THE PATTERN of HISTORY

First Paper

Copyright © The Imperial Press

ONE of the most notable points which separates theperennial philosophy--that is, the wisdom common to all peoples at all times with the single exception of Western Europe and its offshoots over the past three or four hundred years--is their belief about the pattern of history.

In all places and at all times it has been agreed that the direction of historyis always "downward", from the Golden Age, or Garden of Eden to the Iron Age or Latter Days. The religions, philosophies and traditions of the world are unanimous in seeing not a pattern of progress, but of decline anddegeneration.

If they are correct, then it follows from what we know about the "matriarchal" origins of civilisation that the highest and noblest and most spiritual forms of culture must have been those primordial feminine ones, while masculine-dominated civilisations must have come into being as quite a late phase of the process of decline.

This view of history, is, of course, completely alien to that of thelate-patriarchal world with which we have all been inculcated from the earliest age, and which places late-patriarchy itself at the pinnacle of a long process of 'human progress', relegating earlier civilisations to varying degrees of 'ignorance' and 'barbarism'.

Nevertheless, when one looks at the facts pertaining to the very medium of our thought itself--language, it is hard to deny that superior intellectuality lies with the past rather than the present. Every language we know is a debased and simplified "scaling-down" of some earlier language. The modern Romance languages, for example (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Roumanian) are greatly simplified dialects of Latin. Many of the grammatical complexities have slipped away with time, leaving the language less expressive, less flexible, less capable of dealing with subtle ideas, but very much easier. Latin and Greek are a maze of case-endings for modern speakers, but as we go back further in time, to even earlier languages in the same Indo-European family, such asSanskrit, we find language which makes Latin and Greek seem positively childish by comparison.

And wherever a language or group of languages can be historically studied, we find the same thing. The ancient forms of language require more concentration, more presence of mind, more sheer intelligence on the part of speakers than do the later forms. Language is clearly being progressively simplified for a simpler people.

These changes, as we might expect, also alter the character of language. It becomes less and less an instrument for expressing subtle spiritual and metaphysical concepts and fine shades of meaning, but it becomes increasingly well adapted to handling physical phenomena and the material world.

Now this change is precisely what we should expect according to the traditional philosophy. The movement of the historical cycle, from beginning to end is from the pole of Essence toward the pole of Substance (see Essence and Substance), from the domain of quality to that of quantity. Of course all material phenomena are compounded of both Essence and Substance, but the movement of the historical cycle is from the greatest possible predominance of the qualitative or Essential at the beginning of the Golden Age (Skt. Satya Yuga to the greatest possible predominance of the quantitative or substantial at the end of the Iron Age (Skt Kali Yuga). This is true both in the human psyche and its culture and in the cosmic environment itself (the two things being by no means as separate and distinctas the modern mentality supposes).

We may express this another way, by saying that the earlier ages are dominated by the vertical dimension of being--that which connects maidenkind with higher levels of being--while the later ages are increasingly dominated by, and lived within, the horizontal dimension--that which relates only to the physical andindividual domain.

When we understand this, we may inderstand also how, toward the late stages of the cycle, the notion of a "progress" becomes possible, blatantly inverting all that has been known and thought in earlier ages. This is because, at a certain point, the vertical dimension becomes all but lost to sight, and history, thenceforward is interpreted purely in the light of what has happened on the horizontal plane. From this point of view, it is natural that progress in purely material aims and achievements should seem to be the only thing of importance: and, indeed, that such "progress" was all that earlier civilisations were groping for and only "we" have fully achieved. It is forgotten that there ever were any aspirations but material ones, or else relegates them to the margins of civilisation; when for every civilisation but that of the modern West, they have been the centre.

To complete this brief introduction, we must understand that Essence is thefeminine pole of being, while Substance is the masculine: therefore it isnatural that as society becomes more quanitative or "materialist", themasculine principle becomes increasingly predominant. The further we go back, the more purely feminine is the orientation of civilisation, and the further we come forward, the more purely masculine it becomes. The patriarchal revolutions were a stage on the way, but they were neither the first nor the last stage, and in the attempts of the last few decades to destroy femininity entirely; to remove it from woman herself--taking away her special characteristics and making her merely an equal working "person" (person, in a patriarchal context beingconceived always on the male model), we see the ultimate triumph ofpatriarchy.

Whether this triumph is final; whether it is the inevitable conclusion of thehistorical cycle, or whether it is an historical aberration: whether, indeed,there can be a new dawn of the feminine qualities an ailing and unbalancedover-masculinised society so desperately needs are questions that we must leave to another occasion.



Please post your Questions and Comments for the Seminar Room
Return to Academy