The Political Question

These are very perilous times, as I’m sure many of you sense. And I’ld like here today to follow up on a comment I made in response to Don Salmon in the last post, and try to put the nature of that peril in broader historical context.

The “New Right” (or “New Conservatism”) isn’t exactly new at all. It was a reactionary movement that emerged in Germany following the First World War as a response to two shocks — the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, and Germany’s loss of the war, both of which it sought to roll back, by means fair or foul. It also saw both developments as linked to the liberal, or French Revolution, which it also sought to roll back. The Norwegian neo-fascist terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, is simply a continuation of this reactionary project to overturn the Age of Revolutions or Modern Era completely.

In response to the “New Conservatism” in Germany arose the counter-reactionary “New Left”, associated with the Frankfurt School or “Critical Theory”. Both “New Right” and “New Left” ended up as transplants or refugees from fascism largely in the United States, the former associated with the name Leo Strauss, and the latter with the names Herbert Marcuse, Theodore Adorno, and Erich Fromm. So the German ideological struggle between 1914 and 1945 ended up also becoming the American ideological struggle.

With the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, neo-conservatism claimed for itself a victory in the ideological struggle to roll back the Russian Revolution. The neo-conservative, Francis Fukuyama, declared shortly thereafter “The End of History”, although he was anticipated in this by Margaret Thatcher. Fukuyama declared “liberal democracy” as the final form of society, but he soon broke with his neo-conservative colleagues (rather publicly) because, in fact, his associates had other plans. The USSR had collapsed for other, largely internal reasons than the ideological struggle or “clash of values”, but the apparent rollback of the Russian Revolution emboldened the more reactionary elements of the New Right into believing that they could take the next step, and roll back the liberal French Revolution as well, particularly the principles of universality and human rights embodied in the tripartite formula and slogan “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. These are now under direct attack, especially by the reactionary forces of the so-called “Alt-Right”.

This dynamic is part of the “Great Unraveling”, so-called, in terms of turning back the entirety of the Modern Era itself, in which no weapon is off-limits. And in this strategy of rollback, many have become unwitting pawns and foot-soldiers without even realising it. This is, in large measure, the meaning of “new normal” and “post-truth society”, for they have deceived many about their real intentions.

German New Conservatives (and their counterparts in Italy and elsewhere) paved the way for Hitler and Nazism, or Mussolini and fascism. In Hitler they saw their own answer to “Napoleon” as the instrument that would roll back history, especially the French Revolution which they despised and blamed for every ill of modernity and the upset of “the natural order of things” (ancien regime). But they did indeed get more than they bargained for.

And, of course, the American Revolution and the French Revolution are conjoined events, both offspring of Enlightenment, so the discrediting of the European Enlightenment or Age of Reason is part and parcel of the attack on universality, and this is especially pronounced in Robert D, Kaplan’s Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, which is thoroughly fascistic. Critique of Enlightenment is salutary, which is what Jean Gebser is about. Annihilation is not.

So, the issue of “return or retrieval” definitely becomes one of reactionary and counter-reactionary. Legitimate grievances against neo-liberalism and the status quo are being exploited to effect something else completely, and it’s one reason why “the uneducated” represent such an attractive constituency, and weapon, for the strategists of the New Right.

This unraveling is very, very dangerous.



36 responses to “The Political Question”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Just noted this on the CBC news website regarding the situation in Poland, and it seems most pertinent here

    The news article is right to note that the attack on abortion rights is just part of a “broader” attempt to return Poland to an earlier form of society (they call it “pre-war” but it’s much earlier than that). This is also happening in Hungary, France, England, and elsewhere, since the whole issue is really an attack on liberal democracy more generally, and that means rollback.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      Just read a wonderful book.”ON THE ABOLITION OF ALL POLITICAL PARTIES.” By Simone Weil and Czeslaw Milosz.

      • Steve Lavendusky says :

        “The road of modern culture leads from humanitarianism via nationalism to bestiality.” After watching the VP debates last night I must say that I despaired over the folly of my fellow man. Its not so much the evil of a few that upsets me but a lack of wisdom of the many.

        • Steve Lavendusky says :

        • Scott Preston says :

          I avoided despair. I didn’t pay any attention to it.

          I just posted a mail to my folks in Vancouver. They have been watching the debates and are shocked and appalled and perplexed. They are quite conservative themselves, you see. So I tried to explain as best I could in simple language what “chaotic transition” implies, giving examples from the decadent period of the Late Roman Empire and the Late Middle Ages/Holy Roman Empire. It wasn’t great to be a Christian in the first, and not great to be a Free Thinker (or a “witch”) in the latter. It’s probably not going to be any more pleasant being an integralist (or an ecologist in the broader and narrower senses) in the present chaotic transition.

