The Triumph of Civilization, by Jacques Reattu (1760-1833)

The Triumph of Civilization


Norman D. Livergood

     Culture, in its most comprehensive meaning, includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as members of a society.

Zeus and Hermes      In essence, culture is the sum of all technology and values that make up human life. The definition of culture changes relative to how we interpret human life and human values. If we define human life as mere physical existence and if we base our value system on nothing more than ego-satisfaction, our culture is materialistic regardless of how technologically advanced we might be.

     In this essay, we'll explore the foundation of human culture in higher metaphysical knowledge as preserved in the Perennial Tradition 1  and see how the modern world's loss of contact with this elemental source is the chief reason for our world culture's extraordinary and perilous disintegration.

     Throughout the essay, we'll distinguish between human culture in general (civilization) and specific cultures (such as the American culture). This definition of world culture as synonymous with civilization differs from that of many thinkers.

"Our present civilization quite obviously lacks any unifying principle. The degree of unity which the vague term 'modern civilization' implies is in many ways a 'unity of disunity', the peoples involved being given a superficial coherence by the spread of technology and by common acceptance of certain ways of thought whose very nature is to create further disintegration."

Alan W. Watts, The Supreme Identity

     One of the major sources for the modern concept of culture is the German intellectual tradition. German anthropology distinguishes between Kulturvolker and Naturvolker, that is, between peoples who have culture and peoples who do not.

St Peter's Cathedral, 1042 C.E.      A leading German anthropologist, Rudolf Virchow, characterized Bismarck's struggle with the Catholic Church as a Kulturkampf--a fight for culture--by which Virchow meant a fight for liberal, rational principles against the dead weight of medieval traditionalism, obscurantism, and authoritarianism.

     The Perennial Tradition's concept of culture includes both the material and spiritual dimensions. Material culture is not an end in itself but provides opportunities for inner, spiritual development. Cultural development is defined not as possessions and dominance, but inner growth expressed through personal morality and efforts to enhance societal well being.

     Contemporary nations use the language of culture to manipulate their people's thoughts and behavior. China's recent "Spiritual Civilization" propaganda campaign was merely for the purpose of controlling the Chinese and Tibetan people.

     In China, the campaign was touted as the effort to combat official corruption and common crimes, such as murder, robbery, drug trafficking, etc. However, in Tibet, it became the cutting edge of China's "relentless blows" at separatism and the influence of the "Dalai Clique."

     American culture is being deliberately destroyed by a barbaric cabal that has taken control of the United States. The Bush II puppet junta is busily obliterating America's institutions and values.

     If your house were being deliberately burned down by arsonists or your car stolen by a gang of thieves, you'd be outraged and do whatever it took to stop this assault.

     But an even more precious possession of ours is being deliberately destroyed right before our eyes--our American culture. And most U.S. citizens aren't lifting a finger to stop it!

     It may seem rather extremist to say that our American culture is being deliberately destroyed, but I challenge you to look honestly at the facts and then describe them in any other way. We all wish this destruction weren't going on, but we can't make it disappear just by burying our head in the sand of ignorance.

      The "High Cabal" and its Bush II puppet junta are deliberately destroying American culture because that makes it easier for them to loot and seize control both in the United States and throughout the world. The destruction of American culture by this barbaric horde started in the early part of the twentieth century and has continued at a faster pace ever since.

     To get a clear picture of the devastation going on, let's take a careful look at the essential elements of our American culture that are being destroyed:

1. Our democracy: Bush and the Republicans (directed by Karl Rove) STOLE the 2004 election and put in place a criminal system to steal all future elections. The bedrock of a democracy is the right of the people to vote and to have their votes counted fairly. That right has now been destroyed by the criminal cabal that controls George W. Bush and its gangster junta.

     2. Education: In order to understand, appreciate, preserve, and transmit our culture, Americans must have knowledge and skill gained from a sound education.

     In an earlier article, we saw that the members of the "High Cabal" who place American presidents, senators, and representatives in power through the use of their multi-billion dollar fortunes are the same moneyed interests who have deliberately destroyed American education. The Rockefellers, Fords, Morgans, Browns, Harrimans, Du Ponts, and other ruling families want obedient, efficient workers, not thinkers, and admit as much in their public, printed declarations.

