Marxist-Leninist philosophy, quipped anti-Soviet Russians in my youth, is about looking for a black cat in a dark room, knowing in advance it’s not there, yet crying from time to time “There, I’ve got it by the tail!”.
Transplanting that jibe into our own soil, one could find that, mutatis mutandis, it applies to the spiritual impasse into which modernity rushed.
However, rather than coming to a stop, it picked up speed and banged its head against a brick wall.
The resulting concussion addled its brain, making it believe that lying ahead is a straight, unblocked road. Yet the brick wall remained in place, and continuous butting against it has converted a concussion into dementia.
That man doesn’t live by bread alone was neither a parable nor a prophecy. It was an accurate observation of life.
Material goods, no matter how plentiful and luxurious, can’t sustain human life by themselves. People need a link to a world governed by the spirit, not the stomach. This is an exclusive property of Homo sapiens; it’s what separates us from animals.
For some 2,000 years Christianity provided a ready-made pathway to that world, but the road wasn’t toll-free. The toll was the undertaking to conduct one’s life within a certain devotional, moral and intellectual framework imposed from without, yet accepted from within.
For many, the price eventually proved too high. Hence, as GK Chesterton observed, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
When a man abandons his blameless wife out of boredom, he looks for justification. He tries to convince himself and others that there was something wrong with her. As he throws more and more black pigment on her picture, a perfectly decent woman begins to look like a Gorgon, someone to hate and run away from.
That’s what happened to Christianity: the departing modernity had to portray it as mendacious, irrational, venal and corrupt. Clearly, acrimonious divorce was the only option.
However, the need for spiritual fulfilment, for something greater than self, didn’t disappear. Following the First Law of Thermodynamics it was merely converted into a different form of energy.
Man decided he didn’t need the supernatural to rise to the superpersonal. Spirituality, he felt, could stand up on its own hind legs, without any need to be propped up by religion.
He didn’t realise that lost in the process wasn’t just his faith, but the ontological properties of being: what Aristotle called ‘transcendentals’, and what Plato specifically identified as Truth, Beauty and Goodness.
In post-Hellenic history, those ‘transcendentals’ found a home in Christianity and they wouldn’t be evicted or moved. That’s why, after walking out of church, man began to suffer from degeneration in his ability to perceive intellectual, aesthetic and moral truth.
But the hunger remained, and it had to be slaked. Since real food was no longer on the table, modernity had to settle for an unpalatable concoction of ersatz substitutes, hoping they could provide enough nourishment.
Religion was gone; taking its place were uncountable cults, variously inane or sanguinary, but always reflecting virtual, rather than actual, reality.
Whereas Christ’s parables revealed the deep meaning of life, modern myths reveal nothing but the spiritual bankruptcy of their followers.
Examples of this are plain to see, and they are too many even to enumerate. Just think of the tyrannical assault on free speech, indeed language itself, that goes by the name of political correctness.
Tossing away both Exodus and the Sermon on the Mount, modern man has come up with the ersatz morality of sanctimonious despotism. Having lost his mind along with his faith, he tries to look for moral perfection in obliterating the masculine personal pronouns, composite words featuring ‘man’ and traditional, stylistically neutral descriptors of various races.
Dispensing with Genesis (and the ensuing Judaeo-Christian history), man trampled into the dirt the binary, empirically verifiable truth, “Male and female created he them…”. He created no one, because he doesn’t exist, screamed the modern barbarian.
Humans sort of create themselves parthenogenetically, and they can be any of dozens of sexes, whose number tends to gravitate toward infinity. It’s how you feel, not what you are.
Rather than accepting that the physical world will come to an end with the Second Coming of Christ, modern barbarians ascribe that apocalyptic event to the effect of aerosol sprays, SUVs and gas cookers.
At the same time they rile against the proven and plentiful source of energy that leaves next to no carbon imprint: nuclear. The self-refutation escapes what passes for their minds.
I’ve said earlier that the symptoms of the malaise are too many even to enumerate, so I’ll stop myself here. You can extend the list ad infinitum on your own.
However, no matter how many modern perversions you identify, they will all have at their root the innate human desire to search for superhuman truth – and the doomed attempt to look for it where it can’t be found.
It’s that black cat again.