Axial Age Revolution of the Mind Continues

As many have written about, there was a unique, profound, and dramatic transformation that happened across many civilizations, maybe initiated by the Bronze Age collapse (c. 1200 BCE) but not culminating until later in the following millennia (from Athenian democracy to Hellenism; also Buddhism) and lingering still further many centuries beyond that (e.g., Isis worship in the Roman Empire, one of the models for Mariolatry in particular and Christianity in general). This is what some refer to as the Axial Age, after which human society and culture would never again be the same.

Out of this era of tumultuous change, there would develop distinct categories of politics, religion, philosophy, science, etc that would proliferate in complex new understandings often in conflict and competition, particularly as distorted and co-opted by the emergent reactionary mind. But underlying it all, there were similar ideas and ways of thinking, a basic ideological worldview. As differently and partially as it came to be articulated and institutionalized among various populations and traditions, this set of beliefs can be somewhat fairly summarized and generalized as the following:

Although each of us may be a distinct expression or manifestation of individuality shaped by separate inner and outer conditions, but with independent selves, autonomous souls, and free psyches; in essence and value, we are all equal members, maybe even in some ways fundamentally identical beings (beyond false egoic identities, superficial personality differences, socially constructed social roles, etc), of a unified humanity with a shared human nature and human rights that exist within a common reality, holistic cosmos, and singular universe; an orderly and comprehensible world of natural or supernatural laws and systems where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; as originated from the same source to which everything ultimately returns or from which nothing ever actually departed.

This is the counterbalance between three main principles, as understood in human terms:

  • Liberty and freedom (negative and positive; from and toward; in theory and in reality; opportunities and results; possibilities and actions; resources and availability), guaranteed rights and protections (autonomy, security, and safety); the anti-authoritarian basis of civil society and social liberalism as part of a democratic republic, particularly more direct democracies and social democracies, including democratic socialism such as anarchosyndicalism (e.g., worker-owned-and-operated businesses).
  • Egalitarianism and fairness; respect, support, and tolerance; in the context of what is universal within the universe or at least within a given society, such as universal civil or human rights that are expected to be applied to all equally and fairly, maybe even as an expression of natural law or otherwise a cultural inheritance of shared values; with pre-Axial origins in archaic humanity, as demonstrated by many anti-authoritarian and anti-hierarchical hunter-gatherers through the common practice of meat-shaming and meat-sharing in order to discourage individualistic pride and sense of separation.
  • Fraternity, solidarity, and class or group consciousness; communalism and collectivism, mutuality and interdependence; shared compassion, care, and concern; brotherhood of man, family of humanity, and citizens of the world; similar to a specific people as the body politic and the kinship of the faithful as Body of Christ, as well as feudal commoners with common rights to the Commons; the idea that with freedom comes responsibility, that is to say we owe others in the living generation or even in future generations (Germanic ‘freedom’, meaning to be a member of a free society, to be among friends who will support and defend you).

One example of the above is what some consider the original baptismal creed of the earliest known Christians. It bluntly states that we are, in reality, all equal; that social positions and roles are unreal, including ethnicity (Jew or Gentile), legal status (slave or free), and gender (male and female). It is one of the most radical and absolute declarations of egalitarianism of any recorded text in history, and it was far from being mere words. The man who wrote it down, Paul, also described the practices of his fellow faithful. They lived, acted, and worshipped as if they were all literally equal before God, on Earth as it is in Heaven. The evidence of this being an already established creed is that Paul obviously was not writing about his own personal beliefs, considering he had doubts not shared by many others in the early churches.

As embodied by the communitarian and sometimes collectivist Christians, the first wave of charismatic and zealous radicalism was later violently suppressed, expunged from the Church, and the memory of it largely erased. The only evidence we have of the first generations of Christians are the Pauline Epistles, as the Gospels were written after all known living witnesses of that era were dead. The memory of the previous radicalism, nonetheless, lingered because of Paul’s awkward placement in the New Testament — thanks to the inclusion of the Epistles in the first New Testament canon created by the Pauline Marcion, a Church Father who was later slandered as a heretic.

