Weak men make hard times

In the sacred sciences of the ancient world, the concept of analogy was the magic key that unlocked the workings of the universe.  So as the Earth's orbit winds towards the December solstice, the leaves fall, and temperature drops, it's time to admit that Western civilization itself is in the grips of bitter frost, cultural sterility, and demographic winter.  Just as there are four seasons to the year, so are there four stages in the life and death of cultures.

When you think of the number four as it pertains to the age we're living in, you probably think of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Pandemic, Vaccine, Propaganda, and Biden.  But there's a more precise meaning to the number four as it applies to this present moment, when everything feels upside-down.  The cosmic forces in play are so sinister that "conspiracy theory" doesn't even begin to describe what it takes to unravel the Gordian knot of corruption, incompetence, and just plain evil that has descended upon America.

There's a popular meme you've probably seen that was floating around even before the endemic pandemic.  The images vary, but the text delineates four stages running thusly:

  1. Hard times make strong men
  2. Strong men make good times
  3. Good times make weak men
  4. Weak men make hard times

This takes us back to step one, after which the cycle repeats itself.

Think it's simply a cheeky graphic born of the digital age?  Think again. Between 1833 and 1836, the American artist Thomas Cole created a set of four paintings called "The Course of Empire," which are on display at the New York Historical Society museum.  The canvasses are large and immediately pull one into deep contemplation, for they seem to speak of some secret knowledge.  The first painting shows a bucolic scene inspired by the classical world.  There is a lush valley with only a few scattered human figures living in harmony with nature and a single building that seems to serve a religious purpose.  The second painting shows the period of high culture recalling Greece and Rome, exemplifying beauty, order, and prosperity — a thriving advanced city populated by a unified people.

The third painting looks straight out of summer 2020.  The sky is dark with smoke.  Buildings are either on fire or in a state of collapse.  Instead of working in unity for the good of the civilization, the inhabitants run amok in a state of panic, with every man for himself.

Thomas Cole, "The Course of Empire: Destruction" (source).

Finally, the last painting shows what comes after, when the ashes have been lost to the winds.  It is post-apocalyptic and eerily silent, but also a return to normalcy, as nature does her clean-up job and swallows up the once great empire and a few scattered souls wander about in a state of neo-barbarism.  The glorious civilization that stood before is now forgotten, and a new age of greatness is far away.

The ancient world knew this four-stage process, for nature was their great textbook and gave them the key of analogy.  The rise and fall of culture and any individual manifestation within it mirrors the four seasons and is as immutable as the law of gravity.  In the writings of Hesiod, the Greeks named the four ages after metals — gold, silver, bronze, and iron — while Hindu mythology called them by the gods that rule over each stage in the process.  The final stage, called the Kali Yuga, is ruled by the evil goddess Kali, who wreaks havoc, sticking her tongue out like the pop singer Cardi B, and chopping men's heads off with a sword, or what today we call "cancel culture." 

The four stages also correlate to the four castes known to our Indo-European ancestors.  Applying this analogy — which again is as much a part of reality as spring and fall — to the history of the United States, it becomes obvious — and ominous — where we stand.  The highest caste in the ancient world was the brahmin or spiritual leaders, analogous to the brave pilgrims who came to this untamed land seeking religious freedom in America.  A century later saw the rise of what corresponds to the second caste, traditionally the warriors or aristocrats, or what for us represents the first great landowning gentry, the Founding Fathers, who defeated the British and wrote the Declaration of Independence.  A century later, following the Industrial Revolution and the sudden creation of unimagined wealth, most Americans — rich or poor, shopkeeper or tycoon — belonged to the third caste, the merchants.  This leads us to the present day, as we transition from a middle-class merchant society to one whose ascendant energy comes from the servants' fourth and final caste.  Thanks to decades of self-interest by the elites supposed to be representing the interests of the people, many Americans from the third caste are being pushed down into the fourth.  Meanwhile, the ranks of the serf caste are purposely increased by the oligarchs at the top via the importation of unskilled third-world immigration, whether legal or illegal.

Key to understanding this so-called "doctrine of the yugas" is that in each of the four stages, one group or form of social organization is the dominant one and the holder of all the culture's moral legitimacy.  Currently, things are so upside-down that in the view of most of the establishment — government, media, education, the entertainment industry, and the business world — an illegal alien who crossed the border this morning, with neither money nor education and thus entirely dependent upon American largesse, has higher "moral value" than a legacy American whose family has been living and paying taxes here for 150 years.  And suppose this simple citizen of the merchant caste criticizes his rulers' importation of the fourth caste from others' lands and demands that they be deported.  In that case, he is branded with the scarlet letter R because — just to chill you to the core and leave no doubt that you're in a cosmic soap opera — per ancient teachings, caste and race overlap.

The ancient doctrine of the four ages is key to understanding where we are now, how we got here, and the correct course of action.  It should be clear that winter has fallen upon us, that we are no longer the land of the free and home of the brave but are on an inescapable path to becoming its very opposite.  In winter, the trees are barren, the antithesis of what they were in that verdant springtime.  You cannot plant seeds because the soil won't sustain them.  You can only bunker down, ride it out, and fight off the wolf at the door.  And you can reflect upon what you learned over the year, where things went wrong, and how to do things differently when spring finally comes.

Christian Chensvold is the founder of Traditional Man: Survival Guide for an Age of Crisis (trad-man.com).  His articles and essays have appeared in the LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, and National Review.

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