I am glad our dean pointed to something Elizabeth Ruth said earlier, about longing to experience something noble and good and holy in life, for the worst part of the bongo academic world is that it does not allow a scholar to defend intellectually what she intuitively and spiritually knows to be true. Only with Essentialism can such a harmony exist between the soul and the mind. Because scholars in the free world belong to essentialist cultures, they are allowed this harmony, and I, for one, envy them greatly. (Though, of course, I also belong to the free world in Aristasia, and find here the very intellectual life I had always wished for in the Pit, but, of course, never found).
I wanted to say just one more thing as well. The papers in this seminar room, though of course true in every respect, are by necessity, abbreviated. If the philosophy upon which Aristasia interests you, you might want to read some of the longer works by various Essentialist philosophers. And, of course, we all will want to read "The Feminine Universe" when it is published later in the year!
But, like Barbi, I would be interested in hearing about by what humanagency the beautiful and complex languages you describe might have comeinto being? (I say "human agency" because language is so oftendescribed as a divine gift, and it is so, of course, but I do firmlybelieve that just as all things have an ideal form, all metaphors have amaterial referent.) It seems unlikely that one person could write awhole language, because the task would be so enormous, and also becauselanguage is by its nature collaborative. Could it be done by the work ofa few people over a few years in a sudden burst of imaginativeintelligence, working from a logical scheme? It seems most likely to methat it would be the work of a relatively small but cohesive communityof people pasionately interested in meaning, expression andcommunication - small and cohesive because as the language was beingcreated, coming into being, the distinctions of meaning and case andtense and so on would have to be communicated and standardized, and thatwould be very difficult in a large or geographically diffuse population.
But, by whatever means a beautiful and complex language came into being,wouldn't it have taken some time to develop, even as the specializedvocabulary of Aristasia is developing?
As you may have already perceived, I seem to be feeling my way towards ahistorical theory of alternating and perhaps overlapping periods ofdevelopment and decline, with the forces of entropy working against theforces of creativity and growth. Perhaps it is simply a childishrefusal to see myself as the product of several consecutive ages of decline, but that is a theory of history which I find hard to accept.
I look forward to your comments.
You are standing on the frontier between two worlds - between two completely different and utterly opposed views of the world. The only two there have ever been or ever can be.
The one view is the Essentialist view that has been held in different forms by all peoples at all times until very recently. The other is the substantialist view that is held by the modern West. You are hovering between the two; recognising on the one hand (as many people are) the inadequacy and poverty of the substantialist view now that it is being drwan to its logical conclusion in the Pit; yet alarmed by the enormity of accepting the other view which goes against every tenet of a modernist education.
Which way you choose must be your own choice, but there is one thing that cannot be done on pain of utter futility, and that is adopt a position somewhere in between the two, for that makes no sense at all.
On this particular question, for example, the question of language: Language is either "evolved" from animal squawks and grunts, or else declined or "materialised" from the language of the Angels. There is no possibility in between those two. Language either contains no metaphysical aspect; or else the metaphysical aspect of language is its basis and origin and all other aspects are secondary and derivative.
Words are either profound reservoirs of transcendent truth, or else they are mere means of indicating physical things, and all our spiritual aspirations are but childish "sublimation" of animal desires.
What you say about alternating or overlapping periods is perfectly true, for history contains restitutions as well as declines; but there must be a decline first in order for there to be a restitution.
That the idea of a "human progress" should seem a psychological necessity is a very recent phenomenon. Nobody had thought of it before the very late 18th century, and to traditional people the idea that we should be derived not from the Angels, but from the lowest levels of being and by a mere meaningless accident would seem infinitely more degrading than the contrary idea, that we have necessarily and very greatly declined from our noble and beautiful origins.
It is precisely the sense of the nobility of her origins that gave maid her wonderful dignity in the past. It is precisely the loss of that sense that has turned her into the shabby, degraded creature we see about us today.
If the language of Aristasians has not degenerated in the way that Pit-language in general has, that is because we still have the ancient respect for language as a thing of the highest and most holy origin; a thing, as it were beyond ourselves, full of richness and depth, carrying within it the very secrets of creation; not as something that has scrabbled its way up to its present sorry state from origins more degraded still.
