Of Passionate Intensity: Perfidy and Politics and Unnecessary Wars

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

–W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

A post in which I once again pick up the thread of the Seth “prophecy….”

For those coming late to the game, or who otherwise have not been following our examination of the Seth material to date, the “prophecy” in question is again cited here in full.  It’s advisable to read it, otherwise this and the earlier posts addressing the fuller meaning of the Seth quote will not be understood in their broader social, historical, and global context. You will also note its uncanny resemblance to the famous and powerful poem by William Butler Yeats, “The Second Coming”, the first verse of which I’ve cited above.

The “ego consciousness” here is Yeats’ “falcon”. The “roots” of which Seth speaks is Yeats’ “falconer” (otherwise, the “Overself” of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the “Poetic Genius” or Imagination of William Blake, or the Jungian or Nietzschean “Self”).  Yeats’ “widening gyre” is the loss of these roots or the vital centre through the disintegrating effect of the gyre’s centrifugal force — “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”, the result being the “chaos” and the social and psychic anarchy described below by Seth.

Yeats’ first verse, moreover, corresponds to the journey of the Prodigal Son into the “far country” where he ultimately encounters misfortune, the Prodigal Son likewise being the ego consciousness become isolated or detached from remembrance or awareness of its authentic source and roots.

Here, again, is the Seth “prophecy” as such, as it appears in The Unknown Reality,

Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else. You are in a position where your private experience of yourself does not correlate with what you are told by your societies, churches, sciences, archaeologies, or other disciplines. Man’s “unconscious” knowledge is becoming more and more consciously apparent. This will be done under and with the direction of an enlightened and expanding egotistical awareness, that can organize the hereto neglected knowledge–or it will be done at the expense of the reasoning intellect, leading to a rebirth of superstition, chaos, and the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge.

When, at this point now, of mankind’s development, his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by his institutions, then it will rise up despite those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the use of reason, because reason will have denied the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge, disorganized and feeling only its own ancient force.

If this happens, all kinds of old and new religious denominations will war, and all kinds of ideologies surface. This need not take place, for the conscious mind – basically, now —  having learned to focus in physical terms, is meant to expand, to accept unconscious intuitions and knowledge, and to organize these deeply creative principles into cultural patterns…

I am saying that the individual self must become consciously aware of far more reality; that it must allow its recognition of identity to expand so that it includes previously unconscious knowledge. To do this you must understand, again, that man must move beyond the concepts of one god, one self, one body, one world, as these ideas are currently understood. You are now poised, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways. There are species of consciousness. Your species is in a time of change. There are potentials within the body’s mechanisms, in your terms not as yet used. Developed, they can immeasurably enrich the race, and bring it to levels of spiritual and psychic and physical fulfillment. If some changes are not made, the race as such will not endure.

Here, I want to focus on the first two lines and second paragraph, particularly the point Seth makes about the discrepancy between our institutions and our private experience — our changing self-understanding to which our received and inherited institutions have not similarly kept pace, resulting in a basic dissonance or incoherence that is likewise a dis-integrate condition or state of incipient “chaos” or anarchy. When Yeats wrote his poem in 1919, just after the Great War, the signs of this were already evident, and even moreso afterwards and in 1949 when the cultural historian Jean Gebser noted the following about the loss of the vital centre and of “destruction at the outer limits” in his book The Ever-Present Origin,

“When any movement tends to the extremes it leads away from the center or nucleus toward eventual destruction at the outer limits where the connections to the life-giving center finally are severed. It would seem that today the connections are already broken, for it is increasingly evident that the individual is being driven into isolation while the collective degenerates into mere aggregation. These two conditions, isolation and aggregation, are in fact clear indications that individualism and collectivism have now become deficient” — Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin

To put it another way, one might say that the danger of individualism is the danger of centrifugal force — dispersal at the outer limit, while the danger of the other, of collectivism, is the danger of centripetal force — aggregation or massification.

