Associations and Reflections around Tradition and Future Shock
“The overwhelming majority.” The overwhelming majority is that mass of people that turns the modern, materialistic myth of the universe, ourselves, and being — everything in general — into a reality. In other words, this “majority” just adds an earthly element, thanks to which flimsy dreams, absurd theories, strange mirages, as well as deep metaphysical concepts become stable, inescapable, ineludible, and hold their own weight, i.e., they take on reality. The more often we look at one and the same object, picture one and the same image, and repeat the same thought, the more significant they seem to be to us, until, finally, they turn into something absolutely indubitable, into an inalienable part of our external and inner world.
What makes technogenic civilization and the era of Modernity and Postmodernity so attractive to the ordinary person, to the overwhelming majority? Why do they assume such to be the pinnacle reached by mankind, and drawing on the “indubitable” ideas of progress and evolution, why do they draw out its prospects to even greater, happy heights, in contrast to the point of view expressed in this book, Tradition and Future Shock: Visions of a Future that Isn’t Ours, according to which these heights are but nightmarish abysses and infernal darkness?
First and foremost, of course, they are attracted to the comfort. Comfort in all spheres: the security of a meaningless life, satiety, the lulling rustle of banknotes, supposedly excellent medicine, planes, steamboats, toothbrushes, shampoos, and spaceships.
The paradigmatically modern myth instills in us the notion that in old times, and especially in the Middle Ages, everyday life was hard — a dusky life of dirt, bedbugs, flies, lice, hunger, disease, hopeless poverty, and ceaseless wars, and in the spiritual, theological, and scientific spheres a life of wholesale delusion, deceit, and religious fanaticism. There is nothing to compare, for everything is obvious.
Everything is much more complicated, however.
Comfort remains comfort as long as life flows peacefully and smoothly in slumberous, timeless oblivion. But when an Event occurs — whether a fire, a catastrophe, a war, an incurable disease, etc. — the familiar world collapses and the ordinary layperson is thrown into a dimension unknown to them, one which is much more real, one in which inevitable death approaches. As is sung in the song of Evgeny Golovin:
“With every hour become more heard
The cries of black birds
Have pity, Lord, over her,
Death has no boundaries”
In horror and panic, the ordinary person appeals to their progressive world with a plea: “What to do? How to be? Is help on the way? On whom to rely?” But there is no answer. Indeed, this world itself is already no more; it has melted away like a dream. And what can this world offer to those traversing the final path to the next world? The newest yacht? A fashionable smartphone?
On this path, ancient meanings lying dormant in the blood awaken: memories of primordial times, of other dimensions, of the reality of spiritual paths. And the ordinary person whose familiar world has dissolved and extinguished now has the chance to finally become a human, a being participating both in the heavenly world and the earthly world, with the dominance of the former over the latter. In other words, the chance appears to match his original prototype, his archetype. But more often than not, unfortunately, time is short: the hitherto ordinary layperson has no knowledge, no experience, no stamina, no strength, no faith, no hope, no merit… and no time. Where death takes them, no one knows…
This is to say that the prospects of the modern world’s fans, the “overwhelming majority,” are concealed from them up until a certain time, and these prospects are not at all cloudless, but are indeed rather terrifying…
Comfort. Modern people know perfectly well what they have acquired. Yet they do not know what they have lost.
“The past has been betrayed,” Nietzsche stated.
Firstly, the traditional way of life was not at all one of gloomy poverty. Everything was in order and in purity. Secondly, and mainly, the whole atmosphere of this life was permeated with foreboding, with proximity of the Event thanks to which people even still in this world came into contact with another, with the imminent, and even with the eternal, and fully realized the need to look for a path to the latter.
All the guidelines and orientations were given to them, and the path itself was revealed and opened to them.
The whole world was completely different back then.
Earth was in the center, above it was the heavens, full of angels and archangels, thrones, spirits, and gods, and in the underworld were other circles of demons, ghosts, shadows, devils, and even gods. Different peoples saw these realms differently. The cosmos was complex, it had numerous dimensions which differed across different traditions, but it was always hierarchical, with an above and a below.
Now the cosmos is but a void without any above and below, where total darkness is illuminated only by globes passing in orbits — no one knows why and no one knows where. There are all sorts of holes, energies, gravitations, radiations, and emissions — i.e., there are solely Titanic phenomena and forces. There is nothing living, divine, or even demonic. The blind “laws of nature,” established by no one knows whom and no one knows why, govern everything. Earth is simply a grain of sand in a void which, with all of its population, temples, wars, and pyramids, means nothing. The masters of poetry, the greatest philosophers, musicians, priests, and scholars are an infinitesimal quantity.