You ask of the origin of language, but seem to wish us to be bound by the materialist axiom of restricting those origins purely to the human domain. In fact, when you consider the nature of language - the very problems you yourself raise - a purely human origin for the universal phenomenon of language seems unlikely. The "human development of language", from the traditional point of view, is certainly a reality, but that reality would take the form, in the first place of adapting the Primordial Language to the use of material organs of articulation, and then of gradually teaching a language which originally referred to Pure Ideas to refer also to material objects (seen always by the earliest peoples as crystallisations of those pure Ideas, which is, of course, precisely what material objects are) and finally of adapting the language to the progressively more outward and mundane uses of the succeeding ages. This is the true "evolution of language".
This "evolution", like all earthly "evolutions" is certainly a decline when seen from the highest perspective, but we should also understand that, like the "evolution" of human culture as a whole, the losses in the "vertical" dimension correspond at the same time to gains in the "horizontal". The poetry of a Wordsworth, for example, or the novel as a whole, could only belong to a very late, highly "individuated" age, and while we would be very much mistaken to regard it as an "advance" over the higher spirituality and intellectuality of earlier ages, these things are nonetheless beautiful and good in and of themselves and are the "late fruits" without which the cycle would be incomplete.
The true definition of the Eclipse is precisely the point at which this process ceases to produce late-fruits that are valuable and good and becomes purely a process of decay and disintegration. Whether this change is a permanent state - "the beginning of the end of the world" or whether it is merely a temporary aberration which will be subject to one of the many restitutions that have occurred in the course of the present Cycle, we are not in a position to know. Our job is to work for a restitution.
But the point is that the process of decline is not (until the Eclipse) one of simple degeneration, but of "horizontal" development and "vertical" diminution and while (since the vertical dimension is unquestionably the more important) this must be seen as decline in sum, there were many fine and wonderful fruits to be gleaned - and will be again if the Pit should transpire (as we have every hope it will) to be merely a temporary aberration.
In another place, you have said that you have a yearning for something high and holy. Only the Essentialist point of view can allow this, for the substantialist point of view (which comprises all the viewpoints of the post-Eclipse world) necessarily strips the world of Essence and of the vertical dimension. As a Catholic you may say that the pre-Eclipse Catholic church did not pronounce against evolutionism. At the time this may have seemed tactically wise, for such a pronouncement would have separated Catholics intellectually from the majority of their contemporaries. However. the Church has paid a terrible price for placing tactics above principle. The admission of the evolutionist error was a psychic time-bomb, which, logically and psychologically, could not fail eventually to destroy the traditional Church completely - as it did in the early 1960s, at the same historical moment that the wider Eclipse was engulfing the rest of the Western world.
Finally, we hope it is not necessary to point out that our rejection on metaphysical grounds of the various errors of evolutionism has nothing in it akin to the fundamentalist Protestant rejection of evolutionism, which is, in fact based on precisely the same vulgar historical literalism that has induced the Church to expunge Saints from the calendar (as we have discussed earlier) and which has been used by atheists everywhere to attack religion on the most futile of grounds. Indeed, we suspect that any late-19th or early-20th century Catholic attempt to combat evolutionism would have fallen into similar errors. The real background to the Eclipse is that the whole of the Western world had lost the intellectual principles with which substantialism could have been successfully combatted. It is precisely the in recovery of those principles that any hope for the future must lie.
The total nature of the world is . . . to all eternity chaos, not in the sense that necessity is lacking, but in that order, structure, form, beauty wisdom and whatever other human aesthetic notions we may have are lacking. . . Let us beware of attributing to it heartlessness and unreason or their opposites: it is neither perfect nor beautiful nor noble, and has no desire to become any of these. . . neither does it know any laws. Let us beware of saying there are laws in nature. There are only necessities there is no one to command, no one to obey, no one to transgress. . . Let us beware of saying that death is the opposite of life. The living being is only a species of the dead, and a very rare species.He was one of the few people with the intellectual honesty and raw courage to face up to all that the accidentalist thesis necessarily implies. Not surprisingly, he went mad.
