The De-Souling of Culture

Civilisation       -        Culture
Atheistic           -         Theistic 
Intelligence       -        Wisdom 
Profane              -        Sacred 
Machine            -        Organism 
Quantity            -        Quality 
Static                 -         Dynamic 
Objective           -         Subjective
Global               -         Local 
Material            -         Spiritual 
Reactive            -         Active 

Atheism, rightly understood, is the necessary expression of a spirituality that has accomplished itself and exhausted its religious possibilities, and is declining into the inorganic.

Atheism comes not with the evening of the Culture but with the dawn of the Civilization. It belongs to the great city, to the "educated man" of the great city who acquires mechanistically what his fore fathers the creators of the Culture had lived organically.

Men continue to experience the outer world that extends around them as a cosmos of well-ordered bodies or a world-cavern or efficient space, as the case may be, but they no longer livingly experience the sacred causality in it. They only learn to know it in a profane causality that is, or is desired to be, inclusively mechanical.

There are atheisms of Classical, Arabian and Western kinds and these differ from one another in meaning and in matter. Nietzsche formulated the dynamic atheism on the basis that "God is dead," and a Classical philosopher would have expressed the static and Euclidean by saying that the "gods who dwell in the holy places are "dead," the one indicating that boundless space has, the other that countless bodies have, become godless.

But dead space and dead things are the "facts" of physics. The atheist is unable to experience any difference between the Nature-picture of physics and that of religion.

Language, with a fine feeling, distinguishes wisdom and intelligence - the early and the late, the rural and the megalopolitan conditions of the soul. Intelligence even sounds atheistic. No one would describe Heraclitus or Meister Eckart as an intelligence, but Socrates and Rousseau were intelligent and not “wise" men. There is something root-less in the word. 

It is only from the standpoint of the Stoic and of the Socialist, of the typical irreligious man, that want of intelligence is a matter for contempt.

The spiritual in every living Culture is religious, has religion, whether it be conscious of it or not. That it exists, becomes, develops, fulfils itself, is its religion. It is not open to a spirituality to be irreligious; at most it can play with the idea of irreligion as Medicean Florentines did.

But the megalopolitan is irreligious; this is part of his being, a mark of his historical position. Bitterly as he may feel the inner emptiness and poverty, earnestly as he may long to be religious, it is out of his power to be so.

[Oswald Spengler]
The Decline of the West, Vol. 1, p. 408-9

Humanity's existential lesion is generally explained as an effect of material, economic organization in a society such as the capitalist one.

The true remedy, the start of a “new and authentic humanism,” a human integrity and a “happiness never known before,” would then be furnished by the setting up of a different socioeconomic system, by the abolition of capitalism, and by the institution of a communist society of workers, such as is taking place in the Soviet area.

Karl Marx had already praised in communism “the real appropriation of the human essence on the part of man and for the sake of man, the return of man to himself as a social being, thus as a human man," seeing in it the equivalent of a perfect naturalism and even a true humanism.

In its radical forms, wherever this myth is affirmed through the control of movements, organizations, and people, it is linked to a corresponding education, a sort of psychic lobotomy intended methodically to neutralize and infantilize any form of higher sensibility and interest, every way of thought that is not in terms of the economy and socioeconomic processes.

Behind the myth is the most terrible void, which acts as the worst opiate yet administered to a rootless humanity. Yet this deception is no different from the myth of prosperity, especially in the form it has taken in the West. Oblivious of the fact that they are living on a volcano, materially, politically, and in relation to the struggle for world domination, Westerners enjoy a technological euphoria, encouraged by the prospects of the "second industrial revolution" of the atomic age.

At all events, the error and the illusion are the same in both socioeconomic ideologies, namely the serious assumption that existential misery can be reduced to suffering in one way or another from material want, and to impoverishment due to a given socioeconomic system.

