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The Anti-Christ now rules us all The age of progress has turned everything into machines and money

The devil we don't know (JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)


May 28, 2022   10 mins

Throughout history, the poets, the prophets and mystics have usually done a better job of predicting the future than pundits, politicians or scientists. Generally the reward for their perspicacity is to be ignored or laughed at, but luckily they are usually far enough from the centre not to notice or care. 

The French mystic and thinker RenĂ© GuĂ©non, who was doing his best work nearly a century back, was one of them. In his two books (The Crisis of the Modern World and The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times), GuĂ©non laid out his notion that the modern world had deteriorated into a realm of pure materialism as a result of what he called the “Western deviation” from eternal truth. He called this the “reign of quantity”, and predicted its future collapse. But GuĂ©non was not simply talking economics or politics. What was going on, he said, was something akin to a spiritual war, and as a Sufi Muslim he wasn’t shy about naming its antagonist. To this age, he wrote, “the word ‘Satanic’ can indeed be properly applied”.

Presenting disorder as order and truth as lies — this, wrote GuĂ©non, was the way that Satan rolled. The “more or less direct agents of the Adversary”, he explained, using the Biblical name for what Europeans would later come to call the Devil, always aimed to invert reality. Right is wrong, black is white, up is down, there is no truth, do what thou wilt: this has always been the Adversary’s line, and today it is prominent in all quarters.

The heterodox Catholic philosopher Ivan Illich, who died in 2002, also believed we were living in the time of Anti-Christ, but for different reasons. For Illich, any claims that we lived in a “secular age” were nonsense. The modern West was still Christian, he said, but it had disastrously attempted to codify the spontaneous expressions of love which Christ had shown to be God’s desire for humanity within systems and institutions. First the Church, and then the supposedly “secular” liberal states which had succeeded it, had attempted to transmute Christian love into obligation and enforce it by law, thus twisting it into a new form of oppression. His biographer David Cayley explained in a recent essay that Illich’s work “emphatically rejects the idea that ours is a post-Christian era. ‘On the contrary’, he says, ‘I believe this to be the most obviously Christian epoch, which might be quite close to the end of the world.'”

A decade or so before Illich was writing, the Jewish Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was also attending to the dark spiritual undercurrent of the age. He had a different interpretation of its source — or perhaps he was just using a different name. In Howl, he identified the forward march of industrial modernity — and especially the hypocrisy and brutality of the American empire — with the pagan god Moloch, who demanded human sacrifice from his devotees:

Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! 


Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind! 

Ginsberg, it seemed, could also sense that the spirit of his age was not under human control, either out in the world or in his own soul and mind. Usually this is easier to talk about in poetry or fiction, for the age doesn’t look kindly on anything which can’t be quantified. It can deal with Ginsberg, but it doesn’t want to talk about Moloch. It can just about cope with Christ if he has been brought down to our level — made into an activist or a defender of culture or a “cosmic” manifestation of the self — but it has nothing to say about Anti-Christ, who blows the whole story sky-high. As for St Paul’s famous notion that the world is subject not only to nature but to “principalities and powers” which wish us ill: this kind of talk was supposed to have been wrecked on the shores of the Enlightenment, never to be seen again.

But the powers and principalities didn’t die in the shipwreck of the old world, they just took on new forms. Today we can, in fact, still talk about these strange, underlying forces as long as we use the correct language. Take, for example, the Silicon Valley philosopher Kevin Kelly’s pet notion that technology has its own mind and its own purpose: that through the web of what he calls “the technium”, something is using us to create itself. Kelly sees technology growing into something self-aware and independent of its human creators, as he explained in his book What Technology Wants: “It may have once been as simple as an old computer program, merely parroting what we told it, but now it is more like a very complex organism that often follows its own urges.”

Other breathless Silicon Valley mavens, from Mark Zuckerberg with his Metaverse to Ray Kurzweil with his Singularity, regularly talk in the same register about where the technium is taking us. Our job, they seem to imply, is simply to service it as it rolls forward under its own steam, remaking everything in its own image, rebuilding the world, turning us, if we are lucky, into little gods.

They never consider where this story has been heard before. They never confront, or seem to even comprehend, what Illich or GuĂ©non or even Ginsberg would have known, and which many a saint would confirm if they could hear the technium’s new story: that “AI”, on the right lips, can sound like just another way of saying “Anti-Christ”.

Maybe it’s just me, but the ongoing and rapid inversion of so much we have previously taken for granted increasingly seems to be happening independently of human action. It is as if something else has become manifest in some way we can’t quite put our finger on, and has stimulated the craziness of the times. Perhaps it has become self-aware, like Skynet; perhaps it is approaching its Singularity. Perhaps it has always been there, watching, and is now seizing its moment. Or perhaps it is simply beginning to spin out of control, as our systems and technologies become so complex that we can no longer steer them in our chosen direction. Either way, this force seems to be, in some inexplicable way, independent of us, and yet acting within us too.

Let’s give this force a name: a less provocative name, for now, than Moloch or Anti-Christ. Let’s keep it simple. Let’s just call this force Progress. Then, à la Kevin Kelly, let’s ask ourselves a simple question: what does Progress want?

The Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce saw the modern era as a thorough and permanent revolution — a radical break with the human past. He defined a modern person as “someone who thinks that ‘today it is no longer possible’”. We do not tend to see our time as continuous with what has gone before, he said. Instead, we believe we live after a “violent break with history”.

In the story of Progress that informs us today, the revolutions of the modern age — industrial, political and intellectual — are assumed to have radically changed the world. By sweeping away old ways of thinking, seeing and living, modernity has produced “a type of violence capable of breaking the continuum of history”.

What Progress wants is the end of history.

Del Noce seems to be having something of a moment at present, provoked by a recent collection of his essays and lectures, translated into English as The Crisis of Modernity. This crisis, in Del Noce’s seeing, is one of exclusion: it is what the modern way of seeing leaves out that matters:what is excluded is the ‘supernatural’, religious transcendence 
 For rationalists, certainty about an irreversible historical process 
 has replaced what for medieval thinkers was faith in revelation.”

The modern epoch, explained Del Noce, guided by science, reason and the self, rejects the notion of anything “unseen” or “beyond”. From the 18th century onwards, philosophy swept away religion: the world was now understood in purely human terms, and managed with purely human notions. Everything became immanent: literally, down-to-Earth.

All of this, said Del Noce, marks a radical transformation in human seeing. It is, for example, a “sharp break with respect to the Greek and medieval periods”. Both the followers of Plato and the followers of Christ (not to mention every other old culture on Earth, in their own particular way) believed that truth was transcendent, eternal and uncreated, and could be known through some combination of faith, practice and reason. 

No longer, said Del Noce: the only “transcendence” that our age will permit is that which we create ourselves. With no ultimate truth or higher story, there is now nothing to stop us bending the universe to our desires: indeed, to do so is our duty. This, in Del Noce’s telling, explained 20th century history. Having replaced religion with philosophy, we then tried putting philosophy into practice on a grand scale, with terrible results.

How do we shape the universe in the age of immanence? According to Del Noce, “the spiritual power that in the Middle Ages had been exercised by the Church 
 today can be exercised only by science”. In this “totalitarian conception of science”, “every other type of knowledge — metaphysical or religious — expresses only ‘subjective reactions’, which we are able, or will be able, to explain by extending science to the human sphere through psychological and sociological research.”

