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The Spirit of the Age and contemporary nihilism

October 23, 2017

One of the causes of the nihilism of our time is that Man had not found in his Spirit of the Age - his Zeitgeist. Hesiod divided the Ages of Man in 5 (Gold, Silver, Bronze, Heroes and Iron), Hindus believed in 4 Ages (Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and Kali Yuga). Historians have also divided history into eras, comprising the Old Age, Middle Ages, Modern Age and Contemporary Age. We will take this mainly into account, since it takes into account the development of Man in the world, while the first two also approach the metaphysical world.

 

We can then evidence a spirit of each of the periods of the Periodization of History. Although it is impossible to summarize an entire epoch in only one aspect, there is, however, a central feature to highlight. Following the chronology, let's start with the Old Age. The spirit of the Old Age is Civilizational, because it is in this period that Man discovers himself as a social being and from that, develops complex societies. The key concept here is Aristotle's definition of Man as a political animal, since it describes the nature of Man - a rational animal that speaks and thinks (zoon logikon) - in its necessary interaction in the city-state (polis). In short, for Aristotle, Man is a political animal because it is fully realized within the scope of the polis. The "city or political society" is the "highest good" and therefore men associate in cells, from the family to the small town, and the gathering of these groups results in the city and the state. During that age great civilizations arise, which will shape the world culturally and politically. The spirit of this time will be the constitution of the civilizational foundation for later ages. From then on, man is constituted as a social being.

 

With the fall of the Roman Empire, the greatest of the civilizations of the Old Age, begins the period of the Middle Ages. This period is marked by great introspection, both of Man and of the whole of society. Man surrounds himself in fiefs and decentralized and isolated societies. The places of worship, formerly done outdoors, are also transferred to closed environments - the Church. Man dedicates himself to the study of himself, his faith and his spirit. Universities are created, that seek the deepening in the study of the truth and the sciences, aiming at a greater connection with the Sacred. Hardly in this period did the Man have contact with the Profane, since even wars had a sacral character. It is in this period that the deepening with the Sacred and the discovery of the Man as spiritual being takes place.

 

With the advent of the Modern Age, being socially and spiritually strong, Man enters in an age of discoveries. New continents and new peoples are discovered through navigations. With the movements of Humanism, Renaissance and Enlightenment, Man focuses on himself, but not spiritually as in the Middle Ages, but intellectually. "I think, therefore I am", a phrase written by René Descartes, marks the spirit of this age, characterized by anthropocentric thinking, in which Man shapes the world according to his Reason. There is in this age a great scientific development, marking the meaning of Man as an intellectual being.

 

After long development in these three eras, contemporary Man would also incorporate a Spirit of the Age. Thus, what marks the Contemporary Age? It is assumed that from the constitution as a social, spiritual and intellectual being, contemporary Man would be able to synthesize these different spirits and incorporate them into a new and complete expression. But the result is completely different than expected. Contemporary Man embodied an individualistic spirit, rejecting his conception as a social being. He became materialistic and profane, desecrating himself and rejecting his spirituality. One could think that it maintained its intellectual character, but Man abdicated its productive character, adopting a consumerist character. It rejects everything that has long-lived character and construction through strata, for the acceptance of something ephemeral and of instant pleasure. Because of this immediacy, how can he continue to be an intellectual being, if knowledge comes from meditation, introspection and reflection? Contemporary man does not create or produce, only reproduces and consumes.

 

Far from any romanticism in considering the previous ages as perfect and infallible, it is visible that the present age is the worst compared to the predecessors. I try not to be pessimistic in adopting the following example as the Spirit of the Age of contemporary man, but this is his present expression. The contemporary spirit is the spirit of fire. The more he's fed, the more fire consumes with an insatiable hunger. It grows in size and devours what lies before it. Man has become destructive. It destroys nature and, through firearms and mass destruction, destroys itself. Because of this destruction, a great emptiness is created within the spirit of contemporary Man, a great nihil, establishing the nihilism that reigns over Man. The fire led us to the entrance of the Iron Age.
 
Here, then, it is necessary to return to the concepts of Hesiod and Hinduism about the Iron Age. Hesiod defines the Iron Age as the most terrible of all. An incessant time of misery and anguish. In his opus Works and Days, Hesiod describes this era as:

 

"Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils.

 

The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime.

 

Men will dishonor their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture.

 

Might will be justice; and one will destroy the other's city. Neither will he who swears really be favored nor he who is just nor he who is good, but he will be granted promotion to honor who is a doer of evil and hybris. Might will be justice and shame will no longer exist. The bad will injure the good, speaking crooked untruths and bearing false witness there to. Envy will be in attendance upon men, every miserable mortal, causing commotion, rejoicing in evil, with face full of hate.

 

Then to Olympus retiring, leaving the broad-wayed earth, wrapping their lovely forms of gleaming white, Shame and Nemesis, abandoning men, will return to their lives among the immortals; and what will be left for mortal men are only the anguishing pains, but no defense against evil."

 

Although Hesiod describes itself as being part of the Iron Age, he could not expect that it could become so strong in the future. The Hindus also believe that we are already in the Iron Age - the Kali Yuga - for more than 5000 years.

 

"The essence of the Kali Yuga is the cause of the separation between man and nature and all the devastation of the modern world leading to the loss of contact with the cosmic order where the mind of humanity is fixed on the most dense and material elements of reality . It is an Era where wars, vices, ignorance, and devoid of all virtues dominate. The leaders who govern the nations are violent, corrupt, exploiters of their peoples, thus becoming a perverted world, where chaos, hunger, disease, destruction, excessive selfishness, materiality, evil and lack of respect for man by his fellow man.

 

Well-being and religiosity will diminish day by day, until the world becomes completely depraved... The patrimony will confer the social position alone; wealth will be the only source of devotion; passion will be the only bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only factor of success in litigation; and women will be used as objects of purely sexual satisfaction. The outer appearance will be the only distinctive of the various orders of life. The lack of honesty will be the universal means of subsistence; weakness is the cause of dependence. [...] Thus, in the Age of the Kali Yuga decay will continue constantly, until the human race approaches its annihilation. [1]"

 

I venture to say that the Iron Age and Kali Yuga began - or having it's greatest expression - contrary to what Hesiod and the Hindus attested to having begun for millennia, in the Contemporary Age. It is up to us to overcome and avoid such a devastating path. The path of contemporary Man is the search for the union between the social, spiritual and intellectual spirit. Thus, uniting our forces in one body, one spirit and one mind, we can fight the destructive fire that consumes our lives.

 

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