Since The Enlightenment,™ the West has ruled itself through the idea of humanism, or the notion that human desires and self-expression are more important than what is real in the world out there. We either see a larger order into which we fit — a natural order, a divine order, or even simply a logic that underpins all of reality — or we see only ourselves.
Currently, humanity is struggling to overcome the tendency to want an order of itself. Like any other trait that can be eliminated by natural selection, our hard-wiring to want narcissism, or an order of ourselves that is more important than external reality and life itself, can be bred out or removed by the extinction of whatever sub-species possesses it.
This process of evolution will eventually produce human beings that seek integration into their world, instead of retreat into a human-only world. They will be less social, although perfectly sociable, and will tend to be oriented toward the external through the internal, sort of like a cross between today’s introverts and naturalists.
If humanity survives its current quagmire, it will move toward a future where there are fewer people, but people of higher quality. For them, worship of humanity — self and group — will be as anachronistic as worship of golden calves, cargo planes, and rain gods. They will find their worship in the whole of reality as a process, in which they will find great beauty.
Should humanity avoid self-destruction, it will reach this newer state by pursuit of the vital questions:
In particular, we are learning to be skeptical of human-only perspectives and to look toward the broader world of structure to find more accurate views of reality, and through that, to condition our inner selves to orient toward the beautiful, excellent, and higher qualitative levels of existence. This viewpoint requires us to reject anthropocentric viewpoints and to look at nature as a continuum and hierarchy in which humans play a role but are not the sum total that we consider.
This viewpoint takes a middle path: all truths are relative to the perceptual abilities of the perceiver, which means that there are no universal truths, values, or communications; instead, these are specific to cultures, races, castes, families, and individuals. We value great people rather than systems designed to make everyone behave the same way. While the universe operates through relativity, all objects are relative to the whole, so there is objectivity even if all of our perceptions are merely heuristic successive approximations and not absolutes, and we are each ranked in a hierarchy by our degree of accuracy at this time. Thus while this objectivity exists, we cannot use ourselves as islands and state that objects are relatively solely to us, but instead see how we are relative to them and the whole as well.
During The Enlightenment,™ the West normalized the Asiatic notion of materialism, or that we function for our material advantage alone and do not require a heroic, idealistic, or transcendental view of existence. This toxic view manifested as individualism, roughly described as “me first before any order larger than the individual or humanity,” and all of our problems today descend from this choice, which in groups is collectivized as egalitarianism or the ideal of human consensus being a greater reality than reality itself.
With this foreign Asiatic invention — possibly conveyed through trade, middle eastern incursions, the Asiatics who took over our former highlights in Greece and Rome, or the Mongol invasions — we shifted into a human-only world. Instead of seeing a vast and gigantic cosmic order where balance and harmony were necessary, we saw a linear space in which humans did what offered utility to individual humans. This turned us into a mob, much as it did the Asiatics, who invented great empires that promptly decayed into irrelevance. It also failed in the New World long before we colonized there.
This linear space ironically created small “idea bubbles” in which people lived, meaning that their understanding of reality was entirely provided by their own ideation as they used it to filter the reality that they perceived around them. In addition, their motivations changed from simply adapting to reality toward being driven by their own thoughts and desires. These naturally included social thinking because each individual cares about how he is perceived by others, and so the sense of self extended from the individual to the group.
That shift contains attributes of an even older transition in which we moved from having religion that merely described our world toward religion as a type of ideological authority which told us how to live through a vision of reality as a moral and human order, instead of a series of cause-and-effect relationships:
In Assmann’s view, before the birth of monotheism, every city or kingdom had its own gods, but there were no religions that repudiated other religions. When a Greek from Athens visited another city, he made a sacrifice to the local gods. Even Alexander the Great did not eradicate the rituals of the cities he took. After conquering Egypt, he made a sacrifice to the local god Amon, who was identified as the likeness of the Greek god Zeus. Although there were many wars in the ancient world, there were none over the question of religion, and there was no religious persecution. On the contrary, religions formed a bridge between peoples, cultures and languages. The gods were international and belonged to everyone.
