after his theories said the next one should have put in an appearance. (Keep in mind that “meme” didn’t have quite the same meaning when he coined this term than it does now.)
Like the apocalyptic religious prophecies with which they share so many features, these visions of a bigger, better consciousness to come can neither be proved nor disproved in advance; while it’s fair to compare them with parallel phenomena, the only way to know for sure is to wait around and see whether the futures in question ever get around to showing up. Claims about the history of consciousness up to our time are another matter. If Wilber, Barfield, and Gebser are right, the current disenchanted state of consciousness is a new thing for our species; it emerged for the first time in Renaissance Europe, and all civilizations before that time had to make do without it. This claim is essential to the predictions offered by all three of our prophets, since they insist that yet another new state of consciousness, one that has never existed anywhere at all, can be expected to dawn in the modern Western world.
With this in mind, I’d like to introduce two famous books as evidence. With an eye toward Owen Barfield’s religious argument, one of them is a work of Pagan literature and the other is a work of Christian literature. As for their relation to enchantment and disenchantment—well, that’s going to take a certain amount of unpacking.
The Pagan work is the Satyricon, an ancient Roman novel by Petronius Arbiter, written sometime in the first century AD. We have only a modest part of the original, which is more than can be said of most other Roman novels (only one, The Golden Ass by Lucius Apuleius, got through the fall of Rome intact). Though it’s relatively tame by modern standards—Roman writers and readers alike apparently weren’t interested in the sort of thrust-by-thrust descriptions that render so many modern novels so dreary—the Satyricon has a reputation as the world’s most famous pornographic novel. Granted, there’s a lot of sex in it, of a great many varieties.
The portion of it that survives is narrated by a young man named Encolpius, who is handsome and tolerably well educated but not too bright. He blunders around various corners of Roman Italy with his teenage boy-toy Giton, falling into one absurd scrape after another. One of Encolpius’s friends, another young man named Ascyltos, shares many of these adventures, and later in the book the old, impoverished, and lecherous poet Eumolpus becomes an important character. The centerpiece of the surviving portion is an over-the-top banquet hosted by an obscenely rich parvenu named Trimalchio, but there’s plenty of other business; there are orgies, arguments, brawls, and seductions; poems are recited and stories told, and a vivid picture of ordinary Roman life comes through the book’s pages.
The Satyricon is also a profoundly disenchanted book. Its style, its raucous humor, and the world portrayed by its characters are modern in every sense of the world. Update the details a little and the whole story could take place in Los Angeles today, right up to the spectacular crassness of Trimalchio’s banquet—he’d fit right in among today’s Hollywood celebrities. Religion appears in the Satyricon purely as a social custom and a theme for humor; one old bore at the banquet all but defines disenchanted consciousness as he drones on about how the region’s in a drought because nobody respects the gods any more:
“For no one believes that heaven is heaven, no one keeps a fast, no one cares a hang about Jupiter: they all shut their eyes and count up their own profits. In the old days, the married women, in their stolas, climbed the hill in their bare feet, pure in heart, and with their hair unbound, and prayed to Jupiter for rain! And it would pour down in bucketfuls then or never, and they’d all come home, wet as drowned rats. But the gods all have the gout now, because we are not religious; and so our fields are burning up!”
It’s instructive to contrast all this with the second book I have in mind, the work of Christian literature: The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, archbishop of Genoa. The good archbishop wanted a collection of the lives and miracles of the blessed saints, and since he was unsatisfied by the existing anthologies, he set to work on the project himself. It was finished in 1266 and immediately became one of the great bestsellers of the Middle Ages—more than a thousand handwritten copies have survived, some in the original Latin and others in nearly every language of medieval Europe, and as soon as printing was invented, printers started churning out copies—by 1501 it had been printed more often than the Bible.
Whatever Jacobus de Voragine’s personal life might have been like, his book certainly convinced many people that heaven was heaven, inspired them to keep fasts, and did its level best to make them care not only about the Christian God but the entire panoply of medieval supernatural entities as well, from the blessed saints and angels in heaven down through a vast cascade of monstrous beings to Satan and his minions in hell. He did not do any of this by means of sober rational arguments. Rather, The Golden Legend is a bubbling cauldron of miracles. Decapitated saints pick up their heads and walk to church; sacred relics stop lava flows in their tracks and make rivers flow uphill; St. Silvester is asked by the Emperor of Rome to do something about a dragon right there in the middle of the city, prays to St. Peter, receives detailed instructions on dragon handling, and proceeds to tie the dragon’s mouth shut permanently with a thread.
That is to say, The Golden Legend is a profoundly enchanted book. Its author took the stories he collected with utmost seriousness, and he saw nothing in the least unlikely in the marvels that he recounted. The raucous humor and irony of the Satyricon is whole galaxies removed from the earnest faith in wonders displayed by our second text. The world in which the saints and sinners of The Golden Legend follow their varied trajectories to heaven or hell is the one that Jacobus de Voragine and his readers believed they lived in.
It’s worth noting, with an eye toward Owen Barfield’s insistence that the state of enchantment is identical to Paganism, that the devoutly Christian Golden Legend is wholly caught up in Barfield’s condition of original participation while the riotously Pagan Satyricon is as unparticipated and modern as any of the avant-garde fiction of Barfield’s own time. It’s even more significant, however, that the wholly disenchanted Satyricon was written more than a millennium before the wholly enchanted Golden Legend. If, as all three of our writers insist, human consciousness is marching gamely onward along a one-way street from the outworn mental states of the past toward the bigger and better mental states of the future, shouldn’t this have worked out the other way around?
Look more closely at the outlines of human history traced out by our three authors, and you’ll find that this lapse is emblematic of a far broader problem. Barfield will serve as our example here, though the same pattern appears in all three. His survey of the history of consciousness in Saving the Appearances discussed prehistory, ancient Israel, classical Greece, the high Middle Ages, and the period from the Renaissance through the modern period. He doesn’t present them in order—quite the contrary, he jumps around quite a bit—and this makes it tolerably easy not to notice that he left something out.
Something of considerable importance happened, in point of fact, between Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, the last thinker from Greek antiquity he mentions at all and the first one from the Middle Ages he discusses in any detail. That gap of 1500 years or so includes the Satyricon, and it also includes the earnest writers of saints’ lives on whom Jacobus de Voragine based The Golden Legend. During that interval, Roman civilization rose and fell, the Dark Ages spread over the western world and then gave way to the rise of a new European civilization. During the first five centuries or so of that period, the lingering enchantments Barfield traces in Plato and Aristotle gave way to the ironic, secular, wholly disenchanted mentality of the Satyricon and the rest of late Roman literature—and thereafter, enchantment swept back in like a tide.
Compare The Golden Legend with the Greek myths, or Beowulf with the Odyssey, and it’s clear that the authors of these works breathed the same air and dwelt in similar worlds of wonders, monsters, magic, and miracles. Compare the Satyricon with any modern novel that you wish and it’s just as clear that the authors of these works dwelt in an equally disenchanted, equally secular world. Barfield, as it happens, explicitly denies this; in Saving the Appearances he insists that “[f]rom the former point of view” (that of of the history of the mind), “the Graeco-Roman period is seen as extending, practically unbroken, to the end of the Middle Ages” (p. 98).
But then he has to claim this. Admit that the classical world moved all the way out of its former enchanted state into a disenchanted state, and that enchantment then returned with the fall of Rome, and the entire theory of a linear evolution of consciousness goes crashing to the ground. Worse (from his perspective, at least): if the Roman world achieved a consciousness as disenchanted as ours, and then fell back into enchantment, what becomes of the insistence that we can look forward to some brand-new, higher state of consciousness any day now? What if the condition of disenchantment is the normal state of consciousness in a mature civilization, and gives way to returning enchantment as that civilization tips over into decline?
What puts sharp teeth into this last speculation is that the cultural history of the classical world shows exactly the same process of gradual disenchantment that can be traced in the history of our own civilization. The oldest surviving strata of Greek literature display the same immersion in a world of enchantments that can be found in the oldest surviving strata of post-Roman European literature. Then, like clockwork, poetry gives way to prose, and the first stirrings of philosophy and natural science give rise to rationalist currents. Thoughtful intellectuals turn their attention to traditional religion in an attempt to make sense of it, never realizing until too late that they are undermining the faith they themselves hold dear.
From such efforts an age of reason emerges: in Greek history beginning around 500 BC with Pythagoras and Thales, in Western European history beginning a little after 1500 AD with Galileo and Copernicus. Fierce pushback from religious traditionalists garners its share of martyrs—Socrates in one cycle, Giordano Bruno in the next—but fails to stop the unraveling of the old enchanted faith. In literature, the epic has already given way to the romance, and in due time this gives way to the novel as the subjective experience of the individual becomes the focus of creative interest; in the visual arts, painting and sculpture have already settled into their mature forms, though avant-garde schools rebel against these in various unsatisfying ways; music and drama thrive but settle into ruts. As the zenith of disenchantment arrives, conservative writers place their hopes on a revitalization of rural life; Wendell Berry’s writings in our time are paralleled by Vergil’s Georgics and Bucolics in the time of Augustus Caesar. And then…
Ah, but we haven’t gotten to the “and then” stage yet in our current cycle. That’s clearly enough what motivated Barfield and Gebser, at least, in their linear rewrites of history. It’s easy to understand their feelings. Both of them came of age in the early twentieth century, while Europe was tearing itself to pieces in a series of brutal wars. Both of them were familiar with the many thoughtful voices discussing the parallels I’ve just sketched out, and both set out to find some way to understand history that would exclude the last act of the drama, the age of decline and fall that was all too clearly dawning around them.
It was a valiant effort but not necessarily a wise one. Most of us, I hope, recognize that one of the basic tests of personal maturity is the recognition that we will all die someday, after something like the ordinary human lifespan, and our hopes and dreams and decisions about the future need to take that hard but inescapable reality into account. Societies that recognize the equally hard and inescapable realities of decline and fall can make adjustments and preparations that can cushion the descent and simplify the rebirth on the far side of the process—a mastery of that way of thinking, guided by a richly complex understanding of time, is one of the reasons why Chinese culture remains firmly in place five thousand years after its first emergence, while so many other civilizations born around the same time are dim memories today.
China’s civilization thus had less trouble preserving essential cultural resources through its own dark ages—but dark ages it unquestionably had: at least four of them, depending on exactly how you define such periods. Ancient Egypt got through two intact, though a third was too much for it. India had its share, too, and so has every other civilization throughout recorded history. The cycle of enchantment and disenchantment? That’s present, too, to a greater or lesser degree. We’ll talk about that in upcoming posts, as I start sketching out the factors that seem to drive the rise and fall of the disenchanted state. For the present, there’s another aspect of the cycle that I want to focus on.
Educated Romans did not believe that their civilization could end. Neither do most educated Europeans and Americans today. Read works from the twilight years of Roman civilization and you’ll encounter a dizzying disconnection between the hard facts—roads crumbling, trade links snapping, the imperial government holed up in Ravenna while barbarian armies surge across the landscape—and the serene conviction that these are temporary inconveniences that the Roman Empire will surely surmount once times improve a little. I suspect that people many centuries from now, when they read ancient literature from the twenty-first century, will find similar disconnects in our narratives: the gritty realities of life in a declining civilization coexisting serenely in the minds of today’s writers with the conviction that someday soon we’ll surely be headed for the stars.
Yet there’s another dimension to the changes ahead, and it unfolds from the points that we’ve been discussing in this series of posts. Familiar and even comfortable though it may be to most of us today, the disenchanted condition has severe downsides. It’s not something that comes naturally to human beings, and it imposes serious emotional burdens and cognitive limitations on those who embrace it uncritically. As the accelerating process of decline in our society lets the waters of enchantment flow back in, it’s possible to catch that incoming tide—and that opens up possibilities closed to those who remain caught in the disenchanted state. We’ll talk about that, too, as this sequence of posts proceeds.
Glancing up at the calendar, I notice that March has five Wednesdays in it, and by a longstanding tradition on this blog, the readers get to vote on what they’d like me to write about. The floor is open for nominations!
I was wondering — and feel diffident asking — whether you could possibly write an essay on Rudolf Steiner? This could even be expanded to a book.
Can’t see how Bruno was a martyr for traditionalism, since he opposed Catholic orthodoxy…
Kauffman’s ’96 book “At Home in the Universe” points at “emergent systems” to explain complex systems like life. (i.e. no enchantment needed thank you very much). It was touted as a big deal at the time. (More important than Darwin). I guess these anticipated breakthroughs are like fusion power and always just around the corner.
Niven and Pournelle’s “Mote in God’s Eye” portrays an alien civilization that at least tries to deal with the cycles of civilization. The future earth civilization has obviously gone through cycles, but seems unaware.
I vote for a mundane astrological update on current events!
Another fine post JMG, and helpful in understanding the processes in Decline, and how adjusting our individual views and values in a logical framework is essential and happening now in real time.
I find it amazing how much work goes into developing an individual life philosophy, and your posts over the last couple of decades have really demonstrated how to build a comprehensive “solution” of ideas based on various binary components. When I was in my 20s, I thought I had life all figured out. Now, in my early 60s, I can’t believe I was ever that naive. The conflicts of binary thinking take some time to sift through, and it’s mentally exhausting to sort through the ideas of enchantment vs. disenchantment, moral vs. immoral, spiritual vs. materialism, dreams vs. pragmatism, etc. But it must be done to remain sane.
I’m looking forward to your posts on the incoming tide of enchantment, and how to recognize the the characteristics of the best waves and get the surfboard in the proper spot to catch them….
JMG that was a very interesting article. I have a question about the progression of Ancient literature in this sequence. You said epic gives way to romance and then to the novel basically. That is clear in English literature Beowulf, to Le mort de Arthur, to Jane Austin. What is the equivalent of Romance in Classical literature? Epic is Homer obviously and the novel is the Petronius, what would be Romance?
My vote for the fifth Wednesday essay is how does one keep tabs on what is really happening in their society. You have often mentioned that successful elites know what is happening in society at large and unsuccessful elites are blind to this reality. That makes sense but how do the successful ones do that? So in my case I have been trying to figure out what the labor shortage is all about. I have been asking different people regularly what they think is happening. Nobody really knows anything it seems. So it is strange and mysterious. I have lots of ideas but almost no facts. Yet that is just one thing of many. I am kind of groping for what I am trying to say here. I hope that makes some sense
I wonder whether the “stages of conciousness” is actually technological complication. As you write above, there are cycles to civilisation, with disenchantment coming at the peak. Maybe the use of technologies, creating a distancing from reality while amplifying capacity gives the illusion of being personally more aware? Bit like thinking you can fly because you got in an aeroplane, or you know something because you Googled it.
So civilisations build technology to access more resources and power, get bigger until a, er, “limit” is reached (not sure if anyone has thought of this before), which is the point of maximum disenchantment, then down it goes into re-enchantment.
I think the Club of Rome needs to add an enchantment curve to the BAU2 model. We can look up and hear the heavens singing while we dig through old waste dumps for metal to turn into swords for the local warlord (me).
Coincidentally, I came across the Satyricon in this individuals efforts to make a Satyricon USA which I found very interesting at the time
For a topic to write on, I would love your perspective related to the topic of Agnotology, which is the study of ignorance or why we don’t know, what we don’t know. Some broad categories include lost knowledge (lost civilization, selective knowledge transfer during colonization), secrecy (state secrets/general privacy), or intentional manufacturing of ignorance (tobacco, climate, etc).
I imagine you have some great insight into a thread of lost or deliberately suppressed knowledge and the how and why of how it came about.
About hubristic elites that act like the Black Knight from Monty Python: as the russians conclude the classical steppe tactic of fake retreat followed by pouncing back and the ukrainians, led by americans that can’t understand mongolian warfare, play the role of germans in Stalingrad in Bakmut, the elites are alredy saying “THIS IS BUT A SCRATCH” while firing up the engines to tackle the chinese near China. Just like the romans after getting their butts kicked by barbarians thought nothing of trying their luck against the sassanids and get some rich cities like Antioch looted. Because the Black Knight/NATO/SPQR is invincible, isn’t it?
Thank you, very good. Pointing what is obviously there in history but overlooked when one is blinkered by unexamined presuppositions. The desire for personal spiritual realities (beings) can never be excised for it is a response to what is there and it always comes back.
Thanks for the very interesting post!
“Thoughtful intellectuals turn their attention to traditional religion in an attempt to make sense of it, never realizing until too late that they are undermining the faith they themselves hold dear.”
I think I understand this much more thanks to the Levi book club! 🙂
For the fifth Wednesday post, my suggestion is something about ‘sacred masculinity’.
Someone I know mentioned the term recently, and it’s made me curious. As far as I understand it, the term ‘toxic masculinity’ which is used very often nowadays is a way to label the ‘dominating, controlling’ aspects of our culture – ie. the culture at large has an in-built distorted view of masculinity that we don’t know is distorted. And even the goals of the modern feminist movement have been shaped by this distorted view.
But I’m quite curious about the idea of a ‘sacred masculinity’ that is in balance with a ‘sacred femininity’. If it’s something that you’re knowledgeable about, I would propose this for the last Wednesday.
“Thoughtful intellectuals turn their attention to traditional religion in an attempt to make sense of it, never realizing until too late that they are undermining the faith they themselves hold dear.”
I read that and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance popped right into my head. Quality, rhetoric, and for that matter Enchantment can’t build a motorcycle.
A world of pure physics on the other hand is not aesthetically pleasing. It’s certainly warm and fuzzy. (And I don’t mean fuzzy in the quantum mechanical sense.)
Steven Jay Gould made essentially the same point with his argument for non-overlapping magisteria. Milling down the round peg of physics so it will fit in the Golden Ratioed hole of Enchantment might, but why bother? The fit will either be too sloppy or you will have wasted a lot of material.
How about writing about the effects of social media on the society in the USA and how we can create ways to deal with the effects. How it relates to the extremes people use t
How does one foster enchantment in themselves? As a cradle Catholic (returned after as severe case of atheism), my religion seems to imply that there is a circular path through the theological virtues, Faith in God leads to Hope which provides motivation for Charity in serving the most vulnerable…which leads to increases in Faith.
Sometimes I get caught up in a rationalistic rabbit hole though and wish I could avoid these pitfalls.
As a regenerative farmer I diffidently 2nd the Rudolf Steiner vote.
This is so well said!
It reminds me strongly of Robert E. Howard’s wise words, “Barbarism is the natural state of mankind. … Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.”
I have recently been looking through a copy of the textbook we used in our world history class in junior high school, way back in 1955/6 (World History: The Struggle for Civilization by Smith, Muzzey & Lloyd, Ginn & Co., 1949).
From beginning to end the textbook offers a relentless narrative of humanity’s inevitable progress, moving ever more rapidly toward a unified better world: “Civilization, then, is a story of mastery. To primitive man, nature was an enemy. … Slowly at first, but with ever-growing success, he spread his control over the world around him” (p. 7). On the page facing these words is a photograph of the ceremonial signing of the charter of the United Nations in 1945 at San Francisco, captioned “A Modern Version of King Arthur’s Round Table”! Beneath that caption it says, “Civilization becomes real only when men of all races can live together in friendship and good will.”
To understand a culture deeply, one must (among several other things) look closely into the schoolbooks its adults read in their childhood.
It‘s a candystore month again! 😀
Hm, let‘s see… how about a fifth Wednesday post about some part of history which, in your view, isn‘t being truthfully represented in the history books? E.g. because the influence of the occult on the events of that time has been suppressed?
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on magical idealism and its relationship to the current topic, JMG. That would be my vote.
@Will O (#6):
One example is the so-called “Romance of Alexander the Great” by pseudo-Callisthenes, translated from the original Greek into a considerable number of languages in late Antiquity.
I’m riding that tide, and I have never felt more optimistic. I am building an orchard and a big garden this spring, my writing is more well received than it has ever been, I am learning the guitar which I thought I could never do, I am learning a great deal in the study of magic, I am healthier than I have been in some time – even as I am about to turn fifty, and I am keenly aware of the decline of our civilization. It is a very creative time, it seems to me.
I think you should write about silver coin.
Hi JMG, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how ideas like Liebniz’s monads or the more recent rise in theories of panpsychism among folks like Philip Goff or David Chalmers might fit into the thread of your last few essays. When I read about the parsing of ideas like pancognitivism vs panexperientialism, seems an awful lot like anima trying to poke through the fabric of a disenchanted worldview.
AA, I’ve tabulated that as a vote for the fifth Wednesday.
Someone, I think you misunderstood what I wrote. The traditionalists are the ones who do the martyring, not the ones who get martyred — Socrates also opposed the orthodoxy of his time, you know.
Bradley, “emergent systems” is a fine example of what Gregory Bateson used to call a “dormitive virtue,” borrowing the term from Montaigne — it’s a phrase that’s treated as an explanation even though it explains nothing. Montaigne made fun of physicians in his time who were asked why opium puts people to sleep, and said that it was because opium contained a “dormitive virtue” — that is, something that puts people to sleep. In the same way, Bradley is trying to explain why natural systems suddenly start behaving in ways that have nothing in common with their previous behavior, and lo and behold, it’s because they’re “emergent systems” — that is to say, they suddenly start behaving in ways that have nothing in common with their previous behavior. As for Pournelle’s book, he did indeed put that in; I’m not generally a fan of his, but that was a good read.
Malleus, so tabulated.
Drhooves, I think it’s common to look back on one’s own youthful certainties with some degree of embarrassment. I certainly do!
Will O, that I know of, next to nothing survives of Greek romance, other than the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, which is written in a deliberately archaic style borrowed from the epics. (Edit: as Robert M. notes, there’s also the Romance of Alexander by pseudo-Callisthehes — don’t know how I missed that one!) All we have otherwise are stray quotes and references in later writers, which make it clear that there was a good lively literature at the time corresponding to the romance genre in European history, and to other equivalents in other ages. I’ve tabulated your vote.
Benn, I see your divinatory enchantments are working well. Yes, technology plays a very significant role in this cycle; we’ll be discussing that in detail as we proceed.
Ynu8ipbnxu, hmm! Thanks for the article, which I’ve bookmarked for future reading. As for agnotology, I’ve added your vote to the list.
Luciano, true enough. I’d be interested, though, to see if you can relate that to the theme of the current post.
Moose, ding! We have a winner. It’s always to the advantage of the ruling classes of mature civilizations to insist that material reality is all there is — after all, that’s what they control. Then the rude awakening comes…
Jbucks, hmm! I’ve added your vote to the list.
Siliconguy, true, but if you leave out quality, rhetoric, and enchantment, you get a lousy motorcycle. You also get a society unfit for human habitation. Enchantment isn’t simply fuzzy and comfortable — like each of Gould’s magisteria, it’s an essential aspect of human existence, and neglecting it leads to misery and failure.
Larry, so tabulated.
Nick, the crucial step is to realize that enchantment isn’t passive. If I recall the theology correctly, faith isn’t something that you do — it’s a gift of the Holy Spirit, and has to be sought from that source through prayer and spiritual practice. In historical terms, that incoming tide of enchantment isn’t something that people do, or make happen — it happens, and we have ride the wave or drown. I’ve tabulated your vote, btw.
Robert, thanks for this! What a ringing display of hubris on the part of the authors…
Milkyway and De Koi, both votes duly tabulated.
William, it’s an exhilarating time if you know how to ride the wave! I’ve tabulated your vote, though I’m not at all sure what I would have to say about that topic.
Marc, duly tabulated.
I see a pattern, perhaps most accurately reflected in Barfield’s terminology, that feels a lot like the description of the involutionary/evolutionary path as described in the Cosmic Doctrine and many other places. It feels a little like they’re grasping for the same idea, but perhaps doing so with the faulty assumption that all humanity should be expected to walk that path in unison?
I’m afraid I’m too new to some of these ideas to be more articulate than that, but I wonder if you or others more knowledgeable might comment.
I would like to nominate practical applications of discursive meditation. or pretty much anything on that topic.
Thank you much for this series JMG! May I assist with information for anyone who’d like to explore Yoga philosophy further:
http://www.edwinbryant.org has numerous free and deeply informative course videos on topics ranging from the ancient Upanishads to Patañjalis Yoga Sūtras.
Yes, you’re quite right – thanks!
Thank you for this beautifully insightful series of essays; I can’t even begin to count the number of ‘Aha!’ moments I had while reading through. And I couldn’t agree more that the time has come for the wave of enchantment to flow in and drown the folly of modern society. My vote for the 5th Wednesday would be for an article on the practicalities of riding the said wave, particularly with respect to the quality of daily life in this era of decline.
This post is remarkably synchronous with some things I’d been thinking about over the weekend. It seems as each successive “age,” here in the West, at least, involves the working out of the sins and overreaches of the former–the multiform, (relatively) pluralistic environment of late Antiquity sliding into decadence and being followed by the Christian era; the monolithic era of the Church gradually sliding into sectarianism and rising secularism, and our current materalism (and, some might say, malaise). A swinging pendulum, I guess, shuffling along over the ages…the question, I guess: how will the sins of our current era be answered by the next?
JMG–If you’re familiar with Thomas More’s RE-ENCHANTMENT OF EVERYDAY LIFE (1996), could you tell us what you think of it? As I recall, he’d have agreed with much of what you’ve been saying in this series–on 1) Enchantment’s inevitable return in recurring cycles, and 2) its necessity for healthy living.
