Aspects of the Cultural Cycles

Lecture transcription, 1967

Translated by Rodrigo Morais

By considering the cratic phases in History one can verify that the political “kratos” – as a social cohesion force as well as a super cohesion force hovering above the social groups – is always an object of ambition, both by the social groups and by the individuals themselves. Properly speaking, the social kratos is the political power structured upon the great cultural cycles, upon what constitutes the “state” and which gives a certain coherence to society – even though this coherence is based upon political laws and, above all, institutional violence.

The cultural cycles can be divided in different periods with its different phases. The juvenile period marks the culture formation and it is mainly characterized by the advent of a new worldview that gives the true consensus to the new cycle. The first period has three phases easily observed throughout History.

Firstly, in the theocratic phase, the culture is tensionally structured over a theocratical form. It originates from God and is transmitted to man through the mystical figure of an illuminated person whose personality scumbles the line dividing history and legend. This “divinity” does not necessarily belong to the theocratic phase but will be the central symbol of all the statements of the dominant theocracy. For example, Rama amongst the Aryans, Mohammad amongst the Muslims, Moses amongst Hebrews, Saint Paul amongst Christians, Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus amongst the Egyptians, etc. Around this divine figure or around its signification represented by a structured body of hieratic or sanctified men who regulate, comply with and enforce the law, the second cratic phase slowly emerges, which is the hierocracy (from Gr. hieros, saint) of the sanctified men[2] or priests.

Encircling the priests a bigger group starts forming of virtuous men, who, progressively, by their courage and the impetuosity of their faith, promotes a faith propelling material force. They are not only priests but men arising from all social sectors and they finally take control of the political kratos to establish the third phase of the first period, the aretocracy (from Gr. arête, virtuous).

At the same time, other social strata emerge, such as the aristocracy, whose economical power creates the desire for political kratos. Then, the first great revolution comes, the aristocratic revolution, which rises to power. The priests still participate, but increasingly in a secondary position. At this point, the prince appears. The aristocracy (from Gr. aristos, the best ones) gradually forms a chosen group around the prince to constitute power and the second phase of the second period comes to light, which is the oligarchy (from Gr. oligos, chosen one). The kratos belongs to a small group that totally rules society. As the priests become more and more subordinate, finally emerges a time of absolutism of the aristocracy, which is the third phase of the second period, the monocracy (from Gr. monos, one), when power emanates from an almighty king who becomes the incarnation of the state.

The next emerging stratum to desire political power once acquired economical influence is the bourgeoisie. The second great revolution of the cultural cycle, then, inaugurates the third period, democracy. To come to this point it could have even been that the aristocracy shared some of its power and rights with the so-called third state. As the bourgeoisie acquires power, it becomes dominated by a more powerful group from within, the group of the richest, the plutocracy (from Gr. plutos, rich). This group constitutes the second phase of the third period, i.e., when the businessmen are ruled by the richest amongst them. This group, then, gives way to a third group, the money rulers, starting the third phase of the third period, the argirocracy (from Gr. argiros, silver).

At this moment the great popular uprisings emerge, when elements from different strata start agitating the masses and preparing them for the third great revolution. Those masses in turmoil by the demagogues blast the social order and initiate the fourth period, which is the period ofochlocracy (from Gr. oclos, street masses). As the ochlocrats cannot keep the power – the masses can never keep the power – powerful men begin to arise with military force to save from immediate catastrophe and social chaos. Ascend to power these men called Caesars, of the caesarocracy, which is the second phase of the fourth period and grooms the inevitable final disorder of the cultural cycle as well as prepares the advent of new ideas, a new faith and a new consensus. Insofar as the new consensus embeds society and new people from other regions immigrate, the soil is fertile for the establishment of a new cycle, a new hope for mankind.

