The Age of The Orphan Part 5: Ok, boomer

Whenever I think of the baby boomers I think of The Beatles, The Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Pop music was definitely one thing the boomers did well. But, according to the people who decide on such important matters, none of these musicians actually qualify as baby boomers. The boomer generation officially began in 1945. So, Jimi, Mick, Paul and the boys missed out. Nevertheless, I’m going to include them when I refer to “boomers”. In fact, I’m going to include all of us when referring to boomers. For the purposes of our analysis here, all the important elements of boomer culture are shared by the generations that have followed. The boomers still dominate because we are all still boomers at heart.

The Beatles, The Stones and Hendrix were a massive influence on boomer culture. So too was a man who was born a whopping 42 years too early to technically qualify as a boomer. His most influential book, however, arrived on the scene with perfect timing; 1946 to be precise. The name of the book was “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” and the author in question was Dr Benjamin Spock.

Spock was a quintessential boomer. He would later get involved in the presidential campaign for JFK and take part in the numerous protest movements of the 60s and 70s. At 84 years old he was still competing in rowing competitions. If ever there was a man who epitomised the idea of being forever young, it was Spock. In the language of this series of posts, Spock was not an elder. Like the boomers in general, he refused to even consider elderhood as an option all the way until his death. But Spock was happy to play the role that came to replace the elder in boomer culture: the expert. Specifically, he was a doctor of paediatrics with a side qualification in Freudian psychoanalysis. Of course, it had to be Freud, another matter of symbolic importance for this series of posts where we are invoking Jung.

The post war years were the golden age of Freudian psychology. Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, had become as successful in the US advertising industry as Spock was in the parental advice industry. It was the age when having your own “shrink” was the thing to do. What the Freudians were primarily concerned with was the repression of base desires by society. This was reflected in Spock’s book.

The prevailing wisdom of the pre-war years, the mindset which raised “the great generation” that stormed the beaches of Normandy, was that children needed to be given “tough love”. Their desires were unimportant. Their crying should be ignored. Feeding should be done on a military-like schedule and affection should be kept to a minimum. All very repressive from a Freudian point of view. Spock broke with this prevailing wisdom and told parents to give their children regular affection, feed them whenever they were hungry and tell them they were special. Spock’s book sold 50 million copies and was apparently second only to the bible in the US book market in the post war decades. His advice was what the parents of the boomers wanted to hear.

As so often happens, the microcosmic and the macrocosmic align in this case. Just like the parents of the boomers were going to pay attention to what their children wanted, the society of the post war years was going to be geared to giving consumers what they wanted. For every desire, the consumer society had a product and, if the desire happened to be lacking, Edward Bernays and his team were there to create it. All this was made possible by the fact that the boomers were born into the richest society the world has ever known. The USA was swimming in oil, had suffered relatively little in the wars and had been handed the keys to what was left of the British Empire after WW2. America was so rich in the post war years that it could afford to rebuild Europe while also becoming the policeman of the world. Freud served as a useful ideology for a society that had wealth to burn. There was no longer any need for the miserliness that parents of children in the great depression needed to learn.

But something more archetypal was going on. The appearance of The Child on the scene also matches with the broader historical developments at the time. The two world wars represented the end of the line for the archetype which had dominated Western culture for centuries. That archetype is The Warrior. Europeans had spent literally centuries slaughtering each other. They got pretty good at it. They got good at other things too. As Bucky Fuller noted, technological innovation occurs so rapidly during war because success actually matters (unless you give absolute power to megalomaniacs). In war, people’s lives are on the line and this creates an atmosphere of meritocracy. Whoever has the ideas that actually work will be rewarded. The same is not true for peace. Failure doesn’t matter so much during peacetime, especially when you live in the richest society the world has ever seen.

Discipline, determination and skill are the positive attributes of The Warrior and these were on ample display during what I have previously referred to as the era of Heroic Materialism, which includes the era of heroic science. The shadow side of The Warrior was also on display as seen in the pillaging and plundering of the colonial years. Another shadow attribute of The Warrior is that he brings wanton destruction. Is it a surprise that neither Hitler nor Mussolini were real military men? The latter was a journalist and political hack. The former was a failed artist, incredibly boring writer and equally unimpressive soldier. Neither displayed the positive traits of The Warrior but they sure as hell managed to embody the negative traits while they were play acting the roles that would lead to the destruction of their countries dressed as always in impeccable military outfits. In doing so, they brought the age of The Warrior to an end.

What this created was what we might call an archetypal vacuum. But before a new archetype can manifest, there is a process of development to go through and that is where The Child archetype enters the picture. In this series of posts we have differentiated between two subtypes of The Child: The Innocent and The Orphan. The qualities of The Innocent map exactly onto the consumer society that took place in the USA in the post war years. They map exactly onto the ideology of Dr Spock and Edward Bernays. We can rightfully call the post war years the years of The Innocent. It was this society that the boomers grew up in and would later come of age in. It was a society informed by Freud, driven by advertising and the needs of consumer capitalism. It was a society that promised to give the boomers whatever they wanted.

