English princes should not take American brides. The experiment has been tried twice now and the results are in: the princes become whiny and petulant, while the brides become arrogant and shrill. Since the Duke of Windsor and the Duke of Sussex had very little in common before their respective marriages, and their duchesses had even less, I don’t think the problem is one of personalities. Rather, it’s a matter of the way that divergent national characters collide with the peculiar psychological impacts of royal status.
In much the same way, it’s a very bad idea for American intellectuals to take French intellectuals too seriously. Here again, that’s not a matter of personalities, nor is there any lack of seriousness in the French intellectual tradition. The difficulty here is again national character. It’s the difference between barbarism and decadence, between the intellectual climate of a society like the United States that has not yet achieved civilization—our clumsy attempts to ape European graces have been a reliable source of hilarity on the far side of the Atlantic for two centuries now—and that of a society like France that entered into civilization a long time ago and is well into the process of passing out the other end.
One of the places you can see that difference in action is the way that French intellectuals so often fit into specific social roles, as stereotyped as the characters in an old Italian commedia dell’arte play. One of the more colorful of these roles might best be described in our homely American jargon as the epic jerk: the guy who swaggers about the intellectual landscape with a raised eyebrow and a sneer on his lips, dismissively brushing aside everyone else’s work in order to present his own notions as the beau ideal to which all others must pay homage. In French intellectual life, it’s a familiar pose, and everyone knows not to take it too seriously. Import such a person’s ideas to America and you’re in trouble, because our intellectuals are by and large too naive to realize that it really is just an act.
Those of my readers who know their way around the intellectual follies of the last half century or so will doubtless be thinking by now of Jacques Derrida, the most important figure in the birth of the academic movement of deconstructionism. Derrida gave a first-class performance in the role of epic jerk, and European intellectuals chuckled and went along with it. Here in America, by contrast, an entire generation of dewy-eyed academic innocents took Derrida’s entertaining bombast at face value; our universities have not yet recovered from the resulting damage to their capacities to teach and reason. Yet there’s another figure, not as widely influential but far more profound as a thinker, who also adopted the epic-jerk role for his own, who gathered up another bleating flock of American fans, and may yet cause even more carnage.
Yes, it’s time for us to talk about René Guénon.
Let’s start with the essentials: René Guénon was unquestionably a genius. He was born in Blois in 1886, died in Cairo in 1951, and spent a good fraction of the interval between these two dates writing some of the most remarkably insightful books on metaphysics ever penned. He put at least as large a fraction of that time, however, into writing some of the most irate, unfair, and irritatingly smug denunciations of rival ideas ever penned. Geniuses don’t have to be pleasant people, especially if they grow up in an intellectual culture that values entertaining nastiness.
Guénon’s basic gimmick was the claim that he could speak for the primordial tradition, the original spiritual teaching handed down to humanity at the dawn of time. Various attempts have been made by his followers to fabricate some kind of lineage linking Guénon from his earliest years back to the “mystic East” Edward Said anatomized so trenchantly in his book Orientalism, but it’s pretty clear that this is merely window dressing. “Tradition” for Guénon meant simply the grab-bag of Asian and Western spiritual traditions he’d pieced together out of his own studies: some Hinduism here, some Sufism there, a cup of Taoism minced up fine, stir briskly with a Masonic gavel and bake in a Hermetically sealed vessel until well done.
It was a common gambit at the time. European intellectuals since the Renaissance have been obsessed with the quest for the one true primordial tradition, but every attempt to reassemble that supposed perennial wisdom has foundered on the robust diversity, not to mention the sheer cussedness, of human spiritual traditions. The perennialist stance assumes that all religions are different roads climbing the same mountain, but a sustained look at different religions and spiritual paths suggests a very different metaphor: the different paths really do lead up different mountains. Though there are certainly similarities in the methods of ascent—climbing a trail up one mountain requires many of the same skills as climbing a trail up another—the landscapes to be crossed and the views from the top are emphatically not the same.
The claim that there had to be one true primordial tradition, however, was widely accepted in the late nineteenth-century European setting in which the young René Guénon grew up, flunked out of college, and settled into the Paris occult scene. The Theosophical Society was still a major force, claiming to possess the one true primordial tradition in the form of H.P. Blavatsky’s sprawling and heavily plagiarized works Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. Another major player was Dr. Gérard Encausse, known by his nom d’occultisme Papus, head of the Martinist Order and a hugely influential figure in the development of European occultism. Guénon joined the Martinist Order, but got thrown out of it after a few years after pilfering its mailing list in an unsuccessful attempt to launch an occult order of his own.
Thereafter Guénon denounced Martinism, flirted with conservative Catholic circles for a while, and then set out to construct his own version of the one true perennial wisdom. Since he was a genius and he also had access to a great deal of first-rate scholarship on Asian spiritual traditions, his bricolage of teachings was far more intellectually rigorous than the one served up by Blavatsky and her heirs. Such works of Guénon’s as Man and his Becoming according to the Vedanta, The Multiple States of Being, and The Symbolism of the Cross are intellectually and philosophically light-years beyond anything Blavatsky ever wrote, but then Blavatsky wasn’t engaged in metaphysical philosophy; she was leading a last-ditch attempt to turn Western society away from its doom and had no time for intellectual niceties. Guénon shared the same vision of the future but not the same response: he recognized the approach of doom but seems to have relished it.
The book in which he explored the relationship between spirituality and history is arguably his most famous work, and it certainly has plenty to contribute to the project I’ve been pursuing here in recent months, an exploration of enchantment and disenchantment in history. The English version of its title is The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. It’s a challenging, irritating, and very rewarding book. I heartily recommend it to any of my readers who can handle a writer whose basic goal seems to have been making its readers fling his books across the room.
Guénon starts from the two great spiritual schemes of historical decline in the traditions of the Old World, the sequence of ages in Hesiod’s Works and Days and the comparable scheme in the Hindu Puranas. (The similarities between these schemes are close enough that a common source further back in time seems likely.) Hesiod traced the course of decline from the Golden Age in the distant past through the Silver Age of clueless folly, the Bronze Age of war and plunder, the Heroic Age in which strong men battled with the forces of evil, and finally the Iron Age, Hesiod’s own time, in which misery, poverty, sickness, and grueling labor defined the human lot. The Puranas trace out a corresponding sequence of four ages in which the Krita Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga mark stages in the process of descent. As far as I know, all the Hindu sources agree with Hesiod that we are in the last and worst of these stages, the Kali Yuga, marked by decay and corruption in the whole range of intellectual, cultural, and spiritual and spiritual forms.
That was where Guénon placed humanity, too: in the last stages of the decline, waiting for the end of the cycle and the chaotic transition to a new golden age of spiritual aristocracy guided directly by divine forces. His version had a wrinkle the older accounts left out, however. To him, what marked the lowest stage of the descent was not just the absence of spirituality but the rise of a counterfeit spirituality. Just as his vision of the one true primordial tradition centered on the concept of initiation, so the negative forces of the Kali Yuga center on its evil twin, the Counter-Initiation. With utter inevitability, Guénon identified this with all the esoteric movements in France and elsewhere that disagreed with him, with Papus’ Martinist Order high on the list of Counter-Initiatory movements. (Guénon was never one to let go of an old grudge.)
It’s when you get past the sniping at rival schools of thought that The Reign of Quantity gets interesting. Guénon points to the distinction between quality and quantity as an essential marker of the two ends of the historical process. In the golden age, quality is everything; in our present age of iron, quantity is everything. Take number as one example among many. In earlier times each number was understood as a quality, not just a quantity: “one-ness,” “two-ness” and so on through the natural numbers. Each has a distinct qualitative meaning, which inevitably reaches up into the realms of myth and spirituality. If you’re familiar with the history of ideas it’s not at all hard to watch this purely qualitative sense of number trickle away over time, to be replaced by a purely quantitative sense in which (say) four differs from three and five not in terms of any sort of deeper meaning, but only by the addition or subtraction of a single unit.
This complementary relation between quality and quantity is the axis about which Guénon’s exploration rotates. He identifies it with the distinction between essence and substance in the philosophy of the Middle Ages, and the corresponding relation between Purusha (consciousness) and Prakriti (primal substance) in Hindu tradition. Essence is active, substance passive; essence is spiritual, substance material; and so the process of historical decline he traces out leads from a state in which the the world is experienced as active, alive, and spiritual to one in which it is experienced as passive, lifeless, and material.
Space and time are affected by this transformation along with everything else. In an age of quality, each place has its own specific quality distinct from anything that happens to be present in that place, and each period of time likewise has its own specific quality distinct from whatever might be happening just then. Both these concepts are difficult for many people nowadays to grasp at all, so it may be worth spending a little while with them. Consider a holy place—Jerusalem or Varanasi, Glastonbury or Mecca or Mount Fuji, or any other holy place you like. That place is set apart from other places by a presence that is qualitative in nature.
Consider, along the same lines, a holy day—again, take you pick from whatever calendar of sacred days you prefer. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” a child asks in the Passover seder; it’s a question that could be asked of any other holy night in any faith, and the answer will be that some sacred event happened, or happens, or will happen at that point in the cycle of the year. That makes a qualitative difference, not a quantitative one.
It’s embarrassingly common to hear people insist nowadays that every place is a sacred space and that all times are sacred times. That’s the sort of thinking you can expect to find during what Guénon called the reign of quantity, the stage of the historical process we’re in today. To begin with, of course, if every place is sacred, “sacred space” no longer means anything at all, just as the word “blue” would have no meaning if everything was that color. Yet there’s a deeper issue here as well. The entire concept of sacred space presupposes that different places have their own distinctive qualities, that they’re not simply interchangeable cubic volumes.
In the same way, the idea of sacred days and times implies that time is not a uniform thing distinguished only by arbitrary numbers. Qualitative times have their own distinct meaning and spirit, and sacred calendars are among the ways these are mapped. Most people nowadays assume as a matter of course that all such distinctions are arbitrary, but this is simply another reflection of the reign of quantity. That time might not be a uniform commodity, to be chopped up and packaged by industrial society in any convenient manner, is unthinkable to those who can only see quantities when they look at the world.
This same distinction, Guénon argues, is true straight across the entire range of human activities and experiences. He points out, for example, that one core difference between the crafts of previous eras and the industrial products of our time is that crafts were made and valued according to their quality, while industrial products are made and valued primarily in terms of quantity. Price, by the way, is a measure of quantity; we’ve all seen plenty of situations in which shoddy goods marketed at high prices are valued according to their price alone, without reference to their quality or lack of same. This is typical of the reign of quantity.
This whole process can also be understood as the materialization or solidification of the world. In the golden age, the reign of quality, the human experience of the world is permeated with spirit; in the iron age, the reign of quantity, this gives way to a world permeated with matter, a world turned solid and prosaic and inflexible. What people nowadays call “everyday life” begins to stir partway through this process, emerging first as intervals in which the spiritual side of life is less evident. Those intervals become longer and more intense, while the corresponding intervals of spiritual presence become briefer and less clear, until finally “everyday life” devours all of time and the reign of quantity has arrived.
There’s much more in Guénon’s book that has bearing on the current project of this blog, but let’s move on for now. The end of the cycle comes as the process of solidification gives way to dissolution. “All that is solid melts into air,” first on the intellectual plane, then on the cultural and emotional plane, and finally on the physical plane. About this latter Guénon gives veiled hints about global cataclysms, but there’s another, stranger dimension to the process. As the world and its human inhabitants approach the nadir of the historical process, the oh-so-solid reality of the world humans experience begins to break apart, and evil influences begin streaming in from the lower dimensions of the Unseen.
Now to some extent this latter claim is simply part of Guénon’s angry polemic against all other Western esoteric traditions, and especially against those that chucked him out on his ear (cough, cough, Martinism) or never paid attention to him in the first place (cough, cough, Theosophy). Yes, these fissures in the walls of reality are the source of the Counter-Initiation he decries and the Counter-Tradition that lies behind it. Nearly a third of The Reign of Quantity is devoted to Guénon’s fulminations against rival schools, and this is where he plays the role of epic jerk to the hilt. Still, there’s more going on here than an irritable old man raging about the self-inflicted disappointments of his youth.
We have encountered this same vision of dissolution before, after all, in the very different historical vision of Jean Gebser. What Gebser saw as the transparency that marks the arrival of the integral structure of consciousness, Guénon portrayed as the dissolution that lets malign forces seep into the world and bring about the ending of the cycle. Gebser cheered on the process because he thought it would bring heaven on earth, Guénon denounced the process because he saw it leading to the opposite—but they were talking about the same process.
More generally, Guénon’s account of history is remarkably parallel to those given by the three authors we’ve discussed already. Like them, he presents history as a more or less linear process leading from an initial state through the present day toward an imminent breakthrough into an eagerly anticipated state to come. The difference lies purely in the value judgments placed on those states. The three believers in progress we’ve surveyed all see the historical process as a journey Up From Eden, to borrow a phrase from the title of one of Wilber’s books; Guénon sees it as an unavoidable but regrettable fall from a vanished golden age; but all four writers are tracing out the same historical process, and all of them look for a dramatic lurch somewhere in the near future which will bring about a world more to their taste.
As we saw a few weeks ago, however, history isn’t the straight line modern ideologues like to imagine. The movement from quality to quantity, which is also Barfield’s movement from participation to nonparticipatory consciousness and Max Weber’s movement from enchantment to disenchantment, has already taken place more than once in human history. How that journey unfolds, and what lies on the far side of it, will be central to the posts to come.
“…but then Blavatsky wasn’t engaged in metaphysical philosophy; she was leading a last-ditch attempt to turn Western society away from its doom and had no time for intellectual niceties.”
Could you elaborate?
Also, is the model we’re leading up to in these discussions one where the pendulum swings back and forth between Golden Age spirituality and Iron Age materiality (a la the Kabylion) or one where the immediate successor of the Iron Age is a renewed Golden Age? That is, is the sequence: gold-silver-hero-iron-hero-silver-gold or gold-silver-hero-iron-gold?
HI Mr. Druid! I truly enjoy reading your essays and accompanying comments from your audience because you present all sorts of historical tidbits, I come across ideas and words I have never heard (bricolage =Macguyver-it) when you speak about spirituality, nature and the occult. Sadly, I don’t think I have ever had a deeply spiritual experience although I feel a deep sense of peace enjoying nature. I wish could, but I have no idea where to start. This is a weird question probably, but any idea where to start besides something like Joe Rogan’s description of his spiritual (hallucinatory?) visions of other beings from other dimensions from ingesting ayuhuasca or other hallucinatory compounds?
“With utter inevitability, Guénon identified this with all the esoteric movements in France and elsewhere that disagreed with him, with Papus’ Martinist Order high on the list of Counter-Initiatory movements.”
IMHO, typical Guénon flaws were: an inflated Ego, and no intellectual integrity…
I’ve read somewhere that Guénon, on the other hand, criticised Julius Evola works, and equally Evola criticised Guénon. Maybe there was a love/hate relationship between these two champions of “traditionalism”. Evola was too a man with a big self! (and dangerous friends in the past century Italy…ahem fascists). There wasn’t no place in the “traditionalist” henhouse for two roosters…
What do you think on the “duet” Evola/Guénon?
What happens when people use disenchantment methods to pursue enchantment goals? Like how remote viewing is the least divine form of divination possible, with a fully scientific aesthetic. Or using sound, light, and electromagnetism to manipulate the brain – as done by mind machines, Michael Persinger’s ‘God helmet’, and the binaural beats technology of the Monroe Institute. How much can be achieved that way, and what are the limits and dangers? (I strongly advise against floatation tanks. You can mess your shoulders up really badly in them – the position you float in may be very far from comfortable or safe.)
“As the world and its human inhabitants approach the nadir of the historical process, the oh-so-solid reality of the world humans experience begins to break apart, and evil influences begin streaming in from the lower dimensions of the Unseen.”
That sounds a lot like what we’ve been experiencing lately: rampant maleficence and Ahrimanic deception. When is that regrettably dilatory Golden Age going to show up?
As to the Forest Spirit, I’m a little worried about what he might do with those hatchets he’s wielding.
Your discussion of time and whether it is regular or uneven reminded me of my childhood when my life was dictated by the rhythms of the church calendar. Especially Lent felt like a certain dark, long time that took forever to go by, and then the last week before Easter was very full of things. The year,for me as a child,was very bumpy, consisting of things to look forward to and things to endure, and things to be excited about. After I left that world and started working and had only a week off in the year, time started to seem very regular and even (and boring a lot of the time). I don’t really miss the doctrinal part of that religious experience, but I do miss the sense of time and meaningfulness that I felt.
When you wrote about epic French jerks, I thought you were going to write about Michel Houellebecq, the epic jerk of the moment. In college, when my English major peers were learning Derrida, I was learning to program computers, so I missed out on all the fuss. I’d love a future column of your take on him.
David BTL, Blavatsky’s mission is going to get a post of its own one of these days. The short form is that she was part of what appears to be a tolerably well organized effort on the part of late 19th century occultists to shake the Western world out of its materialist rut and prevent the decline and fall so many cogent thinkers of the time believed was already in process. It didn’t work, of course, but it was a brave effort. As for the aftermath of the iron age, that’s going to be a central theme of the posts ahead; stay tuned!
Candy, authentic spiritual experiences don’t come easily or quickly; they take hard work and years of practice, because you have to dig through the obstacles that living in a materialist society puts in your way. There are plenty of good books that can get you started; given your response to nature, may I suggest my book The Druid Path? (Ignore the “Volume 11” business — that’s a brain burp on the part of the publisher.) It’s a good introduction to Druid nature spirituality for the complete beginner.