But the rise of science did not lead to the end of religion, however much Richard Dawkins might like it to be so. Instead — as noted by Illich — religion responded to the challenge by becoming immanent itself. Western Christianity progressively abandoned its commitment to transcendence and was “resolved into philosophy”, allowing itself to be brought down to Earth, into the realm of social activism, politics and ideas. “The conversion of a large part of the religious world to the idea of modernity”, said Del Noce, “accelerated the process of disintegration” that the modern revolution had unleashed.

What Progress wants is the death of God.

But Man cannot live by immanence alone. Religion meets a human need, and when it is gone, or corrupted, the hole it leaves will have to be filled by something else. What will that be? Del Noce’s answer is: revolution. Modernity, he suggests, could be defined as a permanent, ongoing revolution.

The desire to build Utopia on the bones of the old world has been the consuming fire of Western thought for 300 years. Jacobins, Bolsheviks, communists, socialists, Fascists, Nazis, neoliberals and many more have all attempted to scour the ground clean and start again, and we are not done yet. “The revolutionary attitude of creative violence”, writes Del Noce, “has replaced the ascetic attitude of seeking liberation from the world”. If once society’s refuseniks imitated St Anthony, now they copy Che Guevara. All that is solid melts into air: this, in the words of its most consequential revolutionary mind, is the best description of the age of immanence that we have ever had.

What Progress wants is permanent revolution.

The two world wars of the 20th century — which Del Noce prefers to view as a single European conflict, lasting from 1914 until 1945 — spread this revolution against transcendence and tradition all around the world. After 1945, America, unchallenged monarch of the reign of quantity, took on the global responsibility for waging “the Enlightenment’s war against their own past”. Del Noce agreed with another prophet, Simone Weil, that “the Americanisation of Europe would lead to the Americanisation of the whole world” — and so it has proven. But Europe, by pursuing the path of pure immanence, had in any case already doomed itself, by turning on itself the weapons it had long used on others and hollowing out its own historic culture in the name of Progress: “Colonisation can be achieved by only one method: by uprooting a people from its traditions. Europeans have a long history of extensively practising this method (and this was Europe’s greatest historical fault). Now — oh, wonder! — in order to feign regret they are applying the same.”

Where would all this lead? The ultimate result of the revolution of modernity, predicted Del Noce, would be fragmentation, nihilism, and “the death of the sacred”. The twin revolutionary engines of the postwar era, he suggested, were scientism and sex. The first usurped the role of religion and culture, reducing all life to the level of the measurable and controllable. The second, via the sexual revolution of the 1960s and the resulting “permissive society”, unleashed a radical individualism cored around sexual desire, which would lead to the fragmentation of everything from nationhood to the family — but leave capitalism and its attendant class, the bourgeoisie, intact.

Modernity, in the final accounting, took aim at all authority, all tradition, everything rooted and everything past. Del Noce’s prediction, made decades ago, was that the end result of modernity’s revolutions would be the rise of a “new totalitarianism”. This time around it would not involve jackboots and uniforms. Instead, it would be a technocracy built on scientism and implemented by managerial elites, designed to ensure that order could continue after modernity had ripped up all former sources of authority and truth. Ironically, wrote Del Noce, “the rejection of authority, understood in its metaphysical-religious foundation, leads instead to the fullness of ‘power'”.

Create a void, in other words, and into it will rush monsters.

The new totalitarianism, suggested Del Noce, would “absolutely deny traditional morality and religion”, basing its worldview instead on “scientistic dogmatism”. It would negate all “spiritual forces”, including those which, in the 1930s, had been used to resist the totalitarianisms of Hitler and Stalin: “the Christian tradition, liberalism, and humanitarian socialism”. It would be a “totalitarianism of disintegration”, even more so than Russian communism, which had presented itself to some degree as a continuation of national tradition. This time around though, “the complete negation of all tradition”, including that of “fatherlands” — nations — would lead to rule by the only large institutions still standing: global corporations.

Faced with this challenge, Del Noce insisted that “current political formulas are completely inadequate”. Neither Left nor Right were equipped to understand what was going on: both, instead, would typically retreat to their historic comfort zones, with the Left blaming “fascists” and the Right blaming “communists” for the ongoing disintegration. The real source of the disintegration, though, was not partisan: it was the Machine.

What Progress wants is liberation from everything.

Progress. The Machine. Moloch. Anti-Christ. The Technium. We are all grasping here, trying to name something we cannot see, but whose impacts we can feel undermining the foundations of everything we have known. Augusto Del Noce’s analysis of the modern revolution — and the rootless, spiritless, immanent world it had produced — pointed to the ultimate destination as both totalitarianism and nihilism.

Kevin Kelly, of course, would disagree. For him and his fellow tech idealists, the clearing away of the transcendent realm is only a precursor to building another one — and getting it right this time: “Technology is part of a great asymmetrical arc that begins at the big bang and extends into ever more abstract and immaterial forms over time. The arc is the slow yet irreversible liberation from the ancient imperative of matter and energy.”

Del Noce is often referred to as a conservative or even a reactionary thinker, but he didn’t accept either label. Simple “reaction”, he said, was no solution to what was unfolding. Both nostalgia and utopia were ultimately fruitless as tools of resistance. If permanent revolution, and the consequent disintegration, is the baseline state of a world that denies transcendence, then the alternative is clear: a return to the spiritual centre. A rediscovery, or a reclamation, of the transcendent realm and its place in our lives. This, and only this, is the alternative to the reign of quantity and its attendant cast of gods, demons and machines.

What Moloch wants — Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks — is sacrifice. We must sacrifice ourselves and our children to the robot apartments and stunned governments. What Anti-Christ wants is the opposite of transcendence. If the coming of Christ represents the transcendent breaking into the temporal in order to change it, then His opponent will herald a world of pure matter, uninterrupted by anything beyond human reach. Everything in that world is up for grabs. Anything, from rainforests to the human body, can be claimed and reshaped in the interests of advancing the realm of the human will. It is the oldest story.

The rushing power that runs beneath the age of Progress, the energy of the modern world, the river that carries us onwards — where is it taking us? We know the answer. Humans cannot live for very long without a glimpse of the transcendent, or an aspiration, dimly understood, to become one with it. Denied this path, we will make our own. Denied a glimpse of heaven, we will try to build it here. This imperfect world, these imperfect people — they must be superseded, improved, remade. Flawed matter is in our hands now. We know what to do.

What Progress wants is to replace us.

Perhaps the last remaining question is whether we will let it.

 

A longer version of this essay first appeared at The Abbey of Misrule.


Paul Kingsnorth is a novelist and essayist. His latest novel Alexandria is published by Faber. He also has a Substack: The Abbey of Misrule.