The fascinating thing about the boomer generation is that their archetypal development matches almost precisely with the demographic and historical facts. The end of world war two represented a hard break from the past. Everybody wanted to make sure something like that didn’t happen again and so everybody was happy to accept radical changes which, almost by definition, were a break with the past. The attitude of starting fresh was in the air and, combined with the enormous growth in the economy, it led to a feeling that anything was possible. The psychological traits on display were all exactly what we expect in The Innocent: optimism, faith and hope. But we also know that the child cannot stay innocent forever. Eventually, the child must become The Orphan and undertake the difficult transition to adulthood. The boomers had their own idea of what this meant. They dismissed the wisdom of elders and the expectations of society. They did not want to become soldiers or obedient workers in the economy. They wanted to be individuals. The ethos at play was one of self-creation. The boomers themselves took on the task of asking “what do I want to do with my life” and “what sort of society do we want to create”. They explicitly rejected any infringement on their right to answer these questions for themselves independently of societal expectations. The boomers wanted to create their own identity.

We are still living under this ethic today. The desire to choose your own gender or your own pronouns is the logical extension of the notion of self-creation. Of course, the other side of the coin is that you are expecting society to recognise whatever identity you choose. That was true of the boomers back in the 60s and 70s and it’s still true today. The boomers grew up in a world where their parents indulged them. Capitalist consumer society indulged them. Even the political class had to indulge them when they were old enough to vote. Demographics demanded it.

But we can already see the problem with this based on the analysis of The Orphan archetype in past posts. The boomer’s attitude was the rejection of The Orphan’s mission. The Orphan does not choose its own destiny. It is offered the chance to initiate into a metaphysics of meaning by an Elder. Everything about the boomers is a rejection of this archetypal scenario. The boomers were at war with the elders of western society. While partaking of their free college educations, they were introduced to Marxism, feminism, post modernism, post colonialism; a veritable smorgasbord of criticism. Another way to look at it was the “experts” (in this case, university professors) were stepping in to fill the role of the elder. Just like the boomer parents turned to Dr Spock for parenting advice rather than their own parents, so the boomers turned to their professors to fill the role of the elder.

Dr Spock and other experts made an awful lot of money out of the deal. That was one problem. Real elders work for free. Another big difference between an elder and an expert is that an elder is training you up with the notion that you will graduate into adulthood/selfhood and be self sufficient, at least in spiritual terms. The expert is doing no such thing. They will always be the expert and you will always be the consumer. There is no way to graduate from consumer to expert. The best you can hope for is to be an expert yourself in some other domain. By swapping out the elder for the expert, the boomers unwittingly ensured they could not fulfil the archetypal mission of The Orphan. They ensured they could not become independent even though it was independence, or at least individuality, that they sought.

Where the story gets even more interesting, however, is that the boomers were nevertheless confronted with a Call to Adventure to fulfil the role of The Orphan. The high point was the late 60s: the summer of love, Woodstock and the Moon Landing; the time when anything seemed possible. It was immediately followed by the oil shock of the early 70s at a time when, demographically, the boomers were coming of age. Archetypally, reality can no longer be ignored. The Orphan must face the real world. In this case, it was the reality that the consumer society, the years of endless growth and getting whatever you wanted appeared to had come to an end. The economy did not bounce back in the years after the initial oil shock. In fact, it did something the experts said could never happen: it went into stagflation. An endless period of expert-driven prosperity seemed to be over. The Orphan’s task presented to the boomers was clear. Deal with your pain. Learn to see reality for what it is rather than what you want it to be. Learn to grow up and find your way in the world. All that was missing was an Elder to provide counsel. And then Jimmy Carter got elected.

It’s a surreal experience to go back and watch or read some of Carter’s speeches in light of the fantasy world that modern politics has become. The Biden administration’s plan to solve the current oil problem is apparently to get everybody to just go and buy an electric car, as if the average American has a spare $50k lying around and as if there’s enough electric cars even if they did. By contrast, Jimmy Carter laid it all out in brutal detail. He told Americans there was not just an oil crisis, there was a crisis of confidence. He actually said it was a spiritual crisis (which fits perfectly with The Orphan’s story).

“We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose”.

Carter told Americans they had become dependent on foreign oil and the only way out was to live within their means. He advised sacrifice and thrift, conservation instead of consumption.

Carter’s diagnosis of the problem was spot on. Unfortunately for him, politicians do not make good elders for the simple reason that the elder’s job is to deliver what seems like bad news and that tends not to work in democratic politics where the public sells its vote to the highest bidder. Elderhood doesn’t scale. You need to have a personal relationship with an Elder. That’s why in Orphan stories the Elder and the group which The Orphan is invited to join are always a small number. Interestingly, this message was present in the culture of the US at the time of Carter; think Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful. The ideas were there. What was missing, according to our archetypal analysis, were the elders. The Orphan needs the stern voice of wisdom to guide them to the correct path. Jimmy Carter tried to provide it but he was voted out for a man who provided the exact opposite. The boomers had a choice to face reality and they voted for an actor instead.

So, the boomers didn’t accept the call to adventure. What happens when The Orphan refuses its archetypal mission to come of age? They lapse back into the negative traits of The Child: denial, obliviousness, instant gratification. The boom years of the 80s provided the illusion of a return to consumer society. But we just need to look to practically any indicator of (real) economic health to know it wasn’t true.

It is not a surprise that from the late 70s onward we have seen the increasing worsening of the economic situation in the US. The consumer society was kept going by an input of oil from the North Sea and Alaskan fields. It was kept going by shipping jobs to foreign countries with no labour, safety or environmental standards. It was kept going by loading up the next generation with massive student debts and bailing out bankers after the GFC. All through this time the boomers kept believing in the myth of progress, kept believing that the expert-driven consumer society of their childhood was the sine qua non of civilisation.