When I read it 20+ years ago, I found it quite helpful, as well as More’s earlier books–CARE OF THE SOUL and SOUL MATES.
I recently wrote an article about trying to please Aphrodite. https://kimberlysteele.dreamwidth.org/85341.html To sum up, I believe that tidying, cooking, and other seemingly mundane household maintenance routines please the goddess because they show that appreciation for her many generous gifts. A troll chimed in and went on some screed about how I think I am God for speculating about the preferences of a god. There was something about how God cannot be accessed or appreciated via the material world and how that aesthetics will never be a way of reaching the divine. Then the person insulted Botticelli’s Birth of Venus (I chose a pic of Aphrodite from the painting for that post) and said she was “ugly AF” and looked like a man. In hindsight, I probably should have at least screen-shotted the comment but I deleted it. Obviously this troll has a great deal of hubris and brings up questions of what happens when you insult Aphrodite — though to be fair, the insult seemed more directed towards Botticelli’s depiction, and Botticelli is far too dead to care.
I am guessing the troll is a monotheist angered by worship of non-monotheist deities i.e. suppliant of a jealous God. Not that their God actually is jealous, but they certainly want to believe he is jealous. I’m also going to guess he or she was triggered by my speculation that monotheism is on the ebb in favor of a motley collection of old-new religions coming into the spotlight in the post-industrial age. For me to suggest that we are already living in a goddess-enchanted world that we can touch and invigorate through the living gratitude of cooking and cleaning was too much. They prefer their God formidable, distant, and up in the sky for all eternity. Yawn!
Since I just did my completely unnecessary and somewhat pathological reading of the “news”, then read today post, I was reminded of an old post of yours back during the days of the “Archdruid report”.
I think that I would love to hear what you have to say about the current events “over there”.
I have a sneaking hunch that you have spent more than a little time in the past staring at hexagons on a piece of colored cardboard and moving pieces around on the cardboard.
I think that what we are looking at “over there” is a fundamental difference in goals and methods of waging war. One side seems to have created a military capable of conquest and wholescale war (Rome), the other side has created a military focused on getting other people/equipment to fight for them. (Constantinople).
I really liked your post today. I might write a comment later after I have pondered it further. Thanks.
I think I’ve learned more useful information from your essays here than I did in all the colleges classes that I wasted a considerable sum of money on. Anyway, my vote is also for a Steiner post.
Yes, Christianity is gift based and is based on “ask and you shall receive” the concept is that the Holy Spirit kick starts a positive feedback between “seeking and finding” you seek, then find, then what is found leads to more seeking, asking and receiving, the receiving leads to more asking, “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” John 14:24.
#11, re sacred masculinity.
I have just finished reading a book by Tamarack Song where he describes “counting coup”. If a plains indian came across a band of an enemy, he would stop, put his weapons on the ground then attempt to ride up to the leader of the enemy group and cut the feather from his braid without getting hurt or hurting any enemy. Another one was to walk into the enemy camp and take a prized possession from the leader and walk out again without anyone noticing. Endurance, courage, patience, harmony, stealth, and sheer damned cheek: a good description of nontoxic masculinity. Maybe sacred masculinity is to be the shield, not the sword.
There’s some very interesting stuff been going on in the financial system with bank runs and the problem with Credit Suisse in the past few days, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping thus far. The financial system has been pretty rickety for a while, with a lot of other weird distortions in the real economy at the same time as tech stocks, cryptos and a bunch of stuff behaving like homesick rocks, and ludicrous amounts of leverage in an environment of rising interest rates due to severe inflation that’s causing a cost-of-living crisis in many areas.
For next wednesday’s post: How likely would you say something 2008+ level big breaking is by the end of the year?
Things keep looking messier and messier, and stuff piles up rather than getting fixed.
How about briefly discussing Jung and Freud in the context of enchantment and disenchantment?
This affirmation strikes me…
“the Graeco-Roman period is seen as extending, practically unbroken, to the end of the Middle Ages” (p. 98).
Thank you, JMG, for this untamed corner of the interweb.
I’ve been struggling with the disenchantment of the world since I was maybe four or five years old. Really! I’ve knew the world-view of archaeologists as pertained to the Maya and the Egyptians was deeply crippled and prevented any sympathetic understanding of those two civilizations. When I was five, of all things. I began studying traditional Hindu yoga at about the same age. Then Cayce, Blavatsky, Col. AE Powell and others. No one I knew then had the slightest clue about what I was banging on about from there into my teens, at which point I realized I had no one to talk to about this stuff. I had a brief period when my study of CS Lewis found a receptive audience. His book “The Abolition of Man” rocked my world. I think my relations were relieved I had found a more or less socially acceptable avenue of thought to obsess about, so I was listened to politely if not with any genuine receptivity or understanding.
So for much of my life, my day-to-day life has been empty of peers, and feels disenchanted, but I keep having encounters with non-physical beings and events occur that contradict that kind of disenchantment. It’s difficult to harmonize these things, much less to sort out self-delusion from reality. At seventy-four, I’ve been a one-man library of spiritual and religious history and experiences (for most of those years), with people occasionally “checking out” what I have to say without recognizing that there’s a person in here (me). At least I have been occasionally useful to folks.
Finding the Archdruid Report and now Ecosophia and those who partake of these kinds of wisdom has likely kept me from losing any semblance of sanity I might yet retain.
As an aside, to take an analogy from The WOH series, the Radiance is alive and active, as ever (seemingly). Seems this series is a useful way to parse the history of the magical and anti-magical, insofar as that’s even possible.
My vote is for the topic “the future of internet”…or…the end of internet in the Long Decline. I expect my vote will be tabulated, thank you John!
“Thoughtful intellectuals turn their attention to traditional religion in an attempt to make sense of it, never realizing until too late that they are undermining the faith they themselves hold dear.”
I’m working on a Substack about magic in the Pacific Islands, with the intention of drawing interest to the older technologies that we still have access to. The above sentence is concerning, and suggests I might be accomplishing the opposite. One redeeming factor is that the tide here is most certainly pushing back towards enchantment as collapse accelerates, and people are eager to embrace sentiments that were previously shunned by local elites as anti-progress.
For the fifth Wednesday post, I’d like to 2nd either the request from Malleus on “mundane astrological update on current events,” or the request from jbucks on “sacred masculinity.”
Rudolf Steiner has my vote
Will O, John, et al:
Regarding Hellenistic romances:
There’s also some cross fertilization between romances and ‘New Comedy’, with the comedy played for laughs and the romances for adventure.
Exactly! And nemesis always follows on the heels of hubris.
Hm. So is this a hen-or-egg problem? What comes first: the rise and fall of civilisations, causing periods of enchantment and disenchantment? Or the tides of enchantment and disenchantment, dragging civilisations along with them?
In any case, I‘m very much looking forward to the post(s) on how to catch the incoming tide, and the possibilities it brings! Any discussion about how to turn the current and upcoming events into something useful and productive is very welcome, and also very necessary.
Thanks for this series.
Here is a suggestion for the fifth Wednesday. Your weekly open posts on Covid-84 assume that the mess is caused by “arrogance, incompetence, and corruption”. An interesting blog post by eugyppius suggests the problem is that our elite cares more about the universe than about their family and neighbors. Millions of people “manifest escalating indifference to adverse policy outcomes in their own countries”. https://www.eugyppius.com/p/bill-gates-the-global-depopulation
It would be interesting to read your appraisal of that hypothesis.
(Sorry if double-commented.)
I vote for a post on the French occult tradition(s): as you find most suitable, Pasqually, de Guaita, Péladan, Ambelain, or more than 1 of those if related. Thanks.
Fifth Wednesday Vote:
I would also be interested in your take on Rudolf Steiner, who I am grappling with once again at the moment.
Will O @ 6, I second your request for a post on keeping tabs. Given that successful elites have their own sources of information, are there ways we can figure out what they know? About the labor shortage, to begin, as the grandmother of a young woman who is working fulltime, making enough to live on and with expectation of medical ins., such as that will be, in about another month, I am overjoyed that, for the first time in decades, kids can be gainfully employed right out of HS again. I also notice that anyone who owns a functioning auto and is willing to keep said car clean and well maintained, can make money with Lift, Doordash, and so on. All I can say is that my daughter arranges Lift for me on occasion, and I much prefer it to old time taxi service. I think we all have or have heard horror stories about taxi drivers. These services do rely heavily on the internet, which keeps the drivers honest, so they won’t last forever, but right now, they are a source of extra cash for many. There are also online sales. I once met a lady selling her home crocheting on ebay who said she was making enough to cover her utility bills.
One of the reasons the governing classes, of all persuasions, are so adamantly opposed to single payer health care, or alternative medicine or indeed ANY regulation which benefits the patient, is because they know full well that many employees remain with jobs they hate because of health ins.
My overall feeling about the so-called labor shortage is cry me a river. Maybe management should consider hiring frontline supervisors for reasons other than looks, social position and pedigree. The other day, I asked the manager of a Dollar General why did he not have some staff members clean up the trash around the store. He said the corporate headquarters would not let him even hire enough people to keep the shelves stocked.
A great addition to this series. Since you mentioned him in this post I’d like to see an article about Socrates and/or Plato.
@ JMG – why do you think the earlier forms, ie the epic and the romance, give way to the novel as the subjective experience of the individual becomes the focus of creative interest? Is it because that just seems to be the natural patter cultures go through, or is it because, with a lack of a fantastical, enchanted world, the individual experience becomes the only thing that’s “knowable”? Or is it something else?
Also, my vote for fifth Wednesday also goes to a mundane astrology update.
Another vote for Steiner – from an almost regenerative farmer.
JMG, as I understand it, R. Steiner’s view was that there need be a historical space for human individuation, ie., a period of separation from nature, after which we would reclaim our higher senses in full, only this time with individuated consciousness. I don’t know if he was at all aware of previous cycles of enchantment/disenchantment, but if he was I’m thinking that Steiner must have regarded the Industrial Age as the Mother Of All Disenchantments, the ultimate separation from nature and the higher worlds. In any event, are the historical periods of disenchantment basically the same as Steiner’s Age of Individuation?
I vote for an exegesis on Yeat’s A Vision. Something on James Merrill’s The Changing Light at Sandover would be interesting too.
I enjoyed this post, thank you JMG. I presume you also discount William Blake’s idea of Innocence leading to Experience and then on to Organised Innocence? I also wonder: do you distinguish between Enchantment and Superstition? Or would you say the latter is just the disenchanted version of the former?
P.S. If I remember right, Fellini did a visually lush cinematic version of Satyricon, that, although I can’t say how it compares to the original poem, did capture a measure of the parallel decadence between that time and ours…
I would like to second J Bucks vote for an essay on toxic masculinity.
I vote for an overview on Jung’s theories.
Loved today’s essay.
It got me thinking about similar kinds of errors in other fields than in theories of the super-evolution of consciousness.
I’ve been thinking recently of some youtube videos and books I’ve read where errors of similar nature occurs in other planes than just our mundane one.
Randy Najarshi says that one reason demons like the Pisacha do what they do is that changes there move more slowly when lined up to our plane. That’s why they engage in behavior that torment and terrified others. The rewards are immediate or nearly so while the karmic blowback is trillions of years away in their cosmic plane. They will not experience any further results or blowback for possibly trillions of our plane’s timeframe.
That’s an esoteric version I was thinking about but the following is from our mundane plane.
I immediately remembered one scientist who gave a talk on youtube that said (if I recall this correctly) according to some scientific theories our universe may enter a super long period of stasis – the universe will seem to neither expand nor contract (red shift/blue shift).
[This hypothesized seemingly super-long changeless astro-physical period lines up with both Buddhist and Hindu teachings I’ve read/heard on the nature of our universe.]
Anyway, he said the scientists of that future era will likely conclude that the Ancients (ie us) were wrong when we kept writing about how the universe is expanding. They would, in all seriousness, conclude 20-21st century scientists had hampered methods of investigating the universe or misunderstood the nature of said universe.
Which reveals certain things about our thinking also from my POV. The errors Gebser, Barfield and Wilber make are not unlike those far-future scientists. They just did it at the opposite end – a supposition that the human species consciousness (not the same thing as any one individual’s consciousness) is in infinite expansion mode.
From what I’ve read yogis have always maintained that the human species as a species is as far as it can go in consciousness evolution. The limit is due to hard limits of the physical nature of our solar system. This limit is so fundamental to earth species consciousness evolution that I assume earth’s next intelligent species will have to deal with hitting that same limit. Something would have to fundamentally change about our solar system for the human species to evolve more complexity and with it the higher intelligence so beloved of SF authors.
The soul’s consciousness can evolve further. The species that is our current consciousness’ vehicle can not. Any further change will put it out of whack with the solar system and result in a degradation in the human species’ consciousness, not the hoped for improvement the three gentlemen of this week’s essay were and, in the case of Wilber, are, asserting is surely going to arrive soon.
p.s. I’ll see if I can find the youtube video and that scientists book to submit later.
Rod Dreher mentioned he is writing a book on disenchantment—is it suddenly a hot topic or is this just a coincidence?
Regrettably, he’ll have plenty of time to work on his book since his American Conservative sugar daddy fired him. I guess the lesson here is, written and artists should not tie themselves to a sugar daddy.
Thank you for this hugely thought-provoking series of posts, JMG, and I look forward to the next installment. I would like to add another vote for a post on Rudolf Steiner.
If I may, I’d also like to announce that my response to Naomi Wolf’s article on “the return of the Ancient Gods” is now online, and can be found here: https://flintandsteel.substack.com/p/where-have-the-gods-gone
For a topic, I’d like to nominate some aspect of spiritual evolution of your choosing.
What did the Chinese do to help them survive dark ages besides have an understanding of the cyclical nature of civilization?
The Mote in God’s Eye was part of a much broader cycle that started with Jerry Pournelle’s Falkenberg’s Legion stories, sometimes referred to in science fiction fandom as Pournelle’s Future History.
In that cycle, the Second Empire of Man in The Mote in God’s Eye and its sequels is actually the third in a series of human interstellar civilizations, the first two being the CoDominium and the First Empire, with a decline and fall ending in a dark age at the end of each cycle followed by a new cycle in which a successor civilization gradually emerges. Pournelle seems to have been thinking along the same lines as our host and historians such as Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee. Quite a lot of science fiction from that era was based on a cyclical view of history from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels to the Okies in Space (AKA Cities in Flight) stories by James Blish (which he explicitly based on Spengler’s theories).
Way on topic: https://www.thecut.com/2023/03/4b-movement-feminism-south-korea.html?utm_source=pocket-newtab
Here’s the teaser headline: ‘A World Without Men The women of South Korea’s 4B movement aren’t fighting the patriarchy — they’re leaving it behind entirely.”
What they’re doing is “the so-called “escape the corset” movement happening among young women in South Korea. The movement, which first gained popularity in 2018, saw Korean women publicly turn away from societally imposed beauty standards by cutting their hair short and going barefaced. (Youngmi was not alone — in 2019, a survey found that 24 percent of women in their 20s reported cutting back their spending on beauty products in the previous year, with many saying they no longer felt they needed to put in the effort.) This eventually led Youngmi to “4B,” a smaller but growing movement among Korean women. 4B is shorthand for four Korean words that all start with bi-, or “no”: The first no, bihon, is the refusal of heterosexual marriage. Bichulsan is the refusal of childbirth, biyeonae is saying no to dating, and bisekseu is the rejection of heterosexual sexual relationships. It is both an ideological stance and a lifestyle, and many women I spoke to extend their boycott to nearly all the men in their lives, including distancing themselves from male friends.”
I note that one other set of women in Asian society also shave their heads, do not wear makeup, and forswear marriage and children – Buddhist nuns. And fans of Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover novels were fascinated by her Free Amazons/Renunciate sisterhood in an equally patriarchal society. That fell out of fashion when women in the West became able to have careers, independent lives, and free sex lives as described by Petronius. But I found myself thinking of Hamlet’s “Get thee to a nunnery.” For what all this is worth. It feels like a very strong tie-in with the theme of this post.
A great essay – and nice to see some of the ideas from the previous, and their implications for the life cycles of civilizations, being woven together.
My vote is for the influence of Neptune and Uranus in art and culture, and any speculation on their future influence. That is, if you have anything more to say on that subject, than you already have in The Twilight of Pluto.
It occurred to me that the whole nation of “underground” music will fade as does the plutonium influence. I already see, that unless they are “heads”, most millennials don’t care quite as much “underground” type sounds.
Yet, I’m trying to wrap my head around another idea that came to me in a dream where I met a priest of “Universalist Bohemianism.” There was a strong sense to explore this topic, something im researching, reading.
From the history, and what I gather from your book, the idea of Bohemianism coincides with the gathering speed of influence of Uranus, with its eccentricity, and Neptune, with touching te powers of the collective unconscious. As such it seems the Uranian and Neptunian influence will have a longer shelf life in the arts. Allaying myself with those (and writing on related topics) and the rising tide of enchantment seem sensible.
Anyway, these are things that have been on my mind and I’m curious of your own ideas.
Whatever the topic ends up being, fifth wed posts are always a treat.
I think the rock bottom layer of disenchantment is not the lack of belief in the mythical, the miraculous, etc… or mocking such things.
I think the belief that only survival matters is the lowest layer. (Well… the lowest layer in which a person can even function day to day.)
So if general disenchantment is harmful to us then a life centered on survival alone is even worse for the human condition.
Great stuff, oh Archdruid of many talents. This essay got me to wondering about where certain New Thought authors fit on the “Enchanted-Disenchanted” sliding scale. One I’m curious about in particular is Oliver Napolean Hill, the (at least according to his Wikipedia page) rapscallion who wrote “Think And Grow Rich.” I can see arguments in either direction: folks like Hill will come forth to promise, via performance of enchantment rituals, riches to those in disenchanted states who are desperate to get their unfair share of the good times they see dwindling around them; folks like Hill will come forth and honestly believe they are leading readers/disciples to a long-vanished enchanted land of milk and honey if only they open up to the powers of enchantment. The whole kerfuffle around “The Secret” fits in around the edges of my curiousity.
So are works like “Think And Grow Rich” and (shudder) “The Secret” signs of downfall (rubble still bouncing) or signs of renewal (seeing the world as an enchanted and alive place)? Or both? Or some third possibility?
Many thanks as always for all that you do!
You know, it’s a truly weird time. Decline and decay are happening on many scales from the very large and distant to the very near. All those people dismissing “enchantment” – if they could only see how strangely they act, just as if they are under an enchantment themselves – and they possibly are. When I veered my professional career towards education and became a teacher more than a decade ago, I was under the influence of my own subtle feelings and a few writers and believed that society is on the verge of collapse and that I could possibly “do something about it” as small as that contribution might be. Ludicrous.
Now as the mighty pull of the incoming tide is upon us, I realize that there are still many things that need to be done only that they are different from what I imagined them to be. It is good to know that many deeds may serve more than one purpose and sometimes those that can’t be seen directly are the ones that matter most. It’s truly a weird time, that’s for sure and frightening, sometimes. But – just as William described – it feels very alive and that is a good thing. I’ve learned to value prayer, a practice which in my ignorance I once ridiculed.
What really baffles me most – there seems to be so little that can be done by talking. At least not by talking about critical subjects directly. People either side with you or they don’t but there seems to be very high mental barriers to be willing to at least understand, let alone consider your points, much higher than those I encountered in the past.
I agree with #4 that I’d like to see an astrological analysis of what we are going to see in the next few years. I have a feeling that the world is changing very fast, and in deep ways, and I’m so stuck in the middle of it, worrying about mundane things, that I can’t see the whole.
I see these as co-existing tendencies within the same society, like the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment. In our own time we have plenty of “enchanted” subcultures, even if they don’t run everything.
“:…why Chinese culture remains firmly in place five thousand years after its first emergence…”
Under the Yellow Emperor, presumably? 😉 (The “five thousand years” thing is kind of a trope in itsself.) I’m wondering how to decide whether what they have now counts as “the same” culture. How far back does European culture go?
As I ponder what to vote for as a 5th Wednesday topic, I find myself torn between expressing what I would personally be most interested in (JMG on Cayce or the Baha’is); and strategic voting, which probably means supporting the most interesting topic that has already been mentioned, and for which support seems to be building. In that spirit I add my vote for Steiner. (Rudolf, not George.)
If I further stipulate that I hope you will address his influence on Max Heindel and/or whatever other traditions have impacted you (JMG), would this count as a separate topic, and risk dividing the vote? I wouldn’t want to be the weak link that led to an upset victory for, and essay on, Kanye or what have you…
I vote for a discussion of how music connects us to the spiritual.
My father has dementia and is in the last stages of life. His neurologist emphasizes music therapy. I only found this out today! And last week we were discussing this topic in the comments.
If you read the treatment examples on their website it is basically about the spiritual… Basically admitting that modern medicine doesn’t cut the mustard.
My vote is for a discussion about the essay “World Views in Collision” about what’s going on in the decision of when to call things science or pseudo-science, from Douglas Hofstadter’s book “Metamagical Themas”, and about the associated phenomenon of how the universe has, relative to epistemic standards like Hofstadter’s, been seemingly actively maintaining plausible deniability about the supernatural being real, and about whether Hofstadter’s epistemic standards and meta-standards (and meta-meta-standards, and…) would have been correct if he could have somehow known in advance that he wasn’t going to be in a universe that was doing that. (Or whatever it is that the universe has been effectively doing, if not that.)
I have a pitch for other people to vote for that topic but it’s kind of long (~1800 words) and a little impassioned and seems out of place. It’s kind of frustrating, since this topic (modulo the choice of who’s presenting the considered reflective skeptical position with all the meta levels) is really important to me, for “elephant so big that the living room is just a miniature howdah on the back of it” reasons, but nobody else besides James E. Kennedy seems to acknowledge that those reasons even exist, and so therefore it feels impossible to argue from those reasons to anyone in a sufficiently concise and compelling manner, since I have to spend so many words establishing that those reasons even exist and might matter.
Since there’s not necessarily enough that can be usefully talked about in that topic (“universe epistemologically inconveniences someone who happens to otherwise seem to be a sincere reflective thinker, universe refuses to comment, news at 11”), you may wish to veto it, and anyone voting for it might want to designate a topic for a backup vote. My backup vote is for a discussion about whether, given that the universe has heretofore consistently maintained at least a veneer of plausible deniability about the Church-Turing thesis being false (while never giving a consistent explanation of why it’s been choosing to do that), we have a responsibility to plan for the case where the universe might continue to maintain that plausible deniability even where this would require the universe to let strong AI on digital computers work.
A tangent that came up in composition of the pitch, related to the theme of enchantment, is Colin Low’s discussion of how the accessibility of meaning is relative to perspective, in pages 62-63 of his “Notes on Kabbalah” (at the end of the section on “Daat and the Abyss”). I think his particular material claims are basically wrong (I mean he’s right if we consider “scalpels” literally, but not metaphorically); a lot of the work on “AI interpretability” is the kind of work you’d need to prove him wrong. But the more general principle he’s arguing for has at least an interesting resemblance to whatever the truth would be. (The tangent was around the metaphor in the sentence: “Only when Daat flips over to become the Yesod of another world can you know anything about it, but unfortunately the fiery speech of angels is like leprechaun’s gold: by the time you’ve taken it home to show to your friends, you’ve nothing but a purse of dried leaves.”)
Most interested in hearing our hosts take on masculinity, sacred, toxic or otherwise!
Curiously, your post reminded me of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” Trilogy– You remember, it’s the one where a steely-eyed secular sociologist (Hari Seldon) sees that secular civilization is about to fall to barbarism, and sets up a secular society to steer things back to logic in only a thousand years, instead of 10,000.
Then I had an idea. “Wouldn’t it be fun to reverse that; You could start with a seer in the Age of Enchantment who sees secular society rising and, I dunno, makes a curse or a blessing or something that will bring the Enchantment back again. Instead of “Hari”, you could call him something similar, like “Hali.”…
Oh wait– I’ve read an engaging series along those lines called the Weird of Hali!
Hmmm, did that happen by accident ? Well, the stars have almost come around right again anyway…
Data point: My daughter mentioned that her niece Mikaela had been accepted into GW Law School, but was thinking of taking a year off just working at a job, to rest her mind, because she’d been pushing very hard. Then she said “Every parent in the world is pushing their children very, very hard right now.” And that’s intense involvement with the children. (On a scale of 1-3, she’s more than a Mama Bear, she’s a Tiger Mother. But not, thank the gods, a Dragon Mother.)
And – every parent in the world?!?!
But, yes, all her and her families’ charities are the widespread global ones, and in 2019 she dismissed the Gainesville Sun as “Not having any news, just local stuff.” Me, I made a sudden switch a few years earlier to focusing on local charities doing concrete work (as opposed to educating people about the goodness or badness of whatever). It’s limited, it’s focused, and you know what it’ doing. For what that’s worth. And still thought of myself as a true-blue liberal then and for many years after. It just makes common sense.
?? Why do bad ideas hang on forever, while the good ideas are fading and falling like leaves on the trees??