Intriguingly, Paul never speaks of a physical and historical Jesus. His salvific figure appears to be the Cosmic Christ, more of a visionary and gnostic experience than a literal human that walked on the earth. This might be the significance of why Jesus, after asserting his own divinity, then points out that according to the Bible we are all gods; indicating that his divinity was not unique and isolated (as told in the apparently Gnostic Gospel of John). Now that would be some mind-blowing egalitarianism. This message is emphasized by Jesus’ teaching that the Kingdom of God is all around us, not in some distant and rarified Heaven. That is to say the divine and spiritual is commonplace, is in and of the world. A priestly class is not needed to reach God.

More than a millennia later, some Christians took this kind of crazy talk quite seriously. It inspired, among the peasantry, multiple class wars and political revolts across Europe. That set the stage for the Protestant Reformation, the English Civil War, and the Enlightenment Age. Some consider the English Peasants’ Revolt to be the first modern revolution in its violent and organized challenge of caste and class, privilege and authority; in its demands for equality of rights and economic reform. This would establish a pattern of rhetoric that would revive ancient Christian radicalism.

The reverberations would be felt in the early modern revolutions of America, France, and Haiti. In echoing the Axial Age prophets, many revolutionaries proclaimed themselves citizens of the world. That was not an entirely alien concept, since Paul’s letters had saved that pre-heresiological belief in a greater common identity. It was the seed of an ancient utopian ideal finally taking root, if it still to this day has not yet fully come to fruition. The radical challenge remains. In a sense, the Axial Age has not yet ended for the transformation is not yet complete.

11 thoughts on “Axial Age Revolution of the Mind Continues

    • As usual, we are on the same page. This was a simple post. And I’ve said the same basic message on other occasions. But I wanted to write a simpler, shorter, and more clear summary; i.e., to get to the point.

      I wanted to expose the still beating heart of the Axial Age, the mainspring of historical change ever since. If humanity is in some way genuinely progressing, it is because of this ancient vision that refuses to die.

      Indeed, ‘it’ is very much about the “I”, no doubt about that. This post only slightly and mostly indirectly touches upon that hinge around which our collective transformation revolves. You are right to pick up on it’s significance.

    • A reason I like to return to the Axial Age and bicameral mind goes beyond understanding where humanity came from and how we got here. To my understanding, all of this remains applicable in quite practical ways. The Axial Age revolution of the mind, as the title asserts, is ongoing. It is what goes missing in political debates. Even the political left struggles to grasp and hold a grip on this vision, as it gets lost in all of the political battles for power and position.

      The only recent presidential candidate that strongly articulated the Axial Age vision was Marianne Williamson, a progressive New Thought minister. She was my favorite pick (my bias being she is a minister of the Unity Church I was raised in). But of course the big biz media establishment wasn’t going to give her a chance. Still, I love to dream of a society where someone like her could get elected. If that happened, it probably would be the first time the Axial Age dream was fully represented in Washington, DC.

      Williamson is pretty hardcore. She is no weak-minded New Ager. I loved the way she is able and willing to speak openly in saying what none of the other candidates would say. And I absolutely respected how, in the rare cases where she was given a platform on corporate media, she handled antagonistic interviewers with confidence and without getting ruffled. She refused to be ‘reasonable’ and ‘respectable’.

      This inspiring message, though, has always been at the core of the American Dream. In terms of social democracy and civil society, one of its first voices was heard in the words of Roger Williams, the 17th century heretic and founder of Rhode Island who was a friend of the natives and protector of the persecuted. Then the same idealism returned with a force during the revolutionary and post-revolutionary era, through the radical Anti-Federalists (i.e., real Federalists).

      Thomas Paine is the Anti-Federalist that always comes first to mind, as he had the courage of his convictions and seemed fearless in loudly speaking truth to power. A more divided figure is Thomas Jefferson, but in a way his insight and understanding is more important for the very reason he experienced slaveholding aristocracy from within the structures of power and privilege. His criticisms are all the more potent for this reason.