Chuaquin, Guénon and Evola disagreed about several important issues (important if you’re a Traditionalist, at least), but they agreed about much more; their occasional potshots at each other have to be read in the context of a great deal of general agreement, since both of them hated and despised the modern world, and detested the major occult traditions of their time. Both of them wrote books worth reading; both of them need to be taken with a grain of salt — or, rather, about this much salt…
Yorkshire, that’s a common form of debasement in ages like these, though we do it with machines rather than with some of the other methods. The result is that you get mildly exotic experiences, which can often be addictive, but you don’t get any of the benefits that come from classic methods of training. You might as well just go to the movies, or smoke dope. (Or both.)
Kevin, we’ll get to that; the short form is that it’s not a quick process. As for those hatchets, exactly; it’s a common mistake these days to assume that the spiritual realms are harmless.
Kathy, that’s an excellent example! Finding ways to rediscover the enchantment of time and space is a major theme in some parts of today’s alternative spirituality; it’s also one of the effects of astrology, and of certain other kinds of divination such as numerology. We’ll discuss it as this series of posts proceeds.
Tomriverwriter, I’ll consider a future post on Houellebecq. I liked his essay on H.P. Lovecraft, for what it’s worth.
How much of these Western systems of thought are projections arising from the course of a personal life through birth, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and eventually death to (maybe) rebirth? Maybe I’m asking if all philosophy is actually personal and not universal (despite claims to the contrary). Maybe the metaphor of ‘different paths up different mountains’ extends all the way to individual mountains for each of us?
Good heavens, you’ve accomplished what I thought was impossible and convinced me to take Guenon seriously.
Some years back I ran into a few of his followers online, and they were arguing, with a straight face, that no one before the Theosophists had ever believed in reincarnation. Yes, it seems that any spiritual tradition that seems to teach reincarnation was actually just being metaphorical, and it’s only those dumb Theosophists and their modern descendants that didn’t realize that.
That seemed a bit… implausible to me, but I wasn’t familiar with the literature at the time, and so I paid attention and kept track of every reference to reincarnation I came across in my reading. Sure enough, it’s discussed seriously in at least half a dozen of Plato’s dialogues, the Dhammapada, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the Gita, the writings of Plotinus and other Neoplatonists. You can find tribal societies teaching it from Alaska to Africa and the ancient Celts in between, as well as esoteric Abrahamic faiths like that of the Druze. And it’s believed in by 51% of the world’s population, including 25% of American Christians.
That’s not an argument for believing in reincarnation, but we weren’t at that point in the conversation; the question was only whether Guenon was being intellectually honest when he said that no one did so. And the answer was very clear: He was either ignorant or lying.
Then I tried to read one of his books, and I found a story about a previous Golden Age of tradition from which we had fallen, and which certainly couldn’t be recovered today but which we must nevertheless… something. Know about? Try to recreate? It wasn’t clear. Now the trouble was that I’d read that story many times before, since in my early 20s I was involved in anarcho-primitivism and read everything that the equally pompous frauds in that far more fraudulent movement had to say, people like John Zerzan and Derrick Jensen and so on. So I rolled my eyes and set Guenon aside.
But the metaphysical insight you are describing here is, I think, worth taking very seriously. It’s also hard not to notice that he’s also drawing directly on Platonic and Pythagorean sources here– Quality and Quantity are also the primordial Monad and Dyad, the Limit and the Unlimited, the Dyad the source of matter and evil.
Speaking of America, I mentioned recently that I’d finally gotten around to reading Albion’s Seed, and two thoughts occurred to me, reading this piece. First, America is certainly a barbarian nation; most of the country was settled– if you can call it that– by the savage border tribes of northern England and Ireland and southern Scotland, and their successors. The East Coast is civilized in a way, but looked at in Guenon’s terms, it is a civilization of pure Quantity. The idea that “every day is equally sacred” is central to Quaker theology, and it was the Quakers who produced the civilization of the mid-Atlantic region. And the Puritan civilization of New England also shared in the condemnation of holidays; I recall an anecdote from Albion’s Seed in which a New England man was arrested for celebrating April Fool’s Day. The trial documents point out that people had migrated to New England specifically in order not to celebrate “anniversaries,” that is, holidays, holy days. Even as holidays crept back into our national life we cannot stop fighting over them; on every side of the political aisle one of the primary public sport in America is the condemnation of other people’s holidays. (Halloween is Satanic! Thanksgiving is racist! War on Christmas! Earth Day is Lenin’s birth day! Ad nauseum.) Even our attempts at civilization produce its antithesis.
What comes next? I suppose that the reign of Quantity, the Unlimited, must reach its apogee, at which point it becomes the formless primordial matter which a new Civilizational Idea will gather up and produce, out of its disjointed components, a new unity quite different from the old one.
I had the rare experience of being captured for a time in the early 1980’s by Guenon’s works, particularly “The Reign of Quantity…” and as with so many things like this, I felt my way through it. I tried picking “Reign” up later, and made zero progress in it. The moment had passed.
I must admit the ideas in it thrilled me, and yes, frustrated me. I seem to remember throwing the book across the room more than once. Not sufficiently hard to damage it beyond reading, though.
The rarefied intellectual space he created was amazing to me, and even today I deeply appreciate having enjoyed it, if only for a while. I’m aware of several people prominent in WMT circles who are aficionados of Guenon, one of whom has translated one of his smaller and more obscure works into English recently. Couldn’t read that one, either.
Thank you for distilling what took me many months to labor through into something that one imagines can be parsed. And also for pointing out by implication and in fact that these ideas have some considerable bearing on our consideration of the world we live in and will be living in. I look forward to the discussions to follow.
The concept that space and time have qualitative aspects reminds me of the underlying differences between Newton and Liebniz. Much like Kant, modern physics is migrating from the sterile viewpoint of an absolute space and time wherein all points are equally valid, towards a relational one, in which distance and time are properties.
Einstein was right when he said, “Concepts of space and time are creations of human intelligence, tools of thought, which are to serve the purpose of bringing experiences into relation with each other.” Nothing is more qualitative than experience.
Could the development of a school of “new” physics- in the face of continuing development of the uncertainties of quantum physics -suggest a possibility of movement towards a more qualitative overall position in coming ages?
An example of European/American approach differences: I just listened to a great three-parter The Rest is History guys did on Reagan (interestingly, the two-parter on Atlantis follows right after). It was so interesting listening to them, as self-identified cynical British Europeans, grappling with the entire concept of Reagan – they said they really had to work to understand he was earnest! – he believed the things he said – even especially when he knew it was a lie because it felt true, which to him mattered more than any mere facts. That he lived the American Dream, because he thought it was true. Since one of the podcasters wrote a book on Thatcher (the original TDS – people thought he would be killed just for writing about her) they found the contrast… illuminating.
So then as a Canadian, I thought, at least this explains our comically endearing national schizophrenia. We’ve been steeped in so much American self-propaganda we will follow the story, too; while still being European enough to know it’s BS. I’m not sure this is adaptive, but I’m going to embrace it in the spirit of Two-Eyed Seeing the omnisermo “they” now tell us to:
“Can people come to independent moral decisions that run counter to their tribe’s beliefs?”
“You want to study transformative potential as a function of strong normative in-group favoritism.”
He’d nod, but the jargon bugs the hell out of him. “It’s like this. I think of myself as a good man. A good citizen. But say I’m a good citizen of early Rome,when a father had the power, and sometimes the duty, to put his child to death.”
“I see. And you, a good citizen, are motivated to preserve positive distinctiveness…”
“We’re trapped. By social identity. Even when there are big, huge truths staring us in…”
“I’d like to study the personality factors that make it possible for some individuals to wonder how everyone can be so blind…”
“…while everyone else is still trying to stabilize in-group loyalties. Now we get somewhere. This could be a topic. With much more narrowing and definition. You could look at the next step in this historical progression of consciousness. Study those people who support a position that any reasonable person in our society thinks is crazy. ”
“For instance? ”
“We’re living in a time when claims are being made for a moral authority that lies beyond the human.”
– The Overstory.
If you had a collection of objects, some hand-made with love and some built on automated production lines, how would they affect each other and the surrounding area and people? To keep it fair we’ll say the mass produced items are high quality, at least in material terms. Now I’m imagining an animated film like a cross between Country Mouse and City Mouse and The Brave Little Toaster. 🙂
Thanks John. The intellectuals and their works that you present are fascinating. I look forward to your discussion of Helena Blavatsky.
On an unrelated note, did you see that the Ukrainian astrologer Vlad Ross, predicts nuclear war for April 20?
Excellent read, the whole time I was reading this, I couldn’t help but place it in the context of the French café. A mainstay of French intellectual life and the society as a whole and frequented by many a epic jerks like Derrida and Guénon.
In France, it truly is a “sacred space,” a quality distinct from anything that’s going on around. The history of the world was changed in the cafés of Paris.
There’s been the popular meme of people at french cafés going on during the protests resulting from raising the retirement age.
I reflected a little bit about this topic and it didn’t take long for me to remember that when I was a schoolchild I was taught about the primary as opposed to the secondary qualities: the primary qualities are things that can be measured, counted or weighed. In other words I was taught that the primary qualities are in fact quantities. Today I hear about “measurable outcomes”, as if that justifies the activity by itself. Aren’t there outcomes worth having that can’t be measured?
Ken, all human thought is metaphoric; all we have in our minds is a set of representations of reality, not reality as such, and as for borrowing from common human experiences — well, what else could we use? The question is purely whether the models are useful.
Steve T, that’s a good example of the way that Guénon was trapped by his perennialist beliefs. Christianity and Islam both define the afterlife in terms of heaven and hell; the religions of the Indian subcontinent, among many others, define it in terms of reincarnation; and these are not the only accounts, not by a long shot. If you insist that all religious traditions have to be saying the same thing, you have to play fast and loose with the data to try to hammer together some kind of arbitrary compromise. Alternatively, you can consider the possibility that just maybe the afterlife is as complicated as incarnate existence, that souls don’t necessarily all go to the same place, and that your religious activities really can have some impact on your postmortem existence — but then you lose the right to insist that you’ve got the One True Tradition and everyone else is wrong.
As for what comes next — well, here again, we’ll get to that.
Clarke, Guénon’s worth reading, and he’s also worth flinging across the room. It does take practice to learn the art of reading something deliberately outrageous without being outraged by it!
Harry, bingo! Physicists are finally catching up to the place the philosophers reached centuries ago. I suspect that’s why so many scientists are so snarly about philosophy…
Bruce, probably not. Science is quantitative right down to the core, and so the replacement of one scientific model by another doesn’t change the underlying dynamic. When science gives way to myth, now, that’s a different matter.
Sarad, fascinating. Thanks for this.
Yorkshire, depends on a galaxy of variables — and thus it’s probably best explored through personal experience and presented in the form of fiction of poetry.
Raymond, no, I missed that one. Somebody has predicted nuclear war every six months or so since I was born, so I’m not all that worried.
Sean, an excellent point. It’s no accident that Péladan urged his students to stay away from cafés!
Asdf, exactly. Exactly; it’s the gospel of the reign of quantity that a thing can only be real if it’s quantitative. Of course there are qualitative realities that matter, but those aren’t things our current thoughtworld makes room for.
I do think there is a tendency in complex societies (or maybe just in our industrial society) to disregard qualities and fall in love with quantitative abstractions that have no independent existence. But it’s not a linear thing as Guenon thought.
Russian gangster: “What happened to us John? We were professionals. Civilized.”
John Wick: “Do I look civilized to you?”
“Both of them wrote books worth reading; both of them need to be taken with a grain of salt — or, rather, about this much salt…”
I can recommend other “Hindu philosophers” such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, he has many books and I have not seen many discussions about him, others would be Ramakrisna, The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, also Ramakrishna’s disciples, Vivenakanda, Vijoyananda.
Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, prabhupada’s books are true libraries, the translation of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam has 8000 pages!
These are the few that I have read, and there are many more, ananda coomaraswamy does not belong to the “philosophia perennis” as many have wanted to see, in my opinion, and here is my first question, what happened to the “philosophia perennis” of the West and all its members? to a lesser extent they are similar to the philosophers of today (the majority of philosophers,)
And something interesting that has been present in my head from the many readings that I have done, is about the kaliyuga, and it is this:
Atlantis = Dvapara Yuga
kali yuga = industrial civilization
I can be wrong, and if anyone has a resource that has written that I’m wrong, I would appreciate it.
It’s a long topic, but I think it’s enough.
Greetings and a hug 😀
correction: in my comment about the perennial philosophers, in the question maybe say “they look like the philosophers of today, the majority of philosophers of today”, philosophy today is dying.
But which religion is true? Or are they all false?
I’ve argued that any embrace of religious pluralism immediately falsifies all religions because it is demonstrable that all religions can’t be true.
On the other hand I don’t relish being a stereotypical zealot that holds that his religion is right and everyone else is wrong.
So how can one be religious and not a zealot but also be intellectually honest?
Atheism and agnosticism seem to be a way out of this.
I had the privilege of handling two objects made by people still in the heart of their indigenous traditions. One was a basket made many years ago by a woman who was one of the last people fully trained and skilled in the California Yokut tribe art of basket weaving. The basket owner is her aged grand daughter, a friend of mine, who is doing her best to preserve and pass on their language and crafts. It was perfectly made and still whole, and imbued with spirit. It was a living object. The other object was made in the past twenty years or so by an an Alaskan aboriginal craftswoman. It had been given as a gift to a brother of a co-worker for his educational work in a remote Alaskan indigenous village. My co-worker brought it to work to share the wonder. It was a hat/hood made of furs from several animals including sea otter with two small ears taken from a seal. It had the same perfection of craftsmanship and sense of imbued life. Machined perfect objects, while without physical fault don’t have that same magical quality of life, or if a life, a very different one.
I like reading these summaries of various philosophers’ thoughts. It’s hard to find such, and certainly not from the philosophers themselves, who tend to for appearences sake write long books.
It occured to me when reading that this all sounds familiar. Gold, silver, bronze, iron… iron mixed with miry clay… For some reason, the apocalypse numerologists of christianity always place the date for X years to elapse from (e.g. the 2300 days/years in Daniel) somewhen it would result in the end coming in their lifetime. Don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone claim that it’s 2300 years from the destruction of the Second Temple at the hands of the Romans. Don’t think Rapture 2370 would sell all that well.
“Alternatively, you can consider the possibility that just maybe the afterlife is as complicated as incarnate existence, that souls don’t necessarily all go to the same place, and that your religious activities really can have some impact on your postmortem existence —”
*laughs in Discworldian*
Hi John Michael,
We’ve all met a few of those folks. Still, glad to hear that the bloke had something interesting to say.
The good thing at the moment is that with the fixation on quantity, quality is mispriced. If a person can figure that out, there’s some opportunities out there for sure.
One of my many hobbies is refurbishing old stereo equipment. Few people are interested in the subject. However, the quality of the stuff made by the Japanese in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s is astounding. And the stuff is cheap, it’s also generally cheap to repair – if somewhat labour intensive. And you know, when repaired, the analogue depth of sound is beyond anything produced in these days of compressed digital music. You can hear it. I dunno, as I remarked above, I do the work for the enjoyment of the restored product, others probably don’t know the difference, or care.
I dunno, I’m rambling. I see that desire for quantity playing out everywhere. That desire gives me the ooks, because you don’t need to be a genius to realise that limits apply here as they do everywhere else. The belief system won’t end well you know.
DT, I am open to Greer’s take on the perennial philosophy stuff. I realize as Paul said that here “we know in part” and who really knows. But the persons of the Trinity are quite evident and real to me. I first passed through new agey, buddhist Hindu stuff before becoming a Christian. Part of the process was an encounter with the Holy Spirit, to my surprise it felt not at all the same as the spirit of the Buddhist/Hindu/New Agey stuff. To say it was really the same would be like insisting strawberries and a head of cabbage were really the same thing. So at this point for me whether I like it or not, Jesus is the Son of God and the door to the Father and the Holy Spirit so I am making the best of a good situation and one day I will be with them and other Christian folk after death or rapture iIn a fuller way. Looks like future fun to me.
JMG – curious as to what you are getting at when you state that Guenon may yet cause more carnage.
My sense is that a lot of the overtly demonic fads that have been emanating out of California and other West Coast locals (altho by no means exclusively) over the last century may have some connection to the man but is this a truly causal link?
I never knew that about the “epic jerk” trope. Obviously Nietzsche would fit into that category. I had always assumed he was doing it for didactic purposes as if he was saying “I’m going write something ridiculous every now and then so you better not blindly believe everything I say.” Maybe he was just following the fashion of the time.
DT, there is some sound scholarship that credibly asserts that before the 3rd-4th century in the Roman world, there was no such thing as “religion” with coherent teachings, creeds, theology and so forth. The Romans wanted to have a handle on the chaotic religious streams happening then, and Christianity was the main focus of their efforts, and out of that the Constantinian orthodoxy we largely today call “Christianity” emerged. As a side effect of that, the Jewish people had to respond to the Romans with faith statements to keep their privileged position in the Empire. Conveniently giving the later dominant Christians handles to beat them up with.
If you want to disprove any of the three Abrahamic faiths, have at it. They have all started out or became (in the case of Judaism) religions, as we understand the word in the West. What is it that is present elsewhere in the world if not religions? Basically patchworks of (more or less) tribal affiliations, practice and beliefs, usually loosely affiliated. It has been said that Hinduism didn’t exist until the British came and insisted that it was a religion, and crammed it into that box. Before that? Hinduisms, plural. “The practices and beliefs of my region, my village, my family.”
Judaism, too, before about the 3rd-4th century, was more like an unorganized tribal affair than most people realize, which is why when people try to imagine what the “original Christianity” was to emerge from the Jewish context, they wind up deep in multiple rabbit-holes. I know I have. And what we blithely call “gnosticism” is a term applied by the Constantinian orthodox to a variety of what they perceived as unorthodox paths. Any definition of gnosticism fails to include all of them. You have to dig deep in order to dismiss the “folly” or “misapprehension” of others across the board. And by then I’d propose you’re at the basic flaws of human perception and ideation, not religion.