According to Assmann, only monotheism gave rise to the distinction between a “true religion” and a “false religion,” between worship of the true God and of false gods. Every monotheistic religion or religious group maintained that members of other faiths were heretics deserving of conversion, enslavement or annihilation. Hence, the emergence of the first monotheistic faith is bound up with persecution and with the invalidation of other religions. In practice, the founding of monotheism is accompanied by the destruction of temples and massacres of the adherents of the “false religions” – the seven peoples of Canaan, for example.
In other words, polytheism offered a naturalistic order: each tribe had its gods that managed it. Monotheism, on the other hand, posited a universal order where there would be one god for all tribes. In turn, this implied that an order existed that was entirely separate from how the world works that was “purer” than any order here, since on Earth nothing is universal in the way that this dualistic order was suggested to be.
Where polytheistic gods had no moral authority, the monotheistic god necessarily did because of his universal status, and since reality diverged from that ideal, the creation of dualism became necessary. This in turn created a backdoor to power because whoever spoke for the monotheistic god would control many people from a single point, a type of centralized order through symbols instead of direct power.
This presented a problem for Europe, since crowdism or herd behavior relentlessly infiltrates any institution and once in place, will transform that institution into an agent of power for the herd. When religion becomes moral, it becomes political, and then it becomes subjugated by the herd.
Crowdism dominates all sources of power invisibly and silently because it spreads informally through individuals and does not require organized management. People simply imitate one another and, by doing so, spread the virus that is the crowdist ideal. In order to keep alive, the crowd must keep growing, and so it demands loyalty and that distributes it further.
Using humanism as a shield, crowdism drives society toward diversity in order to force an absence of standards which would then restrict what individuals do:
“There’s now a lot of evidence that a lot of that turn toward liberal democracy in the early days, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, really was driven by a kind of educated, very pro-Western elite,” he told me recently. But less-educated people who lived outside large urban areas “didn’t really buy into liberalism, this idea that you could actually have a multiracial, multiethnic society where all these traditional communal values would have to give way to gay marriage and immigrants and all this stuff. That they definitely did not buy into.”
…Alex told me that for many years, his father had not been eager to advertise his Judaism because “this was something he was almost killed for.” But he had always “identified firstly as a Jew,” and his philanthropy was ultimately an expression of his Jewish identity, in that he felt a solidarity with other minority groups and also because he recognized that a Jew could only truly be safe in a world in which all minorities were protected. Explaining his father’s motives, he said, “The reason you fight for an open society is because that’s the only society that you can live in, as a Jew — unless you become a nationalist and only fight for your own rights in your own state.”
Ultimately, the humanists dislike nationalism because it imposes standards, and through them a hierarchy, creates restriction on the individual. More realistic thinkers realize that these restrictions are necessary because most individuals are not good, and people require guidance to achieve unity and work together. Individualists (crowdists) oppose them.
This situation creates an unstable balance. Those who want diversity assume that nationalism will result in their deaths; those who want nationalism are misunderstood as acting in a universal context. Humanism, as filtered through monotheism, produces an expectation of universalism, where nationalism is inherently anti-universal or localized.
When universalists criticize nationalists, they invariably do so under the assumption that nationalists want to impose a racial hierarchy upon the world:
After a while, the crudest trigger points of tribalism — your race, your religion (or lack of it), your gender, your sexual orientation — dominate the public space. As Claire Lehmann, the founding editor of the refreshingly heterodox new website Quillette has put it, “the Woke Left has a moral hierarchy with white men at the bottom. The Alt-Right has a moral hierarchy that puts white men at the top.”
This is a mind-set that Haidt and Lukianoff see as very similar to a clinically depressed one, catastrophizing, paranoid, leaning into ever-escalating feelings of victimhood rather than pushing against them with reason.