It is noteworthy the existence of a tension of two antagonist forces driving all cultural cycles since its formation: a constructive and solidifying impetus and a destructive and corruptive one. To establish the formative causes of the cultural cycles in an Aristotelian manner, that would be to say that the material cause is the group of individuals throughout the various generations and the formal cause is the structuring general worldview. The corruptive dispositions within the cultural cycle are forces seeking to sever the cycle cohesion and even can, in certain cases, prematurely destroy a cycle in formation – as History has proven.

There are essential properties of a cultural cycle, such as the medium term[3]. The medium term is the consensus, which is the worldview, the fundamental religious faith of the cycle. It coerces its different parts and the tensional renews of a cycle and creates another essential property, the community of ethic interests, such as religious, sociological, ecumenical, historic, legal, etc. Likewise, there are accidental properties of a cultural cycle, such as the ethnical component, the ecological outline and the dynamically considered interests, objects of change according to different ruling groups, phases and periods of society.

The historical development of a cultural cycle is always proportional to its constitutional form and matter and its potentialities, consequently, are proportional to the actualizing stages it might have. Amongst a series of potentialities, those that actually happen are called prometheic and those that do not actualize are called epimetheic. The properties of the cultural cycles – either essential or accidental – form a antipathetic polarity: on one side those aspects that build and preserve a normal development and, on the other hand, those dispositions of corruption that act towards destroying the cycle.

The thetic elements strengthen the integration of society and undermine the corruptive dispositions. Considering those properties apart from concrete existence – in an abstract manner – can give a clearer view of each period. For example, the valorization of the theological superiority, typical of the first period, works as to place mankind as a medium term connected to the divine inasmuch as the world around has a relative and inferior valorization. Those are thetic aspects, positively structuring and strengthening the cultural cycle.

A justification of the fundamental worldview within the cycle is a strong feature of the first period, mainly in the second and third stage, seeking to fortify the worldview by apologetic means. The fundamental in this period is the religious idea of the salvation of mankind. Consequently, all aspects of knowledge are subordinated to this worldview. Theology superimposes upon Philosophy. The worldview is merely religious.

Progressively, the worldview needs more and more of a philosophical justification. It is the period of scholasticism observed in all cultural cycles, related to the transition from the first to the second period. Nevertheless, the antithetic forces are very much actives. There is a dispute of residual elements from previous cycles as well as incorporated elements from internal conflicts within the religious worldview. Those antithetic onslaughts are quite strong. It is the era of heresies, of ideas emanated from foreign sectors denying validity to the fundamental worldview.

Those antithetic facets manifest by an excessive valorization of the cosmological aspects in opposition to the theological worldview, i.e., a struggle to appreciate the anthropological values and deny the cognitive possibilities of man. Therefore, the appearance of ideas such as skepticism, pragmatism, nihilism and the valorization of Philosophy over Theology, mainly practical philosophies, as understood in an empirical aspect. The value of reason is pointed out not to justify the worldview but its opposing ideas, its antithesis. There is also a valorization of the empirical, the rational and a constant denial of the human possibilities of accessing the Absolute, inasmuch as it seeks to separate Philosophy from Theology and Religion as well as Science from Philosophy. To the accelerated development of technology, a complete disconnection of Science and Philosophy is finally achieved, which is properly the transition from the second to the third period.

Before the arrival of the democratic period there is a predominant pantheistic approach towards the accepted axioms, principles and postulates, i.e., the constant denial of their validity. Rise of skepticism, agnosticism, criticism, pragmatism, positivism, materialism, and nihilism, until when, by the beginning of the third period, a romantic reaction takes place, but disorderly and unable to rescue the past positivenesses of the cultural cycle.

Finally, the philosophical postulates are gradually superseded by ideological doctrines, which, instead of promoting the truth-seeking pursuit amongst the general public, divide society into ideological and isolated interest groups. Insofar as the thetic aspects develop throughout History, the antithetic aspects proportionally grow. As the first one justifies its position against the oppositions and the antithesis are debuted, demonstrated or even justified as favoring the thetic position, immediately the antithetic development turns against the ideas it defended before but utilizing another destructive power within the cycle.

