It was a toss-up, yesterday, whether I would post something on the Ukraine issue or on the meaning of iniquity. Church doctrine speaks of the mysterium iniquitatis, which is usually translated as “the mystery of evil” or “the mystery of iniquity”, which is itself a bit of a mystery.
I opted for postponing writing something on the meaning of iniquity or “evil” because of the timeliness of the Ukraine issue and of what it reveals about our becoming trapped in our 0wn histories. Becoming trapped in and by our own histories is, in fact, the very thing Jesus taught against, as the meaning of death and resurrection, or of “dying to oneself daily”. Jesus taught the secret of dying at the right time as the secret of true freedom. This makes all the difference whether one is the master of time or its slave. The followers of Jesus were awestruck by him because he was the master of time, and not its servant. For that reason, he stood out and apart as the “lord of time”. And without that insight into the meaning of the life of Jesus, you can’t understand why it is said in Revelation of times to come that “time shall be no more” as being the ultimate destiny of mankind and the goal of a Christian life.
And it is that very thing, oddly enough, that Jean Gebser addresses as a new era of “time-freedom” in his book The Ever-Present Origin.
Until now, I’ve avoided the precipitous “rush to judgement” over the Ukraine crisis that is an all-too common tendency of the punditry and commentariat in the mass media, who, in the main, seem to have no sense of historical consciousness nor awareness of the ironies of their own, all-too narrow perspectives and “points of view”. “Say something, anything” is the predictable formula for what is dismissively (and appropriately) referred to as “churnalism”. There is a product to get out, after all. The always sober-minded Simon Tisdall of The Guardian, in a good article republished on the CNN website (surprisingly!) summed it up: “It’s difficult to say what is more astonishing: the double standards exhibited by the White House, or the apparent total lack of self-awareness of U.S. officials.”
One might add to that, of much of public opinion in the West, too, including the “churnalists”.
We need a new way of understanding the meaning of “the demonic” — the application of a kind of Nietzsche transvaluation of values to the value “demonic” — that doesn’t invoke the ever recurring misunderstandings and errors of the past. Even the meaning of this, as in so many other things, has been trivialised and has been rendered banal to the point of incoherence and unintelligibility. Having voided the word “demonic” of any intelligible or sensible value (except perhaps as “the irrational”), modernity — and not just the intelligentsia — was largely left speechless and fumbling for words in the face of the horrors of the Nazi period. And it still remains largely oblivious to the fact that “the gates of hell” were opened wide during the period 1914 – 1945, as the literary critic George Steiner once tried to describe it in his essay “The Hollow Miracle“.
The demonic, as such, is running rampant again in our midst because we don’t recognise it for what it is.
The word “occult” only dates from the 16th century, according to my etymological dictionary, to describe what is veiled, hidden, concealed, unseen, or occluded. As such, “occult” signifies the contrary of revelation or the apocalyptic, which signify dramatic dis-closure or dis-covery, as the casting aside of a veil. Everything that, with the ascent of perspectivising consciousness, became “background” or “underground” fell into the shadow world of “the occult”.
What is presently called “the occult” grew up with the development of the mental-rational consciousness structure itself — as its shadow — but which has come to lead a semi-autonomous life of its own, even though it is a tacit or implicit aspect of the mental-rational consciousness itself.
A few months back, I posted a piece on ironic reversal at our “end of history”. In it I noted the irony of the neo-conservative thesis — an irony that seems to have been lost on its true believers — that the “end of history” could be nothing but the absolute self-negation of the modern era, modern society, and modern civilisation; that “the end of history” could be nothing but the same “post-modern condition” that they pretended to deplore when it was enunciated by others. The “end of history” thesis served to affirm and justify Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no alternative” and “there is no such thing as society”.
The ironic reversal (or enantiodromia) implied in all this is, of course, that this “end of history” along with “there is no alternative” is the self-negation and deconstruction of the liberal democracy and its values, the historical victory of which it pretended to celebrate, for it could only result in a form of totalitarianism itself. This was the irony also recognised by Nietzsche when he wrote,
“Liberal institutions cease to be liberal as soon as they are attained: later on, there are no worse and no more thorough injurers of freedom than liberal institutions.”
It says something about our narcissistic culture that “disillusionment” is considered a disease, and not cure, convalescence, and self-recovery. What’s to value about being “illusioned” in the first place? It’s the condition of illusionment that is the disease.
Disillusionment is, in fact, the very meaning of “apocalypse” as disclosure or revelation of truth. The deeper the illusion, the more shattering the truth when it finally asserts itself. This is why acknowledging truth is sometimes very painful. “The cure for the disease is in the disease” is the great Rumi’s cryptic remark about malaise and disillusionment. Illusionment is narcissism and is connected to what Ernst Becker called “the denial of death”.
Those who resist and refuse disillusionment-as-revelation are precisely those we call “denialists” and reactionaries. Embrace disillusionment. Even when it feels like death it is the dispelling of the Cloud of Unknowing. One can even say that the “malaise of modernity” is, in fact, the experience of disillusionment.
Not always idyllic….
But then, maybe the moose just wanted to play tag.