Paper II


Copyright © The Imperial Press

We have seen how the perennial philosophy, in all places and among all peoples,sees history as a process of decline from the first Golden Age to the finaldays of the Cycle; we have seen also how in the earlier human civilisations thefeminine principle rather than the masculine was predominant: leaving us with apicture of degeneration from the earliest and most feminine civilisations tothe latest and most masculine ones--ending with those recent decades in whichfemininity has been attacked and largely eradicated even in its laststronghold: the heart of woman herself.

Now we must look a little more closely at the concept of the Historical Cycle.According to the traditions of the Indo-European world (though the same conceptcan be found as far afield as the Americas, despite the fact that no culturalcontact between the two worlds had taken place for millennia), the Great Cycleor Manvantara is divided into four Yugas, or Ages. In the Hellenic tradition,which is the direct ancestor of modern European civilisation, the ages weretermed the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age (theselast two should not be confused with the similarly-named Ages of modernarchaeology).

The duration of these ages accords to the pattern known as the Tetrakys; thatis, ten units of time are arranged in the ratio 4:3:2:1; the Golden Age beingthe longest Age and the Iron Age the shortest. Precisely what length of time isinvolved is not known, but the most conservative estimates of the Iron Age putits length at over 6,000 years, many put it much longer. Part of the reason forthe variation is undoubtedly that this macrocosmic pattern of the HistoricalCycle is repeated microcosmically at various levels of historical movement. Thegreatest of all "Great Years" is that in which material manifestation--theentire universe itself--is manifested, developed and comes to an end. Withinthis, the life of maid on our planet is but a small sub-cycle, yet theHistorical Cycle of which we speak is, if we may put it thus, a sub-sub cycle,a cycle within the greater cycle of the duration of humankind, and perhapsanother cycle within that, nested several cycles deep. These things it is notgiven us to know. All that matters is that we should understand the fundamentalnature of the cycle and know that microcosmically one cycle stands for all. So,if we speak at times of our Historical Cycle as if it were the entire cycle ofmanifestation, that is entirely legitimate, for it is the perfect mirrorthereof and obeys the same laws.

It should be noted that even in the case of the smallest sub-cycle, the periodof patriarchy occupies only a part of the Iron Age: thus, for the vast majorityof history we are speaking of feminine civilisations.

What, then, was the Golden Age? Let us recall that the movement of the Cycle ofmanifestation is always from Essence to Substance; from the subtler and morerefined to the grosser and more consolidated. In the earliest ages, maid wasnot manifest as a physical being at all. This is recognised by all traditions(the Semitic religions, for example, including Christianity, speak of humanityinhabiting Paradise before descending to earth).

As the Golden Age continued (and here, we are speaking of the primordial GoldenAge of this earth), maid became increasingly earth-bound and materialised andher Intellectuality declined, though not, of course, to anything approachingthe low level of later ages.

Here it is important to define what we mean by Intellectuality. Intellect is afaculty very different from mere reason (although the two have becomeincreasingly confused in late patriarchal times). Its organ is the heart,which, in the human microcosm, corresponds to the sun in the cosmos. Here weare speaking of the True Heart, the spiritual centre of the human being, ratherthan the mere physical organ which represents it on the plane of matter (justas the true or Supernal Sun must be distinguished from the ball of fire thatrepresents Her on the earthly plane).

Heart-Intellect is that which sees pure Truth directly. Plato (who transmits aportion of the Primordial Tradition carried by Socrates from his femaleteacher, Diotima of Mantinea) speaks of the cave of the world, where the thingsabout us are but shadows cast on the wall. He speaks of the soul who transcendsthe cave and sees the Real Things, the celestial Archetypes of which earthlythings are but shadows. This soul, escaping from the cave and seeing the RealWorld, is exercising the faculty of pure Intellect. As maid declines from herprimordial state, this faculty becomes more and more difficult of attainment,and rigorous disciplines of contemplation and meditation are required to lifteven a corner of the veil of matter. But in the Golden Age, the vision of pureIntellect was as natural to her as seeing physical objects is to you or I.

