Visible Signs of Entropy
The relationship that has been indicated between rising entropy and the cyclic law is a close one despite some important differences, and their combined effects are visible in human affairs at all levels from the most intellectual to the most simply practical. If the time necessary for the whole universe to reach maximum entropy is unimaginably long, the same cannot be said for small systems such as civilizations. They advance to their maximum entropy much more rapidly, roughly in proportion to their size in relation to that of the universe. As this final state is by definition one of non-differentiation and exhaustion of possibilities, the advance toward it will be marked by a reduction in the distinctive qualities of both persons and things, though this advance may develop slowly and almost invisibly most of the time. It is difficult to argue that such changes are always the dominant ones when one’s presuppositions are not widely shared, as the Goodman-Hakewill controversy showed. Where the argument depends on evidence, and therefore on the range of one person’s experiences and the number of comparisons that can be made among them, its objectivity cannot be ensured.
Fortunately, this difficulty can be overcome by the fact that the subtle and progressive changes in question give rise to effects of a kind which are a matter of common knowledge, whatever doubts there may be as to their causes. Just as roofs collapse when their timbers have rotted by a sufficient amount, so the reduction of quality and the consequent rise in the importance of quantity, cannot go beyond a certain point without finally putting an end to the special status or even the very existence of the entities concerned. This kind of change is constantly manifest in the cessations, amalgamations, and redefinitions of status affecting nations, institutions, professions, industrial products, and in a comparable sense, the lives of individuals.
Common sense mostly thinks in terms of things only either existing or not existing, but this is too simple a point of view. Existence also admits of degrees, and whatever difficulties may be found in the idea that things can ‘exist more’ or ‘exist less’, there is as much necessity for being and not-being to be related on a continuous basis as on the more obvious discontinuous one. The passing into or out of existence, however sudden, is always the culmination of many small changes, and so equally are the upheavals and revolutions that affect society. The distinctions between beings are an essential part of their reason for existing, since actual identity between two or more existents is a limit never actually reached. If they could differ solo numero they could not even be separate things in any case, according to the identity of indiscernibles. If this is borne in mind, it will not be hard to see why the degree of differentiation between beings is bound up with their share in existence, and conversely that the decrease in the qualities of things should become a threat to their continued existence.
Quality, identity, and stability in existence are all closely related; they increase and decrease together. Their reduction results in the optimum conditions for invasive change, and because of the belief that change means progress, the loss of qualitative identity is by no means always regretted. The diminution of quality brings with it an equivalent rise in the effect of quantity, as Guénon showed, and the constant technical calculations required as a result of that become the basis of an alternative culture, as with the takeover of many activities by computerization. This produces the paradox that the evacuation of quality and identity can itself be turned into a new collective identity. The intellectual procedures of perceiving the essences of things thus get replaced by the technical procedures for relating factual information. And the theoretical reasons for this qualitative reduction have already been given in terms of a cosmic movement away from the primal source of being and reality.
Personal Effects of Depleted Identity
One of the best known revolutions resulting from a depletion of distinction is that of the equalization of the social roles of women with those of men. But for all the attention it receives, its true causes are never explained because metaphysical principles are not applied. This lack of understanding makes it easy to ignore the fact that the process it forms part of has in any case too much power behind it for human approval or disapproval to have much effect. For this reason, no deeper problem is seen in this than the question of what activities people are capable of without too much emotional discomfort.
The question of either sex having a specific nature which might dictate their vocations is no longer arguable because the qualities which make up masculine and feminine identity have been for so long a time undergoing a gradual diminution. The result is that the old social order is made almost incomprehensible to those who are caught up in this process. The confusion caused by loss of identity is such that men themselves have failed to understand the reasons for their own traditional status. At the same time, the fact that women can find a vital interest in adopting many formerly masculine activities indicates a previous weakening of specific identity in them also. (I say ‘specific’ identity because a sense of identity may exist even though it never develops into a specifically masculine or feminine nature.) Like all the related changes, this one is in principle destructive because it derives from a process which of its very nature diminishes existence, making for a more disordered world. The only positive potential in this comes from the fact that the loss of a norm can in some cases open the possibility of living above it instead of beneath it.
