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.