You’d agree that the cosmos in which the myth of Modernity and Postmodernity has put us is altogether utterly uninteresting. It is boring, dull, dead, and even horrific to those who understand it. Poets, for instance, have nothing to do in such a world. There is no point in speaking about the authenticity of this given picture of the universe.
But how can we move from this cosmos to the past one or to some other one with perspectives and prospects for the spiritual dimension?
In some sense, all of us — those who accept such a universe and this whole world as well as those who do not accept it — are laymen, or to be more precise, we are profane. Even those who have understood everything on the level of logic and reason, have thought through and delved into the foundations of materialism, and have comprehended the inconsistency of all of its dogmas and realized the horror of the situation in which we all find ourselves — they have not yet left this world, because they still look at it with the same eyes, hear with the same ears, and think with the same mind. Overcoming what has been instilled in us since childhood and has entered one’s blood is not so easy. Even devoid of justification, the world remains the same, and the heavens are still closed.
Nevertheless, it is still necessary to destroy all the dogmas, foundations, concepts, and principles of the modern world on the level of reason, and this should be done first and foremost.
The first thing to be done is to rid ourselves of the idea of comfort, as well as the illusion of a bright future to which we drawn by the flow of scientific-technological progress.
The book Tradition and Future Shock, so it seems, contributes to seeing this through. A light wind from the other side is enough for all the masks of this world to fly off, revealing truly terrible faces instead of mere appearances. Comfort is a dream, it is death for the heavenly element, and, accordingly, it is in the best case the path to hell, or at that even to a metaphysical “nowhere”…
The bright future that has been predicted for us is a dominion of computers and machines, a dominion of iron logic without any chance for the invasion of the irrational, without any possibility for the manifestation of divine, eternal, unchanging dimensions. Even an invasion from below, from hell, even if only of the shadows of the subjective, is practically ruled out. The subjective is life itself, perceiving, being conscious of, and feeling an element, something radically other than everything and all phenomena that can possibly be seen, thought, felt, imagined. The subjective element is being forced out by advancing technologies reaching even the farthest periphery, the last borders of the “objective universe,” of being in general. For virtual worlds, for dead computer logic, confused artificial intelligences, and innumerable abstruse robots, the Subject is an absolutely alien, given that is invisible, elusive, incomprehensible in principle, yet “from their point of view” remains deadly and dangerous, although they are incapable of understanding why.
“A Future that Isn’t Ours” is an extremely apt title given in the book Tradition and Future Shock to a series of passages on the “bright future” of the technogenic era. But if this future “isn’t ours,” then whose is it? Does it belong to supercomputers and virtual spaces, where people are insignificant, have been turned into absolutely weak-willed mirrors of colossal cyber processes busy reorganizing the world, and are now not really needed at all? To imagine, to simply picture or think about such, is, of course, shocking…
The paradox and the problem here is that the apogee of the technogenic era is the apocalypse, the final elimination of the subjective principle as the last mortal danger to the coming dominion of machines. In this case, however, at the very moment when the last subject extinguishes, the whole world of machines will also disappear. For, as Kant taught us, as soon as the subjective principle disappears, so do space and time, the whole world, inevitably disappear in the same instant. Slumber and dreaming are obviously impossible without a sleeping dreamer…
That is, the “bright future” of scientific-technological civilization is in essence total death… However, according to the teachings of many peoples of bygone times, it is at the same time the birth of a new universe. The End coincides with the Beginning… Mahapralaya… The Ignition Point, the Great Year of Heraclitus…
Destroying the illusions in which the modern paradigm abounds and under whose power we have the honor of being, is one of the themes of this book. Moreover, the book itself is structured in such a way that this theme is not concentrated in one place, but stretches like a winding thread from the first to the last pages, from the discussion of the fifth hypothesis of the Platonic heritage, the polla, in Part I to commentaries on Eugene Thacker in the chapter “The World-Without-Us” in Part III, which concludes in particular with considering an imaginary world in which the human being is absolutely absent.
Indeed, destroying generally accepted ideas and shedding light on all of the absurdity, falsity, and stupidity of modern presumptions and doctrines is a most important endeavor. However, as we have already remarked, a reasonable understanding of the inconsistency of these doctrines is still not enough: one cannot break through to other horizons in a rational way. What is needed is insight, a sign or a call to the spiritual dimensions concealed from us. It is necessary to find a secret entrance into sacred spaces. Only then we can we find a mainstay and orientations.
