Nationalistic “Awakenings”

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.



19 responses to “Nationalistic “Awakenings””

  1. don salmon says :

    Very, very excellent point. It would be interesting if Scott or one of the other commenters here explored further the identity politics on the alt-right, which is accurately known as identity politics, and the progressive attempt to correct for that identity politics.

    I do see that it is accurate at times to say that progressives have overreached, but I think it is a very conscious attempt by some on the alt right to label what the progressives have done as “identity politics” in order to disguise the true motivation of the alt right.

    not sure if i said that at all clearly….

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ld say that finding Ms. Swain’s article in the Financial Times, and how this very disingenuous article managed to get by the editors without being flagged for that, serves as an example of Curtis’s “hypernormalisation” itself.

      “Hypernormalisation” is a cumbersome word, though. One still needs to ask “hyper-normalisation of what?” — well, of the fake, the phoney, the “genuine imitation”, the inauthentic, the image. Or, perhaps equally, hypernormalisation of double-standard, double-talk, double-think, and the double-bind, as I’ve called our “four riders of the apocalypse” in the past. I think that’s the case of the “New Normal”, and can only conclude from that that these are symptoms of the disintegration of the personality and consciousness structure of modern man as anticipated by Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, R. D. Laing, etc, etc.

      If that’s the case, then “identity politics” of whatever faction is a symptom of the crisis of identity itself — the sense of the post-modern “loss of self” — a kind of over-determination or reaction formation, also something connected with Baumann’s “Liquid Modernity”.

      The crisis of identity was, I think, summarised in the questions Gebser put as the chief questions of the age: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?”. (Gaugin even painted a painting with that title too). Only people who are confused and insecure in their identity put such questions or are susceptible to answers provided by demagogues. There always seems to be something desperate in the manner of those who practice identity politics, in my experience — the often not so “quiet desperation” described by Thoreau.

      So, I really do think its all about the fracturing (or disintegration) of the ego-consciousness, along with a desperate and extreme attempts to “get one’s shit together”, as they say. And there is in that the coincidence of danger and opportunity.

      • Scott Preston says :

        There’s also another issue in Swain’s approach that needs addressing — pretty common assumption, really — that “ethnicity” doesn’t describe “whites”- Whiteness is the standard against which all ethnicities are evaluated and measured as “ethnicities” or “identities”. “People of colour” for some reason doesn’t include “white”. So, yes, racism is systemic in that sense, even when it’s good-natured, means no ill-will, but nonetheless it’s assumed that a) white isn’t a colour or b) white isn’t “ethnic”, but are presumed to be the standards and yardsticks against which others are evaluated as “coloured” or “ethnic” and so on. .

        What’s that but Gebser’s inconscience of the mere “point-of-view” mentality or the deficiency of perspectivity? But all kinds of what we call “identity politics” are of that nature.

        There is an example I’m thinking of here in Canada, as well — the Treaties with the First Nations or “status Indians”, which means, somehow, that the Treaties pertain to the indigenous, and are binding on the indigenous, but not to the settlers. In fact, we are all “Treaty People”, as the indigenous say. The treaties don’t just oblige the indigenous, but also the settlers. Yet few outside the indigenous think of themselves as “Treaty People”, which we are.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Events surrounding the DAPL controversy in the US are among the most conspicuous illustrations of similar if not identical patterns perceivable between the microcosm and microcosm. What follows may be among the most unpopular views around, but is one of many reasons I’ve been following these events so closely and perhaps why there is so much unnecessary confusion surrounding them in the public sphere.

          One of the first messages to come out of Sacred Stone Camp is that tribal leadership was consulted about the construction of the DAPL pipeline, but chose “not to participate in a flawed process.” Tribal chairman, Archimbault, has since clarified this position in one his many statements and it is as reasonable as reasonable can be: the tribe expects government to government, face-to-face consultation as opposed to superficial overtures, e.g. form letters and flurries of emails federal agencies believe constitute consultation, regarding anything impacting the well-being of the tribe and treaty lands. This question of what constitutes consultation lies at the heart of the Standing Rock catastrophe.