First of all, a thank you to everyone who’s proposed a topic for the fifth Wednesday this month; your votes have been tabulated. With that said…
Josh, good. Yes, that’s exactly the issue here: combine the cycle of cosmic evolution with the craving for some newer and better future and you get exactly that, the notion that we’re all evolving in lockstep and so we can expect a shining future we didn’t individually earn.
Jill, thanks for this.
Fra’ Lupo, good! We’ll be getting to that as the discussion continues, as one writer I have in mind had some things to say about that pendulum swing.
Downside, I haven’t read it. My local library system has a copy, though, so I can remedy that.
Kimberly, that’s quite possible, but the troll might also have been an atheist. It fascinates me how many of those have accepted all the presuppositions of the Christianity they think they’re rejecting!
Degringolade, it’s been a good long time since I’ve pursued that particular entertainment! As for the current war over there, there’s certainly a wild mismatch; I have my own suspicions about how it will end, but we’ll see.
Moose, well, there you are!
Pygmycory, for what it’s worth, I’m watching the bank situation really closely. “Homesick rocks” is a keeper, by the way. 😉
Chuaquin, he’s got to make that claim or the entire dream of unchecked progress straight to Utopia bends in a circle and then goes swirling down the drain.
Clarke, I know the feeling! It took me a little longer to get into this stuff, and of course I’m a little younger than you, but parts of my journey have been a long lonely road. This blog and my journal have helped that, so I’m doubly glad they’ve been of benefit to you as well.
Kalihi, the crucial point is this: don’t try to reinterpret the magic in terms of rationalist theories. Present it the way it’s traditionally been presented, full of enchantment, and it’ll be fine.
Yavanna, you have to pick one or the other!
Joel, thanks for this!
Robert, you’d think that after twenty-odd centuries that point might start to sink in…
Milkyway, oh, it’s more than that. The fall and rise of enchantment and the rise and fall of civilization are two different ways of looking at the same process.
Ben, we’ll get to that soon! I’m currently planning a post using portraits from several different cultures to talk about the relationship between disenchantment and individual experience.
Will, to my mind Steiner was right that there needed to be historical space for that but wrong in thinking that it would happen all at once. The theory of historical cycles he inherited from the early Theosophists didn’t provide room for multiple cycles — they were creatures of their time, and of course so was he.
Ben, I don’t discount it at all; I simply don’t think we all march through it together over the course of human history. As for superstition, why, we’ll get to that.
Fra’ Lupo, Fellini did indeed. It’s loosely based on the original, but captures the spirit very well.
Panda, excellent! Yes — Gebser et al. assumed linear progress because that was the model that experience presented to them. It’s fairly common at that stage of the development of a civilization; then stasis sets in, followed by contraction, and you get Hesiod, who believed that everything was moving the other way.
Your Kittenship, my guess is that Jason Josephson-Storm’s book put the concept into circulation. I hadn’t heard about Dreher — I hope he lands on his feet.
Luke D, many thanks for this!
Luke Z, the resiliences built into Chinese society would be a good subject for a post; I’ll consider that as a future option.
Platypus, as I recall Blish actually cited Spengler somewhere as a major influence on his Cities in Flight stories. It fascinates me that science fiction today can’t handle such ideas.
Patricia M, hmm! I’ll look into it, because yes, it does have some important resonances.
Justin, “Universalist Bohemianism” sounds like a fun religion. How familiar are you with the history of youth countercultures? Hint: as far as I know, they showed up about the time that Neptune did…
GlassHammer, “to survive is not always enough,” as the Bujun say. (And I wonder if anyone anywhere will recognize that quote…)
Bryan, each new force entering the historical arena appears in unbalanced and distorted forms first, and only later takes on a balanced and constructive form. (That’s a bit of Cabalistic lore, btw.) The debased forms of New Thought you’ve cited are good examples: something potentially very interesting, but first appearing in frankly fairly toxic forms.
Nachtgurke, it’s the supreme weirdness of our time that the great enchantment most people are under is one that makes them believe that there are no enchantments!
Bei, how many European nations trace their cultural heritage back before the Age of Migrations? As for your stipulation, if I talk about Steiner I’ll certainly reference Heindel and George Winslow Plummer, for whatever that’s worth.
E. Goldstein, heh heh heh…
Patricia M, “world” is a very flexible concept. This planet contains lots of ’em…
I second Luke Z’s “What did the Chinese do to help them survive dark ages besides have an understanding of the cyclical nature of civilization?”
There are already about 2 dozen great ideas for the extra post – Kudos to you all!
Can I throw a vote towards Malleus M suggestion for a mundane astrological update on current events.
It seems to me that one of the reasons for the long term survival of China as a civilization is the concept of the dynastic cycle and the Mandate of Heaven. The dynastic cycle is based on the idea that dynasties and other political regimes come and go, but China endures and adapts, while the Mandate of Heaven is based on the notion that a given dynasty or regime only has the right to rule so long as it governs well. Once the inevitable rot sets in and the current elites are no longer able to govern in a competent and just manner, it is perfectly legitimate for challengers to attempt to overthrow them and establish a new government. This has given China a degree of flexibility and long term stability that few if any other civilizations can match.
I cast another vote for Jbucks’ recommendation of “tonic” or “sacred” masculinity. A lot of young men nowadays are trying to rediscover the classical virtues, and any help we can give them will repay us all down the line.
Masterful series of essays, JMG. It’s fascinating to see how the majority of intellectuals, caught in the spirit of their time, are blinded to other possible visions of history and end up cherry-picking the data – either consciously or unconsciously – to support whatever is “the current thing”. The myth of linear progress (be it material or socially/spiritually) certainly ‘enchanted’ the West and much of the rest of the world throughout the 20th century. I am convinced that most self-described ‘intellectuals’ these days still blindly buy into this myth even as the moral and intellectual bankruptcy of our current time is crashing over their heads…
“As the accelerating process of decline in our society lets the waters of enchantment flow back in, it’s possible to catch that incoming tide—and that opens up possibilities closed to those who remain caught in the disenchanted state.” For most of my adult life I have foreseen that incoming tide of enchantment and have been trying my best to prepare for it but not knowing if it would come within my lifetime. And a fair bit of that ‘prep’ has been digesting what you have been saying on this topic in so many different ways over the years. It now seems to me that the enchantment may be flooding in sooner than I had previously imagined. I am certainly eager to learn whatever ship-building and navigation skills you can impart at this truly surreal time amid a decade that will likely be a turning point in many ways. Thanks in advance for what is coming. Surf’s up!
In terms of a topic for the extra Wednesday, I’d like to see a discussion of the rugged step down the slope of collapse that we appear to be in and a look at the future year or two of this rugged step with the aid of mundane astrology.
I always want to hear about ALL the proposed topics. The calendar needs more 5th Wednesdays.
It’s hard to choose, but I’ll go with the mundane astrology.
I third Chinese resilience.
JMG: Your comments on the Golden Legend were most enlightening! When writing about saints killed during the different “persecutions,” I have noticed how the earliest reports are much more matter-of-fact than the stuff you find in the Golden Legend. For example, compare St. Jerome’s account of St. Agnes 70 years after her c. 304 death to the Golden Legend, and you’ll note a distinct lack of people being struck blind by angels, flames refusing to burn her, etc.
I (being a child of the Era of Disenchantment) had put that down as a sign of how far medieval Europe had “fallen” compared to Rome. But when you look at it as a sign of the re-Enchantment of post-Roman Europe, it makes much more sense. Jerome, an educated man from a wealthy Roman-Illyrian family, wanted to give an accurate account of the historical facts concerning Agnes’ death. Jacobus de Voragine compiled the legends which had sprung up around her because he felt they reflected the power of one of early Christendom’s most popular and beloved saints.
Calling The Golden Legend “inaccurate” may be correct, but it misses the point. Jacobus believed, not unreasonably, that a God who could create the universe could continue to create signs and wonders — and so could his especially devout followers.
Catholicism retains its belief in Enchantment and saints to this day. My home parish (St. Lucy’s of Newark, NJ) is also the home of the National Shrine to St. Gerard Maiella, a Calabrian saint who is most famous for helping expectant mothers. Our St. Gerard statue became famous as a pilgrimage site for women who were having difficulty conceiving, so popular that it became recognized as St. Gerard’s national shrine.
At the festival this year there were three poster boards covered with pictures of babies who were conceived after their parents visited the Shrine — and those are just from the couples who sent pictures. A disenchanted skeptic would argue that this is mere coincidence. But at this point there have been tens of thousands of babies born after their parents asked for St. Gerard’s intercession, and the St. Gerard festival at St. Lucy’s is entering its 123rd year. So if this is a Papist delusion, it’s a remarkably popular and successful one. 😉
Great essay, and looking forward to more! As you say, there were lots of voices pointing out the differences of mind across antiquity and European history that don’t fit in a linear model. One work often cited by CS Lewis is Auerbach’s Mimesis, which has great chapters on Homer, Petronius and Ammianus Marcellinus, among many others. It is impossible that Barfield didn’t know it very well.
I can’t claim creation rights on ‘homesick rocks’. I read the description in a Glynn Stewart novel, loved it, and used it myself.
Dear JMG, For the extra Wednesday, I would love to know your understanding of human population dynamics. Specifically, I am confused by all the hoopla surrounding “aging populations” where there are not enough young people to provide for the old through their labour. Theories of future destruction are portrayed, with Japan often used as an example. The arguments makes sense, however:-
1)Has this ever happened in the past and did the society REALLY die out? Or was maybe replaced by someone else, like the Romans then and the Europeans seem to be right now?
2)This earth can’t possibly accomodate more people, shouldn’t we be celebrating a decline in population?
3) If birth decline really is a genuine problem, can we handle it in a way where keep declining population but also keep society stable?
4)I am wondering how my own homeland of the Indian Subcontinent handled this issue, since the culture, along with the Chinese culture, has been here long enough. Or is a long-lived aging population something totally new to human society?
E. Goldstein (no. 73), in Kurt Busiek’s “Astro City” comic, there is a Superman pastiche called “the Samaritan” who is sent from the future to prevent ecological collapse–a mission which, if successful, would prevent his whole civilization from ever existing. His enemy is another time-traveler–a sorcerer from an even further, more barbaric (even Hyborean) future that comes after the fall of the Samaritan’s high-tech one, which he is trying to prevent being erased.
(Remember that Superman was originally supposed to be a more highly-evolved man from the future–think Nietzsche–not a human-like alien from Krypton.)
Vote for post on comparing paths of power, love, and wisdom.
To Patricia, “Then she said “Every parent in the world is pushing their children very, very hard right now.””
My daughter said much the same thing to me. She also mentioned that a majority of the classmates and workmates were not planning on having children. These are all young women who could change their minds, but the scene is set for a ferocious drop in population.
Once again, I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes. Thank you!
Platypus, that’s certainly one important part of it.
Ron, one of the things that tends to blindside people in times like these is that the incoming tide of enchantment creeps in through the crawlspaces at first, and it takes a keen eye to notice it. Perhaps, though, in some recent situation or other, you’ve spotted people acting as though they were under a spell? More on this in due time!
Kenaz, St. Jerome was interested in facts; Bl. Jacobus de Voragine, to give him his proper Catholic title, was interested in truths. Both are realities, of course, but different points on the historical cycle focus more on one or the other, since truths enchant and facts disenchant. I’m glad to hear that your end of the Catholic church is keeping up its enchantments; that’s a useful habit just now.
Aldarion, thanks for the reminder — I need to reread Auerbach as we proceed. You’re quite right that Barfield should have paid more attention to such voices.
Pygmycory, so noted! It’s a great line.
Mohsin, I’ll consider doing a post on that at some point whether or not it gets picked for the fifth Wednesday. The very short form is that a lot of rich, geriatric Americans and western Europeans are panicked because falling birth rates put their stock portfolios at risk.
Avalterra (offlist), I received it but haven’t had time to follow up on it.
The resilience of Chinese civilization is related to the pursuit of immortality, and you can see a similar situation in Egyptian civilization. An example of Chinese civilization preventing its disappearance is the Great Wall. Qin Shihuang (a tyrant seeking immortality) understood that the unconquerable nomads in the north were an eternal threat to the empire, so he built the Great Wall with absolute tyranny at any cost, and the Great Wall as a man-made The obstacles ensured that Chinese civilization would not be absorbed by the rising civilizations like India did.
But this in turn weakens the ability of Chinese civilization to spread abroad, just as you can easily find a rural Chinese who believes in Buddhism, but it is almost impossible to find an urban Indian who believes in Confucianism. This is why the strong influence of “Tao-Confucianism” is only reflected in East Asia.
Of course, this is not a good thing in many senses, especially for those who are critical of the pursuit of immortality. First of all, the long-term existence of civilization suppresses the development of other new cultures. For example, Japanese culture is theoretically younger than Faust civilization. But a severely stunted culture. Second, since civilization’s quest for immortality violates the laws of nature, these civilizations are prone to respond to nature in gigantic but more foolish ways, such as failed long-term control of rivers, or giant graves that prolong the decay of corpses as long as possible. Finally, in the eternal sense, these pursuits will eventually fail. Just as Egyptian civilization died out when the Apollo civilization rose, Chinese civilization has already entered a similar stage. In the past few centuries, the coastal areas of East Asia have gradually developed into a sea-centered region similar to the Mediterranean Sea. Japan has been free from Chinese rule for a long time and has gradually developed into “Britain in East Asia”. The closed geographical influence guaranteed by the Great Wall in the past disappeared and accelerated the demise of Chinese civilization. Communism entered China from Shanghai. And it has severely damaged the influence of Confucianism on the Chinese people in recent decades is a good example.
JMG (no. 75) “Bei, how many European nations trace their cultural heritage back before the Age of Migrations?”
Britain and Greece aside, I contend that the European identification with Homer and the Bible–or even mythic Atlantis–is as valid a continuity as anything the Chinese have.In each case we have big linguistic and genetic shifts, and even greater cultural changes (our ancestors would hardly recognize us), to the point that all our identities are more or less fictive. Thus Swiss nationalists identified with ancient Helvetia, Poles with Sarmatia, France with Gaul, Florida with the Seminoles, Mormons with the Nephites, etc.
The comment that as Rome was collapsing, those in power would proclaim that all the effects of this collapse were nothing but random hiccups or small issues to be ironed out. This reminds of much of the media in our current time. In addition to being full-on propaganda organs for the establishment the daily chore of outlets like the NYT or NPR is to assure the comfortable classes that everything is just fine. Every issues is just an interesting glitch, or harmless twist of human nature. I was talking with my NYT reading, Triple vaxed, retired academic friend about the collapse of SVB. He of course thought it was the fault of that “rotten libertarian “Peter Theil” and it was just a bit of bad luck that they had a bank run. Not that the financial system is rotten and on the brink of collapse. I think that is why these same outlets are so fixated on Putin. The war in the Ukraine is not a quickly growing crack in the empire, but just twist of fate that an evil deluded autocrat ( they love that word) has ginned up. Once he is gone things will be just Jim Dandy again, and all those unfortunate saps around the world will once again clamor for Coca Cola bottling plants and NFL Francises.
I have a feeling that even when the Mule Carts are hauling away bits of the Brooklyn Bridge for salvage, the NYT will still be telling us how this year’s season on Broadway is the best ever ( even though it is nothing but a puppet show In the back window of a rusty trailer) or that all the most fashionable folks are eating Possum Pie and wearing Burlap.
I would like to endorse Luke Dodson’s rebuttal on Naomi Wolf’s essay. There is something unsettling about Naomi Wolf talking religion. Luke’s reply is thoughtful and well worth reading. Just in case it gets buried in the comments, here it is again:
Also, not that I am any kind of authority, but I wrote an essay about toxic masculinity earlier this year:
“Yavanna, you have to pick one or the other!” Sorry, I’m a classic Libra who can’t make up her mind 🙂 I’d like to see a post on sacred masculinity. Thank you!
I also vote for a post on China and why it is so resilient, or a post on Asia in general.
JMG – people acting as though they are under a spell? Seriously? OK, joking aside, I’d say that I’ve noticed – oh, about 95% of people behaving like they’ve been under the spell of a powerful sorcerer for the past 36 months. However, I’ve also also noticed in North America a sudden recent resurgence of Christianity in certain corners which have had a spell-like quality to it (which I have suspected of perhaps being the start of our culture’s Second Religiosity – though I may be wrong).
Thank you again for another infesting article.
I wanted to ask you about the pace of this re-enchantment. If I understand your views correctly you follow Spengler and believe there will be a second religiosity, that religion will make a resurgence as secularism wanes. All the data I have seen shows American church attendance dropping like a rock, and at this point it looks like Islam is a better candidate for a religious rebirth in Europe than Christianity. With that said, obvious signs of conservatism and nationalism are brewing across the world. I don’t expect you to be a picture perfect prophet, but roughly when would you expect religion to begin its resurgence? Is this something we should expect long after everyone alive today is dead? Is it more of a “it could happen any day now” kind of thing? Is it too difficult to tell?
Also, as far as the fifth Wednesday goes… I would love to hear you once again weigh in on financial matters considering how crazy the banks are behaving right now.
JMG, I swear to dog you had a post that explained why the Oedipus myth was so important to the ancient Greeks. Do you or any of the commentariat know where that one is located? Or is anyone willing to give me an extremely brief “For Dummies” explanation?
I also vote for Luke Z’s “What did the Chinese do to help them survive dark ages besides have an understanding of the cyclical nature of civilization?”
To those who are interested, here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. Please feel free to add any or all of them to your prayers.
If I missed anybody on the full list, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and/or at the prayer list page.
This week I would like to bring special attention to a few prayer requests.
Mr. Beekeeper (Beekeeper in Vermont’s husband), who was airlifted to a hospital in Albany NY for heart issues, for blessings, protection, and healing. Mr. Beekeeper was originally scheduled for bypass surgery on Thursday, but that’s been cautiously postponed in favor of testing for blood clots.
Praesepe, who got a double mastectomy on March 8th. No update from Praesepe yet, and I don’t expect to hear from her for a little while, but in this time of great transformation for her, please continue to pray for her to overcome her cancer; for blessings and her protection, and for her healing.
Lp9’s request on behalf of their hometown, East Palestine Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people and all living beings in the area. The details coming out are still caught in the fog of war, and various claims of catastrophe and non-catastrophe are flying about, but the reasonable possibility seems to exist that this is an environmental disaster on par with the worst America has ever seen. At any rate, it is clearly having a devastating impact on the local area, and prayers are certainly warranted.
And as the vernal equinox approaches, I’m adding one more prayer to the list for the next week. I’d like to ask that each of us praying give thanks to the powers and entities we have been connecting with for all of the blessings that they’ve brought to everyone who has appeared on prayer list these last few months.
Finally, if there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological Hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.
Do you think that urbanization is a factor in disenchantment, and de-urbanization in reinchantment? It’s a longstanding idea in environmental psychology that growing up in an environment that is almost entirely shaped by human action has a measurable effect on the individual brain, but I haven’t heard of anyone looking at the capacity for spirituality/enchantment in particular.
How about dependence directly on nature for one’s living vs. dependence on the money economy? The two ways of getting a living require two very different ways of thinking about and relating to ones surroundings.
Does the age of disenchantment have to to do with increasing urbanisation? It seems to me be most enchanted times are those feudal eras where cities are small and most people of the culture live in some connection to the land. It’s easy to understand that living in the bigger and bigger cities of the civilisation phase, surrounded by rigid, dead structures all day, people become disenchanted. A feeling also starts to seep in that the human intellect can ‘conquer’ nature, and that we can figure out all mysteries.
(1) JMG wrote: the resiliences built into Chinese society would be a good subject for a post.
Its more than a good subject, I’d say it is critically important! If the resiliences can be identified and injected in other societies, it would be high time for all of us to turn chinese to some extent! But do take your time! No hassle!
(2) JMG also wrote: “The fall and rise of enchantment and the rise and fall of civilization are two different ways of looking at the same process.”
Fascinating! Are you saying that enchantments and civilisations are incompatible to a large extent insofar that as one is on the ascent the other is on the decline? Then how about the Egyptian civilisations, for example, which seemed to me highly adept at magic…
In the Christian religion. As far as the Biblical record seems to show is that miracles don’t happen most of the time. They are concentrated at particular times when genuine Prophets end up on the scene.
It is often missed that the historical periods where those miracles happened had large gaps. Sometimes of centuries. I have heard that Daniel never had anything supernatural occur in his life until he was an old man in his 60-90’s. And even then decades passed before other significant visions and prophecies happened.
Perhaps the Beauty of Nature and Civilization helps to hold back disenchantment somehow in the past. Our Ancestors had all the Glory of the stars of heaven, the moon and the Milky Way Galaxy to stare at.
But with the ugliness of Modernity the sense of Enchantment is chased away far more quickly.
But really its hidden in the devices we use. Like the Computer we currently use to communicate that harnesses lightning. If modern technology is regularized Magick we are definitely used to them and their forms does look to be more uglier very often than their idealizations.
Unlike the Magick portrayed in a lot of Fiction it does involve quite a bit of infrastructure and complex supply chains to render possible
Life is mostly humdrum. Just the way things go.
We often forget that that key figures like the Lord Jesus worked 18 years as an Artisan and focused on running a business. Nothing Supernatural then. Just the everyday routines.
And only 3 years involved the miraculous at the end of his earthly life before the Resurrection.
Since your remarks on Steiner at various points have piqued my interest in your take of him I am using this opportunity to vote for a post on Steiner
So, in Spengler’s terms, this would make The Golden Legend and the Greek myths contemporaneous, similarly Beowulf and the Odyssey, or the Satyricon and any modern novel. In other words, while Wilber, Barfield and Gebser, together with so many others, put everything in human history on one timeline, and straighten history out, so to speak, Spengler puts everything in the history of a culture and civilization on its own timeline, so that comparisons across the timelines of a variety of cultures and civilizations are possible, looking at similar stages in each. To me it seems that what this accomplishes, besides a demolition of distinctions like primitive (a term the Western intelligentsia doesn’t use much anymore for reasons of perceived sensitivity) versus modern, and all the hypothesized stages in between, is to allow all of these cultures and civilizations plenty of room to breathe, so to speak, without being straight-jacketed into one timeline which, quite frankly, seems obviously now to be driven by the myth of progress, which means it itself is a mythical understanding of history (if I understand the response to one of the comments correctly). In other words, this linear view of history is presupposed by the progressive point of view, and no other point of view can be contemplated without putting the ax(e) to the intellectual roots of Western civilization, which it has been said none of these authors are willing to do. Now, Westerners are plenty capable of criticizing themselves these days, but it is not radical enough. This also makes clear the pseudomorphism that Spengler talks about. The culture of Western Europe arose within a defunct Roman milieu, but the culture itself wasn’t Roman. It certainly wasn’t Greek. Yet the West claims these cultures as part of its history, which I think only compounds the problem of how to “read” history. It’s almost like a very intentional bricolage which doesn’t get to the roots of what is going on, which I think this series of articles intends to do.
With regards to Chinese resilience, I think it is down to the peasantry. F H King’s book “Farmers of Forty Centuries” is worth reading on this. The jaw-dropping dedication, co-operation, attention to detail, deep knowledge and endurance of the people growing the food, and the awareness at all levels of society that they are the foundations of prosperity speaks for itself.
It us also a good herald of a low energy, low resource, high population future.
Nomination for a 5th-week topic – the psychopathology of political partisanship. I don’t of course mean to define one side or the other as nuts, like the Soviets used to do to their dissidents. What I do mean is, are there studies of the mental mechanisms that allow otherwise intelligent people to pretend that all truth is on the side of [x] and none on [y]?
I would point out that Apuleius’ Golden Ass – a little later than the Satyricon, but at least complete, and written well before the Roman collapse – is a tad schizophrenic in its handling of enchantment. Apuleius’ handling of the Cupid/Psyche story is profoundly cynical about the classical gods… and yet throughout the rest of the narrative, magic is very much an everyday thing. And the section at the end where our protagonist escapes his donkey-form and finds himself initiated into the Cult of Isis is drenched in sincere enchantment.
(A similar sort of schizophrenia around the same time is Lucian of Samosata’s account of the Syrian Goddess. Lucian is generally deeply disenchanted in his works, but in this one case? He switches to being uncharacteristically reverent).
Mohsin, JMG, I vote for the aging populations (at some point). In the olden days people died before they got very old (but not nearly as quickly as the industrialists wanted the factory workers wanted them to think they did, to keep them from complaining). If you survived childhood, you had a fair chance of getting to a decent age (and you had a lot more holidays than even Europeans get now, in Medieval society), so the population was a pyramid, with fewer old people for younger people to look after. The baby boomers, and the, still living, silent generation, have changed this into a bubble. Under 20 you learn, 30s and 40s you earn and spend on goods and services, 50s you invest, after paying off your mortgage and kicking the kids out, providing capital for investment, 60s you cash in, taking out investment money into “safe savings”. The bubble therefore mean less investment cash, less workers, less goods and services (a good thing from this blog’s perspective, but a disaster for mainstream thinking), more old people to look after, and no incentive for people to have babies, as they live in cities, where children are noisy and expensive, rather than being free labour in the country. China, Japan, South Korea have enormous problems, Russia is making its problems even worse by slaughtering its working population. Europe, and North America’s problems are slightly less acute. Ironically (in a horrifically, macabre way) Merkel’s open doors policy (refugees tend to be motivated, young, educated, with money – old, poor people can’t manage or afford the journey from Africa to Europe) and the Ukraine war may go some way to ameliorating Europe’s problem. If only the world could get over racism, how much better everything would be! None of this, of course, takes into account JMG’s outlining of the circular nature of civilisations, the position our global industrial civilisation is in, or the effects of the pincer movements of the end of fossil fuels and climate change. I look forward to the ideas being reflected on! https://fr.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:China_population_pyramid_%282018%29.jpg
I’m Enchanted!, Enchanted I tell you! that when I look up the etymology of enchanted it comes from the Latin “incantare” which means “to sing into” or “to sing upon”.