      If I could get all Americans to read one text by a founding father it would be Jefferson’s 12 July 1816 letter to “Henry Tompkinson” (Samuel Kercheval). It surely is among the first detailed explanations and strong defenses of full democracy in American politics, specifically in describing why the constitutional order that was established was a failed democracy from the start and couldn’t have been otherwise, except in that the demand for democracy remained alive in the will of the people.

      Still, I like to go back to the rough-and-ready message before modern politics and ideological rhetoric. There is a purity and rawness to premodern invocations of Axial Age idealism. That is why I’ve specifically written about the English Peasants’ Revolt and English Civil War. The religious language from those centuries is full-throated in its confrontation.

      Unlike most on the political left today, those prior rabblerousers did not pull their punches. Nor did they back away from the powerful who accused them of impossible utopianism. Everything is impossible until it happens, and then it’s reality, the reality we create. Everything about modernity once was considered impossible. The simple truth is that the demand of the impossible has always been the engine of progress.

      • Thank you for this valuable link. Since the letter to which Jefferson is responding does not now exist (it seems), I am not clear on what the issue of equal representation is based in at that time (still?). Of course there was not yet universal suffrage (to include, specifically, women and slaves). Was this it? Do you know? In any case I am taken by this (edited by me) paragraph in the middle:

        Thomas Jefferson to “Henry Tompkinson”, 12 July 1816

        I am not among those who fear the people. They and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And, to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy & liberty, or profusion and servitude… this… reads to us the salutary lesson that private fortunes are destroyed by public, as well as by private extravagance. and this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a 2d that 2d for a 3d and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins indeed the bellum omnium in omnia [a war of all against all], which some philosophers … have mistaken… for the natural, instead of the abusive, state of man. And the forehorse of this frightful team is public debt, (the) taxation that follows, and in its train, wretchedness and oppression.

        The comments on the Judiciary are valuable, as are all the other comments on ‘equal’ representation from the lowest levels to the highest. I wall savor this for further understanding.
        What a mind!

        • I have no certain answer about what Jefferson was responding to, but there definitely was an ongoing public demand for greater suffrage. Keep in mind that women could vote in New Jersey until an 1807 law forbade it. In the early decades of that century, there was an expansion of voting writes as the property requirements were eliminated or became less restrictive. Still, I’m not sure what Jefferson thought of such things. As I said, he was a divided figure. It’s easy to judge him, though, in retrospect. For example, he couldn’t free his slaves, even if he had wanted to. Because he was in debt, any attempt to free his slaves would’ve simply meant they would’ve been confiscated and sold to pay off those debts.

          More generally, one can sense the context of the times when he was writing in 1816. Because of volcanic activity, it was called the Year of No Summer that involved low temperatures and crop failures. It put many Americans in an apocalyptic mood. This followed several years of warfare with the British, Canadians, and Native Americans. But, maybe most relevant to Jefferson, that was the conclusion to James Madison’s two terms in office. Madison’s 1809 election to the presidency began when Jefferson’s administration ended, which coincided with the death of Jefferson’s friend Thomas Paine (and the birth of Abraham Lincoln). This was the winding down of the era when Anti-Federalists had much influence.

          Let us talk about Madison, as the Jefferson was also writing to him at the time. Like Alexander Hamilton, Madison was a bit younger than Jefferson. So, one might excuse his relative youthfulness for his lack of caution, circumspection, and wisdom; which initially went along with a lack of radical and principled idealism. Hamilton and Madison decided to keep the One Ring To Rule Them All, instead of destroying it by throwing it into Mount Doom. It seems Madison would come to regret that action and his association with the likes of Hamilton, but earlier on Madison had no such qualms. Before we get to the Madison that Jefferson was writing to later on, let’s consider where he began his political career.

          About Madison and Hamilton, these two nationalistic pseudo-Federalists used covert means to implement a constitutional coup in having had unconstitutionally overturned the Articles of Confederation (Madison mentioned this allegation in a letter, but denied any nefariousness). In the Constitutional Convention, their only public mandate was to revise and reform the Articles and not to replace them, yet they had other intentions that they didn’t publicly state. And, as one historian noted, few voting citizens might have chosen them as representatives at the Constitutional Convention, if they had known their true intentions.

