The West has long been split into two. “While Athens is justly credited with phenomenal achievements in visual art, architecture, theater, philosophy and democratic politics,” writes Paul Cartledge in The Spartans, “the ideals and traditions of its greatest rival, Sparta, are equally potent and enduring: duty, discipline, the nobility of arms in a cause worth dying for, the sacrifice of the individual for the greater good of the community and the triumph of will over seeming insuperable obstacles.”
Cartledge believes that the ethos of ancient Greece influenced, and to some degree came to reside in the Roman and British empires. Yet these too have gone. Rome remains, and Britain remains, though the latter is still battling to have relevance in the world — especially, perhaps, moral relevance. With the traditional religion of the country collapsed, its politicians — like the politicians of most Western European nations — believe less in representing the public than in educating and molding them morally, as priests would once have attempted. Continue reading “Athens, Sparta, And The Division And Decline of The West”
Recently, in response to my article “Creating a Tribal Culture: Principles and Pitfalls,” I was asked whether Freemasonry was syncretic. It’s a good question, though the short answer is that I do not. However, prompted by the question, I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at syncretism, and what we might call sublimation, in regard to developing a culture, a group, organization, or movement, etc.
Sublimation has occurred throughout history. Shaolin martial arts absorbed elements of Buddhism (itself of Indian origin), Taoism, and various Chi exercises (that had already been absorbed into Taoism), etc. Islamic gnosticism absorbed the philosophy of Aristotle and Plato. The Catholic Church absorbed the thought of Aristotle and was shaped by the religious imagery and festivals it encountered as it swept (not always peacefully) across Europe. Christian mysticism borrowed very significantly from Cabala and Hermeticism (the latter of which itself leaned heavily on ancient Greek imagery). Though no one would suggest that these are syncretic. Continue reading “Syncretism Versus Sublimation: Thoughts on Developing an Esoteric Culture”
Increasingly, we are under siege from the inversion of those values accepted, until recently, by every culture the world over — from the classical Chinese to the Arabic, and from dharmic Asia to Europe. Instead of health, we see the promotion of unhealthy lifestyles, diets, fast food, and obesity. Instead of inner and outer strength, we are taught to respect hurt feelings and to regard them as representing inner truth. Instead of tribe, community, and strong bonds between those in the physical world, we are offered only the abstraction of identity politics, virtual communities, and the promise of one day uploading our consciousnesses.
Some groups remain, attached to a way of looking at the world that is shared by the traditions of all developed cultures, derived from such roots as the classical Buddhism of China to the trade guilds of Europe, with their rituals, ethics, religion, and way of life. However, below I have attempted to sketch out a few basic elements that I believe any non-conformist group will need to survive in the modern age, and a few threats posed to them. Continue reading “Creating a Tribal Culture: Principles and Pitfalls”