No Time Like the Present

It had to come some time, and there’s no time like the present. Trump’s victory in the US is the continuing narrative of the decline of the Modern Era, and very likely it’s Endgame. All the rules are bent or broken or tossed aside, and instead of being punished at the polls for this, Trump and Trumpism were applauded and rewarded. In my understanding, Trump’s victory represents the denouement of modernity’s “Grand Narrative”, its last chapter, and the full realisation of “the New Normal”.

That which Trump represents, however, is gaining traction almost everywhere — the merely reactionary, the merely recidivist, the “backlash” where what is needed is a self-transcendence, a transformation and a metamorphosis.

In some ways, Clinton would have been the better option in these times simply because everyone was uneasy with her and what she represented. Their ears would still be open to hearing of alternatives to the status quo and the merely technocratic. Not so with Trump. For the next while many ears will be deaf to anything and everything but Trump until such time comes when “Trumpism” proves itself equally bankrupt, as it surely will — and in fairly short order, I suspect.

Heidegger was famous for saying that “only a god can save us now”, and many have pretended to be this salvific “god”. Trump is just another pretender in this megalomania. Ironically, it isn’t a god that will save us now, but disillusionment — complete and utter disillusionment, which is, after all, the real meaning of “apocalyptic”. Trump and his acolytes can be counted upon to deliver that disillusionment despite themselves.

The Great Disillusionment will be terrible — shattering, like the breath of the Void. And into the vacuum of disillusionment — the great emptiness — will flow all sorts of aberrant influences from the Shadow side — a pandaemonium of superstitions, paranoias, frenzies, manias, obsessions and possessions. It will seem like someone has opened the gates of Hell, and they will be right, because that is the paradox of the apocalyptic — revelation, yes, but a shattering one because it is precisely the illusions and delusions that are shattered, and that feels about as welcome as the Black Death.

One set of illusions has been exchanged for another set of illusions, one mirage for another mirage. That’s all. Both will come to Nothing. Both Clinton and Trump, amongst others, have proved only that the Late Modern Era has grown bereft of its originating fount of spirit and is now barren of any and all fecund and generative ideas.

Into the Wasteland: “Ever since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre towards X” (Nietzsche). Certainly, this was the remark by Nietzsche that moved Yeats’ to pen his poem “The Second Coming“. For the scientist Blaise Pascal, “X” was the terrifying “Silence of the Infinite Void” from which he fled, a ruined man and in near panic, into a particularly austere version of Christianity. Pascal knew well that this “Silence of the Infinite Void” was both death of God and the loss of soul — the same was to be, later, Nietzsche’s “stare into the abyss” and his forecast of “two centuries of nihilism”.  X, as it turns out, is the Great Disillusionment, which is also The Great Derangement.

In some sense it can be said that “Post-Truth Society”, as it is presently called, is also an attempt to save the illusions despite the fact that something inside us already knows they are a mirage and  illusion. That’s implicated in the issue of cognitive dissonance and the phenomenon of “symbolic belief”. The illusions are becoming unsustainable and transparent in a most terrible way, and that was already Goethe’s experience of his “two souls” in Faust.

“Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
And each from the other would be parted.
The one in sturdy lust for love with clutching organs clinging to the world,
The other strongly rises from the gloom to lofty fields of ancient heritage”

“Winter is coming!”, as they say in The Game of Thrones — the Great Disillusionment which is also the Great Derangement. The swamp is being drained, the cup is being emptied, even if we only call this “post-modern deconstruction”. But the empty cup — that’s also the Buddha’s begging bowl or the Christian mystic’s Holy Grail. It’s the “empty mirror”, the emptiness of the soul as begging bowl and empty chalice waiting patiently to be filled and to be fulfilled. For some the Great Disillusionment is like a terrible Night, while for others, it is a Dawn.

Essence is emptiness, All else accidental
Emptiness brings peace to your loving, All else disease
In this world of trickery, Emptiness is what your soul wants. — Rumi

How can your chalice be filled if it is not first emptied? Carolyn Baker calls this emptying “Collapsing Consciously“, and it’s good advice. For, “if a man has a why, he can put up with any how” (Nietzsche), and that is also good advice. “Collapsing consciously” is just another way of saying “die to oneself daily”.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No time like the present.



14 responses to “No Time Like the Present”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Re: “the phenomenon of ‘symbolic belief”

    I can’t help but share Obama’s own response to this phenomenon.

  2. donsalmon says :

    sorry, i don’t remember if i posted this already, but either way, it’s worth seeing again, I think:

    The Bhagavad Gita, chapter 16, on Donald Trump:

    Such individuals don’t understand what should be done and what shouldn’t. They are neither pure nor honest; even their behavior is not good. They proclaim: Life is merely a product of mutual union, driven by lust!” Clinging to unquenchable passions, drunk with pride and hypocrisy, they live in delusion with false notions, Till their last breath, they are lost in boundless wishes and anxieties. Bound by a hundred chains of vain hope and driven by lust and anger, they amass wealth by unjust means for sensual enjoyment.