Just before he died, Dr Spock released an updated version of his book where he recommended that all children take a vegan diet from age two onwards, something practically no pediatrician would recommend. Spock had also gotten himself into trouble a few decades earlier by recommending parents not put their children to sleep on their backs. It later was shown by research that Sudden Infant Death Syndrome was far more likely in children sleeping on their stomachs. The problem for Spock and other experts is the idea that there is a one size fits all approach to matters that are intrinsically complex. That was always the problem with the boomer’s notion of putting their faith in the experts. There is no single diet that is right for everybody just like there is no single right way to raise a child. There are only rules of thumb and the requirement to work out what’s best for yourself. A true elder knows that and it’s part of the reason why there must be a personal relationship between the elder and The Orphan.

For boomers like Dr Spock, it seems that success went to their heads and they felt confident to make claims that they should never have made. The desire to give every single person on the planet a vaccine for a respiratory virus is just another expression of this excessive pride. It’s the shadow side of boomer culture. On the one side, hubris. On the other side, obliviousness and denial. These traits have only gotten worse after the boomers failed The Orphan’s task in the late 70s.

Still the ultimate combination of boomer culture’s twin addictions: consumerism and blind faith in experts

The obliviousness and denial of The Child can be seen right now in the fact that 30 years after Jimmy Carter’s warnings about energy, we can no longer even admit the problem that faces us. As another oil shock appears on the horizon, the debate is no longer about a choice between dependence on oil and living within our means but between two equally invalid ways of keeping consumer society going. There is the camp that thinks solar panels and wind turbines will save the day and there’s the camp that thinks burning more fossil fuels will save the day. Both are delusional. In Carter’s words: “Down that road lies a mistaken idea of freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others. That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.”

The boomers, including all the generations since, will go down as the greatest squanderers in world history. But the archetypal failure of the boomers is the failure of The Orphan to individuate. In this case, the cause of the failure is very specific. It’s the rejection of elders. This is why I consider Stephen Jenkinson’s work to be highly relevant because he is a boomer who has self-identified as an elder. For boomer culture, that’s about as close as you can get to heresy. Jenkinson shares my love of etymology and right at the end of his book, fittingly titled Come of Age: the case for elderhood in a time of trouble, he gives a poetic reading of the old meaning of the word “catastrophe” as follows:

“That rope or road that was fashioned for you in the Time Before, by those you will not meet, to give you a way of going down against your plans and good sense, to give you a way down and into the Mysteries of this life, the Mysteries granted you would not choose for yourself, that would yet make of you a human worthy of those coming after.”

This could serve as a description of the task of The Orphan. But it’s also true of the task of the elder. Both are required to come of age. In the former case, you metamorphise from childhood into adulthood. In the latter case, you metamorphise from adulthood into elderhood. That’s why Elders and Orphans are natural allies. They both must accept a difficult pathway that is “against your plans and good sense”. It is a humbling experience but the alternative is worse: dissociation, denial, obliviousness.

Catastrophe and apocalypse. That seems to be right where we are headed at the moment. But this need not necessarily manifest in the material world. It may be that the catastrophe and apocalypse that we need to go through is spiritual. We could be facing a new beginning in a far deeper sense than just a generational passing of the baton. We’ll be exploring what that means in the next post.

All posts in this series:

The Age of The Orphan Part 1: The Path of Learning

The Age of The Orphan Part 2: Defining the Archetype

The Age of The Orphan Part 3: A Short Theoretical Introduction

The Age of The Orphan Part 4: Initiation, culture and civilisation

The Age of The Orphan Part 5: Ok, boomer

The Age of The Orphan Part 6: The Spirit of the Depths

The Age of The Orphan Part 7: The Metaphysics of Archetypes

The Age of The Orphan Part 8: The Current State of Play

The Age of The Orphan Part 9: How to learn to stop worrying and love The Matrix

The Age of The Orphan Part 10: Work is our religion

The Age of The Orphan Part 11: The Missing Link

The Age of The Orphan Part 12: Conclusion

41 thoughts on “The Age of The Orphan Part 5: Ok, boomer”

  1. Well, it’s hardly surprising that the Boomers rejected their “Elders.” After all, what did those elders, with all their discipline and sacrifice, manage to accomplish? Auschwitz, Hiroshima, and all the rest of it. Gee. Thanks, but no thanks. So, the Boomers sensibly enough rejected their elders, and so they had no elders, and now they themselves suck at elderhood. Eventually, we (as a culture) will figure it out, but it may take a while.

  2. Excellent work.

    “It was a society informed by Freud…”
    But is that correct? It was a society informed by Bernays.

    A path I didn’t choose. Yes, that sounds about right.

    Do we have an inkling of how young the first full new generation to accept the Orphan challenge in the future is today?
    Is it a question of being confronted with scarcity after having finished school (with the expert class losing its grip) or of encountering it before puberty (with the individual never even starting to believe in the experts)?

  3. Irena – the problem as I see it is that a blanket rejection ignores all the good things that were done. Modern science, technology and humanitarianism were also created by those elders. I also think it’s not that boomers suck at elderhood, they explicitly reject it and that ties in with the increasingly hysterical death phobia that is crippling our culture. So, I’d say we have to return to elders one way or another. Jordan Peterson is an early sign of what it might look like.

