At the top tier of what we might call “beyond-modern” writers, there are some who are only read by other writers and the upper echelon of the audience who are geared toward the type of in-depth analysis you might find in a top-notch political magazine or philosophy symposium. Bruce Charlton remains at the head of this group, having written a number of influential papers and now, with a blog that concentrates the most interesting minds among those who recognize and are concerned by the collapse of the West.
Not only that, but he is a patient interview subject who is a font of wisdom and often provides offhand references to whole areas worthy of further study for those concerned with the future of humanity, the West and the endlessly empty human soul. We were lucky to catch a few words with him in the midst of his busy days.
What do you believe? In other words: can you summarize what you have learned?
I am a Christian (since 2008), of a spiritual or mystical type. I am not an active member of any denomination – although I support a conservative evangelical Anglican church. Metaphysically and theologically, I believe essentially what Mormons believe; and am also very influenced by Owen Barfield and William Arkle.
You started your main blog, Bruce Charlton’s Notions, in 2008 if memory serves. What inspired you to do this?
I was sacked from being the editor of Medical Hypotheses in May 2010 – and for the previous several years had been doing most of my writing for editorials in that journal. I decided instead to be a daily blogger so I could publish what I wanted to write, without having to satisfy some editor.
How are you able to do this, financially and socially? Do your day job and family interfere?
I am a salaried university professor, and don’t make any money at all from writing. I get up at 5 a.m., and most days I spend a couple of hours during the morning doing a kind of meditative reading and note-taking – and I think while walking. These times are when I do the thinking that enables the writing. Job and family life are part of it – they don’t interfere.
The core of your philosophy seems to me to be close to what Nietzsche and Evola (and Houellebecq) wrote about, which is that we cannot use external means to force ourselves to do the right thing; instead, we must desire to be good, and through that we will discover the ancient truths.
That’s true. But I don’t identify my views with N, E or H – although I value Nietzsche and have read him over several decades.
I would not say that we cannot, but should not force ourselves to do the right thing for external reasons; because that is just kicking the can down the road. At some point – wherever we seek – we must reach a foundation that we know explicitly and from direct and personal experience.
Indeed, I regard this as the main business of living. In principle we, in this era, need to know everything for ourselves; and must strive to attain this goal – starting with those things that are most important to us. But to do this we must first discover then revise our despair-inducing and incoherent metaphysical assumptions.
Tolkien seems to involve this concept as well; when Frodo takes on the ring, he becomes acquainted with evil, and by wanting to reduce or obliterate this evil, he becomes less self-centered and desiring to make himself good, even when he cannot because of the burden of the ring.
I hadn’t considered it that way, but I agree with your analysis.
What made it clear to you that we needed an inward-out, instead of outward-in, approach to restoring the West? How do people decide to become good, and how will that save the West? What “path” of thought led you to this conclusion?
I explored the external possibilities as thoroughly as I could in my early years as a Christian. In the end, I found they avoided the fact that there is always and unavoidably a personal act of choice at the root of all religion (even if that choice is not to choose actively and explicitly, but instead to go along with social norms). I discovered Mormonism via an interest in the social aspects of religion – in particular an interest in how Mormons lived in a modern way yet sustained above replacement fertility.
The superficial and social aspects of Mormonism are reasonably well known; but when I read Mormon theology in some depth, I found a beautiful and deeply congenial world understanding that I could wholly assent to; indeed nothing less than an entire alternative metaphysics. Following a period of study and meditation I was rewarded with a solid experience of the reality of Mormon metaphysical theology – which has stayed with me since.
Further vital discoveries have been Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield and William Arkle – which all bring clarity and detail to the Mormon scheme – and emphasise that the main task for modern Western Man is to move forward (not back) and to attain a new way of introspective and spiritual thinking. This linked with a long term interest in the work of Colin Wilson (for example the implications of Peak Experiences).
So I now have a personal program for what I ought to do, in my life and in my writings (hence in communication with ‘society’): which is to pursue the kind of clear and explicit higher consciousness method that Steiner terms Anthroposophy, in a Mormon Christian context.
How long does it take to write one of your blog posts?
I write quite quickly – a blog post of 700 words may take about an hour.
I draw a distinction between internal (instinctual, spiritual, racial) impulses and external (social, indoctrination, dogmatic) impulses. You seem to address the internal; how did you arrive at this approach?
I used to be much more interested in the external, and wrote on social themes; but have gradually realised that the internal impulses are primary – ultimately, society depends on the individual and not the other way around. I think I first realised this in science, when it became clear that the corruption (habitual dishonesty, low ambition, careerism) was down to the lack of transcendental values among the mass of individual scientists: they never had any compelling reason Not to do whatever was currently most expedient.