    • mikemackd says :

      George Lakoff’s focuses relate to that.

  2. InfiniteWarrior says :

    In the vein of “authentic spiritual awakening”is this interview with Joanna Macy.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Good interview. And the wonderful thing about it is, you can take almost any sentence she speaks and run with it. They’re like hyperlinks into something deeper and vaster.

    • mikemackd says :

      I found this on my Facebook page a couple of hours ago: don’t know quite what to make of it yet, but it makes sense from my understanding of the way complexity and chaos works. I hadn’t thought to post it here, but am doing so in response to what Joanna Macy said.

      I I have long commented on the inherent danger of scientists treating the Earth’s climate as a linear system. Clearly, it is not, which per se makes predictions difficult to impossible, including this one. However, to me it seems more in tune with reality than models treating the climate as if it were a machine.

      Warning of mass extinction of species including humans within one decade Arctic

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Something similar came through my newsfeed a while back in the form of an interview with Guy McPherson. As predictions go, there are always worst case scenarios and best case scenarios in circulation. Climate change is no different and McPherson’s is obviously representative of the latter, but such absolute predictions strike me as being no different than those Scott alluded to in an earlier comment — those predictions of the “end of the world” on a specific date. Considering the vast range of possibilities between worst and best case scenarios, I tend to stick with those experts in the field who aren’t venturing personal opinions either to terrify us into inaction or hope us into action and sticking with the facts — facts pertaining to how climate change is already severely impacting both animal and human poulations, a trend that will definitely continue without decisive action.

        Climate change is the biggest crisis of our time, imo, but while the situation is obviously severe and getting worse with the current US administration, among others, obviously determined to make climate change irreversibility a reality, not many are paying attention to how cities as big as Los Angeles and as small as NC’s own little Boone, not to mention entire nations, e.g. China, are nonetheless responding to the challenge. There’s a lot going outside the realm of conventional politics and “halls of power” very few either see or acknowledge. I don’t allow the question of whether such responses may or may not turn out to be pointless even to enter into the picture because there’s not a soul on earth who actually knows.

        From the Macy interview:

        Hannah Arendt begins Origins with an epigram from her teacher Karl Jaspers that seems apt: “Give in neither to the past nor the future. What matters is to be entirely present.”

        • mikemackd says :

          First I’ve heard of Guy McPherson as well as Joanna Macy; so thanks again, IW.

          Last century I put a monograph online called “Funny Weather We’re Having”, which is long gone, as has the host site, portentously called “Impermanence”. I tabled scenarios there that predicted a similar prognosis for humanity, but were far worse than McPherson’s for the planet.

          An area I agree with McPherson about came at the conclusion of the interview:

          “Q. What do you make of all the other experts who do seem to think we can effect change? …

          A. … Almost nobody is willing to add up the feedbacks that we have triggered, and the consequences of them, so because we’re a society that’s focussed on specialisation, the specialists are centred on understanding one aspect or another aspect of climate change … Nobody’s putting all those things together.

          Q. So in a nutshell, they’re lying. Essentially, they’re fooling themselves and everyone else.

          A. I would hate to use the word “lying”. I think it’s far worse than that.”

          It’s the so-called “Enlightenment’s” Gorgonic gaze, all for power, none for love, all for extrinsic value, none for intrinsic value, that Goethe and Marlowe with their tales of Dr Faustus, that Blake with his Urizen, that Mumford and McGilchrist et al. have been pointing out.

          Yes, it’s far worse than just lying.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            There’s no question (and it’s no secret) that climate science projections tend toward the inordinately conservative, but I have to wonder: who is “almost nobody”?

            Reality: The scientific jury is still out as to whether we have reached any climate thresholds – a point of no return for, say, an ice-free Arctic, a Greenland meltdown, the slowing of the North Atlantic Ocean circulation, or permanent changes in large-scale weather patterns like the jet stream, El Niño or monsoons. The trouble with tipping points is they’re hard to spot until you’ve passed one.

            Why the miss? Blame the computers: These non-linear events are notoriously hard to model. – Eight examples of where the IPCC has missed the mark on its predictions and projections

            Granted, that’s 2012 and events have grown worse in the interim, but even the authors of various articles warning we “may be beyond the tipping point(s)” aren’t themselves willing to tip over into absolutisms. Science is not about absolutes. As for “fooling ourselves:” we can just as easily fool ourselves into believing beyond a shadow of a doubt there will not be a human left on earth within ten years as we can fool ourselves into believing the polar opposite.

            I found a blog post linked from the interview video compelling: How Guy McPherson gets it wrong

            In many ways, McPherson is a photo-negative of the self-proclaimed “climate skeptics” who reject the conclusions of climate science. He may be advocating the opposite conclusion, but he argues his case in the same way. The skeptics often quote snippets of science that, on full examination, doesn’t actually support their claims, and this is McPherson’s modus operandi. The skeptics dismiss science they don’t like by saying that climate researchers lie to keep the grant money coming; McPherson dismisses inconvenient science by claiming that scientists are downplaying risks because they’re too cowardly to speak the truth and flout our corporate overlords.

            Let’s not forget that McPherson is “Emeritus Professor of Natural Resources and Evolutionary Biology,” not a climate scientist. And, for a former professor of evolutionary biology, he seems awfully quick to dismiss the biological imperatives of evolution and adaption in his predictions.

            • mikemackd says :

              Good stuff again, IW: My thanks.

              As I’m sure you realise, my point was the limitations of Gorgonic gazing, not McPherson’s “almost nobody” claim.

              However, your comments have triggered this further response.

              It’s not just that non-linear events are notoriously hard to model. The effects of climate change on this living planet are IMPOSSIBLE to model. Just look at the n-body problem: that’s mere mechanics, hard, dead planets et al. But here we are talking of life – responsive, organic creatures, not passive objects – and, moreover, what I will hereafter term “Thompson’s Law” kicks in: when you think big, you think myth.

              As Diamond points out:

              “A myth is one way we give meaning to our existence – no myth, no meaning. What we have come today scientifically to call models or paradigms are actually myths: cognitive constructs we create in an effort to better comprehend our universe and ourselves” (Diamond 2006, p. 186).* This is well known to many scholars: “all decisions are based on models, and all models are wrong.” (John D. Sterman 2002, p. 525),** but even so, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.” (Box and Draper 1987, p. 424).***

              Are the myths/models of scientism useful in this context? I would emphatically answer “yes, but only to a point”.

              Beyond that point we move into a different battleground, one wherein the alt. right are faster than speeding bullets, more powerful than locomotives (although they have plenty such motives), and are able to leap over tall mountains of evidence in a single bound. They can do that because they are, or can access, skilled myth-shifters and myth-shapers.

              In that domain, they have powers and abilities far beyond those of mere scientists, whose careful and honest search for the whole truth is made futile by their methodologies, which are great for finding a truth, but can never find the whole truth (Scott’s point about the massive differences between the whole and the total is relevant here, as are Mumford’s re The Myth of the Machine, as are McGilchrist’s … etcetera, etcetera, and so forth).

              So the alt right have made lies and injustice the American way while everyone was occupied watching screens of some kind or another, and are now laughing all the way to the bank and further. In fact they don’t just go to the bank: they own it.

              Result? They now have powers and abilities far beyond the conceptual and motivational space of all but the most Satanic.

              * Violence as Secular Evil: Forensic Evaluation and Treatment of Violent Offenders from the Viewpoint of Existential Depth Psychology. Forensic Psychiatry: Influences of Evil. T. Mason, Humana Press: 179-206.

              ** STERMAN, J. D. 2002. All Models are Wrong: reflections on becoming a Systems Scientist. Systems Dynamics Review, 18, 501-531.

              *** BOX, G. E. P. and DRAPER, N. R. 1987. Empirical Model Building and Response Surfaces, New York, NY, John Wiley and Sons.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              As I’m sure you realise, my point was the limitations of Gorgonic gazing, not McPherson’s “almost nobody” claim.

              But, of course. Grateful for the conversation.

              Likely anyone interested caught it on Johnson’s blog, but just in case, here’s the link again: Climate Feedback. Fact-checking the news just got a whole lot easier.

            • mikemackd says :

              Now here’s a coincidence.

              I’m in a hotel, and a few minutes ago when the cleaner came I moved away from my desk so he could vacuum under it. While waiting, I picked up a book that I brought along for the journey, but have not yet read, Ivan Ekland’s 1998 (Uni of Chicago Press) “Mathematics and the Unexpected”, and it happened to open on pp. 26-27, the beginning of Chapter Two, The Shattered Crystal. My eye fell upon the following:

              “This is the situation toward the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately, the apple is rotten at the core. Science has striven for over a century to build an imperishable temple on the foundations Newton laid, and the construction is dazzling indeed. But the columns are already cracked; as a matter of fact, they were cracked from the very beginning, and they will soon fall and bring down the whole building. These cracks are there to be seen: one needs a really close look, but they certainly can be detected even if there is no saving the construction. But the wardens of the temple keep the bad news to themselves and try to paint everything over. The tourists keep visiting. They will not be told until the structure finally collapses.”

        • Scott Preston says :

          Abrupt and catastrophic ciimate change is, of course, possible in the way McPherson describes (I’ve read his predictions before — or should that be McFearson?) I’m not sure we’re looking at a human extinction event within ten years, though — at least, by climate change.

          But… almost anything is possible.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Just discovered these little gems: The Solutions Project and its sister site,

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        As for what is happening within conventional politics and “halls of power,” at least in America: Governors of Red, Blue States Urge Trump to Back Wind, Solar.

        The Solutions Project has an interactive map of what is taking place on the international scene.

  3. mikemackd says :

    In a recent tennis tournament, the Nazi-era German national anthem was played for the German team instead of the current one.

    The linked article mentioned contained the words “Germany, Germany, above all, above all in the world”, which, of course, is highly offensive. We all know, as the leader of the free world reminds us, that it should be “America first”.
    I just accidentally left out the “r” in first: so here’s an even better slogan for you, Donald: “America first, or America’s fist”.

    As well as the transferred reproach mentioned by Mumford, there is the transferred glory mentioned by Niebuhr (albeit not in so many words). As Walter Russell Mead explained in “God and Gold”: “the more frustrations we have in life and the more we are infuriated by humiliations, then the more we project our narcissistic requirements of grandeur to such collective dimensions of our identities (Mead 2007, pp. 387-390).

    This grandeur hunger is often expressed via the righteous mind, which is explored in Jonathan Haidt’s 2012 book of the same name.
    Haidt is a moral philosopher who starts his book by saying “human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.”

    Haidt did not mention McGilchrist in his book, but that same year twittered ( “Great RSA-animate talk: Iain McGilchrist: The Divided Brain. Illustrates the rationalist delusion:”.

    Which leads me to Scott’s oft-quoted saying ““only a hair separates the false from the true”, and to that of Tertullian that Satan is God’s ape.

    That path would seem to lead to the conclusion that moralism is the ape of morality, a transferred reproach of others to regain the grandeur in person often placed as default in collective dimensions of our identities.

    Again returning to Christian myth, in the sense of myth being a “never was but always is”: Lucifer’s fall into Satan is the light bringer’s role – bringing light into how to be moral in life’s challenges – falling into being moralistic, critical, and judgmental. Hence the injunctions of Jesus not to judge others, and to take the plank out of one’s own eye before attempting the removal of a speck from that of another.

    Which leads to another hair’s breadth: that between being critical, and being condemnatory.

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