On Solar and Lunar Knowledge

It occurred to me while writing last week’s post that the subject matter of the last few posts has provided yet more grist for the mill in support of my Devouring Mother analysis.

One of the issues I tried to resolve back in the early days after discovering the concept was when did the Devouring Mother appear on the scene? This led me back to Toynbee and Spengler and the idea that the Devouring Mother is actually the archetypal manifestation of the Universal State of Faustian culture; a position that I sketched out in this post.  

In the last few posts, I addressed what might seem like unrelated issues. Firstly, there was the question of reductionist science. Reductionist science ran out of steam in the second half of the 20th century. The questions is: why? Was it because it became corrupted by money? Maybe. But the systems thinkers explanation was that all the low-hanging fruit had been harvested and science began to face domains where there appeared to be inherent and irreducible complexity.

Is that complexity really irreducible or do we just have to wait for more geniuses to show up and work their reductionist magic? That’s a tough question to answer. One thing we do know, so far the geniuses have not arrived. There have been few major breakthroughs in the post-war years and certainly nothing to rival the century before that.

Instead, we got what I call Technocrats. The Technocrats apply the reductionist method to domains where it does not work. If this was purely a matter of scholarship, the Technocrats would have been consigned to the dustbin of history for failing to produce valid results. But the Technocracy is not primarily concerned about science and knowledge. The main game is power. The Technocracy assists the execution of power by invoking “magic spells” that utilise the vocabulary of science.

The rise of the Technocracy has correlated with another development that I outlined in last week’s post: sabotage. This might seem unrelated to the problems of science and yet the underlying shared factor is the same: complexity. Sabotage works in complex environments. The more complex society has become, the more sabotage has developed an esoteric character.

These more esoteric forms of sabotage have slowly become ubiquitous in business, domestic politics and even geopolitics in the 20th century. Timothy Mitchell (author of Carbon Democracy) noted that the British and Americans reverted to sabotage in the Middle East because they were not “strong” enough to hold the region by force. That’s only true if we compare against historical empires that were predicated entirely on military strength e.g. the Roman Empire.

But the “business model” of the Roman Empire was different from that of the British and American empires. It involved the payment of tribute and the projection of military power. The Roman Empire ended where the ability to project military force ended.

The British and American empires have been truly global in scope. This would never have been possible using traditional military means. Of course, the military is one aspect of those empires but it is part of a network of diplomatic, financial, business and deep state operatives. Military intervention is used only as a last resort. It is this network which has perfected the art of sabotage. To paraphrase US politician, Chuck Schumer, the deep state (the network) has 99 ways to sabotage you.

It is tempting to say that the use of sabotage to achieve political goals is a sign moral degradation or “weakness”. But it could simply be that sabotage is what works in complex environments. Von Clausewitz wrote in the 19th century that war is the extension of politics by other means. That’s true enough. But as geopolitics became more and more complex, sabotage has become the main extension of politics by other means used by the British and American empires.

What does any of this have to with the archetype of the Devouring Mother?

Well, we don’t need any sophisticated psychological theories to see how these modern developments correlate with archetypal gender traits. The use of sabotage is an obvious one. Anybody that’s been through high school knows that boys naturally resolve their disagreements with their fists while girls use far more subtle methods including gossip, teasing, manipulation and social isolation. Boys use brute force. Girls sabotage each other. Boys are like the Roman Empire. Girls are like the US empire.

Given that the use of sabotage has correlated with the rising complexity of the modern world, there is another obvious gender parallel. Men are simple. Women are complex. Stand-up comedians and comedy scriptwriters have written thousands, if not millions, of jokes trading on this simple fact. As the world became more complex, it became more feminine.

This also matches the historical paradigm. By modern standards, the Roman Empire was really simple. You pay your tribute and we leave you alone. You don’t pay your tribute and we’ll send a legion to beat it out of you. The rules were clear and everybody knew where they stood. The mechanism of the Roman Empire was a man’s one: military force.

Most European kingdoms for most of modern European history were run on this same paradigm. Two armies assembled on a field and had the equivalent of a military boxing match that was conducted according to fixed rules. It really was like modern sport. Kings were the team owners. Generals were the coaches.

As I noted last week, in the 19th century the use of sabotage as an industrial relations bargaining technique began with the same kinds of brute force methods. Workers smashed machines and capitalists smashed workers. It was all very masculine.