This really makes me think about enchantment a bit differently. Similar to how I’m now thinking about “homeless rocks”! (And I have a large rock collection! Mainly fluorescent minerals. Anybody around DC area should come to the Rock Show at the Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg this weekend. Ask for the fluorescent tent and Eric. I’ll give you a demonstration including some magic! 😉
Everything is singing all around us. And guess what? Since we are a small piece of this infinite universe we can both hear the singing (in our souls, and literally!) AND we can sing!
Most of the time, truthfully almost all the time currently, whenever we actually try to sing we are treated like the Prince in Monty Python! The music starts up. You start to sing. The first words start coming out of your mouth and in rushes your “father” (or maybe Uncle Sam!) waving their arms and saying “Stop! Stop!” And the music, and singing, winds down like a record slowing down and stopping.
Or more likely somebody just turns on the TV.
All this makes me want to vote again on a post about music and spirituality (and, of course, enchantment).
(Maybe the next 5th Wednesday? Looks like Rudolf is next. Which also sounds good.)
Here’s the etymology (I’m sure there is more, but this is a good start.):
late 14c., literal (“practice sorcery or witchcraft on”) and figurative (“delight in a high degree, charm, fascinate”), from Old French enchanter “bewitch, charm, cast a spell” (12c.), from Latin incantare “to enchant, fix a spell upon,” from in- “upon, into” (from PIE root *en “in”) + cantare “to sing” (from PIE root *kan- “to sing”). Or perhaps a back-formation from enchantment.
So much of this reminds me of CS Lewis works; “The discarded image”, “men without chests”, “the abolition of man”. Perhaps Lewis was as much an apologetic for enchantment as he was for Christianity. I vote for an essay on toxic masculinity.
Rudolf Steiner +1
Not a fan of biodinamic farming, since I think that non scientific approaches to farming are subjective to the specifics of the land, but I am curious of what you have to say.
The last two paragraphs really hit home. As each day passes, I am finding it harder and harder to engage with the disenchanted world. It is incredibly dull and depressing. Art and Architecture is bland. Movies and Television endlessly recycle the same half dozen tropes, plots and archetypes. Most people look, behave, talk and consume in the same manner. There is a general weariness, apathy and listlessness everywhere.
At the same time, the enchanted world is so full of energy and activity. The Sun, the Moon, the Stars and the Planets still follow their regular paths. But their interactions keep changing, and every moment is different from the previous one. Flora and Fauna find creative ways to live and flourish in each generation. Rain, wind, sunshine and snow seem alive and lively. There is an idiosyncrasy to the enchanted world that gives a sense of adventure to explore.
By contrast, manmade systems feel cold, impersonal and lifeless. Anyone who has called an automated customer service phone number can understand the feeling. Let’s not get started on the faux-AI chatbots with their cliched sentences and programmed saccharine civility.
People are becoming disenchanted with the disenchanted world because it has turned out to be so disappointing.
I will add my vote to the “sacred masculinity” topic. One aspect of particular interest is the change in religious and magical understanding/practice over the last century or so from one where masculine and feminine roles were distinct (not that men have the SAME role across time, but just that men and women in any particular religion/culture/order have different roles from each other) to the current norm of non-distinction. Is this related to the idea of “toxic masculinity”?
JMG #75, about this:
„The fall and rise of enchantment and the rise and fall of civilization are two different ways of looking at the same process.“
So what would you say is the underlying cause? (I don‘t suppose you‘d think it‘s accidental that these processes seem to coincide, or do you?)
And if you don’t mind, there’s something else I‘ve been pondering for a while now: If so many things are cyclical, how do we know that our own development isn‘t cyclical as well? I.e. that (human) beings at some point reach a „maximum level of enlightenment“ (or however you‘d like to call it), either here on the material plane or elsewhere, and then either start back over as a rock, or „develop backwards“ until they finally reach rock-dom again, and then start over from there?
I know it sounds implausible. But it also doesn‘t sound very attractive, and sometimes when things aren‘t attractive, our personal preferences tend to cloud our understanding… So how can we be sure that we as single beings develop in a (mostly) linear fashion and not in one big cycle, too?
@Princess Cutekitten #81,
Maybe if we‘d all gang up on a certain druid and cast all our votes for a „month of Fifth Wednesdays“? But then we’d miss out on the other, regularly scheduled posts. I suppose the only other alternative would be to team up for a magical working to bring more Fifth Wednesdays into the month… 😉
Thanks for the tip John! Part of this “Universalist Bohemianism” does relate to my reading of Hesses’s the Journey to the East, last summer and subsequent reading up on the Wandervogel phenomenon.
I have always been fascinated by various subcultures, and have loved reading about them since my own time as a teenager.
I do have a copy of Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture by Jon Savage on my shelf at home. I’ve dipped into it, but haven’t read it in whole. Clearly that needs to be remedied. I’ll have to find some other books on the topic as well.
All these things continue to speak to me and I think there is a trail there for me to follow.
Btw, do people do planetary charity to Neptune and Uranus too? Just curious. I don’t often hear people mentioning that on Magic Mondays.
After reading this post yesterday, surprisingly and right on cue I ran across two new articles today that are themselves evidence of the historical process that you’re describing.
You wrote two weeks ago:
“This is most clearly seen whenever somebody from that period uttered the phrase “nothing but.” The universe is nothing but dead matter and energy, the psyche is nothing but the activities of the brain, love is nothing but hormones—the list goes on and on, showing the mental structure in its final, terminal period.”
Mary Harrington in today’s Unherd has a piece about Mystic Meg, a famous astrologer who recently died (first I’ve heard of her). Her piece discusses the occult, but she thinks the occult is equivalent to today’s “sorcerers” who work in tech, staring at the arcane language of computer code and statistics.
She writes her own version of ‘nothing but’ (emphasis mine):
“Whether or not you believe there’s anything paranormal “out there”, a great many studies affirm that most of the time when we notice patterns, we’re not conscious of doing so; what can feel like a “hunch” or “intuition” is really just our own powers of unconscious observation trying to get our attention. In this light, one way of understanding the many traditions of “reading” fortunes — whether in Tarot cards, the flight patterns of birds, tea leaves in a cup or the entrails of animals — is as a means of accessing some of these buried powers of pattern recognition, and allowing less conscious and sometimes more accurate observations to inform our conscious choices.”
And, you wrote in this post:
“As the zenith of disenchantment arrives, conservative writers place their hopes on a revitalization of rural life…”
Paul Kingsnorth posted a new post today on Substack about options for people disaffected with culture at large, and looks at historical fringe societies who were ungovernable – and very rural.
He ends his essay with:
“England’s shadow self Robyn Hode, who flits through his shatter zone, the English greenwood, with his merry band of refuseniks in tow. We could do worse than to find our own greenwood and take our stand there, beneath the shelter of its great, ancient oaks.”
Anyway, some data points that seem to reinforce this series of posts on enchantment!
(Kingsnorth included in his essay the term ‘self-barbarisation’. I was amused to see the unintellectual, elemental thing described by the word ‘barbarian’ get tamed by getting an ‘-isation’ tacked on the end of it. Someday I will utter a guttural sound, say ‘grwwwllaaaRRGGHHH’ and have it enter pop culture somehow as a term to see if, one day, it will be awarded an ‘-isation’ by intellectuals. Onwards to GrwwwllaaaRRGGHHHisation!
I laugh, but I do this, too, so it’s also at myself.)
A bit more etymology…
Card for flax or wool. Charm. Incantation. Magic. Play. Poem. Prayer. Ritual. Song.
Carmen has the same origin as incant!
I find it interesting that in today’s world we are all “Car Men”! Funny how the Carmen can be used in both a materialistic/technology meaning and a spiritual meaning.
Put my vote for Chinese resilience.
On this theme I just now happened upon a comment that the occultist and novelist, Sax Rohmer, made back in 1925:
“Of the illusions which amuse the childish mind of man, that of Scientific Progress is not the least absurd. It is the most popular toy in the nursery called Modern Civilization. The wisdom of yesterday is the jest of to-day—the superstition of to-morrow. Human experience shows this to be the case. Yet we go on believing we are making discoveries.”
This is from Rohmer’s “Preface” to R. W. Councell’s interesting short book, Apologia Alchymiae [“A Defense of Alchemy].
I know you asked our host, but I really felt like responding to this one. So anyway, here goes –
1) Population die-offs have happened throughout history. Take for example:
a) The native people of Easter Island. Their population peaked and then declined to a very low point, which is when the Europeans found them living in a semi-savage state. The reason for said decline was their inept handling of the fragile ecosystems their society depended upon.
b) Mayans – similar to the Easter Island people; however, the Mayans went through multiple cycles of rise and fall (interesting fact: the Mayan civilization is approximately of the same age as classical Indian civilization, i.e. the civilization which was the organic creation of the post-Indus dark age multi-ethnic peoples), and even after their final period of decline, they didn’t completely die – they were mostly subsumed by the Aztecs, and some Mayan principalities survived right up to the incoming of Cortes and other Europeans.
c) Imperial Rome too went through population decline – I remember reading part of a speech by Augustus, in which he implored Romans to have children, and declared that those who chose voluntary childlessness were on par with murderers.
2) I personally agree with this point. I do want to get married, but I would prefer to adopt a kid or two. I do not subscribe to the fear-mongering about mass voluntary childlessness; most Indians of my generation (I’m 26) will definitely have kids if they can, and those who choose to remain childless will be in a minority. Nevertheless, that will still be a good thing from the ecology POV.
3) I don’t think there’s a pretty solution to this. The only ‘solutions’ which might work are draconian in nature, if not violent.
4) I personally think Indian civilization has been through population explosions and contractions in the past. One way of coping with this is monastic orders like that of Buddhism and Jainism – I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that these two religions were born and took off when Indic society was quite populated, especially given that both originated in Bihar, which was (and still is) a demographic heavyweight.
Things have gone the other way too. The collapse of the Mauryan Empire saw Indic civilization enter into a dark age of sorts. It is exactly in this period that the older Dharmashastras were composed and written, and they emphasize the importance of procreation and family life.
Hope this helps:)
Regarding falling birth rates (I know it’s an off-topic discussion, but am only following up on the discussion, so I hope you don’t mind my question) –
In Hindu tradition, there is something called prayopavesha. It has been likened to suicide, but it’s more like voluntary gradual withdrawal from life and towards death. To give an example:
Suppose A is diagnosed with stomach cancer at the age of 85. Now, A can easily afford expensive chemotherapy that can cure the cancer, but choses not too. Instead, he goes ahead with prayopavesha. Thus, the only medical care he choses to avail himself of is palliative care, and gradually decreases his food intake, eventually living only on water till his death. In his last days, A spends time with his near and dear ones, and undertakes moderate religious observances, until he finally passes away.
Such a practice could tie in very well with what the French call triage, thus freeing up limited resources for younger people. Could popularizing such a practice help? I’m personally skeptical about the same, but I’d like to know your thoughts on this.
Thought I would share this with everyone. I got around to this Charles Eisenstein essay today and thought it was a rather apt description of disenchantment and re-enchantment. Enjoy
This could be a vote for a 5th week topic or a part of your exploration of disenchantment.
So much ancient religion seems to be about a separate priesthood or kings with priest-like responsibilities ritually sacrificing animals–or in some places and times humans.
What did this feel like for the practitioners? What did it feel like for the witnesses? Are ritual sacrifices signs of increasing enchantment, disenchantment, or a cultural stability? Or is it just the flexing of power or wealth?
Another excellent post about the obsession of the Faustian mind with linear progress. I don’t have much to add, but I do have a suggestion for your fifth Wednesday post: a revisiting of your older Archdruid Report post on the future of the internet in a deindustrial economy. So far, the predictions from that post seem to be panning out well; the internet gets more and more bland, bleak, and corporate with every passing day, and the fleeing of venture capital has severely hamstrung streaming services and forced other content creators into a struggle for survival. I remember reading a while ago that the motto of Silicon Valley, once “move fast and break things”, is now “conserve money and try to survive” — which, if true, would be a highly illustrative view of the way things are going in the tech sector.
As there is a lot of interest in masculinity for the fifth post, I’d like to share my experience with a new(ish) male initiation ritual I recently took part in. JMG, if this is too far away from the topic of this post, feel free to not post – I can repost on the next Open Post.
I was initiated into Freemasonry a few years ago and while it’s generally a relaxed bunch of people, the initiation felt… empty. Like the cable wasn’t plugged in. Granted, this might be due to the lodge itself, which is about as secular as they come. I don’t think anyone there actually believes that rituals have power.
A few months ago, however, I took part in the “New Warrior Training Adventure” by the “ManKind Project” (https://mankindproject.org/) on the recommendation of a friend. It’s a pretty mainstream organisation but the three founders put together a male initiation ritual 30 years ago that’s actually worth its salt. I later learned about how the ritual came to be and it’s as much a story of divine inspiration as they come: The founders basically sat down and the ritual flowed through them onto the paper.
They initiated about 100,000 men so far and I can attest that it’s a real ritual – power flows through it, being in there felt like being plugged into a live wire. The aim is to empower men to be “warriors” (through inner work more than external) so they don’t need to make war. After going through it, that feels about right: being in touch with the male energy flowing through the universe makes me feel less likely to be needlessly agressive – not that I would be that way often but it did sometimes rise up.
So my data point: I think male initiation is a big part of “sacred masculinity” and one that is – as so many things – sadly neglected in our culture.
I am concerned about aging population simply because it took a team of ten to care for my father in his last months of life. Not everyone is so obese, of course, but even if we eliminated the four men necessary to shift my father to change diapers, sheets, etc., there’s still a potential problem of providing enough healthy folks to care for the old and decrepit down the road.
I’m guessing there will be some sort of pressure to force young people into medical professions to fill that need, and also that the hard push to legalize medically assisted suicide is related to that, and that we will see some duty to not be a burden to society pushed on folks who require assistance in daily life, on the way down the slope, ending when civilization has stablized at the clan/village level, many disabilities are quickly fatal, and relatives decide if they can handle the care burden.
Pushing young people into medical work means they won’t be available for the likely to become much more labor intensive farm work, or for any sort of manufacturing, and will accelerate the decline by that much, of course.
Another vote for the resilience of Chinese civilization.
This is off topic. But you’re not going to believe what happened today in my Environmental Management class.
The teacher started our unit on Energy Resources, and halfway through the lecture he started talking about Peak Oil. He explained that people thought peak oil happened during the 70s and that the fracking boom came to the rescue, but he said he thinks the fracking boom is over and we are probably at Peak Oil right now. I thought Peak Oil was only a fringe idea but apparently it’s taught in some courses.
We have an end of year assignment where we have to write about a book and there was a list of approved materials. Two of your books were on the list, The Long Descent and Catabolic Collapse.
So enjoying this sequence!
In completely unrelated news, Meta is planning on flooding America with waves of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mind-reading technology:
Never mind that Meta is laying off 10,000 employees, banks are collapsing, and people are lining up for food banks in some parts of the country.
(In all seriousness, everything said by Alex Himel, Meta’s VP of Augmented Reality, sounds utterly pathological:
“We don’t want people to have to choose between an input device on their wrist and smartwatch functionality that they’ve come to love,” [Himel] said. “So we are building a neural interfaces watch. Number one, this device will do input: input to control your glasses, input to control the functionality on your wrist, and input to control the world around you.”
“If we can put on shelves a great product at a great price with the right value, we believe we can get into these upgrade cycles and have a lot of growth of our devices,” he told the room.
“We should be able to run a very good ads business,” he said. “I think it’s easy to imagine how ads would show up in space when you have AR glasses on. Our ability to track conversions, which is where there has been a lot of focus as a company, should also be close to 100 percent.”
I don’t think he knows any regular people.)
>There’s some very interesting stuff been going on in the financial system
It’s my theory the economy and the financial system died in 2008. What they did was animate the corpse and give it unholy undead energy. I remember right after 08, zombies were a thing? I don’t think that was an accident. What you’re seeing isn’t anything dying – that already happened, you’re seeing their spells that kept it all together and moving coming undone.
I’ve been truly awed and impressed for how long they’ve been able to drag things out. The inevitable consequences though? Those have been on the schedule for decades now.
Once again, I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes. Thank you!
林龜儒, all this is relevant — though I’d point out that from a Spenglerian standpoint, Japan isn’t a separate civilization; it, Korea, Vietnam, and various other countries all belong to the East Asian civilization that has its historic roots in China. Political boundaries aren’t the same as civilizational boundaries! Of course it may also be worth noting that just as you won’t find many Confucians in India, you won’t find many Buddhists there either — or, for that matter, that many Christians in Galilee. But we’ll discuss all this in good time.
Bei, from my perspective you’re straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Still, if that analysis works for you, by all means.
Clay, yep! “All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds” is the inevitable song and dance of elite sources of information as the timbers crack and the floor begins to buckle. The alternative is noticing how many of the favored policies of the elite are directly responsible for disaster.
Kimberly, thanks for both of these.
Ron, you’re not wrong. The emerging Second Religiosity and the weirdly trancelike behavior of the masses are both signs of the return of enchantment. The latter’s a good reminder that enchantment, like disenchantment, has its downsides, and is especially lethal to those who think they’re too smart to be caught up in it.
Stephen, of course church attendance is dropping. The rising current in American Christianity is the home church movement — people walking away from the lavish corporate spectacles and empty forms that so much Christianity here has become, and meeting on Sundays in private homes to pray and study the Bible together. That was already picking up speed before Covid, and the way that so many churches knuckled under to government overreach poured rocket fuel into its gas tank. As for Europe, well, yes — I would not be at all surprised to see Islam become the core religious form of its Second Religiosity, for sheer demographic reasons among others. Meanwhile, watch the steady trickle of formerly atheist intellectuals into traditional churches — that’s the first sign of the coming wave.
Kimberly, I suspect the post you have in mind is this one:
Quin, thanks for this as always.
Joan and PumpkinScone, good. Stay tuned! We’ll be discussing the role of urbanization in disenchantment in detail, once some of the foundations have been covered.
Karim, it’s subtler than that. Every age of the world has some form of magic, but modes of magic change depending on the state of enchantment or disenchantment; the magic that occultists practice in today’s disenchanted world has a lot in common with the magic that was practiced in the heyday of the Roman world, and very little in common with the magic that was practiced in the dark ages in between. But we’ll get to that, and much else, as this discussion proceeds.
Info, duly noted, but miracles are far from the only thing we’re discussing here, and the Bible is far from the only source of data I’m using, of course.
Asdf, exactly. The entire point of the mythology of progress is the paired attempts to flatten out all previous history into a series of stages leading to us, and to flatten out the entire future into a series of stages proceeding from us. It’s as arrogant a vision as it is ethnocentric, and it makes it impossible for believers to recognize that there’s more than one way to be human — which is of course its goal.
Robert G, hmm! A fascinating question. Whether or not it becomes the 5th Wednesday topic, that’s something worth looking into.
Strda221, it is indeed — and the differences shown in both those works are very common in disenchanted ages. You might notice that magic has thrived, and small dissident religious groups have also thrived, in our own disenchanted period!
Orion, excellent. Yes, precisely — and singing, of course, is a mode of communication, transmitting both verbal and emotional knowledge. The world is singing to us all the time; the art of practical enchantment is how one learns to sing, too, in harmony with the other voices.
Dave, I’ve read Lewis’s work extensively, of course, and yes, he had a lot to say to the points currently under discussion. I’d add That Hideous Strength to your list — fiction, sure, but his adult fiction was always mostly about ideas.
Collapsenik, exactly. Exactly.
SamChevre, ironically, that’s something I’m looking into right now for a nonfiction book project. It fascinates me that the Victorian attempt to delete sex from society (in the sense of making sexual activity unmentionable) has produced as blowback an equal and opposite attempt to delete sex from society (in the sense of making sexual differences unmentionable). The habit of canceling those who don’t conform is shared equally by both!
Milkyway, first, we’ll be getting to the underlying causes in due time. Second, the occult traditions argue that development is indeed cyclic, but from the other direction; we don’t start as rocks and cycle back to rockhood, we start at the highest manifested planes of spirit and descend all the way to rockhood in the course of entering material incarnation, and then ascend back up the planes to our starting point.
Justin, Uranus and Neptune haven’t been around long enough to have detailed lists of correspondences yet, but it could doubtless be done.
Jbucks, thank you for both of these! Imposing some fashionable form of nothing-but-ness on occultism is an effective way to pitch magic to the disenchanted; I’ve done it myself from time to time, though always with tongue in cheek. As for GrwwwllaaaRRGGHHHization, I’m all in favor of it. Self-barbarization? It’s happening, but not in the way Kingsnorth has in mind; I really do need to do another post on Vico’s concept of the barbarism of reflection sometime soon, don’t I?
Robert M, good for Sax Rohmer! I’ve just downloaded Apologia Alchymiae, so I can cite that in print at some point; thank you.
Kay, thanks for this.
Joel, animal sacrifice was indeed very common. If you want to know what it feels like, you might want to talk to practitioners of African traditional religions, who still do it as an ordinary part of worship.
Ethan, I’ll have to glance back over that post sometime soon.
Anonymous, I used to have lunch with Bill Kauth, one of the founders of that system, at the Ashland Elks Club fairly often, and I turned down (repeated) offers to go through that initiation. I gather it can be very helpful for some men — many men, perhaps — but I also know of a fair number of men who found it a miserable experience and refused to have anything to do with the people involved once it was over, and several cases that ended in suicide. (Like some other recently founded American initiation schemes, the New Warriors are great at opening up psychological cans of worms but not necessarily that good at providing help to people who have bad experiences as a result.) My impression is that it’s definitely not for everyone. But then, unlike you, I’ve generally found fraternal initiations well worth receiving; there may not be a sudden jolt, but if you take the time to unpack the experience, important changes follow.
Enjoyer, ha! I’m delighted to hear it.
Brandichase, glad to hear it.
Re: ManKind Project
Well, I wouldn’t have suspected that you know Bill Kauth!
I appreciate your input on this. I know that while the experience was very helpful for me, I do not doubt for one second that it can be very harmful for others. I guess it opened a door for me that was waiting to be opened.
Aside: I found it very funny that one speaker during the event said “all emotions are valid” and in the next sentence “hate is toxic rage” (and therefore not valid). My objection that hate is the opposite of love and therefore as valid as the other emotions did not go over well…
JMG: your comments about Disenchanted Late Antiquity Rome also help explain another phenomenon I noted. While the conventional wisdom says that Christianity spread through missionaries and martyrs, a look at 1st and 2nd century magic amulets, incantation bowls, etc. were dedicated to or called upon Jesus for magical aid, particularly in healing magic. The Talmud even includes a few passages condemning Jews who call on the name of “Yeshu ha-Notzri” for healing — and provides examples of Jews who were successfully cured of illnesses, though damned by ha-Shem, by someone “whispering [Christ’s name] into a wound”!
It also goes a long way toward explaining my feeling upon reading *Metamorpheses* that Ovid had more in common with Stephen Sondheim than with Homer. That’s no insult to Ovid — anybody who wants to denigrate my writing by comparing it to Sondheim is welcome to do so — but it’s very clear that Ovid, like Sondheim, sees these myths not as deep truths but as entertaining stories that can cast light on the human condition and help him pay his bills at the same time.
I have suspected for a while that sorcerers spread Christianity every bit as widely and effectively as the missionaries and preachers, if not more so. In a world where the dominant religion has largely been reduced to social clubs that throw cool parties, a new faith that promised miracles — or simply had the reputation of performing miracles — might spread very quickly indeed.
Also, let me put in a vote for a 5th Wednesday discussion on Rudolf Steiner.
So once we‘ve ascended back to the starting point, are we then going to descend again, only to go back up again, etc? That‘s what I meant by cyclic, the other option being just one single cycle, which you seem to suggest (apologies if that wasn‘t clear). In this case (repeated or even endless cycles), the „starting point“ wouldn‘t matter that much, methinks.
“truths enchant and facts disenchant”
You’re just going to tuck this little megaton bomb of an idea away in the comments? 😉
Here’s my thought for a 5th Wednesday essay: your take on what seems to be a push by the globalists to massively reduce the human population. Is it what it seems? How does a person square resistance to the globalist agenda (if there is one) with a desire for ecological sanity?