          I would like to think that, as a species, we’ve matured enough not to fixate on scapegoats. But I’m not encouraged by recent reports that environmental activists are being assassinated everyday somewhere in the world — a fact that seldom, if ever, gets any press attention. It’s treated as though no more appalling than Dirty Duterte’s promise to assassinate 3 million “drug users” in the Philippines — as something regrettable, perhaps, but understandable and logical.

          You really do have to watch out for what passes as “understandable and logical” in these days.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      “I would suggest that barbarism be considered as a permanent and universal human characteristic which becomes more or less pronounced according to the play of circumstances.”

      Simone Weil

  2. donsalmon says :

    Some reflections on nihilism, the great unraveling, the new normal, etc. First, thanks for following up on the comment – great column, inspired these thoughts:

    I remember back in the late 70s, studying classical composition, my teacher, Bill Schimmel, said to me one day, “All choice means no choice.” At that time, the precarious hold of dodecaphonic music – “12 tone music” – as THE art music of the modern age, was loosening. Always a rather poor, deficient-mental, mostly quantitative attempt to bring music into the “scientific” age, many – even at the arch conservative conservatory, Juilliard, where I had briefly studied, were rebelling against it.

    I remember the somewhat horrified reaction of one of the old school composers to Paul Amraam, the first “rock and roll” composer ever admitted to the school. Paul actually loved Scriabin, and I think was searching for a way to bring a new, spiritual impulse into the music, but was stuck with fitting into the somewhat hedonistic, meaningless rock beats he somehow half-fit underneath all the complex Russian modernist harmonies he loved.

    I never found an integral way to deal with modern art music. I even went to grad school in music composition but ultimately gave up on it. I’m finding now – in a strange way – that music software like Logic Pro gives the possibility of something utterly new, not postmodern but possibly integral.

    I think in virtually every field of endeavor – whether abortion rights as you just alluded to, or anything else – there are sincere people who are sensing the integral impulse seeking to manifest it somehow. The interesting thing is watching these budding efforts and seeing how various mental, magic, mythic structures are mixed in without being integrated, all floating together. Wilber really tried but he has come up with an astoundingly unwieldy almost purely deficient-mental monstrosity.

    I’d like to believe some folks in Auroville are “getting” the “spiritual anarchy” about which Sri Aurobindo wrote so eloquently in “The Ideal of Human Unity”, but I”m afraid much if not most of it is good old fashioned human anarchy – in the negative, connotation of it (nihilistic, every one for themselves/right-wing/authoritarian libertarianist laissez faire) rather than the most brilliant 19th century meaning of decentralized, cooperative societies.

    well, I’m rambling. Very good stuff!

    • Scott Preston says :

      Wilber really tried but he has come up with an astoundingly unwieldy almost purely deficient-mental monstrosity.

      You can say that again. Whenever I think about Wilber, I’m reminded about something Jung said about Einstein after they met and spoke together for a few hours: “too cerebral”.

      While it is true that Gebser never saw integral consciouness arriving on little dove’s feet, but as being born of the struggle with Hellfire and the deficient modalities of the old consciousness structure, I can’t help but feel deeply concerned about the effects of the breakdown of the old consciousness structure, repudiating and attacking its own roots and pulling the rug out from underneath itself — this “backsliding” as we might call it.

      I keep hoping, probably against hope itself, that Gebser was just being overly dramatic when he spoke of a “global catastrophe” in the making, or that the events of 1914-1945 were mere “child’s play” compared to what he anticipated as part of chaotic transition. But, you know what they say, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

      • donsalmon says :

        Well, not to depress you even further, my meditation teacher, Kumar, told us back in the late 70s that he talked to a yogi who met with George Orwell in 1948 (yes, the juxtaposition of the last 2 digits is significant) and basically told orwell of a vision he had of the future that Orwell translated into 1984. Perhaps that vision was put in print some 40-50 years too soon?

        In any case, for myself, I have increasing “faith” (terrible translation of the word “Shraddha – which is more a vision or as Sri Aurobindo translates it, a an intuitive taste of the gleaming of the rising sun) that, as Julian of Norwich said, “All is well and all shall be well.” I “see” God’s hand, love, energy, Shakti, substantiality, Presence, everywhere and in everything.

        When the little me is resurgent, all hope is lost. When it goes back into subsidence, all is well and all shall be well. These two cannot be resolved mentally, it’s not one or the other.