"Civilizations can only be understood by those who are civilized."

Alfred North Whitehead

     Democracy requires an electorate that understands what is actually happening in the world, beyond what the ruler-owned media tell us is happening. If American citizens receive an effective education, we learn to inform ourselves and can see through the propaganda, the dictatorial actions, and the outcomes of the non-constitutional acts of our rulers.

     Beginning in the early part of the twentieth century, American ruling groups began to create a pseudo-educational system which produces students no longer capable of understanding such key concepts and factors as "freedom," "government of the people," "critical thinking," etc.

     The "High Cabal" wanted a working class that was merely trained to do a particular job, not think about social or political issues. They created an educational system focused on training instead of learning. So today we have an American citizenry that can't even see that Bush II has lied to them repeatedly and has committed unspeakable acts of moral depravity:      From the imposition of an unconstitutional Patriot Act to deny Americans their civil liberties, to lying about weapons of mass destruction as an excuse for a war he had planned even before becoming President, to condoning the torture of Iraqi prisoners, to nominating rabidly reactionary judges, Bush II commits abominations and then re-defines reality for the uneducated, gullible American public merely by asserting that black is white.

"In history the way of annihilation is invariably prepared by inward degeneration . . . Only then can a shock from outside put an end to the whole."

Jakob Burckhardt, Force and Freedom

3. The third group of essential elements of our American culture that are being destroyed are the financial, political, economic, social structures.      The "High Cabal," using its current Bush II puppet government, is systematically and deliberately destroying our American culture. But such attempts to destroy cultures and civilizations have occurred before, and the ultimate victory is always won by the progressive and positive forces. Sooner or later, humankind re-awakens to its spiritual heritage--preserved by Perennialist sages during the twighlight periods of cultural decline.

The Triumph of Civilization



"We are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the
few. There exists equal
justice to all and alike."


   It may seem that barbarism is currently winning in its attempts to destroy civilization, so we must utilize a wider perspective in understanding how the principles of civilized behavior are ultimately triumphant. It is absolutely essential that we re-examine the principles of civilization as bequeathed by Plato and other teachers within the Perennial Tradition to discern the veiled pattern in world history. Over many centuries mankind has seen varied types of imperialism attempt to seize world dominance, only to result in their own self-destruction.

     Civilization is the maintenance of social order through persuasion, not force. The ideals of civilization are the heritage of both the East and the West.

The Final Triumph of Civilization Over Barbarism

     In spite of--and in some ways because of--the varied attempts by tyrannous rulers over the centuries to enslave humankind, our species is evolving toward the development of an enlightened consciousness:

"The creation of the world is the victory of persuasion over force."


We Must Understand History's Lessons

     To understand how humankind is evolving toward the development of an enlightened consciousness, we must examine the essence of the historical struggle for understanding and freedom, simplifying historical processes so they become easily comprehensible.

     Overall, the direction of human evolution has been an upward helical path with each new cycle achieving a higher advance :

"Civilization is nothing else but the attempt to reduce force to being the last resort."

Jose Ortega y Gasset

    The world at present is in the stage of savagery and moving into barbarism, as evidenced by the assassination of a U.S. president, the Bush I Iran-Contra crimes, the complicity of the Bush II junta in the 9/11 horror, and other atrocities. There are some citizens, world-wide, who are awakening to the knowledge and values of the higher spiritual culture.

     But, meanwhile, we will have to pass through the stages of savagery and barbarism. The destructive force of these periods is powerful and long-lasting. When the Roman empire collapsed, for example, many of the accoutrements of civilization disappeared for hundreds of years.

