Friday 8 February 2019

A Call to Arms

Western civilization is clearly in decline. The signs are everywhere and range from the loss of the sense of transcendence and resultant materialism, to deterioration of the arts and sciences, to mass immigration which erodes identity (and is intended to), to greater involvement of women in the workforce and political process which (whatever you think of its rights or wrongs) has practically always marked a culture in its terminal phase*, to familial breakdown and sexual licence and so on. I am not making a judgment here. I am simply describing what is taking place and pointing out that it is what always takes place whenever a civilisation has passed its zenith and started its decline. Members of that civilisation all want to share in its bounty, bounty that has been produced by exceptional people fired by exceptional energy and creativity. But the rich and relatively stable society such people produce leads to a situation in which everyone wants a piece of the pie and demands a say in its running.  Democracy is the result of that and the result of democracy is cultural relativism which substitutes quantity for quality. This is where we are now.

There is a saying that hard times make strong people who make good times which make weak people who make hard times. We are weak people. Weak people prize the gentle virtues, in particular compassion and empathy. Obviously I am not arguing against compassion, but I am saying that it is a virtue that will lead to downfall if it is not balanced by wisdom and discrimination. For if unbalanced compassion has its way, everything is reduced to the same level and that level will increasingly be determined by the lowest common denominator. 

In a collapsing culture people are unable to distinguish between what bestows spiritual benefit and what material, particularly when the two conflict as they often do. This means that the increase of pleasant feelings and reduction of unpleasant ones is all that is deemed to matter. Reality is defined in terms of personal happiness and suffering, pleasure and pain, and subjective feelings become more important than objective truth. This leads to a vicious circle or downward spiral in which mistaken attitudes breed further errors which, in turn, lead to deeper illusion.

The true spiritual way demands repentance and inner transformation. One must literally turn one's life around and redirect one's mind to new paths. Compassion without wisdom says we are all good as we are now. No sacrifice, no renunciation, no repentance is necessary. Just love everyone for who they are. This is a damnable lie for no man is good in and of himself. We are all, as traditional Christian teaching correctly affirms, sinners. That means we are all out of proper harmony with spiritual reality. What the modern world has forgotten is that the way to heaven is always through the crucifixion. Any form of spirituality that ignores this is just self-help and that is basically disguised egotism^.

Given this diagnosis of the modern world as one in decline, how can one say that human consciousness is evolving? But I do say it. After all, this is why the Christianity of the past is no longer adequate for many modern people who have the distinction, due to a more developed intellect and sense of self, to need to know things for themselves. But there is no reason why both assessments of the present time cannot be true. They are not necessarily contradictory. On the one hand, the old civilisation is dying for reasons of exhaustion and because of a decadence that is the result of a loss of spiritual energy and capitulation to material forces. On the other, there is a development of consciousness which sees a much greater and more widespread mental awareness of reality and positive engagement with it. 

Perhaps the fact that this is widespread gives us a clue. In the past, there was a relatively small spiritual and intellectual elite who drove the cultural agenda, and they worked from within a spiritual framework, or one that was heavily influenced by such.  The vast majority of humanity was purely passive. Now, however, there are far more people both determining and responding to intellectual life but they do so in a philosophically materialist society. From a situation in which very few people really thought, we have moved into one in which more and more men and women are becoming intellectually active, but the quantitative increase is not reflected qualitatively. It's a classic example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing but probably inevitable at the earlier phase of a new cycle.

The question is, can humanity progress from this current state of awakening intelligence to a deeper awareness before it destroys itself spiritually? To put it at its simplest, can we move on from a state in which knowledge is our chief aspiration and focus to one of wisdom? In a state of ignorance, the majority of the populace could be guided by traditional religion. In essence, they did as they were told. Now, as we leave our spiritual childhood we are learning to think for ourselves, but knowledge without wisdom has led to our corruption because, although we have begun to think for ourselves, we are not yet capable of thinking very deeply.

These are the two problems that confront us and to which we must find a solution. Our civilisation has reached the end of the line and is in the process of dismantling itself in various ways but which can often be reduced to preferring equality to quality. And then our newly developed mental powers have given us the ability to engage with reality to a greater extent than before, and even force it to our will to a degree, but we are restricted in this to the material plane. We must start to sow the seeds of a new spiritual civilisation or we face destruction.

* See The Fate of Empires by Sir John Glubb 

^ I'm not saying that the attempt to improve oneself is egotism, just the attempt to do so without reference to a real (i.e. not abstract) transcendent source beyond the self.


Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I'm not sure weak people always prize the gentle virtues. Rome in its terminal stage was noted more for sadistic cruelty than for empathy and compassion.

William Wildblood said...

True enough but that was a particularly barbarous time that hadn't had the benefit of 2,000 odd years of Christianity. We can't avoid that legacy, much as we may try to. What I meant was that those who do think of virtue at all in a materialistic time, and I think that materialism does make people weak in that it takes away a higher meaning for them to strive towards, see it in terms of removing suffering in the here and now instead of enduring that for a greater purpose.