They assume that misery is greater among the disinherited or the proletariat than among those living in prosperous or privileged economic conditions, and that it will consequently diminish with the "freedom from want" and the general advance of the material conditions of existence.

The truth of the matter is that the meaning of existence can be lacking as much in one group as in the other, and that there is no correlation between material and spiritual misery.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 28-9

Our commitment to a radical reconstruction is directly relevant here because it insists there can be no dealings not only with every variety of Marxist and socialist ideology, but likewise with what in general can be called the hallucination, or the demonic possession by the economy.

We are dealing here with the idea that in both the individual and collective life, the economic factor is the important, real, and decisive one; that the concentration of every value and interest upon the field of economics and production is not the unprecedented aberration of modern Western man, but on the contrary something normal; not something that is, possibly, an ugly necessity, but rather something that should be desired and exalted.

Both capitalism and Marxism are trapped in this closed and dark circle. We need to break this circle wide open.

As long as we talk about nothing else but economic classes, work, wages, and production; and as long as we delude ourselves that real human progress and the genuine elevation of the individual is conditioned by a particular system of distribution of wealth and goods, and therefore has to do with poverty and ease, with the state of prosperity à la the United States or with that of utopian socialism, we yet remain on the same level as that which we need to combat.

We need to assert the following: that everything that relates to economy and the view of economic interest as a mere satisfaction of physical needs has had, has now, and always will have a subordinate role in a normal humanity.

Beyond this sphere we need to separate an order of superior values which are political, spiritual, and heroic; an order that — as we already said — does not recognise, or even admit, ‘proletarians’ or ‘capitalists’. It is only in terms of this order that it is proper to define the things for which it is worth living and dying, which establish a true hierarchy, which differentiate new ranks of dignity, and, at the top, place on the throne a superior function of command, an Imperium.

[Julius Evola]
‘Orientations’, VI

It would be good to look further into the kind and presuppositions of [scientific] “knowing.”

The cosmic constant is a purely mathematical concept; in using it to speak of the speed of light, one no longer imagines speed, light, or propagation, one must only have in mind numbers and symbols. If someone were to ask those scientists what is light, without accepting an answer in mathematical symbols, they would look stupefied and not even understand the request.

Ever since [modern man] has been subject to compulsory education, his mind has been stuffed with “positive" scientific notions; he cannot avoid seeing in a soulless light everything that surrounds him, and therefore acts destructively.

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 133, 138

This is why atomistic thinking led people to metaphysical materialism, to the rather mysterious idea that only matter is real. The Greek atomists were the first people who seriously made this striking claim, the first real materialists.

Their Ionian predecessors such as Thales had taken for granted that life and spirit were included as properties of their primal substance - water, air or fire. Instead, the atomists seriously tried to show how life and consciousness could emerge from a world consisting only of static, inert atoms and the void.

[Mary Midgley]
Science and Poetry, p.89

The “natural conscience” of mankind, Edwards says, "should approve and condemn the same things that are approved and condemned by a spiritual sense or virtuous taste.”

Those who take a purely behavioral view of morality will see this as an admission that the distinctions Edwards is so eager to establish—the distinction between “true virtue" and "secondary virtue," between the "gratitude that is truly virtuous” and the gratitude that comes from “loving those which love us," or again between "remorse of conscience" and genuine repentance - have no practical consequences and are therefore completely irrelevant to moral philosophy.

If “natural conscience ... concurs with the law of God," why do we need the law of God at all? Man-made morality appears to be enough for practical purposes.

Indeed the man-made morality outlined by Edwards, apparently indistinguishable in its content from the morality that issues from a love of God, itself appears to hold up an impossibly exalted standard of conduct, one that most people will inevitably fall short of. What good does it do to hold up a standard higher still, especially when we cannot show that it will improve the way anyone actually behaves? Edwards seems to prescribe a morality more suited to angels than to human beings, as Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes once observed.