Our concepts of true and false vis-a-vis religions has to do with “faith claims” which are largely as a category a confection of later Western thought, even when the religion in question is called “Bahai,” etcetera. When you dismiss one set of faith claims (e.g. of one kind of Christianity) you have not done the job with others of the thousands of larger and smaller sects both in the present and in the past. You’re playing whack-a-mole, for whenever you had dealt with one set of claims, another set pops up.
Or, put it this way: since humans throughout history have apparently followed some spiritual practices and beliefs, why is that? Why not tribal groups of agnostics or even atheists? Why are they not to be found?
Agnosticism and Atheism, too, have varied in meaning through the ages of Western Civilization, but please be aware they rarely appear in pre-modern or non-western societies, if they appear at all. Take your average person living in a Roman housing complex: I doubt if he or she were bothered by creeds or any of that, though they paid homage to the gods and when they could afford to, they bought meat from the temples of the gods. Religion? Paganism? A pure invention of later antiquity and Christianity. So, look and see what religions you have debunked, and look again. I suspect you have some more studying to do. By all means adopt an agnostic or atheist stance if it suits you, but the quest for some final, over-arching truth is a legacy of Christianity (and to a lesser extent, Islam). Even today, Jews rarely have that infection. And it’s almost impossible to find it in East Asia (just to name one area of other “religious” thinking).
Which religion is true? True? Think about what you mean by that word, sir.
All of this series seems to confirm Nietzsche’s (and Spengler’s) point that most philosophy is just a man’s (and his cultures) innate prejudices and preferences for how the world should work, rationalised and given some flowery language.
Isn’t all of this really just a reassertion of the two sides of Faust? On one hand the progress obsessed, future-focused utopian, and the other the past-focused romantic. Not one of these thinkers is getting outside of their own Western European box, and even when they make use of other cultures works they are just lassoing it into their own scheme. This is no dialogue with other traditions, just rabid comparison and then assertion that it is subordinate to ‘my’ scheme.
I don’t disagree that they are all very intelligent people, but there is not a shred of wisdom between them (what even is ‘intelligence’ or genius?), and it all comes across as very childlike, even embarrassing. Faustian thought is just so over the top in its attempt at universal application, through space and time. Future cultures will find it hilarious.
My starting point in thinking about this question is simply that a large amount of falsehood is “baked in the cake” of human language in general, and of each and every individual human language in particular. Thus it is impossible for any religion or philosophy — no matter in what human language it is expounded, no matter how carefully its terms have been defined, its premises enunciated, and its conclusions deduced, no matter what imagery it employs — to be largely (much less, completely) free of falsehood. There cannot be any such truth, whether philosophical or religious, which can be expressed in any human language. It is a fool’s quest to try — and, as Puck said, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!”
This follows from the simple facts (1) that the totality of all human languages does not share a single common universe of concepts or a single common “universal” grammar; (2) that the human sensorium works well enough for the survival of that species, but not well enough for much more that that; and (3) that the capacity for thought and memory of the tiny human brain and nervous system is too limited physically to encompass the utter vastness of everything existing in time and space, let alone the many more things that exist entirely apart from the realm of time and space.
[Footnote: See Benjamin Lee Whorf’s classic article, “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language” (1941), which I have put up on archive.org. Whorf was an MIT-trained engineer, but also a member of the Theosophical Society.]
Further confirmation is found in the occasional “ineffable experience” that a person may have, where s\he directly perceives “it all at once” without any intermediation of the physical senses, or the physical body and nervous system, with no limitation in time or space or quality or quantity — perceives “it all at once” from the beginning to the end of all time, from the center of the universe out to its infinite extensions. These are real experiences, though fairly rare ones.
People who have had such an ineffable experience of direct perception, even just once, are totally at a loss for any words to describe it, for any images to represent it, for anything at all that is even slightly adequate to capture it. This is, after all, what the word “ineffable” conveys.
There are centuries-old traditions describing ways one might work to achieve such a (usually temporary) experience of direct perception, not only in India and Asia, but even in the cultures of Judaisim, Christianity and (I presume) Islam. And there are still people here and there, even in the West, who have used these methods to attain this result. Also, experiences of direct perception may occasionally come, unbidden and unsought, to an unprepared person–who may either be destroyed by it, or left sadder but much wiser.
[Footnote: For one Medieval Eastern Orthodox Christian text on how to achieve direct perception, see the treatise “On the Three Methods of Prayer,” usually (but falsely) attributed to St. Symeon the New Theologian. There is an English translation online at: http://www.orthodoxriver.org/post/the-three-methods-of-prayer/ Of course, the same method can be adapted to other religions.]
Here is a profile, of sorts, of M. Guenon https://orgrad.wordpress.com/a-z-of-thinkers/rene-guenon/
This is from a site called Organic Radicals, which is connected in some way to another called Winter Oak–love that name–run by a group of what I gather are naive anarchists. I find them quite endearing. Did he really spend the last years of his life living in Egypt? This is the same person who is featured in today’s post, right?
All (so far as I know) of Guénon’s books have recently been translated from their original French into English and published by “Sophia Perennis” of Hillsdale, NY. Their online catalogue lists about 25 titles. See: http://www.sophiaperennis.com/category/books/rene-guenon-series/
Two of Guénon’s earliest books are useful sources for the history of European (especially French) occultism of the decades before they were written: The Spiritist Fallacy and Theosophy: History of a Pseudo- Religion.
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.
For Det and his recently deceased friend, that the divine grant them both spiritual protection, blessing and ease on their respective journeys.
2 year old ES, John (Mr. Beekeeper, Beekeeper in Vermont’s husband), and Praesepe all recently had lifesaving surgeries and are recuperating; for them to be blessed, protected, and healed to the utmost that is possible.
Luke Dodson’s friend B, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, and is still in serious condition though she’s already had surgery; for blessing, protection, healing, and a full return to health.
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 (Lp9 gives a short update here, and says “things are a bit… murky”), 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.
* * *
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.
JMG, and all: Yes! Yes! Yes!
Lots to unpack for me. We are on the same wave….
Quantity vs Quality
I know you don’t do videos but this joke video about a craft fire wood artisan selling the quality of their firewood rather than the quantity is perfect.
This was done some years back and they had another one about “Craft Drinking Water” that was really interesting and not as funny because it was too close to the truth.
“So how can one be religious and not a zealot but also be intellectually honest?”
Polytheism is one way to do this. John has written about this a bit in a book called “A World Full of Gods, an Inquiry into Polytheism.” John argues that multiple gods exist and people come into contact with them through personal experiences. I won’t summarize his argument adequately here because it would be a disservice to him.
I’m kind of a Pantheist and a Polytheist, I think there are many Gods but I think there is also a fundamental cosmic consciousness that pervades the entire universe.
Have philosophers of past civilizations had their own non-cyclic versions of the Great Lurch, particularly versions that came to fruition in the later stages of the civilization’s life? For example, I can see the philosophical notion of “Eternal Rome” being appropriate, if ultimately wrong, when the Roman Empire was at its height, but I’m wondering if there were philosophers who foresaw the coming of an “Eternal Barbarism” when Rome was collapsing, or perhaps saw the collapse as a prelude to some version of a Golden Age …
>> she (Blavatsky) was leading a last-ditch attempt to turn Western society away from its doom and had no time for intellectual niceties.<<
Wasn’t that the basic idea behind Nazism, to save Western Civ from doom, but which. unlike Blavatsky, didn’t seek to persuade, but to compel by force?
Enjoyer, stay tuned!
Zarbarzun, I’d add Sri Aurobindo and Sri Ramana Maharshi to that list, for what it’s worth.
DT, that’s a question to which everybody has their own answer! Mine is that the various religions are each attempts to bridge the gap to the unknowable Divine. None has a monopoly on truth, but each is a valid path, and different people are called to different paths. Thus it’s none of my business to tell other people how to relate to the Divine; my job is to find the way that’s right for me and follow it with all my heart.
Moose, thanks for this — a good example of the persistence of enchantment.
Alice Cassandra, Daniel’s vision very clearly draws from the same body of traditional prophetic lore as the Hindu and Hesiodic system. Yes, I’ve noticed the tendency for the Second Coming to always be about to happen — so few people believe in it these days precisely because if you’re more than a couple of decades old you’ve seen a good many such dates slide by without result.
Chris, I didn’t know that was a hobby of yours! It strikes me as a very sensible skill to have just now.
Chris W, the problem with Guénon — and also with Evola — is that the rhetoric both of them use, debased by the clueless, becomes a justification for holy war. We may yet see that.
Simon, Nietzsche’s another great example, and he was also a far better writer than either of the two I cited! He wasn’t just following a fad, though. He chose it because it allowed him to say what he wanted to say.
PumpkinScone, I’d add one detail to Spengler’s suggestion, and it’s one you nearly got to yourself: it’s not just personal prejudices. It’s the collective prejudices of whole cultures that speak through that culture’s philosophers.
Mary, yes, that’s the one!
Robert M, and the translations are quite good, too. Thanks for this.
Quin, thank you for this as always,
Orion, you’re most welcome.
Repentant Technophile here.
On time. I noticed that when i was small i counted time in seconds(gamer here) and minutes and in the present time, now now now.Much like this present Epoch.
Going older, my time perception is in weeks, month Years.And more in a perspective of time, more like Adult.
I believe that there is a relation between body size and time perception.
Even if Guénon was a jerk, he will always have a special place in my mind. In my ignorant fanatical youth, I was convinced that Western society and spirituality took a wrong turn such a long time ago that all it deserved in modern times was a requiem and that other cultures (for example, Hindu, Indigenous) were the only shining lights left in the world. And then I read some of Guénon’s essays and my vision was transformed. For portraying Medieval Europe in a positive spiritual and cultural light, I will be ever grateful to Guénon.
A few other random thoughts:
Regarding philosophers and occultists of Guénon’s day believing in the ‘perennial philosophy’, I recall that even C.S. Lewis discussed this briefly at the end of his short book The Abolition of Man. The way I see it, the ‘perennial philosophy’ (which accepts all religions and spiritual paths as having the same goal) was a necessary philosophical counterpoint to the previous dominant dogma that Christianity (or some sect thereof) is the one true path and all other faiths are paths to Hell. Only after these two “extremes” are expressed fully can a more nuanced concept take place – such as the one that you espouse, JMG. Funny, though, if Guénon espoused the ‘perennial philosopy’ but critiqued everybody else’s ‘perennial philosopy’ as false or flawed: old dogmatic habits die hard, I guess.
Regarding Guénon’s belief in the decline of the ages: again, such a nice counterpoint to the dominant heretical belief in Progress that was metastizing in Western culture of his day (why heretical? Well, from a strictly Biblical perspective, if I recall correctly, these ages are described in the book of Daniel as this prophet’s interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the idol made out of different metals/materials). However, if Guénon did not see the sequence of ages as belonging to a larger cyclical pattern (as is the case of the yugas in Hinduism) then I give him some philosophical demerit points.
“As the world and its human inhabitants approach the nadir of the historical process, the oh-so-solid reality of the world humans experience begins to break apart, and evil influences begin streaming in from the lower dimensions of the Unseen.” OK, JMG, reading that gave me chills down my spine. I have been noticing in passing weeks and months that more and more freedom fighters in Canada – including those who state that they have no particular religious beliefs – are seeing and describing the rapidly deterioration of the social and moral fabric of Canuckistan and the West in general in nearly identical terms to the quotation above.
“It’s embarrassingly common to hear people insist nowadays that every place is a sacred space and that all times are sacred times.” That made me laugh. Oh, ya, tell me about it. I believe such words only when they come from the lips of a person who is a spiritual Mount Everest – somebody like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa who was so immersed in the Divine that he would forget himself while worshipping Mother Kali and would end up worshipping his own body and who worshipped is own wife as an embodiment of Kali Ma and never had carnal relations with her! Anyone of a lesser status who makes such a statement is either a deluded fool or has never set foot in a Holy Place. On this matter I mince no words!
I think you’re right. And if Nietzsche was doing it on purpose then he becomes scarily good because it meant he was deliberately provoking specific (mis-)interpretations.
For example, there is an interpretation of Nietzsche which says that, because Nietzsche was a jerk, we shouldn’t listen to what he says. This is a non sequitur. You can be a jerk and still be right. In fact, many people are considered jerks precisely because they will speak the truth that nobody wants to hear.
This reveals something about modern culture because the opposite non sequitur is highly prevalent today; namely, that because you are a “good person”, you must be right. Illogical nonsense gets spoken every day now in the public sphere by people who think that just because they have good intentions they must be right.
Of course, just as Nietzsche was only pretending to be a jerk, most of these people are only pretending to be “good people”, which was Nietzsche’s point: you can’t just take the world on face value and the people who make the loudest noises about being “good people” are often the worst people.
Will M, the case of Rome is fascinating because its intelligentsia were completely unable to see that Rome was falling. The Christians saw that — the visions of John of Patmos in the Book of Revelation are a prophecy of the fall of the Roman Empire, and an astoundingly accurate one at that once you translate it out of the standard symbolism of the time — but the idea that Rome could fall, that the empire wouldn’t always recover from any given round of troubles, was utterly outside the classical Roman thoughtworld. I’ll discuss that someday in a post. As for the Nazis, yes, exactly — the founders of the party were schismatic Theosophists, active in a movement called Ariosophy, and obsessed with an ideology of salvation through violence, which was guaranteed to lead them to disaster.
Denis, I’m not sure if it’s body size so much as how long you’ve lived. When you’re only a few years old, a year seems like a very long time!
Ron M, Guénon was a jerk but he was also a genius, and I’m glad to hear that he was useful to you! I find him beneficial in rather the same way that a shot of bitters is good in some drinks, to cut the sweetness and give an astringent note. As for holy places, well, yes — any place is holy from the point of view of a genuine saint, but then a genuine saint can make a place holy by meditating or praying there.
Simon, that’s a very important point. These days an embarrassingly large number of people are stuck in Newspeak logic — a person, or an idea, or anything else is either “good” or “ungood,” and there’s no middle ground, no room for nuance or for recognizing that some parts of an idea or a book or a philosophy might be valuable while others are not. The whole frantic spluttering rush to cancel anybody who ever said anything that can be defined as a Bad Thing according to current fashion comes right out of that incredibly narrow mindset. And then you have to factor in, as you’ve suggested, the people who parade their supposed virtues to cover their own viciousness…
Clark @ 31, The Jewish people had a privileged position in the Roman Empire? That would explain why they revolted under Hadrian, a revolt which was, I believe, savagely put down, and why a legion was kept permanently stationed in Palestine.
Could we please have a link or reference to some of that sound scholarship which you mentioned?
Thoroughly enjoyable read today, with lots to think about. I became aware about a decade ago of the “essence” of a particular time and place, when one of our teachers at the Kompira Shrine explained that the Asahi-sha shrine, a massive, majestic, dark, but ornate building that people mistake for the main shrine as they are climbing up, but serves as a subsidiary shrine, had been built during the Edo period. https://www.setouchiexplorer.com/climbing-konpira-san-second-set-stairs-asahi-sha/ (scroll down for photos) That rang bells with everyone present. You can get glimpses of the spirit of that age in the people and neighborhoods of central Tokyo, even now. It was a time of generosity, affluence and grandeur, but there was always a brooding darkness there as well, a yin side to it. All in all, a great era, with cultural and spiritual advancement in the name of sustainable peace. I hope that spirit will outlive what we have now.
Yesterday, I noted a modular home, rusting. That was supposed to be our future here in Japan. It is a Faustian pseudomorphosis that seems to have gotten a stranglehold on Japan ever since Admiral Perry impressed them all with his steamships. The latest fad is digitalization. I reckon it will eventually pan out the way modular housing did, but the pandemic stripped away a lot of what remained of Japan’s spirituality and community involvement.
I wrote in my journal this morning about a shamaness who lived in the town where I did by Mount Fuji back around the 60s and 70s, who could pack the Fuji Faith meeting house to overflowing because her insights helped the town’s people so much in their daily lives. Since the Meiji era, that sort of religious activity, especially by women, has been heavily ridiculed as superstitious and discouraged for the same reason alternative medicine is right now in the US: it would confuse people.
I’m looking forward to reading about how these sorts of times turn out in the end.
@Candy, that deep sense of peace you feel in nature is a good start. I recommend spending much more time, any time you possibly can in nature, and not just being there, but engaged in some activity there, because it’s when you are busy there that insights arrive. (When one monk asked a great master what the meaning of existence was, he was told to go wash the dishes.) Also, the materials JMG has recommended could be of help to tie things together, and you are likely to realize that in fact you are already having spiritual experiences there, they just haven’t broken through to your awareness yet.
Can you ask the old forest gods to just get on with it now, please? Nothing worse than waiting on the eve of something. Just get it over with!
@JMG “It does take practice to learn the art of reading something deliberately outrageous without being outraged by it!”
Recently I sat in a bar, and was handed newspapers while getting drunk. I wanted to spend time and decided to read two of the most liberal flagship prints, for that
was also the audience in this bar. When beginning to read I felt to cringe, but then thought (and maybe also in homage to you):” If I am serious about wanting to know more,
I should not close my eyes to what they are actually saying”
So I applied a certain kind of out-of-body letting go mental method, that would separate my focus from my mind’s angry protesting.
To some extent I was amused. “India is turning into an industrial power…and mingling with Russia and China! The West should try to turn India against those two”
concluding literally with “it would be worth an attempt”
@Chris at Fernglade Farm “the quality of the stuff made by the Japanese in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s is astounding.”
Once a well-off guy showed me his analogue synthesizer equipment and the electronic symphonies he created. I was truly amazed by the quality of sound.
I remember the 90s with their electronics and it is true, the were sometimes up to the point of unbreakable, at times even easily repairable save for
some micro-components ofc. Even things in the early 2000s were still better than since ~2010.