"The Dark Ages were stark in every dimension. Famines and plagues, culminating in the Black Death and its recurring pandemics, repeatedly thinned the population. Rickets affected the survivors. Extraordinary climatic changes brought storms and floods, which turned into major disasters because the empire's drainage system, like most of the imperial infrastructure, was no longer functioning. It says much about the Middle Ages that in the year 1500, after a thousand years of neglect, the roads built by the Romans were still the best on the continent. Most of the others were in such a state of disrepair that they were unusable; so were all European harbours until the eighteenth century, when commerce again began to stir. Among the lost arts was bricklaying; in all of Germany, England, Holland, and Scandinavia, virtually no stone buildings, except cathedrals, were raised for ten centuries. The serfs' basic agricultural tools were picks, forks, rakes, scythes, and balanced sickles. Because there was very little iron, there were no wheeled ploughshares with moldboards. The lack of ploughs was not a major problem in the south, where farmers could pulverize the light Mediterranean soils, but the heavier earth in northern Europe had to be sliced, moved and turned by hand. Although horses and oxen were available, they were of limited use. The horse collar, harness, and stirrup did not exist until about 900 AD. Therefore tandem hitching was impossible. Peasants laboured harder, sweated more, and collapsed from exhaustion more often than their animals."

William Manchester, A World Lit Only by Fire

     Even after suffering cultural collapse, humankind has inexorably moved back toward civilization. Life in a dog-eat-dog, anything-goes, every-man-his-own-law kind of culture is a brutal, fearful, insecure state of war, requiring individuals to expend excessive energy to insure their survival. With each return to civilization, humankind has developed new technology and new awareness.

     Even though much of human history has been the record of tyranny, there has been a steady forward movement toward increased human freedom. We'll explore two examples of how the Perennialist wisdom is preserved and disseminated in humankind's upward evolution.

The Ideal of Freedom Through Self-Rule

     The outstanding ingredient which the Greeks contributed to human cultural evolution was the concept of democracy: the rule of citizens. The idea now became a part of human thought: that common people could and should govern themselves, without having to bow to a military, political, economic, or religious ruler. This concept was to play an important role throughout modern history, as people returned to the idea that they could rule themselves.

     As we shall see, this ideal of citizen self-rule is still unrealized, even in twenty-first century America. However, the ideal continues to have a powerful influence over human thought and serves as a goal toward which we aspire.

     Though the force of tyranny has persisted throughout history, humankind's desire for freedom has evolved, leading to the establishment of civil liberties in many nations. When a particular culture ignores or destroys civil liberties, this is a sure sign of its decadence and impending downfall.

      Rome built on the glorious heritage of human freedom embodied in the Greek civilization, but it created a militaristic imperialism which abrogated its citizens' civil liberties--leading ultimately to its downfall.

Fall of the Roman Empire

     In his famous history, The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbons outlined the major reasons for the fall of Rome:

  • The government became increasingly controlled by the rich and the military

  • Imperialistic militarism became the primary state policy, with increasing amounts of funds spent on armaments for foreign wars

  • the fall of Rome Patriotism declined as people lost their allegiance to the state

  • The state imposed ever increasing taxes on the middle class

  • Moral decay was evident as depicted in its literature, amusements, and lifestyles that often portrayed gratuitous sex and violence; there was a mad craze for pleasure, with sports becoming progressively more brutal

  • As productivity declined, the Roman empire became more dependent on foreign products (globalism)

  • A break-down in the labor force occurred as the traditional work ethic declined

  • The infrastructure of the cities eroded and began a steady decay

  • A balance of trade deficit began to occur in increasing volume

  • The cost of government, including the military and welfare, become unbearably burdensome to the taxpayers

  • Class economic warfare broke out between the rich and poor

  • Parts of the empire were not taxed while others were overtaxed

  • Christianity challenged the traditional Roman character traits and caused people to neglect the state as they concentrated on personal salvation; religion degenerated into mere form, losing touch with life and becoming impotent to guide it

Dali's painting of Caligula's horse      Over several centuries of barbarian incursion, the Roman Senate lost all real power and authority. Julius Caesar had installed a Gaul as a member of the senate, outraging public opinion. It is claimed by some that the mad emperor Caligula made his horse a senator; a clear sign of the demise of the culture.

     The Romans, by this time cowed into subservience to barbarian forces, raised no objections to these imperial outrages of cultural murder. Though the forms of the Roman Republic survived for many years after the decay began, they were hollow shells with no real content. The barbaric hordes sweeping down from the north ultimately blew away these husks.

     Throughout human history, decayed institutions survive long after their force or purpose has disappeared. They are ultimately swept away by some kind of cultural revolution. It took four centuries for the the Roman empire to dissolve. Even while the Roman empire was crumbling into decay, there were brilliant flashes of genius and personal freedom, represented by such men as Marcus Aurelius.