Perry Miller points out in his biography of Edwards that Edwards would have agreed with this description of his morality, though not with the corollary that his morality was therefore irrelevant to human purposes. Civic order and social peace, we might add, are simply not the human purposes Edwards chiefly has in mind.

Important as these are, they do not exhaust the concerns that ought to be addressed by a well-conceived ethical theory.

In Edwards's view, the regulation of collective behavior remains a secondary concern. A more important concern is what men have to do in order to achieve a state of grace—the condition described only imperfectly as peace of mind, inner assurance, trust, overflowing vitality, and spiritual health.

Curiously enough, the concept of happiness, that eighteenth-century obsession, may explain as well as any other why the virtue that enables us to live in peace with our neighbors matters so much less, in Edwards's scheme of things, than the virtue that "softens and sweetens the mind” and thus enables us to live in peace with God—who “himself,” Edwards reminds us, "is in effect being in general.”

Secondary virtue cannot make us happy (to put the point in terms intelligible to the modern mind). It cannot overcome our resentment of the world's imperfections. It cannot solve the “problem of evil.” It cannot explain why we should be expected to love life when it is full of pain and suffering, heartbreakingly short, and bounded on either side by darkness.

Only "repentance” and “consent" can do that: such is Edwards's answer to the eighteenth-century "pursuit of happiness."

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p.255-6

[…] I propose a different definition of capitalism, and implicit in this definition is a foundational critique. The definition is simple: capitalism is the total desacralization of property.

Feudalism arose from the combination of vassalage with fief-holding—that is, it arose from the inherently personal obligation to a man, in conjunction with the granting of immovable property by that man. Property under feudalism is bound up with social obligation—all property is held subject to the performance of duties.

One mark of sacral property is inalienability; feudal property was not exactly inalienable, but in some degree indivisible. The serf can’t be alienated from his land and can’t be parted from his family—this is one of his rights, which is God-given and sacred.

All feudal property stood upon this sacral basis, however indirectly. Later, the glue that held the system of property relations together came to be the great chain of being, where each man in the divine hierarchy, from bonded serf all the way up to the Holy Roman Emperor, could trace his part in the social order unto the throne of God himself. And property itself was in some sense consecrated. It was restricted in its usages; it was possible to abuse it; above all, property conferred not only rights, but duties. Property was not exactly a sacred relation, but nor was it purely economic—it was a mixture of the two.

The break between feudalism and capitalist was not so much the break between corporate and individual ownership; more fundamentally the break involved the loss of this mixed sacrality.

[…] For the archaic Roman, all economic transactions were essentially sacred matters, requiring an elaborate ceremony known as the mancipatio (lit. “taking hold of the hand”). A sale was not a mere handshake, but an elaborate ceremony presided over by a god, with prescribed ritual actions and verbal formulae that must be performed exactly for a valid transaction to take place. The reason for this was that for our Roman, ownership was not an agreement between men as to the status of a thing, but the status of a thing in the eyes of the god.

This point-of-sale system was necessarily somewhat limited and localized. Over time, as the needs of Roman society changed, a second category came into existence: the res “nec mancipi”—goods not requiring the mancipatio.

[…] The Marxist attempt to draw a line between capitalism and itself is utterly na├»ve, because properly understood, it is desacralization of property which gives birth to both communism and capitalism—not opposites, but cousins.

First, the move from res mancipi to res nec mancipi desacralizes property. Later, usufruct enables the use-based proprietorship of the emphyteusis—a further desacralization. Still later, the secularization of the homage and the discharge of obligation in impersonal terms moves us still closer to capitalism. At every stage the relation between owner and owned devolves into mere use—we call this “commodification”. This is the fountainhead of our “rights based” moral paradigm—today only rights attach to property; duties attaching to property is unintelligible.

What began as particularized, inherited, rooted in the soil, inalienable, and corporative, through the slow march of time devolved—though by no means necessarily—into something universal, deterritorialized, free, and individual. Over thousands of years, in the move from the archaic to the classical, through feudalism and ultimately to capitalism, the history of property relations is a history of desacralization.

