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PHASES OF CULTURE

"Every movement finds its culture hero or prophet.   His genius is communication.  In one sense he is an exponent of the standard psychic state of his contemporaries, spokesman for his generation." 
--Weston La Barre

 

Phase 1. A time of well-being. The culture heroes are sacred. They keep the shadow forces at bay.

Phase 2. The beginnings of social stress. The culture heroes are secular--war heroes etc. They battle the shadow forces that threaten the sacred. Political parties are more important than religious institutions.

Phase 3. The time of the anti-hero. Recognizing that the culture cannot answer his needs he rebels against the culture. Noting is sacred, therefore there is no cause. Only the self.  Logically, after breaking more and more of society’s rules the anti-hero becomes the outlaw.

Phase 4. Now, there is no more unorganized crime.  The outlaws band together into gangs and into crime syndicates. At total eclipse, the sociopath is in full career.  He dominates crime syndicates, political parties, commercial and religious institutions.  He has the power others desire and they are drawn to him.

Phase 5. The beginnings of new social structures.  Individuals assume control of their lives to survive.

Phase 6. New social structures spread.  Secular culture heroes emerge with doctrines regarding social order.  There is the first seeds of knowing that something is missing—the sacred.

Phase 7. Culture is cultivating the fertile ground for the message of the sacred culture hero—a message that transcends doctrines toward "the way".

Phase 8. New culture, new religion(s). A new world view.


This whole process is invoked because the old sacred ways could not answer the demands that were brought about through changes in the secular life-style. It is as though the strength of the sacred became weaker and weaker creating a vacuum that pulled the shadow overhead.

In the first phase churches, temples and sacred sites are at the center of culture. In phase 2 centers of law, and later, centers of commerce take central position. Phase 3 sees the beginnings of crisis cults. Everything is peripheral. Interesting here, for our time, we see the decline of the inner city. Religious, political and economic institutions seem on the verge of collapse. However shopping malls located well away from the center of communities are thriving. It is here where many people turn in times of crisis. They shop to fill the emptiness. They go to one of its many movie theatres to live the dream. They cannot escape the decline into violence that has taken over the culture. Their purchases at the mall do not fill the emptiness. They don’t know what the world is coming to. They long for the "good old days". And they expect their leaders to set things right. This will not happen. And naively turn to the shadow for enlightenment.

Although the Eclipse has been presented in cultural terms, it speaks as well to individual transformation. Just as artists can be early warning systems to society, so too are individuals who’s art is their life.  In fact culture heroes like Buddha, Jesus, Quetzalcoatl and Mohammed are classic examples of individuals who transformed themselves first and then initiated others into a new way of being.   Although they are desperately needed and sought after just prior to and during total eclipse they are not likely to be found, and if found, understood.  Cultures in crisis are stuck on the imaginary past and a new way of being appears insane—there is no consensus.  It is during this time that the first awareness takes hold among some individuals that the old way is well on its way out. It is the darkest hour when new ways must be dreamed.  This is the only productive course of action.  It was, in truth (if not in fact) why the birth of Jesus coincided with the darkest period during the annual cycle of seasons.

The anti-hero believes the culture has failed him.  He feels as though he has been duped, asked to believe in and function with institutions and rules that don’t work—don’t mean anything.  He becomes angry and rejects all authority. He sees clearly the authorities don’t practice what the preach.  So why should he?  And why don’t they behave as they profess?  Because that way, the old way, doesn’t get things done that need to be done. What the anti-hero doesn’t know, and what almost everyone else can’t see either, is that the culture has not failed him. Its failure is not personal. The culture is failing period and he just happened to be around.

Cultures in crisis breed cults and -isms the way a dead carcass breeds maggots; and maggots transform into flies. Flies may have wings but they are far from angels. But in the context of their time, they fly as close to the heavens as the mind can imagine—or accept. And so, people in crisis cultures feed on one -ism then another, and another. And when that doesn’t work they rely on techniques which, like the -isms, are disembodied ways of being. And when the techniques fail they turn to the only idea that seems to make sense: They look out for No. 1 (this is the sociopath), and they quest for power rather than a vision. And god help anyone or anything in their way. Nothing is sacred. Total eclipse.

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