Your work is a daily affirmation for many. Thousands of people check in with your blog every day in order to re-affirm that the herd is wrong, and that the personal vision of the readers is correct instead. How does this influence your writing?
What keeps me blogging has been a few, apparently sincere, private e-mails from people saying they value the work.
Western civilization is in deep trouble, to say the least. How can we solve this? Is there a bridge between the metaphysical and the physical? What will our future civilization look like?
My current idea is that we cannot, and perhaps should not, save civilisation – whether Western or of any other type; because we are destined to (i.e. supposed to – as part of the divine plan) return to a post-civilisation, hunter gatherer type, family based tribalism (whether we like it or not).
This is not an economic prediction, nor a biological one – although there is evidence from these domains; but a deep sense that civilization is ultimately unsatisfactory, and a phase only. Also, I think Heavenly life – the ideal – is organised by extended and interlinked families, not by institutions.
You touch on philosophical, spiritual and metaphysical topics. 99% of humanity seems inert to these. How do you think your ideas will
If my ideas are worthy; they will effect change in the realm of ultimate reality, universal consciousness, of pure thought. If they are not worthy they will not make any difference – as is right!
But it may well be that ‘99%’ of humanity choose to reject the realm of universal reality and dwell in the isolation of themselves as world – they are free to make that choice.
One of your more interesting ideas — one of many — is that reduced infant mortality has allowed deleterious mutations to accumulate in the West, essentially dooming us. How would we fix this?
I don’t believe we can fix it – and the attempt to do so would turn us into monsters. Either ‘nature will take its course’; or, if we choose to live by the divine plan then the right kind of answers will emerge (maybe not on the biological level) of kinds and ways beyond our perception. (But of course people may refuse the answers.)
In essence, if mutation is real and significant – as I suspect, this is something we must cope with as best we can, learning from the experience; just as many people must cope with chronic illnesses or developmental disorders.
If the West wanted to reverse its decline tomorrow, what would be required?
Well, the first step would be wanting to reverse the decline; we are a long way from that first step because the ruling Establishment instead want a totalitarian regime of thought control, and are manipulating the incremental destruction of the West with that in mind. The masses are atheist, hence strictly psychotic; and post-Christian, hence in a state of (denied) despair; and materialist, hence pathetic zombies. So reversing the decline of the West is not even on the agenda.
You have now written a handful of books, all of which are highly interesting. How did you compose these books, and which ones should us armchair activists follow?
My most recent four books were explicitly based on blogging, and have the same aphoristic style as my blogs. I composed them when I thought I had reached a conclusion; then I assembled relevant blog posts, cut about 75 percent of the words, and interacted with the remaining text to shape it and develop further ideas as they emerged. In the most recent book (The Genius Famine) Ed Dutton selected and shaped from my blog posts, and then brought-in some ideas and evidence from his own work – we passed drafts back and forth.
Of these four books, according to personal feedback; it seems that Addicted to Distraction (2014) seems to have been the most appreciated.
One of your many interesting ideas is that humans, once upon a time, had less social background hum in their minds, and so were able to perceive a world where the metaphysical and the physical coexisted, a condition known as “monism.” Why have we lost this state of mind, and how do we rediscover it? Are we genetically mutated away from this type of realization?
I got this over the past couple of years from an intense engagement with Owen Barfield and his ‘Master,’ Rudolf Steiner. We lost this state of mind as part of a divine plan, in which the history of the human race recapitulates the history of human development – but by bad choices the human race got stuck in adolescence, and refuses to grow-up.
We were supposed-to move to another phase of spiritual consciousness with Romanticism in The West, around 1800-ish, but instead went in for pure materialism in support of a hedonic (or ‘utilitarian’) vision of life – maximising pleasure, minimising suffering in this mortal life, and with the assumption of extinction of all consciousness at biological death.
The transition took many generations, but was almost complete from the mid-1960s – and now Western people, as a generalisation, have no reason to live, and no purpose for living; as is clear from their chosen subfertility and lack of basic biological instincts and addiction to mass media distractions.
But any individual can, at any time – starting immediately, resume the destiny of Man; and can start work on finding their true self beneath the false media/ socially-constructed selves; can start noting the livingness and consciousness of the world; can recommence growth of consciousness of life and thought in a Christian metaphysical framework – aiming at becoming more divine (‘theosis’) in a context of the eternal life after this life.
If you had to answer bluntly, what went wrong with Western Civilization? How do we fix it?
We are too corrupted – too badly-motivated and too weakly-motivated – to ‘fix’ anything. So first, before taking any ‘action’, we must deal with the corruption; by becoming spiritual Christians; by learning to think with-and-from our true selves; and by making this a habit.
Only then will we know what to do.