These are all special cases of our view, which sees in the originary and undistorted essence of capitalism a loss of property’s ultimate significance. When we say that capitalism is materialistic, commodified, exploitative, usurious, utilitarian, and mercantile, these are all distorted and indirect ways of saying that capitalism is irreligious.

Capitalism is not something new, but is simply the logical conclusion of something old—capitalism is the total desacralization of property. Feudal property still retained something of the sacred character handed down from the earliest times, and where capitalism makes a qualitative break from it is in its total, or at least near-total abdication of this sacrality.

Above all, the archaic critique of capitalism lays bare the essential solution: resacralization. The burden here is that the problem of capitalism is not separate from the other problems of modernity that demand resacralization, such as the problem of meaning, of the state, and of the family—not for no reason is oiko-nomos the “law of the household”. The issue is resacralizing property, which is not separable from resacralizing our world—this is “one struggle” against one problem.

[Imperium Press]
‘Capitalism: An Archaic Critique’, Imperium Press, Substack

Rest belongs to the sphere of the sacred. Work, by contrast, is a profane activity that must be wholly absent from the religious act. Rest and work represent two fundamentally different existential forms. They are divided by an ontological, even a theological, difference.

“This is because work is an eminent form of profane activity: it has no other apparent end than to provide for the temporal necessities of life; it puts us in relations with ordinary things only.

On feast days, on the contrary, the religious life attains an exceptional degree of intensity. So the contrast between the two forms of existence is especially marked at this moment; consequently, they cannot remain near to each other. A man cannot approach his god intimately while he still bears on him marks of his profane life; inversely, he cannot return to his usual occupations when a rite has just sanctified him. So the ritual day of rest is only one particular case of the general incompatibility separating the sacred from the profane.”

If rest becomes a form of recovery from work, as is the case today, it loses its specific ontological value. It no longer represents an independent, higher form of existence and degenerates into a derivative of work.

Today's compulsion of production perpetuates work and thus eliminates that sacred silence. Life becomes entirely profane, desecrated.

[Byung-Chul Han]
The Disappearance of Rituals, p.38-9

[...] it may be a debatable issue whether these evils are the result of industrialism as such or of the particular capitalist form in which it made its appearance in the West.

I myself fear it is industrialism as such, irrespective of the social form. In what way does it stunt personality? [...] mainly by making most forms of work - manual and white-collared - utterly uninteresting and meaningless.

Mechanical, artificial, divorced from nature, utilizing only the smallest part of man's potential capabilities, it sentences the great majority of workers to spending their working lives in a way which contains no worthy challenge, no stimulus to self-perfection, no chance of development, no element of Beauty, truth, or Goodness.

The basic aim of modern industrialism is not to make work satisfying but to raise productivity; its proudest achievement is labor saving, whereby labor is stamped with the mark, of undesirability. But what is undesirable cannot offer dignity so the working life of a laborer is a life without dignity.

The result, not surprisingly, is a spirit of sullen irresponsibility which refuses to be mollified by higher wage awards but is often only stimulated by them.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Good Work, p. 27-8

It is interesting to note that the modern world takes a lot of care that the worker's body should not accidentally or otherwise be damaged. If it is damaged, the worker may claim compensation. But his soul and his spirit? If his work damages him, by reducing him to a robot - that is just too bad.

Here we can see very clearly the crucial importance of metaphysics. Materialistic metaphysics, or the metaphysics of the doctrine of mindless evolution, does not attribute reality to anything but the physical body: why then bother about safety or health when it comes to such nebulous, unreal things as soul or spirit?

We acknowledge, and understand the need for, the development of a person's body; but the development of his soul or spirit? Yes, education for the sake of enabling a man or woman to make a living; but education for the sake of leading them out of the dark wood of egocentricity, pettiness, and worldly ignorance - at the most, this would be a purely private affair: does it not smack of "copping out" and "turning one's back on reality"?

