Part 1. That’s one of my top five posts.
Immediately following Martin Luther’s broadside assault on the moral authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the Copernican revolution sapped its epistemological authority. The “one true church” had largely brought this on itself through a gnostic hubris common to insular elites, asserting that its privileged connection to God gave the Pope and his cadre the power of God to define physical reality through pure affirmation. When Galileo effectively demonstrated otherwise, it completely shattered the Catholic church’s credibility and thus Europe’s confidence of man’s privileged place within reality. With no absolute authority, even average men discovered the need to define their own frames of reference. Thus was born the concept of the sovereign individual, which marks the beginning of the Enlightenment.
We take it for granted, nowadays, that a person can have their own ideas about how the universe works. But in historical terms, this assumption is well outside the norm. The idea that a person not only can write down and publish their own ideas, but ought to do so as an exercise in self-actualization, would get modern Westerners lynched in most historical societies. The sudden powerlessness of God’s mediators to mete out divine justice created a private, secular mental space called “empiricism” in the minds of millions of men. In combination with the Thomist dogma of a constant natural philosophy unchanged by time, location, or the mental condition of a human observer, and the intense human need to discover answers for how he fits and functions within a larger universe, the arts and sciences blossomed to fill this space.
The unfortunate side effect of individualism was to introduce unprecedented feelings of alienation in ordinary people who perceived (and still perceive) a merely transactional relationship with their fellow man. Where before culture had been a predictable, prescribed set of beliefs for “us”, the sovereign individual found that one neighbor could believe whatever he fancied and another neighbor could believe something entirely different! A pairwise comparison between the beliefs of pre-Copernican peasants would have produced a tight cluster around the local priest’s dogma, but the post-Copernican found he had no moral authority to punish even the foolhardy and dangerous fancies of the village idiot. So not only does the modern man feel an unbridgeable average distance from his countryman, he still possesses the primitive desire to punish social defectors for the common good. In other words, he feels solipsistic and entitled, perceives he is different and special, and is therefore unrestrained in expressing his latent narcissism.
The weakness of a group comprised of alienated narcissists is obvious, and so the modern man feels an inexpressibly deep insecurity in the face of existential dangers. Why, if I jump on a grenade to save my squad, would my squadmate look after my wife and children? If he is a rational economic actor, and our relationship is predicated on maximizing personal happiness, he will only laugh at my stupidity and dismiss my self-sacrifice as a primitive instinct, deserving only to be swept into the dustbin of history. But if the group is made stronger by irrational atavisms, then it is in the individual’s rational best interest to exist within a high-trust society, which means the modern man is at the mercy of barbarians with healthy instinctual group bonds. With this palpable sense of national weakness, it is quite understandable that a man as smart as Goethe would take an interest in recreating pagan virtus.
But this raises the specter of societal dilemmas, where each individual is incentivized to pretend he is cooperating with the group, but secretly defecting. The Idealists confronted this paradox head-on, determining that the moral thing must be for rational elites to deceive individuals for their own good into forming tight-knit identity classes by appealing to the individuals’ primitive emotions, insecurities, narcissism, and repressed religious drive. Thus was born Marxism, the logical conclusion of classical liberalism. This ideology weaponized the fundamental moral impulse, charity, effectively removing all capacity for empathy in populations which practice it.
The behavioral science of propaganda/marketing soon followed, to appeal to more solipsistic instincts since all capacity for human connection had been extracted and crushed, as if by a psychotic neurosurgeon.
But the trouble with identity classes in Socialist theory, as with all categorizations, is the framing problem: any set of data can be explained by an infinite number of possible theories. Contra the pragmatism of common sense, philosophers declared that true, justified knowledge is impossible because, within the rules of rigorous clear thinking, it is impossible to make a warranted choice of a frame of reference. This brings us to the Current Year, where all news could be fake news, so you might as well believe what thou wilt!
The next installment in this series will be speculation about the future of Jungian Paganism (Zodiacism) as a replacement religion for Christianity, and how this invariably leads to Luciferianism. It will be a while because I want to maintain the quality of these posts.