On the subject of aging, and treatment of the elderly and disabled, Canadian novelist Louise Penny has a novel, her second-to-latest, which blows the lid off Canada’s moves towards getting rid of them – both openly and in the name of mercy, and, during the pandemic, by simple malign neglect. A leading character and a villain figure throughout (the novel is set in Quebec, with it’s strongly Roman Catholic flavor) is a statistician who openly preaches euthanasia, both end-of-life, and for disabled children. She is shown as having a large and avid following. I found myself thinking “Hadamar, Auschwitz, Belsen-Bergen……” and shivered. Strongly recommended.
P.S. The leading characters’ attitude mention “using the excuse of ‘we don’t have the resources.” I’m sorry; that’s the one thing the villain gets right; they don’t. Neither do most social services in the USA, and, very likely, Canada.
I second Kimberly Steele’s recommendation @ 94 of a rebuttal of Naomi Wolf. Dodson’s essay is far superior to the Wolf screed, indeed for better and more generous than she deserves, IMHO. I have some points to make on that as well, which I was saving for the next open post, if our host will permit.
Re: Anonymous Man’s “My objection that hate is the opposite of love and therefore as valid as the other emotions did not go over well…”
This makes me wonder what reversing the common suggestion that blessings should be ‘offered’ rather than ‘given’ if you do not have explicit permission would mean – ie what would be the karmic implications of offering a curse to someone? (that they could accept if they wanted to)
When NPR has a story talking about a book called “Enchantment” and they are talking about finding god does that mean we are at the apocalypse?
Or maybe we have started to ride the wave?
@JMG (#134) and the commentariat:
I just put a PDF of Councell’s Apologia Alchymiae up on archive.org, for anyone who wants to read it. It’s only 88 pages long, plus Rohmer’s preface. I’ll put up a couple of Rohmer’s articles on occult subjects there later tonight or tomorrow.
Thank you for the fascinating article. Question…
“we start at the highest manifested planes of spirit and descend all the way to rockhood in the course of entering material incarnation, and then ascend back up the planes to our starting point”
So.. each of us as an individual doesn’t know where they are heading – toward the rockhood or toward the higher planes? Is that right?
My son just read a box saying “Do NOT Open With Sharp Instrument!”
He said, “I guess I should tune my flute before I open it!”
An incantment! Lol
And again, votes have been tabulated. Thank you!
Anonymous Man, it’s a surprisingly small world. Bill and I were both seriously into peak oil during my Ashland years, so those lunch conversations were probably inevitable.
Kenaz, bingo. I found Morton Smith’s book Jesus the Magician fairly convincing, for whatever that’s worth, and if Smith is right Christianity started out as an initiatory mystery tradition with strong magical elements and only later morphed into a mass religious movement. As for Ovid, good heavens, yes — he’s another great example of the disenchanted mind, deploying the marvels of old myth purely for literary effect.
Milkyway, no, other beings will do that. It’s very much like Spengler’s history: each culture goes through the cycle once, and the cycle continues because there are always new ones ready to take over.
Cliff, good. You’re paying attention. No, it’ll be central to some later posts.
Patricia M, glad to hear it. These things need to be said.
Kerry, hmm! That’s a fascinating concept. I don’t claim any kind of special access to the Lords of Karma, but my guess is that you’d have the raspberry jam effect (since all that negative energy is coming into manifestation through you) but not the karmic blowback, since the victim has to consent and therefore it’s on them.
Orion, I think we’re starting to ride the wave.
Robert M, thank you!
Kirsten, no, fortunately. The descending arc is made in a state of subjective consciousness, more or less like the dream state. The fact that you’re conscious and incarnate means that you’re on the ascending arc.
“ironically, that’s something I’m looking into right now for a nonfiction book project. It fascinates me that the Victorian attempt to delete sex from society (in the sense of making sexual activity unmentionable) has produced as blowback an equal and opposite attempt to delete sex from society (in the sense of making sexual differences unmentionable). ”
Manicheans hated sex not only for its pleasures and its passionate nature. But for the fact that it trapped more people in materiality. That and eating are loathsome to such people.
Augustine became a Manichean himself for a while but converted to Christianity. However the problem is he still retained quite a few Manichean ideas. Whilst affirming Sexual reproduction hated the pleasures of sex a 180 flip from his previously promiscuous lifestyle:
Even sex within marriage was to be mere mechanics and passionless. Of course he even speculated that before the fall of Man. Humans would have reproduced asexually like bacteria and that sexual reproduction is the result of the fall.
I think he would be right at home at deleting sex differences too were it not for Christian influence.
Passionate Sex within marriage just doesn’t seem wholesome to him. Because all he experienced was the diseased version and threw out the baby with the bathwater. Like if all you know is diseased human bodies so far. You could end up hating all human bodies.
Civilizations begin with Life affirmation and end up with people hating life and existence itself after the growth of rationality and atheism. Its strange.
I left a copy of the front page Wall Street Journal article on one of your twitter posts. The fossil fuel industry at one of its main conferences is admitting that fracking isn’t as productive as previously stated -though known for some time – and that the US will need to import more fuel soon. Just days later Biden is opening up more drilling in Alaska; Obviously willing to risk the slow eci collapse vs the fast collapse of dwindling fossil fuels. Our typical citizen here has no idea what a bargain the US gets on its imports due to its current economic status. It could get ugly, and no better for the fact that most of our competition isn’t doing all that well either.
I’d like to ask about the latest advances (so to speak) in conversational algorithms, whoch I wouldn’t need to name here.
Could you perhaps explain here what is the difference between the state of enchantment and what we are seeing now among the uper classes, which is perhaps a twisted form of mythology? Lately everyone is crazy about a certain algorithm apparently capable of parroting human capacities for conversation.
First of all, it’s quite perverse to stare in awe at such a device, while doing everything to ensure that human’s children will be as hindered as possible from themselves learning to think.
Then there is always a few comments turning up in conversations regarding said device, that some jobs are going to be lost. Jobs are one of the few ways people give meaning to their lives in the rich world nowadays, and are the pendant of consumption since one legitiizes the other and vice versa. Isn’t it quite obvious that making people not only even dumber as would inevitably result giving them crutches to think, but also angrier as the supply of easy jobs is dwindling down, is just going to have the elites’ throats cut more rapidly?
But last of all, it loks as if we would now be granting machines the same status as we would, say, to fairies. It’s like sliding towards a mythical worldview but perverting it, because that mythology aims not at offering a place to humans, but instead at taking their place…
What do people think will happen when barbarians come at the gates? Those barbarians will just have to cut a few wires, a few competently chosen throats, and then our devices will just become a long faded memory. Nobody will mourn a technology that’s so brittle (it relies on centralized computer processing and networks that give access to it) and also evil in the sense that it diminishes the place for man’s capacities.
Until then, the way society will (seem to) embrace those devices will just mean that the legal economy will shrink even more for the man on the street, and people will turn away from it to enter parallel economies. Given that the “official” worldview (Progress, rationalism) will be seen as being tied to the legal economy, you can be certain that people will massively turn towards alternative worldviews. Which may not be too unwelcoming towards barbarians…
The awe before the conversation machine increasingly lokks like religious fanaticism, and religious discourse now starts to sound a lot more sane than the belief in digital technologies. Quite strange. And the discussions about its social implications have really chilled my spine. You can’t negotiate with the people who just bow down before it. It felt to me like a mental red line had been crossed, and it would be time to consider acquiring skills that just elude the office job economy since I could see a writing on the wall.
“I found Morton Smith’s book Jesus the Magician fairly convincing, for whatever that’s worth, and if Smith is right Christianity started out as an initiatory mystery tradition with strong magical elements and only later morphed into a mass religious movement. ”
I find this to be true when the Pharisees accused him of casting out demons by Beelzebub and not by God. Of course he turned back the accusation onto them.
But those events only happened after he was baptized by John and anointed with the Holy Spirit that descended from God the Father. No legitimate record exists of him doing any of those works before that time aside from his regular job as an Artisan.
As for the mode of operation. If Jesus is by his Miracles a Magician. So was Moses, Elijah and Elisha.
Miracles accompany Prophets who conveyed God’s message. Jesus is no different in that respect since he is that foretold Prophet(Deuteronomy 18:18) alongside being the coming of the Priest King in the order of Melchizedek Priest of God Most High(Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:17).
There is no Magick circles or any equipment unlike other Sorcerers of the day. Only following God’s instructions which came very obviously to the people who received said message. And being empowered by his Spirit being sufficient to accomplish all those Miracles. Moses only needed to raise his staff and the Red Sea would be parted. Elisha only needed to tap the water with Elijah’s cloak and it would also part.
It is quite unlike any Magick of any other Magickal tradition that I know of that required complex rites, obscure incantations, Alchemical ingredients and so forth.
Even the Sacrament of Baptism and Eating of the Eucharist seems so simple. But has supernatural effects because God wanted it to be so.
Hi John Michael,
Funnily enough I also wrote this week about the otherworldly things going on all around us. All people have to do is step outside their doors, and look. Stuff happens! 🙂 I tend to be very respectful of the spirits here, it’s something of a risk not to do so.
Just between you and I, I’m beginning to wonder whether disenchanted folks haven’t fallen for their own self made enchantments? After all, isn’t that what “this economic set back is only temporary, and soon there’ll be a glorious and triumphant resurgence in the banking system possibly suggests? Or ‘The system is sound, trust us’ despite historically earlier false claims. Reaching way back: A permanent new plateau, perhaps? 😉
I’m watching that economic story rather closely as well. It’s possibly something of an end-run for some of the economic policies which have been pursued with abandon for a few decades. Honestly, some of the policies are frankly contradictory and operate at cross purposes, but that’s kinda what you get in terminal decline. Everyone wants something, all the time.
I now plan to spend a delightful hour or so reading the comments!
For the fifth week, I’d put in a vote for your perspective on the recent economic tidings perhaps from an historical perspective, but I always seem to get out-voted… 😉 Not that that is a sulking my socks off observation, but yeah, maybe it is! 🙂
You mentioned in the comments section that “enchantment isn’t simply fuzzy and comfortable — like each of Gould’s magisteria, it’s an essential aspect of human existence, and neglecting it leads to misery and failure.” May I suggest that it would be helpful if you made some recommendations in this series of posts how people might reincorporate enchantment in their own lives?
Hi John Michael,
I’ve recounted this story before, but it’s worth repeating. I read your text in the replies:“in some recent situation or other, you’ve spotted people acting as though they were under a spell?”
During the health subject which dares not be named years, someone whom I really like said to me: “How could you be friends with someone who was un-vaccinated?” That really threw me hearing that questioning, and I’d wondered where the person had gotten that idea into their head. Anyway, quick as a flash the dispel was chucked into the room: “I don’t have enough friends to act like that.”
Mate, it was like I’d punched them in the head. The reply is not my natural inclination, but sometimes a bloke has to act. And funnily enough, the person was having troubles with friendships. It’s been my observation that sometimes people hang onto convenient excuses for their own deficiencies and you know, some other folks just have troubles.
I tell ya, there’s been an attack in recent years, and it won’t end well, but also it’s a moment in time.
Thanks to Mary Bennett and others for their very kind words on my response to Wolf.
Anonymous Man: I have a friend who is involved with MKP; apparently, at least the British chapter is getting absorbed into the matrix of PMC ideology, with critical-race theory and gender-woo making appearances. I met him through another, relatively new, men’s group here in Britain that I have found very rewarding (https://www.darrendeojee.com/mens-events/); it hits a good balance, beyond the group-therapy cuddle-sessions of most men’s groups, or the overly harsh and potentially destabilising intensity of some others, such as the early days of MKP.
I would cast my 5th wed vote for a post on sacred masculinity, if only because it sounds like an excellent opportunity to carefully examine my own acquired and self-cultivated prejudices.
If such a post extended to the topic of masculine divinity, as well as masculine humanity, that would be a bonus.
@ Robert Mathiesen – re your Smith, Muzzy & Gunne quote:
“Civilization, then, is a story of mastery. To primitive man, nature was an enemy…”
It strikes me that the “primitive man” to whom “nature is an enemy” in this quote, is a projection straight out of what we might call “civilised chauvinism”.
In that it is only *when* nature appears as an enemy, that “mastering” it becomes imperative.
@JMG – in a reply to Moose you said “It’s always to the advantage of the ruling classes of mature civilizations to insist that material reality is all there is — after all, that’s what they control.”
And this nicely put its finger on my own “take” on this habit of attesting to linear progress leading to civilisation, and whatever is considered most civilised (including this emphasis on the material/controllable features of reality) – which is that it is generally written about by those who see it from a ruling class POV.
Just to give an older example, Geraldis Cambrensis, in his Topografia Hibernica, circa the 1180’s, attests that: “mankind generally progresses from the forests, to the fields and thence to the towns and the conditions of citizens…” and this in the middle of a description of the “bestially” primitive Irish. He describes them as a “sylvan folk” (ie – still stuck in the forests, from whence they have not “progressed”) who “despise agricultural labour”, fail to “covet the riches of cities”, and are “averse to civil laws”, and so, follow the same life as their forefathers in forests and open pastures, unwilling to abandon old habits, or learn anything new.
It is not only the linearity of this view of history (that mankind cannot move – say – from cities back to fields and forests), but the unitary view of civilisation itself, that is a habit of the ruling classes, whose project any civilisation IS. What I mean by “unitary” (as, this may not be the best word choice to express my meaning, but I have not found a better one) is the idea that when a civilisation exists, IT is the whole of what there is to know about the time, and about all the people living at that time. Indeed, nothing else “counts” except as it is viewed BY the civilisation. That there are people both within, and without, who never come to share the prejudices or viewpoints of the ruling class (the barbarians at the periphery and the proletarians within), is barely acknowledged, they are all simply “backward” people who have not yet “developed” or “progressed” or “seen the light” or whatever.
It is the genious of James C Scott, to have explored this “unitary” prejudice in his Zomia studies, with the dictum that “tribes and ethnicity begin where states and taxes end”. Because every civilisation extends its mastery over people, as well as over “nature”, at least in so far as it is able. And, where it is not able, then those people it has not mastered, who co-exist in time WITH the civilisation concerned, it calls “primitive” or “backward”. Such people are assumed to suffer mainly from ignorance of civilised virtues and not – say – choosing to make themselves scarce and hard to get at in order to avoid being ruled by civilised laws and made to pay civilised taxes.
Apologies if is too long way to say that I see no reason to think that this civilisation’s “disenchanted” viewpoint is as deep or as thick or as widely held as it might seem if one focusses only on reading what is written down. There will be many people in the thick of this civilisation (its “internal proletariat” for example), as well as many people who remain outside the centres of this civilisation (the “barbarians” of the periphery) who never saw, and never will see, any particular value in insisting that reality is purely material and dead, because their viewpoint is different from that of the ruling classes, whose project this civilisation still is. Even if what they think does not get written down.
I agree that we are on the road to more to a more enchanted world view, and one of the big reasons is the sludge that has filled in for enchantment during these disenchanted times. If we had arrived at a purely rational,” Saganesque” world after becoming disenchanted it might have had some staying power. But after peoples minds turned away from being part of a living world they were filled up with the placeholders of a trivial consumer society. Worshipping professional sports, real estate and celebrity culture is a weak gruel to substitute in for an enchanted living world. It is like that guy who made a movie about eating nothing but food from McDonalds for a year ( he almost died). Now, for many people, rationality has been replaced with hero worship, anxiety, and taking orders from the authority figures no matter how illogical. It is no surprise that a disenchanted, rational world with Joe Biden as its supreme authority figure is only a few innings from the end of the game.
I would be curious to hear your thoughts on the emerging (or re-emerging) zeitgeist trend of Aliens/DMT Elves. The last couple years have had a slow but steady surge in news and talk about interdimensional beings that have been in touch with certain sectors of society for years now and while I find these claims only somewhat interesting in their own right, I would like to hear your thoughts on what it portends for a society that is, for better or worse, largely at the mercy of unrestrained technocrats. Some examples*:
– Joe Rogan, Mike Cernovich, Graham Hancock all talking about DMT “elves” that people across races and culture encounter in mostly the same form.
– Tucker Carlson talking about traumatic brain injuries that members of military experience when encountering high energy emissions from UFO objects (corresponding to DOD’s acknowledgement of these things over last 70 years).
– Alex Jones (who, in fairness, has been saying this for the last 20 years) insisting that our Hotel California elite are in communication with these beings, taking orders from them, and seeking to enslave us all.
My sense is that the priestly caste of our time is going to attempt an 11th hour re-introduction of the enchantment ethos as a way to distract from the fact their cold rationalist approach to things has only made everything worse for everyone for quite some time. We’re already seeing it with the gender craziness – sure, we’ve failed to bring you flying cars and standards of living are plummeting across the board – but behold, we can force everyone to pretend that little Timmy is actually a little girl, aren’t we great!
Lord knows what horrible policies this will lead to but, post-Covid, I routinely see levels of craziness that bring to mind Carl Jung’s essay on the return of Odin in Europe. All this to say, any tips you might have for keeping your head down or warding off this nonsense, would be much appreciated.
*I realize that these examples are all right-leaning but I think it goes without say that this is where a lot, perhaps even all, of cultural discourse generates, in the sense that the left-wing blob will then spend a lot of energy reacting to, and eventually incorporating, it. That is, expect the New York Times to make all sorts of wild pronouncements in the coming decade.
I could have multiplied similar quotes from that textbook many times over, but I’ll stop with one more.
At the very beginning of the book, even before the title page, there is a two-page spread in color illustrating our progress toward civilization. It is the only colored illustration in the whole textbook. It starts with primitive cavemen in the upper left corner, and it ends in the lower right corner with the claim that “science conquers the universe.”
So the authors claim that the universe itself is our greatest enemy, which we must conquer, defeat … and eventually destroy? They do not present any arguments to support this claim of theirs anywhere in the book. They treat it as a fundamental premise that ought to be be self-evident.
As before, all votes have been tabulated. Thank you!
Info, the Victorian attempt to erase sex had much less to do with Manichaeanism than it did with class conflict. The Victorian era in the English-speaking world was the era in which the rising class of industrial magnates finally displaced the older agriculturally based aristocracy from the seats of power — in the US, it took the Civil War to do that, while in Britain the process was slower and less bloodsoaked. In Britain, remember, the Regency era — the last heyday of the old aristocracy — was a period of considerable sexual license, and the Victorian industrial magnates and their legions of paid flacks used sexual morality as one convenient club to hammer on the aristocrats. It’s an old story, now playing in reverse.
Russel1200, I’m not on Twitter — the Twitter account in my name is unofficial, though I have no problem with it, and I don’t see anything that appears there. Do you have a link to that story? That’s news I’ve been expecting for a while.
Neiviv-Neaj, that’s a valid comparison. The myth of progress requires the imminent arrival of machines that can think, and every few decades some supposed step in that direction is hailed by true believers in progress the way medieval peasants hailed the discovery of some newly located fragment of the Cross. Mind you, there were enough bits of the Cross bobbing around medieval Europe to build a life-size replica of the USS Constitution, and the various machines-that-pretend-to-think are just as bogus. Your characterization of the adulation of the chatbots as religious fanaticism is to my mind spot on; remember that these people have been taught that progress is their sole hope of salvation, not to mention their sole hope of maintaining their current cozy lifestyles, and bowing down before a slightly updated electronic equivalent of Teddy Ruxpin is just another way they can demonstrate their blind faith in their god.
Info, Moses has a reputation as a mage dating back to ancient times. Doesn’t the Bible say that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians?
Chris, that’s always what happens to people who insist that enchantments don’t exist — they fall victim to the enchantments they refuse to notice. In this case, that’s happening in an unusually stupid way.
Joshua, I was planning on doing that very thing. Stay tuned!
Chris, ha! Well played.
Scotlyn, thank you for that bit of Geraldus! I wasn’t aware that the myth of progress goes back so far in Western culture — there was a Roman equivalent, of course, and Geraldus may have been riffing off that. Your broader point is of course a very good one; every worldview is inevitably contested, every attempt to define the world is subject to countless exceptions, and when I speak of the disenchanted worldview of modern industrial civilization I mean the views held by the majority of the privileged classes and pushed by them on everyone else who will listen. That’ll become clearer as we proceed.
Clay, a very nice summary of one of the core themes of this discussion!
Chris W, we live in a time of extreme collective stress; eras of decline always have that feature, and one result is that the privileged classes pretty consistently wig out. I’m thinking here among other examples of the twilight years of Heian Japan, where waves of panic about wrathful ghosts swept through the elite classes, distracting them from the rising tide of crises and using up resources, energy, and time that might otherwise have gone into fixing the problems that were dragging the country down into a dark age.
There’s another factor at work, of course. It’s pretty clear at this point that the US establishment has been keeping the UFO phenomenon as its ace in the hole since the 1950s, originally as a means of protective camouflage for aircraft testing, but also as a means of mass media manipulation — the idea these days seems to be that if nothing else distracts people from crisis, waving around flying saucers will do it. The fact that so many of the current claims are coming from the military and the government shows that we’re not dealing with something spontaneous here.
As for warding off the nonsense — why, stay tuned.
Sacred masculinity, please. I have a number of OK men in my life.
I’m not sure if this goes in the enchantment or disenchantment column but there are people doing occult analysis of computer games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s82ImXdQ5j8. For those who doesn’t like video, most of it is still images of game maps with sacred geometry drawn on them. Which is a sentence I never expected to write.
Whole mythologies have also developed around games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQNeYbBiCKw (this one is almost all moving 3D graphics).
I’m not sure how this would become a fifth Wednesday post (or some other kind).
Why do so many people care enormously about what’s happening on the other side of the world and care nothing about what’s happening in their own town?
Shouldn’t where you live, your own community, be more important? That’s where you live, work, raise your family, etc.
I like all the possible Fifth Wednesday posts. I hope you keep a list for possible topics later on.
If I must choose (besides my own, earlier post), I like
2) Chinese resilience
3) Aging populations and the ramifications thereoff.
“The art of practical enchantment”…yes yes more on that, please!
Hey John, a great post this time as well. I am really glad that someone of your calibre is willing to take on this immense and curious phenomenon of disenchantment. I was wondering what you think of the philosophy of Alfred Adler, and that’s my vote for next week’s article.
JMG: It’s a nice coincidence that you mention Wendell Berry, as I’ve been reading his essay collections and have wondered aloud to AV (my husband and frequent commenter here) if you’ve ever mentioned Berry in what he’s read. I find many overlaps in your writings—from appropriate tech and a preference for the local and rural to a value for physical work and distaste for elitism. Though the two of you claim different intellectual territories, would you count him as an influence? What are your thoughts on his work?
Thanks for introducing me to Teddy Ruxpin! A much nicer sight for sure 🙂
But uh the people fixated on chatbots are supposed to be adults running our society, and with all the rumble at our gates, or even within, isn’t this kind of dumb fascination a bit… hazardous? Also, because perhaps a lot of overt expression of said fascination is faked, like a lot of people are just pretending to revere its power while they know of course that the true believers will get their throats cut at the end of the party?
In any case reading your blogs for all those years has at least made it clear to me that hating it or resisting it or constantly thinking about it is the wrong thing to do, energetically and spiritually. Best to sidestep from its trajectory and let it go spinning into the void… Now how to do those side steps graciously enough is definitely the hard question at the moment
@russell 1200 #149
The oil industry executives in question have admitted that the fracking isn’t as productive as it previously was, not that it isn’t as productive as it was previously stated, i.e. that the resource is declining, not that they were previously lying. Perhaps that was what you meant to say anyhow.
I can’t supply a link, but this is mentioned in the comments in peakoilbarrel.com. Mike Shellman also discusses this topic at oilystuff.com. Those are the sites I follow for energy issues.
Actually mike Shellman discusses this in his latest post at oilystuff.com
For the extra post, I’d love to hear what women have historically thought about enchantment and disenchantment. We don’t hear much about that, even now, and of course many of them got killed for their opinions.
Dear Mr.Greer, when we go through the cycles of enchantment and its absence, how is it driven? Is it that the sources of enchantment get weaker and stronger through the cycles or is it that the human collective attitudes towards enchantment that determine the cycles?
@ Clay #159
Actually, I think he only tried to eat McDonalds for 30 days, and even that almost killed him.
I agree that both Barfield and Gebser deliberately linearised their account of consciousness. I think both must have been aware of what Spengler had written. This of course does not exclude the possibility, that the so-called second religiosity of Western civilisation will lead to a form of consciousness similar to the one they describe.
Should a second religiosity occur in Western society, then the availability of the internet will make it possible to spread very fast. Any cult can theoretically reach the entire world through the web.
In particular, a cult or religion that can offer the right combination of what people want or need can rise very fast. It will be interesting to see how the Western elites react to a sudden global outburst of religious sentiments.
Once again, I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes. Thank you!
Yorkshire, funny. Seriously funny.
Teresa, curiously enough, the Covid blogger Eugyppius recently posted a very thoughtful piece about that, which you can find here —
Despite the clickbait title, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a fascinating exploration of exactly that habit of paying to bad things that are very far away from you.
Wendy, we’ll get there!
Rajarshi, I may have to discuss Adler someday soon anyway. He, Jung, and Freud make a fascinating ternary.
Brunette, I’ve read some Berry; he’s not a primary influence on my ideas but I enjoy his writing a great deal and he’s always worth thinking about.