"Personal liberty is the noblest achievement of Western civilization. That people are free to do as they please within limits set only by the personal freedom of others; that legally all persons are equal before the law; that philosophically the individual’s separate existence is inviolable; that psychologically the ultimate human condition is to be liberated from all internal and external constraints in one’s desire to realize one’s self…freedom is undeniably the source of Western intellectual mastery, the engine of its extraordinary creativity, and the open secret of the triumph of Western culture."

Orlando Patterson, Freedom in the Making of Western Culture

The Ideal of Democracy in America

From 1500 to 1800 A.D., Europe continued to be a hotbed of warfare and intrigue, with the political map changing constantly. Meanwhile America had been discovered in 1492. In eighteenth century Europe and America, even during internecine struggles for dominance, a new movement arose called the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was in essence a re-discovery of the knowledge and values preserved by Perennialist seers.

Patrick Henry       We can appreciate the work of the eighteenth century Enlightenment thinkers--especially American philosophers Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, James Madison, and James Monroe. Their study of the Enlightenment Tradition made it possible for them to create an entirely new nation and establish its foundations on the fundamental civil liberties set forth in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

"Enlightenment liberalism set the individual free politically, intellectually, and economically. The political universe was demystified, as the magical power of thrones, scepters, and crowns was replaced by rational acts of consent. The individual (understood, of course, in the Enlightenment as male and property-owning) did not receive government and authority from a God who had given his secular sword to princes and magistrates to rule by his divine right. Nor did the individual keep any longer to his subordinate place in a divinely inspired hierarchy, in which kings and noblemen had been placed above him as 'your highness' who were society's natural governors. Government was voluntarily established by free individuals through a willful act of contract. Individuals rationally consented to limit their own freedom and to obey civil authority in order to have public protection of their natural rights. Government's purpose was to serve self-interest, to enable individuals to enjoy peacefully their rights to life, liberty, and property, not to serve the glory of God or dynasties, and certainly not to dictate moral or religious truth."

Isaac Kramnick (Editor). (1995).
The Portable Enlightenment Reader

The Perennial Wisdom

     The Higher Realm has created the physical universe and has overseen the evolution of humankind. Even the worst destruction of civilizations cannot obliterate the wisdom which humankind has realized (understood and brought to manifestation) from the Higher Realm of eternal values and forms.

     There are always preservers and custodians of the hidden Perennial Wisdom. As humankind advances in terrestrial and spiritual understanding, realized savants make available "prescriptions" for personal transformation. Only those humans who prepare themselves through self-awareness and self-discipline are initiated into these Mysteries.

"It is possible for any man or woman to enter into that ancient fellowship of those who seek to become the servants of the great preservers of the secret records of antiquity. Krishna taught Arjuna in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita that after the greatest – now forgotten – civilizations of long ago came and went, "the mighty spiritual art" was lost. Pythagoras Though it was lost, collectively speaking, it was never lost to all because these hierophants assiduously preserved it. It has been called the Wisdom-Religion. It is the divine wisdom maintained by those few who embody it, who are its self-conscious custodians, tribeless and raceless, genuinely free men proud to belong to the family of man. They differ from the exhaustless potentiality of the Divine Mind only as divine thought differs from divine ideation. It is the difference between a library and men who in using the library and in reflecting and ideating upon its books, magically bring them to life. . . The faculty of self-conscious awareness in the human being never seems to be exhausted, even by the whole catalogue of abuse of that power."

D. K. Mavalankar, "Order and Chaos"

     When the Perennial Tradition is forced to go underground during times of extreme tyranny and devastation, it preserves the priceless heritage of wisdom and understanding.

      In eras of cultural destruction, such as we are now experiencing, humankind's fate often seems hopeless. The low level of culture to which America has now devolved is revealed by the proliferation of mindless human savages who not only cannot understand an author such as Shakespeare, but have lost even the desire to understand transformative art or literature. Such a statement is not meant to defame humankind, but to provide a straightforward, honest appraisal of our present decadent state.

     It is important to realize that even when the fires of culture burn low--almost to ashes--the Perennial Wisdom is still being preserved by wise sages. These savants continue to teach selected initiates--often in ways invisible to the savage culture. As these initiates achieve the prerequisite understanding and skill required, the hidden wisdom is made available to them.

