The End of the End of History
Humanism and Universality are two features of the Modern Age that are in danger of disintegrating and collapsing in post-modernity and as the collateral damage of identity politics, of the so-called “alt-right”, of Thatcherism, and Fukuyama’s “end of history”. These two flowers of the mental consciousness and the Modern Era are also under siege on the pretext of being “anti-PC” (anti “political correctness”), which is, to a great degree, a part of the nihilistic tendencies of the day and of a corresponding creeping barbarism and totalitarianism.
Margaret Thatcher and Francis Fukuyama thought these values were secured by their respective announcements that “there is no alternative” and “the end of history”. That was delusional and self-contradictory, and only evidence of the debasement and degradation of the very values they claimed to champion — humanism and universality. It’s a classic example of hubris that invokes Nemesis, a process which everyone seems to have forgotten.
These values are also, ironically, under attack from a wayward and ignorant religious fundamentalism, or a false “spiritual materialism”, that has also become debauched, nihilistic, faithless, and self-negating on that account. We must understand what is really represented by humanism and universality.
Humanism and the principle of universality were values salvaged from a Christendom that had become faithless and decadent during the waning of the Middle Ages and the irrationalities and paranoias of the Inquisition and Crusade. Humanism and the principle of Universality were secularisations of Christian moral imperatives and values that had been betrayed by those charged with their stewardship. One was rooted in the doctrine of “free will”, that no man or woman could be coerced into the faith against their will, but had to come to faith of their own free will. The other, universality, was the fruit of monotheism itself — all are creatures of one divine Creator, conceived in love.
Both humanism and universality are prefigured in a principle that was stated long before the Age of Reason translated it into “fact” as law and principle of universality and equality: “vox populi, vox dei” — “the Voice of the People is the Voice of God”. Vox populi, vox dei already prefigures the secularism that was to follow in later centuries, salvaged from the wreckage of Christendom itself and given new life as “revolution”.
Few if any today understand its meaning, for it has deteriorated into a mere idolatry of “le peuple“, the “people”, “das Volk“, “the masses”, the demos or the ethnos. Nothing seems more unlikely in this present chaos and Tower of Babel than that “the voice of the people is the voice of God”, and particularly in the socio-historical context of “the death of God”, which comes with its own ironies.
While it might be a case of “forgive them Lord, they know not what they do”, it’s pretty clear that nihilistic and disintegrative anti-humanist and anti-universalist forces are in the ascendancy today, and once again we are compelled to salvage or retrieve the spirit from the wreckage of the Age and from its deteriorated and decayed forms. If humanism and universality are today seem very fragile against the hyper-partisan or segregationalist tendencies, it is largely because they were only incomplete symbolisations or formulations of the meaning of vox populi, vox dei. And this also pertains to Jean Gebser’s critique of “deficient perspectivisation”.
In fact, nothing seems more unlikely or outright wrong in this fiendish age of “post-truth” — of fakery, lies, duplicity, hypocrisy, double-standards, and double-think — than vox populi, vox dei.
And yet Rosenstock-Huessy has made it the basis of his new social philosophy, of his “grammatical method” and quadrilateral logic. “God is the power that makes men speak” is just a contemporary retrieval of vox populi, vox dei. No doubt, some will guffaw or scratch their heads in bewilderment, and it’s probably the main reason why Rosenstock-Huessy is not taken very seriously. What on Earth could he possibly mean by that?
Unfortunately, to really understand what Rosenstock-Huessy means requires reading almost all of his extant writings. But those of you familiar with William Blake, or Jean Gebser or, for that matter, even Nietzsche may have a sense for the meaning of “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. Yogananda, in his Autobiography of a Yogi, also insisted that to arrive at the root of grammar was the same as enlightenment — the stillness before the Dawn in “the Word”. For Jean Gebser, this is synonymous with “the vital centre” as also “ever-present origin” (or “the Itself”). For Blake, it is “the fountain” and “the Universal Humanity” or the creative “Imagination”. Even for Nietzsche, the external God who is dead is, nonetheless, reborn within, not as Jehovah or Blake’s Urizen, but in the form of Dionysus.
It’s in those terms that we’ve put the question whether “post-Truth Society” (and “chaotic transition”) isn’t connected with the death of the external God and the rebirth of the “God within” as befits the original understanding of “primitive Christianity” that “the kingdom of Heaven is within you” and “the body is the temple of the living God”, because it is only in those terms that vox populi, vox dei makes any sense whatsoever. Even a pragmatist like William James noted that ” “The average church-going civilizee realizes, one may say, absolutely nothing of the deeper currents of human nature”.
If those “deeper currents of human nature” of which the average civilizee knows “absolutely nothing” are presently surfacing (which is the meaning, after all, of “return of the repressed”) then we can certainly expect the mind of the average civilizee to become chaotic, as we presently see, and we may presume that what is underway is a dissolution and restructuration of “truth”, of human identity and consciousness and even the meaning of “human nature” itself, and consequently “humanism” itself — consequently also “universality” itself, as something more holistic and integral than hitherto understood — also more ecological.
The emergence of the “God within”, which may also be accompanied by a sense of “our withering within” simultaneously, can have diabolical consequences, of which Gebser warned — ego inflation or psychic inflation (and Jung suggested that this is what happened to Nietzsche, although syphilis is the preferred interpretation for Nietzsche’s collapse) and is often associated with the “sick gurus”, as they are called — incomplete or “deficient” realisation or enlightenment which we’ve called “Luciferic Enlightenment” (the name “Lucifer” meaning “the light-bearer”) and who generally corresponds to Buddhism’s “Mara”, the Lord of Illusion, who is the selfhood who Buddha had to overcome. This is the same “Tempter” that Jesus faced down in his sojourn in the desert. Psychic inflation and psychic dissolution are very much one and the same process (Narcissus went through both simultaneously).
There’s a lot of this about right now, isn’t there? Including inflated secular megalomaniacs like Mr. Trump. (Chris Kutarna has compared Trump to Girolamo Savonarola, the Italian Renaissance monk we remember for “the Bonfire of the Vanities”, but who was also a symptom of “chaotic transition”. That comparison may be very apt, and perhaps more apt than the comparison of Trump with the Roman Emperor Caligula).
Of course, some may conclude that I’m just whistling past the graveyard in suggesting — following Gebser — that “post-truth” is a simultaneous destruction and restructuration of truth, and consequently of “human nature”, consciousness, humanism, and universality and so on. They may be right. But I hope to give further reasons why we can anticipate “post-truth society” as an essential restructuration including the very meaning and understanding of “truth” itself, and why vox populi, vox dei implies an essential truthfulness despite appearances to the contrary and the weakness of the ego-nature.