        • donsalmon says :

          In a strange way – one that has surprised me – seeing my father lose his ability to drive at age 92, lose most of his hearing by age 94, and his sight and ability to walk after turning 96, and toward the last few months, just short of his 97th birthday, maintaining an amazingly good spirit, thoughtful and considerate of all the staff in the nursing home right up to the end, enjoying the simplest things (jan and I used to go to have lunch or dinner with him several days a week; i’d play music from his childhood and youth and he’d sit with eyes closed and gently rock back and forth) – seeing all this, and how gracefully he went through it, makes me realize that external circumstances and the condition of the body do not in any way inherently determine our consciousness. The “Self” indeed does not die because it was never born, it is our Face before we were born.

          Thanks Dad!

    • Scott Preston says :

      I was browsing around on YouTube and came across this song called Up&Up by the band Coldplay, an optimistic song about “getting it all together”, as the chorus goes, which is an allusion to integrality. The lyrics are located at

      Quite an interesting group, musically. But the video that accompanies the song takes all sorts of very interesting liberties with perspective, basically playing with perspectivity. That’s what really struck me about the song and the video

  3. Charles Leiden says :

    Good writing as usual. Crazy times. I admit that I am much better at conversation then this form of communication. I was talking to our mail person today (I live in Pennsylvania) He is a Trump supporter that feels Trump represents a (radical) solution to the problems in the U.S. He is contemptuous of liberal politics and the liberal media and the athletes like Colin Kaepernick that don’t show respect towards the flag. “Like it or leave it” he said.

    There is obviously many levels of consciousness today. Scott wrote:

    I keep hoping, probably against hope itself, that Gebser was just being overly dramatic when he spoke of a “global catastrophe” in the making, or that the events of 1914-1945 were mere “child’s play” compared to what he anticipated as part of chaotic transition. But, you know what they say, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

    I suggest to people that “there is no hope” unless human society changes the basic unifying principle to a goal beyond economic growth and materialism, which is barbaric in my view. Just started reading a book Sacred Demise :Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization Collapse.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Interesting. What can you tell us about that book?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Found this blurb for the book on Carolyn Baker’s website. How appropriate…

      Carolyn speaks with a confidence that never flinches from entering into the hardest truths of our times, or from the most difficult truths about the culture we are immersed in, so that we might emerge from the chrysalis of global crisis with open hearts and a renewed way of living on Earth together.

      — Juan Santos, Fourth World Blogspot

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ve never heard of this Carolyn Baker from Boulder CO, which is quite astonishing because all her titles speak directly to the issues raised here in The Chrysalis, particularly those of “chaotic transition”.

      I’m looking forward to diving into them.

      • Dwig says :

        That is surprising; she’s well known in the transition and “collapsenik” culture as sort of the spiritual guru.

        • Scott Preston says :

          We’ll see. I’m leary of self-help gurus, if that’s the case. But I’ve ordered a couple of her books “Navigating the Coming Chaos” and “Dark Gold”, both of which sounded interesting. Might be disappointed. Or maybe not.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        You have, around the same time we became aware of Bolte-Taylor’s ‘Stroke of Insight’ back in the days of TDAB. With the media ‘blizzard’ surrounding all things disintegrative, though, it’s proving difficult to locate (and keep up) with those speaking more toward ‘navigating’ and supporting one another through the actual storm.

        “Collapsenik”. I hadn’t heard that one before. Cute. Sort of like “Beatnik”, but different.

        So what is the gift?

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I meant to say that “this form of communication” a friend once described as “the incomplete nature of communication via the Internet”. (I’ll never forget that.)

      No eye contact. No body language (which might be even worse for those of us who “speak with our hands”), no facial expression…. Jane Goodall feels the same way, so we’re in good company. : )

  4. Scott Preston says :

    George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian in April of this year, has a pretty good history of neo-liberalism that is quite worthwhile reading

    I only came across it this evening.

    • don salmon says :

      I think in a way this is related to the confusion, nihilism, post “universal reason” themes Scott is bringing up:

      This is a long standing conversation on the 1000+ member “mindfulness in education” forum I’m part of. Every month or so, an orthodox jew (I’m jewish – no bias meant here) on the list sends in some seemingly “controversial” program. He keeps telling everyone to make it purely cognitive, leave out the whole “social emotional learning” (SEL) part of it.

      My input is to make it all about the brain. Use the modernist materialist meme in a subversive way. Once you have kids learning to use their prefrontal cortex to integrate all the different facets of the brain-body-environment-society, you begin developing a level of integration which experientially transcends the “pure reason.”