The rise in human entropy which tends to equalize men and women brings about the erosion of other distinctions along with it. One of these distinctions is that between childhood and adulthood. In proportion as women do not have a way of life separate from that of men, it follows that children will not have a way of life separate from that of adults. The modern adolescent is usually fated to be an incarnation of this lost distinction, as adolescence becomes less a time of transition and more a mode of existence in its own right. Closely related to this is the weakening of the distinction between the married and the unmarried, insofar as both partners have the same way of life, whether married or not. What makes marriage now seem a questionable value is precisely the tendency toward a very similar kind of life for both men and women. Although such things result from a rise in human entropy and the related loss of essence or quality in individuals, they are also a means of accelerating the process.
The convergence of Man and Woman, Child and Adult, toward a being who would be effectively none of them points to a limit beyond which the human race would have to either cease to exist on this earth or turn into something quite different. It may be argued that such a change does not make the human spirit any less real, and that with the aid of science the future of the new race could be ensured. The problem with this is that the norms of Man, Woman, Child, and Adult belong among the archetypal realities, the realization of which never ceases to be a basic condition for existence. In proportion as these universal archetypes fail to be realized, life can easily be experienced as a continuous low-intensity mental torture which can produce life-threatening cumulative effects, owing to the maladjustment and interpersonal conflicts fostered by it.
Realizing significant archetypal realities in oneself, having a sense of identity, and finding happiness, are inseparable, because the archetype or Form is the ultimate object of self-knowledge, without which the self is not knowable even to itself. Only in proportion as one knows what one is can one consistently act in a manner coherent with one’s own nature and find fulfilment. Consequently, the fact that human life may be technically sustainable apart from these conditions will be irrelevant if human beings cannot be made happy by it or find it worthwhile. This is in any case becoming an issue already, as can be seen by the increasing numbers of persons whose lives are in crisis for a multitude of reasons which all reduce to a failure to know their own identities. This is the issue in which the cosmic decline of the qualitative principle finally comes to a head and defies attempts to ignore it.1 It reveals in the midst of human life the connection which was made theoretically at the beginning of this chapter between the differentiae of individuals and their ability to exist, so that the loss of the one entails the loss of the other.
Erosion of Social Barriers
The failure of identity has its consequences in other realms as well, as can be seen from the confusion and dissipation of social classes, the very reason for which has ceased to be understood. As in other examples, the collapse of the barriers between the classes has come only after prolonged inner changes by which people lost consciousness of much that was essential to their natures. Modern minds are unable to see any meaning in classes or castes other than the reservation of privileges for a minority who are supposed to be favored without justification. Yet when the class system existed by the general will, it was found as satisfying to be able to distinguish oneself from a class above one’s own in the social order as from a class below it. This fact shows the original class structure to have been an effect of a degree of self-knowledge, and once that knowledge began to fail, one’s position in a given class could only be experienced as an injustice inflicted by society’s prejudices.
A class or caste always defines itself around a given set of values and interests, like those of merchants or craftsmen, simply because the human mind cannot cope with an unrestricted range of values and options, and from this it follows that when these social organisms cease to exist, human beings are faced with the alternatives of either supporting an open-ended range of values or, more probably, of relinquishing the majority of them. The effects, on the one hand, of a sure sense of identity, or on the other the lack of it, on sexual behavior are too well understood to need commentary, but most of the other consequences of human entropy are involved in this realm of human behavior. There is no reason to believe that the cessation of class and caste comes from a more open and more Christian attitude, because no such thing can be seen in the classless society, where human relations have become more, not less, adversarial than they were in former times. This is not surprising in view of the fact that the ability to relate in a positive way to others cannot go any further than the ability to relate to one’s own identity.
In the extreme case, lack of self-identity is a typical part of insanity, and the relevance of this to the present subject can be seen from the fact that social changes inimical to identity mean a lowering of the standards of sanity in a society. The mingling of different cultures and religions reinforces a belief that identity is merely a matter of convention, and so weakens one’s hold on reality. For this reason the decline of the qualitative element in the world and the resulting loss of intelligible identities points to the possibility of some form of insanity eventually becoming so widespread that hardly anyone would be able to escape it. Such a condition is already partially acknowledged in the increasing difficulty in classifying many persons as insane under modern conditions, and in the spread of criminal behavior in cases where moral responsibility has to be minimized or even excluded.
