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.

23 responses to “Age of the Spirit”

  1. donsalmon says :

    “The age of religions is over.”

    Sri Aurobindo

    By this Yoga we not only seek the Infinite, but we call upon the Infinite to unfold himself in human life. Therefore the Shastra of our Yoga must provide for an infinite liberty in the receptive human soul. A free adaptability in the manner and the type of the individual’s acceptance of the Universal and Transcendent into himself is the right condition for the full spiritual life in man.

    *******Vivekananda, pointing out that the unity of all religions must necessarily express itself by an increasing richness of variety in its forms, said once that the perfect state of that essential unity would come when each man had his own religion, when not bound by sect or traditional form he followed the free self- adaptation of his nature in its relations with the Supreme.*******

    So also one may say that the perfection of the integral Yoga will come when each man is able to follow his own path of Yoga, pursuing the development of his own nature in its upsurging towards that which transcends the nature. For freedom is the final law and the last consummation.

    “The Synthesis of Yoga,” Sri Aurobindo, pg. 27

    • donsalmon says :

      I”m often amused at how terrified conventional religious and political commentators are by the phase “Spiritual but not religious.”

      I have no doubt that a significant number of people who use that phrase do fall prey to the mistakes pointed out by the critics – picking and choosing from one religious tradition and another and another, whatever suits their desires and particular limited mental perspective.

      However, given the larger, subtler, “occult” realities of this transition, even those people are responding – within their capacity and filtered through their limitations – to the Zeitgeist, the Time Spirit which is roaring through the world and upending all past assumptions about the universe.

      Heck, even Steve Bannon, in his own way, with his desire to create chaos and tear apart the present world construction, is responding – in his unique Asuric (i.e. demonic – note, that word is not a “moral” judgment in the way conventional Christianity conceives of it) way, to the same powerful world-cataclysmic Shakti, the Mahashakti, the Divine Mother.

      • donsalmon says :

        Sri Aurobindo also points out how the modern “secular” doctrines had their roots in the religions – he considers Christianity to be largely the result of Judaism influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, but that’s another matter.

        I love his phrase – he refers to this process as a kind of “secular refrigeration,” by which the Fire of the Spirt was “cooled” into the flatland, materialistic values of the modern age.

        What people who mostly focus on the West miss, is that, because religion was not the enemy of reason in most of the East, the “secularization” process has been radically different there.

        India, in particular, has been having very rich, deep conversations since prior to 1947 independence about how to understand “secularism” in a way radically different from their Western counterparts.

        This is why you’ll find people like Dennett and the Churchlands fighting to the death against any critics of materialism; why the biologist Richard Lewontin actually confesses that no matter how irrational or utterly baseless materialism is, one most adhere to it without question because the alternative (i.e. “religion,” which is the only alternative he knows) is so much worse.

        In dramatic contrast, when members of the Indian Psychology Institute visited over 2 dozen university psychology departments throughout India, they found not only receptivity but passionate eagerness to transcend the boring, flatland, one dimensional “scientific” psychology they had mindlessly inherited from the West, and begin the task of looking through their indigenous philosophic and spiritual traditions for the purpose of creating an entirely new psychology appropriate to the “Johannine” age.

        • donsalmon says :

          But it’s changing VERY fast here in the West as well (if you think the political world is vertiginous due to Trump’s diarrhea of his pathological mouth, it may be because the Light is getting so much brighter, it’s just spontaneously revealing the Dark we had not wished to see).

          I just posted this the other day on my FB page:

          Actually, I consider Ed Kelly’s second book, “Beyond Physicalism,“ to be the most prescient and important book published on spirituality and science in the 48 years I’ve been studying this topic . Ed and his group of 14 physicists, philosophers and psychologists have been meeting with Mike Murphy at Esalen since 1999.

          The concluding postscript of the book is Murphy’s essay (avilable for free online) on “Evolutionary Panentheism,” which is based to a significant degree on Sri Aurobindo’s evolutionary vision.

          That book, plus the book and journal published by the APA in th e last 2 years accepting psi research as valid and accepting the idea of consciuosness as fundamentla as a legitimate scientific view, and the icnreasing openness to panpsychism as well as panentheism (by many Whitehead/process philosophers) – and the work of Michel Bitbol (“Is Consciousenss Primary”) and his enormous influence on Dan Siegel’s interpersonal neurobiology, which is being taught in thousands of schools from kindergarten through college around the world, and the enormous movement to include yogic psychology in several dozne major psychology departments around India, and Neil Theise’ “Fundamental Awarenes” – as well as much of Dean Radin’s work which is scientifrically interesting though philosophcially challenged

          all of this says to me that whatever people think is bad that is happening in the world, is a reaction to this extraordinary mushrooming of a radical new openness to non materailsitic views of the universe.

          Once it thoroughly permeates the scientific world (my prediction is sometime between 2030 and 2050 the holdouts like Dennett and the CHurchlands will no longer be able to fight it) the world will be forever changed – we will have all symbolically taken the red pill.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That also reads like a good description of what Jung and McGilchrist understand by “individuation” as opposed to “individualism”. I suppose Bohm and Gebser as well, although I don’t recall coming across the term “individuation” in my reading of Gebser. He uses the term “diaphainon” in much the same sense, though.