          “It is an unsettling but inescapable fact,” wrote Woody Holton, “that several of the principal authors of the U.S. Constitution, which has served as a model for representative governments all over the world, would never have made it to Philadelphia if their constituents had known their real intentions. There is more. If the various proposals to create a new national government drafted in the spring of 1787 had been made public, several state legislatures might have joined Rhode Island in steering clear of the convention altogether” (Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution).

          By hook and crook, the (pseudo-)Federalists won that battle and were able to replace the imperfect democracy of the Articles with a successful autocracy of the Constitution. This was part of a larger reactionary and counterrevolutionary backlash that curtailed suffrage, snuffing out democracy in its crib. After the Constitution was signed, only 6% of Americans could vote or hold office (with even many white men having lost such rights), a much lower rate than existed under British rule, not to mention taxes that were higher — taxation with representation? And, of course, others were even worse off. Slaves that fought with the American colonists remained enslaved, whereas those on the opposing side gained freedom. What kind of ‘revolution’ was that?

          Madison, to be fair, was far more principled than Hamilton; as the latter was an out-right cynical power-monger. Already during the Constitutional Convention, Madison began to sense the danger of Hamilton’s agenda, if it was maybe already too late to grow a conscience or, to put it more kindly, gain wisdom. He did help get the Bill of Rights passed, maybe through the cajoling of Jefferson. But this appeasement of Anti-Federalist fears remains unclear as to having been a net benefit or a net harm.

          Some Anti-Federalists thought it undemocratic to so narrowly constrain the protection of civil and human rights, as so many more important rights were left out such as universal suffrage and fair representation, and that it would be assumed any rights not explicitly stated would be excluded and denied. Even before the revolution had started, there had been strengthening movements for abolition of slavery and the rights of women. With sad irony, the initial success of the revolution meant the death knell of revolutionary change. And the Bill of Rights did not remedy that failure of morality and corruption of democracy.

          As a side note, Rhode Island refused to join the Constitutional Convention. That is partly what made it unconstitutional. The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the confederation of sovereign states (as opposed to nationalism and imperialism), explicitly stated that no changes could be made to the Articles without unanimous agreement from all of the signing sovereign states for, otherwise, it would be a denial of their sovereignty and essentially a declaration of war on their sovereignty.

          The rationalization for this unconstitutional and undemocratic coup by kleptocrats was that the Confederation under the Articles had already failed. That was dishonest or misleading since it fulfilled the purpose it was designed to serve. It was a practical, even if temporary, alliance of sovereign states in fighting a common enemy and seeking mutual benefit. That purpose was never that of military-enforcement of a centralized nation-state, much less an empire to replace British rule. This is the reason, under the Articles, the sovereign states maintained their own separate armies and self-taxation.

          The worse that was likely to happen with the possible breakdown of the Confederation was for the sovereign states to form into two or three new confederacies, as many predicted and as Madison agreed, where interests were more naturally shared (discussed by Joseph Ellis in his book American Creation). At the very least, this would’ve meant the splitting apart of slave and free states, which would’ve prevented the Civil War. And it would’ve made for a much more interesting American experiment in line with the revolutionary ideals of the founding.

          Though an anti-majoritarian, at least initially, Madison came to see the error of his ways. He grew a jaundiced eye toward the political and moral corruption to which he had hitched his youthful ambition. Increasingly, he admitted that he had been wrong, that the criticisms and warnings of the Anti-Federalists had been prescient. This was likely an influence of Jefferson, as the two often corresponded from 1780 to 1826, one of the longest friendships among the founders.

          Consider the letter he wrote Madison in 20 December 1787, shortly after the Constitutional Convention had ended and before it had been ratified. In it, he did advocate for a bill of rights; as long as it upheld the principles of democracy, majoritarianism, and sovereignty. Specifically included were the retention of the principles of the Articles, such as no taxation without democratically and directly elected representatives, along with some severe constraints on military and corporate power.