An orientation is not a formula, not a statement, and not a dogma. Orientation is ineffable. It is simply given as an inexplicable, deepest feeling, an intuition of the beyond, like a wind and call from the divine, impenetrable spheres.
Despite their grandiose philosophies so incommensurable with the ideas of plebs, that is the overwhelming majority, and at times even in contradiction with the reigning mythology, the ancient philosophers — including, as it were, Plato — still attended the mysteries, worshipped the gods, performed rites, and followed rituals. Participation in the sacred and the divine dimension as such is above any philosophy, any reasoning. Moreover, the divine dimension initiates the deepest reflections, it is the immovable center around which the cosmos of the philosopher’s highest speculative constructions revolves. It is an orientation.
In other words, an orientation is not a conclusion derived from one or another philosopher, no matter how genius. On the contrary, philosophy means following the transcendental orientation given a priori. For instance, Nietzsche’s nostalgia for eternity was obviously primary, while his philosophy was obviously secondary.
Another example: suppose that some Egyptologist, a hardworking scholar, has gone through piles of papyri, studied numerous texts from sarcophagi and the pyramids, examined all the relevant scientific research, is familiar with all possible commentaries, has examined all the surviving sculptures, etc. He now knows more about Egyptian mythology and all of its gods than anyone else. He knows a thousand times more than an authentic Egyptian farmer busy cutting reeds. However, unlike this uneducated farmer, the scholar remains uninvolved in the great magical civilization of the Egyptians. The universal forces and powers of the other worlds are inaccessible to him, and he does not hear the breath of invisible, monstrous abysses. The face of Anubis does not draw his fear and awe. He does not foresee all the horror of this god’s hands touching his future mummy, he does not foresee the horror of standing before the Nine Gods at the merciless but fair trial of Osiris. The Field of Reeds, the Egyptian paradise, is not his orientation; he has no sign, no call, nothing from there beyond… His heart is closed. The scholar is insensitive, dead to the nostalgia for the paradisal field of Aaru in the netherworld of the Egyptian afterlife. Accordingly, the roads to there beyond do not lie before him.
For what, then, was all the effort, all the sleepless lights? After all, the acquired knowledge is purely formal and does not open the heart to other dimensions, does not lead to liberation from the current paradigm, and is therefore worth nothing at all.
In a certain sense, all of us rather insatiable readers are somewhat like this scholar, because it is not eradication, but the wind of the other that is still the first thing that must somehow be felt…
Can a book, and in particular this book, help? This is a difficult question. Can clouds lined up in a certain way suddenly pierce our soul with unearthly, supernatural Beauty? They very well can, if, firstly, by the will of the divine, the earthly here is suddenly transformed into gates to other dimensions, and secondly, if we are open and ready to go towards this supernatural beauty. It is the same case with books, including this one: through the pathways of thoughts, phrases, passages, metaphors, expressions, and stanzas lined up in particular ways, the wind of the other might, of course, burst in… However, are we ready and able to receive it? Do not expect an answer to this question from us or from the outside world in general, because it is addressed in the opposite direction — personally, to the reader, to you…
The plot of the book begins with the question “What have we lost?”, then moves on to the question of “What have we gained?”, and concludes with clarifying the possibility of openly opposing the profane world in which we have ended up, or the possibility of coexisting with this world (while following our own path), or, upon leaving this world to itself, the possibility of escaping into indefinite, lonely distances. It is clear that this plot is enveloped with numerous associations, examples, and explanations through which all of the presented topics intersect and intertwine. The book is excellently written in good language, and the most complex problems are developed in an extremely voluminous way and are examined in their numerous aspects. Reading this book is fascinating and interesting. Agreeing or disagreeing with some of the author’s interpretations, opinions, or statements along the way is secondary nonsense in comparison to the seriousness, significance, and depth of disclosure of the central topics that are touched upon.
On the question of “What have we lost?”, the author delves (especially in Part I) into metaphysics, cosmology, and the fundamental premises of various traditions, seeking clarity of understanding and contrasting their deepest meanings with the current simulacra, substitutions of opposites, and all sorts of distorted notions surrounding them.
For instance, the book examines tekhne (τέχνη) in the traditional understanding as an imitating of the pure creative principle of the Demiurge and therefore as essentially being an art pertaining to the sphere of poiesis. Along the way, it also discusses tekhne’s degeneration into technology, into an ambivalent activity which is, on the one hand, a parody of already created nature, parasitizing on it while at the same time claiming to be creating a different reality that is opposite to the nature of reality, and on the other hand, is still not alien, albeit distorted and weak, and is still reflection of the original creative principle.