  2. donsalmon says :

    As misogynist, patriarchal, left brained, and authoritarian as Paul no doubt could be, he came up with some pretty good lines as well:

    “let go of the false self and put on the Mind of Christ”

    The Divine is That “in which we live and move and have our being.”

    A few more juicy morsels amidst all that “women should submit to their husbands,” nonsense.

    • Steve says :

      Scott, have you read ” Beyond Belief: Discovering Christianity’s New Paradigm by Clinton C. Gardner. He was a student Huessy’s. If you have read it, is it worth getting.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I’ve heard of it. I’ve read a couple of other things by Gardner. We were in touch at one time. I think he was just putting that book together then. I’ll have a look. Thanks.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Here’s to a “leap” to the Johannine.

  3. davidm58 says :

    Very interesting. It seems to me that Teilhard de Chardin fits into this Johanine paradigm as well. Currently there are teachers such as Ilia Delio, Richard Rohr, and Cynthia Bourgeault.
    https://cac.org/

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Also just came across this essay by David Bohm that seems to speak to the same matter “Science, Spirituality, and the Present World Crisis”

    http://dbohm.com/david-bohm-science-spirituality-world-crisis.html

  5. Scott Preston says :

    So… the contemporary crisis, as I’ve posted earlier, is also resulting in a lot of self-reflection and stock-taking, and oftentimes facing honestly unpleasant truths about ourselves. I mentioned the conservative columnist Charles Sykes earlier (also Max Born and others), and today it is Richard Wolffe.

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/jul/27/donald-trump-brexit-us-uk-media-lies

    This is the value and the challenge of Castaneda’s “petty tyrant”, as I posted about earlier at https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2018/07/16/the-function-of-the-petty-tyrant/

    And the role of the petty tyrant is connected with Nietzsche’s notion that “in times of peace a warrior goes to war against himself” or “it’s not the courage of your convictions that counts, but the courage to attack your convictions that counts”. And if your convictions survive that attack, then they are probably good and true. And we see examples of that in characters like Born, Sykes, and Wolffe.

    As Tom Paine also once put it “these are times to try men’s souls”, and obviously women’s too, and quite a few aren’t standing the test, judging by the suicide and addictions crises. And the test and challenge, of course, is Gebser’s double-movement and the spiritual challenge of surviving Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” and the devaluation of all values.

    Which is why Nietzsche set up his “transhuman” as a human destiny — as something worth striving for — a faith, as it were, that would inspire to endure and survive all petty tyrants and all stares into the abyss. And Yeats’ “rough beast” is the biggest petty tyrant of all.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    “Epistocracy” — interesting idea. Don’t know presently how this might work or what test of competency or learning you would apply or have to pass to get the vote. Epistocracy sounds like Nietzsche’s idea as well, and why Nietzsche was ambivalent about democracy.

    https://www.vox.com/2018/7/23/17581394/against-democracy-book-epistocracy-jason-brennan

  7. Scott Preston says :

    Paul Levy speaks about “the quantum revolution” in a podcast on Future Primitive

    https://futureprimitive.org/2018/07/the-quantum-revolution/

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Came across this book “Christianity After Religion” which apparently concludes much the same about this Age of the Spirit — an areligious (rather than irreligious) trend

    http://dianabutlerbass.com/books/christianity-after-religion-the-end-of-church-and-the-birth-of-a-new-spiritual-awakening/

    • davidm58 says :

      The Diana Butler-Bass book is supported by some of the who’s who of this movement, all worth checking out: Marcus Borg, Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, and…Harvey Cox.

  9. Scott Preston says :

    Apparently Harvey Cox has also written about this, in a book entitled The Future of Faith (and the end of belief). Cox was acquainted with Rosenstock-Huessy’s work, so there may be something of Rosenstock-Huessy in it also.

    http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/book-reviews/view/19287/the-future-of-faith

  10. davidm58 says :

    Yes! Harvey Cox! 89 years old, and author of the classic best-selling 1965 book “The Secular City,” covering some of these same themes way back then, and and a participant in the famous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963. The video below looks promising (I’ve only watched the first 10 minutes so far). Speaking about his 1965 book just last year, he says the book was an attempt to answer Deitrich Bonhoeffer’s question, “How do we speak of God without religion? How do we speak in a secular fashion of God?”

  11. mikemackd says :

    Today I found a brief epitome of Rosenstock-Heussy: The Relevance Of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, by Peter J. Leithart, at:
    https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2007/06/the-relevance-of-eugen-rosenst

    The reference therein to the Christian Trinity, following on from my comment on Scott’s “Four Term Logic” post, eventually led me to a work I have just bought on Kindle: Eastham, Scott. American Dreamer: Bucky Fuller and the Sacred Geometry of Nature. The Lutterworth Press. Kindle Edition

    It is written as an imaginary symposium between Buckminster Fuller and his arch-critic, a chap by the name of Lewis Mumford. I propose that the Age of the Spirit will emerge through that essentially McGilchristian left-brain-weighted (Fuller), right-brain-weighted (Mumford) integration, and that the Star Key has something to do with that.