Materialistic metaphysics, therefore, leaves no room for the idea of good work, that work is good for the worker.

Anyone who says, "The worker needs work for the development and perfection of his soul," sounds like a fanciful dreamer, because materialistic metaphysics does not recognize any such need. It recognizes the needs of the body; that they can be met only by somebody's work is an unpleasant fact and perhaps automation will soon abolish it. Meanwhile, the work needs to be done. Let's get on with it, but make sure the body doesn't get hurt.

If we see work as nothing but an unpleasant necessity, it is no use talking about good work, unless we mean less work.

If we continue to teach that the human being is nothing but the outcome of a mindless, meaningless, and purposeless process of evolution, a process of "selection" for survival, that is to say, the outcome of nothing but utilitarianism - we only come to a utilitarian idea of work: that work is nothing but a more or less unpleasant necessity, and the less there is of it the better.

Our ancestors knew about good work, but we cannot learn from them if we continue to treat them with friendly contempt - as pathetic illusionists who wasted their time worshiping non existing deities; and if we continue to treat traditional wisdom as a tissue of superstitious poetry, not to be taken seriously; and if we continue to take materialistic scientism as the one and only measure of progress.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Good Work, p. 119-21

We take this tree, with this radical, contextualised, complex value, and take it out of its context and give it this reduced, abstracted, simplified value metric.

We’ve done that to eighty percent of the old growth forests that the earth has spent billions of years developing, [and] 90% of the large fish species in the ocean. What does that capital then really do, other than continue to [reproduce and maintain itself].

It’s a process of abstracting value - from complex value to abstract value - and then extracting and accumulating it. Capitalism does that, but socialism and communism have other versions of doing [- they] were really only subsets of this kind of resource concentration system

That’s the core, that’s the ring of power that has to be broken: abstraction of value, and specifically a reductive abstraction; extraction, so you remove the content form its context; and accumulation.

And that’s how you take a complex system - that is resilient -and turn it into a complicated system - that is not resilient, that is becoming progressively simpler - and kill it.

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'46: Daniel Schmachtenberger - Phase Shifting Humanity', The Future Thinkers Podcast

The conflict between Soviet communism and liberal democracy was not a clash between the West and the rest. It was a family quarrel among western ideologies [...] The Cold War was a conflict between opposed variants of the same Enlightenment project.

The Soviet collapse was not a victory by ‘the West’ over one of its enemies. It was the ruin of this century’s most ambitious westernising regime.

[John Gray]
False Dawn, p.102-3

The oldest surviving strata of Greek literature display the same immersion in a world of enchantments that can be found in the oldest surviving strata of post-Roman European literature.

Then, like clockwork, poetry gives way to prose, and the first stirrings of philosophy and natural science give rise to rationalist currents. Thoughtful intellectuals turn their attention to traditional religion in an attempt to make sense of it, never realizing until too late that they are undermining the faith they themselves hold dear.

[John Michael Greer]
'The Destiny of Disenchantment', Ecosophia

[Spengler] showed, among other things, that every major civilization has had its own age of reason, the rationalist philosophies deployed by each age of reason are simply that culture’s religious beliefs with the serial numbers filed off and some abstraction put in place of the former god or gods, and ages of reason differ because civilizations differ—the seeming superiority of our age of reason is simply a reflection of the fact that it’s better at fulfilling our civilization’s idiosyncratic fantasies, while the ages of reason of other cultures fulfilled those cultures’ fantasies instead.

[John Michael Greer]
'The Return of Religion', Ecosophia

It could be said that the scientist sets up the triumph of reactive forces as his model and wants to chain thought to it.

"Observe the ages in the history of peoples when the scholar steps into the foreground: they are ages of exhaustion, often of evening and decline"

[Gilles Deleuze]
Nietzsche and Philosophy, p.73

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