An unrealized self is always a vulnerable self, and therefore very prone to fear, which compensates itself with outbursts of hate. This appears in the insane hatreds which flare up between different racial and religious groups all over the world. While differences of religion and culture are nominally to blame for such things, the real problem is above all that of the psychological vulnerability which comes with the loss of real selfhood, leaving a vacuum which can be filled with an invented identity. This situation also has implications for the moral codes of the traditional religions, which tend to become unworkable because they were devised for ‘normal’ humans who at least exemplified a type recognizable to itself and to others, but which make no sense amid the social and cultural chaos arising from confusions of vocation and gender.
Even though these changes are not human in their origin, the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ are still applicable to them, and it is inevitable that the movement toward equalization should be allied chiefly to evil, because good is fated, so to speak, to distinguish itself insofar as it is realized at all; it must surpass itself in order to be itself. Obviously the confusion of distinctions cannot avoid negating this tendency. The resulting uniformity can only benefit whatever is bad, since this obscurity means it will not be identified as such, while good has nothing to gain for the same reason. Equalization, moral corruption, and a darkening of the intellect are all closely related in this process. The effacement of individuality is in no way the same as the self-effacement which is often the way of those whose lives have a spiritual direction, despite some appearances. Such individuals are in any case unalterably ‘distinguished’ in their own way, so that their self-effacement cannot be a literal or absolute one, but obtains only in relation to human activities which would not be a suitable means of expressing their main purpose in life.
If, however, the human effects of rising entropy are on the whole evil, and if it is indeed the cause of a vast amount of mental suffering and maladjustment, it would seem reasonable to expect that attempts to counteract it would be thought welcome. But all such attempts founder on the fact that one part of this scenario at least is strongly willed by the majority. This consists in an over-simplified belief in freedom which is current in a conviction that everyone is free to become anything they may want to be. The flattery of this belief is so seductive that no one will take any notice of the fact that it is nonsense, or of the fact that it loosens everyone’s hold on reality. It is as though the many centuries during which mankind was obliged to accept the austere belief that it was in a fallen state had to be compensated by a carnival of self-gratifying alternatives which are really far more misleading, for all that they are occasioned by a centuries-long exaggeration of the doctrine of the Fall which prevailed at the popular level.
Another aspect of this shaking off of traditional restraints is the great increase in the importance of sexuality as a value in its own right, as though it too had to be avenged for the ill effects of belief in the Fall. This typically modern development also follows directly from the continual dilution of personal identity along with other qualitative realities. This is because sexuality always gains strength from a failure to see the other person as a whole person, that is, from an unawareness of the problems, commitments, tastes, fears, practical needs, and so forth which make up the true person. From this it results that the process which erodes the qualitative core of personality will inevitably increase the strength and importance of sexuality in thought and behavior. The more there is a widespread failure to be fully a person, therefore, the more there will be a cult of sexuality for its own sake, even though this may have its roots in a spiritual poverty which lies beyond the scope of moral judgement.
Entropy in Nationalities and Cultures
The reduction in differences between nations is taken for progress by majority opinion because it is supposed to mean that there will therefore be fewer causes for conflict between them. Here again, there is a general failure to understand these changes in a more than superficial way, even at an academic level, which is shown by the fact that they are always supposed to be happening by human choice for the realization of political agendas. In this way, the stage is set for the whole process to advance without opposition to its conclusion in the name of progress.
On the other hand, the reduction of real distinctions on the personal level gives rise to a general loss of distinction between the different nations and races. This promotes their social mingling, which in turn reduces their differences still further. As with the former examples, there are many who see this change solely as a result of progress, and who ignore the fact that this is connected with a lessening of the abilities of the different peoples to assimilate their own traditions sufficiently to regenerate the ideas around which their cultures were formed. The propagation of the national genius weakens in a manner comparable to the weakening of masculine and feminine identities. The material interests of the different nations remain broadly similar in any case, and the satisfaction of both material and cultural needs requires more international cooperation in proportion as nations and cultures lose what once made them more like self-sufficient little worlds in themselves.