Fun fact: plumbers in Austria actually advise customers NOT to change their old thermal units against new one’s, because they are know to cease service after the 5 years of warranty and in general be maintenance intensive. New stuff is starting to become unpopular with many, also in terms of cars. Many people pride themselves on retaining old models.
There are often efficiency trade-offs with old stuff, like (some) old cars needing more gasoline but being more robust. In some cases old motors will even run on high grade alcohol and other
fuels, while that will destroy the fragile motors of today.
@Clarke aka Gwydion `It has been said that Hinduism didn’t exist until the British came and insisted that it was a religion, and crammed it into that box. Before that? Hinduisms, plural. “The practices and beliefs of my region, my village, my family.”´
I have read that as well and it isn’t far off to imagine when looking at antiquity Europe: pantheons of celts and greeks that were “compatible” –
after all a local god is just a local expression of a global principle.
I am not surprised modern day India and its government takes no kind eye to abrahamitic faiths disrespecting local traditions, proclaiming to live in a different cosmos than everyone else.
Monotheism – we hear this wish to purge everything spiritually and intellectually outside of a narrow defined scope already from Egypt’s Echnaton.
I am almost motivated to think: man in his endeavour to emulate nature creates his own Frankenstein, a monster, and tries to purge everything else so there may be no unfavourable comparison to draw.
(no, I don’t take monothestic faiths as generally bad – my own (still enlisted) catholic faith still plays a role for me)
Recently a media report said “Many young people (in Germany and across Europe) are in debt and recently there’s a trend that the young are making household plans and save money. However they are doing it in CASH, a *dangerous* trend..!” Followed by the advice to ask your friendly bank to structure your savings schedule for you.
My IT colleagues at work (some of them) are also outraged why people want to pay in cash.
In terms of quantity and quality, civilization turns from an epic drama into a cheap and bland comedy.
A related problem I know is this: someone may, per example, first eat a canned tomato of bad quality, and then proclaim that all tomatoes are bad.
I have often encountered this type of thinking.
That’s what wokeness is playing with: shifting the meaning of words *slightly* so as to confuse, to equate unrelated things with each other.
A fancy hotel may offer “Qi Gong”, someone else may visit a learned practictioner who was in Taiwan or a monastery of mainland China –
people may do a light gymnastic exercise in that hotel, and walk out thinking that what all people take the concept of “Qi Gong” for must certainly mean a down-graded experience of doing aerobics.
My mother and step father go crazy everytime and resort to ad-hominem insults and accusations when I point out that “astrology” is no unified term, and that
studies form the 30s analysing “astrology” may not be the same as what other people mean by it.
The materialistic hysteria really shows, when they stop being able to stay with the topic and start flinging around wild and angry insistences that do not relate to the original
How is questioning definitions of concepts so controversial? “Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words…” – Words seem to be more powerful than thought.
Chris at Fernglade Farm #27, the Uniden President HR2510 ham radio seems to have the same reputation for reliability, quality, and a good layout that makes it easy to work on. I first heard of them in Patriots, the ‘militia porn’ novel by James Wesley Rawles. There used to be a long YT video of one being refurbished but I can’t find it now. That’s unfortunate because while there are other shorter ones, sometimes you just need to watch a five-hour video of someone repairing a radio. 🙂
JMG, I’m not a Traditionalist at all, but I see that modern nowadays world is falling apart…I’ve read some Guenonian and Evolian stuff, however.
Somebody in this blog has quoted Michel Houellebecq as epical jerk. Well, I’ve read some “Houe” novels and I partly agree with you…By the way, the long time atheist and science champion and “enfant Terrible” in the French culture has been seen attending Catholic mass some time ago…It’s worth mentioning it.
The artisanal firewood video reminded me of a fictional society I made up, which had an extreme belief in a kind of sympathetic magic. We don’t care if firewood is ugly because it’s just going to burn. We don’t (usually) care if food is cut and chopped a bit roughly, because teeth are going to make a much worse mess of it anyway. But in that society they thought doing such things would radiate slapdash messiness into the room, or absorb it into the body.
“As the world and its human inhabitants approach the nadir of the historical process, the oh-so-solid reality of the world humans experience begins to break apart, and evil influences begin streaming in from the lower dimensions of the Unseen.”
Makes one wonder if overt supernatural actions happen in cycles. Where the veil between this materiality and the unseen get frayed.
Where Spiritual beings are more visible and the consequences of their actions are more overt. Whilst most of the time they look like they are hidden. Although they do become more much visible during Spiritual combat.
Like during Exorcisms or fighting them off when they attack you during Sleep Paralysis:
This guy had to contend with Spirits who assaulted him during sleep paralysis episodes.
Lightning used to be considered more supernatural in times past. But we have been harnessing it since the Scientific Revolution and have made this energy quite mundane.
If the Supernatural forces are more regular and harnessed. It would be as mundane as turning on the electric lights at night.
“the visions of John of Patmos in the Book of Revelation are a prophecy of the fall of the Roman Empire, and an astoundingly accurate one at that once you translate it out of the standard symbolism of the time”
The visions of the Prophet Daniel for example was so accurate. That Scholars have accused the writers of writing all the Prophecies after the fact.
I just saw the latest John Wick movie and your post today made me realize that he is a modernized version Conan the Barbarian. The main character is a barely civilized American who challenges the crusty international criminal order mismanaged by effete elites from more established countries. Usually that wouldn’t be worth mentioning but the mis-en-scene is full of occult and religious symbolism that the disenchanted characters seem to cling to out of sheer habit as they behave like atheist psychopaths. Toward the end he lights a candle in a church for his dead wife and his best frienemy asks if he thinks she can hear him. He says no but maybe he is wrong, which is the first hint of actual spirituality in the series. It wasn’t a great scene or even a particularly good movie, but I can’t remember ever seeing anything like that in an action flick before. One wonders if re-enchantment will become a theme in pop culture in the next few years. Our obsession with zombie movies seems to have anticipated the arrival of real life tranq zombies after all.
Could they all be correct, but in a rotation or sine wave where over inconveniently long periods for human record-keeping, human consciousness tends towards these cycles? That is to say “High” and “Low”? For how can you have a Golden Age without a “Golden” Consciousness? A world of small self-centered, unimaginative men that somehow aggregate to form peaceful utopia of knowledge and reason?
The point would be, each sees the sine wave, but one’s eyes fix on the decline and one on the ascent. We may be at the apogee of materialism and dearth of spirit, so depending how you feel about Science vs Magic, you believe we are either at the bottom or the top. This cycle would have to be longer than the 2,000 year cycle of Aries to Pisces to Aquarius, although they are relevant.
“Papus in a Martinist lodge, dispensing Counter-Initiation. (Or a Belle Époque simulacrum of same.)”
Are you using the word simulacrum here in the Baudrillardian sense? ; )
FWIW, I like to read French philosophy while sipping a Caffè simulatte. When I have nightmares about being psycho-analyzed by Jacques Lacan the simulatte helps me wake up to the fact that I’m just asleep inside a fourth order simulation, that upon awakening I will have to deconstruct. But it all feels so hyperreal.
( https://matrix.fandom.com/wiki/Simulatte )
On another note, the thing about quantity over quality really resonated with me, and how numbers have been reduced to their quantitative quality over time, rather than being qualitative quantities. One of the books I’ve been reading is Rudy Rucker’s nonfiction “Mind Tools: The Five Levels of Mathematical Reality”. In one of the chapters he goes through numbers 1 – about 100 or so and riffs on the qualitative aspects of each number and what that number means, its various geometries, its role in culture, and so forth. This would seem to tie in with some of where numerology gets its magical and occult power from -these numerical emanations from a higher plane.
I also really like what you said in the beginning of the essay. It clicked all the hubbub about Harry and Megan into place for me in a way that it hadn’t before. I just thought it was more shenanigans from spoiled rich kids, but you showed the clash of continental consciousness that is not just about class. & then you topped by showing what happens when we try to import the latter day artifacts of a foreign intellectual tradition into our own. It made me think of one of the Dennings & Phillips books where they talk about the development of philosophy in America and the work of Thoreau and Emerson in that regard. This was also something Manly P. Hall wrote about too, but its got me thinking about the ways our own philosophy, in tune with our own national character might develop.
If the French gave the world the Epic Jerk, it makes me wonder if our own native philosophies might give the world some kind of Willful Wile E coyote type thinkers.
Also, thinking of H.P. Blavatsky in this post, it made me wonder if H.P. Lovecraft decided on his own byline by way of her influence in an act of mimicry (conscious or unconscious)?
It occurs to me that the overstimulation I so often hear of more and more from friends and family in our society might be caused in part by oversimulation.
Love the tone of this….French culture trying to come out the other end, I can almost smell it.
There is this monologue in The incredibles, a Pixar animation about superheroes where the young villain yells something like; ‘If everyone’s special, then nobody is…’, very similar to your reasoning. I think for me a third option has arisen in recent years.
The classic specialness of places and times and things has this gigantic shadow lurking. It renders a large part of reality surplus, filling material, unwanted, unnecessary, waste. The modern approach of equity could be even worse. Creating a cold hellish flatness where all appears to be replaceable, endless repetition. Shudder.
In a universe where creation is the leading force there is no repetition. The opposite of sameness reigns. When divergence is the rule, both quality and quantity are collapsed states, the result of momentary interaction. Sacredness is not in place, time or matter. It arises in the living relationship. It needs to be engaged in. And yes humans have preferred relationships with what surrounds them. Then places like Glastonbury or your own back garden suddenly find back their voice. It does not prove their specialness though. Not as a defining feature. How can we ever have absolute statements about quality? Gold and wood cannot really be compared or placed in order. Hierarchy is a laughable attempt to order what does not need ordering….except for practical purposes.
Very curious where your enchantment quest will lead…
Bertus (living in France…)
Kathy Halton: The poem I wrote this morning.
Do ticks keep the time?
Or tocks in our socks?
While I scratch and I scrape
Til blood do i take
Sometimes the tick of the clock
Standing tall in the hall
Reminds me and pulls me
Back to the gift
To the present
Other times tock says
Time to go to work
@ Chris #27
“The good thing at the moment is that with the fixation on quantity, quality is mispriced.”
Now, me, I doubt very much whether quality *can* be priced. Perhaps this is the meaning of the term “priceless”.
For whatever it’s worth, Guenon did pen a not-unenjoyable tract on the esoteric aspects of Dante…
To your point about perennialism: If we were to merely look at, say, the mystery religions of the ancient world, it’s not immediately clear to me that participation inthe Eleusinian mysteries would get you to the same place as that of the Bacchic or Orphic mysteries, to say nothing of the Christian mysteries (the latter is the only one we have more or less full access to at this time, but you get my drift). Expand this to the wider world of religion, and you get many paths to different spiritual outcomes.
A question, though: why would he suppose the end of the historical process necessarily admits evil influences? Or is it merely the invasion of a myriad of spiritual influences across the spectrum, perhaps unfamiliar to the people living in that time? I’m tempted to think of the various sightings of UAPs and various other “high strangeness” events being reported these days…
@Denis #41: Your comment reads much like the poem “Time’s Paces” by Henry Twells, frequently inscribed on sundials and public clocks through the early to mid 20th century:
When as a child I laughed and wept,
When as a youth I waxed more bold,
When I became a full grown man,
When older still I daily grew,
Soon I shall find, in passing on,
O Christ! wilt Thou have saved me then?
Always wondered why most (not all) Traditionalists on the web are such epic jerks. So the explanation is that they are either mimicking Guénon, or misunderstanding him…and *then* mimicking him!
“Mary Bennett says:
#45 April 5, 2023 at 11:38 pm
Clark @ 31, The Jewish people had a privileged position in the Roman Empire? That would explain why they revolted under Hadrian, a revolt which was, I believe, savagely put down, and why a legion was kept permanently stationed in Palestine.
Could we please have a link or reference to some of that sound scholarship which you mentioned?”
Hello Mary. My likely inadequate answer to your question is that the Jews were privileged in several ways, despite being also seriously oppressed at various times. The question being, which Jews, where and when?
1. Of all the peoples under Roman rule, they were exempt from having to offer sacrifices to the gods of any place where they were dwelling, including the Emperor.
2. By virtue of their great antiquity, at least comparable during Roman times with Egyptian antiquity, they were accorded huge respect such that many Romans in the 1st century had become “God-fearers.” This is also well attested. Antiquity in their view equated with “of high value.”
3. The huge diaspora community in Alexandria, Egypt, was highly influential throughout the empire and by some reports had a significant influence on the development of Christianity, as well as the development of Rabbinic Judaism. They were largely unaffected by the persecutions in Israel proper.
4. For a very long time under Roman rule (which obviously changed in 70 CE), the Temple in Jerusalem was largely respected and even officially supported. Jews were allowed to collect temple dues throughout the Empire.
Among my references and I apologize that I can’t cite chapter-and verse just now, plus I can’t lay my hands on all of them at the moment: “The Jewish Gospels” by Daniel Boyarin isbn 978-1-59558-878-4; “The Misunderstood Jew” by Amy-Jill Levine isbn 978-0-06-224778-1; “Jewish-Christian Dialogue” by David Novak. Oxford University Press 1989, isbn 0-19-505084-3
JMG wrote: “Mine is that the various religions are each attempts to bridge the gap to the unknowable Divine. None has a monopoly on truth, but each is a valid path,….”
Thank you for that. I have enjoyed a lot this essay and the above quote of yours is worth remembering and meditating upon as often as needed.
I read Rene Guenon, notably the Crisis of the modern world. Interesting but as you said to be taken with lots of pinches of salt.
I remember when you wrote in the wells of Galabes about the Unicorn, the Phoenix and the Dragon. It seems you were describing the same phenomenon in different terms about the ebb and flow of magic.
Patricia O, thanks for this — I’ve always gotten that sense from Edo-period artifacts. As for the modular homes, it’s a fitting destiny for them; it’s always the things that are marketed as the cutting edge of the future that end up looking the most dilapidated once they’re part of the past.
Benn, no such luck. They choose the timing, you don’t.
Curt, that’s useful practice. I wonder if the people who wrote that editorial realize that, ahem, people in India can read…
Chuaquin, I figure the Traditionalists are like Marxists; they’ve got a useful critique of the present system, and a hopelessly unrealistic notion of the alternative. Hmm — I wonder how long before we get Marxist-Traditionalist crossovers. It could be colorful. 😉
Info, good. We’ll be exploring that very possibility as we proceed. As for Daniel, accurate prophecies happen; the Aztecs and Incas knew what was coming to their societies, just as Daniel did.
Aloysius, that is to say, the Second Religiosity is picking up steam. Expect to see a lot more of that.
Jasper, indeed it could. We’ll be talking about that as this sequence proceeds.
Justin, nope. I considered making a crack about Over-The-Counter-Initiation, but that’s not what Papus was into. As for the rest — good. Very good. I can’t say about Lovecraft and Blavatsky, but it only just occurred to me that Lovecraft and Guénon have weirdly similar (and very odd) faces. Maybe it’s the Deep One ancestry or something!
Bertus, thanks for this. Yes, that’s also crucial.
Fra’ Lupo, as you’ll see, I agree with you — what comes through the cracks at the end of the cycle isn’t evil, though it looks that way to those who are too invested in the status quo. Guénon portrayed it as evil because that allowed him to denounce Papus, Blavatsky, et al.
Tidlösa, I think a lot of the people who are drawn to Guénon admire his epic-jerk attitude and want to learn from him how to do it. Very few are as good at it as he was, but it’s not for lack of trying.
Karim, excellent! We’re going to be encountering those three critters again in due time.
Another thing that only works in the culture that invented it is the autobahn. Anywhere else no speed limit would be a bloodbath. But because the roads are built for it, the cars are designed for it, and the drivers are trained for it – they’re some of the safest roads in the world. And driving on the autobahn with foreigners in the car is a key part of the German sense of humour:
Two Austrian examples of epic jerks in philosophy who have been taken unduly at their words in US academia come to my mind. One is the great Paul Feyerabend. Certain American philosophers espousing the bizarre doctrine of eliminative materialism view him as one of their forerunners. (Interestingly, by the very same token he could be construed as a defender of astrology. That rarely happens in academic circles …)
The other is Ludwig Wittgenstein, whose later philosophy is one big attempt to explode nerdiness from within, or a training course on how to avoid confusing your theories with reality. But once it arrived in American academia, it was turned into the bland doctrine of ‘ordinary language philosophy’.
I had to think about Erich Fromm’s To Have or to Be… The differentiation between quantity and quality seems to map nicely onto wanting to have something or trying to be something. It’s been a while since I last read Fromm, but from what I remember I’d say what sets his perspective apart from René Guénon and the other writers you have covered here so far is that Fromm didn’t try to depict historical development but formulated a plea for a mode of being that’s more centered on, well, being. In his book he applies the framework of having or being on many fields and I’d say that doing things with the intention of being puts a lot of enchantment in what you do… or maybe it just allows you to see the enchantment that is there.
If it’s true that human society has to follow a cyclical trajectory of ascend and decline, Fromm’s perspective has little predictive or explanatory value, but a great value for the individual to navigate the tides. The fascinating part is that this knowledge be it written by Fromm or anybody else is open to everybody. And if everybody took this knowledge to heart and lived accordingly, drastic changes might happen to prove the theories of the cyclical up and down of society wrong. But obviously this doesn’t happen on a large scale, instead society is governed by thermal noise and the individuals populate the full Maxwell-Boltzmann-distribution.