          This is what John Dickinson, the author of the first draft of the Articles of Confederation, had earlier spoken of of as “purse and sword”, in his opposition to centralized and undemocratic power which is to be avoided by separating the powers of taxation and military, not to mention maintaining these as close as possible to citizen control and accountability. These were old Anti-Federalist concerns, although shared by some more freedom-loving and genuine Federalists like Dickinson. Here are Jefferson’s words on these matters, from that letter:

          “I like the power given the Legislature to levy taxes, and for that reason solely approve of the greater house being chosen by the people directly. For tho’ I think a house chosen by them will be very illy qualified to legislate for the Union, for foreign nations &c. yet this evil does not weigh against the good of preserving inviolate the fundamental principle that the people are not to be taxed but by representatives chosen immediately by themselves. […] I will now add what I do not like. First the omission of a bill of rights providing clearly & without the aid of sophisms for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction against monopolies […]”

          He reinforced his views of the latter quoted part in another letter written the following year, 31 July 1788.

          He stated his hope, “to abolish standing armies in time of peace, and Monopolies, in all cases”. Then he went on to say that, “The saying there shall be no monopolies lessens the incitements to ingenuity, which is spurred on by the hope of a monopoly for a limited time, as of 14. years; but the benefit even of limited monopolies is too doubtful to be opposed to that of their general suppression. If no check can be found to keep the number of standing troops within safe bounds, while they are tolerated as far as necessary, abandon them altogether, discipline well the militia, & guard the magazines with them.”

          The fear of corporations and monopolies was well established in the minds of many, not only strong Anti-Federalists. After all, it was the primary reason the American Revolution had happened at all. The corporate monopoly of the British East India Company had been given special privileges in the colonies that were harming the interests of the colonists, as part of an unfair system of taxation without representation. Many of the early states legally limited corporate charters to only serve the public good and to a limited period of time, typically within a generation (i.e., about 20 years). At the time, corporations were not yet conflated with private enterprise, as few businesses back then had corporate charters. Yet this once central fear of privatized and plutocratic power has mostly been forgotten.

          About the purse and sword, even Hamilton nodded to its significance in The Federalist Papers No. 78, published months earlier on 28 May 1788: “The Executive not only dispenses the honors, but holds the sword of the community. The legislature not only commands the purse, but prescribes the rules by which the duties and rights of every citizen are to be regulated. The judiciary, on the contrary, has no influence over either the sword or the purse; no direction either of the strength or of the wealth of the society; and can take no active resolution whatever.”

          But what he conveniently overlooked is that, if democracy is lacking as was the case with the constitutional order, then all three branches would be controlled by the same ruling elite, not beholden to the public. The real constitutional divide, it turns out, was between the rulers and the ruled, the powerful and powerless; in the way Hamilton intended. The Articles expressed the complete opposite intention, by keeping power as close to the people. As Dickinson argued, once purse and sword were both placed within a large centralized national government, it was game over for democracy. It’s the difference of most power democratically residing in either European nation-states or non-democratically in the European Union. Europe, so far, still maintains this kind of sovereignty; whereas the US government has renounced it.

          As with Brexit, the issue of secession is an old one in the US. Even before the American Civil War, some leaders in the New England states had talked of it. And it was a very real possibility at the time. Dissatisfaction with the Constitution was strong. The Civil War, by the way, never really was about secession but about violent insurrection and slavery. If the majority of Southern voters had supported secession, and if Southern leaders had not advocated the terrorist attack of a Federal military fort, there would have been no public opposition to their seceding and there would have been no political will to stop it. The unfortunate consequence is that the last trace of sovereignty was eliminated when the idea of secession, as with states rights, became tainted in its association with the authoritarianism of slaveholding aristocracy.