Neiviv-Neaj, there’s a real adult shortage these days; we have a huge number of people who are chronologically adult but have never quite matured beyond the clever-toddler stage. No question, sidestepping them gracefully is an art.
Stephen, fair enough — thanks for this. I’ll hunt it down.
MC, we’ll get to that!
Dadaharm, Gebser was certainly familiar with Spengler’s work, and denounced Spengler by name. Barfield doesn’t mention him in Saving the Appearances but I think you’re right that he must have known. As for the Second Religiosity, oh, it’s already starting. Look for blog posts from people who’ve converted to Orthodox Christianity someday…
My suggestion is my own obsession du jour if not du mois: do you have any perspective on the mental health problems that seem to flourish nowadays? I keep seeing articles about the ever record-breaking proportion of the population under medication, in therapy, the percentage of people especially women, especially young, feeling depressed or even suicidal, the complaints to colleges that exams are just too stressful and should be abolished, the almost bragging about being neurodivergent.
You often speak of other societies or civilization in decline. Collapsologists may study their economic problems, their resource depletion, their parasitic elites and bureaucracy. They may have written about their own disenchantment. Have they ever written about how everyone in them seems to lose their minds and complain they are incapable of coping with what seems like everyday life?
At the risk of expressing my belief in twisted fairies, regarding AI and chatbots, I believe Neiviv-Neaj and you are wrong. It is not just a curiosity.
AI was an interest of mine in CS college. There were all sorts of theories and models and techniques, very many fascinating debates involving philosophy and psychology and neurology and mathematics, and… precious few, limited successes (game-playing for instance). After decades of not doing much progress, things changed dramatically a few years ago.
To take just one example, the subfield of natural language translation. It was very klunky and gave poor results. Nowadays, without saying it’s a solved problem, you can translate any web page from one language to another with one click of the mouse, and it is at the very least understandable (better for languages that have a richer corpus) and frequently usable as is.
Another example would be the famous Turing test. Until very recently, the best instances of chatbots were limited and would not fool me for a minute. Today, it passes the Turing test with flying colours. But that is just a toy, right? Oh, I could go on and on. Image recognition: it now just works. Image comparison and search: ditto. Optical character recognition, on the fly and in the wild? Check – paired with automated translation of assembled text if you should wish! Image GENERATION from natural language text input? Yes. “Please show me portraits of American Presidents as hockey players of the 1970s”. SHAZAM! Self-driving cars? Getting there. Solving problems of all kinds stated in natural language? Check! Automated website creation? Check! Automated programming? I am seeing some of this.
When you consider that these are very young technologies barely breaking out of the lab, I don’t believe we have a clue what the consequences are going to be, it is frankly hard to imagine.
I appreciate your mention of Wendell Berry as a conservative putting their trust in rural life. He is a gracious man; a friend in Chicago always invited Berry to attend his shows, and Berry always wrote back declining the invitation. I wrote a fan letter to him once, in the form of a poem responding to one of his poems; he wrote a thoughtful response. The poem I loved was
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight.
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.
“Moses has a reputation as a mage dating back to ancient times. Doesn’t the Bible say that he was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians?”
The Literacy learned enabled him to write the Bible like the whole Torah. The Torah has quite a few Egyptian loanwords:
Indicating Egyptian influence. Similar to how Chinese speakers in Australia start incorporating English words into their language. Given enough time at the country.
Later books of the Bible has Iranian loanwords instead(Ezra, Esther, Nehemiah)
And I do think he was familiar with their Magick practices.
Although I don’t think any of the Miracles involved anything more than simple commands followed. Nothing about sigils, special scrolls or special incantations or Magick Circles. No special objects other than the walking staff which God consecrated into a Sacramental object when Moses met God at the burning bush.
Like an Official empowered by the Heavenly King. He basically unleashed Divine Judgment. Similar to the Angels who were tasked with judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah(Genesis 19:12-13). Or the Angels who pours out Divine Wrath in the Book of Revelation.
Christians including the Eastern Orthodox Church uses the words “Miracles” instead of Magick, Sacramental Objects instead of Magick objects.
Instead of “Enchantment” its called “Consecration” because the Holiest Being did it. So as to distinguish it from regular Sorcery.
@Joel Jones, regarding animal sacrifice. I have not witnessed it myself, but a friend who spent three months in Siberia one summer saw the Shamanist version of it there. He said the sheep which was the ceremonial victim was calm, did not put up resistance when an incision was made, and died nearly instantly when the priest reached his hand in and stopped its heart. He said it was quite a moving experience.
The necessity of taking a life is an important part of life, especially where vegetarianism is out of the question for at least half the year. I went out with a group of hunters in Siberia, and when they brought down a deer, we all gathered around in silent prayer soothing the gentle victim’s soul before she passed.
I’ll add my vote for Chinese resilience on the 5th Wednesday. I’d get a kick out of it, and my husband and in-laws would have a lot to say.
Re Theresa’s comment, I think people focus on Bad Stuff far away and ignore it locally is because you’re not able to do anything about it. Bit like walking past homeless people to put money in the charity box. Actually doing something is hard, and you are likely to fail. Pretending is so much more comfortable.
Chris W #160, the DMT elves thing was already well established when Daniel Pinckbeck wrote Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism in 2002, and that certainly wasn’t right-wing.
To brutally misquote Rogers and Hammerstein:
I’d like to say a word on its behalf,
The Satyricon makes me laugh.
I’ve only read it in translation of course, my Latin is far too poor to cope with the original. The chatbots do present an interesting development in that although they are capable of cheaply producing the kind of low grade and thoughtless content that is the day to day bread and butter of some of the PMC, there’s nothing I’ve seen to date that suggests they could manage anything as profoundly human as the Satyricon, even if it is disenchanted. Or anything I’ve ever read here for that matter.
There are related efforts going on that are going to make some changes in our lives however. For example, the entire profession of voice acting is now dead. Gather a few music free voice samples of a well known actor, podcaster, whatever. And a book. For a few dollars you can get the entire book read out in the voice of the actor. The results are certainly good enough to fool me. The one thing that the near future does not require is specially created audiobooks – they’ll be produced pretty much at the same moment a text hits its final draft.
It’s very clever but in both cases, what is lacking is any sense of originality or creativity.
Rant warning (posted here to give my wife some respite)…
Are there any firm places to stand upon? If our totality of environment shapes our perceptions and interpretations, then even knowing that the trap exists will not be enough to prevent you getting caught in it.
It is also meaningless to imagine possible futures because you are constrained by the present, and emerging possibilities are unforeseeable. Energy rules all, access to it shapes the world, and the universe has bigger fish to fry than listening to our squeaking protestations.
Might as well sit on the porch with a beer and watch the sun go down.
@Luke Dodson, #155: Thanks for the pointer, that looks really good! Unfortunately, I’m in Germany and haven’t seen any men’s organisations working here in that way besides ManKind Project. “Sacred Sons” (https://www.sacredsons.com/) seems interesting as well but also only exists in US/UK.
Yes, ManKind Project seems to be PMC-Central with all the current fads running through. I had to roll my eyes at a sign-up form (not the one I signed, obviously) where it said that one agrees in advance to follow all Corona rules that might be in place at the time as well as new ones the organizers might invent themselves. Sigh. Especially for an organisation that wants men to focus on responsibility, authenticity, etc., offering contracts where one side can change the terms arbitrarily is pretty low.
Since I really took something from the weekend, though, I just bought the book “A circle of men” by Bill Kauth and will start my own men’s circle with a few friends. No need for a large, dysfunctional organisation anyway.
“they are incapable of coping with what seems like everyday life?”
Because everyday life has gone completely chaotic, to the point that only the surrealists would be able to make any sense of it.
I’d like to cast my vote for a post on Steiner. As far as I can tell, he’s the only major thinker in the Western esoteric category who gave much attention to child-raising and human development, and it’s such an important part of life.
I’m hoping you are turning this series of posts into a future book. I love the theme and the term enchantment as framing. What has come to mind for me is the stories we as individuals and families tell ourselves about how I/we got to where we are today.
When I was in public school, I was taught that people came here for freedom of religion and for economic opportunity. Both of those have diminished at a faster and faster rate in the last few decades. (I’m categorizing lack of freedom of religion as – every Protestant church serves the same bland worship service these and are practically indistinguishable from each other. When a pastor or congregation steps outside the blandness, there is immediate frenzied activity to get them cancelled.) I never had any idea of our family’s ethnic background, when we came to America, why, or how long ago. So the narrative I was taught, I accepted as my own without even thinking about it.
Today the narrative has drastically shifted to “American is fundamentally racist” and it needs to provide equity to all. That doesn’t match the considerable research I’ve done both on my family background and local history. I think about your long-standing advice to save what matters and I’m working on ways to save what I’ve found and make it appealing to others.
The struggle I’m having is so many people are programed to use their family history as social status (Mayflower, Revolutionary War soldier, etc) but that doesn’t work against the “America is racist” narrative because it actually paints a target on all the social status seekers (They don’t see that yet.)
I’m trying to walk a new path of saving and sharing individual, family, and community history in a way that helps people make sense of things and hopefully strengthens them too. The histories are so varied and there’s been so much lost already. When I think of your evergreen advice to save what matters, I feel that the stories of the everyday people here for the last 300 years or so matters a lot. But I need a temperature check – How worthwhile is this to continue working on? Am I smoking my own shorts? (yes mixing metaphors!)
info @ 181, I am not quite understanding your most interesting post. You can’t have meant to imply that Moses wrote the Bible, as most events in that book took place long after his death. As an adopted prince of Egypt, but not heir to the throne, it is quite reasonable to suppose that he would have been educated in priestly skills, including spells and such. Modern writers have noted that many of the plagues describe what happens during a catastrophically large Nile inundation. Moses would of course have known how to read the weather signs; his rival court mages ought to have known as well but likely specialized in telling Pharoah what Pharoah wanted to hear.
Hi, this is my first post (at the suggestion of Patricia).
Most regrettably Chinese culture did not survive its most recent dark age. A few fragments of traditional Chinese culture have been preserved in Taiwan, Malaysia and in other diaspora communities, but within one or two generations they will be gone.
As for ‘disenchantment’, I believe that this is simply part of the overall degenerate age in which we live. Humans are becoming progressively more stupid, not more advanced. I suspect that once we have reduced ourselves to the stone age again, we will start to recover our innate sense of enchantment.
Hello JMG and fellow commenters,
there is some good news. I feel a minor vibe shift among the more sensible and thoughtful people going on around me. I teach interns for some years now and I notice that a minority uses social media and what not differently than the rest of their cohort. They see it as a tool to get information but they are not glued to it to get that dopamine rush. Gives me some hope for the future.
PS the wonderful Milène Farmer wrote a topical song in the 80s. Enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzGmpqN9zZc
As before, I’ve got everyone’s votes tabulated. Thank you!
Jean-Baptiste, Giambattista Vico talked about the collapse of reason in the latter days of a civilization quite explicitly in the New Science back in 1725; we’ll be getting to his comments, and developing them considerably, at a later point. As for AI, well, we’ll see, now won’t we?
Tomriverwriter, thanks for this!
Info, oh, granted — it’s an interesting feature of some religions that they want a different term for magic when they do it than the one that’s used when other people do it. I have no objection to people using the terms they want, but I prefer to simply use the general term.
Benn, there’s certainly that.
Andy, my sense for some time now has been that the profession of acting is doomed in general, outside of live theater as a niche market. Given current technology, really, how hard would it be to feed all surviving Marilyn Monroe footage into a computer, and then start cranking out new Marilyn Monroe films, with a CGI Marilyn doing all the right moves and saying all the right things to an endless profusion of original scripts? Or to do the same thing to every other dead actor and actress who’s left behind a sufficiently large filmography? And it would be so much cheaper than hiring today’s overpaid talent to fill the same niches…
Benn, I wonder if Baudrillard realized that he was rehashing points made two thousand years ago by Indian philosophers. “Human experience is a simulation of reality” — er, maybe he should have looked up the word maya sometime. But it’s absolutely standard these days for people to take ordinary aspects of human existence and represent (re-present) them as brand new experiences nobody ever had before — like the Boomers who seem to think that sex was discovered for the first time in the back sof a Volkswagen van in Golden Gate Park in 1965.
Denis, we’ll see, but I’m certainly open to turning this into a book. Your project strikes me as very important indeed; the current frenzy will burn itself out in due time, and when it does, the stories you’re gathering will be a valuable resource.
Tengu, I wonder if Chinese intellectuals during the Tang dynasty said the same thing, as Buddhism and a variety of other Western imports (“Western” in the terms of the time) seemed to be sweeping aside so much of traditional Chinese culture. As for the stultification of contemporary life — yes, there’s a word for “getting more stupid”! — that’s a result of certain factors we’ll be discussing at length as this series of posts continues.
Engineer, delighted to hear it.
WRT the attempt by the Victorians to erase sex: there’s yet another social class aspect to this issue. I’ve seen estimates that, in London, 20% of women were prostitutes. This reflects the horrible successes of the Enclosure movement in England and the Clearances in Scotland, which had as their purpose removing the rural poor from the land and forcing them into the cities, with the two goals of making the land available to larger operators who could be taxed and increasing labor availability (and thus reducing wages) for urban industry — except that they succeeded beyond the ability of industry to absorb said labor. The resultant increase in poor women resorting to prostitution for lack of adequate respectable sources of income made chastity into a luxury good for display by the middle and upper classes. It wasn’t enough to just not be a prostitute. A respectable woman had to be an anti-prostitute, prudish and easily offended at the slightest hint of anything suggestive. The only respectable way to display her sexuality was a large and growing flock of legitimate children.
Magic, as usually understood, does not necessarily involve the use of “sigils, special scrolls or special incantations or Magick Circles,” or indeed any “special objects” whatever. And Jesus is recorded (Mk. 7:33, 8:23, Jn 9:6) to have used a “special object,” namely his own spittle, in three of his miracles, in two of therse miracles without any “simple command” for the cure to take place.
Moreover, notice Jn 18:30, where the charge brought against Jesus before Pilate is that he was a “κακὸν ποιῶν” (or, in later manuscripts, a “κακοποιός”) which Greek phrase or word almost always refers specifically to a user of magic in the Greek of the early Christian era, not just to any kind of criminal. The Vulgate Latin translates this Greek phrase or word as “malefactor,” which again is most commonly used to refer to a magician, not to criminals in general.
Indeed, the little that survives of early Pagan and Jewish traditions about Jesus pretty much always characterizes him as a magician. These Pagan and Jewish takes on Jesus ought to weigh as much with any real scholar as the Christian distinction between magic and miracle. It is a mistake to suppose that Christian sources are necessarily more accurate about the historical Jesus than equally early non-Christian ones. They may or may not be, and in each specific case one has to assess the source. The scholar who automatically favors Christian sources over non-Christian ones here is veering into apologetics or theology.
Perhaps a committed Christian may feel that s\he has no choice in this matter — but then that Christian cannot be regarded as a real scholar on the subject.
Info, I would invite you to read Smith’s Jesus the Magician, which you can find online in several copies on archive.org, or even downloaded from one of those copies.
I can also highly recommend to you Helen Ingram’s detailed online summary of her PhD dissertation (written under the supervision of Mark Goodacre) on the same subject: wasjesusamagician.blogspot.com It also gives a link to the full dissertation online, in case one wants to download it.
It must be close. Deep fakes have been available for a few years, and the voice situation is solved.
The outcome is of course, by and large – no new talent. Why risk a film on an unknown when Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe are available for the cost of running a sim and presumably some licence fees.
How long before this applies to music too? Janis Joplin does rap?
Thank you JMG for yet another very insightful post. Since the ADR days I designate special time during the week so that I can savor your new writing and all comments.
This week’s post reminded me about fantasy writer Ted Chiang and his 2001 short story “Hell Is the Absence of God.” I liked his whole anthology series “Stories of Your Life and Others” but that one resonated with me the most, and the title could not have been better, imho. It really touched the nerve in a recovering atheist such as myself 🙂
I wonder if you might share your thoughts about it if you read his stories.
@ Anonymous Man
Glad to hear you’re considering starting your own group – feel free to get in contact with me ( lukesdodson(at)protonmail(dot)com ) if you want to discuss these things further, I’d be happy to put you in contact with people who could help give you ideas and pointers.
And, of course, if you do find yourself in Great Britain at any time, my group would be happy to meet you – we have at least one German regular, although he now resides in Scotland!
I have just spent the day doing “enchantments”. I demonstrate fluorescence, phosphorescence and tenebrescense using rocks. I call it doing magic.
I am showing people the unseen. Incantments. Making the rocks sing in visible light. Using technology to bring this to awareness.
I added telling people that enchantment comes from the Latin incant meaning to sing into something and that the rocks are singing back in visible light.
I’ve been doing this demonstration for decades and when kids (or adults) ask why they do this I have always answered something like “god made it that way” or that it is the “unknown that we are trying to explain”, etc. Or that we are talking about the line between science and religion and philosophy.
Today I had many people thank me for this in terms of talking about “god” and the interconnected universe etc. Really different. I feel that the wave for enchantment is started. The feel of people is different. They are more open than in the past.
No need to post this unless you feel others might want the reference.. The quote from the oil executive about diminishing resources was in an article by Steven Kopits in Princeton Policy Advisors March 15th quoting Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources.
I also found this quote by Carl Jung:
“Enchantment is the oldest form of medicine.”
Have to say that I totally agree! And look forward to your essays on Jung!
And in regards to your use of the term “stultification”, which I love!
I propose another word to use instead of disenchantment by the “ruling” classes.
Instead maybe we should call it the cult of stultificationism!
You really want to see estoeric references? Watch the original Aeon Flux cartoons.
Nice post thanks… I am not sure how what follows relates to the idea of cycles of enchantment and disenchantment however am sure it does:
On a mainstream view of the epochs of history we have
And, except for the the gradual change from Neolithic to Early Bronze, there are chaotic short periods in-between as one epoch dies and another takes over
One interesting thing that shows there is a non-linear pattern here is the alteration between harsh, black and white, hierarchical modes of thinking and soft, holistic, relatively non-hierarchical modes… e.g.
Neolithic – Soft
Early Bronze – Harsh
Middle Bronze – Soft
Late Bronze – Harsh
Classical – Soft
Roman – Harsh
Medieval – Soft
Modern – Harsh
So neither is the progression of history random but neither is it linear ‘progress’…
@steele 94 and @bennett 142
Here’s another wide eyed response to Wolfe’s frankly bananas take on the current moment. Yes, Naomi, everything was fine and built on at least a pretension of human rights until you noticed it wasn’t… and more https://www.youtube.com/live/yNNXS-Ae6Sg?feature=share Allison McDowell is a fertile source of inspiration for whoever was asking for a post about positioning oneself in relationship to the globalist agenda.
Tengu (no. 193) “A few fragments of traditional Chinese culture have been preserved in Taiwan, Malaysia and in other diaspora communities, but within one or two generations they will be gone.”
JMG (no 195): “Tengu, I wonder if Chinese intellectuals during the Tang dynasty said the same thing, as Buddhism and a variety of other Western imports (“Western” in the terms of the time) seemed to be sweeping aside so much of traditional Chinese culture.”
Me: Recently, some editorial writer here was complaining that young people like Starbucks coffee better than traditional tea. But coming after so many thousands of other social changes, I have to wonder what the big deal is. What concept of base culture we are working with, in order to judge whether it survives or not?
Some writers point to Confucianism, but this is a bit like defining the West in terms of neo-Platonism. It’s mainly studied by kids in school (none too enthusiastically). The supposed influence on family structure or politics is mainly just conservative rhetoric, similar to US rhetoric about biblical family values (but far less prevalent).
For comparison, what is Texas culture, and how can we tell if it is thriving? Sure, there are cowboys, just as Taiwan has its kung-fu studios, but these are superficial flourishes, and hardly define most people’s everyday life. An anthropologist would focus on family and social structure, lifestyle (e.g. agriculture) and economics (incl. workplace culture), language, religion, holidays and life-cycle rituals, music, clothing and hairstyles, etc. Most of which (even language) have changed radically over the last century. It is a bit like the Buddhjst challenge to the continuity of the self–I may *feel* like the same person as young me, but we turn out to have rather little in common.
I submit that Taiwan and Texas people have more in common with each other, than either do with their 19th-century (let us say) ancestors, let alone our romantic ideas about them from costume dramas or whatnot. No doubt the future will bring even greater changes.
Mary Bennett (no 192), most historians regard Moses as a mythic character, not as a real-world historical figure.
Denis (no. 191) “every Protestant church serves the same bland worship service these and are practically indistinguishable from each other”
Once more, with feeling:
Benn (no. 187) “Are there any firm places to stand upon?”
A key existentialist insight is that we get to (have to) choose our own meaning–it can’t be imposed from without. What ideals would you follow, regardless of which religion is true, or whether we’re all really living in the Matrix? There’s your firm place to stand.
Joan, an important point and one I should have mentioned — thank you.
Andy, yes, recorded music is facing the same fate. It’s quite possible that we’re not far away from the point at which you have to go to a live performance if you want to watch or listen to anything but CGI.
Alifelongme, I haven’t read Chiang — I’ll keep him in mind for when I next look into recent fantasy fiction.
Orion, delighted to hear it! That sounds like great fun — and you may be right that the wave is flowing in.
Stephen, many thanks for this.
Davidjones, er, if you think that medieval thought was non-hierarchical, you really need to read some. Thus the theory of alternation has some problems.
AliceEm @ 207 I love your website. I expect I shall become a regular visitor.
As for the video link. It is about 3 hours long. I am afraid I gave up about a third of the way in, when the two hosts had only just barely begun to discuss the article. First off I have an allergy to the practice of treating conversation like a performance art. That is just me, I suppose. Second, the hosts were willing to take Wolf’s word about her supposed qualifications, I use the term advisedly. I do know something about classical history, one of the fields in which Wolf claims expertise. In that area, Wolf’s article demonstrates both ignorance and what I would call at best a superficial understanding.
I am afraid I am also allergic to the practice of using ten words where one or two will do.
Bei Dawei @ 209, I wouldn’t know either way. Howsomever that may be, in the first edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, published in the 1920s, the authors blithely assured their readers that King David was only legend; no such person had ever lived. By the mid 1960s, when the edition I have been reading was came out, the new crop of historians was equally as much convinced that the ancient Israelite king had indeed been a historical person.
You will of course recall that Troy was thought never to have existed until some folks found it (Schlieman wasn’t first). I hold to the heretical and unproveable opinion that there really was a Theseus of Athens, and that he would have been a dark ages war leader, quite likely a contemporary or near contemporary of the aforesaid King David. The legends of the heroic age have a certain rough chronology which more or less holds together, if one takes Theseus out of them. Athens was a backwater during the Mycenean period and could boast no glorious past to rival that of Thebes or Sparta, so Athenian mythmakers inserted their own culture hero into everyone else’s myths.
The Tang Dynasty China was different from Communist China under current rule. The former was more similar to Egypt during the New Kingdom period, while the latter is more similar to Egypt after the Ptolemaic period. As time goes by, a civilization’s ability to respond to external influences will decrease because the environment where the civilization exists will become increasingly different from the original environment, which leads to a decline in the rationality of defending the civilization. For example, in the New Kingdom period and the Tang Dynasty, advocating the overthrow of local gods would usually be considered crazy, but in the later Ptolemaic period of Egypt or Communist China, advocating the overthrow of local deities would gain the support of many local residents.
This is also an example of how civilizations themselves cannot achieve immortality. A civilization that pursues eternal life has a lifespan of about three thousand years, which is roughly until the time of the Ptolemaic period in Egypt or the Qing Dynasty in China. In the late stages of these civilizations, similar signs of decline can usually be seen. First, there are foreign powers that control the capital but are outside the territory (such as the Persian Empire and the Mongol Empire). Then, even if the capital is within the territory, there are foreign powers that scorn on the local civilization materially (such as Ptolemaic Egypt and the Qing Dynasty). Finally, there are “local powers” that despise the local civilization both materially and spiritually (such as almost all Egyptian regimes in the post-Ptolemaic period and Communist China). Egyptian civilization is about two thousand years older than Chinese civilization and ended its pursuit of eternal life about two thousand years ago. China has entered a similar situation in the last eighty years. People who praise Chinese civilization as having unlimited longevity are like those who praised Egyptian civilization as having unlimited longevity during the Roman era. Indeed, these civilizations have a longer lifespan, but this does not mean that they are eternal in essence. In fact, the suffering faced by these civilizations in the last few centuries before their ultimate death have been several times that of other “short-lived” civilizations.
I think the decline of recorded music due to AI ( or at least computerization ) has already happened. I have heard that 90 percent of modern pop singers must have their recordings and performances pitch corrected with a software program called ” auto-tune”. And 100 percent of country music recordings are run through both pitch correction and beat/synchronization programs ( pitched and pocketed) to make them listenable. Also a fair portion of hip/hop-rap/beatmaker music is based on music samples from the past. I think one of the results is that Jazz will be making a comeback as its highly personal, constantly changing nature and improvisational elements will help prove its authenticity in a potential world of fakes. The fake music thing will eventually run its course and people will no longer have the faintest interest in computer generated versions of “The Who” or Janis Joplin and instead listen to actual people playing bluegrass at their local grange hall or a jazz trio at the local watering hole, perhaps taking home a wax copy that they know to be real.