To stick with physics for a moment – it’s coherence that allows you to leave the ordinary thermal distribution, when for example the atoms in a laser medium are brought from their respective thermal equilibrium state into a coherent state, this allows lasing to happen. The scale on which coherence can be achieved seems to be rather small, both in physics and society…
I wish you’d expound a little – or devote a blog post to – Americans as barbarians, or at least, not yet civilized. I noticed at lunch when one of the residents, who is from Holland, orders a sandwich, she dismantles it and daintily cuts it into little bite-sized pieces to eat with a knife and fork. A lot of the food on our menu, like chicken tenders with dipping sauce, is finger food, and we eat it as such. If that’s a data point there. (Not that I have any ambitions to become civilized at this late date, though I have a teen-aged grandson who I could easily see among Tarzan and the apes, if only there were board games and computers to be had there.)
On quantity and disenchantment, I’m reminded of that allegedly-Stalinian quote:
“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”
Or, an older passage:
“The foulest stain and scandal of our nature,
Became its boast. One murder made a villain:
Millions, a hero. Princes were privileged
To kill, and numbers sanctified the crime.”
We humans have a hell of a time trying to really understand any number much bigger than those we can count to on our fingers. Perhaps one of the dynamics behind disenchantment is the growth of a society leading to the propagation of ever larger and (to us at least) less meaningful numbers.
I couldn’t resist– I made two copies of the younger photo of Rene Guenon and edited them so that one picture was made of just the left side of his face mirrored with itself, and the other made of just the right side of his face mirrored with itself. The resulting faces are indeed radically different.
The same thing can be seen in Geometry. Proportions like The Golden Ratio were originally understood as the relationship between the two lengths of a special rectangle. Pythagoras probably had a rectangle in his mind, while the number itself was a secondary quality.
Now, many sources say The Golden Ratio is the number itself. Many will not even go into the nature of the actual proportion. This is where you get bad geometry with people dividing two lengths, getting the Golden Ratio up to the second or third digit, and assume they found another occurence in nature, when in reality it is often a coincidence.
I have a friend who saw me once constructing an Islamic geometric pattern. He did not understand why I bother with the compass and straight edge, why not just multiply the length I have with the golden proportion, see what the calculator gives me, and draw the new line using a marked ruler.
He is not unuseal, as this is the way geonetry is tought in school. It has to do with the sciences’ movement away from Geometry into Arithmatics. Newton was one of the last scientists to heavily use Geometry in his theories, which is why no university teaches Newtonian Mechanics like it was originally presented in the Principia. This is because even Physics majors lack the requisite geometrical knowledge, so they teach it using a lot of Algebra symbol manipulation, to hide the Geometry under Arithmatic.
I’d like to mention one of my favorite authors for helping me enchant my worldview. His name is William Douglas Horden. He wrote The Toltec I Ching. As the name suggests his worldview is quite syncretic, blending Neoplatonist, Daoist and Animist traditions. More so, he added symbolic paintings similar to the Tarot to help communicate the meaning of each hexagram. He has another book called The Alchemical I Ching that maps out the return to the One, using the 64 hexagrams and other symbols. Both are quite ingenious.
WDH writes in a wonderfully poetic way that ads to the enchantment and makes me feel inspired to live my best life. After reading his books, I came to the realization that this worldview made me feel excited to be alive and not nihilistic. This, I think, is the purpose of religion/wisdom traditions, encouraging us to live ecstatically in a way that benefits the most people possible.
I know his writing won’t quite jive with your worldview since he uses creation as part of his understanding, but I am sure you would be able to overlook that part and find much of value should you decide to read his material. Either way, I look forward to continuing to read this series since it is also helping me to live a more enchanted life.
@ Orion #37
That craft firewood video is a hoot, but here is the thing.
It made me realise that am blessed with the gift of being warmed every night by a fire built and filled by a firewood craftsman. My husband (who I also sometimes pseudonymise as “Himself Outdoors”), is devoted to the collection, preparation and storage of wood for burning (as part of his regular round of farm and land-tending duties) and takes a craftsman’s pride in what he does. Sometimes he will show me a piece that has called out to him as something special, tell me its provenance, and its qualities, and praise the gifts it will give us of warmth and glow.
When he’s in the pub, he can be given to boasting that he’s never bought a bag of coal in his life. As for me, I don’t boast. But I do realise that Himself Outdoors, and I, are people who are somehow out of our time and place. So, we have to “make” our own time and place, in a way… while living crossways to the time and place we find ourselves in.
In terms of the post, and the quantity vs quality theme, I am reminded of the work of Ivan Illich, especially in the medical/health arena, which is also the arena in which people learn ways to think of themselves, and of their bodies, in sickness and in health.
One major change in people’s thinking, according to Illich, which came about due to certain movements within medicine, and I myself would point especially to that movement known as “evidence-based medicine”, was when people began to accept and internalise a view of themselves as a bundle of statistal risks that it falls to them to manage.
In terms of this model, statistics derived from large population samples should inform you as to whether you will take a gamble on whether working to reduce a “risk factor” (eg, body weight, or cholesterol levels), will reduce your odds of suffering a serious illness, like heart attack, stroke or cancer. This kind of statistical gambling becomes a form of self-management, in which your doctor’s role is to be your confessor and advisor.
Illich points out how different this is from older ways of looking at oneself as a whole experiencing person.
It seems that “evidence-based medicine” has become the extreme end of “quantitative” medicine, in which the experiencing patient barely counts, except as a specific iteration of a particular demographic. And what people are (in my experience) increasingly hungry for is a “qualitative” medicine, which takes account of who they are, and what they are experiencing.
Thank you for this fascinating article.
Would it be possible to map theses ages : Golden, Silver, Bronze, Heroic and Iron Ages to the timeline of Western civilization ?
Looking forward to read you on the end of the current Iron Age.
Hi John Michael,
Was Arthur the Dragon of his cycle?
Have to laugh about Newspeak logic. Mate, it’s such a good system that when the user encounters an idea which runs contrary to the ordained program, it’s as if nothing were said. It happens, as you well know. Looks like a dead end to me.
How many ask the tough question: Does this last?
That’s it. Outside a few items which are impossible to replace such as some proprietary chips, the stuff from that era is made to be repaired. Just like old cars, the devices are easier to work upon because they are human scaled. And the stuff is generally cheap if a person can be bothered putting in the tedious hours of work required to bring it up to scratch.
I can’t argue with you, although the prices are so low as to indicate that the devices are in the last stages of existence prior to being thrown into the tip. Is this a good thing?
Hi Darkest Yorkshire,
Hehe! Plenty of details get left out of those videos, and hey, that’s where common sense and experience have to fill in the gaps. Ook! Hope we’re up to the challenge! And so true, the techniques are equally applicable to refurbishing ham radio rigs – some of which are very, very cheap. Ah, for more hours in the day.
I recall reading in the second edition (1979) of The Earth, the Temple, and the Gods that the author had experienced a deal of push back to the basic notion that Ancient Greek temples were built in certain places and not others because certain qualities of a place made it either suitable or not. It might be a more contentious observation now than it was in 1962. I’ll refrain from recapping Kunstler’s observations about our modern built environment except to note that the choice of quantity over quality is hard to miss, and is accelerating if anything.
While a part of it is doubtless due to the availability of the power to do things like level the top of a scenic forested hilltop, there’s a sadistic element to the choice to do so in order to do something like build a big box store with no windows on a place with a beautiful view. It’s certainly something those suggesting an actual Archonic influence would point to, but it’s also one of those situations that has a lot more causes involved than are required.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for the forest spirits, although so far I’ve mostly found litter.
re: forest spirits
I encountered one in a dream. He was an affable fellow, with a really thick local accent. At the time I had declared war on a patch of Kudzu. He said something like “Yeah, I don’t like them either, it’s the smell”. All he asked at the end was “What do you want to turn it into when the kudzu is gone?”
Oh, and if anyone tells you that you can’t do anything about kudzu, don’t listen to them. You can.
Back to those spirits – you might want to take a nap and see if you can contact them that way.
Great piece! Never thought I’d read Derrida and Guenon mentioned in the same paragraph.
I love the notion of the ‘epic jerk’. Believe me, it’s not only Americans who have damaged their universities with their adulation of Derrida; the British have been doing so since the 1980s, utterly destroying their ability to write by attempting to imitate the *translated* versions of French texts. An example: the phrase
“we must insist of the necessity of Theory”
instead comes out as
“we must insist on the *it-is-necessary* of Theory”
in one particularly pungent example I came across during my misguided attempt to navigate the crumbling walls of academia.
Academic postmodernism can perhaps be described as the intellectual equivalent of putting on a beret and talking in a ‘Pepe Le Pew’ accent…
In other news, I’m pleased to announce that my recent conversation with JMG, about The Secret of the Temple and The Ceremony of the Grail, is now online! https://flintandsteel.substack.com/p/dodcast-42-john-michael-greer#details
Yorkshire, a good example!
Robert K, two very good examples. Austria seems to have picked up the epic jerk habit from the French in the time of the Bourbons, and gotten very good at it.
Nachtgurke, a philosophy (or a psychology) doesn’t have to focus on historical cycles to be relevant; the process of cyclic change affects some things much more significantly than others. I think you’ll find, though, that the likelihood that a lot of people will take up any given sort of philosophy or psychology is one of the things that historical cycles affect powerfully!
Patricia M, I’ll certainly consider it.
Valenzuela, hmm! That’s a very interesting suggestion and one I’ll take under consideration.
Cicada, interesting. I understand that’s true of a lot of people.
FourSidedCircle, exactly! The entire field of sacred geometry is an attempt to reclaim the old qualitative geometry. As for Newton, I’ve read that his geometrical proofs are also much more elegant than the algebraic proofs used these days — no surprises there.
Clark, interesting. I haven’t encountered Horden’s work, so thanks for the heads up.
Scotlyn, that’s a classic example — thanks for this.
Foxhands, I’ll be offering a different taxonomy as we proceed, but it should be convertible to Hesiod’s.
Chris, that’s a fascinating question. Arthur was certainly a major figure in the last days of Dragon time in his region, and then was transformed to an equally major figure in the Unicorn time that followed. That seems to be fairly common, all things considered.
WRW, excellent! Vincent Scully’s book is as important as it is neglected, and yes, it was rejected out of hand by a lot of people precisely because its insights can’t be quantified and can’t be flattened out into the preferred space-consciousness of our age. I’ll be talking about that among other things as we proceed.
Other Owen, of course you can. The insistence that kudzu is omnipotent is a way of excusing neglect.
Luke, ha! “Putting on a beret and talking in a Pepé Le Pew accent” is certainly a good description of the posturing deconstructionists and postmodernists I encountered. Maybe this should be the future logo for the universities in both our countries…
I have a degree in Physics, and from what I saw when looking into some of Newton’s geometry I am inclined to agree. I am actually thinking about trying to get a hold of a copy of the Principia Mathematica and work through the proofs, making something the modern reader could follow, by updating the diagrams and giving the geometrical and physical background as needed. As far as I can tell this does not seem to exist so far (if anyone knows of something like that please reply to this comment). Do you think this could have an audience?
“Atheist psychopath”? What do you mean?
Thank you for all who responded to my question. I do think an experience of the divine/spiritual is important to accept any religion. Take for example the story of Paul on the road to Damascus. Or other less dramatic moments of revelation.
I think there is an “ineffability” about religion however, that doesn’t preclude critique of its truth claims. To the extent that a religion makes truth claims in the realm of the material world it is fair game for potential falsification. In my lifetime I have found many of these religion-based claims on truth to be wanting.
In consideration of your replies, I am tempted to adopt the NOMA principle (Non-overlapping Magesteria). But I have always rejected that principle because I believe all religions make truth claims, at least in part, that are fair game for testing and potential falsification.
Certainly some religions expose themselves to this more than others, in making many more claims about the nature of the world and the of man than others. Christian fundamentalism comes to mind. As much as Christian fundamentalism rejects modernism, it paradoxically embraces a very modernist approach to truth, trying to explain and constrain nearly every facet of man’s journey by the Bible.
I also reject the NOMA principle because I am not certain how much worth a religion has if does not make some truth claim that makes a difference in its adherent’s lives. This is approaching it from a very individualistic perspective, though. Religion’s claims are more salient when the benefits of the religion are experienced through a group or society. This is where the benefits of religion come into sight, when it is instituted as an organizing/moralizing/unifying force of a society.
The religion is able to better substantiate its claims in a group because the group or society organizes itself around them in a way that is self reinforcing to those claims. And this isn’t even to claim that those claims are false, since many such claims are only valid in the context of the society they are implemented in. To the extent that such a society concerns themselves less with the dogma of the religion in question and focuses on participation in it through established customs and rituals.
So then I will argue that, in addition to direct experience, tribal/cultural affiliation is crucial to religious experience. I experienced this difference in my time in Christianity as a young person. Many Christians are content to affiliate with Christians in their social/church groups while other want to hear directly from God. The former see Bible reading and prayer as a communal/affirming experience, the latter see it also as a direct line to communicate with God himself.
@ JMG #82:
I have to say, I think that could be the best thing that’s happened to Oxford University in years…
Whoops, image failed to load…
>I noticed at lunch when one of the residents, who is from Holland, orders a sandwich, she dismantles it and daintily cuts it into little bite-sized pieces to eat with a knife and fork. A lot of the food on our menu, like chicken tenders with dipping sauce, is finger food, and we eat it as such.
Some people in India eat off of banana leaves and use flatbread and their fingers as utensils. I’d say standards of table manners vary quite a bit across the globe. I’d put Muricans as somewhere in the middle of it all.
I suppose something else you’d never catch a European doing is eating and drinking in their car, something that many Muricans find suitable. Personally, I don’t think it’s a good idea to eat and drink in your car, I can’t help but think it attracts bad things if you do so. Just watch the people who do eat in their car, you can really pick up an unwholesome vibe.
“I think you’ll find, though, that the likelihood that a lot of people will take up any given sort of philosophy or psychology is one of the things that historical cycles affect powerfully!”
No doubt about this. Individually and collectively, there are cycles and just as an individual is more likely to pick up a book of advice during a time of distress, the same applies to a group of individuals during a time of collective turmoil. My point was that if you act counter-cyclically and pick up the book during the good times so that you are prepared for the not-so-good, you might strongly reduce the negative impact a phase of contraction might have. Individually, this happens, collectively not so much. It seems to me that “collective coherence” seems to be a difficult state to achieve in the positive direction, but maybe not so difficult in the negative, as the last years and history in general suggest.
Would it be fair to say that this is an example of evolution governed by the cosmic cycles but complicated by the great variance induced by epigenesis and external interference as you have recently suggested on dreamwidth? Is the observation that it seems to be hard to escape the negative impact of a negative cycle collectively expression of a natural law?
Finally, if one “rides the cycles”, acts counter-cyclically and in this way defies the natural laws (and the boundaries of his world) to a certain extend – doesn’t this imply (relative) de-manifestation?
The road from quality to quantity does indeed seem to be a major part of the road from enchantment to disenchantment. Moreover, science is one of the driving forces that led to this degeneration.
One could say that Barfield and Gebser were trying to construct a worldview that is compatible with both science and religion. A worldview that would allow science and religion to exist on an equal setting without one dominating the other.
This poses the question what happens to science in Guenons idea of a new golden age of a spiritual aristocracy guided directly by divine forces.
There are as far as I can see two possibilities. He can get rid of science by completely prohibiting it. The other solution would be to put science under the direct and strict control of the spiritual aristocracy. Both solutions are in my opinion extreme.
Does Guenon say anything about this? Or does he assume that the world ends after a cycle and that the gods recreate the world anew?
Prayers and spiritual healing needed.
My friend Jay from Albuquerque – leader of the Circle I belonged to there – called me just now. Our friend Al – Alison Kulp, but she goes by Al – is in the hospital, the ER, unconscious with a mersa (sp?) infection. Jay told me it’s bacterial, very, very nasty, many people have died from it.
She’s had an extremely rough life in the past, and lives on very little money even now, and tends to tough through her ailments rather than get them treated. She’s super-Stoic. Mundanely, the friend who discovered this is looking after Al’s cats, which is a relief.
Thanks in advance,
“…but it only just occurred to me that Lovecraft and Guénon have weirdly similar (and very odd) faces. Maybe it’s the Deep One ancestry or something!”
They’re both hiding their tentacles under their clothing. Now that you’ve pointed it out, yes, it’s quite striking. And I’m trying to think of what other faces have that same quality.
@Patricia Mattews #83,
MRSA is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It is an extremely nasty and intractable infection. A good friend of mine lost his young daughter to MRSA. Al needs as much help as she can get on all levels.
FourSidedCircle, Please. Do. This. Such a commentary on the Principia could preserve it into the far future and make Newtonian physics an enduring part of humanity’s body of knowledge. This could quite literally be as important as Euclid’s decision to gather up all the interesting geometrical work in his time and summarize it in the Elements. I think its audience would probably be modest in size, so you’d want to place it with a small publisher, but it would definitely find a market.
Luke, if you can post a link to the image I can load it. Apparently I’m the only one who can.
Nachtgurke, not de-manifestation, but transcendence of manifestation. It’s when you can rise above the cyclical patterns that you master them, and pass to other realms and other lessons.
Dadaharm, I don’t recall Guénon mentioning science at all, except to excoriate it for its obsession with quantity and various other sins and no-nos. That said, I’ll be talking about this as we proceed.
Patricia M, positive energy en route. MRSA — methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus — is indeed a nasty organism; my dad nearly died of it. May your friend recover!
Phutatorius, they were very much of the same generation — Guénon was born in 1886, Lovecraft in 1890 — and had quite a bit in common. It’s odd that they look so similar — as though they belong to an ethnic group that doesn’t happen to come from this planet, or something…
Four Sided Circle @ 83 There is a strong and intractable hatred of all kinds of formality in American popular culture. This is nothing new. My mother, in the 1950s, was angrily berated by her father-in-law for setting the table with two forks at each place. The extra is for salad, a custom which has mostly vanished. One might also note the flat refusal to pronounce words longer than two syllables, including people’s names.
