It occurred to me after writing last week’s post that building on the schematic diagram allows a potential synthesis of the works of Spengler, Jung and probably even Guenon (with a tip of the hat to the Kabbalah as well). Here’s how it would look:-
During what Spengler called the “culture” phase of the cycle, we descend down through the levels starting in the supra-human or spiritual. It is the supra-human which gives birth to the metaphysical elements that define the culture. These are initially channeled through the religious leaders, prophets etc. who at this stage of the cycle hold more power than kings. The great cultural achievements follow and the age of conquest follows that. To the extent that archetypes are manifested in this part of the cycle, we would expect them to be in their positive form i.e. the great rulers, warriors, prophets embodying the spirit of the culture. What we are referring to here is a general trend rather than a categorical requirement, so there can be mad emperors, crooked bishops and other bumps along the way too.
The whole thing bottoms out in the physical realm and we begin the ascent back upwards. The ascent is the age of the secular, materialist bourgeois mentality, what Spengler called the civilisational phase. The driver of this phase is the physical and biological realms and their interface with the societal realm. Economic growth is possible for some time but eventually leads to ecological overshoot where the population is too great for its resource base. There is also a kind of cultural saturation where new technology and artistic ideas dry up. All of this creates a pressure which works its way into the archetypal realm where it can manifest in several ways.
It can manifest as The Warrior leading to war. War alleviates the ecological pressure by reducing the population while also increasing the access to resources for the victorious society. Furthermore, war often results in technological advancement that can open up new economic opportunities during peace time. In short, war entails the catabolism that can enable periods of anabolism to occur within an overall catabolic trend.
If war is not possible, another possibility is Spengler’s second religiosity. If you have a population stuck in economic contraction, there are no possibilities for advancement available in the material/socio-economic realm. Instead, you offer people the compensation of an afterlife with rules and ceremonies that allow its attainment. This keeps the citizenry from revolting and allows de-growth to occur in a more or less orderly fashion.
What if you live in a time like ours; what Jung called the time of the Anti-Christ. One of the effects of nuclear armament is that direct war between nuclear powers is incredibly dangerous and therefore avoided. Thus, The Warrior archetype cannot manifest. Meanwhile, due to the extremist materialist philosophy, a second religiousness is also difficult to achieve. The two traditional forms of alleviating ecological overshoot are not available but we still have the problems of ecological overshoot to deal with.
Well, it seems that what happens is that you get The Devouring Mother: society as domestic melodrama complete with petty bickering, psychological abuse and mental illness. This creates the rebellious children who these days now actively call for the establishment of a parallel society in order to escape. Meanwhile, the acquiescent children are stuck in a shadow form of childhood; an abusive relationship with the state.
The driver of this dynamic is “bottom-up”, which is to say that ecological factors feed into emotional states (mass formation psychosis) and the collective subconscious (archetypal takeover). Eventually, these even overtake political economy and we see normally pragmatic politicians and business leaders also embodying the archetype c.f. the last two years of corona hysteria and the “go woke, go broke” phenomenon in business. Even the Pope and other religious leaders get on board symbolising the complete inversion of the paradigm.
These are cycles within cycles with an overall trend line like waves crashing on the beach but gradually rising and falling with the tide. The outer cycle comes to a close to give birth to the new cycle starting again from the spiritual and descending back down through the dimensions to ground out again in matter. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly where we are. I’d guess somewhere around here.
8 thoughts on “A Synthesis”
Sad to say this isn’t really Guénon’s view (sad because yours is more optimistic). For him there are, let’s say, three stages: upper, middle, and lower. First, when the spirit dominates; then, this is gradually closed off in favor of materialism, in which influences neither from above or below are allowed (the final form of this was Communism – no God, but no demons, spirits, seances, etc etc either). Finally in the last phase the ‘bottom’ of the materialist shell is opened to allow demons in while influences from above are still blocked (the successful neutralization of the Pope is a sad victory for the forces of evil). I think this last stage is where we are. Archetypes recur, but in inverted and evil form: “as above, so below”, the devil is the imitator of God. At the end there will be an ‘inverted Catholic church’ (distinct from the real Catholic church) with its own hierarchy, rituals, etc, and the Antichrist will lead it, I guess. The main silver lining is that the more evil each phase the less time it lasts.
Austin – that’s what I was implying with my schematic too. So, on the way back up we hit the spiritual level and that would be the Church of the Antichrist so to speak. I think that also matches with Spengler’s Second Religiosity. Like everything on the ascending side, it’s an inversion. I wonder, though, whether it needs to be an inversion of the actual Catholic Church. The secular religion with the worship of the state that we have going these days could be the inversion of the Church. Essentially, worshipping Pontius Pilate instead of Jesus.
I think it will be an inversion of Catholicism. Catholicism is the religion that the modern West was born from… Hobbes, also, identifies it as Leviathan’s #1 enemy. Spengler, probably, over-generalized somewhat from ancient history: it makes a big difference whether the ‘Second Religiosity’ is of a positive sort (Christianity), in which case a new civilization can be borne from it, as happened in medieval times, or whether it is of a negative sort (the gnostic religions of the Roman Empire, and presumably the coming religion), in which case it will quickly implode after its moment of triumph and drag its followers down to the abyss. But definitely, all the villains of Christianity return as heroes: Pilate (if he was a villain… not sure), Adam & Eve, Satan… I saw a museum exhibition the other month which rehabilitated Nero.
Austin – well, it seems unlikely. Although, the Church does still have what’s left of its institutional footprint in various countries so it should be capable of action. Maybe when the internet goes away for good a space could open up for the Church again.
Simon – thanks for bringing back the Devouring Mother, I was missing her. What I mean is, the psychological dimension is useful for making sense of culture. John Michael Greer has used astrology (mundane, not psychological) for that purpose in his latest book, The Twilight of Pluto. I hope you’ll have more to say w/r/t the internet going away for good. It seems inevitable that the deeper a person’s/society’s dependence, the more certain the failure of the object of dependence. It can’t be long now…?
Shane – you’ve might have seen this meme before. It’s a joke, of course, but there’s an awful lot of truth in it. I suspect when the internet does go away it will probably create more trauma than even a missed meal or two. Not sure when it will happen, though. A few decades probably.
‘We are here’, and are going up…where up is not necessarily good…
What do you think – is there a chance, given the rather tight geopolitical spot we’re in right now, that the US might find themselves holding the satanic bag?
Europe might not look like much right now, but what if the US, in spite of “merely” suffering from a European pseudomorphosis, would end up embodying, concentrating all that needs to be overcome to not collapse, not retire more gracefully?
If the Europeans recognized that while the prospect of a cold and food-scarce winter quickly removes most of the glamour for them, they can rely on the US to really believe in bringing the civilizational phase to its conclusion, leaving the Old Country to reach old age?
Michael – that is the question. Once people are quite literally shivering at home in the cold and dark will that snap them out of the current mindset and into some new one? I would have thought so but I’m not so sure anymore. It is interesting that our “elites” have been talking about internet outages. That would be the one thing that I could think that might catalyse something new. For that reason, I expect everything will be done to ensure it doesn’t happen.