The Universal State of America: An Archetypal Calculus of Western Civilisation

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Table of Contents

Synopsis

In this sequel to his 2021 book, The Devouring Mother: The Collective Unconscious in the Time of Corona, author Simon Sheridan follows the archetypal breadcrumbs in search of the historical basis for the psychological drivers that increasingly dominate our modern world. Drawing on the work of the great comparative scholars Joseph Campbell, Arnold van Gennep, Oswald Spengler, and Arnold Toynbee, Sheridan expands the concept of the archetype beyond the domain of psychology to integrate biology, anthropology, literature, and, especially, history. The result is a unique synthesis that posits that the unfolding of civilisation proceeds according to the same pattern as an individual human life: a cyclical process punctuated by dramatic periods of transcendence.

Having developed the model, Sheridan then uses it to provide an archetypal history of western civilisation. He finds that the development of the modern West can best be understood as an alternation between the idolisation of the archetypal Father inherited from the late Roman Empire – the medieval era, the Renaissance, Napoleon etc. – and the rebellion against the Father which begins with the Reformation, proceeds through the British Civil War, the US War of Independence, and more. Sheridan combines analysis from psychology, anthropology, literature, film, and history to demonstrate that the archetypal patterns resonate across the biological, social, psychological, and spiritual realms.

The book culminates in a luminous account of the post-war years with the ascendancy of the nation that, more than any other, had rebelled against the Father: the United States of America. Sheridan argues that the peculiar form of politics wielded by the US is the direct result of the rejection of the archetypal Father, leading to an empire that has become increasingly run not on masculine forms of dominance but on feminine; in short, the Devouring Mother.

The Universal State of America is a brilliant work of synthesis. Inspired by the work of Gregory Bateson, it looks for the pattern which connects. It is a hero’s journey about the hero’s journey of civilisation, a descent into the unconscious mind of the modern West, and a return from the belly of the beast. It is a modern response to an ancient challenge: know thyself!