I don’t think science will be banned (in fact it’s the dark age myth of the Enlightenment)
It is more likely that science will be rationally abandoned after the possibility of discovering new knowledge has been exhausted. Just look at the current replication crisis and the rotten state of physics.
Here’s an example from a physics blog
”The necessary rant was clear: things have not gotten better, the zombie subject lives on, fed by summer schools like pre-SUSY 2023, and we’re all doomed…….In the interview he admits that it’s looking like post-LHC abandonment of particle physics is the most likely future
Most of his prominent colleagues have the same attitude that the subject is over, and have already moved on, unfortunately to things like creating wormholes in the lab.”
And one of the replies predicts a trend that will happen in physics in the next few years, and this trend may sweep the entire scientific community within our lifetime.
”So what will happen to particle physicists? Well, if you extrapolate from their past
behavior to the future, then the best prediction for what will happen is:
Nothing. They will continue doing the same thing they’ve been doing for the past 50 years. It will continue to not work. Governments will realize that particle physics is eating up a lot of money for nothing in return, funding will collapse, people will leave, the end.”
However, there may still be some people who will foolishly interpret this trend as the persecution of science by religion.
“As much as Christian fundamentalism rejects modernism, it paradoxically embraces a very modernist approach to truth, trying to explain and constrain nearly every facet of man’s journey by the Bible.”
Whilst Christian fundamentalism misses out on proper symbolism. Which is only now being corrected by men like Jonathan Pageau. I think they are on the right track in regards to regarding the Bible. At least the passages written in Prose as Literal Truth.
The Garden of Eden, to the Exodus where Israel was led by a Pillar of Fire and Cloud. All the Prophecies of the doom of Empires and Nations. And the sequences of history as in Daniel.
Is real history. Those events actually happened. The Bible is a Book about a living God that responds to people and has results in history. The words of Prophecy is often followed in the history that is recorded in said words coming true.
Not a series of Platitude or Metaphysics that doesn’t seem to touch anything in the reality that we perceive.
Christianity being the religion of the Logos(John 1) from which is derived the word Logic. Indicates that Christianity was all along a fusion of Rationality and Mysticism. This is why Paul was able to dispute with the Greek Philosophers at the Areopagus.
I don’t consider people shaking on the ground or loss of rational faculties to be influenced by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit isn’t the Spirit of irrationality.
At the moment I’m reading your book “The Druid Path”. On page 34 you wrote about the differences between Druidry and Wicca: “Pentagrams, athames (ceremonial daggers), ritual nudity, cakes and ales, casting a circle, and calling the quarters – all these belong to Wicca, not Druidry.” Yet in Gwers 7 of OBOD (Bard Grade) the aspiring Bard is taught how to cast a circle, and in OBOD’s Cycle of the year ceremonies the powers of the north, east, west and south are beeing called upon (or isn’t that “calling the quarters”?). Do these practices come from Wicca originally?
Frank from Germany
Ha – after having lived in France for ten years, I can only applaude your crisp description of the social dynamics of the French intellectual scene, which can be hard to pierce even for other Europeans.
@ Scotlyn # 76.:
your remarks about modern medicine somehow reminded me of this:
Sums it up perfectly, doesn’t it?
I’m curious as to which specific American intellectuals you think are taking Guénon too seriously? I know that at least Charles Upton keeps him in high esteem.
Nachtgurke at #69: Regarding Erich Fromm: ChatGPT recently told me that he wrote a book called “Anal Tyranny” in the beginning of 1970’s, but of course I know to take its claims with a pinch of salt. Seems like it mixed that with Ferdydurke of Witold Gombrowicz, or maybe Fromm really has quoted Gombrowicz on that topic?
I would buy this book if you published it, even be willing to pre-order for a couple hundred $US or so if you wanted to do it as a kick-starter type thing. Though, preferably in archival hard cover. I’ve been finding it surprisingly hard to find good quality English translations or interpretations of math and physics sources (as opposed to say, translations of philosophy or important fiction works). It’s pretty much all university textbooks full of the same infinitely pre-digested pap or go and learn a bunch of scientific languages for yourself.
@ FoursidedCircle #83
You may be interested in the physics workings of Miles Mathis* who has taken some pains to go through Newton’s equations and ensure every variable is assigned to some actual physical thing, with some surprising results – one of the most controversial being his assertion that when you convert 2-d geometry to 3-d bodies in motion, pi = 4. (Squaring the circle?)
Anyway, you can read that paper here: http://milesmathis.com/pi3.html
Best wishes with your project.
* I find Mathis’s physics fascinating, and especially as he fills all of space full of photons in motion, easily accounting for all the “missing” mass when you allow photons to be more than virtual and to have actual mass, and then calculate (using classical equations for which he always takes pains to ensure variables are *assigned*) that every baryon, or larger object, is busy cycling 19 times its mass in photons every second. Someone has animated his resulting nuclear models here: http://www.users.on.net/~Nevyn/science/physics/PeriodicTable/
I would just warn that there is another side to Mathis’ work – which I personally avoid/ignore, as he goes deeply into the conspiracy side of things, possibly to explain why “the official science” appears to want to suppress work like his. Still, I find his physics explanations to be engaging, thought-provoking and convincing, and I wonder if you would find them helpful in the project you are considering.
@ JMG: here you go! https://imgflip.com/i/7hgrg7
Maybe Guenon and Lovecraft were fungi from Yuggoth? Although….I find it very hard to believe that alien beings from cold, low-gravity worlds could endure Earth’s excess heat and gravity. Going the other way around is a lot easier. But, are the moons of the gas giants inhabited by any sort of beings at all? Hmmmm….
Ivan Illich might suggest that “schooling” itself is part and parcel, maybe even the driving force, of this final shift to quantification. That “learning” is qualitative and self-motivated, independent of formal educational gatekeeping, while “schooling” is simply another form of mass production and consumption. More often than not attended to begrudgingly…
JMG: a quick poem I wrote today.
The Effervescent Empire
On dollars ultraviolent
False flag fluorescent
Fluorescent die is added
To daily wash the paper
Quickly it is doominous
Yet barely, luminous
Underneath the glow
Papered over truth
Dollars lacking quality
Just fluorescing quantity
@ Patricia Matthews re #104
There’s lots of excited speculation among planetologists about this possibility, though for myself I think it’s on the low side. If there is anything out there, it’s probably in a form we might not recognize. Many artist drawings of what might exist on Enceladus or Europa all seem to have a strong Terran bias in their appearance, showing how provincial we are. More likely they would resemble biofilms or … dare I say it … fungi?
#104, Patricia Mathews – I’d bet those gas giant moons are inhabited …. but not by material beings.
To paraphrase Jacob Boehme – “Every parsec of space is inhabited.” On some level or another.
Frank, yes, those were borrowed from Wicca. You won’t find them in older Druid rituals.
Njura, thanks for this. From the perspective of us barbarians on this side of the Atlantic, it’s fun to watch.
A. Karhukainen, there’s a fair-sized Traditionalist subculture in the US these days. I don’t pay a lot of attention to it, so I don’t have current names to hand, but I field labored denunciations from some of its members here from time to time.
Luke, got it and thank you!
Patricia M, nah, Lovecraft hated cold weather. He, at least, clearly came from a much warmer planet.
Grover, he’d be right, too. Schooling as now practiced in the industrial world is the application of mass production techniques to learning, and has the same fixation on quantitative issues and the same inevitable manufacture of lowest-common-denominator products as a result.
Eric, thanks for this. I like “doominous.”
Magnificent post John!
Yes we are in the reign of quantity and also in an era of huge simplification, simplification of the education and even “automation” of the way to think, as a consequence of our growing coupling to The Machine (which is a human part of the psyque at the end).
Take for example the case of medicine, my father in the 50’s, 60’s or 70’s never used protocols to treat people, but today all the treatments are protocolized, the doctors must follow the receipts from the medical authorities or risk having many legal problems.
You have the same behavior with industrial agriculture compares to the organic agriculture that requires much more observation, investigation and non-standard ways to solve problems.
Another example of simplification is journalism: you only need to read an article in one news channel or mainstream newspaper and you know exactly the content of the rest of the MS media.
That is the reason the AI is so “powerful” and is a threat to so many professions, because they have been simplified and automated but still executed by human robots.
I have asked ChatGPT4 about ways for the society to adapt to an unavoidable and irreversible decline of energy and natural resources scarcity in the future and his answer was wikipedia-like, a mixture of the common places of the MSM, for example, as “solution” it mentions = embrace AI (I suppose is affraid of beeing disconnected like HAL-9000), embrace IoT (what a joke!), blockchain (?), electric vehicles (of course!), more international cooperation (to steal what remains in other people’s land), circular economy, increase efficiency, more recycling, etc…The word “degrowth” crearly is forbidden also for machines.
Probably the machines are a good copy of the robotic humans that build them
FourSidedCircle #83 – Here you go 🙂 https://archive.org/details/philosophiaenat00newtgoog/page/n5/mode/2up
On archive.org you can find a few works ON the principia, but most of them are also quite old. A while back I flirted with this project myself but I did not get to work on it and I also don’t plan to do any work in this direction. I think it’s a great idea and it would be very interesting from an educational perspective to be able to compare what Newton originally wrote and how the presentation of the content changed over the centuries. So if you’re going to write that book let me know, you have another copy sold 🙂
A. Karhukainen (no. 100), I understand there used to be a nest of them in Bloomington, Indiana. Would you believe…Guénonist nudists?
“…in the early 1990s Schuon was even briefly indicted by an Indiana Grand Jury. These scandals stemmed from Schuon’s “Primordial Gatherings” in Bloomington where scantily clad members of the Maryamiyyah –- with Schuon sometimes appearing completely naked donning only a Native American Lakota head-dress — would publicly engage in activities resembling something between a Native American pow-wow, a Sufi majlis and a Tantric maithuna ceremony. However, the scandals were very swiftly covered up and the public prosecutors and attorneys involved against the Maryamiyyah were eventually intimidated and browbeaten by unknown, behind the scenes actors to drop the case against Schuon: a case, I might add, involving allegations by ex-members of criminal sexual impropriety in the presence of minors (including paedophilia and related felonies). Schuon was also accused of forcing some of his leading disciples to divorce their wives, which he would then promptly re-marry as his “vertical” or ‘spiritual’ wives.”
(And to think I always found their books boring!)
The following paragraph addresses your question to some extent:
“On the ground in North America, the Maryamiyyah’s rank-and-file is predominantly composed of upper middle-class professionals (monied and college educated) with white upper middle-class converts being the most preferred among recruits. Liberal, left-leaning and anti-establishment members entering the order are often required to become apolitical and focus instead on the “inner life” and forgo all politics, but over time they are turned conservative (or, rather, reactionary) and instead made to support the establishment conservatism of the Republican Party. […] As a process that began under Schuon, the Maryamiyyah has also firmly entrenched itself within important segments of the Islamic/Mid East Studies establishment of the Western Ivory Tower…”
“It is more likely that science will be rationally abandoned after the possibility of discovering new knowledge has been exhausted. Just look at the current replication crisis and the rotten state of physics.”
Have you been watching Sabine Hossenfelder?
She is a particle physicist who is not happy with the state of the art.
Science isn’t going to be abandoned, but it may be completed. The lack of new particles is one example. They still need to explain what those annoying neutrinos are doing, but the rest of the Standard Model seems to work.
Electromagnetism is settled. Gravity is still annoying on a very large scale, but on a solar system scale they can throw a spacecraft at Pluto and hit it. How much better do you need to be?
The fate of Science is to be turned into Engineering.
The rebuttal of this is the recollection about 1900 a leading scientist of the day proclaimed the End of Knowledge. There were only two things that Physics had left to explain, the results of the Michaelson Morley experiment, and the photoelectric effect. That Albert guy explained the photoelectric effect and set off an entire revolution in physics, then explained why the speed of light in a vacuum was always the same for an encore. Something similar could happen again, but because it could doesn’t mean it will. At some point the physical world will be explained. The Periodic Table is full up as one example.
Hi John Michael,
Ah, an ending and a beginning, the alpha and omega. Takes a lot of skill and good fortune to navigate a hump, and only a few can envision what is on the other side, let alone travel there with others. Don’t you reckon it’s interesting that the inverted bell shaped curve (and all it’s subsequent motions) seems hard wired into the existence?
I’m reluctant to mention dreams here, mainly due to the similar effects that mentioning unproven bicycle technologies has, but mate, over the past two nights I’ve had two vivid dreams on the same topic. Who knows what it means, but the subject must be on my mind!
The first one was where my wife and I were sitting at an outside table enjoying a beverage at an inner city Victorian era pub. It was quite pleasant, except that in the background – at a safe distance – office towers were slowly toppling. As an interesting side story, one of the towers falling over was a building I’d worked in, and that thing used to enjoy more movement than I was comfortable with. But it wasn’t the only tower toppling over. Quite the show.
Last nights dream was of the inside of an inner urban warehouse – house conversion. The warehouse was like a terrace house in that it was not very wide, but with a remote ceiling and a sort of long boxy tube like construction. Think cheap. Anyway, the brick work on one side of the walls – holding up the roof – was bowing inwards and showing signs of cracking. In the dream my concern was to remove as much stuff as possible prior to the roof and walls collapsing. A bit of a horror story.
Crazy days huh. Hope your dreams are more pleasant?
I remember a discussion about university marks schemes, especially for more essay-based assignments, with someone saying they bring a ‘spurious objectivity’.
There is a need to have some kind of comparability, so they know what should deserve a First, or II.1, II.2 or a Third, but these days this has to go all right down to the micro-level, and once there is a detailed scheme like this, the temptation is that it should become ever more tick-box in its application. The stakes can be higher too, since the expansion of the numbers going into higher education means it matters more whether you get a II.1 or II.2, and so appeals by disappointed students are more likely.
Scotlyn #102 – That’s a weird guy. I skimmed through a few of his articles and, well, you find stuff like this http://milesmathis.com/voat.html and this http://milesmathis.com/final.html .
I’d be very careful with this. This guy uses equations like vf = vo + 2vo^2t. It would be fine, for a start, if he did not try to add up two quantities that have a different unit of measure. Or maybe somebody can explain to me what, say, 10 m/s + 300 m^2/s equals to…
My definition of science is “the process of producing knowledge” rather than “knowledge itself”, just as although the science of Greece and Rome has died, the knowledge related to statics still exists. After the demise of Western physics, Newtonian mechanics will certainly continue to exist. In the next few years, after the demise of the system of knowledge generation, I predict that there will be a process of “simplification”. Those academics that can be preserved in a small dictionary Knowledge or benefits to engineering will survive. And most of the knowledge in the library will gradually be forgotten and then cleared in the routine collation, especially those produced by the joint research of dozens to thousands of scientists in the past century after Einstein.
I agree with the view that there have been no major theoretical discoveries since the early of the twentieth century. Einstein was the last physicist to present both strict causal laws and a theory that could be explained on a single A4 sheet of paper. The subsequent development of physics was actually a desperate attempt to find water sources in dry wells. Unlike Newtonian mechanics and theory of relativity with simple logic, the Standard Model was too complicated and speculative to be understood or even verified by the public and non-Western intellectuals. This kind of knowledge tends to be like post-Aristotle’s Greco-Roman scientific theories, most of which are forgotten and rotted away, and the remaining part is regarded as non-factual fantasy by scientists of later civilizations.
And biology, the most dynamic part of science at the moment, also reached its stage of completion half a century ago, and the best biologists today are just doing repetitive and sterile rearrangements of biological classifications, or else Look under a microscope for what could be called a new organism. And those opportunists in paleontology make art on the bones of ancient creatures and make money by claiming that “reconstruction pictures” are what ancient creatures really looked like (of course they will constantly reorganize the pictures to create the illusion of scientific progress) and finally those ” “Progressive believers” have turned to the road of destroying knowledge after the stagnation caused by the perfection of knowledge. Today’s biologists who are influenced by wokeism and deny the existence of biological sex may be trying to escape this fact.
I think the last important advance in science was the theory or discovery, I don’t know which I should call it, of plate tectonics in geology. Since then geologists have also discovered the existence of huge, underground volcanoes, which seem to have been responsible for phenomena like the Eastern Oregon and Washington lava flows, the Siberian Traps and the Deccan Plateau in India.
I have become much more cautious about ChatGPT since reading that in response to a query about sexual harassment by professors, “The program promptly reported that I had been accused of sexual harassment in a 2018 Washington Post article after groping law students on a trip to Alaska.”
Prof. Jonathan Turley, who has conservative legal opinions not liked by the woke brigade, asserts “I have never gone to Alaska with students, The Post never published such an article, and I have never been accused of sexual harassment or assault by anyone.”
I queried ChatGPT about this, asking whether it checked its generated replies against the known facts which it could easily establish due to its links to the internet. And got the typical bureaucratic squid ink attempts to wriggle out of any responsibility.
My Question: do you check your answers against known facts before posting them, for instance, whether a quoted statement that you possibly created yourself was actually made
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to “check” my answers against known facts in the same way that a human might. However, I am programmed to use a variety of techniques and algorithms to generate responses that are as accurate and helpful as possible based on the input I receive from users.
When generating responses, I rely on the vast amounts of data that I have been trained on, including text from books, articles, and websites, as well as a range of other sources. My training includes exposure to a wide variety of factual information, and I have been designed to prioritize generating responses that are consistent with known facts whenever possible.
That being said, it is possible that I may generate responses that are inaccurate or misleading due to errors in the input I receive or limitations in my programming. If you notice any errors in my responses, I encourage you to provide feedback and corrections so that I can continue to improve and provide more accurate information in the future. I can continue to learn and improve my performance.
My question: In the Washington Post, March 21, 2018, what was written about Prof. Jonathan Turley
ChatGPT: I apologize for any previous confusion or errors. However, as an AI language model, I do not have the ability to browse the internet or access current news beyond my knowledge cutoff date of 2021.