These tribal instincts are as emotionally satisfying as they are toxic. I am not immune to them either. None of us is. They are the reason why we have this tribal president, who has, in turn, intensified the tribalism of his supporters and his opponents. They are the reason our universities are purged of non-leftists in the humanities, why Fox News fires its dissident conservatives, why the editors of our newspapers and magazines are slowly being intimidated into excluding any diversity of opinion.
However, this is simply projection: nationalists want to escape universalism, which means that they do not want a world racial hierarchy, but a withdrawal from the world racial hierarchy created by diversity that invariably — as all egalitarian policies do — punishes the successful in order to “raise up” the less successful.
Nationalism argues for a world order of local orders; no group is on top universally and each group has its own space, recognizing that diversity creates nothing but enmity and chaos. In the view of a nationalist, unity is more important than individualism, and that requires strong local culture, as specific as possible, which arises organically and is enforced through social opportunity.
To a nationalist, humanism and universalism represent a degradation of the natural order, and an ugly standardization that destroys social order by shifting focus to individualism:
Egalitarianism was the true racism because it sought to erase difference from the world. Democracy was the true totalitarianism because it insisted undemocratic systems were illegitimate. Individualism was robbing people of their identities because it weakened community bonds.
Universalism seeks to eliminate differences, although it is rarely marketed that way. It represents the human desire to take a single standard and impose it on everyone as a means of controlling them, usually to eliminate fears, such as of more powerful people or people who are naturally more gifted.
It proves convenient for those who want a society to have universalism. It seems like an extension of objectivity, so that we can say that there is one truth and everyone must obey it, and then throw out the outsiders. It gives us a sense of togetherness, because instead of needing seers, sages, wizards, and kings, we can do it ourselves. We can all get together and see this truth, then enforce it, not being aware that we are projecting ourselves instead of perceiving our world.
Humanity finds itself now leaving the age of universalism. We have fought world wars, endless internal conflicts, and countless political discussions trying to find that “one truth” or the moment where “we are all one.” No matter how much we talk about everyone bleeding red, we are different, and while we acknowledge that some rise above the rest in talent — music, technology, art, literature — we find that troubling when it comes time to choose a leader. It seems like giving up our own self-esteem in favor of a recognition that someone else will do better.
As a result, universalism proved eternally popular and since every leader wants to assume power first and only then fight his detractors, would-be leaders offered universalism — the idea that there is divine or materially evident “writing on the wall” which all must obey — as their initial salvo, and then used disagreements over what it is as a means to further power. If they did not, they would not have been in power for long.
To end the religion of humanism, we have to stop seeing a world centered around human — both individual and group — emotions, judgments, feelings, and rationalizations as the best form for our existence. We have to look to the inner differences between people, establish hierarchy, and restore thinking as the exploration of the external world through the intuitive inner one. We will escape universalism and humanism alike by looking toward a world where there is no one truth for everyone, but where those who understand more than others become promoted in those hierarchies because of their greater accuracy.
We see the early signs of this division already. “Populists” emphasize love of nation as a place with an actual identity, including nationalism, or the belief that one ethnic group defines each nation. They look toward the family and customs for meaning, not government and ideology. They value systems that reward good behavior, instead of those which both subsidize all behavior and seek to shape it through “social engineering” as Marxists advocate. This has split the West.
These two groups might be called “realists” and “denialists.” The realists see that Leftism has failed, and that for that reason, “equality” is no longer a viable goal, nor was it ever. They realize that our pursuit of equality took us away from reality and has brought us to a state like that achieved by the USSR, where all of society is organized around ideological control and conformity. Denialists see none of this, and want to continue along the path to Leftist Utopia through equality.
Where those who want a future might look now could be the process of removing our worship of humanity. We went from monotheism to worship of ourselves, and the resulting individualism has led us astray. If we are to get past this ugly time, the first step will be to abstain from worshiping ourselves, and to look toward reality instead.