    Michael – yes, but Bernays was a Freudian, genetically and philosophically. I don’t think we can predict the timing. What I think has already started happening is that society is creating dropouts. Not like the 60s where people deliberately dropped out, but one where people drop out cos the system no longer pretends to care about them. That is where culture would start to be rebuilt from but that would take decades. In the meantime, the rest of society looks set to give techno-dystopianism a try.

  4. I think Bernays falls under a saying I once came up with:
    Only Hitler was quoted by more assholes than Freud.
    (Lacan called himself a Freudian to counter that.)

    Dropouts may be one inroad in the making.
    I “dropped out” at age 5, so didn’t even have a renegade phase to go through. It’s been so sickening ever since I’ve almost gotten used to it.
    Living in a Boomer time capsule. Time passes, but nothing else. People are unable to grow, so all they ever do is die, somehow.
    And dropping out of that, even for their children and grandchildren, might really require being violently ejected.

  5. Simon – dropouts, yes. Who could be seen as the Orphan’s seeking of individuation combined with the boomers’ rejection of elderhood – I’ll just go it alone!
    The question is will anybody be able to avoid the techno-dystopian dragnet which seeks to ensnare everything with a pulse, either heart-driven or electrical? That is a fear among many I know, one which the wokeist western elites seem intent on making reality.

    Besides, entirely dropping out has become virtually impossible already as we are all so inextricably tied to the matrix of civilization for the basics of survival, with the skills and knowledge required to regain our independence long forgotten by practically all living. And with no elders available among the boomers, and indeed an ingrained reluctance to seek such counsel anyways, how can we find an extraction point from the reliance on the society which produced us?

    I guess that’s just it – we need elders from within to step up and take the reigns. But if, as you pointed out with Carter, we would rather vote for the actor, I suppose we’re simply in for more theatrics.

  6. Michael – well, the dropouts get to vote too. They’re the ones who are most likley to vote for ceasars.

  7. Cub – the way I read it, the USA is the least likeley country to accept the dystopian stuff both for cultural and logistical reasons. Given the US is still the hegemon, that limits the possibility of it happening. The EU could certainly give it a try. Canada, AUS and NZ too given our performance during the last two years. If they try it, I expect it will cause all kinds of negative side effects that the average bureaucrat has no clue about. Those side effects would cause a political backlash while also encouraging more dropouts. The dropouts could also be people who nominally play along with the system while making other arrangements on the side. This could all take decades, by the way, which is plenty of time for enough people to gradually wean themselves off The Matrix.

  8. Hi Simon,
    Would you consider Joel Salatin an elder?
    Homesteading has really taken off in a big way in the US, I’m a bit of a vlog junkie of quite a few of them!
    They have been “preparing for hard times” for quite a bit these last few months.
    Many are committed Christians, but in a more steward of the earth centred way.
    Also perhaps, David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, among many in the permaculture movement.
    Gordon White, from Rune Soup, who Ive mentioned before, sees it taking on a more spiritual dimension, than that of its more materialist roots.
    Allan Savory is another.
    Just in case anyone from overseas isn’t aware, Shane Warne, who died of a heart attack about a week ago in Thailand, is basically on par with Michael Jordan or Roger Federer.
    He got the ‘third’ in order to get into Thailand about 2 days before going and was apparently not feeling so great almost immediately.
    But you know it was smoking and stress that did it.
    Stress again for the federal pollie who died a few days later too.
    Both 52
    We need a stress vax obviously.
    With regular boosters of course.

  9. Helen – I hadn’t heard of Salatin or Savory but they sound like my kind of guys. I like what Savory said about decentralisation. That’s implied by the elder idea. There must be a personal relationship with an elder and the only way for that to happen is decentralisation, probably all the way back to hunter gatherer sized units. Of course, we would have to change the entire finance, taxation and legal system to get there or have people working outside those systems. No biggie 🙂

  10. Simon: “the problem as I see it is that a blanket rejection ignores all the good things that were done. Modern science, technology and humanitarianism were also created by those elders.”

    Once you eff up badly enough, there’s a good chance you’ll be totally rejected, even if you did a bunch of good stuff as well. Also, modern science and technology are double-edged swords. Try pulling off an Auschwitz or Hiroshima without them…

    BTW, I was wondering: were Boomers’ parents and grandparents that interested in being elders? I was under the impression that, once the horror of WWII ended, they wanted to forget it all and have a clean start. But amnesia and elderhood don’t mix all that well.

  11. Irena – true. But enough time has passed now to see the past in its proper light. Instead, we get “everybody I don’t like is Hitler”. I think you’re right about the parents and grandparents of the boomers. Pretty much everybody was in agreement after the war that there needed to be a clean start. Which is a kind of secular millenarianism.

  12. So it’s not that a particular generation actively abdicated/didn’t assume their posts as elders, it’s that the confluence of the end of a period of war and an overabundance of energy made that the most sensible-looking decision for the generation of Faustians which happened to be there at the time.
    We are dealing with about three generations now who would all claim this to have been a show of modesty; breaking with the old ways and finally getting to the essence of Faustianism – centralised, seamless, benign authority.

  13. Simon – I already see a great desire in many people to wean off the matrix, as you put it, but few have the knowledge or means to do so. With rising prices for just about everything, especially land for homesteading, Helen, the matrix is making it harder and harder to make that break.