The book also examines the traditional notion of time as a moving image of eternity and its cyclical, circular flow, a picture that was recognized by practically all peoples of past eras. At the same time, attention is paid to the devolution of cyclical time into linear time, as a result of which time is no longer a reflection of eternity and sacred regions, and the entire present world turns out to be transient and perishable in its very principle, doomed to absolute non-being. In other words, this world becomes a reflection not of eternity, but of dust and decay, of nothing. This nothing appears to us in the guise of this world.
In creationist eschatological concepts, wherein time is generally linked to a straight line and whereby notions like evolution, involution, progress, and historicism arise in place of participation in the eternal and unchaining, this world of ours becomes only a transition from the eternity of the Beginning Principle and pre-Creation eternity to the eternity of the End, to eternity after its destruction. The purpose of this world becomes achieving absolute perfection in the eternity of the End. Theologians’ opinions differ ambiguously on whether this eternity of the Beginning and this eternity of the End are one and the same eternity.
In modern concepts of time, the straight segment is stretched into an endless line. There is no longer a point of Beginning and a point of End which do not belong to the segment itself and the transient world and which symbolize and have a direct relation to the sacred. Instead, the sacred is eliminated not only from our perishable world, but in general, absolutely. It is not known from where this world is moving from nowhere to nowhere, nor is it known why and for what. It is purposeless and meaningless. The author illustrates this for us with the following words:
“We can thus see how, in accordance with the doctrine of universal regress, the relation to time has changed: from eternity reflected in cyclicality, humanity descends to the historical segment localized in time. The overall picture changes essentially, and subsequent Western thought in the era of Modernity only restructures this Christian notion, boiling it down to deism and then to secularism and psychologism.”
As for the question “What have we gained?”, the author, especially in Part II, paints us truly monstrous pictures of the present day and the future prospect of our spiritless world which passes these prospects off as the pinnacles of goodness, beauty, and prosperity. Mankind, or rather its “overwhelming majority”, the “earth element”, as alchemists would say, unquestionably believes in this. The author’s explanations are clear and lucid, so we will not dwell on them in detail here; we shall only note that, while reading this book, what is taken by the modern era to be good is turned around backwards before us, showing its true side and revealing to us all of its horrifying manifest reality.
In the third, final part of this book, the author turns to seek a possible way out of the current situation or some kind of natural or unnatural resolution. Different approaches and scenarios are considered, among which we encounter radical ideas for dismantling scientific-technological civilization, such as de-urbanization, de-culturation, and de-scientization; simple life in the forest like Henry Thoreau and wild animals, the Luddites’ revolt against factories; Alain de Benoist’s restrictions on the growth of technologies and production; Julius Evola’s rare people of a vertical orientation wandering among the ruins of former greatness; Ernst Jünger’s “forest passage,” the “inner emigration” of loners (being in the world but not of the world); and fighting against overpopulation up to the point of considering the moral imperative of the absolute extinction of humanity put forth by David Benatar and others, etc.
The author is evidently set on the replacement, whether feasible or impossible, of the current paradigm with another spiritual dimension. To this end, the author concludes at the end of the book:
“With regards to other people, especially the youth and future generations who are already growing up surrounded by and fully immersed in the technogenic, digital, virtual environment, it is necessary to focus efforts and attention on making them face experiences of horror, death, catastrophe, and tragedy on a grand scale, to make them think about the final moods and the truth of being present in the world, to focus their attention on these themes and experiences as the final threads for pondering through which they can reach the horizons of insight into their thrownness in the world and the imperative of living radically differently: living without technology, living with and by the Divinities and Another Myth.”
“Another Myth” is what the author sometimes calls “pagan imperialism,” and he calls for its revival, revelation, comprehension, and assertion. Something can be read in this book about about this very myth and its permutation with a “mystical sensitivity to the apophatic elements of Beyng”, but one should not expect any rational clarity, for the sacred, the mystical, and the irrational are incomprehensible in rational terms. For example, the author tells us of an enchanted and disenchanted world…
We refer readers to the book itself, but let us stop and dwell on this point…
An enchanted and disenchanted world…
The value of any book lies not in the truths put forth by its author, and not in the observations, conclusions, and positions of the true and the dubious, but above all in the associations and thoughts to which they give rise, to their significance and depth. It is best when, while reading a book, one sometimes stops and departs into the strangest intuitions, sensations, interpretations awakened by a phrase or passage instead of simply registering the first level of meaning in memory and reading further. It is preferable to properly think about an unclear but suggestive line rather than to memorize the pages of a deep text, even if true, in mechanical agreement with the author on literally everything.
