Redemption from the Dark

“What does the ruling class gain from destroying its own cities? I’ve asked myself this a thousand times. I can’t come up with an answer.”

Michael Anton, “A Tyranny Perpetual and Universal,”  American Greatness (Aug. 28, 2020)

Anton is a shrewd observer of the American political scene, but like too many conservatives is blinded by an essentially Marxian worldview.  You may think it is ludicrous to say that many American conservatives are essentially Marxists, but the statement is obviously true.  Marx argued that everything resolves to capital accumulation, which is to say moneymaking, and many American conservatives agree.  Marx argued that all culture is ideology that legitimates capital accumulation by the ruling class, and as we can see in this excerpt from Anton, many American conservatives think that Marx is right.

Anton cannot answer his question about the destruction of cities because he understands the word “gain” in the materialist and Marxian sense of money and power, whereas a real conservative knows that men and women also crave redemption.

Christians speak of Christ as their redeemer because they believe that humans naturally belong to Satan.  Our race sold itself to Satan when Eve ate that apple, and it was the office of Christ to buy us back with his blood.  Although very few members of our ruling class accept the particulars of the Christian story, they are still human, and are therefore subject to the spiritual disease that the story of the Garden and the Cross attempts to explain and resolve.

Christians describe this disease as a sense of dread.  Specifically, they describe it as the dread of Hell, to which Christians say we are naturally bound because Hell is the home of our natural master.  Christians call themselves a pilgrim people who are on their way home to Heaven, but the unregenerate are also pilgrims.  They are pilgrims bound to a different master on the road to a different home.  And to that place they must go unless someone buys them back.

I submit that dread of what Christians call Hell is the default position of the human psyche, and that this explains our universal craving for redemption.

In the secular mind, memory has replaced the afterlife.  They tell us that we will live “in the memory” of those who come after.  They call their rites of burial “memorial services.”  They encourage us to imagine that we will leave behind us something they refer to as our “legacy.”

I will let T. S. Eliot tell them what really happens.

“O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark.”

That is the new Hell.  The Dark.  And the Dark is that from which our secular ruling class craves redemption.  Money and power are very fine things for now, but they do nothing to relieve that dread of the Dark, that dread of passing, just like everyone else, into blank oblivion.  Indeed, one might say that the Dark is especially dreadful to the rich and powerful.  The rest of us have spent our lives learning that we are nobodies.  Passing into the Dark will merely ratify what we already know.

* * * * *

The secular mind falls back on pagan remedies for the universal dread of the Dark.  As I said, they propose a very shadowy sort of afterlife in an underworld of human memory.  We are redeemed, they allege, when friends and relations recall that we once existed, and perhaps vaguely (and briefly) regret that we are no more.  Memory of the exemplary lives of secular saints and villains is perpetuated in history books and monuments.  But as recent events have shown, history books are eventually rewritten, monuments are eventually pulled down, and even the greatest heroes at last join the throng and pass out of memory into the Dark.

The only satisfactory remedy for this dread of the Dark is, therefore, to secure a promise of escape from the universal ruin of this perishing world.  Christians do this through a spiritual unification with the eternal being they call Christ.  Our secular elite does it through a spiritual unification with the eternal ideal they call Equality.  They know that their money, power and name must all pass into the Dark, but believe their spirit will be somehow redeemed by the triumph of this deathless ideal.

I must observe that spiritual identification with the ideal of Equality does not require a corresponding equalization of material circumstances, and would suggest that to say it does is akin to the Christian doctrine of salvation by works.  Our equalitarian elite is decidedly sola fides.

The anarchists destroying cities are the holy men and women of the cult of Equality.  Just as Christians once looked up to monks and nuns because their spiritual commitment to Christ was so much greater, so our secular and equalitarian elite looks up to the rampaging anarchists because their commitment to Equality is so much greater.  This is why they give these holy men and women alms, and it is why they do not protest when they burn temples of Mammon to the ground.

Holy anarchists in the streets of Portland are like holy cows in the streets of Mumbai.  This is an indulgence that affords our elite some relief from their dread of the Dark, and that feeds their universal craving for redemption.

11 thoughts on “Redemption from the Dark

    • We certainly share the perception that all elite opinion is grounded in an economic conception of humans and human society, and that this materialism is one reason elites are baffled by discontent among the proles. They remind me of frigid parents who do not understand why their teenager isn’t happy with pocket money and a car. I think the author is, however, naive to think there was ever a possibility of a “horseshoe coalition” among populists on the left and right. These populists may agree on economic questions, but they also agree that answering the economic questions is not enough. Both groups want “community,” but they have no interest in sharing a community with each other.