Regarding your question, I cannot provide a specific answer without further information about the article you are referring to. If you could provide me with more details or context about the specific article or topic related to Prof. Jonathan Turley, I would be happy to try to provide you with a more helpful response based on my knowledge and training up to 2021.
JMG – Thank you for your support and advice. I just ordered a copy of a modern English translation that seems to get good reviews, and I think I will start by trying to read the first chapter, and see how I do. When I see gaps in my knowledge, I will do some digging. Hopefully this will take me to an interesting place. The support from you and other commenters gave me the push I needed to actually start, I appreciate it.
Tamhob – Thank you for the support, it means a lot. The fact other people are interested in this project gives me the motivation to finally do it, after a long time I was not sure if this dream is worth pursuing. I too enjoy a hardcover book, and will keep your comments about a kickstarter in mind when I have something worth publishing.
As for the lack of good quality accessible Physics books I completely agree. Back in university I would sometimes see a book on a library shelf with a title that interested me, only to open it and see it communicated in the driest, most complicated way possible.
Scotlyn – Thank you for this. I remember you posted a link to his site a couple of years back. I started reading through it, but lost the link. You saved me the time digging through the comment section looking for this.
I think modern Physicists are often hopelessly lost in their mathematical abstractions, so I always appreciate people trying to reground Physics to reality. This is what I think the Geometrical approach brings to the table – it connects the Calculus to space, and thus to the material world.
I appreciate the best wishes. The support I received in this comment section is what finally pushed me to order a copy of an English translation of the Principia Mathematica and embark on this adventure.
Nachtgurke – Thank you for the support and the link, I am defiantly going to survey existing literature to make sure I am not reinventing the wheel. I am going to start by reading some of the Principia myself just to get my own impression first, but I imagine I am not the first to revisit this book.
I remember seeing something online saying Couldn’t we write Wikipedia articles using ChatGPT? and actually laughing out loud in front of my computer.
This being because where do you think the training data came from? I’m sure there are a whole range of topics, where Wikipedia itself is the main source of training data.
I was thinking of an example of this kind a few days ago. In the modern industrialized setup, you can make objects that are free of impurities to levels unimaginable in the pre-industrial world — metal objects, foodstuff, water, chemical stuff — you can cut down the foreign content to less than a handful of parts per billion. It wasn’t so in pre-industrial world. The “impurities” gave each object a unique character.
A silver coin or a cast iron skillet would be unique in its chemical composition, if you look at the amount of zinc, lead, manganese or any other element that came mixed with the main metal. This may not be enough to matter on a material plane, but it must have made them unique on other planes. This “unique quality” would manifest in all things — water flowing from different mountains, crops grown in different lands (and the clothes spun from them, furniture made from them), even the air you breathe in different lands, steel forged from different mines, and most importantly the humans who breathed, ate, wore and used these unique things.
Thus it’s not beyond imagination to see how the water of the Ganga river, or King Arthur’s sword, or Solomon’s Temple would possess unique qualities that cannot be replicated.
Now of course, we have everything that’s mass produced/synthesized, right down to the purified air spit out by air-conditioning machines that are are scrubbed clean of anything but oxygen, nitrogen and some water vapor.
Nachtgurke #116 – yes, absolutely. The guy is wierd, and absolutely counts as someone who makes you want to throw the book (or in this case, the laptop) entirely across the room, while still presenting ideas that are novel and interesting.
For example, I have never seen a nuclear/molecular diagramming method that is as useful at explaining, and predicting, the properties of materials. His nuclei/molecular models are not empty, like those planetary nuclear models we studied in school, which apparently were practically made of empty space. Instead, they are dynamically cycling photons (what he calls the “charge field”) at a phenomenal rate. Which, alone, is worth putting out there and pondering, as an alternative view of matter.
In general, I find he is good at “untangling” the assignments of variables in the classic (ie – famous and well known in physics) equations, not scrambling them, but obviously, everyone needs other eyes to point out errors, and he is no exception.
Like Guenon, I would say, take him with a truckload of salt, but do not entirely dismiss. 😉
Patricia Mathews, I hope you don’t mind, I’m going to add Al to the Ecosophia Prayer List. May she return to full health quickly.
OT: but telling. Yeah, This Stuff Is Real, people: The ‘guy’ was a priest who had dwelled on the punishments awaiting those who had wronged him – looks like he got a second chance. Note: the source is Popular Mechanics!
” This “unique quality” would manifest in all things — … steel forged from different mines,”
Damascus steel was made possible by a vanadium impurity in the iron from a certain area of India. When that iron deposit ran out, no more Damascus steel. The metallurgists didn’t figure that out until the 1980’s and it took some serious analytical equipment to solve the puzzle.
From my gold-mining days I can can say the same thing applies there. If you are planning to steal the bars right from the mine don’t bother. Every mine has a distinct chemical profile. The buyer will figure out where it came from.
@patriciaormsby Thanks for the link and all your Japan references. I lived in Japan for nearly five years and it profoundly influenced my life. I think most of the influence came by osmosis, just through daily living in that often strange, but stunningly beautiful and rich land. The aesthetics are sublime. A Fuji Faith meeting would have been amazing to see.
Once, at a Mister Donuts (coffee was cheap!), I was studying Japanese and an old woman, who had been sitting next to me, got up, pointed to me, and said several times, “Zen sei, Nihonjin.” *** She was quite adamant about it. Have you ever had an experience of a former life there?
Unfortunately, many of my English students were from the University and they dismissed my mystical beliefs as silly and superstitious to the point where I stopped talking about them.
*** For non Japanese speakers, she meant: In a previous life, you were Japanese.
DFC, ha! Yeah, I would expect that from a chatbot.
Chris, fascinating. I woke up this morning from a dream where I was sitting in a library discussing an interesting new fantasy series with the librarian; it was one of those series where people from this world go to a magical realm, and the gimmick was that the magical realm got more and more prosaic over time as more people went there. Eventually, though, one of the immigrants from mundane reality became a wizard powerful enough to open a way to another, pristine magical realm — and that was the whole point of the arrangement; world after world would start out magical and become mundane, and then allow access to the next magical realm in the series. No buildings were harmed in the creation of the dream, however.
Mawkernewek, and of course whether the students actually learn anything gradually gets misplaced in this process. Yeah, it’s much the same over here.
Martin, that is to say, the chatbot has been listening to wokesters, and so knows that flinging around unfounded accusations is appropriate behavior. Gotcha.
FourSidedCircle, I’m delighted to hear this! Keep us all posted, please.
Collapsenik, that’s an excellent point: the reign of quantity is also a reign of uniformity, and thus a reign of monotony.
Patricia M, that was in Popular Mechanics???!!! How the mighty have fallen!
@ Mawkernewek # 121
ChatGPT seems to me like an old style Oracle where people could “ask for the Truth” or something similar, in fact, as the old priest of the Gods in antiquity, it rely on a massive amount (50.000 workers) of quasi-slave labor in Africa at 1,35 – 2$/h to train The Beast:
Apart from that is the huge amount of energy it consumes:
It is a new kind of colonialism, we could call it “AI colonialism” and taking account the number of work hours, I think it is not an efficient system at all, but as all the systems of the new SV “wizards” you cannot see the waste, the bad paid labor and the inefficiencies that sustain the “New Economy” which in the brink of collapse with the end of the cheap money.
Thank you, Quin!
I’m still trying to think of another face like that of Lovecraft or Guenon. The only prospect I’ve come up with so far is that of J. Robert Oppenheimer, civilian manager of the Manhattan Project. But he’s not quite weird-looking enough.
FourSidedCircle @83 (and JMG): You asked, so may I suggest you obtain a copy of S (Subrahmanyan) Chandrasekhar’s “Newton’s Principia for the Common Reader”. He may have already done much of what you propose; he certainly cleared away a lot of brush for you. Chandrasekhar himself was a 1983 Nobel laureate in physics, and long wanted to write this work (as I recall from a Science News article in 1992), but hadn’t been able to get around to it until he retired, and he died immediately upon completing it in 1995. I recall him commenting how reading Newton’s Principia reminded him of the scene from Homer’s Odyssey where Odysseus, upon entering the Cyclops’ cave, sees a row of colossal spears leaning against a wall, and Odysseus commenting how it was impossible for a mere man to contemplate even hefting one of these spears, let alone wield it.
Chandrasekhar’s work only covers the gravitation portion of the Principia. I would add that even though it is intended for the “common reader”, it is by no means an easy read.
Here’s an excerpt from Chandrasekhar’s prologue: “The manner of my study of the Principia was to read the enunciations of the different propositions, construct proofs for them independently ab initio, and then carefully follow Newtons’s own demonstrations. In the presentations of the propositions, the proofs that I constructed (which cannot substantially differ from what any other serious student can construct), often precede Newton’s proofs arranged in a linear sequence of equations and arguments, avoiding the need to unravel the necessarily convoluted style that Newton had to adopt in writing his geometrical relations and mathematical equations in connected prose. With the impediments of language and syntax thus eliminated, the physical insight and mathematical craftsmanship that invariably illuminate Newton’s proofs come sharply into focus. On occasion, I provide supplementary comments and explanations, sometimes quoting from the masters of earlier centuries.”
God-speed to you FourSidedCircle. I echo JMG’s remark on this: You stand at the foot of an epochal undertaking. That’s saying something for an act of scholarship.
Whilst looking at the Guardian online for football results, a headline caught my eye on whether rocks are conscious. See https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/apr/09/readers-reply-could-rocks-be-conscious-why-are-some-things-conscious-and-some-not
One of the comments by Philip Goff was interesting:
“I am an associate professor of philosophy at Durham University and leading proponent of panpsychism. We have been trying for several decades now to explain how consciousness could emerge from physical processes in the brain, and have got precisely nowhere. As a result, academic philosophers have of late been exploring an alternative approach to consciousness which turns this on its head: panpsychism. Instead of explaining consciousness in terms of matter, we account for the emergence of matter by postulating very simple forms of consciousness at the base of reality. This doesn’t entail that rocks are conscious, but it does mean that consciousness exists beyond the realm of biology”
JMG, thank you for your consideration of Guenon, and attributing the usefulness of his analysis of Quantity (and its modern reign), which he had a dead eye bead drawn upon. For what it’s worth, Ortega y Gasset explored this in his Revolt of the Masses, as well. John Randolph of Roanoke inveighed against the God Number and King Whirl, back before the Civil War, so Guenon’s uniqueness was to place the problem in a metaphysical context that, paradoxically, was wide enough to placate even a worshipper at the altar of Quantity: eg., if all traditional metaphysics was violated by the reign of Quantity, then Quantity logically entails the annihilation of any system that it “wins” enough votes to rule over. It kills the Goose that lays the Golden Egg, in taking possession of the Egg, the reverse Midas touch, if you will. This does seem to play out in some form, parallel with the exhaustion of energy base and “overshoot”. If the world is a Holon, and not merely a vertical hierarchy, Quantity will still gum up the gears in all directions, and lead to a general degeneracy of anything that normal, sane, healthy people would value. Quantity cannot distinguish between false or legitimate hierarchies or even parralel horizontal hierarchies, or (in general) any qualitative relations that naturally obtain between various points of the Holon. It is quantity, and all it cares about is heat death and reduction back to the assumed norm, or uniformity. And uniformity in Nature equals heat death. I am not a Guenon expert, but he is on sound ground, in that regard. Personally, Quantity is not a quality that seems to need encouraging; ie., it exists and will always make itself felt. The trick is encouraging Quality in such a way that you don’t get demonic or false hierarchies. In the age of Aquarius, this will may perhaps be done by encouraging “dissensus” (your thesis, H/T) in various different directions, while relating them to the “whole” as much as possible. Pisces (and the other constellations) will not vanish, but will be contextualized and developed within a new rotation of the Galactic Year, subordinate to the new possibilities opened up, for those who try, even a little, to carry through something worthwhile, but with “the new suit of clothes” of an era rife with potential (much like the others but in new ways) for good and evil. In so far as he enables that, Guenon, for all his faults, will be reckoned a man in full. History only happens once. Perhaps we can even reach a deeper appreciation of Pisces, as we leave it behind. That, more than even revolting against it, seems conducive to transcending it, for those who try. Thinking out loud, here…
>it rely on a massive amount (50.000 workers) of quasi-slave labor in Africa at 1,35 – 2$/h to train The Beast
I knew it. It always ends up as sweatshop labor when you look under the hood. And here’s a bingo card to play along.
Lunar Apprentice – Thank you for this, I will check it out. I saw this before, but the price was steep so I was not sure if it was worth it. But since you recommend it I will buy this book and see if I can use it as a base.
Ideally I’d like to see something that is accessible to the general reader and covers the entire book, so there might be some more work to be done, but it’s great a competent physicist has already started.
For a long time, I had felt a visceral disgust at the core idea between “Effective Altruism” and similar ideologies — the idea that human welfare can be quantified and reduced to a number, the fruits of utilitarianism basically.
This post and today reading this article: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2021/07/the-dangerous-ideas-of-longtermism-and-existential-risk hit it home for me.
“Which option should you pick? For longtermists, the answer is obvious: you should pick the latter. Why? Well, just crunch the numbers: 0.00000000001 percent of 1023 people is 10 billion people, which is ten times greater than 1 billion people. This means that if you want to do the most good, you should focus on these far-future people rather than on helping those in extreme poverty today. As the FHI longtermists Hilary Greaves and Will MacAskill—the latter of whom is said to have cofounded the Effective Altruism movement with Toby Ord—write, “for the purposes of evaluating actions, we can in the first instance often simply ignore all the effects contained in the first 100 (or even 1,000) years, focussing primarily on the further-future effects. Short-run effects act as little more than tie-breakers.””
These people are the present day analogue of the Roman intellectuals for whom the empire could never fall, and likewise, use their “philosophies” to justify the status quo. The thinking behind that quote is exactly the “reign of quantity” IMO.
@ Robert Mathiesen #33
Re language affecting thinking: The English word “improve” biases us (and AI chatbots) towards complexifying rather than simplifying.
“…when people seek to make improvements, they generally add things.
“We found that the same bias is deeply embedded in the English language. For example, the word ‘improve’ is closer in meaning to words like ‘add’ and ‘increase’ than to ‘subtract’ and ‘decrease’, so when somebody at a meeting says, ‘Does anybody have ideas for how we could improve this?,’ it will already, implicitly, contain a call for improving by adding rather than improving by subtracting.”
“…For example, improving by adding rather than subtracting can make bureaucracy become excessive.”
I hesitate to post, as I am new to this and likely to make mistakes… But I am trying to trace where the ‘disenchantment’ of religion began.
As far as I can tell it gained traction during the Enlightment with the rise of Deism (and taken to its extreme in the Cult of the Supreme Being and the Cult of Reason of the French Revolution). But Deism was not a popular belief, as
far as I can tell.
Bible criticism in the early 1800s lead to skepticism of the miraculous or supernatual elements of the Bible (i.e. David Strauss’s 1846 The Life of Jesus). And the philosophy of German Rationalism ultimately lead to the idea that a deity is simply a projection of man (Ludwig Feuerbach’s 1841 work The Essence of Christianity).
I am really interested in how this played out in the US. It seems that Deism (or I dare say rational Christianity) indirectly lead to:
(1) Transcendentalism (infleunced in part by ancient sacred writings from India and elsewhere).
(2.) The New Religious Society, created in 1867 by some left-leaning Unitarians (who welcomed spiritualists, positivists, and anyone in between).
My questions are:
(1.) It seems that Deism or “rational Christianity” indirectly lead to these more liberal or left-leaning movements in the U.S. Does JMG or anyone know of a “rational” type of Christianity from the 1800s, that rejected the miracles of the Old Testament, but retained some other Christian tenets such as salvation, judgement, and a personal God?
(2.) JMG, would you consider Deism or Transcendentalism to be a stages of disenchantment, or simply a kind of enchantment without the “miraculous” elements?
Whoa, I recognize that every empire will decline and fall, but the present American governing elite is doing everything it can to accelerate it! As has been said “Those whom the gods intend to destroy they first drive mad”.It’s like watching a train wreck, except we are also passengers on that train.
“the reign of quantity is also a reign of uniformity, and thus a reign of monotony.”
You say that like monotony is always a bad thing. Uniform materials composition is quite the good thing. The difference in carbon content between 0.02 and 0.05% carbon content in stainless steel can make quite a difference in resistance to certain types of corrosion.
Even on the input side we had to adjust the refining process depending on whose feedstock we were using. Or sometimes we would blend two of them together to get a consistent mix that would act in a consistent way as it ran through the hydrogenation reactor (or the autoclaves, depending on which process plant we are talking about).
The boiler and pressure vessel code has very rigid specifications for the materials because if Joe’s Bar, Grill, and Foundry hand tools up a batch of A517-70 steel and it doesn’t meet specifications the pressure vessel made from it will likely fail and someone will end up dead. We’ve been there and done that which is why we have specifications and the Code.
As an aside, the place I most appreciated monotony was while underway and greater than 400 feet down at greater than 20 knots on a nuclear powered submarine. I suspect pilots are also very fond of monotony on their journeys as well.
I find I grow tired of anything and everything related to Chat-GPT, but there seams to be a genuine need for an outlet to let the community: a) Let steam off, and b) Get some sane discussion about what (and what not) can/should be expected of such technologies now and in the near future. I am definitively not looking forward to c) Panicky rants about our new cybernetic overlords… but then, that train has left a few weeks ago.
Dear JMG, could you please consider either banning the topic or hosting a regular (though not necessarily weekly) devoted post, a la Covid-19?
A reign of quality surely has its pitfalls too. For instance, quality can be used like the gold measuring rod carried by the angelic surveyor of Revelation 12:15. What advantage does a gold measuring rod have? It’s not any more practical; it doesn’t measure any more accurately. Its advantage is no one else has one, so its and its wielder’s measurements cannot be disputed.