More rapid communications obviously make it easier to diffuse new ideas, but this brings the penalty that they also inhibit the development of new cultures. The plentiful exchange of ideas promotes a dependence on the whole system rather than true creativity, which depends on a deep searching of the resources of individuals and localities in relative isolation. This in turn is directly linked to the qualitative principle of identity which is under pressure. The absence of the qualitative principle results in a void which has to be filled by one means or another, and this, rather than open-mindedness, may account for the welcome which nearly all nations extend to imports of foreign culture. The distinctions between nations may in many cases become much reduced by the use of a common technology and by a common popular culture, but this does not mean that they can be reduced to nothing, although international organizations are liable to treat them as if that were in fact the case. Such treatment, however, rather than making them cease to exist, is calculated to provoke the kind of violent reaction which arises when identity is cornered. Related to this is the phenomenon of interracial conflict, because these distinctions are linked to a number of basic attributes of the different races which do not alter, even when other and more important distinctions have been lost. Such invariants make a dangerous mixture with all the other adopted attributes which are in flux. Where invariants persist intentionally, tokens of national identity are clung to with a greater fanaticism in proportion as individual identity fails to develop, and those caught up in this situation are undeterred by the dangers it causes, because the greatest fear of all is that of the ontological void in the unrealized self. This evil affirms the seeming paradox that peaceful conditions are not produced by the reduction of differences.
Harmony from Differences
René Guénon drew attention to the fact that the equalizing process which comes with the ‘reign of quantity’ results in a uniformity which is in no way the same as unity, and therefore makes conflict inevitable. There is a naively obvious sense in which it is true that differences may cause conflict, on the grounds that at least two different beings are necessary for there to be conflict at all. Friction must have two surfaces. But at a deeper level things are quite the reverse of this, as can be seen from the effects of differences in relation to one another. Suppose the differences between two beings to be increased without limit. Insofar as this happens, they must be taken out of relation to one another, so that they would lose even the physical possibility of conflict. Conversely, if their similarities were increased without limit, their points of common need and interest would also increase without limit, providing the materials for conflict. The fact that there must be at least two beings before conflict is possible does not in any way counteract the condition that, given this initial difference, only similarities between them could make conflict actually operable. The intentional suppression of differences between beings is in any case deluded because the deepest difference of all, namely, that they are so many separate substances, must remain as long as they exist at all. The belief that equalization is realistic is a result of a materialistic philosophy which can only see qualities and attributes as though they were so many accidents somehow associated with their owners which can be manipulated at will, and not manifestations of a central causal principle in the self. Once the latter principle is allowed for, it can be seen that no alteration of externals could remove their central cause.
For the above reasons, it is easy to predict that the more equality there is, whether between nations, social classes, men and women, and age-groups, the more confusion, competition and conflict there will be between them. Only when the differences between individuals and groups are accepted and developed to the full, so that each has its own sphere of action and self-expression which impinges no more than minimally on those of others can there be a truly harmonious world. Far from this diversity meaning mutual exclusivism, it would rather increase the possibilities for human life and so eliminate the privations from which defensive forms of behavior arise. Exclusive behavior is in any case another result of too much similarity, which requires artificial distinctions to counteract it. Genuine diversity unreflectingly creates its boundaries by the fruition of its creative energies, not by the intentional building of barriers for self-protection.
The development of the distinctive natures of individuals takes place primarily in their conscious ‘inner space,’ rather than in the external world, and this is why materialistic philosophies which cast doubt on the reality of the inner self inevitably work for the spread of uniformity. The consequent inability of individuals and of whole cultures to develop the state of a ‘little world’ means a denial of something essential in human nature, a denial which creates powerful inner stresses. This evil is nearly always blamed on the other persons and cultures which have also been reduced to the same condition, and the loss of inner diversity tends to impoverish the public world on which the extraverted mind is centered. This connection has been described in Martin Heidegger’s observations on the early twentieth century as follows:
All things sank to the same level, resembling a blind mirror that no longer reflects, that casts nothing back. The prevailing dimension became that of extension and number. Intelligence no longer meant a wealth of talent, lavishly spent, but only what could be learned by everyone, the practice of a routine, always associated with a certain amount of sweat and a certain amount of show. In America and Russia this development grew into the boundless etcetera of indifference and always-the-sameness—so much so that the quantity took on a quality of its own [author’s italics]. Since then the domination in those countries of a cross section of the indifferent mass has become something more than a dreary accident. It has become an active onslaught that destroys all rank and every world-creating impulse of the spirit and calls it a lie.2
This concentration of energies on the material world requires that the higher faculties be reinterpreted as means to material ends, as nothing apart from the material world is supposed to be able to constitute an end in itself:
The spirit falsified into intelligence falls to the level of a tool in the service of others, a tool the manipulation of which can be taught and learned.3
The enormous increase in scientific information in modern times does not mean more or better consciousness. Instead, it stifles consciousness by smothering essential knowledge beneath and endless flow of facts. As the sphere of consciousness always contracts with the passage of time, except where counter-measures are taken, faculties that would serve for the perfection of consciousness are increasingly diverted to short-term practicalities. The natural expansion of consciousness which takes place between infancy and early adulthood tends on average to go less far in successive generations. This does not appear primarily in a decline in measurable intelligence, but in a lessening in the range of different realities to which the mind can relate. Those which remain in the mind’s compass become increasingly centered on the demands of self-preservation, therefore, because every reduction of awareness makes survival more precarious.