As soon as one begins to use words like "perfecting" in relation to evolution, one is already confusing two quite distinct sets of ideas.
If it is really true that our intelligence, our taste, our intuitions, are nothing but chance products of random matter, then we must logically accept that to use words like "perfecting" (and far more quasi-personifying something called "nature") is to project our own human (and ultimately accidental and meaningless) notions on an insensate world where they cannot possibly have any validity.
To speak (as every one does) of evolution as if it was a "process" with "aims" or "goals" such as "perfection" is to introduce teleology into a schema whose entire meaning is the eradication of teleology. It is rather like believing the world is flat, but still thinking that if you sail far enough in the same direction you will come back to where you started.
Of course human beings have always used these terms and continue to do so. Unless they are bound for the madhouse, they cannot stop themselves, however illogical it may be. Such ideas belong not to scientism but to metaphysics, and we believe they are right. We believe that form, beauty, perfection and other fundamental notions (which are neither "human" nor merely "aesthetic", but universal realities) are right. But if they are right, that can only be because evolution (in the sense understood by the modern school-and-mass-media mythos) is wrong.
We are talking of two radically different and mutually exclusive views of the universe. One can choose one or the other, but one cannot take bits from both and make any sense. The fact that nearly every modern person does take bits from both is an indication that the traditional view is the correct one. For the traditional view stands on its own. It is fully satisfying to the human heart and soul. While the evolutionist-accidentalist-substantialist view does not stand on its own. Only a tiny handful of people can bear it. Every one else has to water it down by illogically (but very understandably) tacking bits of the traditional view onto it, and speaking of such things as "perfecting". We are born for perfection and for beauty and cannot escape the ideas, even if the realities grow more and more distant from a culture that has rejected them.
While it must be admitted, at the present time, that an explicablemanner of species differentiation remains undiscovered, the theory ofevolution postulates a process of natural selection that causes speciesdevelopment in a presumably vertical, i.e., hierarchical or progressive,direction, subsequent species being, not sui generis, but proceedingfrom a prior species. Isn't it also presumed that the earthlyappearance of Maid, with her intellectual abilities, is an unambiguousdemonstration of the superiority of a descended species over itsprogenitors? If you accept the theory of evolution, this seemscontradict your historical theory. If you do not, what do you proposein its place?
It also seems to me that the earliest languages may have been akin topoetry because of a presumably expansive metaphorical content for agiven word than our own more differentiated languages, i.e., thebeginning of language would have contained far fewer words, but eachword might have compressed a great deal of potential meaning into itsexpression, but that meaning was probably quite ambiguous and verylikely misinterpreted with some frequency. It also seemscounter-intuitive to me, unless I misunderstand you, to claim thatearlier languages were of a higher, more expressive character overallunless they sprang, fully developed, ex nihilo.
I think that, unless you are prepared to suggest that Maid's beginningswere similar to the story in Genesis, or some such "Let there be light"type of creation myth, that there is a great difficulty in explaininghow language of the complexity and richness that you applaud could havedeveloped those qualities, reached an apogee of some sort, and thenbegan its decline. If the cycle goes from the "greater" to the"lesser", as you propose, how did the "greater" appear in the world inthe first place if it didn't develop from something, well..."lesser"?
Well, my erudite educators! I'm positively breathless and my daintyblonde brain is just spinning! It's back to the Cocktail Bar for me,darlings. Nothing less than a Blonde Bombshell, and scintillatingfeminine company, of course, will restore my equilibrium. I will checkin from time to time to see what you have to say to my jottings. Thankyou all for being so patient with me.
Intuitively - that is, relying on what seems inherently probable, as opposed to what fits in with a learned evolutionist perspective, we should say that the idea that the intricacy of human intelligence should be derived from an entirely unintelligent process of blind "natural selection" is absurd. I know it has been inculcated by repetition, but step back from it for a moment and use your feminine intuitive capacity. Again, just this morning, I watched a sycamore "key" spinning like a helicopter along the air. Am I really supposed to believe - intuitively - that such a wonderful piece of aerodynamic design happened by the accident of natural selection - when I know perfectly well that hundreds of other species of tree survive perfectly well with no such device or any equivalent. Again, is it intuitively likely that the enormous fecundity, beauty and minute construction of thousands upon thousands of highly differentiated flower-species is nothing more than a blindly-evolved device for "attracting insects to ensure polination", especially when we know that bees and other insects will visit small plants with no flower jut as readily as large ones with bright and elaborate flowers, even when the two are side by side?