But then things got more esoteric or, we might say, more feminine. Sabotage moved away from the schoolboy use of the fist and towards the schoolgirl use of gossip, slander and gaslighting. Rather than physically assault union leaders, capitalists would spread lies and innuendo about them through the press. They would destroy the reputations of their opponents in much the same way that a group of high school girls will destroy the reputation of another girl they don’t like. This marked the transition away from robber baron capitalism to something more subtle that I call Imperialism 2.0.

All of this matches up to the increasingly complexity of the world starting in the 19th century and accelerating all the way up until our time. If we accept the premise that men are simple and women are complex, we might posit that increasingly complexity leads to an increase in the feminine. First the world became more complex. Then it became more feminine. Nobody planned it that way. It just happened. But perhaps there’s something more archetypal going on.

The rise of industrial capitalism coincided with the crisis of faith in Europe. Christianity had “died” around the time of the industrial revolution, arguably earlier than that in Britain. The English poet, Robert Graves, identified Christianity with what he called solar knowledge. According to him, solar knowledge is masculine while lunar knowledge is feminine. If this is true, then solar knowledge in the form of Christianity had already begun to wane well before the modern manifestations of complexity and sabotage, both of which imply the lunar/feminine. We might go further and say that the decline of the solar allowed the lunar to rise. Complexity is the effect, not the cause.

The young Robert Graves

Solar knowledge aims to bring everything into the light. The rules of sport, the rules of war and the “laws nature” achieved through reductionist science are all prime examples of solar knowledge. They are out in the open for all to see.

To change metaphors: solar knowledge is like a big net. Its strength is that it can capture a wide area of reality. But the gaps in the netting are also very wide and all kinds of things can slip through; things that are too small to matter. Lunar knowledge is concerned with the things that slip through the net. In Jungian terms, lunar knowledge is the Unconscious.

Solar knowledge wants to shine a light on everything. But when you try to shine a light on the things that have fallen through the gaps in the net, you are doing the opposite of reductionist science. You are increasing the number of variables and this leaves you unable to calculate laws anymore. That’s the problem of complexity. Translated into Graves’ terminology, it may be that complexity is inherently lunar. Applying solar reductionist science to it does not work.

The problem for the modern West is that we have told ourselves that reductionist science is the sum total of everything that can be known. We live in a culture which thinks solar knowledge is all there is and lunar knowledge doesn’t exist. In that case, everything that falls through the net of solar knowledge is seen as superfluous, redundant epiphenomena.

What if we’re wrong? What if those things do matter? Then we have ignored a whole realm of reality that is going to creep up on us quietly in the night, under a full moon, and whack us over the back of the head. Interestingly, this really is how many people think nowadays. There is an underlying anxiety which is caused by complexity but which, I think, Graves would attribute to the absence of lunar knowledge in our culture. We can’t handle complexity. More specifically, we try and resolve complexity by reverting to solar knowledge instead of dealing with it on lunar terms.

We might further hypothesise that the more solar knowledge has expanded in the form of reductionist science and industrial society, the more things have fallen through the net and the more “energy” has been building in the lunar realm. That could explain the outbursts of irrationality that we saw in the 20th century and which are plaguing society today.

What happened in the 20th century was that we ran out of things to apply the reductionist method to. Rather than acknowledge that fact, we continued to apply the method where it didn’t belong. This has led to the degradation of solar knowledge seen in the Technocracy. If we assume, with Graves, that solar knowledge equates to the masculine, can it also be a coincidence that there has been a degradation of masculinity in the general culture in the post-war years?

As society has become more complex, solar knowledge has become less able to handle it. This is not just a problem in science. Modern governments operate through a bureaucracy and a bureaucracy is also predicated on solar knowledge. It runs on rules. But the world has become too complex for bureaucracies to deal with. Therefore, it has become too complex for governments to deal with.

If complexity really is the domain of lunar knowledge, then our lack of such knowledge is the problem. Graves traces this all the way back to Christianity, but we can also see that the Reformation made things even more lopsided. Protestantism did away even with the cult of Mary which was Catholicism’s way of acknowledging the validity of lunar knowledge.

Contrast this…

Even then, Graves argues that the symbol of Mary recognises only a portion of the lunar/feminine. Contrast Mary with the Indian goddess Kali.

…with this.

