Open to discussion…
Open to discussion…
Lewis Spence (1874 – 1955) published his prophetic account Will Europe Follow Atlantis in 1943 at the nadir of Allied fortunes during the Second World War. Spence, beginning as a journalist and folklorist, had made an enduring reputation by the early 1920s as a major authority on myth and legend, certifying his knowledge of those subjects in numerous books on the ancient stories of the Celts, the Rhineland Germans, the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Mesopotamians, and the Mesoamericans. These extremely useful compendia remain in print. In 1924, however, Spence issued a book that gained him notoriety for a different although related reason.
This book in question was The Problem of Atlantis, a study of Plato’s Atlantis Myth in its twin sources, the dialogues Timaeus and Critias, of related stories in myth and folklore, and, with a survey of geology and ethnology, of the plausibility in Plato’s account. In The Problem of Atlantis, Spence, in jazz terminology, played it cool. While arguing for a factual basis of the narrative in the Platonic texts, Spence avoided the occult vision of Atlantis as a prehistoric Utopia founded on lost sciences and technologies. He insisted on sober evaluation of the evidence, arriving at the conclusion that Atlantis had existed, as Plato wrote, in the oceanic gap between Western Europe and North America; that it was, prior to its submergence, a High Stone Age, what modern commentators would call an Upper Neolithic, society; and that, during a prolonged breakup of its landmass requiring many centuries, its inhabitants migrated via North Africa and Iberia to Europe’s Atlantic littoral areas and the British Isles. Ensconced in those new bases, they did their best to preserve their traditions and codify the knowledge of their origin. The fleeing Atlanteans, whom Spence calls Aurignacians, and whom he identifies with the Cro-Magnons, also crossed the ocean in the other direction, contributing to the cultural matrix of the emerging societies in North and South America. Spence’s argument about Atlantis was a radical version of a then-current anthropological theory known as dissemination or cultural radiation, which posited a monogenesis for human culture.
When you reduce selection pressure as the West has massively done since the Industrial Revolution, you get a lot more depravity (you get r instead of K), because the relative penalties to error and vice go way, way down. And vice versa: when you increase selection pressure, the relative rewards to virtue go way, way up, so you get lots more virtue.
We have no immediate prospect of an uptick in natural selection pressure, although the handwriting is on the wall. It’s out there (it always is).
But Trump is imposing artificial selection pressure (in part because he and his ilk can comprehend the writing in flame on the wall (to the depraved at their banquet, it is gobbledygook, nonsense, mere noise: mene, mene, tekel upharsin)). His basic message is simple: Playtime is over, no more pretend, everybody out of the pool, time to get dressed and back to work.
The liberals are going crazy because this strictly artificial – i.e., merely social, rather than biological – increase in selection pressure pushes the same neural and cognitive levers as would be triggered by a sharp uptick in natural selection pressure. It feels to them like a sort of death. They are terrified of death. Trump makes them aware of their death. Like death, he just doesn’t care about their whining (as much as they are used to). So they panic, and then they turn to defensive rage. It’s a tantrum.
One of my favorite sorts of book relates fascinating historical facts new to me, in such a way as to cast a novel light upon a subject or an era. The facts all by themselves are savory intellectual morsels; the discovery of their dense, thick and muscular coordination under a new perspective is strong meaty beer.
Lydia McGrew has written just such a book, and I have just had the pleasure of reading it. A pillar of the traditional Christian Right, a prolific and penetrating blogger (both at her own site, Extra Thoughts, and at What’s Wrong With the World), McGrew is among other things (mother, home schooler, musician, etc.) an analytic philosopher and formidable Christian apologist. She has also commented here from time to time.
It’s amazing how quickly liberals – and especially Social Justice Warriors – descend into rage, into foaming at the mouth, screaming, insults, violence – whenever they suffer the least jot of cognitive dissonance at the hands of a based Reactionary interlocutor. How come?