What she saw of the material world we cannot say, for she scarcely livedthere,

The Taoist sage, Chuang Tzu writes:

"The knowledge of the ancients was perfect. How perfect? At first they did notyet know that there were things (apart from the Tao, the Way, which signifiesthe Eternal and Infinite). That is the most perfect knowledge; nothing can beadded. Next they knew that there were things but did not yet make distinctionsbetween them . . ."

As the golden age wears on, maid becomes more rooted in the earth. Both she andher physical environment become more consolidated (though still extremelysubtle as compared to the materiality of later ages), and she turnsincreasingly from the higher faculty of Intellect to the lesser faculties ofmemory, imagination and reason. Just as Intellect is the Solar faculty, sothese are Lunar faculties (the very words "mind" and "mental" are connected to"moon", Gk. mene). They have no light of their own, but reflect thelight of the Solar Intellect in a lesser mode, and they act upon the 'things'of which Chuang Tzu speaks: that is, the shadows on the cave of theworld--material objects and events, (but still perceived primarily in the lightof their underlying Archetypes). For the mental faculties, like the moonherself, stand ever between the sun and the earth; sometimes dark like theearth, sometimes bright like the sun, mediating between them.

Much later in her downward course, various things became necessary to maid:language (first spoken, much later, as memory deteriorates, written) was one,art another (and all the crafts necessary to material existence--for thedistinction between art and craft, and the divorce of both from spiritualsymbolism belongs only to the later Iron Age), and in each case, thedevelopment was not from crude beginnings upward, but from the highest leveldownward. Language, as we have seen, rather than describing an upward coursefrom `primitive' squeaks and grunts, becomes ever more complex as we gobackwards, and we have heard a distinguished professor of linguistics forced tothe conclusion (much to his own surprise) that the earliest spoken languagesmust have been akin to poetry.

In his book Palaeolithic Art, the art historian Paolo Graziosi writes:"Undoubtedly the most perplexing aspect of the art phenomenon when it appearsto us for the first time is the high degree of maturity shown in the earliestexpressions. The sudden appearance of stylistically evolved works of art takesus completely by surprise, with a marvellous eruption of aesthetic values . . .even the examples which belong unquestionably to the earliest phase . . . areworks of amazing artistic maturity."

It must be understood, moreover, that these Primordial artists and craftmaidswere not trying to 'imitate nature' or make realistic copies of materialobjects, but were depicting, in a highly subtle artistic language, theArchetypes--the Real Forms--behind those objects. This was true of the art ofevery civilisation until the European 'Renaissance' (with the exceptionof the Western 'classical' period, where Plato rebuked the artists for making'copies of copies': that is, 'naturalistic' representations of material objectswhich are themselves only ciopies of the Real Forms), but these first artistsdid it most purely.

The renowned art historian and metaphysician Ananda Coomaraswamy tellsus:--"The characteristic pronouncements of anthropologists on the 'primitivementality' . . . are often very remarkable, and may be said to represent notwhat the writers intended, the description of an inferior type of consciousnessand experience, but one intrinsically superior to that of 'civilised' man andapproximating to that which we are accustomed to think of as 'primordial' . . .Dr. Macalister actually compares what he calls 'the Ascent of Man' toWordsworth's Ode on the Intimations of Immortality, not realising thatthe poem is a description of the descent or materialisation ofconsciousness."

R.R.Schmidt in Dawn of the Human Mind writes: "In 'heathenish' popularcustoms, in the 'superstitions' of our folk, the spiritual adventures ofprehistoric times, the imagery of primitive insight are living still; a divineinheritance."

Dr. Coomaraswamy comments further: "We say that what seems to 'us' irrationalin the life of 'savages' and may be unpractical since it unfits them to competewith our material force, represents the vestiges of a primordial state ofmetaphysical understanding, and that if the savage himself is, generallyspeaking, no longer a comprehensor of his own 'divine inheritance', thisignorance on his part is no more shameful than ours who do not recognise theintrinsic nature of his 'lore' and understand it no better than he does. We donot say that the modern 'savage' exemplifies the 'primordial state' itself, butthat his beliefs, and the whole content of folklore, bear witness to such astate."