    I live in a community of homesteaders lucky enough to have largely “dropped out” before corona hit the fan, but we still have mortgages and taxes to pay, and when the papers declared “PANDEMIC!!!” two years ago and everyone rushed to panic buy toilet paper, we were in line too, just panic buying huge bags of flour and salt instead.

    We worry about our means of dropping out being legislated away, as well. For example, a ban on wood burning appliances for e”environmental reasons” would make us reliant on the matrix for heating, cooking, and hot water, three things that we provide for ourselves now but would be virtually impossible if our ability to provide our own fuel were outlawed. Throw in a digital ID and compliance system and suddenly you need to get up to date on your boosters just to keep the house warm. It doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch these days.

  14. Funnily, I saw the Dr. Spock book in one of my mother´s bookcases when I visted her a few days ago. I have never read it but I have newer books on raising children at home. Somehow, I also preferred the experts to the elders. I must admit that I often was very sceptical about what these experts were writing, as raising children seems to follow the same patterns of trends like e.g. proper nutrition.

    Regarding Hitler and the Warrior archetype, I would say that even though the negatives are definetely in the foreground, he seemed to fulfill the positive traits really well. At least, that is the impression I got from reading multiple books about him. Without determination, he never would have become the German chancellor as it took him more than 10 years of fighting to get into this position of power. He was a very skilled speaker. He also did not participate in the debaucheries of other Nazi leaders, while also keeping a strict diet. I would agree that he was a lousy solider and even lousier commander in chief. So if we focus on the military aspect of these traits, I agree that he was a joke. What I find especially interesting about Hitler is that he somehow still rules Germany more than 75 years after his death. As he is our current incarnation of Satan, he still has a great influence on us.

    Regaring dropping out of society: I have read “How to drop out” by Ran Prieur a few years ago and quite a lot of material critical of modern society. So, somehow a part of myself is trying to drop out since quite some time while another part still stays firmly entrenched in society (mainly for my family). I am still trying to figure out the solution to this mentally taxing situation.

  15. Michael – that makes sense. The lesson of the elder is that there a limits because the elder is the one staring death in the face and that’s the ultimate limit. Easy to see why Faustian culture would want to make them disappear even if it’s just into a retirement home.

    Cub – I agree it’s a possibility in places like Canada. However, I think if they try it, it will lead to very strong political pushback because the side effects will be felt by a lot of people and, unlike corona, nobody will be able to pretend it was because of an emergency. The pressure on the dropouts will also lead to the discovery of new sources of ingenuity and the realisation that the government can’t actually enforce things on the ground which equals a new perception of freedom. That doesn’t mean things won’t get difficult in the short term.

    Secretface – true. If we acknowledge Hitler was just a man, then we also must see that he did have some virtues. Ironically, it may actually be that acknowledging his virtues would break the spell he has over not just Germany but the whole West. Not that I expect that to happen. Every religion needs a Satan, even secular ones.

    Dropout is a loaded word. I saw a short video a while ago of a monk living in the mountains in Italy. He was a young man who had rebuilt an abandoned house. Apparently there are lots of those in parts of Italy. Anyway, it was a beautiful place and he was growing his own vegetables and it looked like the ultimate modern monastery. Then it turned out he had a laptop and a full audio system in one of the rooms. He earned his living doing audio engineering. Still, that looked like a pretty cool version of dropping out to me.

  16. There is a German film critic who, in discussing a recent release, levelled an accusation against Putin I’d not heard before:

    Putin, he claimed, was someone who’d not bought into the required set of laws for conducting politics, the one called Modernity. His speech explaining the war mentioned the past, as though in our modern times any present action could be founded on anything that had happened before.

    The critic also, and not for the first time, endorsed the mask as the proper bourgeois vehicle of telling the truth, with anything more direct merely stoking identitarian phantasies of direct democracy.

    I was impressed, if baffled.
    Especially when he started reading passages from Charles Wright Mills about how disorientation kept modern Man from participating in shaping his future.

  17. Funny synchronicity, last weekend I was at a dinner party and it turned out that we had all recently told our boomer-parents to grow up.

    Children don’t always see consequences of their actions and that seems to be happening in the world right now with things like ecosystem destruction and pollution. We have been eating candy for dinner for decades and now our teeth are falling out. So yeah, I think you might be on to something here.

    Another thing you made me think about, it seems like we are in a mass archetypal imbalance. Before WWII the Warrior was too much in control and not guided by the King, leading to a lot of misery. And now the Inner Child seems to be dominant, leading to a lot of misery. So the big question is how can we restore the archetypal balance. I guess that where the second religiosity comes in…

    I’m rambling on, recently I read ‘King, Warrior, Magician, Lover’ by Moore & Gillette. It’s about masculine archetypes and also about initiation. So it might be an interesting read for you as well.
    Have you got any reading tips on archetypes?

  18. As Simon says when the law gets that ridiculous that’s when people start ignoring it. It’s already happened here in rural Australia, where the population density is obviously small and enforcement of anything by police is basically impossible outside of large towns. There are numerous laws that are broken everyday, even the police themselves break them. But even in cities there is a big difference between a law and enforcing it, and the more ridiculous a law gets the harder it gets to enforce. The most likely outcome is those in ivory towers keep making proclamations and more and more stop listening.