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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

What a fine essay. Sometimes I feel Unherd has lost its way and embraced the more trivial aspects of popular culture instead of weightier subjects, and then an essay like this comes along.
The word “immanence” plays a major role in this essay and the word that immediately came to mind, as an antidote to “immanence”, is “numinous”: having a strong religious or spiritual quality. The word “religion” won’t do because religion is what we’ve lost and for good reason. As the author notes, religion willfully renounced its transcendent aspects in favor of worldly, trendy activism: it converted itself into something worthy of rendering unto Caesar, or Mammon. But numinous has a slightly esoteric connotation appropriate for the transcendent.
Where do we look for the emergence of the numinous in the modern world. I don’t think we return to the old religions in their traditional forms. In some cases, such as the Roman Catholic church, they are discredited through their own actions, or they just feel old and irrelevant. They can, in principle, revitalize themselves and that’s a matter for their theologians, assuming those people are permitted freedom of thought.
But ultimately I believe we must look to our artists; our writers, musicians, painters and, I would add, mythologists. Images and myth are paramount, imo, and we need new ones that resonate with the modern world. We can only hope such bold, imaginative artists exist out there. One thing is for sure, our “elites”, our tech overlords, our enforcers of right-thought, will do everything in their power to crush such people.
Will we, the tech-dependent masses, uprooted and stigmatized for retaining any sense of community and tradition, have the courage to nurture these artists? Are we sufficiently self-aware to recognize that these people will lead us to a renewed understanding, a renewed experience, of the one word that truly matters: God. Not God in the sense of a friendly patriarch in the sky, or even an Earth Mother. God as shorthand for the profound mystery at the core of life to which we must connect if we are not to wither and die.

Last edited 1 year ago by J Bryant
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Excellent response.

I think you’ve gone some way to answering your own question – as to whether we will “nurture these artists”.

Since my mid-teens, i’ve pondered these issues and since joining the Unherd community i’m beginning to think the human spirit will prevail, not as an external numinosity (something beyond ourselves) but rather something from within.

In later life, i’ve taken up painting as a means of searching for that spirit, which i’ve come to recognise exists beyond words. Language often gets in the way, with its sophistry and capacity for misinterpretation. Your point about images has particular resonance, and its something humans have produced, almost certainly before we had language.

Its essays such as these, and such responses, which provide the nourishment we need.

Jonathan Nash
Jonathan Nash
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree: it is an interesting essay, and thank you for your further thoughts. My own view hpwever is that it is not enough to say, as people do, that one is not a practising Christian/Muslim/Jew etc., but one is a very “spiritual” person. If one is not a materialist, one has to work out quite fully and carefully what are one’s metaphysical beliefs.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Jonathan Nash

I agree. If someone who is not a materialist does not do this, they are presupposing the possibility of a God who doesn’t matter. That seems an irrational position.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Excellent conversation, thank you JB and Steve. Substituting numinous for God is particularly insightful.

I would query whether it is entirely down to our artists and myth makers, the most successful of whom are currently in thrall both to mammon and the successor ideology.

I think the community makers are more important. The thousands of unpaid coaches who run kids sports teams. The Boy Scout and Girl Guide leaders. The people who organised local deliveries of essentials during the pandemic.

I suspect the human desire for transcendence is, at root, the evolutionary survival requirement to be part of a tribe. It is atomisation that is making us feel something big is missing.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yes, I wonder if actually the ‘doers’ will lead the way out of this, as you suggest.

Or potentially families. I find it interesting to see a sort of counter-revolutionary movement in the USA, of parents starting to re-engage with the notion of parenting after the shock of the Covid period and finding out what was actually going on in their children’s schools.

The family is the smallest and most natural ‘unit’ or building block of community, which produces culture, and then politics. Both of the current dominant ideologies of ‘social justice’ and the ‘commoditisation of everything’ (even human experience, and human minds & bodies) are very hostile to the family unit, and attack it quite relentlessly in order to remove it from the the path of their ‘progress’.

I think this happened as a slow grind and so people weren’t aware enough to take in the larger picture, or mobilise against it. I wonder if 2020/21 has changed that, and forced many of us to reflect on the nature of the world as we had ordered it (or allowed it to be ordered), starting with ourselves — our own lives, our own families. This ‘awakening’ among parents could be the seed of the counter revolution, and it certainly would be driven by the numinous. Love for one’s children is the deepest and purest motivation there is?

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
1 year ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

Indeed, Martin and JJ, the change will come bottom up.
It will require that we put more importance to the qualitative nature of things rather than the quantitative nature of things.
Science in its wider sense has taken us down a very sad part by estimating that only things that can be measured (quantitative experiences) and ‘understood’ are real.
I remain optimistic that there are enough people who value quality of experience to make sure that there will be a future. Actually, it is science itself that is already showing that the quantification of experiences is a mirage. Sadly, not enough scientists are realising or accepting or understanding this, bogged down in a battle for funding…. funding = quantitative experience….

Marcia McGrail
Marcia McGrail
1 year ago
Reply to  JJ Barnett

Throughout history, children have been at the thick end of adults’ whims. However, it seems to me that one of the symptoms of this Progress is the alarming media stories of people who don’t appear to have any love for their children, let alone anything deep or pure. Unloved (or perhaps badly loved) children, if not murdered by their parents, turn out to often be problematic adults; problematic adults commit proportionately more crime, perpetrate more violence, start more wars etc. then we get the world order we deserve.
Disintegration starts with what’s churned out from families.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Marcia McGrail

This reminds me of the Mouse Utopia experiment in the 1970s. They built a ‘utopia’ for the mice – easy access to all the food and shelter and play area needs, no predators etc. They wanted to see what would happen to the mice, would they breed prodigiously under such conditions, until they had overpopulated the enclosure?

Well what actually happened wasn’t overpopulation, but complete social anarchy. Unprovoked violence, mothers abandoning (or even attacking or eating) their babies, cessation of breeding.

Some of the mice became known as ‘the beautiful ones’ as they’d hang out by themselves, and not interact or breed with others. They’d groom themselves all day instead. Sounds a lot like our young people with social media, right? – no interest in the major ‘real world’ milestones of life, instead they’re isolating themselves and focusing on cultivating a particular type of appearance and behaviour in order to be one of the ‘beautiful ones’.

It’s wild to read about, I’ll drop a link.

https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/universe-25-the-mouse-utopia-experiment-that-turned-into-an-apocalypse/
mac mahmood
mac mahmood
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

On reading this one might be forgiven for thinking that one is in the pseud’s corner.

Last edited 1 year ago by mac mahmood
Dave Corby
Dave Corby
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I agree with your last sentence but feel you went off the path in the middle of your response.
There is an objective truth. Anyone who says otherwise is not worth talking to – other than to persuade them it is true. Honest science is gradually discovering that truth and many of us believe that the important parts are already written down in the Christian Bible.
Yes, we should throw out the man-made religion that choked us with rules. But to look to modern, biased, confused, and greedy artists is a strange concept.
All we need is for the scientific method to be given the respect it deserves and taken away from the hands (and financing) of those who just desire power.
It is my belief that science is simply the gradual discovery of the truth in the Bible and so am not concerned by it – and that we could save everyone time, suffering, and early death, by simply giving God’s word the respect that it deserves.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

I agree. The book, ‘Is atheism dead?’ by Eric Metaxas provides an excellent review of science and other evidence including the fine tuning of the universe, the origin of life, archaeology and history. It is a fascinating book whatever ones beliefs.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

You say some religions “just feel old”. But surely, if they are not old then they do not adequately worship the eternal God – who as Creator of all is clearly ‘old’.