An enchanted and disenchanted world…
The association of these words with the pagan and rational perceptions of the world, as well as the understanding behind these epithets, might seem to be unambiguous. But still not quite…
Max Weber’s expression “the disenchantment of the world” taken up in this book is something which, at first glance, you, we, and the author probably understand in approximately the same way. The author himself explains the meaning of this expression in the following manner:
“In the Enlightenment, the world was subject to disenchantment and flattened down to a material slice of being and a correspondingly disenchanted and flattened interpretation of what was unfolding. The rules of myth were discarded in the wake of the time of mechanical determinism and the world’s enslavement in its logic.”
In accordance with his deep orientations, the author proceeds to proclaim: “The imperative of every pagan is to re-enchant the world.”
All of this, so it seems, is clear to both feelings and the mind.
The magic and mystery of myth that are cast out of the world, the dissipation of the heavenly and subterranean worlds around it along with numerous fantastic beings, phenomena, and dimensions, render this world a rigidly material, predictable, flat, dull one that follows only its own iron laws. As a result of disenchantment, in absence of the veil of myth, it is as if the world is revealed to be simply as it is — dead, deserted, material.
But is this how the world really is, or is it another myth, another paradigm that makes it this way?
Evgeny Golovin wrote the following of the pagan perception of the world:
“We are born pagans and only after 10 years of age do we fall into the clutches of social or heavenly nomenclature. In the beginning, we are burned by nettle fire, frightened by the blue eyes of the toad, pierced by the hawthorn, and we timidly wander through meadows and forests. There are good, marvelous days: the blow of blinding rain in young foliage, the caterpillar drinking water from a hoof print, a bumblebee crashing into a dandelion, a naked bearded man buried in an alder tree and sobbing, an oriole laughing at pink dawn. Then we learn to read: “a tree and a red-haired dog – that’s who he took as a friend,” and, following Nikolai Gumilyov, we track down the sun god. There is a granite boulder in the juniper, we lower and press our ear to it, there is a hot stone, and we listen patiently… after two hours, a honeyed whisper is sifted through a soft sonorous veil, and it is unimportant what it means, as we listen to the distant buzz of underground bees.”
Is this an enchanted or disenchanted world? We feel it to be enchanted. But enchanted by someone or something? Or, otherwise, is it just disenchanted and only becomes enchanted once the “social or heavenly nomenclature” throws a net of rational understanding over it and we begin to see the world through an established paradigm? The world as an open Mystery, as an absolute Unknownness, as Mystery and Unknownness as such revealed in the guise of this world, is concealed and disappears, and our direct perception grows dim in the dungeon of human representations.
Coming into the world and suddenly opening their eyes, a child lets out their first cry. In the fullest sense, what is now in front of them is unknown. They have not a shadow of a guess. Their understanding is zero. There is no suggestion. Only the most vivid, unknown world. The horror and cries are understandable.
This is a rather disenchanted world. It seems to be so when the veil of ideas and suggested concepts falls among ascetics, sages, and bodhisattvas, and the world appears to be disenchanted — when it appears to be impossible, incomprehensible, even as transcendent which, in some inconceivably way, IS. It might also appear this way to those whose fate suddenly takes an unexpected turn: a fatal diagnosis, the death of a loved one, the only surviver of a car accident wandering among burning cars and recognizing neither the sun, the buildings, the clouds, nor the whole world that just a second ago seemed real, understandable, and familiar. Or when a person dies. At birth as well as at death, a person stands before the Mystery as such, one that is unknown to the angels, gods, and celestial dwellers who otherwise know the right answer that is inaccessible to the consciousness of wild animals and is open only to the human being, whose status in the cosmic hierarchy of all possible beings is, according to many traditions, extraordinarily high.
This is to say that the disenchanted world is not a material world, or in other words a world that has been emasculated and beguiled by the world of Modernity. The disenchanted world is one that is looked at from within paradigms (or, perhaps better said, through the crack in a series of paradigms). It is, of course, impossible to live in such a world, and it itself is surely impossible. The collapse of paradigms is nevertheless happening, and the conditions for a direct invasion by other, transcendental dimensions are being created. This is what happens during periods of paradigm shifts, when the old rapidly collapses and the new has not yet amassed sufficient forces. These periods are the time of thinkers, poets, artists, and musicians inspired by the intuition of the beyond, by a glimpse of the other side…
Thus, the expression “disenchanted world” can have another meaning, an opposite one, which does not detract from the original meaning, but simply simultaneously opens up other depths…
Such are the free associations that wafted in upon reading this good book.