    Ah old Adolf. This is one of the most important historical revisions we need to do as a western society. Hitler was not Satan. He was just a man, someone who wanted the best for his country (although misguided), and as SecretFace said not the leading anti Semite nor butcher within the Nazi Party. If anything he was one of the more moderate ones, and as all politicians do was tapping into current and themes that were prevalent everywhere at the time, namely nationalism, racial purity and expansionism .There were no good guys in WW2. As Hitler himself noted, the Germans were doing in the east what the British, Spanish and French has been doing all over the globe for 400 years, that is colonial empire building to the massive detriment of the native population. The British had no qualms about initiating bombing German civilians to high heaven, and Hitler forbade the use of gas in war despite Germany having developed the most advanced and deadly chemical weapons. He was also an animal rights activist and environmentalist. Reading his biographies he actually reminds me of the current ‘woke’ crowd – many virtue signalling progressive causes (without getting his hands dirty to actually help), techno-utopian dream of the future, self righteousness, and a lot of potentially undeserved confidence in his own abilities.

    Perhaps this is the hidden lesson, that Hitler and the Nazis are not ‘Right wing’ necessarily, just the conclusion of a particular line of Faustian thinking that is still prevalent today.

  19. Great essay. I like the distinction between expert and elder.
    Re: Dropping out. I don’t think the percentage of drop outs will ever be high enough to change politics. I can only speak for Australia, but my take is that the vast majority of the population is as happy as pigs in mud. As far as they are concerned all is good and will get even better once we all got our Teslas. Anyone remember the old Donald Fagan song IGY?
    That’s where we are.
    It will be very easy even for our incompetent politcal class to keep us anaesthesised. Beer, footy, telly, debt up to the eyebrows and a bullshit job to prevent independent thought.
    Very easy to arrange.
    And this may be a good thing. Dropping out is not a scalable option with a population pushing 8 billion.
    Neither is democracy and free society.

  20. Michael – Putin is pretty old school when it comes to geopolitics, so there’s some truth in that and it’s one of the reasons, if we assume good faith on the part of everybody, why there’s been such a miscommunication over Ukraine.

    Rutoka – thanks for that reference. I hadn’t heard of that but will check it out. Archetypes are a weird one because Jung mostly used them to refer to parts of the psyche eg. shadow, anima/animus and the Self. I’m not actually sure whether he used archetypes like Warrior, Ruler etc. or whether that came from people who followed his work. Another framing of the same idea is the Rays of Personality –

    Skip – if you strip out the stuff about race and nationalism from Mein Kampf, you’d be left with a set of political ideas that would be considered centre-left these days. As a joke, I’d love to see a questionnaire titled “Are you literally Hitler?” where you have to agree or disagree with his policies in Mein Kampf. The majority of people would agree.

    Roland – I tend to agree. It will go down as one of the ironies of history that we let China join hte modern world telling ourselves they would become like us and all that happened was we became like them. Although, maybe that was the plan all along.

  21. Has happened before.
    In Germany in 1989. We thought then that all of Germany will be like West Germany from now on. Turned out, it became a lot more like East Germany.
    Re: Hitler. Havent read Mein Kampf, don’t think I ever will, but I would love to see that questionnaire. Published in The Guardian.
    I always thought that the National Socialists were actually left wing with a bit of racism clipped on.
    Although there is no reason why the left should not be racist. At the moment they are the ones that keep racism alive.

  22. Roland – hmmm. So, maybe you could take Mein Kampf, change some words around and it would be a best seller. “My Fight” by Rudolf Hipster.

  23. seems like anti semitism is coming back into fashion with the left, but you might still want to tune it down a notch or two.

  24. It’d be fun for a laugh. But given the state of the world at the moment I’d be terrified it would actually work.

  25. Regarding Hitler:
    Currently, any effort to somehow put him and his political movement into a historical context is pushed back very hard in Germany (and the rest of the West). You risk being labeled a Holocaust Denier which is even worse than being a Climate Change or Vaccine Denier. Just ask guys like David Irving or Ernst Nolte what happened to them after they took a step out of the orthodoxy. I once thought that I should work on breaking his spell on Germany, but this still seems like suicide now.
    In Germany, only commented versions of “Mein Kampf” are allowed. I always thought, that if this book is so evil, it should be evident just from reading it. Why do I need comments then? This supervised thinking was always dubious for me.
    I find the idea of the Hitler questionnaire and an update to “Mein Kampf” hilarious. As the AfD in Germany is currently villified as a reincarnation of the NSDAP, I always wanted to create some kind of quiz where I would put statements from self-proclaimed progressive politicians and AfD politicians and ask to whom which statement belongs. I believe that you could extend the idea to include Satan, too.

    Regarding dropping out:
    I agree that dropping out is a loaded word. I wasn´t thinking about living as a hermit as this option becomes less and less available in this crowded world. I also don´t think that this is feasible if you have a family. I was thinking more in the direction of an inner emigration from the current system followed by planting seeds for a new society.
    From my experience, the mass of the people just goes along with the status quo but there is a threshold which when crossed could lead to rebellion or revolution. The Nazis could never have succeeded, if Germany did not plunge into major economic and political chaos.

    Roland – The capture of West Germany by the DDR feels like a Trojan Horse story. A lot of former DDR citizens complain nowadays that we are living in DDR 2.0. I also know some people that fled from former Warsaw Pact states who are demoralized now as the mentality of the Soviet Union has now taken a hold in Western Europe.