The formal sociological terms for the condition in which private experience and social institutions do not cohere, or are in a dissolute and disintegrate state, are alienation (estrangement) or de-legitimisation. What this means is, social institutions which formerly commanded our loyalties and allegiances no longer appear worthy of our loyalties and allegiances, nor worthy of our oaths, and are now viewed with cynicism, apathy, indifference, or even hostility, for they are now seen as perfidious.

This situation is, today, quite widespread. Much of the current social and civil unrest — around the globe — is due to the fact that received and inherited institutions of long-standing, once regarded as just, honourable and legitimate authorities, are now perceived as perfidious — as being corrupt and corrupting, as not being faithful to the human experience and therefore as alienating or even as repressive. Sociologists would say that they are undergoing a process of de-legitimisation.

I have already discussed a few cases where this de-legitimisation is the case. Here I want to go into more detail showing why “perfidy” and the perfidious are symptoms of the disintegration of the modern mind — the “mental-rational structure of consciousness” — and the Modern Era.

“Perfidy” means, in effect, breach of faith or breach of trust. There is a mere pretext of fidelity and sincerity. The subtext, however, is something else. There is a dissonance between words and acts. One talks the talk but one doesn’t walk the talk, as it were. Lip-service is paid to high principle, even while actions negate the principle. In fact, lip-service, as Rosenstock-Huessy pointed out, is the disease of decadence.  “Lip-service” is just another term for perfidy — of speaking and acting insincerely, and that means, in bad faith.

This may not even be deliberate or conscious, but a corrupting effect of the institution itself.

In fact, one might bear in mind that the very word “sincere” is very likely derived from the Latin sin + caries — meaning “against decay” or “without decay”.  Sincere means, therefore, with one’s whole heart and soul is one faithfully engaged in the struggle against decay.  Insincerity is perfidy.

An age of “faking it” is an age of insincerity, and is therefore a perfidious or “faithless” age. It is, in that sense, an age in the process of decay and disintegration.

One of the most striking current examples of this perfidy is the discredit into which religious institutions and roles have fallen in the West following wide-spread revelations of sexual abuse, embezzlement, and other crimes by priests and evangelists. The trusted “good shepherds” to their faithful flocks were suddenly revealed as being wolves in disguise. The pretext and the subtext, as it were, were inconsonant. The consequence has been a widespread devaluation and de-legitimisation of religion and religious roles and institutions as now the face, front, or facade the institution presents to the public falls under suspicion, if not also cynicism, mockery and ridicule.  Mockery and ridicule are, in fact, acts of de-legitimisation of institutions. The entire institution of religion has fallen under suspicion, if not outright rejection.

The case is not different in perfidious politicking, either, which is an even greater swamp of corruption and insincerity. And here the facts of our institutional decay and corruption, and our civilisational disintegration, seem to speak loudest of all. In fact, the political situation is so bad that good men and women who would otherwise make excellent political representatives now refuse to compromise themselves by descending into the swamp of politics and public life. Surely our right honourable and honourable ministers, secretaries, parliamentarians, congressmen and congresswomen, mayors and councilors are not mere phoneys and fakers? Surely our right honourable and honourable representatives would not lie, dissemble, prevaricate, obfuscate, falsify, equivocate or act in ways toxic, perfidious, mendacious, hypocritical, disingenuous, duplicitous, malicious, vicious, contrarious or nefarious?

Unfortunately, it seems true that, as Yeats put it “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”.

As with religious institutions, so with political institutions — they have been discredited, and have fallen under suspicion if not outright contempt, ridicule, and open hostility. The best, in consequence, “lack all conviction”, while the politics of the very worst becomes the norm and has a free hand. In consequence, our democratic institutions, traditions, and principles are being discredited and devalued as well. This is one of the most frightening things about it.