Intuitively, if intuition is to be a criterion (and we believe it should), does it not seem that to explain away the fecundity, the artistry, the sheer intelligence of the cosmic creative principle with a utilitarian hypothesis that reduces all form to function and fails to take account of its needless diversity and maginificence - does not such a hypohesis seem intuitively to be an example of masculine banality and monomania extended to the point of absurdity?
We have recently had a correspondence on the general subject of evolutionism, and, with your permission, we shall reproduce our remarks on the subject here, as we feel this will provide much of the groundwork for the answer to your questions. We welcome all supplementary questions on the subject.
It is a large subject. That the fossil record supports the theory of evolution is something of a myth. The idea is founded on the fact that the fossil record does pretty much dish the literalist interpretation of Genesis (i.e. the anachronistic reading of the book as if it had been written by a 19th-century person with all her historical and "factual" predilections). It shows that the earth is much older than the Bible says (if we suppose the Bible to be writing in mundane historical terms) and contradicts many other such specifics. In fact, the fossil record is almost as embarrassing for fundamentalists as it is for evolutionists.
For evolutionists? Certainly. There is nothing in the fossil record to suggest the gradual development of species out of one another; not unless one stretches the evidence very hard, and adds a good seasoning of "constructive imagination" which is what, of course, the popular textbooks on the subject do. Actually the fossil record shows species "popping" into existence at the same time as their prey.
Now modern "science" cannot accept this, because it contradicts all its prejudices, so, of course the facts must be stretched, embellished and generally "tamed" to give a more acceptable picture. They find little opposition, as the whole culture shares their prejudices, and even religious fundamentalists hold no particular brief for what the fossil record does show.
On the other hand, many serious scientists (as opposed to the rank and file who generally accept what they are told) have deep misgivings about the theory of evolution, and several have publicly stated that they accept it only because, despite all its flaws, the alternatives are less credible. And by "less credible" they generally mean not so much "disproved" as "out of keeping with our [essentially cultural and emotional] sense of what must be".
Many strange theories have been postulated at the higher levels of biological study, as evolutionism runs into deeper and deeper difficulties. One, seriously considered by some scientists is "explosive evolution" which, giving up the idea of gradual transformism altogether under pressure of the theoretical difficulties, suggests instead that evolution progressed by a series of "quantum leaps". This, of course is no less "mysterious" than creationism itself, but there is a strong emotional and psychological urge to preserve evolutionism at all costs, for reasons we shall examine in a moment.
There is a lot might be said on these matters, but I am not an amateur palaeontologist either, nor an amateur biologist. Our objections to the theory of evolution are philosophical.
What are they?
Well, first let us consider why the theory of evolution became so popular. When Charles Darwin made his famous voyage, he was not forced by the evidence he found to conclude that evolution was a reality. Rather he went out with his grandfather's theory of evolution firmly in his mind. Erasmus Darwin, among several others had for a generation and more been postulating evolutionary ideas as the only "creation myth" acceptable to the modern psyche.
And when the theory was at last knocked into a reasonably "scientific" shape by Charles it had, despite some opposition, a whirlwind success - not so much because it was inherently convincing on a scientific level, but because it was the very "myth" the western world was looking for.
Now, what was the nature of this myth? Its essential feature was to place the entire process of earthly becoming on the substantial plane. To elevate flux and change to a position of totality. In other words to make Substance all in all and deny Essence entirely.
How can bodiesNOT be "material in origin" if we're made up of matter?Now, essentialism has always and everywhere taught the same thing - whether in the Christian world (I mean the traditional Christian world. "Fundamentalists" and "liberal Christians" alike have strayed from this, having essentially accepted the "modernist" or substantialist position) in India or China, among the red Indians or anywhere else. It has taught that there are two aspects to any entity whatever - be it a person, a tree or a star. One is its material Substance, the other is its Form or Essence.