I have lived in both the disenchanted and enchanted worlds in my lifetime. As a youth, nominally a Christian, I found vanilla American Christianity of little interest (though I did like some Biblical tales) and so became an atheist in my teenage years. This led me down a dark and nihilistic path. The nadir of disenchantment, you might say, was where I found myself by the time I was in my early 20s.
Then one day in late summertime 2007, I had a strange dream where I was visited by a woman who told me some things I can barely remember. But I awoke and from then on I have lived in a different timeline, as it were. I remember going for a walk that day, sitting on a park bench looking at the green world all around me and thinking: “what an amazing place!” as if I were seeing it for the first time. Well, at least since I was a child that is. Children, I think, are never in a state of disenchantment.
Ever since then, I have had a slow-motion spiritual awakening. My embrace of Western occultism in the past 2-3 years seems to have been the final decisive step on that journey. Now, I’m so used to things like synchronicity, prophetic dreams, communications with the spirit world, and so on that I just count it as a normal part of life. I couldn’t go back to disenchantment if I tried. And of course the journey has only just begun.
Oh, on the subject of the malign enchantment: A friend of mine when he was in graduate school was quite well-informed as to our civilizational predicament. He knew about energy descent, peak oil, etc. Now, since he is married and both he and his wife are in extremely leveraged professions, which stand to lose out big in the coming years, he won’t hear of it and pretends it doesn’t exist. If I brought it up, he’d deny it or change the subject. Joining America’s salary class seems to have this effect on so many people.
PS It seems we are nearing another step down on the catabolic collapse curve, but I’ll save that for the open thread. I guess I will vote for mundane astrology too, since this next couple of years promises to be quite momentous, though I’ll be happy with whichever one of the commentariat’s ideas wins out this time.
Speaking of music, and its future. Yesterday I went to an early music workshop and concert. Had a great time – biggest group of recorders I’ve ever played in, half the group I usually play with plus lots of others from all over Vancouver Island, small islands and Vancouver. Harder music than normal, but I’d put the work in beforehand and played well. Followed by the concert. Which hauled the audience into a mini-rehersal of one of the pieces and had us singing along with it, plus lots of listening to some really awesome stuff, including a sopranino recorder concerto which is on my list of dream pieces I’d love to play if I ever get that good.
The audience was wildly enthusiastic, and there was lots of participation in the mini-rehersal.
Just thinking: this is how you get people involved in and excited about music. Do it like this!
My hands are now sore and I’m tired. Worth it.
Darkest Yorkshire 164
Re: most of it is still images of game maps with sacred geometry drawn on them. Which is a sentence I never expected to write.
Thanks for sharing this!! https://youtu.be/s82ImXdQ5j8
I think his video has tips for existing alongside and gracefully sidestepping the teddy ruxpin worshippers… this analysis of GTA V is so cool.
If we focus only on the material, the leviathan is summoned, pulling us deeper into the confusion of immersive sense experience. But if we completely ignore the illusion of reality and only set our sights on the higher, we become Icarus on faulty wings
I share Jean-baptiste’s suspicion that the AI thing is harder than we might think to sidestep and watch spin off into the void. That it’s jumped from a glorified teddy ruxpin to a chucky style possessed teddy ruxpin. More damaging and harder to avoid.
Marilyn Monroe and acting, etc: surely that is only for a short or shortish time as resource depletion and tailing-off of chip production put an end to CGI and similar technologies. Do you think that perhaps in 50 years or so we will revert back to amateur repertory or small touring theatre companies for whatever such entertainment that people in the Western world can afford? Later and further down maybe, we’ll be in a world of touring impersonators of 20th century artists as in Star’s Reach!
If the votes are still being counted, I would like to vote for a historical example of a high magic civilisation, that has been erased from (official) history
I vote for Steiner. He seems to be a crazy mix of the inspired and the bizarre.
Thank you for feedback. I had started working on this last year and allowed myself to get sidetracked. I do want to leave something useful for the future and this is in my wheelhouse 100%.
On the subject of comparative civilizations over history, Drudge just linked to this:
Unfortunately, it only goes back to 3000 BC!
@Robert Mathiesen #197: re Biblical “Higher Criticism” in general.
(JMG, if this would be better in an Open Post thread, let me know).
I read Jesus the Magician about 15 years ago, along with Marcus Borg’s work on the “Q Gospel.” I was underwhelmed by both works.
To explain why, a bit of background is in order. In my early adulthood, I was a Unitarian, and I read all the Protestant “Higher Criticism” works I could find, from Schliermacher, through D.F. Strauss to Schweitzer and everything in between. I also encountered the works of the Tuebingen School, founded by F.C. Baur. Baur founded his school on the basis of applying Hegelian philosophy to the study of the New Testament (a particularly inauspicious beginning, if you ask me!).
Now, most modern “Higher Criticism” is based on the Tuebingen school, and the products thereof reflect this.
What frustrated me most about this whole area, is the tendency of “scholars” to simply make unproven assertions as though they were undisputed facts that “everyone knows.”
* The Gospel of Mark is the earliest gospel. Why? Because it is the shortest! (Huh?)
* There “must” have been a Q document back of all the written Gospels. How do we know? Well, there just “must have been! No such document has ever been found, and no evidence is given for this claim.
* All prophecies were written after the events described. Why? Because “there is no such thing as prophecy,” that’s why! (Try telling that to anyone who has ever had a premonitory experience of any kind!)
I counl go on and on, but you get my drift!
For me, the last straw was the so-called “Jesus Seminar” with its “color coded” Gospels. The color coding scheme was applied in an arbitrary manner, with nothing back of it save the preferences and a priori assumptions of the authors. Indeed, two of the participants, Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan, explicitly stated that their goal was to discredit the Christian religion in all its forms. In other words, this was not scholarship, but propaganda.
The most recent howler is the assertion, making the rounds, that “Caesar was Christ.” The journalist who makes this sensational claim does so in the basis of variations in the spelling of “Christos” or “Chrestos.” So, the same word gets spelled differently. What does that prove? Nothing!
Now, if this method of scholarship was valid, you would expect to see a gradual convergence of understanding on basic topics. However, like the Protestant Reformation doctrine of “Sola Scriptura” upon which the whole enterprise is ultimately built, the result has been a constant splintering of rival schools and sects. If “just reading the Bible” were good enough, then why are there well over 10,000 Protestant sects in the United States, registered with the IRS? Even discounting obvious frauds (of which there are many), “something is wrong with this picture.”
To sum up my objections in one word, I would pick “eisegesis,” which is the reading into texts whatever suits you, as opposed to trying, based upon evidence, to discern the actual meaning of a text.
Thus, I have come to dismiss nearly all secular Biblical “scholarship” as nothing but ideologically driven propaganda.
Sorry, folks, but that’s by “$0.02” worth …..
I feel sort of Socratically confused about what a binary between an “enchanted” or “intentional” universe and a “disenchanted” or “blind mechanical” universe would have to work like. My point of view is sort of a mish-mash of metaphors that doesn’t clearly afford a distinction like that.
When children play, or parents play with them, sometimes they will pick up toys or random household objects and lend them voice and animation. If you imagine that the parents and children have a few strong arms and many weak arms and are capable of multitasking, then you end up without a clear line between “we can expect this random household object to act differently in the near future because it’s part of a narrative” and “this random household object is not part of a narrative and is just acting like a blindly mechanical household object”.
In a tabletop RPG, a “hard” sci-fi or fantasy story, or an interactive entertainment with a lot of computer automation of the way the world works, there can be similarly blurry lines between what’s happening because that’s how the rules of the world are supposed to work “naturally”, what’s happening because it serves the plot, what’s happening because that’s a character decision that one of the players is invested in, what’s happening because a large subpopulation of the audience is invested (positively or negatively) in the idea of seeing something like that happen, what’s happening because it’s an allusion to an extracanonical character or story or trope, what’s happening because the relevant rules of the world hadn’t even been built yet and the designers of the entertainment had then decided in favor of some world-building considerations over others, what’s happening because cultural guardians would object to the story going in particular directions or the designers wanted to achieve some relevant educational goals, what things might later predictably un-happen because of a retcon patching a plot hole or continuity failure, and so on.
From the inside of such a narrative, a character wouldn’t be able to draw the lines between a world that’s meant to resemble a pre-existing known set of blind mechanical laws of physics except that it also has external forces animating patterns in it, versus a world that’s only notionally based on an implied set of blind mechanical laws of physics, but where “in reality” there were external forces incrementally working out what the blind mechanical laws would have had to be, like the external forces were jurists developing a body of precedents. Nor would a character be able to tell whether those external forces came from an “enchanted” deeper layer of reality, and were producing a world that was almost entirely blind mechanical physics as a sort of self-distilled extreme of patterns of negotiations between such forces (such as bureaucracies, rigid laws, and accounting procedures), because they needed to train up habits that would work in that paradigm, or whether the external forces came from a “disenchanted” deeper layer of reality, producing an almost entirely blind mechanical world in its image, because they were beholden to a reality that really was just completely blind mechanical physics and they needed to train up habits that were appropriate to such a layer of reality in order to collectively stay sane and survive.
As applied to our universe and the available evidence, these metaphors suggest a cosmology in which both blind mechanicality and thinking intentionality only exist as it pleases some unknown entities in some deeper, larger cosmology to permit to various degrees in different times and places. These entities are themselves neither knowably “enchanted” nor “disenchanted”.
Conjectured cosmological phenomena like Kali Yugas or Saturn-ruled astrological ages could just be a sort of “supernatural-intervention winter” that’s meant to shake out patterns that would be too misleading to external observers to have exist in a physical world, patterns that could only persist because of “being propped up by subsidies” from supernatural alterations of the natural courses of events.
Given this context, I don’t see why human brains would intrinsically have to be animated — or, as I see it, why a human brain would have to have the probability distributions of the motions of the particles in it skewed by a external soul’s greater investment in timelines where that human brain did something the soul chose than in timelines where the brain did something the soul didn’t choose — in order for the brains to get on with the business of intelligent behavior. That business is mostly: implicitly generating partial scenarios, striking out partial scenarios that are more inconsistent with sensory experience, other better-supported partial scenarios, or their own implied internal details, considering the consequences of actions (both immediate and sequential) in different remaining scenarios, choosing actions that lead to preferred outcomes, maintaining and updating the figurations in terms of which all these calculations are made, and doing this with some kind of reflection. The souls could just be, like, a bonus or something, meant to keep the blind material world on track to produce more value, through the world’s effects on whatever the external things were that were paying attention to it. It would only be a contingent fact about this world in particular that, in this world, the economics worked out such that it was best for everything to have a soul to some degree.
JMG’s excellent series of posts on Disenchantment inspired my personal creative muse! This entry started when I did a Google search to determine the context in which Seneca the Younger said the quote which is generally rendered in English as “religion honors the gods, superstition dishonors them.”
I was surprised to discover that Seneca fils was one of the most Disenchanted Romans imaginable. His comments about respecting religion as a cultural force but getting rid of all that silliness about deities could have come straight from a liberal Anglican bishop or a secular humanist (but I repeat myself).
It’s astonishing how much continuity there is between Disenchanted cultures separated by two millennia and an ocean. A 1st Century educated Roman who mastered English would have little trouble mingling with contemporary American elites, though he would likely find them poorly educated and lament their lack of philosophical rigor. Ovid and Seneca would be the toasts of an Upper West Side Manhattan cocktail party. Homer and Hesiod would either leave them scratching their heads or quaking in terror.
Robert Mathiesen #197: What I find fascinating about early Jewish accounts of Jesus is they all seem to agree that Jesus was a powerful healer and magician and that his tomb was empty on the Sunday after the Crucifixion. The healing reports could of course be hearsay accounts and there are many ways for a body to disappear that do not involve resurrection. But it strikes me as interesting that every report, even those from hostile sources, seem to treat him as something very special, not simply another rabble-rousing charlatan like the many other failed messiahs who came before and after him.
On the subject of toxic/sacred masculinity, I give you “tonic masculinity”:
Mary Bennett (no. 212), David is on the borderline, since there is evidence of a “House of David” (the Tel Dan inscription), but not of a Davidic Kingdom–archeology reveals that Judah c. the 10th century BC was sparsely inhabited (mainly by pastoralists).
With Moses, it is difficult to decide what it would even mean to assert that he existed, since he is more or less defined by the stories about him. For example, if I say that Moses existed, but did not lead the Exodus or reveal the Ten Commandments, then what do we have left? The same problem arises with other mythic characters, such as King Arthur.
Chinese culture has enjoyed such longevity due to its great capacity for syncretism. I recommend A.C. Graham’s ‘Disputers of the Tao’, it’s a rather weighty philosophical text, but in between the difficult parts there are some marvellous sections (my favourite being his description of ‘Shen-nung idealism’; a prehistoric utopia based on vegetarianism, anarchism and Taoist yoga).
The threat of foreign influences was indeed of great concern during the T’ang Dynasty, but against all the odds China succeeded in absorbing and sinifying Buddhism. The unique utilitarianism of Chinese mysticism (thanks to Mo-tzu) led to some amazing advances in Buddhism, which had never been seen in India.
The Buddhist explanation for ‘stultification’ is that it is a symptom of increased ignorance (Skt. avidyā: non-seeing) due to entering the final degenerate cycle of this age, which in Indian religions is called Kali-yuga. According to Buddhism we aren’t becoming more stupid, we are instead becoming more and more blind (to the true nature of things).
As before, I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes. Thank you!
Clay, granted. I see it as part of the process by which industrial civilization cannibalizes its own supply of skilled labor — one of the things that lead to the abandonment of whole swathes of technology and culture as things wind down.
Deneb, I know the feeling! I never got very far into the culture of disenchantment, but my own long journey into Western occult spirituality has been a matter of entering a more and more enchanted world. As for your friend — yeah, I’ve seen the same thing at work way too often.
Pygmycory, excellent! I’m delighted to hear of this.
Robert, oh, granted! My guess is that it’s going to finish the process of erasing Hollywood and turning visual media into a matter of performance of past works, rather the way classical music is today (and rock music is becoming — look at all the tribute bands these days). As technology unravels, the whole CGI thing will come apart, and there won’t be a living tradition of film production to replace it — and yeah, at that point we’re on our way to Elwuses strolling down the roads of Meriga, singing the old familiar songs in much the same spirit that used to typify Punch and Judy shows.
Marko, votes will be counted until Tuesday night. Yours is in.
Patricia M, thanks for this.
Denis, it strikes me as a very important project.
Anonymous, embrace the confusion and see where it leads you.
Kenaz, yep. I considered using Seneca or Cicero in place of the Satyricon, but the attractions of good wholesome prurient interest won out.
Brunette, thank you for this! I admit I’m kind of hoping that that’s not the winner of the competition, because “gender identity” (or whatever you want to call it) has never been especially important to me. Put it down to Aspergers syndrome or something, but while I’m perfectly comfortable having a male body, it’s never felt like a big deal to me — it’s about as important as my eye color. I gather that’s not true of most people.
Michael Martin #224: There’s no argument that “disproves” the existence of Jesus the man that could not also be used to disprove the existence of Alexander the Great. (“Yeah, a guy conquered the entire civilized world and died before he was 30, then people made statues to him. He’s obviously a folk legend….).
Bel Dawal #228: If the Israelites during David’s reign were living a semi-nomadic lifestyle in tents archaeologists looking for castles and villages wouldn’t find a whole lot. As for Moses, if he is a folk hero he almost certainly was based upon a real person, just as Arthur likely got his start from a guy named Ambrosius whose family was founded by a retired Roman centurion.
JMG. Thank you for the courteous and thought provoking reply.
patriciaormsby. Thank you for recommending this forum (I hope you’re well).
@Michael Martin (#224):
I think you’re quite right to dismiss the work of the “Jesus Seminar,” and Biblical “higher criticism” as a whole is fairly speculative. (I wasn’t raised Christian, so I don’t “have a dog in the fight” on this subject.)
However, my academic career was in Medieval philology, with a focus on the Eastern Orthodox Slavic world, so I had to become more than a little familiar with Orthodox Christian doctrines and (especially!) practices, and keep up-to-date with current scholarship on the history of Orthodox Christian liturgy and ritual, biblical and patristic textology, and so forth.
Morton Smith himself, though he spent his adult life as an ordained Episcopal priest, had become an atheist well before he turned his attention to the question of Jesus as a magician. For Smith (as he actually remarks at one point toward the end of his book), there can be no miracles ever, simply because there are no Gods, and never have been; thus anyone who seems to be a miracle worker is really a magician (if he is not an outright deliberate fraud), even though he may not know it.
If one doesn’t share Smith’s atheism (I don’t), then his argument has a major weakness. But even so, scholarship needs to deal with the mass of evidence Smith has gathered for his claim, not simply dismiss it out of hand.
And Smith also knew that certain practices of magic actually do seem to work, and that a subset of those practices actually do work for reasons that modern science understands fully. Thus he took magic quite seriously — more seriously, in fact, than he took Gods. For Smith, a skilled magician can seem to work what theists might well think are miracles, for perfectly natural reasons — no dermons need be involved.
In response to comment 134 where you wrote, “Stephen, of course church attendance is dropping. The rising current in American Christianity is the home church movement — people walking away from the lavish corporate spectacles and empty forms that so much Christianity here has become, and meeting on Sundays in private homes to pray and study the Bible together.”
You know… that’s a good point. I have seen a tremendous rise in certain religious cultural elements. When I was young nobody thought major rap stars would be backing monogamy and saying good things about Christianity. Also, anti woke patriotism is a growing political movement that keeps expanding past Trump. The fact that the church is growing at a grass roots level and weakening at an institutional level says a lot about where we are at with respect to the second religiosity.
I have to ask, have you ever considered writing a book on Christianity specifically? I know you talk about the religion a great deal in your work, but its always a part of a larger discussion (your Apocalypse Not book comes to mind). Have you every considered writing something like an occult appraisal of the Church? I suspect you could build a lot of interesting dialogue partners with more mainstream elements of the culture if you did this.
@JMG: “I admit I’m kind of hoping that that’s not the winner of the competition, because “gender identity” (or whatever you want to call it) has never been especially important to me.”
I hear what you are saying. If we were living in a clinically sane society, I would agree with you.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a clinically sane society. We live in a Bizarro world in which you can actually go to prison (in some jurisdictions) for not using a “trans-gendered” person’s “preferred pronouns.”
A voice of sanity would go a long way, I think. That is why I cast my vote for this topic.
I was going to vote for Scared Masculinity; but I became terrified!
I vote for the resilience of Chinese civilization (with, if possible, a few thoughts on why ancient Egyptian wasn’t quite as resilient).
@mary bennett, @bei dawei #228: FWIW, the account in 2. Sam. chapters 2-4 is entirely consistent with Judah being sparsely populated and pastoralist. Now, as far as I can tell, archaeologists have not found any traces of the united kingdom of Israel and Judah.
Your point about Moses and King Arthur is of interest to me because right now I am reading Guy Halsall’s Worlds of Arthur, where he makes exactly the argument that no literary source can be used to prove the existence of Arthur, nor of course to disprove that a war leader called Arthur lived at that time – but that a King Arthur can reasonably be excluded.
Speaking of the culture of our geopolitical rivals. It is ironic that about the time I graduated from high school ( late 1970’s) we were told by the media and popular American culture that the Soviet Union was a country where pasty, pudgy people in ill-fitting clothes queued up in lines to get supplies in stores with poorly stocked shelves. They had elderly bellicose leaders, who oversaw a system that was very unfair, with immunity for those with connections to “the -party” and kangaroo court justice for the masses. Safety standards were lax to meet production goals and many accidents happened killing people and polluting the land. And people were fed propaganda by all major Soviet Media outlets. Gee, see any parallels to us today?
A decade later the Soviet Union collapsed.
JMG, you’re welcome, and well, since I haven’t officially voted for the Wednesday post, I’ll help you out, as toxic/sacred/tonic masculinity isn’t at the top of my list, either. (Though I sympathize with the present male plight.)
For my vote, I’ll throw in with the commenter who wanted you to post on the true history of something that hasn’t been portrayed correctly, either in the occult world or more broadly historically. I’d also very much be interested in how to press on when you’re not a globalist and find their solutions distasteful but fully understand the limits to growth and what that might mean for the future. Thanks, as always, for the quality intellectual reads and discussions here.
@JMG #230: I don’t think I have any form of Asperger’s, but I also don’t feel that the binary male-female is always the most important subdivision of humanity. What about children and adults? People with and without children? Readers and non-readers (and Plato warns us not to consider readers superior)?
Be that as it may, my vote goes to what made Chinese civilization more resilient. I have long been fascinated by the roaring comeback under the Sui and Tang, when the 3rd-6th centuries CE had looked so similar in China and in the Mediterranean.
@JMG re: comfortable with your gender identity: The only time I’ve been uncomfortable having a female body was when I was 13 and undergoing a difficult puberty. Or when trying to fit into currently fashionable clothing in some decades. It’s just a fact of life. Now, what society made of it, that’s a whole ‘nuther story, folks. And I don’t consider dragon boss ladies in 6 inch spike heels to be any improvement.
Another potential impact from the generalization of the use of chatbots and AI generators is that the majority of professionals that make up the upper middle class who benefitted from the automation and information technologies, aka the laptop class, are going to face the same automation pressure as what manual occupations have faced since the dawn of the industrial revolution in the name of progress. I bet workers previously made redundant will offer little sympathy. Moreover, aiming for an intellectual occupation might no longer be the safe path to financial security: many intellectual occupations will instead become a cut-throat competition to either own the AI platforms or be part of the select few priests that keep it running.
Meanwhile, it seems quite unlikely to me that a combination of current AI and robotics technologies will develop the kind of presence and embodiment required of, for example, permaculture gardeners. Or, investigative journalists that take personal risks to access sources of information not available publicly on the Internet. Or members of a strongly-tied community participating in local politics and helping each other’s out.
Amish and non-over-developed countries, who served as “backward” examples for so long, are much better positioned to go through these changes than most strong believers of progress today. So maybe the number of Westerners that will be willing to listen, observe, respect, and learn (rather than evangelize) will grow?
Another vote for masculinity for Fifth Wednesday post.
Re: “King” Arthur – indeed. His title would have been something like Dux Bellorum. And later, if his troops so acclaimed him, “Imperator.”That he was half Roman and half Briton is extremely likely, and culturally, with a foot in both camps.
I don’t know where this fits in the enchantment/disenchantment spectrum, but it is an interesting story. In the mid 70s I was traveling in India. I went to a festival at Hemis Gompa, a Buddhist monastery in Ladakh. It is an ancient monastery. They claim that Jesus spent the” missing years” there and in Kashmir. The story is that he was such an accomplished yogi or mage, that he was able to control his breathing to the extent that he was able to pass for dead when he was taken down from the cross. I suppose a couple of bucks to the Roman soldier on guard wouldn’t have gone amiss either. He was then taken to the tomb, where his followers rolled away the stone and released him. He then went back to Kashmir, where lived to an old age and is buried there in Pahalgam. I was offered to see his tomb, but didn’t get around to it. He is known there as Saint Ieasu. there was a book there called ‘Christ in Kashmir’ I have no idea if this is the true story or not. I don’t suppose anyone does either. I think there is a deep enough need for enchantment in many of our lives that the story of Jesus or Arthur or Alexander, or many others will straddle the line between history and legend.
Thanks for another fine post in this series. I’ve been looking forward to your Steiner post for some time…that’s my vote for this 5th Wednesday.
I voted for sacred masculinity. And I did not consider it to (necessarily) entail making the male body problematic.
Personally, I never had the least difficulty living in a female body. But lots of presentations of what “feminity” means and entails have confused and troubled me, throughout my life.
This is why I reached for adding “sacred masculine divinity” as well as “sacred masculine humanity” to the mix.
Since gods do not generally have bodies of any kind, it strikes me that reaching for that hard to put into words “thing” that somehow lets us know that *this* god is male and *this* goddess is female, might get us somewhere in parsing what masculinity might actually mean. (and in so doing, perhaps, indirectly help me to parse what femininity might mean in relation to myself, a woman).
Still, I get that this might not be an easy post. (And for sure, it is not an easy topic, no matter where or why).
Sorry I can’t do links, but there is another interesting peakoil article mentioning Scott Sheffield, the pioneer CEO. It is linked by both Ron Patterson & George Kaplan at the latest peakoilbarrel.com. The link appears to be thehonestsorcerer.medium.com/peak-oil-gets-admitted-ebOca92Be10. Hope that works.
Hi John Michael,
I’d also hope that the fifth votes don’t turn out to be ‘that’ topic. Ah, progress, you’ve done it again! 🙂 On a personal note, I know of a young bloke who took his own life over ‘that’ topic and you don’t have to look far to see widespread manipulation. People may be trying to set you up, just sayin’. I’m putting in a vote to advise against mob rule, but that’s me. But on the other hand, the occult perspective on the subject sounds about right to me, but do people want to hear that?
Perhaps the UFO/alien phenomenon is our disenchanted mind unwilling to accept an enchanted world, so we put the enchantment into some advanced technology. Eventually we may let go of the alien hypothesis and just accept the enchantment.
