Age of the Spirit
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.
For some, this way of reflecting on chaotic transition and the double-movement may be more accessible than in terms of “paradigm shift”, or the radical changes in the cosmological picture described in contemporary physics. In fact, the Christian thinkers may be even closer to the root of things in describing this shift from the Pauline to the Johannine as the mother of all paradigm shifts, so to speak, for this new concern with the “spiritual” released from confinement in ecclesiastical formalisms can also be said of Iain McGilchrist’s neurodynamic model (The Master and His Emissary) or even Bohmian physics (Wholeness and the Implicate Order), as well as many other examples (Beauregard and O’Leary’s The Spiritual Brain, for example).
So, the Christian thinkers may be on to something.
It’s in this relation, too, that the revolt of William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche against organised religion or moralism can be seen as an early revolt against the Pauline and a prophetic anticipation of the Johannine. Blake’s mad god “Urizen” could even be considered the ruling deity — the Jehovah — of the Pauline Age. The same was “Apollo” for Nietzsche, for Blake held that Apollo was actually Lucifer, and Apollonian light for Luciferic light
[“]I have conversed with the—Spiritual Sun—I saw him on Primrose-hill[.] He said ‘Do you take me for the Greek Apollo[?‘ ’] No[’] I said ‘that (and Bl pointed to the sky) that is the Greek Apollo—He is Satan [.’ ”]
On the other hand, both William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche associated the figure of Christ with the “Dionysian” or the life force, whereas Apollo was associated with intellect or the self-consciousness, or what Gebser refers to as “the mental-rational”, or what Rosenstock-Huessy also called “the Greek Mind”. Apollonian Age can be substituted for Pauline Age, then, and a Dionysian Age may be also the Johannine Age, or what some are referring to as “the Life Era”.
The plan or pattern of Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin also follows pretty closely this differentiation between Pauline Age and Johannine Age.
Now, I’m sure there will be objections that the secular age — the Modern Era and Modern Mind — is something quite different and distinct from the Age of the Church or the Pauline Age, but that is not so. The process of secularisation — which largely began with the Protestant Reformation when Luther dissolved the monasteries and sent thousands of monks and nuns out into the world to make their own way — was largely the translation of theological categories into secular forms. I’ve pointed out in the past that contemporary “isms” or ideologies — conservatism, liberalism, socialism, anarchism — began life as theological doctrines which found their justifications in the Gospels. If one follows closely the history of the Reformation and subsequent Enlightenment, one can see this process of secularisation of original theological categories occurring. Even utilitarianism began life as a theological doctrine, as well as Marx’s “scientific socialism”, which took the raw material of the “Social Gospel”, but stripped it of its more mystical origins, although Marx’s early Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 still show a surprisingly “mystical” Karl Marx. Likewise, contemporary anarchism can be traced to a heretical sect of Franciscan monks called “the Brethren of the Free Spirit” who took their inspirations from the writings of the German theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart (Eckhart disavowed them, though, during the Inquisition).
So one has to understand Nietzsche’s “death of God” and his many ironies, and what Nietzsche means by living “beyond good and evil” all in its proper historical context, which is often a problem for what Lewis Mumford or Roderick Seidenberg called “post-historic man”. Nietzsche’s attack was on Pauline and churchly Christianity, as was William Blake’s. In fact, Nietzsche declares that explicitly in The Will to Power.
And it is true that in many respects Gebser’s cultural philosophy is also Johannine — describing an incipient era of “religionless Christianity” and is one of the reasons Gebser turned his face against Traditionalism or why Rosenstock-Huessy describes himself as “counter-reactionary”. Both want to be understood as helping to usher in this new Johannine Age.
Of course, there is much resistance to this from the self-appointed “Old Guard” (or guardians of the old), and sometimes violent resistance. You may have noticed that many authoritarian types are very anxious to associate themselves with all the symbols of the Pauline Age or “Judeo-Christian civilisation” — Putin, Trump, and now Italy’s Matteo Salvini — which has even aroused the approbrium of the Pope and the Church who see all this misappropriation as weaponising the Gospels.
An age of “religionless Christianity” doesn’t sit at all well with those whose identities, individual or collective, have been forged in the context of institutional religion and Pauline Christianity, or even its secular and secularised variants. As Nietzsche knew, the “death of God” undercut and undermined more than just the Church, but the foundations of many or most modern institutions and their raison d’être. For them, any discrediting or repudiation of the Pauline Age looks like nihilism and “deconstruction”. In a sense it is, for a revelation always comes with that “shattering” aspect as well, which is what Gebser’s “double-movemet” is — revelation, which is why Gebser enjoins us to look for the emerging or incipient signs of this new truth amidst the otherwise overwhelming spectacle of the detritus, ruination, degeneracy, and decay of the old.
That’s also the message of Rumi’s poem “Green Ears”, which is a pretty good characterisation of revelation and of what we mean by “chaotic transition” and the double-movement. And if we are doomed — and we may well be doomed — then it is not owing to anything but our own lack of insight into the meaning of this chaos and the double-movement and our apparent inability to let go of what have now become obsolete and self-destructive habits of thought and behaviour, clinging to them instead in the mistaken notion that these are life-preserving or will keep us afloat.
There are plenty of people unwilling to make this transition from an already dying era — reactionary nationalism and authoritarian populism, racism, sexism, denialism, “post-truth” and so on are only the morbid symptoms of an age become desperate to insulate, isolate, and preserve itself against the new, and even to disguise and misrepresent itself as the contrary of what it actually is, much like so-called “Reality TV”.
So if you like, and if it makes the present transition clearer to your mind, you can also think of the present double-movement in terms of a transition from the Pauline to the Johannine, as some Christian thinkers think of this.