For example, in the beginning of the cycle the worldview fundaments are based upon divine revelation given to mankind throughout the chosen ones. Then the antithetic aspects deny revelation and deem the religious set of beliefs as a set of psychological myths under fictional projections. Doubt is presented against the validity of general ethical postulates. There is an indifference towards religious ideas and skeptical suspicions emerge. The validity of the revelation is undermined. Ethics is reduced to Morals and that our knowledge is based only in experience, founded upon the empirical later rationalized.

As the group representing the constructive and thetic aspects demonstrates that the empirical-rational is a philosophical fundament for the theological worldview, immediately the antithetic side starts doubting about the abstractive abilities of reason. Relativism, skepticism and criticism come to light. In this phase the power of reason is denied over the sole acceptance of the experiential. When the thetic part justifies that Metaphysics is founded in the reality known by experience and the rationalization based in real foundations, then the antithetic part denies the abstractive faculties of men affirming that even the empirical reality is unobtainable: “the world is a set of man-created fictions”. From this point it is natural to question the real content of the concepts and nominalism emerges. Words are merely names given to things and Logic becomes a logic of extensionality. The first principles and the importance of the principle of identity, the principle of contradiction, the principle of causality and the principle of sufficient reason are rejected. Also seek to deny the cognitive power of men: knowledge is merely pragmatic. The positivist position is valued and capitalism is systematic. The value of demonstration is denied and the accepted proofs depend upon a priori given prejudices to be classified by man. As concept implies essence, the new era tries to substitute the concept by the merely classificatory, once conceptualization entails incursion into the essential, which is now banned.

The question of revelation – fundamental in the previous stages – becomes secondary. Mankind salvation can only happen within the cosmic-immanent sphere. The solution can only come from one of the Ethics disciplines, such as Sociology, Economics, Politics. Philosophy is put into doubt and can even be denied. So is the Speculative Science and even the Practical Science weakens. A pragmatic science – merely classificatory – strengthens, as modernly can be observed as an extreme valorization of the protocolary.

At this point the antithetic aspect comes to an end, disemboguing into its last alternative, the nihilism. This third period sees the rule of the antithetic aspect and the thetic position is firmly attacked. The wars amongst nations have ideological reasons, once to all social problems there can only be an economical, political or sociological solution that must prevail. Ideologies are put together with a promise to accomplish salvation through predetermined means, since salvation can only be achieved in this world.

The foundations of the thetic position is shattered, bringing to life a new certainty, a new conviction, founded in human experience and knowledge, reveled through superior men, which structure new possibilities. Bound in a tensional manner, it will serve as a new coming worldview to a new cultural cycle.

Finally, it is noteworthy the fact that all worldview advocating thetic aspects have an affirmative position and its resulting philosophies are always affirmative. They are always interested in affirming, postulating, and demonstrating. On the other hand, the antithetic corresponding philosophies are always negative. Always denies and rejects the validity of the demonstrative means.

It also illustrates a certain dynamic throughout the cycle in which for each affirmative position corresponds an adverse position in the extreme contrary. For example, the excess of rationalism was faced with an excess of romantic irrationalism and that with the rise of modern phenomenology and other concepts seeking to oppose the negative aspect. No phase develops without a tensional adversity and dynamic of accommodation between its thetic and antithetic aspects.

[1] Or Social Cycles, as the terminology used by P. R. Sarkar. (Translator’s note)

[2] The social kratos dominators are the real representatives of the law but they are not necessarily always the holders of the state power. As a matter of fact, they possess the power in general of society, from which even the political power emanates and depends upon. They are the superior men who represents the upper authority within the cyclic phase. (Author’s note)

[3] In Sociology, the medium term is the one that gives cohesion to the social relationship, for example in a family the mother is the medium term. (A.N.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com 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 )

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s