As with our political and religious institutions, so also with the institutions of the arts and sciences, corporation and academia, military and media. In fact, no institution of Late Modernity has escaped the charge of being unfaithful to its roots, its purposes, to society, or to the human experience. There isn’t a single institution that isn’t being subjected to an interrogation of its sincerity, authenticity, relevance, or legitimacy, or that hasn’t already fallen into irredeemable discredit, and merely continues on from inertia or lives on like a zombie.

The consequence has been a dramatic upswing in conspiracy theories, some with a more — and usually a much less — rational basis. If the respectability, legitimacy, and sincerity of our institutions have fallen into doubt, discredit, mistrust and suspicion, and are deemed to be merely a public facade to disguise secretive self-seeking private lusts, vices, ambitions, “hidden agendas”, and a self-aggrandising will to power — even if a fraction of this were true (and it is), one will probably come to conclude that they are all conspiratorial and perfidious.

It is, nonetheless, a very common theme in contemporary literature, science fiction, and cinema that our institutions are perfidious and corrupt and increasingly unworthy of our support, loyalty, or trust.  Moreover, much of it is quite true. They do function in bad faith or have been captured and seized by self-seeking interests

Hence Seth’s warning,

When, at this point now, of mankind’s development, his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by his institutions, then it will rise up despite those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the use of reason, because reason will have denied the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge, disorganized and feeling only its own ancient force.

If this happens, all kinds of old and new religious denominations will war, and all kinds of ideologies surface. This need not take place, for the conscious mind – basically, now —  having learned to focus in physical terms, is meant to expand, to accept unconscious intuitions and knowledge, and to organize these deeply creative principles into cultural patterns…

Which brings us to the second verse of Yeats’ poem,

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The events of the second verse follows from the events first. As the disintegrate state intensifies towards the condition of centrifugal dispersal where things fly apart, the counter-dynamic of centripetal force also intensifies — towards the condition of concentration of power, which is the image of Yeats’ “rough beast”.  This is the double-movement. As our institutions lose sight of their purpose or effectiveness and undergo dissolution or a withering from within, barring an “enlightened and expanded egotistical awareness” capable of organising them into “new cultural patterns”, the reaction may well be a concentration of absolute power, of an equally irrational violent and brutal response in order to hold things together. Some kind of fascism seems to be prophecied.

I believe that this was what Snowden’s revelations, and especially the responses to them, actually point towards. Snowden revealed a divorce between State and Nation such that the fiction of “the Nation State” as a union and unity of the government and the governed could no longer be sustained. More important, however, was the response. Yes, mass surveillance is being done, but the law-abiding who have nothing to hide need have nothing to fear, and therefore should have no fear of having their privacy intruded and infringed upon by the techno-corporate state.

Few seemed to have noticed here that the meaning of “privacy” and therefore of the individual was being completely massaged and recast. “Privacy” was being given a new meaning by the State — that of “concealment” or “secretiveness”.  Consequently, so was the meaning “individual” as being concealed or secretive, of not being transparent.  In the Newspeak of the new Techno-Corporate State, private means “concealed”, and individual means “secretive”, “not transparent”, or “not exposed”, tantamount to making individuality itself suspect and even something vaguely or potentially felonious.

Few seemed to have noticed that the meaning of “private citizen” was being radically massaged, re-interpreted and revalued formally for the first time to mean exactly the opposite of what it has hitherto meant — protected from intrusion or intrusive acts, an inviolability. It means, now, visibly transparent to the techno-corporate state.

One response to “Of Passionate Intensity: Perfidy and Politics and Unnecessary Wars”

  1. alex jay says :

    “Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else.”

    This is certainly the case when it comes to language (as you more than anyone I’ve read would attest). Here is a link to a recent article I came across which deals with the cooptation of economic language not only as a nihilistic devaluation of higher values, but goes further to actually illustrate the change of original meanings to their opposites.

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-insiders-economic-dictionary-the-antidote-to-euphemism/5343257

    p. s. Reading the paragraph on the political perspective, I couldn’t help but picture the two men who represent perfidity as you describe in iconic proportions – i.e. Tony Blair and Barry Obama. : )

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