There’s one more twist in the story. We can say with confidence that mainstream western culture does not know how to deal with lunar knowledge. And, yet, we have acknowledged that the British and especially the US empires have been run on the lunar. The US Empire and its allies have perfected the techniques which the British Empire had begun to develop (interestingly enough during the long reign of a Queen). These techniques, including sabotage, seem to be based in lunar knowledge. That is why we live in the world of the Devouring Mother. The Deep State is lunar, not solar.

The institutions of modern western society – parliament, civil service, bureaucracy –are based on the assumption of solar knowledge. But these institutions became incapable of handling the emergent complexity of the world. Rather than dismantle them and replace them with something else, we kept their external façade but within they took on a form based in lunar knowledge. It’s precisely because the West did not know how to handle lunar knowledge that we had to keep up the appearances of the old solar order. In reality, the operation of politics has become lunar.

We might be tempted to call this development “fraudulent” or even “satanic” or “demonic”. Graves would say that this just reveals the old biases of the Christian church which actively suppressed the lunar. Both Graves and Jung believed that the challenge ahead of us is to learn to once again incorporate lunar knowledge. Jung saw the dogma of the Assumption of Mary by the Pope as a big step towards that end. Graves believed the solution lay in poetry and the arts.

Jung also recognised a big risk. The failure to find a balance could lead to the destruction of the solar altogether and we would wind up in barbarism. It’s not a question of either/or. There must be a balance of the lunar and solar.

One of the ways to address that risk would be to acknowledge and fix the imbalance that has occurred within solar knowledge itself. Solar knowledge is not synonymous with reductionist science. It only became that way since Descartes and Newton. It’s not hard to see why we exulted this form of science. The results have been incredible. But if, indeed, we have reached the limits of reductionist science, then what is needed is a way to expand solar knowledge again so it encompasses more than just reductionism.

15 thoughts on “On Solar and Lunar Knowledge”

  1. Nice writing, it makes sense that such a repression of the lunar would result in it erupting out eventually, to much yin leads to more yang and vice versa.

    I was chuckling along thinking about what the German romantics thought of women. Nietzsche (who obviously had a complex relationship with them) said men romantically think an ocean lies within them, but in fact they are puddles, and Spengler has a large section of writing in which he argues that woman are history, the life beat of existence, and the greatest warrior wins his most glorious victory only for a woman to come along and make him bow down. Both thought that women were more akin to nature and time than men.

    Looking back throughout history, it would seem that these late periods can be quickly overthrown by the super masculine, which is true of male female relationships too. Feminine power is vulnerable to the masculine who stops playing by the rules, which is an interesting irony. As long as the US empire had the big stick of military and resource dominance behind it, it could play all its esoteric high school games. But if the board is flipped, and someone comes along with exoteric hypersonic missiles, domestic resource production and massive standing armies, the games don’t work so well. It’s almost too coincidental that paternal figures like Putin and Xi (Modi too?) are potentially the harbingers of change.

    The timing of Elizabeth II’s death is interesting too.

  2. Skip – that’s another thing that occurred to me. You had Britain under the reign of Queen Victoria and let’s assume that they were pursuing the “lunar” which worked because everything was becoming really complex. Germany was a late starter to the game but at the end of the 19th century Germany was trying to compete with Britain using the same “lunar” combination of business, finance and diplomacy. That didn’t work because the British had already stitched up the highest value locations so Germany tried to switch back to the “solar”. Can it be a coincidence that Mussolini and Hitler often evoked Rome as a template. Even Nietzsche in his later writings chose the “masculine” Romans over the “feminine” Greeks. We see the same thing in Spengler’s Caesarism concept.

    I’m still unconvinced that Putin and Xi represent a threat to the existing order. More specifically, is the threat military or is the threat BRICS. Because BRICS seems to me an attempt to beat the West at its own game and that would require the “lunar” not the solar.

  3. Yeah agreed they don’t seem to be anything new or a threat to the order, just a drift back the other way on the pendulum as their power is very clearly based off of hard exoteric things, namely manufacturing, natural resources and military power.

    If they go back to gold or a commodities basket it represents a further jolt towards the hard physical from the more esoteric financial machinations of the western empire.

    I would argue too that although no doubt the lunar aspects were a big part of the British Empire, they still had the massive solar stick of their Navy. This is where Germany couldn’t compete because of geography, and was cut off from colonising via the seas so turned to the east via land routes, leading to inevitable conflict with Russia.

    The British Empire started its full spectrum dominance when Nelson overcame the French at Trafalgar and it bowed out as a serious competitor when their navy was overtaken by the USA and Japan.