A strong sympathy for the landscape often entwines itself with a type of religious sensibility, particularly the pantheistic one. In the decorative murals with which the wealthy classes of Rome during the Imperial centuries adorned their domestic lives, the idyllic scene, with its groves and grazing sheep, invariably contains a rustic temple. In Hellenistic poetry, too, the writer – it might be Theocritus or at a later date Ovid – in describing the sylvan setting of Sicily or Arcadia emphasizes the presence everywhere of the nature-spirits. Ovid’s Metamorphoses seem in part to be an explanation of why everywhere in the ancient world one encountered innumerable altars and shrines. To the pagan mentality, everything, every tree and stream and mountain, shared in the quality of the sacred, and offered a home to the spirits and demigods. So too in Romantic painting and verse, the artist’s response to the natural scene records his sense of the ubiquity of spirit. Thus in William Wordsworth’s famous sonnet “The world is too much with us” (1802), the calamity of the emergent industrial and commercial order manifests itself most poignantly in the terrible loneliness of being cut off from participation in the aura of the elements –
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
The lyric subject of the poem, concluding that the modern dispensation has left men “for everything… out of tune,” wishes that he were (although he is not) “a Pagan suckled in a creed outworn,” that is, someone who might “have glimpses that would make me less forlorn” of “Proteus rising from the sea.” That men should have become acutely aware of nature in the early nineteenth century is hardly surprising. The social and economic developments of the period, the hypertrophy of cities and the dissolution of ancient arrangements in the countryside, wrought changes in the very appearance of the rural landscape. A generation later than Wordsworth, in the “Wessex” stories and novels of Thomas Hardy, the situation has grown even more acute. In the short story “The Fiddler of the Reels,” the great fact of existence is the Crystal Palace, in the year of whose construction much of the action takes place. The countryside is emptying into the great cities; railroads have appeared in the provinces to draw away the young people, and the expansion of a new order of industry and finance has begun to alter the familiar aspects of field and forest, river valley and hill.
Each of us is a pilgrim on a road that we hope will take us to the Celestial City. But we must admit this is very often a dark road, haunted by murderous footpads and crowded on either side with the strip malls, billboards and seedy motels of Vanity Fair. In out of the way places where they have yet to attract the notice of the highway department, one may, however, stumble upon a fingerpost pointing to an inn of godly refreshment. I recently raised my tired eyes to one such fingerpost at Bruce Charlton’s Notions, and have since spent some grateful hours supping by the hearth of a five-star inn of godly refreshment called Meeting the Masters. My hospitable host is William Wildblood, author of a book of the same name (which I will be reading) and occasional contributor at Albion Awakening. Many Orthosphere readers no doubt frequent B.C.’s Notions, and therefore have already turned at his fingerpost and made their way to Meeting the Masters. I’m setting up this fingerpost by the wayside for those who don’t, and haven’t. First-rate fare for weary pilgrims!
If you have not seen it, I cannot too strongly recommend season 1 of the HBO mini-series True Detective. It is the second finest screen production I have ever seen, surpassed only by Band of Brothers. As I told my wife afterward, very few screen entertainments succeed well enough to make me feel as though the time I spent on them was not wasted. Almost all of them are less worthwhile than, say, playing solitaire. Sometimes I come out of the good ones refreshed, or expanded, or reminded of the Good and the Beautiful – as with Monty Python, or In Bruges, or Roman Holiday, or Rio Bravo, or African Queen. Only once every decade or so do I finish a screen production feeling that I have been morally improved. This happens reliably with Shakespeare and the Greek Tragedies, sometimes with Ibsen, Chekhov, Stoppard. Otherwise, almost never.
With True Detective, it happened. I was astonished. I expected a gritty procedural. It was that. But it was so much more.
Who has read and remembers That Hideous Strength – of the gigantic oeuvre of CS Lewis, the capstone, masterpiece, and summation – and who has lately followed the news in the alternative media must have noticed a horrible semblance of these last weeks to the gathering storm that novel so masterfully presents, of good and evil human, natural, and supernatural rising to a tremendous pitch of intensity and power as they drive each inexorably to a titanic, shattering battle. I do not mean here to specify all the parallels, but they are almost all there: corrupt government agencies with noble sounding names and ends that work in fact deep evil; a cruel fat sadistic lesbian harridan, plaything and willing instrument of obscure Satanic masters; inner circles within inner circles, each more vicious and twisted than the last; sexual sin run amok; young victims; hubris on a vast scale, pretensions to a Babelonian New World Order and a New Man; nominalist obfuscation, nihilism and relativism; sophistical professors and rotten priests; contempt for all that is good, true and holy, old and homely, right, simple, and sweet, or even simply and honestly rational (all in the name of rationality) – the whole nine yards. And arrayed against these Powers, a pitiful few doughty hapless writers and scholars, talking mostly to each other in a remote corner of the world of what is good and right, true and holy, strait and wise, solid and reliable.