          The dangerous consequences of Hamiltonian imperialism didn’t pass by Madison without notice. In the following decade, these two Federalists found themselves on opposing sides with Madison taking a decidedly Anti-Federalist stance:

          “A spirited debate ensued between “Pacificus” (Alexander Hamilton), who believed the President should be able to make or break treaties and declare and wage wars (much like traditional monarchs) without Congressional authorization, and “Helvidius” (James Madison), who argued that precisely because making treaties and declaring wars were “monarchical powers” they had been separated in the American republican constitution of 1787. Madison argued that a declaration of war meant in practice “repealing all the laws operating in a state of peace” and hence grossly overstepped the bounds of the “executive” function, namely “executing” the laws passed by Congress. Furthermore, he raised the “quis custodiet ipsos custodes” argument, i.e. “who will guard us from the guardians”, if those who will wage the war also have the power to decide if and when to declare war.”

          By 1792, Madison was already sounding like a radical. In Dominion of Memories, Susan Dunn writes that, “Madison would make an about-face, distressed when he realized that Alexander Hamilton, spouting plans for a national bank and for vigorous industrial development, sought to turn the nation into precisely the kind of consolidated powerhouse that the antifederalists had feared. Madison even began to echo Patrick Henry as he wrote a series of articles in the National Gazette in 1792 warning against “a consolidation of the states into one government.”” Let us end with one longer passage from Dunn that gives a sense of what was going on in the 1810s, although the events described happened in 1819, a few years after Jefferson’s 1816 letter to Kerchival:

          “What most troubled [Spencer] Roane was the Court’s assertion of the primacy of the federal government over the states and its expansive formulation of “implied powers.” Surely the word “necessary” (in the Constitution’s “necessary and proper” clause) restricted the meaning of that phrase, Roane argued.

          “Jefferson was elated to read Roane’s “Hampden” letters. Like Roane, he disputed the Supreme Court’s claim to serve as the final arbiter of constitutional questions, either within the federal government or between the federal government and the states. He, too, lambasted Marshall for spearheading a movement designed to transform the American government into one “as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” Jefferson even took strong issue with Marshall’s way of delivering court opinions as if they were unanimous, rarely recording minority opinions and thus virtually silencing any dissenting members of the Court. “An opinion is huddled up in conclave, perhaps by a majority of one,” Jefferson wrote, “delivered as if unanimous, with the silent acquiescence of lazy or timid associates, by a crafty chief judge, who sophisticates the law to his mind, by the turn of his own reasoning.”

          “The sweep of the McCulloch decision dismayed Madison, too. While the case had obviously called for a judicial decision, Madison wrote to Roane, it had not called for such a broad and expansive interpretation of the “necessary and proper” clause. Marshall’s opinion in that case, Madison added, had the ominous effect of bestowing on Congress a discretion “to which no practical limit can be assigned.” The Court’s decision had simply empowered the “ingenuity” of the legislative branch to exercise any and all powers-including unconstitutional ones. The danger was that such judicial rulings might lead to a complete transformation of the federal system, converting “a limited into an unlimited Government.”

          “Madison found himself even sympathizing with his old foes, the antifederalists. Many federalists, he ventured, would have joined forces with the antifederalists in rejecting the Constitution, had they suspected that the Court would impose such a “broad & pliant” construction of the Constitution.”

          • All valuable information, thanks. It seems the legislature (Congress) has abdicated its role and is allowing the executive branch to become a monarch, after all.

  1. Is it so alienating to a activist left audience for a supposed left-labor supporter writing in a more than mere positive tone about Irv Babbitt — without denying Sinclair Lewis his accounts of early corporate horror and precise analysis of the lack of competition in the Post-Reconstruction industrial North? Doesn’t that mean an alignment, or aid and comfort to the political Right in a way that grieves any former follower in my band or anyone who knew me as an Occupy supporter and left lib through and through–

    Is it right to say that more than dastardly evil and beady eyed cunning, wouldn’t the growth of the American right conservative movement have more to do with a lack of Protestants on the Supreme Court since almost forever?