      I’ll let y’all know how it goes when our e-course on meditation and the brain goes live next spring:>))

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s pretty wild. Fortunately, it hasn’t garnered a lot of support, by the looks of it. 272 signatures. I suppose if Mindfulness were renamed “Contemplation”, the man probably wouldn’t have an issue with it. But, in fact, contemplation and mindfulness are the exact same thing (particularly as Plotinus, or Christian mystics used the term).

        gods above! How do we get over such stupidity?

  5. Charles Leiden says :

    Don, thanks for the story about your father. I agree.

    Scott, My kids turned me on to Coldplay years ago. I just started reading the book.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Up and up and there is no ceiling to the flight of consciousness toward the integral, the divine teacher that we need to accompany in this very very perilous time, to help us see in this dark alley. It is the faith and the tranquility of Don father that push home the presence of the divine teacher the supreme kind giver who we have forgotten through our mechanical thinking and mere mundane involvement. We are unfinished spiritual project who have been given the faculties and the life span to realize that project and we have screwed the opportunity and as Swedenborg said, we busied ourselves with collecting dust, that is money, things and phony prestige. We have to realize that after life is the real life and this one is only a preparation for that one that is why. we read in the divine literature that he who is blind in this one, will be more blind in the real one, also not to forget to be a good student in the school of the divine teacher, without forgetting our share in this mundane life, in which we have no choice but to live it. Thank you all and I miss LBM who could not stand the rebuff of his excellent teacher, and has prevented himself from appearing on the screen of the chrysalis despite his desire to connect.

    • Scott Preston says :

      LBM isn’t blocked or blacklisted from the Chrysalis. I rebuffed him a couple of times because I didn’t want The Chrysalis becoming a forum for conspiracy theories, that’s all. The Chrysalis is about consciousness, consciousness change, and scrutinising the obstacles and hindrances that get in the way of consciousness change. I just want to keep it that way.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    It seems that collapse mongering is part of this complex system,so is swaying between true god and false god. We are living under false gods,major among them is the market that ensures that everyone gets what they deserve and it is the god that delivers benefit as it is well demonstrated by George and there is no need for the human to get involved. Gods that have proved their ineffectiveness. It is no wonder we have so many mouths talking about collapse as it is demonstrated by the article sent by infinite warrior. The article cites only few voices from a very limited region and god knows how far many are shouting across the world. The voice of the death camps of Iraq , Syria Etc. In a civilization where every thing is commercialized and the voice of empathy is lost and the voice of violence is rampant. It is hard to find our way, even spirit is for sale and lie is the trade mark of the day. All indications point to a changing time a difficult time but no one can say for certain how it will end,but what is sure is that we are all going to die and it is good to leave an honest placard on the place we are going to leave. It is not how much we know but what good we do with what we know because we are living under a divine polarity that we do not know when the harsh pole be activated with no mercy, after the humans have forgotten the gifts of the God and his abundant benefits. If only we keep in mind the Katrina and the like.

    • donsalmon says :

      Hi abdulmonem: I”m not sure I fully grasp all you’re saying, but to the extent I do, I think it’s an excellent thing, when we in at least relatively good material conditions talk about collapse, to keep in mind that there are millions of people living in what we can say with some accuracy are conditions that are at least as bad as anything we might be fearing for ourselves.

      Sometimes when I get the feeling the whole US is about to collapse, and roaming hordes are just around the corner, I remind myself it’s that way in many places around the world already.

      And as I wrote the other day, i’m quite sure how much worse it could be than losing my eyesight, hearing, cognitive abilities and capacity to walk. Staying connected to Origin (or to put it in more conventional language, keeping my heart open to the Divine) is, to my mind – and heart – the single most important thing to do – in this transitional era, or for that matter, in any era! Open to Divine guidance, in body, life, heart, mind and soul.

  8. Charles Leiden says :

    Duane Elgin is a good writer about these issues.

    Hello abdulmonem -like Don I appreciate what you are wrote.

    “In a civilization where every thing is commercialized and the voice of empathy is lost and the voice of violence is rampant. It is hard to find our way, even spirit is for sale and lie is the trade mark of the day” good clear summary

    It is clear that humans and the earth are experiencing a transition and there is much suffering, violence, injustice at present- whether one calls it a collapse or a breakthrough. I appreciate that I am able to discuss with others that can imagine a larger perceptive.and offer there thoughts. Thanks.

  9. Charles Leiden says :

    Sorry for the grammar and spelling mistakes.

  10. Charles Leiden says :

    Scott, Yes I read it years ago. I thought people would be interested in that book and his ideas. Most of the books in the library here are what I call meta-history.

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