A practical materialism can result from nothing more than a failure of consciousness to achieve its full development. The uniformity which results from this is a material travesty of the unity which Providence has made conditional on the full self-realization which is in fact as much a part of human destiny as the growth of the body. The option of reacting against the suppression of consciousness and reversing the tendency is usually ignored because, as Heidegger further observes, a spiritual decline stifles the very consciousness that any such decline is in fact taking place.
Political and Economic Indistinction
There are a number of realities related to economics which have progressively merged with it, notably politics. The most important practical effect of this is monetary inflation, since this results from the manipulation of economics for political purposes. The confusion of politics with economics and the draining away of monetary value have become attributes of nearly all modern nations, as the powers of the state spread ever more widely. The aims pursued by different political parties differ only in matters of detail, since they are all committed to constantly increasing earnings, industrial production, and national expenditure; the disputes are only about means, not ends. These things are believed to be subject to human choice, but in reality they have a momentum which shows them to be borne along by the cosmic process, not by a human or social one. Evidence which shows that the indefinite continuance of these aims is not desirable, especially if it is made to happen by government decree and not by natural conditions, is never enough to discredit them. The belief that governments can in effect command prosperity is a fallacy the real price of which is inflation, because governments can only make good their economic claims in the eyes of those who vote for them by spending their resources on an increasing scale, whether national income justifies it or not. The gap between income and politically-desirable expenditure has to be filled by printing the extra money needed. Thus all numerical quantities rise, while the things they represent are either static or decreasing.
This is a precise and important example of rising entropy, because a nation’s money is a quantitative symbol of its total available energy. The devaluation of money by inflation reflects the dissipation of national human energy resources, where the division of money into ever higher numbers of units parallels the way in which physical energy breaks down into ever smaller and less useful quantities, subject to the Entropy Law. Besides inflation, increasing taxation is also a result of the conflation of politics with economics, and at the same time serves to consolidate this conflation. Its tendency to disable or dissolve the individual wherever possible is so fully in keeping with the general cosmic process that rising taxation is an index of the universal quantitative principle. Its role in the reduction of distinctions between individuals and social classes is only too clear, but its ill-effects are by no means evenly distributed. The most large-scale financial interests are as a rule the ones best able to thrive in spite of it, and this strengthens the bias toward quantity and the concentration of energies in the most de-individualizing directions. The benefit of this appears obviously in the enormous abundance created by mass production, but it is an abun-dance which comes at the price of a standardization in the things produced, a standardization which may easily communicate itself to those who use them.
The merging of the major functions of civilization can be seen in the central group comprising politics, economics, and industry, therefore, while industry in turn takes in technology and pure science. The avenues open to scientific research are directed to fields which serve technology, which in turn serves industry, besides which, pure science is now conducted almost wholly in and by means of high technology products; how much the natural sciences really have to do with nature is now growing questionable. This erosion of distinctions in the scientific realm affects the distinction, once so clear, between what naturally happens, and what human activity can cause to happen. (Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle highlights an area where these two things coincide completely.) In this respect there is a significant parallel between modern science and modern literature: just as science-technology is eroding the difference between nature and what man can do with nature, modern literature specializes in the conflation of fact and fiction in so-called ‘faction’. Under such cultural conditions, confusions between right and wrong, and between what is natural and unnatural follow almost as a matter of course.