  26. About Spock: he can’t have been a first generation child rearing expert. Think about your description of pre-war child rearing:

    “The prevailing wisdom of the pre-war years, the mindset which raised “the great generation” that stormed the beaches of Normandy, was that children needed to be given “tough love”. Their desires were unimportant. Their crying should be ignored. Feeding should be done on a military-like schedule and affection should be kept to a minimum.”

    That sounds like quintessential “expert” advice. 🙂 Consider just the military-like feeding schedule. Since when was that even possible? Certainly, not before clocks/watches became widely available. And when was that? It wouldn’t have been before the 19th century (if then). Before then, a woman would simply have fed the baby when it was hungry. What else could she have done? The rest of it also seems very fitting for a highly mechanized/militaristic society, one in which children were being raised to be cogs in a factory or military, not one that fosters strong family bonds and loyalty.

    Perhaps the pre-war generation of parents didn’t really have elders, either. Think about it. 19th and then 20th century were times of rapid urbanization. Young people left their villages to go work in cities. Their “elders” were physically absent, and in any case, elder advice would not have been terribly useful, given the radically different nature of city life, compared to the country. Probably, most people just muddled through. Those who sought advice would have sought it from experts.

  27. Secretface – I like that. “Are you a satan worshipper and you don’t know it?” Your idea of an “inner emigration” sounds a lot like Jungian individuation to me. I’ll be going into depth on what that means in the next post.

    Irena – you’re absolutely right. The difference was that in the 19th century nobody “needed” an elder cos nobody “needed” to go through the orphan’s journey. The question of when elders were last present in the West is one I’ve been pondering. Prior to the experts, it was the Church that filled the elder role. In education, for example, the State deliberately took over from the Church in the late 1800s. So, for most of western history, the local priest was your elder. From what I understand, the Church didn’t mind using force to get rid of any non-Church elders who were “worshipping the devil”. It may very well be that hunter gatherer societies are the only social structure where elders are foregrounded. That would make sense for purely mathematical reasons. In civilisation, we need most people to be cogs in the machine and so elders are a danger to the social structure.

  28. Simon, I mentioned this critic because he’s a fine example of the pervasive view that drawing on anything historical, anything not self-created right now, can only lead to pure evil.
    It’s easy to dismiss this as the intellectual ferment made from Germany’s past; it’s way more common than that these days.

    Whenever inner emigration is mentioned I think of Carl Schmitt mentioning Machiavelli retreating to his country estate when the plague hit Italy.

    My East German relatives are all having the koolaid for breakfast each morning; DDR 2.0 has certainly not spawned an entire generation of independent thinkers.

  29. Michael – that notion fits with The Child archetype. As children, we live in our own little world and history does not exist. Part of growing up is learning to place yourself historically. So, I think that attitude towards history is also representative a failure fulfill The Orphan’s mission.

  30. Failure to accept the Orphan’s mission is one way of looking at it, yes.
    I reckon we could just as well call it an expression of Freud’s Todestrieb.

    Then the sanctions, as self harm, would of course be welcomed. Like a former German president recently said, it’s good to freeze for victory. Having as many victims as possible seems imperative, auto-destruction the ultimate road to peace and quiet for this continent.

  31. Michael – The Orphan’s mission implies ego death or psychic death. More on that in the next post.

  32. “Part of growing up is learning to place yourself historically”
    I have no doubt that this is true, but isn’t it also fundamentally at odds with the myth of progress and therefor faustian civilisation?
    So if the Orphan completes it’s task it would get interesting.

  33. Roland – it could go back further than that. Jenksinson’s theory is that it goes back to Rome. The Romans came to your town and you either became a Roman or were killed. That dealt the first blow to tradition. Then the Church came in after with its Platonic message of eternal soul and timeless truth. It’s interesting that the 1800s was when European thinkers started to consider history and time. That was Hegel’s big thing. But even Spengler said the foundations of the scholarship were not really there. Then after the war history just got thrown in the bin. To the extent that academics even deal with history it’s to show why it’s the source of all evil, as Michael noted. I wonder if there are any scholars anywhere building on Spengler’s work.

  34. Simon – There are scholars building on Spenglers work, if you go to the Hermetix podcast one was on recently talking about it.

    Roland – regarding faustian culture and history, Spengler pointed out that western European Culture and civilisation is THE most historically obsessed culture, above and beyond the similarly historically focused Chinese and Egyptian cultures. He also pointed out that our culture is very differentiated between the educated elite thought and the masses thought, which isn’t necessarily true of other cultures.

    So although the average person may not be very historically aware, our institutions are deeply so. The western church, and its outgrowth the university, have always been deeply historically focused, with dates solemnly recorded down through the ages. The way we bury our dead with a gravestone, our writing (things such as the Domesday Book) our detailed genealogies of all the kings and queens of Europe, are actually pretty ridiculous when you think about it. That we know or even care about the names and dates of Egyptian Pharaohs 3000 plus years ago would also seem quite ridiculous to many other cultures (not to the Egyptians themselves, you can tell they also cared deeply by the all the remaining ruins).

    Spengler himself noted that a comparative historian like himself could only arise in Faustian culture, because we are so historically focused down to the last bloody detail. We take things in our culture like archaeology, palaeontology etc for granted, thinking they are good and necessary without questioning the underlying assumption as to their whole purpose and point.

    The flipside of this is that we care deeply about the future, hence progress, world betterment, utopia etc.

