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.

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5 responses to “The End of the End of History”

  1. Dwig says :

    This raises a few questions, but I think the most important one for now is, why “populi” as opposed to “vox homini” (not sure if I got the declension right)? That is, the reason for using the plural rather than the singular.

    • Scott Preston says :

      populi is the genitive form of the word populus in Latin. Hominis would be the genitive form of hominum (human). This would not have meant the same thing, because the “vox dei” transcends the human. It is, in effect, what makes the human human at all.

      Populus, on the other hand, would emphasise the greater relations between humans — how speech establishes relations. This is the key meaning, the secret of grammatical speech that, in a sense, transcends the individual human. This “vox populi, vox dei” isn’t talk, but speech. And when we sense the difference between speech and talk, or between listening and hearing for that matter, than we appreciate why it couldn’t be stated in any other way.

      The same principle is implied in the Sioux ideal of the man or woman who “speaks from the centre of the voice”, which is from the centre of the sacred hoop. This has the same import as vox populi, vox dei. It is what we would call “inspired speech”. This kind of speech is always truthful, and sincere despite even the pretenses or prevarications or dissembling of the human individual. The grammatical relations aren’t really “in” us. Rather we are inside the field, or matrix, of grammatical forms — like fish in an ocean of symbolic forms or speech forms and speech relations. Vox hominis would not have had the same meaning.

  2. donsalmon says :

    I just wrote this on another forum focused on what is needed to overcome the near-religious faith in physicalism (naturalism, materialism, etc). I thought it might be relevant here. I’m answering someone who said that it seems like the delusions are so great some kind of therapy – or maybe medication? – is needed.

    hi peter – about 10 minutes ago, an idea struck me, based on studying Culadasa’s meditation manual, for another letter regarding the essay on why meditative training is essential for physicalists in order for them to understand idealism/non dualism.

    I do really think for many, the psychological dynamics are not so severe that meditative training might be enough.

    The key is in what Culadasa calls “selective attention” (a function of the left hemisphere, to some extent; though mixed with structures in the right) and “peripheral awareness” (a function primarily of structures in the right hemisphere).

    This is intimately related to Iain McGilchrist’s analysis of 2500 years of western civilization in terms of the dominance of each hemisphere, or in Culadasa’s terms, the narrow, linear, top-down processing, quantitative mode of selective attention (SA) – which becomes the neurotic, intellectual fundamentalist style Bernardo writes about when it is dissociated from peripheral awareness – and the holistic, bottom-up processing, open to the new, qualitative mode of peripheral awareness (PA).

    There were times in the past – the great age of athens, the Renaissance for example, and similar periods in China, India and elsewhere, when SA and PA were fairly well integrated. Since the Protestant Reformation, and more so since the industrial revolution, our modern and post modern civilization has been increasingly dominated by SA, which, as Les Fehmi shows, leads to tension, anxiety, nervousness, tunnel vision, and – as McGilchrist quite aptly illustrates – materialistic views.

    Selective attention ‘selects’ clear, definable, easily quantifiable aspects of phenomena and gradually takes those selected out aspects as the only reality, forgetting the holistic, contextual, field like aspects of peripheral awareness. Our True Nature – the pristine, open, heartful, empty, awake awareness is utterly obscured.

    The other even more dangerous aspect of this is that it requires a balance of SA and PA to deal with our ancient, biological/instinctive/emotional/rational programming. As the Yoga Sutras puts it in Chapter 1, verse 2, when the various waves of the mind, instigated by impulses from our ancient biological programming, are finally stilled, the Seer, the Purusha, our True Nature, the ever present Sky of infinite, immeasurable, pristine awareness, is revealed. Verse 3: Then the Seer stands in Its own nature. Verse 4: When the vrittis, stirred up by impulses from deep subconscious levels, begin moving again, we forget who we are.

    Having almost wholly forgotten who or what we are, and having though obsessive selective attention constructed this false, illusionary “world,” we have also lost the means to harmonize and integrate our ancient, biological impulses and rather than meeting them with a calm, insightful equanimity, we are ruled by them. Welcome President Trump and the alt right.

    But no matter. This is the dissolution of all mind-created structures. Science, government, philosophy, the arts, the media, education, health care – all our institutions are falling apart, the environment is dying. Out of this the Light will shine at the time it is ready for the new Dawn, and with the Light and Love and Wisdom and Strength of our True Nature shining forth ever more brightly, we will for the first time since the birth of humanity have the means, through that Wisdom/Light/Love, have the capacity to fully and wholly integrate the instinctive, emotional and mental parts of our nature.

    This is why both Jean Gebser and Sri Aurobindo spoke of the new consciousness to emerge as the “integral structure” – emerging as the deficient aspect of the mental structure of consciousness – born 2500 years ago – more or less rapidly disintegrates.

    We simply have the misfortune of being right in the midst of the meltdown. The single most important gift we can give is to avoid getting angry, or lost, or anxious or depressed about it, but rather, find that Light in ourselves and as the old Negro spiritual had it, “let our lights shine.”

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Humanity and universality, like everything else have started with Adam, first as the source of human extension and growth, generation after generation thus populated their abode the earth that has been prepared for their living and performance, second as Scott put it, universality is the fruit of monotheism, that is all creatures are created by the only One Universal God. Having almost wholly forgotten, the one that has created us and endowed us with all the faculties that make us aware and be able to choose and decide ,to understand and express, to sense and feel, to think and imagine, to depict and fashion,to build and erect,to read and write, to love and hate ,to protect and kill,to cheat and be truthful etc etc. The one who has given life and imposed death,the one who renew the plants world every season to remind us of our renewal both spiritually and physically. The one who sends the winds and scatters the clouds across his sky and to pour it on whom he wills. Make some poor and other rich in order to give them the opportunities to cooperate and help each others and called upon all and specially the rich to spend out of what they have been given in the path of god that is the betterment of the community and enthused them to give loans freely expecting only the divine reward. Remind humanity that they are living in a living cosmos nothing gets lost in it. Compare our conditions with that beautiful picture. Meditation and devotional prayer are the abodes of drawing down the divine knowledge not only to our betterment but basically to serve the community after we have become more knowingly conscious and truthful and more able in serving others. It is time to know the real purpose of knowledge and stop the lies that has and is killing everything, It is the new story rising from the ashes of the dying one, the law of birth, death and rebirth, according to the divine plan of trial and test to see the performance of his creatures in goodness and in badness. it is part of the plan that some bunches of misled Jews and Christian ( under the slogan of the mission of the white man burden in civilizing the world) have played the life game wrongly with all these destructive consequences, the consequences that all the world is suffering from.

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