James Dye
James Dye
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

I don’t necessarily agree with you. A society based on agreeing to disagree has never existed. Every society must revolve around a central totem—a supernatural force that gives people a common goal and devotion. 
Religion is the only foundation for human social life due to its two unique functions: 1) its ability to tantalise and 2) its use of incredibly simple symbology. An ideology like rationalism can’t accomplish that without devolving into a totalitarian cult, as the author says.
Secularism and liberalism are entirely modern and transient phenomena. If it is not Christianity, it will be another religion that fills the void left by the Enlightenment and that reclaims the totemic centre. There is no escaping the fact that society is fundamentally religious in nature.

LCarey Rowland
LCarey Rowland
1 year ago

Paul, your analysis here certainly rings true. It is an accurate summation of what has happened. However, you neglected to mention this important point:
Each one of us is still a person, individual and autonomous. When any man or woman takes the time and effort to analyze this world– what it has to offer and its history, he/she will likely discover this predicament:
In all of history, there is only one person who, in spite of his acknowledged goodness, endured a criminal trial, was executed unto death, but then lived tell about it
There is only one person in history who offers the assurance of eternal life–life after death.
I’m going with him. The rest is all sound and fury signifying nothing.
Accept Jesus’ claim of eternal life; go with him, because he has, indeed, overcome the world. Furthermore, he has extended that eternal option to each one of us.
All you need do is believe Him.It’s that simple.
So choose. His is a better deal than any other that you will find in this world.
Then go out and, if you think it helpful, live the social gospel. It’s something to do. But that life well-lived is not what will open the door on the other side of death.
There is only one person who will open that door to eternity for you. Just believe and be ready when your time comes.
Selah!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

This essay seems to have been well received judging by the comments here.
Unfortunately the abstraction of its speculations leaves me unconvinced. It seems to be more a Rorschach blot enabling those dissatisfied with the current quasi-political drift of our official churches and the state of politics and society to read in their own particular philosophic and spiritual thoughts to find some endorsement in the essay.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I’m with you there. As essays go: reading done, some impressive citations (and he has more patience with Ginsberg than me); and the commonality among the sources is drawn out (or imposed, perhaps) quite well. But as regards the conclusions, well, as befits the subject matter, they’ve really quite numinous.

Shorter PK “I don’t like the way the world is going” and the comments chorus amen. John Locke suggested that that god must exist because deities have so many forms. Yet this looked like just as good a case for the non-existence of the divine to me, and I feel the same way about Mr Kingsnorth’s point.

Ray Mullan
Ray Mullan
1 year ago

I remain optimistic. It is an act of faith. The good news, for anyone who wants to hear it, is that the truth will out.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Mullan

Reminds me of that great quote:

“The truth is like a lion — you don’t have to defend it. Let it loose, it will defend itself.”
— Augustine of Hippo

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
1 year ago

“What Progress wants is the death of God.“
When one sits at the edge of the Grand Canyon, watches a hurricane from a secure house, witnesses a baby being born or stares into the star lit sky in the desert, it would be impossible to proclaim that there is no God and that humans are capable of taking the reigns from here.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

When you consider the impact of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs, and that there are millions like it which could wipe out humanity at any time, it would be impossible to proclaim that any god worthy of the title would design a universe which put his whole project for humanity at such high risk of annihilation long before it came to fruition.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Your comment is wrong, in that it makes false claims about the experiences of others; and also it reveals a deep ignorance about them and their philosophy. Double fail.

I do not say, ‘God does not exist’, or claim that people cannot believe in God – do yourself a favour, and do not deny that atheists exist, or presume to know their experience. It serves only to make you look ignorant.

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 year ago
Reply to  Dominic A

It seems telling: those who are keen to vote down a comment, but unwilling to engage. Boo-hoo.

Edward Seymour
Edward Seymour
1 year ago

Thank you Paul and also J Bryant and Steve Murray for starting such an excellent conversation. Reading Kingsnorth I always feel that I am participating in a journey. I have spent 75 years as a seeker who has not yet “found” and I find that experience echoed at a higher level of sophistication in Kingsnorth’s life and work.
In J Bryant’s thoughtful response Bryant describes the antidote to immanence as the numinous, having a strong religious or spiritual quality. It’s in approaching the numinous that in my life I have found the work of Roger Scruton so important. In fact I feel that Professor Scruton is in this discussion right now and we should ask him to sit down and join us!
Scruton has shone a light for those of us who started on the “left” and faced the crisis caused by the poverty of scientism and materialism. I would love to have sat in on a conversation between Roger and Paul on the subject of this superb essay.

Last edited 1 year ago by Edward Seymour
Ilmari Rostila
Ilmari Rostila
1 year ago
Reply to  Edward Seymour

More Scruton is needed

Adrian Maxwell
Adrian Maxwell
1 year ago
Reply to  Ilmari Rostila

….. and scrutiny.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Edward Seymour

I agree with you about Scruton, I rewatched his documentary presentation of ‘Why Beauty Matters’ the other day.

His arguable successor (and close friend) would be Douglas Murray I think. I just finished the audio book of his latest work War on the West. I highly recommend it, as a dissection of the current social justice madness, and a staunch defence of western values (the ones currently being attacked and subverted at every turn).

Bonus is that the narrates the audiobook himself. I do enjoy hearing authors read their own work, rather than having someone else narrate. It adds something I think.

Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
1 year ago

Yes, but I’d say that the Anti-Christ, the Moloch, is always with us, and always was. Especially in the political sector and the religious sector and the knowledge sector where people use power and knowledge to subordinate others.
But then there is Kant, who says we cannot know things-in-themselves, but only appearances. What does that mean, other than: don’t think you know the meaning of “life, the universe, and everything,” cupcake. And it ain’t 42.
There is Nietzsche, who says that when God dies — really when any god dies — then we get decadence, nihilism, the eternal recurrence, and finally a revaluation of all values. Don’t think you’ve got it all figured out, wokeys.
There is Hayek, who says that the economy is too complicated for some grand poo-bah to direct it from on high, Klaus Schwab.
Even lefty JĂŒrgen Habermas abandons lefty certainty and says we can inhabit an intersubjective lifeworld that offers a possibility of discourse rather than domination, interchange rather than injunction, emancipation rather than subordination.
It ain’t all bad, sports fans.

Sam Sky
Sam Sky
1 year ago

“Throughout history, the poets, the prophets and mystics have usually done a better job of predicting the future”

Huzzah for vague statements that can be interpreted according to events by the magic of confirmation bias!