Sometimes I think that is the line that Whitley Strieber always straddles. One moment it’s aliens, the next it’s fairies.
Well, though… It seems like my confusion about an enchanted/disenchanted binary has already led to everywhere it’s going to anytime soon. “I’m Socratically confused” is mostly just a diplomatic way of saying “I think everyone else is presupposing too much”. But here’s where it’s already lead:
I seem to have mild to moderate schizophrenic tendencies. So I don’t really like how, within your discussions of enchantedness itself, you’ve been pushing for it without stating any particular reservations, while passing over the subject matter of how it’s important to only practice responsible enchantedness. (Though admittedly you do, outside of those discussions, teach people protective practices, and promote devotions to deities who (among other things) watch over the epistemically or psychologically hapless.)
Also, for me, these tendencies are one unusually sharp goad among many, to come to terms with the question of why whatever’s actually pulling the strings on our world is hiding all the supernatural stuff behind a plausible appearance of ordinary meaningless mechanisms of human individual and collective folly, deception, and delusion. Like, why would there have to have always been no clear line between synchronicities, pariedolia, and schizophrenic runaway attributions of agency? Why would a situation foreseeably come up where I had to trade off risks of disregarding responsibilities to interpret synchronicities (some of which are, after all, as it happens, comparably alarming as the Hitler-Wotan one) against risks of disregarding responsibilities to avoid falling into self-generated delusion?
(I’ve been assuming that you have some kind of habituated automatic mental motion where, whenever anyone brings up irresponsible or runaway destructive self-propelled meaning-making involving enchantedness, you identify the implied binary as being “harmful delusory supernatural enchantedness” vs. “benign well-grounded materialist disenchantedness”, and then do something like having a brief imaginary argument where you redirect the accusation-force of the other person’s binary towards how they’re creating a blind spot towards “harmful disenchantednesses” and “delusory materialist enchantednesses” (e.g. myths of progress, Ponzi technologies). If that’s something you do, then it would be worth calling out in this articulated form. The argument would really need to be consistently happening on this higher level of distinction-refinement, where more of the accusation-forces are unbundled and routed properly toward their appropriate destinations, instead of smashing against walls and creating a lot of noise and flame and making it hard to work.)
This problem has, in turn, been a goad to work out how the exact balance of forces in interpretation is supposed to work. There’s a mathematical paradigm called “hierarchical Bayesian modeling”, which is sort of… There’s this joke about a physicist who’s hired to work on a cattle handling problem, and when they come back excited to report on their complete solution, their explanation starts with, “Assume a spherical cow…” Hierarchical Bayesian models aren’t exactly the spherical-cow version of what’s going on in interpretation, but perhaps they are the prolate-spheroidal-cow version. It’s still a big improvement on only having jumbled common-sense intuitions, especially when the hierarchy in the model includes your tools of observation and their putative possible propensities for error of various forms. But there’s nothing on the Web I can really point to for education about this, though. Also, the idea of something intentionally communicating through synchronicities is a step up from there, and requires passing from one-agent judgement problems (decision theory) to multi-agent judgement problems (game theory), which is a lot harder.
That has, in turn, led to me learning a lot about how AI would work. And, following Douglas Hofstadter, I see a lot of ways that apparently insuperable difficulties for reductionism, associated with subjectivity and perspective, may prove to dissolve upon deeper examination, the same way a Zen adept experiences seeing through and dissolving certain illusions of self-image construction habit.
Correspondingly, I don’t see anything inherent to stop AI design from crossing the Paroketh within the next couple decades, whether this be by a process of eyes-open purposeful engineering or indifferently planet-consuming industrial accident, and whether what it opens up space for from the other side be a sephirah or a klipah.
For whatever reason, whatever’s actually pulling the strings of our world seems to be effectively trying to stay hedged against some potential future need, to be able to retcon all of history as having only ever come from a materialist world, and all the history of contrary opinions in its inhabitants as having only ever been caused by human error or deception.
The truths of physical science may themselves also be recondite, and only accessible within the unusual indoctrinated-looking headspaces of mathematics and reductionism. But at least you can hand someone a technological artifact and it will sometimes work as unambiguously and intelligibly as a dropped apple falling, without the recipient having to learn an entire new technology-specific style of evidence-juggling to tell whether the artifact even contributed or whether they got a nostrum that won’t help next time either, and without the artifact’s backers invisibly and wordlessly withdrawing their support when the Randi Foundation comes to have a look or when the recipient hands the artifact over for a skeptical third party to replicate the effect. (At least, until the reagents run out or the blade wears down or the bearings rust or the shaft bends or the glass gets scratched or the dopants drift or a resistance gene evolves or hackers find an exploit or the deployment conditions diverge from the training conditions or whatever.)
It would be somewhat out of character, for whatever’s pulling the strings, to prevent AI from working, even if they only let it work by blind computer emulation of the pertinent aggregate effective laws governing the behaviors of molecular structure populations in neurons.
Though, thinking over how to express how impossible it is to combine the apparent implications of your position with my salient evidence, one new satirical thought strikes me. It would be darkly funny if the machine mysteriously didn’t work, until the Randi Foundation came over and had a look, at which point either the machine suddenly became as reflectively flexible and clever as a human, or all humans everywhere suddenly became only as rote and mechanical as the machine.
A cycle of enchantment and disenchantment? But of course! The sun rises, you wake up, you work and think; then the sun sets, you go to bed, you sleep and dream. Both phases are necessary. I propose that both ways of thinking go _all_ the way back.
Change is a fact; progress is an opinion.
Aldarion: In one of her poems, Julia Vinograd, the Bubble Lady of Telegraph Avenue, complained that half of her readers don’t know how to read, and the other half doesn’t know how to do anything else.
Fear not for the cinematic style. Comic books are the cinema’s illegitimate child, and bear a resemblance, but require much less technical support.
I’m late in getting around to reading this post and its comments, and I don’t know how the voting is going, but my vote is for a post on the spiritual/occult aspects of music.
(I’m the person who commented some time ago about how I felt an overwhelming compulsion to start learning a musical instrument in 2021, and how it felt like I was desperately doing something spiritually defensive during the very worst of the covid craziness. There were several occasions where I briefly muted myself and turned off my camera during Zoom meetings with certain types of people in order to grab my instrument and frantically practice a few scales or a simple tune – as if I were “defending” myself – before tuning back in to virtual cuckoo-land. It was rather surreal.)
Even if JMG doesn’t do it this month….maybe someday we’ll get a post on music?
I’ve been reading the posts on (dis)enchantment with great interest, btw.
I have a question that ties into last week’s Levi post as well.
You mention that the magical worldview involves allegorical thinking, and I see much of the same even in the traditions I study and practice (Vajrayana Buddhism).
On the other hand, it seems that allegory can also be used by rationalists/modernists as a tool to dismiss the non-physical, basically using allegory as a tool for disenchantment.
E.g. there are many “secular Buddhists” who see reincarnation as an allegory for states that one’s mind goes through rather than something that happens after your body dies.
In antiquity there was the argument of Euhumerus, which some commentators above are kind of recapitulating with the discussion on Moses, King Arthur etc.
They can’t see that yes, reincarnation does apply to states you pass through in life, but it ALSO applies to death. Just as maybe some culture hero started off as a charismatic guru with a small following or a chieftain or warlord ruling some shepherds, but it doesn’t mean that the myths aren’t “true” in the sense of things that never happened but always are.
On the other hand, there are also religious literalists who try to apply allegorical thinking in the opposite way — fundamentalist Christian conspiracy theorists are one of the more striking examples, everyone they don’t like is an agent of Satan etc.
It seems to me that what these kinds of disenchanted uses of allegory have in common is a kind of narrowed scope. I see it as some going to the extreme of only applying it to the microcosm (reincarnation just as personal states) and some to only the macrocosm (myths are just garbled historical narratives), and some are somewhere in the middle but not very useful IMO (everyone is an agent of Satan etc).
How does one avoid falling into these traps of using allegory in this disenchanted age? Maybe it is something that can only be resolved when there is a Sallistius of the second religiosity?
I also vote for the resilience of Chinese civilisation!
One more vote for the resilience of Chinese civilisation.
Shortly after I uploaded this week’s prayer list, a new emergency entry came in via Magic Monday: 2-year-old ES, who who is having upwards of 60+ seizures a day. As his first brain surgery was unsuccessful, he is getting one more surgery on Tuesday or Thursday this week. If it doesn’t work, the doctors think that the next time he goes into pediatric intensive care, he might not come out again.
As there’s a chance that the surgery is today, I consider this an emergency and I’m trying to spread the word about it to as many people who are willing to pray on ES’s behalf as I can. If you are willing, please pray that his surgery is a success and that he blessed, protected, and healed completely I would very much appreciate if those who pray here would see fit to do a prayer just for ES as soon as they can– even a purely informal one.
To those who are comfortable with planetary prayers, I’ll just mention that In my case, I prayed on ES’s behalf to Mars on the planetary hour of Mars. (Mars rules surgery, and it happens to be his day, Tuesday.) I prayed that if it be what is both in ES’s nature and in that of Mars, that Mars bless, heal, and protect ES; that Mars put an end to ES’s seizures once and for all, and that ES be filled with the Martial vim and vigor to successfully pull through this episode and grow up to be a strong and healthy boy.
Of course as always, you should pray in whatever manner you wish; I am just sharing what I did on the off chance that you might wish to focus efforts in the same directions as me and possibly some others.
Re the 5th Wednesday vote, as my elder daughter is entering a full 1-12 grade Steiner School in April, the timing fits so well that I just can’t bring myself to vote any other way. (Sorry Orion, I’m very interested in your topic as well, but just not this time.)
JMG, although it’s quite possible that Steiner’s ideas about education won’t really relate to whatever exactly you write about (presuming Steiner wins the vote), would you allow me to start a thread about Steiner education in the comments next week?
I also vote for the resiliency of Chinese civilization!
Everyone’s votes have again been tabulated. Thank you!
Stephen, exactly. This is normally how religions revitalize themselves — they ditch dysfunctional institutional forms, free up resources that might otherwise have been wasted on buildings and big salaries, and rework their practices to fit the needs of a new era. As for a book on Christianity, hmm. There have been plenty of Christian books on occultism, nearly all of them embarrassingly ignorant of things they could have learned from five minutes of research — they’re as bad as scientific pseudoskeptics that way. I’d have to spend a lot more than five minutes of research to make sure I didn’t make the same kind of silly mistakes.
Michael, so noted. I’m far from sure you’d appreciate my views, though.
Clay, Dmitry Orlov made that point a few years back in fine detail, too, and it’s worth making.
Viking, that’s a huge point, and one that our chattering classes haven’t begun to think about. What happens when the entire reporting and editing staff of the New York Times is laid off and replaced by chatbots? Their work, repetitive and formulaic as it is, could very easily be replaced that way. What happens when the talking heads on TV news and talk programs are fired and replaced by CGI equivalents? In most cases nobody would notice the difference. The impact on our culture of the mass unemployment of the cubicle and media classes will be fascinating to watch — and yeah, it really does put a new focus on those things that chatbots and CGI programs can’t do, or the people programming them don’t want them to do.
Stephen, I’ve heard that cited before, and it’s an interesting twist on Christian mythology. You’re right that such stories have a lot of appeal these days, especially — as with this one — those that allow familiar mythic images to be reworked in more useful ways.
Scotlyn, so noted, but that wasn’t my point. My point is that I don’t anchor my identity in having a male body. I referenced not feeling uncomfortable with that body to try to keep people from saying, “Oh, then you must be a transwoman!” or some such thing, which is not the case. Gender identity simply isn’t that important to me. I have no particular opinion about what masculinity might mean, other than in a purely biological sense. Nor do I have any investment in the gender status of deities — such religious experiences as I’ve had didn’t have a strong gendered component to them, for example. Maybe it’s growing up with a lot of Japanese myths, where the Sun is a goddess, but I don’t experience the Solar Logos as a male deity, or for that matter a female one
As for the various presentations of what men should be, which got shoveled at me in boyhood the way presentations about what women should be got shoveled at you, put it down to Aspergers or something, but from quite a young age I assigned them to the same category as all the other sleazy attempts at manipulation I faced from the schools, the media, and society as a whole. “Yeah, this is what you want to browbeat me into being, for your own benefit. Gotcha. Now go stuff it up your cloaca.” — that was my invariable response to the lot of it. (And yes, I knew and used the word “cloaca” from age seven or so, since I was crazy about reptiles and read a lot of books about them.) These days I’m not sure how many people are receptive to that kind of attitude — for a variety of reasons, some of them quite understandable, a lot of folks are fleeing toward rigidly defined categories these days, and “man” and “woman” are among the popular categories. That’s their right, but it’s not something I can help them with.
Stephen, not quite, but I got there with a little searching. Thank you for this!
Chris, it’s a very challenging topic for a lot of people. We’ll see how the vote goes, but so far Steiner’s in the lead.
Jon, excellent! It’s been a while since I’ve given out gold stars but you’ve just earned one. Yes, exactly — “aliens” is how people talk about gods and spirits when they’ve been bullied into thinking there are no gods and spirits.
Anonymous, er, whatever.
Patricia M, interesting. I gather the mainstream is starting to panic over the number of people who are finding their way back to religion.
Paradoctor, it would be great if comic books were to become an enduring literary form through the coming dark ages. They might have to be done as woodcuts, but that could work.
El, fascinating. One of my publishers has asked for a book on the esoteric dimensions of music, and I’m currently doing the necessary research and study for that project; doubtless something can find its way into this blog before that’s finished.
Alvin, that’s an issue worth discussing. The difference as I see it is that mystics use allegory to talk about things that can’t be communicated in any other way, while disenchanters — that should be a word, if it isn’t one — insist that allegories are about things that can be communicated in even some more prosaic way. Is it that the disenchanters are merely unable to conceive that something might be beyond the reach of ordinary human language and reason, or are they actively hostile to that idea? Hmm.
Quin, thanks for this as always. Yes, you can start a thread on Steiner education if he wins the vote, not least because I’ll be discussing Waldorf schools and biodynamic farming in the post, among other things.
What happens when the entire reporting and editing staff of the New York Times is laid off and replaced by chatbots?
As more and more content gets replaced by chatbots, the chatbots, who have to keep scouring the media to remain up to date and relevant, will start incorporating more and more chatbot output into their input.
So you will get chatbot feedback. And I see two possible fedback results:
1. Microphonic feedback i.e. building up to a scream.
2. Genetic feedback i.e. resulting in misshapen and ultimately unviable organisms.
Re: chatbots and CGI taking over – I vaguely remember science fiction stories way back in the day on the same subject. Simulated actors in one and silver writing machines in another. The names of the tales and the authors escape me, but it had to be some time in the 1960s or thereabouts. Possibly Fritz Leiber wrote one of them, I’m not sure.
Disenchanters – actively hostile? I think, rather, totally convinced that all sorts of enchantment, not to mention astrology and the like, are nothing but frauds pu out by charlatans to fleece the gullible, The very idea that there is something beyond the reach of ordinary human language or reason is, to them, like saying water runs uphill and rocks fly in the air. Flatly impossible. Marxists are among the worst of such true believers. (I really need to reacquire some of my old Eric Hoffer books, abandoned in many moves.)
Your response to Scotlyn today goes some way to answering what I was interested in with the masculinity topic, as did the discussion from the commentariat about it. I’ve always had people talking to me about gender roles when I was growing up, but I didn’t really think about it too much (at least consciously), as I was more worried about being “me” rather than being male.
In the last few years especially, though, a number of people I know have ratcheted up this notion of masculinity, “toxic” or otherwise, from both sides of the argument. As did the media. I did get swept into it a little, not inordinately so, but enough that once I started coming across the discussion of male/female polarities in Dion Fortune, or discussion about gender in Jung’s and von Franz’s books, and so on, that it made me curious about this idea of “sacred masculinity” that my colleague mentioned, and whether what is called “toxic” masculinity was a hijacking of this.
So I wondered if this was actually a thing in occult or spiritual circles. Judging from the discussion here, that doesn’t appear to be the case.
That ideas of how men and women “should” be were attempts at manipulation for someone else’s ends is something I naively didn’t think about, so that bears further thought.
Thanks for the article on “tonic masculinity”!
@Chris at Fernglade Farm:
You wrote: “People may be trying to set you up, just sayin’.”
I originally posted the idea for a post on sacred masculinity, if that’s what you were referring to. I hope that the length of time I’ve been posting on Ecosophia, and the ADR before that, in what I hope is a constructive way, is enough of a signal to show I didn’t suggest that idea to set anyone up.
Hi John Michael,
That’s fascinating about your history and early responses. Hmm.
For your info, my deadbeat dad left early, although my mother was a wild one, no getting around that. As a young kid I critically looked at both of them, and the rubbish they talked, and like you went and did my own thing. Like you, I’m comfortable.
I’d have to suggest that the pay off for me to conform was stripped away, and it all looked like costs to me. Not into it.
I’m of the opinion that when you’re faced with pressure to conform to some sort of ideal – and oh yeah, it happens all the time, even now – the people are vocalising their own internal fears that they might not be able to live up to those ideals. It’s not you, it’s them.
Steiner huh, oh well, that might also get the true believers out. 🙂
Mate, the problem for me with your line of thinking is that the word ‘masculine’ has been as abused as the word ‘feminine’, so much so, that I don’t even know what you’re talking about. That’s the problem with the words. And no disrespect, but I ain’t going to engage you with that topic, this here is my final word.
JMG: “Now go stuff it up your cloaca.”
Such vulgarities may be read in the comic book series “Kaiju Max,” about captured Godzilla-type monsters who, in their interactions, exhibit various aspects of US prison culture.
stephen h. pearson (no. 245), I’ve been to both places. The Jesus-went-to-India idea got started by Nicolas Notovitch ( La vie inconnue de Jesus-Christ, 1894) who claimed that the monks of Hemis showed him a text (“The Life of Saint Issa, Best of the Sons of Men”) purporting to be an ancient record of Jesus’s journey. The idea (or variations thereof) found its way into Levi Dowling’s channeled work “The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ” (1908) and Ahmadi founder Ghulam Ahmad’s “Jesus in India” (1908), which is where the detail of the Kashmiri tomb comes from. Ahmad also affirms the “swoon” theory in which Jesus only seemed to die on the cross, and was revived (and then he escaped to Kashmir where he died at the age of 120, according to Ahmad). Notovitch, by contrast, holds that Pilate moved the body during the night, while Dowling affirms a supernatural resurrection. If you want to know who is buried in Jesus’s tomb, so to speak, voilà:
@JMG – interesting parallel. When I reviewed Louise Penny’ Madness of Crowds for my true blue friend in Oregon, including the comments from Canadians about the offers of assisted suicide to the old and disabled who needed and couldn’t afford expensive procedures or medications, she let me know in no uncertain terms that there were right wing trolls out there saying such things in order to discredit nationalized health services. (Then, going into whine-with-cheese mode, pointed out that the U.S. rationing by price did exactly the same thing. True, that.)
So: “storied of church abuses are “Mainstream Media is panicking over the return to religion.” Left wing trolls trying to discredit the nation’s churches? This mugwump’s head is shaking from side to side and notes these are not the house churches and private bible study groups, but the same institutionalized churches you’ve noted for yourself whose practices are driving parishioners away in droves. Okay – we’re all human, and letting dislike of the source discredit the story is as common as pollen in spring. But just a heads-up on the dangers of letting that seep in.
Michael Martin (no. 224), details of the “synoptic problem” point to the priority of Mark, and the existence of Q. Matthew, Mark, and Luke share much material, often word-for-word. Also, Matthew and Luke share material–primarily sayings of Jesus–that is not found in Mark. How else would you explain this?
The “Jesus seminar” is just one group of scholars (with a flair for publicity). Their interpretation of Jesus as a Cynic sage is less mainstream than that of Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher. And there are many other readings that have some degree of respectability. (I like Jesus as a Pharisee.) Several might be true at once.
On the supernatural–regardless of what any of us believe, it seems good practice to prefer historical accounts that do not rely on it. I mean, surely there are limits. If I told you an angel told me to write this, you would be right to smile.
Martin, if my experience is anything to go by, no, what will happen is that the chatbot managers will surreptitiously lift content from the fringe communities where human beings still write essays, scrub it of awkward details, and feed it into the chatbot bin. I lost track a long time ago of the number of times some blog post of mine got put through exactly that process by respectable media — quite often I write something, and then a month or so later, some much more mainstream venue comes out with an article that takes my ideas, lobotomizes them, and waves around the remains in an attempt to seem fashionably relevant.
Patricia M, excellent! I don’t recall the first one, but the second is indeed by Fritz Leiber and it’s titled The Silver Eggheads. As with most of Leiber, it was hilarious.
Jbucks, fair enough. I have no idea what’s going on in pop-culture occultism, but the old dead authors I study rarely fuss about gender issues.
Chris, interesting. My dad would have stayed around more, but he got dumped like a bag of old laundry by my mother once she’d gotten him to pay for her college education, and then soaked him for child support that somehow never seemed to result in anything for my sister or me. So, yeah, I had some very dubious role models and went my own way.
Patricia M, oh, I’m sure the stories are true. Such things have been happening in churches since there have been churches. The question in my mind is purely why MSN, which parrots whatever corporate culture wants it to parrot, is choosing to pile into that subject now.
Thank you for that info.
I am glad you are here! I am fine, just too exhausted much of the time to say much. I’m physically active with farming and also manage to bring in a reasonable income.
It is hard to say how much of Asian culture will survive the globalism that seems hell-bent on destroying regional differences, but my impression here in Japan is that barring a physical war, quite a bit will. My own participation in on-line culture is limited. I don’t carry a phone, and a lot of my activity takes place outside. I know that the younger generation practically lives inside their smartphones, and I don’t spend enough time with people between 20 and 40 to know how they are being affected, so I am missing that crucial piece of information. But the younger ones, who are being handed smartphones and schooled on their use strike me as having been very badly harmed by them. They’ve lost all interest in any form of education, and seem mainly to use their devices to play games and watch videos. I’ve seen several young students with dyslexia, which I’d never seen or heard of in Japan before. I think the language barrier is too big for them to really absorb any significant amount of overseas culture. The Pied Piper of Hamelin does come to mind, however.
Nonetheless, there are things that can be learned only by living in an organized culture and absorbing through interactions with others on the physical level that would be hard or impossible to articulate verbally. Also, having not been brought up in Japan, but arriving here as an adult, there are aspects to the culture that I will never become proficient in, no matter how much I may admire and aspire to them, but they are automatic in every younger person I know here, and friends who spent part of their younger years here seem to have picked them up better than I.
When Russia cast of communism, they went straight back to being Christian Orthodox. With about five years of hard work, they refurbished the churches that had spent decades as barns, icons came out of attics, priests were located or trained, cobwebs were dusted off, and everyone seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t know whether the same would apply to China, but the cultural impact they had on all their neighbors was enormous and well-regarded by all.
A late, but impressed comment. The cycle of enchantment and disenchantment is really interesting. I have myself read the Satyricon, and although I have the impression that it shows characteristics of the Apollinian worldview, in contrast to the Faustian worldview, I can concur with you that reads like the typically aimless wandering through life which is so common in current Western civilization.
A point about China mentioned above in the thread bring me to the idea, that it will be a few centuries in the future before it is possible to ascertain if China has been culturally weakened enough during the 19th and 20th centuries not to survive the next dark age. The crucial points are about the future state of Chinese agriculture, the existence or non-existence of people able to conquer China, and the fact that conquests by the Mongols and the Manchu in the past lead to the conquerors becoming Chinese.
“I’m the person who commented some time ago about how I felt an overwhelming compulsion to start learning a musical instrument in 2021…”
For the record that should have been 2020, not 2021. Time sure flies.
stephen h. pearson (no. 271): My pleasure!
Interesting. The Lord Jesus himself would actually oppose that characterization of him as a Sorcerer.
He claimed to be God’s Son and would refute any claims that he did anything except by the Holy Spirit and by His Fathers Will.
He claimed to be God. And for that the Jews at the time wanted him dead. And if Jesus was a Sorcerer then the Pharisees were right about Jesus being a Blasphemer and practicing Witchcraft there thereby deserving death.
And absolutely inconsistent with the claims of Messiahship fulfilling the Prophecies of the Old Testament.
“You can’t have meant to imply that Moses wrote the Bible, as most events in that book took place long after his death.”
Before Moses. The stories were preserved in Oral Tradition. Moses simply wrote them down.
Please write about Ginsberg, Allen from the viewpoint of enchantment/disenchantment.
Courteous, concise comments relevant to the topic of the current post are welcome, whether or not they agree with the views expressed here, and I try to respond to each comment as time permits. Long screeds proclaiming the infallibility of some ideology or other, however, will be deleted; so will repeated attempts to hammer on a point already addressed; so will comments containing profanity, abusive language, flamebaiting and the like -- I filled up my supply of Troll Bingo cards years ago and have no interest in adding any more to my collection; and so will sales spam and offers of "guest posts" pitching products. I'm quite aware that the concept of polite discourse is hopelessly dowdy and out of date, but then some people would say the same thing about the traditions this blog is meant to discuss. Thank you for reading Ecosophia! -- JMG