All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Riddle of Strider
Contemplating the resonances between the darkest day of the year, and the epoch of darkness in which we find ourselves – called by some the Kali Yuga, I came to dwell on the fact that within our yearly cycle, we find there to be a period of latency between the progress of the sun through the skies, and our feeling its effects in the phenomenon of the seasons. Which is to say that the heat of summer and the cold of winter doesn’t manifest itself fully when the sun is at its highest or lowest points; rather, it takes some time for cosmic events (the movements of the heavenly bodies) to make their influence felt upon the Earth. Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. Despite this, the depths of winter, together with their challenges, are yet to come.
Now, according to a certain Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), who may have known a thing or two about such questions, humankind passed through the deepest point of materialistic consciousness, or ‘peak Kali Yuga’, if you will, in the year 1879. A rather curious claim, one might say, given how the industrialised destruction of our home, its great bounty of life, and of our own bodies has proceeded unabated since that date – surely, an effect of such materialism. My question, however, is whether the disintegration we currently witness within our cultures could nonetheless be the symptoms of a ‘winter of discontent’ following the alleged event of 1879.
The first thing I wish to emphasise is that culture is a significant force behind the formation of people’s thoughts, and hence actions. It likewise has something of a somnambulant nature to it, repeating familiar rituals, not changing its course very readily. This makes sense, if its original purpose was to maintain our connection to the ‘dreamtime’, while our awareness of it became progressively weaker – so proposes Steiner’s model. Despite the fact that the world’s cultures have become increasingly engulfed by a materialist mindset (something that has been enabled in no small measure through the persistent activities of well-funded financier and industrialist interests) but which at the same time is entirely to be expected if one follows the view of the development of consciousness that Steiner laid out, it still takes a fair bit of shaking before the ‘dreamer’ may begin to stir. As such, might the chaos we’re currently witnessing be a herald of the still distant, yet coming spring – a necessary purging of old structures to allow the emergence of new forms to take place?
In other words, will we (both individually and collectively) continue to receive our truths from priesthoods, be they religious, intellectual, or scientific, or will we embark upon our own personal quests to uncover the deeper nature of this reality? The latter, or at least in my understanding, was what Steiner was hoping to get across in his articulation of what he called ‘spiritual science’. It appears to me that a new culture can only be built upon the foundations of such efforts being made by individuals – and not simply from the revival of ‘Primordial Traditions‘. The currently prevalent cultural maps, though in many cases founded upon truths, have over time become increasingly fragmented and riddled with contradictions. This is surely a key factor driving the despair and nihilism rapidly becoming the norm in our time: we are aware that something is not as it should be, but not necessarily why that is the case. The extant maps are now beyond the point of repair, and no longer sufficient to serve the needs of an individuating humankind. Hence, what is called for is a new breed of ‘pioneers’, to dispassionately review them, and articulate a new synthesis. This is to be achieved through studying both the maps and their creators, and comparing this with what has been learned through one’s own personal explorations of the terrain.
Due to how mangled most minds have become, and how far debt-slavery has dispossessed us, it’s likely only a few that will be capable of engaging in such painstaking work at present. It is, equally, an essential task to attempt if our cultures are not to be entirely torn apart by their conflicting contents. Significantly though, the method here can only be to map out the way to knowledge, and never to encourage others into accepting what they haven’t been able to confirm by their own efforts. While there continues to be no shortage of candidates for the position, the time of shepherds has passed. Those who demand faith of their flocks maim them in doing so, and can ultimately only lead them to their downfall. The map is not, and never will be the territory: personal experience is primary. Given the acute nature of our current predicament, cultivating hope may indeed be cowardice; although at the same time, complacency borne out of resignation seems to me a far worse affliction. For whatever adversity we may face in our time, in our ability to engage in this task, each of us is sovereign.
Waes Hael, and Glad Yule to One and All.