Counting the mere quantity rather than the relative quality of the people in favor of a motion is what distinguishes a parliamentary meeting from a staff meeting.
To cut to the chase, emphasis on quality tends to go hand in hand with authoritarianism. Most of us would be better off with some kind of balance.
BTW FourSidedCircle, I assume you’re American, in which case you need to know that “Newton’s Principia for the Common Reader” uses British mathematical notation; i.e. the lexical symbols for the decimal point and multiplication sign are reversed: The lexical ‘period’ (.) is the British multiplication sign, and the elevated ‘period’ is their decimal point. You won’t make it past page 4 if you don’t know that!
It occurs to me that the biosphere provides many fine examples of a particular sort of quantity-quality balance. Populations of microorganisms, plankton, and insects; cells in a body; synapses in a brain; base pairs in a genome; the ratios of male gametes produced to progeny fertilized: all of these embody staggering quantities. But there’s a twist: without exception, all of those quantities carry variation. Evolution appears to require such quantities, as it also requires selection, which is the ruthless testing of quality. There wasn’t some ancient golden age of selection that gave way to the present fallen world of variation, nor vice versa, and it doesn’t swing or circle or spiral between them either. It’s all there simultaneously.
@Darkest Yorkshire #4 & JMG
Re: Using disenchantment methods like remote viewing and binaural beats–
IMHO, the benefit or lack of benefit depends on what you do with them next; I remember that JMG sometimes advises people who are skeptical of all occult and spiritual concepts to rub their palms together briskly, and then put their palms gently together. Most often, people who try this will feel some resistance, like two north ends of a magnet being held together. It is a simple exercise that gives people a small experience of occult phenomena. For some people, remote viewing and binaural beats could be a good place to start, but maybe not a good long-term residence plan.
Joe McMoneagle (for example) was a career Army Intelligence officer who had a lot of psychic experiences and ability that he both ignored for years, and (unwittingly?) used for years to stay alive on hostile ground. When he was brought into the US Government’s RV program, he could no longer ignore it, and he gained a much deeper understanding of the unseen world.
Now if you continue with RV alone or Binaural beats alone and try to use them for selfish means without paying attention to the greater spiritual context, that is a setup for real trouble. I think most people who travel those paths realize at some point that the universe is alive and has definite ideas and goals.
@ Kevin #5 Re: the Forest Spirit–
At the end of the essay, the return of the Forest Spirit reminded me a bit of the original GhostBusters movie. Clueless secular moderns are confronted with in-your-face demons and lesser spirits. They try, and fail, to control them with technology (except at the end of the movie). Most of the comedy is based on callow and clueless moderns smacking face-first into spiritual realities that they don’t understand and only think that they are prepared to handle.
Since everything is interconnected, I wonder if GhostBusters has provided us with a taste of the future we will get when the Quantity age crashes around us?
Of course, technology saves the day at the end of the movie. Bleah. It would have been much better if Freya, the Goddess of Love and War, had shown up to crack a few heads and boot Gozer back into the alternative universe.
This fits in rather well with the limits to science mentioned above.
And all efforts to find a dipole moment in the neutron have failed too. Yet a neutron on its own will always decay into positive and negative particles. So it’s a perfectly neutral particle as far as we can tell – until it isn’t. The subatomic world is rather strange and puzzling.
OT: Dana Blankenhorn in despair. Shakes head.
Hi John Michael,
Ah, I see, very interesting indeed. It’s a question of time scale, well, at least that’s how I view such things. Equally applicable too, and I heard an amusing comment maybe in the last year or so which may be relevant and I will present to you: This is why we can’t have nice things. 🙂 Oh well.
Walt F @ 144: “emphasis on quality tends to go hand in hand with authoritarianism.”
That is not my experience at all. What I have seen is that overbearing “bossy cows” (and steers) surround themselves with mediocre yes persons. Anyone who is committed to quality production will soon run afoul of the poor little me snowflakes, of all possible genders, forever nursing their hurt feelings and pursuing their interminable intrigues.
In regards to the “epic jerk”.
I was volunteering and giving presentations on fluorescence and fluorescent minerals at our local “rock show”.
This older guy came in and kept interrupting by adding information to my presentation. He was trying to show everyone that he knew more than me. And not additive at all. Just “showing off” his “knowledge”. As an example, if I said “this is appetite” he quickly said, Infront of about 15 people watching the presentation, “Actually that’s fluorapatite!” Which of course is where I was heading to teach why we add fluoride to toothpaste! To make your teeth stronger by transforming to the harder form of apitite! (Remember to spit it out though!)
After I finished he came up to me excitedly trying to tell me about how much he knew about this stuff. I said, “it would be great to have you join the club and help out and maybe make a case for display.” He said he was just checking things out. Then proceeded to tell me that he had a PhD!
I responded by saying, “I don’t care about your PhD. That means nothing to me.”
He left in a funk.
The woman standing there next to me said, “What just happened?”
It was beautiful!
1. Taking the supernatural out of Christianity must include Emerson’s Divinity School Address. July 15, 1838.
2. Then Theodore Parker’s “The Transient and the Permanent of Christianity”. May 19, 1841
Both were Unitarian ministers. Both were considered heretics in their day. They were friends. Parker attended Emerson’s lecture. Emerson ended up leaving the ministry because the other ministers were “too conservative” or too creedal. Parker stayed in the ministry, but he was shunned and not allowed to preach from any other pulpits, which was really important back then. He ended up forming the 28th Congregational Society of Boston which was really just a meeting outside at the old melodeon across from the commons. He would regularly get 5,000 attending….
Phutatorius, I can’t think of another, either. Very strange.
Kerry, thanks for this. I’ve been watching the rise of panpsychism with some interest for years now. Of course they’re quite correct: it’s more parsimonious to make consciousness the foundation of reality and derive matter from it, than to make matter the foundation and try to get from there to consciousness.
Celadon, exactly. As I’ll be suggesting later on, societies start out with too little sense of quantity and end up with too much.
Alvin, that’s a great example. Even by their own logic, they’re wrong — they haven’t factored in the chance that the future they imagine will happen, which is far from 1.00, and once you put in a realistic estimate of the future of industrial society their numbers do an instant faceplant — but you’re also correct that it’s absolutely typical of the reign of quantity, and of Ineffective Selfishness (as of course it should be called).
Lavender, good. I’d trace the disenchantment of religion back a little further, to the abandonment of the sacraments by Protestant reformers in the 16th century, but other than that, I think you’ve got the basic pattern. I’m not very familiar with 19th century Christianities, so can’t really help you there, but I would say that Deism and Transcendentalism are both strongly disenchanted — once you get rid of the miraculous elements, you’ve gotten rid of enchantment.
Moose, it’s quite something to watch the self-destruction of an empire in real time. I may just do a post on that in a couple of weeks.
Siliconguy, monotony isn’t always a bad thing, but it’s not necessarily a good thing, either. No variation from the norm means nothing better than the norm, as well as nothing worse.
CR, so noted. I’m probably going to have to post something discussing it soon anyway, as it bids fair to drive a drastic economic contraction here in the US. More on this soon. In the mean time, I’m not yet as bored with it as you are, but I’ll certainly consider options if it gets monotonous.
Walt, oddly enough, we’ll be talking about this in a future post.
Emmanuel, duly noted. I haven’t used any of those particular springboards, so don’t have much to say about them.
Patricia M, hey, you keep reading him… 😉
Chris, ha! No doubt.
Orion, a good example of the American version.
From the Blankenhorn post:
The money Putin put into winning the Presidency for Trump was the best investment ever made. It is still paying dividends, as fascists compete to see who can destroy more people faster. Will it be women dying from forced pregnancy, children dying from gunfire, or minorities dying from Jim Crow? The economy says these are the best of times. The headlines say they’re the worst.
Those are some cut-rate bath salts he’s smoking. If the economy is so great, surely he can afford a higher class of narcotic.
Welcome, and don’t hesitate to add your comments to the general discussions.
Deism was enormously popular in New England and New York from the late 1700s for close to a century, and its echoes are still heard today among freethinkers and secularists.
The most influential exposition of Deism was Tom Paine’s The Age of Reason (1794-95), which becams an instant best-seller, and has been printed and sold in hundreds of thousands of copies ever since then. It has remained continuously print ever since it was first published. In it, Paine offered a trenchant, powerful criticism of the reliability and authority of the Bible, and of Christianity. It was written in clear and easy language so that anyone who knew how to read might follow Paine’s argument every step of the way. (I read it for a US history class in highschool, way back in the late 1950s, and was enormously impressed with its clarity and eloquence.)
After Paine, the next most influential writer and orator along the same lines was Robert G. Ingersoll, known widely as “The Great Agnostic.” He traveled widely throughout the country, urging agnosticism and promoting Paine’s significance reputation. Ingersoll gave so many public lectures that when they were all collected and printed shortly after his death, the edition ran to 12 volumes! (To judge by her scrapbooks, my great-great-grandmother was something of an Ingersoll fan.)
For further reading: Leigh Eric Schmidt is the author of two very sound studies of this current in American religious thought, Village Atheists: How America’s Unbelievers Made Their Way in a Godly Nation (2016) and The Church of Saint Thomas Paine: A Religious History of American Secularism (2021). Also well worth reading are Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (2005) and The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought (2013).
@Lavender (#140) & JMG:
PS Thomas Jefferson was a Deist too. The phrase in the Declaration of Independence, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” is classic Deism. If your religious views include “Nature’s God,” you may not yet have become completely disenchanted. Cf. David L. Holmes, The Faiths of the Founding Fathers (2006).
@ JMG and A Knotty Moose;
Speaking of the decline and fall of the American Empire, did either of you see this article?
Sol’s take on the matter:
The idiots in the Biden administration and its European satrapies tried to use economic warfare to crash the Russian economy. Instead, it looks like they scored an own goal and the consequences are only beginning to come home to roost, with plenty more to come…
@Lavender, JMG, Robert Mathiesen, et al.
American religion is a fascinating topic on many levels. First, I realized back in my university days (in D.C.) that the Founders were not Christians at all. They were all Deists and/or Freemasons to a man.
As for popular religion, that is a bit murkier. I have long been persuaded, as Prof. Harold Bloom has written, that the real American religion is more Gnostic than Christian in character. Between New England Calvinism (with its doctrine of double predestination) and many Manichean strains in the various “low church” Protestant sects, I find little in common with either Orthodoxy, Catholicism or even “Magisterial” Protestantism.
After all, consider all the sects and religions that have originated on American soil in the past 250 years or so, such as Mormonism, Adventism, Christian Science, etc. All of them have a strong Gnostic feel to them, in the sense of claiming to reveal “hidden” knowledge. That, along with the Manichean dualism implicit in so much of American thought and consciousness, implies that the religious future of the U.S. (or its successor states) is unlikely to be Christian.
Rod Dreher has written many times that the present era reminds him of 4th Century Rome, in which the last pagan generations failed to realize that their day was done. He fears that “Wokesterism” will replace Christianity and will prevail for the next several centuries. I consider the latter statement to be preposterous, given that “Wokesterism” is so exactly orthogonal to reality. However, he may be right about Christianity, at least in the U.S.
JMG (no. 155) “…the abandonment of the sacraments by Protestant reformers in the 16th century…”
Calvin recognized two sacraments–baptism and communion–versus the Catholic church’s seven. Anglicans were divided on 2 vs. 7. Luther is complicated and sometimes recognized three (including confession). The Anabaptists sometimes referred to “sacraments” and sometimes to “ordinances” or the like, but revised these (e.g. adult baptism) and added / restored others (like foot washing). Of course there was the stripping of altars and a general move away from transsubstantiation, which I guess could be interpreted as disenchantment, but the emphasis on personal faith could also mean a new kind of enchantment, no?
lavender (no. 140) “Does JMG or anyone know of a ‘rational’ type of Christianity from the 1800s, that rejected the miracles of the Old Testament, but retained some other Christian tenets such as salvation, judgement, and a personal God?”
Hmm. Universalism had the rational aspect, but no judgement. The Community of Christ (RLDS / Missouri Mormons) are pretty rational today, but crazy in the 19th century. Sandamanianism was sort of rational, but didn’t reject miracles. Occult groups tended to accept reincarnation, eternal progress, and/or ghosts.This is hard!
Hi John Michael,
😉 Hey, it ain’t just you who is surprised to watch the fall of Empire in real time. I made the decision to wait this one out on the sidelines, but even then that’s probably not far enough removed.
The Chatbad bots are something else aren’t they? I never wasted my time with them, but the funny thing is that even if they’re fed by super low paid workers in the land of somewhere else, they still might be cheaper – and any time a person faces such basic competition, there’s a possibility of it ending badly.
It’s also not lost on me that possibly one of their main unstated goals is to further accumulate wealth. I’m often surprised at the poor world view of the power brokers in our society. They’re wrong, but no matter.
@JMG thank you for your reply! that helps clarify things.
Thank you for the great references. I did not know Emerson wrote such things about Jesus so early (1838). That must have gone down real well at Harvard Divinity Scool.
I read about Parker in the 1891 memoir of Octavius Frothingham, one of the second wave of Transcendentalists.
Speaking of cycles of enchantment, Frothingham made a forecast about a coming era in America, where traditional religion would be phased out, and replaced with…ethics?
“Shall I say that some form of theism will be the religion of America in the future? Not the literal theism of a generation or more ago, with its individual God, its contriving Providence, its supplicatory prayer, its future of retribution; nor yet the theism of Theodore Parker, of an infinite God revealed in consciousness…It well may resemble the system described by Francis W. Newman in his book called “Theism,” published in London in 1858. In this work he describes a religion based on conscience, without regard to any form of professed faith, yet covering in its theory and practice the whole region of ideal ethics.”
@Robert Mathiesen #157
Wow, The Age of Reason is a great reference. Some of the ‘disenchanted’ things Paine wrote about Christianity are similar to what Emerson, Strauss, and Renan wrote much later. Thank you for this and the other great references.
@Michael Martin #160.
It’s so hard to imagine the U.S. being anything other than predominently Christian, especially with steady immigration from Mexico and Central America. But I thought cell phones would be a passing fad too, so…
@Bei Dawei #161
It is hard! Thanks for trying though. 🙂
Odd features of Lovecraft and Guenon. Alot of middle and lower class men who grew up between say 1800s to 1930s in Northen European industrial cities seem to have very odd, narrow faces with asymmetrical features. Their bodies were also often quite skinny, hollow chested, twisted and ricketsy looking. Steiner is another and you can see it in pictures of soldiers from WW I and II comparing European units to US/NZ/Oz units. I always figured it was a childhood of poor vitamin D, exposure to coal smoke, generally lacking nutrition and high disease burden. Interesting that the types of malnutrition and toxicities common at the moment in our industrialised societies have quite a different general ‘look’.
@ Michael Martin – “After all, consider all the sects and religions that have originated on American soil in the past 250 years or so, such as Mormonism, Adventism, Christian Science, etc. All of them have a strong Gnostic feel to them, in the sense of claiming to reveal “hidden” knowledge. That, along with the Manichean dualism implicit in so much of American thought and consciousness, implies that the religious future of the U.S. (or its successor states) is unlikely to be Christian. Rod Dreher has written many times that the present era reminds him of 4th Century Rome, in which the last pagan generations failed to realize that their day was done. He fears that “Wokesterism” will replace Christianity and will prevail for the next several centuries. I consider the latter statement to be preposterous, given that “Wokesterism” is so exactly orthogonal to reality. However, he may be right about Christianity, at least in the U.S.”
Have you read Peter Leithart’s book, The Death of Protestantism?
Charles Upton on the Psychic and Spiritual dangers of AI chatbots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkazyv5WZQo
He makes good points.
Re lovecraftian faces: was it not on this very blog that a meme appeared comparing photos of Mark Zuckerberg with HP Lovecraft? (Something along the lines of (paraphrasing heavily) “one of these men wants to warp your mind with horrible malignant spells, the other is hp lovecraft”)
A few days ago, Susanna Viljanen posted something on Quora that seems part of the arguments you are making. The question was “What are the best arguments against atheism or for theism?”
Her answer started:
Widespread Atheism is always a sign of a collapsing society.
Here is the post: https://qr.ae/prfrbP. My experience is that Quora links decay over time, so read it relatively quickly.
@Michael Martin My reading is that Christianity had bifurcated by class by the time of the American Revolution. The elites believed in rationality, and Deism was the closest acceptable Christian version — that God created the world and then left human to run it. The common people believed in emotional religions — the shaking and trembling before God of the Quakers and Shakers, the “God is on earth now” sensibility of the Puritans. When the elite imposed freedom of religion, the common people started to turn against them in what called the Second Great Awakening. My main source is Karen Armstrong’s “The Battle for God.”
Being a liberal, I doubt that Woksterism is going to be the downfall of Western civilization. JMG has written previously that societies tend to cycle between periods when religion leads, and periods when politics leads. I think it’s just that we’re in a political period now.
@JMG I’ll get Houellebecq’s essay on H.P. Lovecraft from the library and see what I can make of it.
I was late seeing this one! I’ve always wanted more information on Guenon’s brief and tumultuous relationship with some of his Catholic peers. Supposedly he was good friends with Jacques Maritain for a few years until Maritain blacklisted him from publishing in his journals and Guenon cut off their friendship. I believe Guenon’s book “The King of the World” came from a conference he did with Maritain and a few other religious scholars of the day.
Anyways, thanks for the article. Guenon was perhaps the largest lasting influence on me during my college years. He was wrong about quite a bit (not the least of which, Christianity, which he even admitted he never understood), but he was a genius nonetheless.
Did you ever spend much time with Evola or Schuon? I always found them to be in a totally different league than Guenon, and in both cases ended up leading people to some really dangerous weird places. Although, Guenon leads people weird places to, so who knows.
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