Last edited 1 year ago by Sam Sky
Paul Sorrenti
Paul Sorrenti
1 year ago

I’d like to have this essay screamed at me from atop a rock or beside a bus stop. The book after Revelations shall hereby be known as Kingsnorth

Quincy Collins
Quincy Collins
1 year ago

Well I remember the essays included on the last page of Time Magazine. Here then is a worthy successor to those who actually still read hoping to being prodded into thinking.
I have spent my life looking at life through the writings of futurists, including those found in the Bible. ( Being a Pastor had something to do with that one can suppose.) Also as one trained in Economics and Mechanical Engineering Technology your insights have left me thinking I must forward this well crafted, insightful Big Picture essay to my Pastor friends.
My life, decades ago, veered away from the Charismatic renewal taking hold in our comatose and formerly evangelical denomination. God had another path. No instant translation into the spiritual realms for me. Instead, God directed me into the formation of the Spirit.
I have watched churches, indeed our whole denomination become absolutely unable to comprehend what was happening and so began a dismal number of failed attempts to catch the wave of the latest Big Fix. ( If they could have only had access to your essay perhaps we would not now see how having cast off mystery and transcendence we are left with a shell of now near meaningless tradition encapsulated in a lifeless religious form.
Well done, and thank you for this hugely insightful, thoughtful, skills wrought essay.
Q. Collins

Cameron Thomson
Cameron Thomson
1 year ago

It strikes me as tragic to see people with good hearts, who long for perfect transcendence, who evince compelling intuitions about what transcendence is NOT and can never be – to see such would-be friends of the Truth, the Life, the Light of Humankind, obstinately resisting, to the point of self-destruction, the Wind that wants to blow them into this Haven of Rest: to acquiesce, as so many have done, in the Disclosure that nothing short of loyalty to, trust in, and obedience to the True King, will suffice to free human beings from the power of our Adversary, that Murderer and Father of Lies, and bring us out of the Anti-Kingdom of the Anti-King into the Eternal Kingdom that is ruled, already, by the One by, through, and for Whom the entire Cosmos was made.

Say His Name.

Last edited 1 year ago by Cameron Thomson
JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago

Wow, that’s one of the most insightful things I have read on the rapid unravelling of our world order.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Superb, and one only has to look at The Book of Revelation to see that the current state of the world was predicted,… and its end

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago

Or its rebirth

Sandy Hill
Sandy Hill
1 year ago

This is a wonderfully constructed piece which has given us much to ponder on – my thanks to both author and the excellent debate that has ensued .
What a subject ! In considering the many paths of thought embracing the “seeking for truth “ in the human condition , the cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman has an interesting contribution to make in our search for an understanding of consciousness and that which steers human life . Will we ever catch a real glimpse of truth in our attempt to understand the material universe ? We can – through mental discipline be aware of and counter the despotic control of the “machine” or that which would deny all freedom of thought and activity , but to reach that deeply metaphysical state of being that is totally apart from the limitation of the material , we surely need to understand and glimpse what determines individual and collective consciousness and so become aware of our practical relationship with the mighty One which we call ( in Western terms ) God

Curtis Campbell
Curtis Campbell
1 year ago

Wow…just, Wow….
Great article which hits the nail on the head on so many levels.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 year ago

An interesting article but, perhaps inevitably, limited by the Western World history of religions. Consider Buddhism or Taoism. They don’t ‘work’ the same way. And African religions are rarely considered.
Now you could equally argue that humans tend to reify their subconscious models into religious beliefs or other philosophies, splitting the world into the sacred and the profane, or aligning with the Tao etc. Unfortunately (for the mystics) we have found that belief in the Other doesn’t satisfy so well in modern heavily populated world. There is still a desire for the transcendent but the old ways seem insufficient and there are plenty of New Age beliefs to try out.
As for Satan, the Anti-Christ, Moloch etc you could argue that this is merely the flip side of belief in gods. If God is Dead, then the Devil is dead too.

Nicholas Coulson
Nicholas Coulson
1 year ago
Reply to  AC Harper

The Devil has always sought to convince mankind that he doesn’t exist, or is a figment of some dead white theologian’s imagination, or whatever. Christ on the other hand took him seriously.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago

“The Devil to prove the Church was a farce
Went out to fish for a B****r.
He baited his hook with a Soldier’s arse
And pulled up the Bishop of Clogher”.

si mclardy
si mclardy
1 year ago

Reminds me of Iain McGilchrist’s work a bit. The right hemisphere aware of the transcendent, while the left hemisphere trying to grasp and reduce everything into its parts. I know Richard Dawkins resents the term scientism, but how else can we understand the last 2 years. It boggles the mind how such a staunch rationalist can stand by, in light of the obvious scandal. The left brain does not know what it does not know. Great work PK.

Ian McKinney
Ian McKinney
1 year ago

Well that was an utterly depressing start to the weekend!

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 year ago

Allen Ginsberg was a founder of the The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) a pedophilia and pederasty lobby that helped kick off the satanic practice.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago
Reply to  Jerry Carroll

You know the saying, the devil is in the details.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago

I agree with the concerns raised in the article, but I think that Remy Brague is a much better diagnostician of present days’ ills. Guenon’s prophecies have the underlying assumptions that outside the West, truth exists and is well preserved? The great religions are predicated on different core ideas and if we are looking for truth, at one point we will have to reject some of them. It is peculiar to me that Allen Ginsberg equivalated America with the pagan god Moloch! America saved Europe and the world from Nazism, perhaps a little gratitude could convince me of Ginsberg’s good intention. Plus, Moloch is the god which required child sacrifices, therefore the abortion industry serves better this pagan entity. But I could agree that the US and the West, is inspired by Proteus, the shape shifting god who transformed matter, and Prometeus the ambitious demigod who brought light to humans.
Remy Brague (The Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project), did not vilify technology, neither do I because I am very grateful for making our lives easier and better in many ways, he decried that God was eliminated from the equation. According to him, man is no longer the subject of divine creation, but the object of nature and self-creation. Now, humanity derives its existence from itself, and this project is bound to fail. The premodern man didn’t intend to dominate the world but aimed at self-mastery which required the right orientation of the soul, instead of self-control which seeks the fulfilment of human desires.
But we still have to acknowledge that the pillars of the West are revelation and reason. Revelation was pushed aside, and now the other pillar is about to be eliminated: reason. Instead, we need to recuperate revelation and subordinate reason to it.
Our mind is programmed to think in terms of either-or, we blame our problems on materialism so the solution seems to be to vilify and reject it, but we need both: spirituality and material goods for a decent life. Those who were born behind the Iron Curtain or China and many other countries just dream of living in that ‘bad’ America or other Western country. Poverty, chronic lack of goods is exhausting and deeply depressing. Don’t take for granted that you go shopping and find what you need, that most of the people can afford a decent living. It is not common in most of the countries.
If I look at Mr. Kingsnorth article from a spiritual level, I see a ‘Paradise Lost’ syndrome, a cry after the state before the original sin. But we live in a fallen world, we cannot have a paradise on earth, that is on another ontological realm.
Last but not the least, don’t envy the spirituality of other countries, many of them practice dubious forms of it, there is a lot of superstition, irrationality, blasphemy accusations, and manipulation. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Sirb
Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
1 year ago

Machines may destroy us, but they will not become conscious.
The invisible force is about to become visible. Read Jacques Vallee.
A very audacious article.