  1. Pingback: Redemption from the Dark | Reaction Times

  2. I have the opposite opinion of egalitarians. They seem to be distinguished from us precisely by their lack of a sense of their own sinfulness. To listen to them, they have never experienced guilt, shame, confusion, or uncertainty. They were born more virtuous than their parents.
    Human weakness, moral ambiguity, the clashing of legitimate interests, and unavoidable tragedy are unimaginable to them. Even their confessions in their struggle sessions are not of their own sins, but those of their ancestors that they hate. Can you really imagine your students feeling a desire for redemption? We’ve never experienced that prophetic sense of absolute righteousness; they simply don’t have the same anxieties we do.

    Why do they let their own cities be burned down? It’s true of course that they think rampaging anarchists are righteous and so their conscience says to support them, and being men of stronger will, that would probably be enough. However, if you look at the incentives at an individual level, they clearly enough align with the behavior we see. It’s bad for the elite as a whole for their cities to burn, but it will be catastrophic for the first individual one of them who points this out. He’ll open himself up to attack by a dozen zealots eying his position. Much better to be one of the last to reluctantly acquiesce to law and order.

    • I think you are right that egalitarians do not experience personal guilt. Their dark night of the soul comes when they realize that they are part of an unjust (i.e. unclean) system, so repudiation of that system does for them what repentance does for those who have a sense of personal sin. As with repentance, repudiation is often hypocritical, since egalitarians are attached to the benefits of the system just as personal-sinners are attached to the pleasures of their sin. I daresay most Christians have at least rehearsed the arguments that there are certain forms of fornication (or whatever) that are not sinful, and not a few act on those arguments. We have a vocabulary to describe what they are doing and call them hypocrites–actors. Collective guilt has its hypocrites, too. Their cope is to tell themselves they are “changing the system from within,” which everyone else understands as “having it both ways.” I don’t deny that some of these people are real moles who are changing the system from within, but a lot of them are just LARPing revolutionaries, or what we call hypocrites. It seems to me these hypocritical egalitarians have a psychological need to cheer for the radicals who have really repudiated the system.

    • I’m not even convinced that letting their cities burn is truly bad for them. After all, it is a mistake to consider Minneapolis, for example, as somehow belonging to its mayor, either as a free and clear property or as the natural concern of a born-and-raised Minnesota native whose identity ties to Minnesota’s land, water, and cities due to descent from time immemorial. It is much more accurate to consider Minnneapolis’ mayor as treating the mayoralty as a political stepping stone to greater things, of no final interest in itself and often with only the scantest personal connection to the mayor’s upbringing, childhood, or sense of identity. Good mayors become governors become congressmen become senators, and ‘good’ here doesn’t mean ‘stewards the city to economic and cultural success’ so much as it means ‘knows how to make and when to make the appropriate board- and ward-room deals with the appropriate connected individuals.’

      Does anyone here truly think the mayor of Seattle is going to be voted out of office over CHAZ? Does anyone here truly think that even if she is, she won’t find a position running for a different public office or a sinecure in the civil bureaucracy?

      The difference is apparent when the organized terrorists let control of the mob slip a little so that these mayors and other public officers taking their marching orders from the Appropriate Authorities end up in personal or financial danger from their depredations. At those times, the police respond quickly and efficiently, the violence is stopped, and the media services take no notice whatsoever because it doesn’t fit the appropriate narrative.

  3. The header quote stuck in my mind as an honest admission that secular Marxist-based theory fails to explain the ruling class strategy since the sixties – and most obviously now. This is something new. It is not short term selfishness, nor it is long term seeking of power and wealth. The explanation is spiritual not material.

    In sum, the ruling class are being manipulated by the demonic powers of purposive evil, just as the masses are being manipulated by the rulers. In the end, the whole human race is being herded towards inversion of values and self chosen damnation – made possible – for the first time – by individuals en masse having rejected God.

    It turns out that rejecting God/ the gods and the spiritual reality eliminates purpose and meaning, renders Men incapable of common sense, of learning from experience; and drains motivation – hence courage.I

    This is a simple and obvious explanation for the seemingly contradictory self destruction afoot in the world. It does not, ultimately, benefit humans – it is a demonic agenda.

    • I agree, and not only because I’m reading C. S. Lewis’s space trilogy aloud to my daughter right now. I find “the demonic” a useful category in my own thinking, but mostly counterproductive when communicating with others. I don’t claim any great depth or subtlety in my own understanding of “the demonic,” but I don’t get hung up on a literal understanding of historic symbolizations. I don’t doubt that a demon could manifest itself as a red imp with a pointed tail, but also suppose that a spiritual substance could manifest itself as just about anything. Skeptics will say that devils and demons are “all in your mind.” To which I answer, this is entirely true and exactly why they are so fearful. The devil may have appeared to Martin Luther as a smoky gentleman in the corner, but he appears to me as an idea, and impulse or a drive. But I’m drifting off topic. Societies can go mad just as well as individuals, and demonic possession is can be the cause of both social and individual madness.

      • I would argue that Marxism does, in fact, offer this explanation; Marx himself calls it Species Being. The difference is that Marx considers the Species Being argument as a blind for dialectical materialism, while we know, thanks to the illustration provided by Professor Weston, that the Species Being is all too real.

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