  35. Simon – this is a persuasive account of the Pluto-in-Leo generation (c. 1939–58). Not saying that’s your intention – which makes your analysis all the more valuable to a sceptical astrologer because you nail the Leo archetype (e.g., child, creator, entertainer, narcissist, egomaniac, radiating specialness, confidence, grandiosity etc.). Interestingly, Carter was part of the Pluto-in-Cancer cohort. Pluto’s passage through each sign (taking between 12–30 years due to its elliptical orbit) corresponds w/ background generational themes. Previous Pluto-in-Leo cycle was c. 1693–1711… arguably coinciding w/ the Enlightenment? 🙂 The cycle before that, Pluto-in-Leo births include Old World boomers Columbus & da Vinci.

  36. Re Rome: Doesn’t that mean Faustian civilization was merely bolted onto the Christian Roman Empire, with everything but the steam engine already in place?

    Maybe we didn’t need much scholarship because that event horizon of timelessness had already been established, and at best only called for a few apologists every now and then?

    Maybe we still ARE those prototypical Romans, thinking that everything ends when our precious bodies die?
    Sounds (not just) like Boomers to me.

  37. Skip – thanks. I’ll check that out.

    Shane – Interesting. That time frame includes Hendrix and co. too. The era of the voodoo child.

    Michael – Spengler would say no. If I remember correctly, the origin of the story of Jesus was part of Magian culture but it was then co-opted by Paul who created the Church in line with Classical culture (Platonism specifically). It seems the Church could be made to fit in anywhere. I wonder if that’s because it accidentally stumbled upon a highly useful organisational structure: hierarchical but also scalable. It’s a lot like an army. Maybe that’s why it served such a useful administrative function but didn’t do so well at esoteric functions. It’s notable that the Church really started to slide when the West discovered bureaucracy.

  38. Then I’d argue that Spengler didn’t(couldn’t?) realize that Church and Bureaucracy are interchangeable.
    In times of empire bureaucracy did the grunt work, while after the fall of the Western Roman Empire the monks preaching death to all who stuck to the ancient ways took over.
    And then Church seems to reappear in full attire, but it’s fully fused with the Faustian Renaissance worldview, and purging what was left of a non-PTSD culture (see JMGs current blog post).
    Focusing ones attention to works of art, self-description etc. of an era, Spengler, as a Faustian, may have been unable to see the similarities – that this destruction is a project not a thousand, but already two thousand years old.
    (Btw: Anyone remember ‘Moses The Egyptian’?)

  39. Michael – I think organisations have their own dynamic irrespective of the ideology or culture in which they find themselves. I like to think of it in terms of music. You can have a jazz trio or quartet playing fully improvised music but you can’t have a band of six or seven doing that. You need sheet music to make it work. Similarly, there are things that a bureaucracy such as the Church can and can’t do due to its structure. The Church as bureaucracy was always going to be Kafkaesque at times cos that’s what bureaucracies do whether they are based on the word of God or selling toothpaste.

  40. Michael – Spengler argued that the Christian Roman empire was a caliphate in the same way as later Islamic caliphates. He maintained that Rome changed irrevocably in the first centuries AD, and was no longer an empire of the Classical culture but became one of the Magian culture as it took over culturally from the east.

    The focus of the Classical Culture was always the Polis, the city state (isn’t it strange we call it the Roman Empire not the Latin? Or Italian? It would be like calling the British Empire the Londoner Empire), whereas the focus of Magian culture is a consensus of believers. The reason the church came to be such a big part of the Empire is because to the Magian world view, the church and state are inseperable. Look at Judaism and Islam, national borders don’t really matter, what matters is belonging to the faith. Most of the Eastern Roman empire quickly went over to Islam when it came on the scene, as at heart it was the same world view. Note also how the capital moved to Constantinople.

    If not for a few battles won in France in the late parts of the first millennium AD most of Europe would have come under the influence of the east and been Islamic, and Spengler argued the outward forms of Islam would have been used by the Faustian culture to express its world view rather than Christianity.

  41. @Skip I am not sure if I’d agree with that. We definitely are obsessed with record keeping. All that means is we create a huge amount of data. Data is not information and information is not knowledge, but of course, this data can be used by a comparative historian.
    About the elites. I am never quite sure who exactly they are supposed to be. A diffuse set of people that someone happens to disagree with? I am probably a member of the elites by some metrics. I am (over)educated and overpaid and hopefully my employer does not read this. Otherwise i’d have to find a new one. I really like being overpaid… And I can honestly claim that I have not done a lot of useful things in my professional life. This applies also to the people i deal with on a daily basis. Not a lot of them are historically aware or aware of anything beyond the tip of their nose.
    Are the elites the politicians? Business “leaders”? Scientists? The oligarchs? The evil space lizards? The Davos crowd? I really don’t know. Some people have power, but it seems to me they have less of an awareness of the world around them than my plumber or hairdresser. Not sure what Spengler meant when he spoke about the difference between educated and masses.
    I see some people who can think, most cannot. If there is a correlation to the education level at all, it is a negative one.
    Anyone who is a believer in the myth of progress must lack a historical perspective, because things never went into the same direction for very long in the past.
    This leads us back to the distinction between experts and elders that Simon brought up. If you stuff your head with data, you may become an expert, but to be an elder it is more useful to have a number of stories, myths and personal experiences to build on. The expert may dazzle by rattling off an amazing amount of datapoints without understanding how they might fit into anything outside his narrow area of expertise.
    We just had two years of that and still counting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *