Last evening I read a piece from The New York Times Magazine on the revival of Hindu nationalism and communal violence in India (“The Billionaire Yogi Behind Modi’s Rise“), which serves to remind that the present wave of authoritarian nationalism and “identity politics” — ethnocentric or egocentric — is a global phenomenon — an ongoing backlash against the deficiencies and failures of neo-liberalism. But I was also reminded by that of Marshall Berman’s thesis that “everything is pregnant with its contrary” in his 1980s book All That Is Solid Melts Into Air; that is to say, everything is pregnant with its own antithesis or its own self-contradiction, and one that would eventually assert itself as self-negation, like the meeting of matter and anti-matter becoming mutually annihilate. It’s an aspect of what I call here “ironic reversal”.
But it would be a great mistake, indeed, to assume that if the excesses and extremes of neo-liberalism (or competitive hyper-individualism) are to blame for our social malaise, that it’s equally extreme antithesis or contrary — re-collectivisation — is the cure, which is what authoritarian populism or ethnocentric nationalisms amount to — whether in religious, racial, or gender terms. This is the flawed logic of a strictly dualistic mode of thinking which has become somewhat robotic, which is why I encourage reflection on the merits of a “four-value logic” if we are ever to arrive at a truly “universal way of looking at things”
There is a branch of Christian thinkers — Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy among them — that maintains that what we call “Western civilisation” is in process of transition between an Age of the Church (or Pauline Age) and an Age of the Spirit (or Johannine Age) — an age of “religionless Christianity” as Rosenstock-Huessy describes it in his book The Christian Future, or The Modern Mind Outrun. In The Christian Future, he develops further his “applied science of the soul” based on his grammatical method and four-term logic or “cross of reality” model.
So, there is an evident parallel between new Johannine thought and what I referred to earlier as our emerging “fourth cosmological age“. Moreover, this is another way of reflecting on “chaotic transition” or on Jean Gebser’s “double-movement” of disintegration and re-integration — in this case, the disintegration of the Pauline Age and it’s re-integration as the Johannine Age. And it may be said that Nietzsche’s “death of God” is the watershed event in this transition from Age of Church to Age of the Spirit.
Most of you are, I’m sure, familiar with W.B. Yeats’ ominous and enigmatic poem “The Second Coming”. I was reflecting on that and the meaning of his rough beast “slouching towards Bethlehem to be born” again this morning, and in connection with some of my recent posts about the “Shadow”. So, I want to take a few moments this morning and propose what I think might be the meaning of Yeats’ poem.