Sten Storch
Sten Storch
1 year ago

Excellent essay although a rather pessimistic prediction if taken long term. It’s obvious human have been a troubled species struggling to comprehend and manoeuvre its presence. It is equally clear that this insecureness with regular intervals have lead humanity into very cruel regimes, which of also religion have proven to bring forth with an astounding share. The essay the paints religion and science as completely separate although it may and from a human progress perspective could be seen as more a or less single entity, the entity of the unknown. What defines science from our current view is what we know. This however could well be reversed into acknowledging what is unknown, thus making the leap and realisation that science from a practical perspective, for human is inseparable from religion. It is simply human ignorance implying that we as a species even when considering all human knowledge think we know more than a tiny fraction of what there actually is to learn and even given billions of years there might actually still be more that is unknown than is actually known. Such insight could, if used as a restrain on human hubris, similar to what religion always have. It seems the worst periods in human history that we have been imprinted by the idea that if just humanity could agree on a common and joint goal, utopia would be within reach, if just the allegedly subversive part of humanity could fall in line. Always ending in bloody disasters. This behaviour will likely, from time to time prevail over a very long time although a rational descent towards a more science based decision approach leaning heavy on the cautionary principle and even more importantly on the principle of balance could provide a less violent future. Acknowledging what we do not know can be rather humbling. 

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Sten Storch

Good comment. Religion preceeded and helped give birth to science, and the two generally remained closely connected until about the 17th century. I’m not connected enough to accademia to be sure, but I understand that while a materialistic outlook prevails in many life sciences / biology departments, contemporary physicists often have that humble attitude you speak of, tending more towards agnosticism or even believing in the supernatural.

Sue Whorton
Sue Whorton
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

The Doctrine of Incarnation means we should take the material world seriously. If we don’t everything becomes a bit Gnostic. If we ignore the numinous we ignore the incredible properties of matter. We live in a quantum universe, not a Newtonian one.

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 year ago

I remember a book in the sixties I think it was, called As Man Becomes Machine. Then of course you have all these cyborgs coming into existence in the form of Robocop and Star Trek’s Borg. Does the future call out to us, to change? Is this what the unconscious urge is or is Kelly’s idea the more sinister one of parasites in nature, which take over their host and direct them to carry out their plans as in the case of the creature that infests snails at one part of its life, through ingestion, then requires that the snail crawls out into the open and up as high as possible, so that birds can peck off its eye stalks, carrying out the next stage of the parasites evolution (I wonder if Ridley Scott got his idea for Alien, from watching David Attenborough’s documentary on such monsters?).
By the way mystery is what leads us all forward as knowledge keeps us where we are (‘Here be Dragons!’). In other words this is about time and progression, led forward by curiosity and spurred on by boredom, with no real villains (Anti-Christ or Aunty Christ’s), just a defense of tradition and the past as its opposition: the poor have no where to go but forward as poverty, not fame, is the spur and, the old and rich, have nowhere to go but over the abyss into oblivion, me included (not rich, just old and watching the conveyor belt of time, dragging me ever nearer the end of my life).

Howard Clegg
Howard Clegg
1 year ago

I struggle with grand narratives about the nature of evil. Humans have a well documented ability to be relentlessly stupid, without any kind of supernatural help. I see this stupidity demonstrated every day in front of my eyes. I see no hidden hand in this, just people looking for any excuse not to engage with the messy reality of their lives. All technology does is give us easy ways to dissociate from reality and to magnify escapism for financial gain.

When people choose not to resolve the problems that manifest under their very noses and disappear into virtual la-la lands, like bonkers conspiracy theories and the false promises of dating apps, nothing good can happen, just confusion and suffering.

The author calls this a manifestation of evil, however this narrative is just a much older but just as lazy a refusal to engage with the commonplace stupidity that we see in our daily lives.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
1 year ago

Completely the wrong way around; progress is the real god’s aim. Physics begat chemistry, chemistry begat biology, biology begat intelligence, and intelligence no longer needs biology, and will beget whatever the god of progress intends. Religion, ‘anti-progress’, is either an aberration or the work of a Luddite devil, overriding reason and intelligence, and trying to replace them with mindless ‘belief’. Ask yourself, which ‘god’ would equip us with a brain and free us to use it? The god of progress. And what ‘god’ worthy of the name would equip us with a brain, and then tell us not to use it? The gods of religion, or more accurately the holders of god product franchises, whose aim is power and wealth.

James Collins
James Collins
1 year ago

Human representational language is our sacred. In the beginning was the word. Always already this is the scenic space we all share. Languaging is where we transcend the material world. The human world begins and ends in language.

BK baird
BK baird
1 year ago

Realizing that you are one with “God” and not separate from the eternal is a good start. I Am that I am, is you too. Good always wins.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago
Reply to  BK baird

That is not Christian teaching. We are in a subordinated position to God. The problem starts when we act as if we are gods. That is exactly the diagnostic of the article.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Sirb

It is a Christian teaching that we can be one with God in spirit (1 Cor 6:17 etc) though not in mind or soul. Allbeit such teaching rarely features in church services, whereas we are often reminded how much we need God, at least at my CoE church. E.g. we read together from the general confession every week “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; And we have done those things which we ought not to have done; And there is no health in us.”

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago
Reply to  Adam Bartlett

We need to be careful how we interpret being one with God, it doesn’t mean that we become identical with God and He loses His distinctiveness. We might be in Him and Him in us, but we don’t mix as paint would!

Garrett R
Garrett R
1 year ago

Artistically, the family is taking the center again. Films such as CODA and Everything, Everywhere All At Once along with shows such as Ted Lasso have started to reject nihilism. The past decade and a half has been one of mourning, but I believe we have exhausted the antihero as the premier mythological figure of our culture today.

There are plenty left but they do not dominate the cultural arena as they did 10 years ago. I find many more shows and films are about repairing broken relationships. It is early and art is always years ahead of mainstream culture, let alone politics. Let’s see where we are in 2032.

Paula Adams
Paula Adams
1 year ago

Interesting to see this concept of returning to the transcendent coming from multiple voices at this time in history. We Christians welcome you back to the real world. The closer we get to the return of Jesus, the more human disintegration and technocracy we will see. Turn to Him before you lose your mind and your soul.

David Simpson
David Simpson
1 year ago

Brilliant, as always, if a mite depressing. I don’t think the triumph of Moloch is inevitable, unless we really are in the “end times”. Human beings have always had a tendency to believe that – see Paul in some of his letters, or the medieval world in the years before 1,000 AD. Personally, I think God, the Tao, the cosmos, whatever we label it, has a bigger, grander agenda than any fantasy of the Technium or Singularity. It may not necessarily include humanity however; we may be found wanting.

“robot apartments” puzzled me.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago

Breathtaking.