    • From my perspective, your questions feel confrontational. I could be misreading your intentions, though. I might try to answer your questions, if I understood what you were asking about. But I’m a bit in the dark at the moment. It’s like hearing one side of a conversation and trying to guess about what the other side was saying. So, let me ask some questions in return. What motivated your queries and specifically as a comment to this post? What is the relationship of Babbit and Sinclair to the topic here? And what “alignment, or aid and comfort to the political Right” are you referring to? Furthermore, what is your ‘band’? Who would be included as a “former follower” in your band? And why would they be grieved? Besides, who here knew you “as an Occupy supporter and left lib through and through”? If you could clarify and elaborate, it would be much appreciated.

      You really lost me with your description of the “dastardly evil and beady eyed cunning”. That isn’t generally how I see the world. Certainly, such a view didn’t come up in my writings above. The ancient and ongoing revolution of the mind, as I understand it, isn’t so much about good vs evil; rather a shift in consciousness that potentially transcends or at least challenges and problematizes such simplistic divisions. As for Protestants, that is a bit more in line with the topic at hand. But, actually, the only mention in the post was a brief comment on the Protestant Reformation. And I didn’t connect it to US politics. The lack of Protestants on the Supreme Court, anyhow, is not indicative of a lack of Christians on the Supreme Court. It’s just that Catholics, not Protestants (or not American Protestants), have an old and well-established legal tradition.

      There is an interesting link to Catholicism within the Anglo-American conservatism. It goes back to Edmund Burke who was raised an Irish Catholic and, as an outsider, became an influential figure in British politics. He can be considered the Anglo-American prototype of modern reactionary conservative. Corey Robin observes that reactionary leaders typically begin as outsiders, and that has often been the role of Catholics in US politics. An example of this was the Progressive era talk radio celebrity and reactionary demagogue Father Charles Coughlin, originally a supporter and later a critic of FDR. Another example, in the second half of the century, was the Catholic Paul Weyrich, the reactionary mastermind behind the right-wing Moral Majority and Shadow Network. Some of his close allies were also Catholics who were less well known, while Protestant and mostly evangelical leaders became the face of the movement. Another great example right now is the Catholic Steve Bannon. He is as reactionary as they come and, like Weyrich, a Machiavellian social dominator.

      • My attempt was to allude to the somewhat obscure literary feud between Sinclair Lewis and (some might suppose the titular ) I. Babbitt although I could be a little less posh posh b’gosh William Buckley about those references. I appreciate your candor in moving to Edmund Burke’s rapid rise as outsider from the provinces and that leads to the why I wrote a reply in this manner.

        This latest piece of yours is a more promising and fruitful line off the beaten track, but I did want to bring my response squarley back to one question that was nagging as I skimmed your piece the first time, which was how this over-reliance on the rational faculty of thought combined with a tendency to wish a purifying return to the past led to the modern situation where many people still feel disengaged from any kind of governance where it matters for the social democracy I believe the majority of Americans desire. I also didn’t intend to embarrass myself again by ranting about the Pirahua and the modern ways of civilized man v.s the social conventions of pre-industrial peoples. Although we could get into that if you’re game. Some ideas seemed less-developed

        I can understand yr confusion, I maybe went a little too much with my self-promotion, but I did release some noise mixes with attached rhetoric that some might interpret as overly political, hopefully not well-thought out statements.

        I won’t get into that any further, but I was in the Portland Occupy zone in Sept of 2012 and almost got stopped and vigorously frisked for open liquor near the campus. I brought up the two literary figures since I’m obviously on a first name basis with at least one author, and used that instead of the formal Sinclair Lewis.

        I’ve sort of clawed the art criticism from “Rousseau and Romanticism” and left it, I think, intact on the pedestal per se, I find it a rather potent antidote to the excursions into the historical unconscious that Paglia and Peterson embark on as a logical consequence of the views they’ve developed..

        . It’s also that from reading this history of early precursors to networked image of ecology and the human social spirit that I read a far less machanized or dogmatic formula for a viable way towards thinking the future society in Babbitt’s criticism at its best, he after all is know for denouncing all churches with pointy spires when he walked with the Catholic Jesuitical provost Paul Elmer More , saying how much he hated the organized church which I take to be a fair common stance among the younger Midwestern crowds that showed up for Bernie’s speeches and townhalls during the primaries.

Please read Comment Policy before commenting.

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s