    Here’s why: Eastham claims that Fuller:

    QUOTE
    basically contends that Nature can be so prolifically diverse in reproduction and variation only because she is always most economical in structure. The isotropic vector matrix can also be directly derived from the closest-packing of spheres; it models ‘least effort’ configurations and structural strategies … At the center of this matrix is the Vector Equilibrium (cuboctahedron), the shape Fuller sees as the unfathomable ‘zero’ of the energetic-synergetic geometry … Fuller saw not only into but through this shape in such a remarkably thorough way, we should allow him to speak for himself about the Vector Equilibrium and its structural implications:

    subquote
    The vector equilibrium is the anywhere, anywhen, eternally regenerative, event inceptioning and evolutionary accommodation and will never be seen by man in any physical experience. …The vector equilibrium is a condition at which nature never allows herself to tarry. … Ever pulsive and impulsive, nature never pauses her cycling at equilibrium: she refuses to get caught irrecoverably at the zero phase of energy.
    End subquote

    If you were a scientist, these astonishing correlations of the isotropic vector matrix with empirical evidence from various realms of the physical world might be enough to keep you busy for a lifetime, as they did Bucky. But a more artistic or philosophical or religious sensibility might see further reflections, more deeply buried perhaps, but in some ways even more extraordinary still. Many would immediately recognize here the Jewish Star of David or, with interlacing dark and light triangles which tradition sees as the union of body and soul, the Seal of Solomon. (Eastham Kindle locations 1532-53).
    UNQUOTE

    Eastham earlier quoted Mumford, claiming that:

    QUOTE:
    For the sake of balance, we shall hand over the last word of this chapter to Mumford. Had he taken the following exploration of triangles and hexagons just a bit further, he’d have run smack into Fuller’s isotropic vector matrix (the very source of the synergetic geometry), which derives directly from the configuration Mumford so lovingly describes here:

    Subquote:
    Suppose we were all equilateral triangles. Accepting our basic triangularity, we could not conceive of any change, except that of becoming more or less of a triangle. We might think of becoming a bigger triangle or a smaller one, turning from an isoceles triangle to a scalene triangle, almost to the point of being flattened out; but the one thing that would seem indisputable to us would be that we could not keep our precious triangularity if we tried to cut any other kind of figure. Yet that would be a delusion; and it would be the kind of delusion that is brought about by a failure to conceive the role of love. Let us endow two right triangles, absolutely equal in every respect, with the power to fall in love: that is, to delight in the constant presence of the other, and spurred by the desire to meet and mingle on the closest possible terms. The nearest that a triangle could get to connubial bliss with another triangle would be if ‘he’ superimposed ‘himself on it, and in order that our identical triangles should not merge their identity completely, we will suppose that the apex of one triangle in the ideal state of their union would intersect the base of the other. At that moment a being unknown in the world of triangles will come into existence: a star. A quite remarkable star, with six points, and with an internal figure in a central position, holding the parts together: a hexagon. What is more, at the tips we will find that this union has begotten six little triangles, just like their father and their mother, only smaller. Mark that the lines and angles of the original triangles remain unchanged: yet in the combination they show new properties, unknown in a purely triangular world. In this scenario none of these little triangles would have existed if the big triangles had not fallen in love’ and sought to merge their identities. This parable not merely sums up the nature of emergent change, using existing components to make a radically different pattern or ‘Gestalt’: it also demonstrates, by the simplest of abstractions, the unexpectedly creative interaction that takes place in loving association! That association had its beginning at the very moment when the sexual differentiation into male and female began in the plant world, and was carried to a climax in the ostentatious sexuality of the flowering plants, long before vertebrates emerged. Mumford, L. (1979). My works and days: a personal chronicle, Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, p. 79). (Eastham Kindle locations 1470-1488).
    END SUBQUOTE AND QUOTE

    What Mumford describes here is the phenomenon of emergence, which is what the science of complexity is about. It is also what Fuller talks about as the necessary framing precondition for “the prolifically [diversity] in reproduction and variation”.

    The Star hexagon is also the frame of the Star Key, and, as I have submitted here, is, in my view, the framing of Genesis 1.

    • mikemackd says :

      I guess I should post the link to the Star Key here again: it’s http://www.geocities.ws/mikemackd/

      • mikemackd says :

        I went back to Eastham’s book in my lunch break. I found that Bucky would agree with the title of McGilchrist’s next book:

        QUOTE
        So we follow Bucky’s reasoning back to basics: There are no ‘things’ in all Universe, he points out, only events. We’ll start with this …
        What we experience as ‘things’ are nothing but the interpatternings of relationship between events. Events are the dynamic transactions and transformations of energy. In other words, ‘things’ don’t just sit there: They happen.
        UNQUOTE
        .
        Eastham, Scott. American Dreamer: Bucky Fuller and the Sacred Geometry of Nature (Kindle Locations 2906-2909). The Lutterworth Press. Kindle Edition.

        He even included a Palimpest of the Gospel of John at Kindle location 3802.

        I sought to contact him, but found out thereby that he died in 2013.

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