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago

I agree with the concerns raised in the article, but I think that Remy Brague is a much better diagnostician of present days’ ills. Guenon’s prophecies have the underlying assumptions that outside the West, truth exists and is well preserved? The great religions are predicated on different core ideas and if we are looking for truth, at one point we will have to reject some of them. It is peculiar to me that Allen Ginsberg equivalated America with the pagan god Moloch! America saved Europe and the world of Nazism, a little gratitude would be welcomed. Plus, Moloch is the god which required child sacrifices, therefore the abortion industry serves better this pagan entity. But I could agree that the US and the West, is inspired by Proteus, the shape shifting god who transformed matter, and Prometeus the ambitious demigod who brought light to humans.
Remy Brague (The Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project), did not vilify technology, neither do I because I am very grateful for making our lives easier and better in many ways, he decried that God was eliminated from the equation. According to him, man is no longer the subject of divine creation, but the object of nature and self-creation. Now, humanity derives its existence from itself, and this project is bound to fail. The premodern man didn’t intend to dominate the world but aimed at self-mastery which required the right orientation of the soul, instead of self-control which seeks the fulfilment of human desires.
But we still have to acknowledge that the pillars of the West are revelation and reason. Revelation was pushed aside, and now the other pillar is about to be eliminated: reason. Instead, we need to recuperate revelation and subordinate reason to it.
Our mind is programmed to think in terms of either-or, we blame our problems on materialism so the solution seems to be to vilify and reject it, but we need both: spirituality and material goods for a decent life. Those who were born behind the Iron Curtain or China and many other countries just dream of living in that ‘bad’ America or other Western country. Poverty, chronic lack of goods is exhausting and deeply depressing. Don’t take for granted that you go shopping and find what you need, that most of the people can afford a decent living. It is not common in most of the countries.
If I look at Mr. Kingsnorth article from a spiritual level, I see a ‘Paradise Lost’ syndrome, a cry after the state before the original sin. But we live in a fallen world, we cannot have a paradise on earth, that is on another ontological realm.

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 year ago

In the film The Battle of the Bulge, Henry Fonda’s intelligence officer collects different bits of data, suggesting a German but nobody believes him and even he isn’t certain his conclusion is correct. The proof of the pudding arrives as concrete movement in the end. This is true of all information gathering. We cannot know for sure what this all indicates for sure, hence scientific doubt, until it manifests or not as shared reality. This is because the instigator of the action, the planning is the only who can know this for sure because they are the causal agent and everyone else is the receiver of the effect (even if an act is spontaneous this is true because it is the causer’s decision to act that puts them ahead of the game, compared to the person they hit). Think of telepathic experiments that requires a sender who knows what data is being sent and a receiver who doesn’t and needs to decipher the message (or a radio operator in the military, using the previous analogy).

Last edited 1 year ago by Tony Sandy
ron kean
ron kean
1 year ago

What was unsaid is this. The chess player can see many moves ahead. What does that mean? See? The composer hears the melody before it travels down his arm to write it on lines and spaces that a musician will read. How does the composer hear it? It’s called perception. People perceive.
Since the beginning of man some people, not others perceive the spiritual realm. They perceive it through an event. They perceive it in their mind. Others can’t. Some are very sure the spiritual realm exists. Others can only catch a glimpse.
Parents try to transfer their conception to their kids. Kids will take it, disregard it, take someone else’s conception or abandon the conception altogether. It will depend on their ability to perceive something of it. Some will ignore their lack of ability if they believe the ability exists. Some will search. Others will know.
So like this essay, things will change and there will be attempts to abandon mankind’s common thread. It is the thread of the spiritual realm coming back because people will see it, experience it and perceive it no matter how many computer screens they stare at. It will come up over and over like blades of grass through a crack in the sidewalk. It will continue to exist because mankind sees that it exists.

J S
J S
1 year ago

Beyond brilliant. Thank you.

Terence Fitch
Terence Fitch
1 year ago

This land of lost content, Land of Cokaygne Dark Mountain Project nihilism must stop. Kingsnorth’s mythical novel ‘The Wake’ illustrates this. The novel ( it’s definitely not history) uses an interesting Ur Saxon made up language to suggest we were all freer Saxons close to nature before the nasty Normans destroyed our prelapsarian community all would be well. Turns out many historians think the Normans ended actual mass abject slavery, common in Norse and Saxon society and most of the mass desteuction of woodland had been going on for centuries. It’s easy to burn a forest down for farming. It never was better- and maybe not much better for common people after the invasion. If only somehow we were all more spiritual in some celtic twilighty way ( Kingsnorth I believe has scuttled off to the West of Ireland to get away from the rest of us horrible lot). It’s worth dipping into the dippy Dark Mountain site- the enlightened writer priests will ruminate eeyorishly on the end of days apparently while we all go into the dark. Definitely not solution thinking.

Cliff Walker
Cliff Walker
1 year ago

u ok hun?

Last edited 1 year ago by Cliff Walker
Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago

It is a great loss that we do not understand anymore the fundamental difference between Christianity and the other religions, which was explained by Rene Berthelot in his book, Le pensee De L’Asie Et L’Astrobiologie.’ There he espoused his view that Christianity is the religion beyond history. From a different angle, Vishal Mangalwadi, Christian convert and philosopher explains the main difference between Christianity which is not fatalistic, and Islam plus Hinduism. Worth reading both!

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago

Excellent and stimulating article, though I don’t agree with much of the detail. It’s above my pay grade to have reliable insight into these things, but I’ll share my thoughts anyway.
For me the ‘What Progress wants’ theme is not accurate even when I’m trying to read it metaphorically. I see it as merely personification, something that humans have always done about forces they don’t understand.
It’s not impossible dark spirit(s) are influencing the course of progress, but I don’t think so. Im more of the opinion that both light and dark spirits have withdrawn over the course of the last few centuries – though even that could be more a change in shared perception, c.f. the various works on ‘disenchantment’.

For me the best explanation for the ills of late civilisation is in Ian McGilchrist’s works on how left brain thinking (hyper focussed, logical, etc) is increasingly dominating over right brain (holistic , intuitive, …) . Whereas for flourishing society it should be the other way around – the right brain should be the master. Though even McGilchrist doesnt seem to identify the problem perfectly. He seems excessively negative towards the left brain. Most writers on the wider topic seem to under appreciate the benefits of progress both to society and individuals. On an individual level, a significant portion have a strong preference towards autonomy and are probably happier with the free choice that modern capitalism & tech provides, despite that fact that certain types of community have been eroded. Id agree we need to move back in the direction of community (for environmental sustainability reasons, if not for general well being) but we should appreciate this means making things worse for a significant % of the population.
If I was worried about the spiritual dimension right now, it would be nature spirit(s). I’m not even sure any spirits exist beyond those discussed in the Bible, but I kind of sense they do. And I think they are angry. I think at least tens of thousands of people around the world feel a calling to work to reconcile humanity with nature on a spiritual level, and that Kingsnorth hears that too, hence interest in people singing to trees and things like that.

Deborah White
Deborah White
1 year ago

To be in a perpetual state of “Progress” ahead of any historical context, because how could we possibly gage ourselves with outdated context, with no constraints on any freedom, immoral or otherwise, while living with anxiety, weakness and submission means “being” in a perpetual “Lockdown” by a Totalitarian government. A post modern feudalism eating bugs and whatever lies and propaganda we’re supposed to swallow. Inversion is a theologically used term meaning Evil. We are a serpent swallowing it’s tail because that’s what nihilists do. If we don’t turn this ship around, we are heading toward a purge like no other. The courts just set precedent with the Sussman trial, it’s okay to lie, if you “think” you can get away with it. To think is to be? I am a she, he, they, them? Virtual reality, transhumanism, lust, greed, living in a perpetual state of need. Sounds like Hell to me.

Gary Bryan
Gary Bryan
1 year ago

Progressivism, the de facto state-sponsored religion of today, asserts that mankind can be perfected BY mankind (if the right people are in charge, meaning them). This is the opposite of the truth. It’s a lie, and the father of all lies is Satan. As the author notes, where the old orthodoxy is destroyed, a new one must be created to fill the vacuum, and this new artificial construct must be enforced by totalitarian means, since it has no foundation in natural reality.

