Earlier today, I was mulling over the meaning of “awakening” — or notions of “public enlightenment” — as used by ethno-nationalists, or the so-called “alt-right”, to describe their right-wing populist movements. Deutschland Erwache! (or, “Germany, Awake!”) was the great slogan of German fascism as well, and every nationalist movement still tends to think of itself as an “awakening”.
But an awakening of what? And in what sense can it be described as “awakening” when the very meaning of the word “fascism” points in the opposite direction, towards trance, rather, being related to spell-casting — a “fascinum,” or a fascination? In that sense, fascist “awakening” represents a co-optation of the meaning, and language, of “enlightenment”.
It’s no idle matter to investigate, seeing that even some intellectuals and academics have been compromised and have succumbed to this perverse understanding of “awakening”. I earlier made a reference to the double-think of Vanderbilt’s Carol Swain, a professor of political science, who in a recent Financial Times article wrote: “A more self-conscious white America is rising under Trump“, and yet concluded from this that it was a collective corrective to an “overdose” of “identity politics” — apparently oblivious to the duplicity and self-contradiction of her logic, as if a more ‘self-conscious white America’ wasn’t itself a issue of identity politics.
But in that lies the meaning of ethno-nationalist or racist “awakening” — becoming increasingly self-conscious, whereas authentic spiritual awakening seeks to play down and quiet the “selfhood” completely. In those terms, nationalistic “awakening” and spiritual “enlightenment” move in two opposite directions.
It’s this becoming self-conscious as racial self-consciousness that finds liberal democracy offensive. The liberal idea of justice that undergirds the principle of universality and of equality before the law “regardless of race, creed, colour, religion, national origin” and so on is “blind justice”, as illustrated by the familiar and ubiquitous symbol
In those terms, then, fascist “awakening” is the removal of the blindfold from the eyes of “Justice”, wherein race, creed, colour, religion, national origin and such things as account for the multiformity and variety of human beings thereby become matters for differentiation and discrimination, thereby dissolving the principle of universality and of “equality before the law”.
It’s in those terms, then, that “self-realisation” can have a very pernicious aspect — a very narcissitic aspect. Justice, blindfolded, was intended to signify that a purely sensate consciousness (especially the physical eye) could not be relied upon to deliver justice because the eye was partial and partisan in perception. Justice is blindfolded to signify the insuficiency of a merely sensate consciousness to be just in its judgements, and that real justice relies on something else — what Pitrim Sorokin referred to as “idealistic consciousness”. And this is distinction is what makes for the difference between “the spirit of the law” and the “letter of the law”.
In those terms, removing the blindfold from the symbol of Justice would correspond to a lapse into purely sensate consciousness — precisely the contrary of spiritual awakening. This lapse into purely sensate consciousness is “the Fall into Time” that marks the Kali Yuga, which William Blake called “Ulro” or Shadow World (Ulro and Kali Yuga or “dark age” are synonymous).
As Blake put it, seeing “thro’ the eye” rather than “with the eye” marks the distinction between what Pitrim Sorokin called “ideational consciousness” and “sensate consciousness”, although the former is not called “ideational” by Blake but is called “divine Imagination”, while he associates the later, by contrast, with “the Selfhood”. So, in those terms, increasing or intensifying “self-consciousness” is actually the process called, by Gebser, “distantiation”, or self-alienation. And the “Fall into Time”, or into sensate consciousness, describes the state of extremity of the “Prodigal Son”.
(These two states, or modes of perception –as you might have surmised– correspond to Iain McGilchrist’s “Master” and “Emissary” modes of the divided brain).
The key point I want to make here, though, is this association of “awakening” with the intensification of self-consciousness, which is contrary to what we mean by “enlightenment” in the spiritual sense in which the “humbling” of the Selfhood — the ego or “wego” consciousness — is prescribed and sought.