  4. Skip – agreed that the British and US both had a solar stick. Perhaps both achieved a kind of balance of solar and lunar for a while there. You could certainly analyse the fall of the USSR as the time when things jolted way out of balance in the West. We seem to have swung massively to the lunar which makes sense since it seemed that there was no military (solar) threat anymore and everything could be managed esoterically.

    I don’t see what the magic is about a gold or commodity backed currency. We tried that once. It worked until it didn’t. There is no silver bullet that miraculously keeps markets in balance and I don’t see why the Chinese technocrats would be any better than ours at doing the job. Especially because the Chinese government would never give them the freedom to operate that the Americans give.

  5. Simon – personally, I’m okay w/ ‘fraudulent’… but when I hear folk talk about a satanic conspiracy, I wonder if it’s because their minds can’t process the complexity you’re talking about, & so to reduce everything to the spiritual (the conspiracy theorists) vs. the satanic (the elite) makes it seem simple? Sort of similar to flat-earthers who, from what I can gather, find astronomy & physics too abstract &/or complicated, so they refuse to ‘believe in’ gravity etc. I notice that believers in a satanic conspiracy don’t care to discuss economics, & reduce politics to a bunch of masons manipulating reality w/ symbols & mudras etc. Well, that’s esoteric, but it also sounds schizophrenic… which harks back to Iain McGilchrist’s left/right-brain theory, which tends to line up w/ your take on things.

  6. Shane – I think there’s at least two ways the “satanic” concept makes sense. Firstly, at a certain level of complexity it becomes all but impossible to analyse a system into component parts and determine the relations between them. What you can still do is judge the overall “quality” of the system. In that case, I think it’s valid to call a system’s quality “satanic” even though you can’t identify the cause-and-effect relationships that are producing the result.

    Secondly, we can posit that “Satan” exists as an archetype in the collective unconscious that can “cause” things to happen in the world. You can try to stifle that archetype and prevent it from manifesting. Jung thought that what the modern West was trying to do is to integrate it into consciousness somehow. This makes sense if you associate “Satan” with materialism.

  7. Hi Simon,

    If I may, the existing order appears to me, to fear itself. Those sorts of social games you mentioned like: gossip, teasing, manipulation and social isolation, eventually run out of people to turn upon, whereupon the system may then consume itself. It is very likely that the current state of affairs may indeed self destruct, maybe. With a punch up, there is a clear winner, but with those other techniques, they can just go on, and on. I have the odd notion that in this instance, strategies are not the same thing at all as physical achievements.

    On the radio yesterday I believe I heard a pundit talking about Russell Brand, who said: “We can’t cancel him”. I’m not delving into he-said, she-said, or whatever. But all other considerations to the side, that expressed opinion is chilling to hear.



  8. Chris – really? Why would some Australian radio personality care about “cancelling” Russell Brand? But, yeah, the whole thing’s a circular firing squad. Eventually, there’s nobody left to cancel.

  9. Simon – the letter to Rumble seems like a good example of the Devouring Mother in full swing: members of the public can’t be allowed to make up their own minds re, well, anything. Give everyone devices, force them into heavy dependence on those devices, & then control the content on those devices.

  10. Shane – exactly. There’s another Devouring Mother parallel in the Brand story, though. Brand was a heroin addict and “sex addict” early on. They used to wheel him out onto breakfast talk shows or panel shows and, as far as I could tell, his only reason for being there was to chat up the female co-host. That’s called enabling behaviour. Encouraging addiction is one of the main forms of enabling behaviour shown by Devouring Mother. The “system” acted exactly like a Devouring Mother by encouraging Brand’s addictions. Now that he’s straightened up, married with kids, he’s getting cancelled. Not coincidental.

  11. Simon – great example of enabling! I think that goes along w/ the Devouring Mother’s propensity for Munchausen by proxy: making the children sick & then pretending it’s their problem.

  12. Hi Simon,

    Wow, thanks for the link to the letter to Rumble. Last I checked people were generally considered innocent until proven guilty.

    We’ve got the ‘My Booky Wook’ book here, and it is a candid account. It’s quite weird to think that the book was released in the UK I believe in 2007, whilst he was employed in 2008 by the same overarching entity as who wrote that letter. Can they somehow not read? Quite bonkers really.



  13. Chris – Brand falls into the same category as Trump. He’s a class traitor. He was in the club and then he turned against the club.


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