Over the last couple of days, I’ve been reading Rudolf Steiner’s book Basic Issues of the Social Question. Published in 1919, it was written just after the calamity of the First World War, and that catastrophe weighs heavy upon it. That is the same year in which W.B. Yeats’ penned his ominous poem The Second Coming.
Have you ever wondered how the billionaire Russian oligarchs and plutocrats managed to emerge so quickly from the ruins of the USSR? Why 1% of Chinese now control 50% of “communist China’s” total wealth and assets? Why the middle class in the US is dramatically shrinking? Why Canadians are going into debt just to keep abreast of the cost of living? Why austerity budgets are being implemented everywhere at a time of unprecedented global wealth? And why there is such growing outrage at the political and economic domination of the 1% over the 99%?
Have you considered that it is deliberate neo-liberal policy criminally and fraudulently sold to the public under false pretenses, and not because of the “virtuous circle” of free-market economics?
Is Anders Behring Breivik insane? In a clinical sense, no. Yet, from another perspective, no one (in their right mind that is) could possibly confuse Breivik with being sanus — sound, healthy.
“Blinded by hate” is not just a figure of speech. Hate makes insane. An all-consuming hate casts a thick fog over the senses, until one perceives nothing clearly through the pall it casts over everything, even oneself. Truth and falsehood become irrelevant because no longer accessible. Everything becomes subordinated to a dualism of love and hate.
In that sense, Breivik is demonic and willingly embraced the demonic. But it is a convention of the wisdom tradition that to become demonic in that way is to enter into insanity and into the lowest circles of Hell.
In Jean Gebser’s typology of civilisations, which correlates civilisational types as they appear in history (or currently co-exist) as specific gestalts or structures of consciousness, these civilisations-as-consciousness-structures are described as having an “efficient” expression and a “deficient” expression in time. The efficient mode or period of a consciousness structure is characterised by its qualities of vitality, vigour, resilience, and robustness which make for its relative durability and persistence. The deficient phase of the consciousness structure, which is its decadent phase, is characterised by a deficit of these qualities. In other terms, “efficient” and “deficient” might also correspond to healthy and diseased states respectively. The deficient or deficit phase is what we typically signify when we speak of “the decline and fall” of an historical civilisation.
In the old Dark Age Blog, I was once asked by a commenter what could be done to stop the wild and erratic pendulum of history from swinging to-and-fro. What, he asked, could be done to prevent history from apparently constantly repeating itself? The great Irish writer James Joyce had also asked the same question: “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” The metronome of politics and society seemed to be swinging from one extreme to another, from left to right and back again, or from an emphasis on public goods to private values and then back again in a seeming tedious eternal recurrence of same, of vengeance and revengeance that characterised the pagan world conception.
Then, I had no answer. Now I think I do. There is a reason why, as the old song puts it, “England swings like a pendulum do”.
Between posts in The Chrysalis, I’ve been reading in the pagan historians — Herodotus, Thucydides, Plutarch — for no other reason, I suppose, than to discover a part of Ariadne’s thread through the labyrinth of human history. Herodotus is interesting for being “the father of history”, meaning, of course, that he belongs to the early incipience of the mental-rational structure of consciousness otherwise known as “Greek rationalism” or what Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy called “the Greek Mind”, the rebirth of which is the entire theme and meaning of the Renaissance (appropriately, French for “rebirth” or resurrection) after the long European Dark Age.
In a few recent posts, including the last post on Dualism, on the breakdown of dialectical reason, and The Commonwealth, I made the argument that the evidence for what cultural philosopher Jean Gebser called our decline into “deficient rationality” in Late Modernity (and thus our disintegration) was most pronounced in the radical dichotomisation of what are true polarities into false antinomies, and thus into a state of enmity and hostility between things that are actually kin to each other and which are as essential to the meaning of each other as a husband and wife are to a real marriage. Read More…