    “I have gained this today and I shall attain that tomorrow. All these riches are mine [acquired due to my effort alone!], and soon I shall have more!

    I am the Lord. I have killed this enemy [little Marco] and I will also destroy all other enemies [crooked Hillary]. I am successful and I am powerful; I am healthy and I enjoy life I am noble and I am rich. Who is my equal? I will perform elaborate rituals, I will give alms [to my foundation!] and I will rejoice as per my will”

    –thus they boast out of sheer ignorance. Carried away by countless fanciful thoughts, they get caught in the web of illusion and are addicted to gratification of the senses.

    Thus they plunge into the hell of their own making.

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    [I]f we don’t allow our hearts to be shattered with grief, we will never touch the depths of love that are required for us to navigate the consequences of humankind’s deranged choices. Choosing separation instead of love is what got us where we are, and above all else, our predicament is demanding radical heartbreak and astringent love and relentless reconnection with self, others, and Earth. ~ Carolyn Baker

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Leonard Cohen is dead. I was never really a fan until I heard The Future. It was dark, and it suited the mood of the times. The line I remember most from that album is “there is a crack in everything. That is how the light gets in”.

    Seems some others remember that, too, and find solace in it even in today in these dark times.

    Perhaps it is the time for art to wake up and thrive.

  5. Charles Leiden says :

    Good writing as usual. It was Shelley who suggested that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”.
    Crazy times indeed! I remember reading a book by L.S. Stavrianos -The Promise of the Coming Dark Age in the 70’s. He suggested (if I remember correctly) that Rome fell apart for four main reasons.

    Centralization of power and wealth
    Excessive Militarism
    Degradation of the ecology
    Lack of reason

    He also suggested that a breakdown comes before a breakthrough. One can see the parallels. As you wrote above.

    The “lack of reason” phenomenon.

    Thompson writes that “with the rise of the new postwar forms of electronic communication, philosophy and reasoned discourse could no longer hold together in the supersaturated solution of the global media. Democracy was replaced by mediocracy; citizen was replaced by media subject.”

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s good. I’ll have to look into Stavrianos’ book.

      Yes, the role of art. I once read a history of the Great European Dark Age, by a man called “Keys”, and he even dated the year it ended, 1100 AD, when the first Troubador appeared, William of Pitou. I wrote about that in my old Dark Age Blog, about how fitting it was that it was a Troubador come singing the world awake. And it was the Troubadors of Southern France who were implicated in the Albigensian “heresy” of Catharism.

      So for similar reasons, I think it’s art, rather than techno-science, that is going to take the lead in getting us through the present “chaotic transition”, although it is presently quite moribund itself. Always has been the arts.

  6. Charles Leiden says :

    Scott, I agree that art will be leading the way. A book by Robert Inchausti -The Ignorant Perfection of Ordinary People suggests that it will be the ethical and sacred realm that leads humanity. An insightful critique of modernity that profiles six plebeian postmodernists: Gandhi, Solzhenitsyn, Elie Weisel, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, and Lech Walesa and talks about their contributions to change.
    Chapter eight is The Modernization of Poverty, Stupidity, and Family Life: Shared Rejections is an insightful expose of the modern wasteland and the market mentality.
    This postmodern wasteland has it sources in three paradoxical developments:
    1. A perpetual revolution of economic life that generates endless new individual needs and endless new poverties-laying waste to the planet’s ecology at the same it generates vast new social wealth (capital)
    2. An increasingly managed information system centered around a mass media that exalts received ideas over direct experience-creating in the process pseudo-environments and modernized stupidity disguised and given credibility through the sheer pervasiveness of their presence…
    3. A disinterested and dispirited family life increasingly powerless to protect its members against the cultural hegemony of an economically driven world-system that sentimentalizes interpersonal values-thereby destroying their revolutionary potential by rendering them the property of alienated individuals instead of the solid ground upon which universal solidarity might be built. P.112

    He writes:
    Inchausti. He writes:
    “Under a global market economy, the practical reason of ordinary people is
    largely subsumed within an amalgam of money-making projects and development
    schemes. There is no direct commercial pay-off to thinking philosophically
    and so no reason to be intellectually engaged beyond the demands of
    technological innovation.”
    To think philosophically in the sense of searching for truth is
    meaningless. Our economic system “lays claim to absolute reality.” Most
    of us are cogs in the machine, “cut off from any sense of transcendence or
    the sublime.” His next quote is a very clear expose I feel: “The modern
    economic order regulates this diminishment of being through its assertion
    of a totalizing naturalistic philosophy that reassures those who live
    within it that the progress of the whole redeems any personal
    demoralization they may experiencing; it reassures them that their
    sacrifice of traditional personal virtue, their sacrifice of the past, the
    heroic, the essential self, is—from a global perspective—not only
    economically necessary, but politically redemptive.” P 125

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