Plato thought nature but a spume that plays
Upon a ghostly paradigm of things.
Now that spume is Substance - the primary matter that clothes all things and allows them to be manifest in a material world. And the Ghostly (i.e. spiritual, as in "Holy Ghost) Paradigm is the Form of the things. The unchanging Archetype that makes matter take on this shape or that, become a tree, a star or a human body rather than remain undifferentiated materia.
And, of course, Plato was not alone in saying this. Every one believed it - to some extent nearly every one believed it at least partially until Darwin.
Was evolution so very important in the history of modernism? Yes, it was. Nietzsche spoke of a seismic change in the Western psyche which he termed "the death of God"; C.S.Lewis in his lecture "De Descriptione Temporum" (which he made on being appointed to the Chair at Cambridge) speaks also of a great change in the nature of Western culture taking place around the mid-to-late19th century.
I am sure that the popularisation of the myth of evolution was the cardinal factor. And when I say "myth" I say it not to suggest that it is untrue (although, of course I believe it is), but to indicate that it has the same position in the modernist world-outlook that true myths have in traditional world-outlooks. It is the picture-story on which the substantialist understanding of the world is founded: and, as sophisticated as we like to think ourselves, the picture-stories that lie in the back of our minds are more potent even than our explicit philosophies, at least for most people.
What happened in the second half of the 19th century is that the philosophy and the myth of the Western world came into synchronisation. Between the 17th-century "Enlightenment" and the publication of The Origin of Species, the West had been psychically divided. Its philosophy was broadly and increasingly Substantialist, but its Mythos, whether Christian or classical or a vague amalgam, was still Essentialist. With Darwin we have the birth of a pseudo-mythos which gives the western psyche a Substantialist picture-story on which to found its world-outlook.
It is a mythos in which the whole process of manifestation is seen purely from the side of Substance, and Essence has no place. Things are not shaped by eternal forms, but are purely the product of development in time. The horizontal aspect of the cosmic process is exalted to the point where the vertical no longer exists.
Many scientists at first resisted the theory, not generally on religious grounds but because they held a deep conviction that a species was an absolute, they may not have explicitly held that it was founded on a transcendent Archetype, but whether they knew it or not, that was where their thinking ultimately stemmed from. In any case, they believed that a species was a thing-in-itself, which might be modified in various directions, but could not break the bounds of its essential nature and flow into another species (and not one scrap of evidence has ever been presented to show that it can).
You see, what was at issue here was not religious dogma vs new knowledge, nor was it even really a biological question, what was at issue were two fundamentally opposed views of the nature of Being itself: whether the flux of change and time and relativity was all-in-all, or whether all things were essentially formed by something that transcended that flux.
Philosophers had always understood that forms were changed and modified by the accidents of existence, but they must always ask the question where does form come from in the first place? For the first time in the mass-psyche Darwinism popularised, by picture-story, the answer that form comes from nowhere but from the accidents of existence themselves. It is a sort of bootstrap argument really, when you think about it, but it is the only credible way of sustaining a total Substantialism.
The battle for evolutionism was won because the vestigial Essentialism of the time was no longer founded in philosophy, while Substantialism had already won the day on the intellectual front. The Essentialist view of species persisted precisely because scientists had been brought up on an Essentialist half-mythos which stood against their Substantialist philosophy. When evolutionism united Substantialist thought with a Substantialist pseudo-mythos, thought and mythos were reunited in the Western psyche for the first time since the "Enlightenment". The resultant "ideology" was as force impossible to resist, and its various apostles, notably Freud, Marx* and Nietzsche shaped the "new world" of the 20th cenury.
There is much more that might be said, but perhaps this will suffice for a beginning. To sum up: Evolutionism is not simply a scientific theory, but the "mythic" consummation of a philosophy. Its essential character is to situate all becoming within the sensible world of flux and change, negating the Intelligible world of forms. It grows out of the historical/material relativism of the modern consciousness.
There are many arguments against evolutionism, scientific and philosophical, but for us, perhaps the simplest is the axiom that you cannot derive the greater from the less.