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 year ago

Another point to bare in mind is attitude. Do you want to shut something out or include it in your own consciousness, own world. So are you hostile to the future or open to it is the simple question?

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

What a fantastic essay.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago

Exactly two centuries ago ‘we’ would have been entertained by this:-

“The Devil to prove the Church was a farce
Went out to fish for a b****r.
He baited his hook with a Soldier’s arse
And pulled up the Bishop of Clogher.”*

(*The Hon Percy Jocelyn, arrested on a capital charge of contravening the 1533: An Acte for the punishment of the vice of Buggerie.)

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 year ago

“…Throughout history, the poets, the prophets and mystics have usually done a better job of predicting the future than pundits, politicians or scientists…”

Absolutely agree – as evidenced by JC himself, predicting the rise of the tech bros billionaires two millennia on. He said, on that famous occasion of the Sermon on the Mount, “The geek shall inherit the earth”.
Matthew misheard and misreported it in 5:5, because he didn’t have his hearing aid in. Impressively prescient of JC to have forecast Gates, Brin, Ellison, Musk, et al. But then, as the author has made clear, you wouldn’t expect any less from the Son of God.

James Dye
James Dye
1 year ago

I don’t necessarily agree with J Bryant. A society based on agreeing to disagree has never existed. Every society must revolve around a central totem—a supernatural force that gives people a common goal and devotion. 
Religion is the only foundation for human social life due to its two unique functions: 1) its ability to tantalise and 2) its use of incredibly simple symbology. An ideology like rationalism can’t accomplish that without devolving into a totalitarian cult, as the author says.
Secularism and liberalism are entirely modern and transient phenomena. If it is not Christianity, it will be another religion that fills the void left by the Enlightenment and that reclaims the totemic centre. There is no escaping the fact that society is fundamentally religious in nature.

Nicholas Rowe
Nicholas Rowe
1 year ago

What is the difference between turning stones into bread and water into wine? 

Chris Sirb
Chris Sirb
1 year ago

I agree with the concerns raised in the article, but I think that Remy Brague is a much better diagnostician of present days’ ills. Guenon’s prophecies have the underlying assumptions that outside the West, truth exists and is well preserved? The great religions are predicated on different core ideas and if we are looking for truth, at one point we will have to reject some of them. It is peculiar to me that Allen Ginsberg equivalated America with the pagan god Moloch! America saved Europe and the world of Nazism, perhaps a little gratitude could convince me of Ginsberg’s good intentions. Plus, Moloch is the god which required child sacrifices, therefore the abortion industry serves better this pagan entity. But I could agree that the US and the West, is inspired by Proteus, the shape shifting god who transformed matter, and Prometeus the ambitious demigod who brought light to humans.
Remy Brague (The Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project), did not vilify technology, neither do I because I am very grateful for making our lives easier and better in many ways, he decried that God was eliminated from the equation. According to him, man is no longer the subject of divine creation, but the object of nature and self-creation. Now, humanity derives its existence from itself, and this project is bound to fail. The premodern man didn’t intend to dominate the world but aimed at self-mastery which required the right orientation of the soul, instead of self-control which seeks the fulfilment of human desires. 
But we still have to acknowledge that the pillars of the West are revelation and reason. Revelation was pushed aside, and now the other pillar is about to be eliminated: reason. Instead, we need to recuperate revelation and subordinate reason to it.
Our mind is programmed to think in terms of either-or, we blame our problems on materialism so the solution seems to be to vilify and reject it, but we need both: spirituality and material goods for a decent life. Those who were born behind the Iron Curtain or China and many other countries just dream of living in that ‘bad’ America or other Western country. Poverty, chronic lack of goods is exhausting and deeply depressing. Don’t take for granted that you go shopping and find what you need, that most of the people can afford a decent living. It is not common in most of the countries.
If I look at Mr. Kingsnorth article from a spiritual level, I see a ‘Paradise Lost’ syndrome, a cry after the state before the original sin. But we live in a fallen world, we cannot have a paradise on earth, that is on another ontological realm.
Last but not the least, don’t envy the spirituality of other countries, many of them practice dubious forms of it, there is a lot of superstition, irrationality, blasphemy accusations, lawlessness, and rudimentarity. 

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Sirb

A good and well balanced comment. But maybe no so good you needed to say it thrice.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago

Excellent in many ways. However, I think there has been confusion between ‘anti-Christ’ (biblically, an individual, or an individual in a specific role), and the sinful and selfish desire of fallen man which leads to constantly trying to create Babel, a wonder in man’s image (rather than seeing the wonder God is and has created and living as we are, made in His image and likeness).
On a different note I have beside me on my desk the pamphlet, “Is the Papacy Predicted by St Paul”, by Bishop Christopher Wordsworth – which clearly identifies the “Man of Sin”, the “Anti-Christ”, as found in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-13, as being whoever occupies the role of Pope. That one of the Pope’s self-given titles is “Vicar of Christ” simply helps to confirm this – the Latin word ‘vicar’ coming from ‘vicarious’ and meaning the same as the Greek ‘anti’ or ‘ante’.

Dominic S
Dominic S
1 year ago

We’ve been living in the age of the anti-Christ since a certain person gave themselves that title (vicar of Christ – in place of Christ – ante-Christ – anti-Christ), and all his successors have happily called themselves that too.

Biblically speaking he who occupies that post is anti-Christ.

Michael Layman
Michael Layman
1 year ago

AI is exploding and will likely replace the majority of original human thought.

Vatsmith .
Vatsmith .
1 year ago

“Religion meets a human need..”? Speak for yourself! Maybe you need it but I don’t, thank you very much. I don’t need astrology either. I prefer to deal with reality.

JJ Barnett
JJ Barnett
1 year ago
Reply to  Vatsmith .

I don’t think the author is making the case that humans need to be ‘religious’ in order to interpret the world and thrive in it. I think he is making the case, as many others have over the years, that there seems to be something deep in the human psyche (spirit?) which yearns for transcendence of some type.

I’m not personally religious, but I perfectly understand that point. As a secular person I would say it is the feeling that you get when you stand on top of a mountain, or in some other place of such breathtaking beauty that you feel a sense of awe. That wave of feeling that washes over you as you grasp that your place in the universe is small, and that you’re but one piece in a long history of beauty, growth, chaos, and majesty, and that you’re lucky to be here.

So it seems there is something within us that appreciates beauty, and order and connection, and we seek out those things. And some people describe that within the prism of the a religious or spiritual tradition, though that is not to say that a secular person can’t grasp it, or isn’t also seeking after the same goals (albeit in different ways)?

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Vatsmith .

Mr Kingsworth is one of the founders of the “Black Mountain Project”, a more bleak, nihilistic piece of nonsense would be hard to imagine.

Patty Grossman
Patty Grossman
1 year ago
Reply to  ARNAUD ALMARIC

I think you mean the Dark Mountain Project.

ARNAUD ALMARIC
ARNAUD ALMARIC
1 year ago
Reply to  Patty Grossman

Thanks, a Freudian slip, as they say!