The movement toward uniformity and loss of distinctions also has its effect on architecture, if only because of its connections with industry and science. More than any of the other arts, architecture creates the visible form of a civilization in its cities, and this form is at present naturally one where quantity predominates, as can be seen throughout the world, where modern buildings are designed to give the maximum cubic capacity for the minimum cost. This is a set of conditions which dictates one basic form, namely the cuboid, and this is the form which is stamped on the appearance of modern cities. The reason why the cuboid and cube are a pure expression of spatial quantity lies in the fact that they are not differentiated with regard to the dimensions of space, but match these dimensions exactly with their edges and surfaces. Because of this, their volumes are precisely expressible as products of the three integers representing their lengths, breadths, and heights. All other regular solids have a qualitative distinction which appears in the fact that their volumes are products of irrational numbers such as pi, or the square roots of two, three, or five. The qualitative element is represented mathematically by the irrational number.
As much could be said in regard to the gridiron street plans of modern cities. The standard features of quantification, abstraction and equalization are all present, and such appearances are not confined to modern times, but have been found in some ancient civilizations which assumed them in their later phases. In the spread of modern architecture, the confounding of politics, economics, art and science could be said to emerge in visible and tangible forms. The gravity of such changes can be seen from the fact that creation, as in the Book of Genesis, depends on divisive processes; no intelligent combinations can be made except between things that have first been made distinct. For this reason, entropic changes in civilization are in effect a process of ‘de-creation’.
Conflation of Knower and Known
The various subjects of conflation considered so far are all concrete and open to simple observation, but the essential reality is so pervasive that it enters into much more subtle realms as well. Modernity has a self-imposed commitment to producing a new kind of human being, radically different from those that have existed before, and there can be no new human being unless there is an equally new way of thinking and a new idea of truth. A radical break with traditional thought is required for this purpose, which nearly always involves the rejection of what I have called the Platonic-Augustinian Paradigm, or just the Paradigm for short. The principal kinds of modernistic thought seek to eliminate the Paradigm by one means or another, because it dictates a fundamental difference between the knower and the known; it thus divides the real into different levels of being.
The situation of the Paradigm in relation to the universe can be made clear by means of the classic analysis of being into four ultimate levels,4 which starts with the level of mineral or inorganic entities. The next level is that of vegetative life, which results from the addition of the vital element to materials drawn from the first level. The third level is that of animal life, which results from the addition of consciousness to the combination of matter and vegetative life. The fourth level is the specifically human level, in which another and more internal consciousness is added, one which comprises an interior perception of all the perceptive acts in the ‘animal’ level of being in relation to the outside world. This fourth level is that of self-awareness, which is spectator, judge, and, ideally, director of the external functions of the person. With this fourth level of being, there is a more radical break with the first three than there is between the latter, since the first three levels of being are all in the world in ways that are open to outside observation, whereas the fourth is not. The interior perceptions of self-awareness are capable of far more than monitoring acts of consciousness in the realm of sense; they extend over objects of all possible degrees of universality and abstractness. In addition to perceiving oneself in acts of sensory perception, self-awareness opens into universal, timeless, and Divine realities.
This is the level of being to which the Paradigm belongs, with its system of ideas or universals common to all minds, and its semantic linkage of words to realities in the ideal realm, and this is the conception which modern thought seeks to eliminate. The alternative to it is the project of making all human activities realizable within what Schumacher called the third level of being, that of immediate sense-consciousness without self-awareness. This is regarded as an act of unification which must make the world more intelligible by being known wholly on one level, without the dualities of matter and spirit, soul and body. This objective of modern thought appears in the systems deriving from the writings of Darwin, Marx, Freud, Wittgenstein, Derrida, and also in Skinner’s Behaviorism. The exact ways in which they set out to abolish the Paradigm and the fourth level of being vary considerably, but a general distinction can be made between the scientific approach of those who follow Darwin, Marx, Freud, and Behaviorism, and the nonscientific approach of Wittgenstein and Derrida. For the present purpose, these systems will be treated as phenomena rather than philosophies, because of the common historical purpose running through them all.