     Both Spengler and Toynbee refer to similar effects in the revival of Classical (Greek and Roman) knowledge in the West. Referring to a "Western Dark Age," Arnold Toynbee, in The Study of History, comments that renaissance of the Classical literature did not become accessible "until the Westerner was competent to read its contents."

"There never was a time, even at the blackest nadir of a Western Dark Age, when the Western Christian society did not physically possess the works of Virgil--and did not retain sufficient knowledge of Latin to construe his sentences. Yet there were at least eight centuries, from the seventh to the fourteenth inclusive, during which Virgil's poetry was beyond the comprehension of the most gifted Western Christian students, if we take as our standard of understanding an ability to grasp the meaning which Virgil had intended to convey and which had been duly comprehended by his like-minded contemporaries and by posterity down to, let us say, the generation of Saint Augustine. Even Dante, on whose spirit the first glimmer of an Italian renaissance of Hellenism was beginning to dawn, saw in Virgil a figure which the historical Virgil would have taken, not for his own human self, but for some augustly mythical personage such as Orpheus.

Breugel's image of the Tower of Babel "Similarly, there was never a time at which the Western society did not possess the philosophical works of Aristotle, competently translated into Latin by the Late Hellenic man of letters, Boethius (A.D- 480-524); yet there were six centuries, reckoning from the date of Boethius's death, during which his translations were beyond the comprehension of the most acute Western Christian thinkers. When, at last, the Western Christians were ready for Aristotle, they got him, by a roundabout route, through Arabic translations. In offering to a sixth-century Western Christendom his Latin translations of Aristotle, Boethius was like a benevolent but ill-judging uncle who presents, let us say, the poems of Mr. T. S. Eliot to his nephew on his thirteenth birthday. The nephew, after a brief inspection, places the book in the darkest corner of his small library and, quite sensibly, forgets all about it. Six years later-the equivalent of centuries on the reduced time-span of an individual adolescence-the nephew encounters these poems again as an Oxford undergraduate, falls under their spell, purchases them from Messrs. B. H. Blackwell, and is unfeignedly surprised to discover, on returning home for the vacation, that the book had been standing on his shelves all the time.

"As it was with Virgil and with Aristotle, so it was also with the masterpieces of Greek literature, stored in the Byzantine libraries, which were to be the staple food of the Italian Hellenic renaissance on its literary side. Western Christendom had been in close contact with the Byzantine world, at least from the eleventh century onwards. During the first half of the thirteenth century Frankish conquerors were in actual occupation of Constantinople and Greece. Culturally nothing came of this at that time; for in the West the 'Classics' were as yet 'caviare to the general'. It might be said, in explanation, that these contacts were hostile contacts that would not dispose the Westerner favourably towards a Byzantine library of Hellenic literature; but to this it must be answered that political and ecclesiastical contacts were no less hostile in the fifteenth century, when 'the Renaissance' was in full bloom. The reason for the difference in the cultural consequences is plain; a renaissance of a dead culture will occur only when an affiliated society has raised itself to the cultural level at which its predecessor was standing at the time when it was accomplishing the achievements that have now become candidates for resuscitation."

     World citizens are presently facing the ravages of deliberate cultural destruction by politicians and their corporate controllers.We are entering a period when much of the Perennialist wisdom will have to go underground, to protect it from destruction by savages and barbarians--now called "compassionate conservatives."

      Those among humankind who can understand the enduring importance of the higher knowledge and values must preserve this priceless heritage. These few will have to carry out cloaked operations to safeguard and disseminate the hidden wisdom. This essay constitutes a call to action in this regard, and will resonate with those who have developed advanced powers of discernment.

"Not through any one, or two, or even dozens of brilliant generations, but through age-long struggle has man attained the simple things of the spirit, what we call the homely virtues. The sacredness of a promise; the sense of moral obligation; common ordinary veracity; personal integrity; individual liberty; elementary justice. . . to mention only a few. And in the end--when all else in the world crashes about our lives--they are the things to which we turn; the things that count. The 'homely' virtues. Spiritual values."

Betty White, The Unobstructed Universe


1 See the author's recent book The Perennial Tradition