As the great American scholar John Ellerton Lodge has said: "From the stone ageuntil now--quelle dégringolade [what a degeneration]".

In short, modern scholarship, often to its own surprise and consternation,finds itself continually making discoveries that undermine the evolutionistprejudices with which it approaches its task, and confirm again and again the wisdom handed down from the earliest times: that Primordial Maid representednot a lower, but an immeasurably higher state of humanity and that herincreasing involvement with the world of matter, the progressive'consolidation' of herself and her environment, while leading to ever greaterdevelopments on the horizontal plane--from language to art, from art tocities--was bought at the cost of a steady decline on the highest plane of all:that of pure Intellect and spiritual vision.

But let us recall that in these relatively early times--let us say, the periodof maid fully acclimatised on earth in the first Silver-Age cities--we arestill speaking of a state of spiritual refinement, of subtlety and beautyalmost inconceivable from our position toward the dark end of the historicalcycle. The life of maid, as all traditions agree, was much longer than thehundred years or less enjoyed by the people of the Iron Age, and her wisdom,though descended from its primordial pinnacle was yet majestic. Her vision,while now fixed upon 'things' rather than the Principle, was far subtler thanours, seeing always, though at an ever lower level, the immaterial essencesbehind material manifestation. Much of what later ages achieved by materialforce, she accomplished by subtle means which a later age might call 'magic';and the essential harmony of her being with nature as a whole (being at onewith the essence behind it) allowed her to live with but minimal "struggle forexistence" and great concentration upon the higher things.

What might strike a modern visitor most about life in these early times wouldbe its beauty--especially if she were enabled, as the people of those timeswere, to see the subtle forms as well as the outward physical shell of such acivilisation. Beauty has always been considered primarily a feminine quality,and as the patriarchal age progressed has been more and more relegated to theposition of an inessential and trivial part of life: increasingly the firstthing to be sacrificed when 'serious' practical or economic considerationsconflicted with it, yet, until very recently, preserved carefully and at timesfiercely by the female sex, in her surroundings, her home and her personalappearance.

Plato, so often the spokesman for the traditional consciousness to the earlypatriarchal West, by no means though beauty trivial or unimportant. He usedto kalon--the Beautiful--as a term for the Absolute, expounding theprimordial knowledge that all earthly beauty is such only because itparticipates in the absolute Beauty of the divine. Beauty is not, as the moderndogma would have it, a mere subjective product of the human brain, but auniversal quality that predates the very existence of earthly humanity.

Beauty is the mark of Essence or Form. Only insofar as the Essences orArchetypes are imperfectly reflected in matter can there ever be ugliness inthis world, and above this material world, ugliness cannot exist. To make lifebeautiful is to bring it into conformity with its spiritual Source.

Thus the first ages, just as they were ages of femininity, were also ages ofbeauty, while, as the feminine orientation of civilisation diminished, itsbeauty diminished likewise. The patriarchal ages were in many respects ugly,though almost always they retained a reverence for beauty. Only after theseventeenth-century 'Enlightenment' do we begin to see beauty formally writtenoff as a matter of no serious importance, and not until the twentieth centuryitself do we see a cult of deliberate ugliness manifest itself in humanlife--an ultra-masculine sensibility which actually prefers thedeformed, the lopsided, the odd and the low to things high and noble and fair of aspect.In the early part of the century this perversion was confined to certaindistorted 'intellectuals', but after the cultural Eclipse of the 1960s itincreasingly invaded the everyday sensibility of the entire culture until thepoint when (to take one highly significant example) a large proportion oflate-twentieth-century women deliberately dressed in a manner that was asunkempt, drab and masculine as possible, and human culture had reached thecomplete inversion of the Golden Age.

Woman had capitulated and accepted completely the masculine scale of valuesagainst which she had for so long been the bulwark and the 'reminder' of ahigher mode of being. She was now at the furthest remove from the femininemajesty of Primordial Maid.

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