A certain amount has already been said in chapter 8 about the way in which Darwinistic thinking eliminates the permanent intelligible paradigms, and with them any rational basis for accepting it as a complete account of human origins. However, I include it in the group I call ‘scientific’ because all the activities involved in scientifically substantiating it proceed exactly as if the Paradigm were an unchallengeable reality. Deductions from facts and observations are presented as truths because they are logical, and the reports of the scientific fieldwork needed for it are offered and accepted as though they belonged in the realm of universal ideas. It is only with the final outcome of all these applications of the Paradigm—that everything in our being results from events in the biosphere—that Darwinism can be seen to negate the means by which it is constructed. Nevertheless, the conclusion that everything results from biological changes satisfies an irrational modern passion for simplification and reduction.
Where Marxism is concerned, truth is supposed to result from the working out of the laws which govern history. (The assumption that universal history is governed by all-embracing laws is just as central to Marxism as it is to the traditional cyclic cosmology, as if to show that this is too powerful an idea for even a materialistic world to exclude.) According to Marxism, all the religion and philosophy in past times consisted in so many provisional stages on the way to the full truth at the end of history (secular man’s Parousia), and these were in every case the effects of the economic conditions which prevailed in their own times. History will one day find its consummation in the final victory of the revolutionary proletariat, which will be the fullness of truth incarnate, so to speak, though Marxists would avoid such expressions.
This system is created by an analysis of innumerable historical facts from its own point of view, and its methods conform to the Paradigm as fully as do those of Darwinism. But as with Darwinism, its final outcome is a state in which truth is merged with a state of existence, besides which, all the truths which have been believed down the ages were, so it is said, really states of mind brought about by economic conditions. The Paradigm is employed constantly to establish this conclusion in regard to non-Marxist thought, but here again the conclusion excludes its own basis.
By its own principles, Marxism arose at a certain time in history when it must have been a by-product of the nineteenth-century capitalist economy of Europe, and so might be expected to cease to be relevant when that economy became replaced by a different one, with different essential industries and distribution of income. Either Marxism is magically immune from its own premise that ideas are produced by economics, or it leaves no reason why it should be accepted as truth at the present time.
The Freudian method of merging thought and knowledge with sensory phenomena leads to essentially the same result. It claims to be able to explain all thought processes and all apparently reasoned convictions by their being prompted by the imperfectly repressed appetites of early infancy. As ever, the Paradigm of intelligible universals is employed in the construction of this theory, and where it seeks to explain morbid mentation there is no reason to doubt it. But where it is made into a comprehensive theory of human thought it too must, if everything is to result from submerged passional urges, finally exclude the Paradigm without which it could not be sustained or even communicated. Analogous remarks apply to Behaviorism. It may be that a central contradiction is a necessary ingredient in the new thought, and that inconsistency is only a flaw from the point of view of the traditional intellectuality it is meant to supplant. However this may be, modern man can in fact have no wish to abjure reason to this extent, because the only alternative means of securing agreement seems to be violence, whether overt or threatened; to advocate any such thing is to propose to be governed by violence oneself.
The relation, or disrelation, to the Paradigm is markedly different in the thought inspired by Wittgenstein and Derrida. Truth for Wittgenstein results from the relations of words to other words according to the rules of language. If the language rules are applied correctly, our statement will be true. This approach evidently dispenses with the Paradigm from the start. What is really needed is a correct use of syntactical relations, and, given that, there is no need for concern about the ideal objects the words are supposed to denote. However, this form of thought has been set forth for the same purpose as any other, that of converting other thinkers to it, and it is at this final stage that the Paradigm becomes an issue again. If Wittgensteinian thought is both communicable and able to alter the mental behavior of others, words must be able to engage with realities, and even if this does not necessarily involve ideal realities, they cannot consist wholly of linguistic conventions. Without this final intervention by the Paradigm (with its affiliation of words to natural objects), this form of thought would simply circulate in a sealed world of its own like the events which unfold in a novel. Just as reading a novel creates no rational grounds for imitating its characters, so this kind of philosophy cannot reasonably motivate anyone to emulate it, on its own premises, at least. A truth which by definition results solely from relations between words cannot interact with non-verbal things such as the choices of verbal behavior made by persons. In practice, however, the Paradigm is unofficially allowed in the interests of this philosophy, but not for any others, of course.
