The Anatomy of an Apocalypse
As mentioned previously within these pages, we in late 2020 are currently living through the opening salvo of an apocalypse.
To understand what this means, first let us look at the etymology of the word ‘apocalypse.’ This is from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
Apocalypse (n.); late 14c., “revelation, disclosure,” from Church Latin apocalypsis “revelation,” from Greek apokalyptein “uncover, disclose, reveal,” from apo “off, away from” + kalyptein “to cover, conceal.”
Thus we can see that the Bible’s Book of Revelation is that which describes apocalyptic events — i.e, a time during which that which is concealed is revealed.
The dictionary further notes:
Its general sense in Middle English was “insight, vision; hallucination.” The meaning “a cataclysmic event” is modern (not in OED 2nd ed., 1989); apocalypticism “belief in an imminent end of the present world” is from 1858.
So an apocalypse isn’t fire and brimstone, end of the world scenarios — or it isn’t just that. Rather, it’s a period during which the current corrupted old order is overturned to make way for the new.
A little like — and this is just off the top of my head — how the corruption that had been allowed to take hold of democracies worldwide is now being brought to light through Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the Presidential election, for example.
Or how Covid is revealing to us how laughable it is to believe that we humans have any control over the natural world whatsoever. We have been reduced by this pandemic to superstition, clinging to our masks and hand sanitizer as those in previous ages clung to their cloves and crosses, which rather undermines our claim to be morally and intellectually advanced.
The Tytler Cycle
Alexander Fraser Tytler (1747-1813) was, among other things, a professor of Universal History add Greek and Roman Antiquities at the University of Edinburgh. His ‘schtik,’ if you like, was that democracies have a lifespan of about 200 years but are inherently doomed to fail as soon as voters realise they can vote for handouts.
The following quote has been attributed to him:
“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through progressed through the following sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; from dependence back into bondage.”
Be Like Pinocchio
Before Jordan Peterson released his fabulous Genesis series, he put out a lecture online which took as its theme Disney’s Pinocchio, which is of course based on a 19th C Italian book, which in turn draws upon folk tales.
The lecture is fascinating and well worth a watch in its own right, but is particularly pertinent today as it describes the hero’s journey.
Pinocchio longs to be real, but for much of the story is a puppet—he has no will of his own but is lured and tricked at every turn, eventually leading to him being turned into a donkey and enslaved on Pleasure Island.
His father seeks him, but fails in his mission and is swallowed by a big fish.
The story resolves by Pinocchio diving down into the depths to rescue his father, whereupon his wish to become a real boy is granted.
The metaphor is clear: in our youth we are all ‘puppets,’ easily swayed by fad and fashion and led astray. If we find ourselves washed up on Pleasure Island, we become stupid, enslaved, unable to think for ourselves. The answer is to dive into the abyss and rescue the timeless ancient wisdom that sustains all life, bring it to the surface, and in doing so, become fully constructed ‘real’ people.
However. Society, as Thatcher once sharply noted, is not a stand-alone entity. It is made up of individuals, families, communities. And so the hero’s journey also plays out on grand scale through the Tytler cycle.
A nation has faith that it can continue by building a legacy for itself, and so with courage it creates liberty, a state in which all the conditions necessary for human flourishing: art, innovation, wealth and prosperity in abunance are present, just as Gepetto creates Pinocchio and gives him a good start in life.
The inheritors, however, view this as the status quo, being unaware of the work that went in to creating it, and so like Pinocchio they become selfish, and complacent. Pleasure Island creates ripe conditions for apathy—why rebel when you can easily be diverted by frivolous entertainment? But in this way they become dependent on those who provide the entertainment, and enslaved.
The cycle, however, must right itself, and Pinocchio teaches us how: those individuals who refuse to become enslaved must rescue the father from the abyss. We must remember the lessons taught in the Bible, in the classics, and in ancient philosophy. That way, we can regain our freedoms and begin the cycle anew.
A Warning Shot
On Thursday night, President Trump’s legal team gave a comprehensive press conference in which they laid out their opening argument over allegations of election rigging in the 2020 Presidential election. Their case, very briefly, alleges that the vote was fixed in two ways: by cheating on paper ballots, and through the use of vote-rigging technology.
If half of what they are alleging is true, this amounts to an attempted Marxist takeover of the USA. This has real consequences for all of us, as America is the beacon of liberty worldwide. If America becomes enslaved, we all do.
Two outcomes are possible: Trump will win his case and remain President, or Trump will lose his case and Biden will become President. Which outcome transpires will reveal to us which phase of the cycle our society is in: bondage or faith.
The answer, in either case, is to push on through the stages. They are not clearly defined. A nation can be — as America is — both in bondage and in faith, as the people within the nation can be in either of these states. What tips it decisively from one to the next is how many are in one state or another.
If the majority in a nation feel enslaved, the nation is in bondage and the few individuals who refuse will be persecuted. If the majority have faith, the cycle is moved forward into courage, liberty and abundance.
It is imperative, therefore, that we all see ourselves as both free individuals and part of the corporate whole. Our personal freedom depends on the freedom of our friends and neighbours. That is why, as mentioned last week, gaining our freedom will depend on us both regaining our own courage, and us forming alliances with courageous others.
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