A similar conclusion applies to the Post-modernist thought initiated by Derrida which, though not bound by the use of language rules, is still faced with the need to communicate itself as objective ideas which engage with things, if it is to have any consistent effect in the world. Otherwise, this too would have only the self-enclosed interest of an abstract novel. The fact that other thinkers are influenced by it, and in more or less the same way, shows that much more is involved than what could be possible on the basis of Derrida’s thought alone. This is just another example of the genrewhich dethrones intellect while the intellect’s principles mysteriously revive on its behalf whenever it is a question of social acceptance.
The Spiritual Dimension of Distinctions
Heidegger’s idea of modernism as an ‘onslaught of the demonic’ is relevant for the schools of modern thought examined above, because it is only from the interior level of self-awareness that any ‘world-creating movements of the spirit’ can come. To deny the reality of self-awareness and its level of being is to deny the most essential of human possibilities and to dethrone the intellect with what purports to be intelligence. This is not to say that the work of individuals alone could effect so much, however, because the thought emanating from Darwin, Marx, Freud, Wittgenstein, and Derrida, for all its professed radicalism, merely follows the general downward drift of human consciousness, and rationalizes the limitations which come with that drift. As a result, the development of the personality on Schumacher’s ‘fourth level’ of self-awareness becomes weaker and rarer on average, and spiritual maturity is harder to reach. In all the above philosophical movements, what used to be recognized as a quite ordinary spiritual immaturity (i.e., something essentially negative), is reinterpreted by the new thought as something positive, and those who suffer from it are re-evaluated into torch-bearers of a new wisdom, even of a new dispensation, without their having had to do anything.
Where the same conditions affect religion, the reduction of distinctions has effects which are both similar and more confusing, because in this realm it is possible for a superior meaning to mingle with the more general negative one. The world religions themselves are only subject to equalization to the extent that a global culture equalizes their members, but internally the effect is more marked, as in Christianity, where well-meaning efforts are made to lower the barriers between the different churches. While the same entropic forces are acting here as elsewhere, the question of merging is complicated by the fact that today’s diverse churches were at one time all one from quite an early date. The reductive process at its best is therefore working to restore something which had been lost for long ages. But while reunification is obviously desirable in principle, there is no doubt that it is being approached by negative means. An indifference to and an incomprehension of doctrinal issues may make reconciliation humanly easier, but the resulting union would be lacking in content.
Besides, the levelling process has also reduced the differences between believers and unbelievers in a number of important ways, particularly where the natural and the supernatural are concerned. Christians are increasingly drawn into the humanist mindset in which the natural person is not seen as fallen or in need of supernatural grace. This coincides with a major change in the way human nature is understood. The sovereignty of the will and intellect over all the other parts of the personality, always basic to Christian values, is replaced by the relativist view that all parts of the personality are of equal value, so that no one of them should have any powers over the others. In practical morality, Christians as much as humanists now see the ideal of doing good as consisting in the alleviation of suffering at all costs, rather than as conversion and moral enlightenment. Thus barriers between belief and unbelief give way as fast as do barriers between different forms of religious belief. The subject of personal salvation is seldom discussed under these conditions, since it depends on there being a distinction between those with the faith and those without, and because the idea that some are saved must suggest that others may not be. This shows how loss of distinctions has a profoundly static and paralyzing effect in all but the most superficial things.
When things are ‘all one’ they are at maximum entropy or matter chaos, and at the opposite extreme from the condition of their creation. It is highly significant that the account of the six days of creation in the Book of Genesis includes a series of four direct acts of division: firstly between the heavens and the earth; then between light and darkness; then between the waters above the firmament and the waters beneath it; then between the sea and the dry land; then between day and night; and living creatures are divided into male and female. Life, growth, and dynamism follow from binary division, therefore, and their opposites follow from its effacement. The fact that the entropic process happens by necessity does not exclude free will’s function in regard to its consequences, because mind is not subject to natural forces. Nevertheless, the understanding of this distinction between mental and physical laws is no better able to survive than any of the other distinctions, under actual conditions.
1. While it is a condition for which spiritual religion can provide the remedy, this remedy nearly always involves some kind of self-limitation, which to the modern mind is anathema. With a strong sense of identity, the freedom to experiment with an unlimited range of unrelated possibilities may not be very harmful, but without it, the result is to make the problem insoluble.
2. An Introduction to Metaphysics, chap. 1.
4. See E. F. Schumacher, A Guide for the Perplexed.