This is a Dual Faith/Reason post (i.e. a combination of science and religious thinking:- The modern West is in decline. Deeper reasons why. Solutions to seed a super-Civilisation shortening the length of a Dark Age).
“Civilization is fragile. It hinges on ensuring the stuff of life. To be able to eat, move about, have shelter, be free from state or tribal coercion, be secure abroad, safe at home—only that allows cultures to be freed from mere survival.” —Victor Davis Hanson
The Perfect Storm
If we put the modern West under a microscope, we can observe a phalanx of telltale signs that civilisation is in trouble:- Indigenous population decline, cultural pacifism, loss of confidence and morale, a crisis of masculinity, femininity across the sexes and among all age groups. Relentless changes to attitudes towards marriage and the nuclear family now believed to be outdated.
We can observe changes in childrearing patterns and moral values. The enormous rise of passive welfare reinforcing dependency. The decline of the impersonal market economy, the rise of the suffocating State and exponential levels of debt. We see declining machine skills, aptitudes towards science and engineering. Declining nationalism, sovereignty and civic engagement with the state.
Prolific levels of obesity, particularly the “U”S/”U”K. Plummeting levels of fertility across OECD nations (except Israel). Rising infertility and falling levels of testosterone. The return of disease, resistance to it falling. We can observe rising levels of stress and anxiety among the general population. An increase in mental and physical health problems. Rising levels of harmful addictions, crime and vice across the spectrum. Relentless economic stagnation and decline. The gap between rich and poor increasing.
“In the study of civilisations, one thing all collapsed civilisations had in common? They refused to believe it could happen to them.”
One should be left in no doubt that the modern West is facing a relentless onslaught and that things are getting worse. Systems scientists, risk analysts, students of history and strategic planners and administrators for civilisations, should understand that there exists universal laws that govern the fate and fortunes of civilisations. These laws which cannot be broken, form part of a multidisciplinary academic field emerging called Civilisational Mechanics. Today’s political class, representative of the bulk of wider societal temperament which will be explained in more detail, are demonstrating their loyalty to the Civilisation Cycle, and for that reason, our long and painful decline will accelerate.
“Expect things to get a lot stranger as psychological defences are overwhelmed across swathes of the population struggling to make sense of an increasingly incomprehensible world. This will also be reflected in the abysmal quality of leaders that rise to power.”
The civilisation cycle means the curvilinear relationship between levels of civilising traits and vigor traits. These are two separate but related biological systems operating deep within us, that can help animals adjust their attitudes and behaviours to changes in environment. One of those systems is triggered by mild yet chronic food shortage (Civilising system). The other by occasional famine or predator threat (Vigor system) in which:-
1. Low levels of ‘C’ traits permits a rise in ‘V’ traits and ‘Stress’. 2. ‘High-C’ traits & ‘V’ traits cause ‘C’ traits to rise. 3. ‘High-C’ traits causes ‘V’ traits and ‘Stress’ to fall. 4. Falling ‘V’ and ‘Stress’ cause ‘C’ traits to fall.
The civilisation cycle can be thought of another way too, often expressed:- 1. Weak people create hard times. 2. Hard times create strong people. 3. Strong people create good times. 4. Good times create weak people.
This is what the civilisation cycle means in more depth. Every civilisation experiences these natural cycles spanning generations and only a dedicated programme of scientific research can bring about a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms at work, giving us the ability to possess intellectual superpowers, design potential solutions that push far beyond conventional thought.
Approaching Dark Age
On current course, the most likely future emerging is a Dark Age and it will be an environment just as hostile as the one experienced sub-Rome. Some of the wisest minds today are coming to the realisation. Many Christians seem to struggle with the idea of a Dark Age, so it is time to set the record straight preventing the “Enlightened” from framing the terms of the debate.
The fall of the Roman Empire (27BC – 480AD) was not a singular event, it was a long process that began more than six hundred years earlier. Thus the seeds of Rome’s fall were sown long before it reached the peak of its power and influence. Rome’s fall into a Dark Age thus had little to do with Christianity, it was in spite of it. It was because of Christianity that civilisation was able to recover and rise to spectacular heights far surpassing Rome but it was a painful process on the long road to recovery. This means that conservatives should not romanticise the Dark Ages nor reject its use.
Rome’s fall brought with it darkness, hardship and barbarism. It is truly hard for us to comprehend in modern times the cultural shock felt by those people of the ancient world. Western Rome has stood for a thousand years and then it was gone leaving misery in its wake. Populations collapsed ridden with disease, whilst armies rampaged back and forth across its lands. Literacy all but collapsed and much of the ancient learning was lost forever. The Eastern Empire lived on enjoying greater political stability in the late fourth and fifth centuries. In fact, Byzantium went on to dominate as a major force in world politics for another thousand years for reasons that go beyond the scope of this post.
A much deeper civilisational framework for understanding also forms the basis of a series of books being drafted:- “Super-Civilisation: Antidote to a new Dark Age”. An immense intellectual task when dealing with past, present and future in all its complexity. The key to understanding such complexity irrespective of whether you are all in on science or all in on faith, is thinking in terms of civilisation cycles but that’s not enough.
Even a cursory knowledge of history shows, that the pattern of change is not that simple.We also observe alternating swings, thus cycles from ‘order-to-chaos’, ‘chaos-to-order’, within the larger civilisation cycle. Zoology providing us with clues re alternating levels of mammalian timidity/boldness, territorialism/migration and cycles of fast/slow breeding, strategies. We can observe these alternating swings from warrior to scholar temperament driven by the rise and fall of mysterious mechanisms strongly linked to population growth, dwarfing the effect of scholar traits in these shorter cycles causing significant perturbations in long-term growth trends in the larger civilisation cycle. This seems to be a natural pattern with shorter, more intense cycles found in species coming from much harsher environments. Changes in political and intellectual attitudes can be linked to different stages of these cycles in humans. Measured in years, the best cycle period is a time of maximum confidence, energy and high morale. Birth rates are high, disease resistance strong, as is nationalism and unity, which in turn, allows for strong governance and economy. We can see these cycles between 260 and 300 years where we think, feel and behave very differently dependant upon where we are.
We must be comfortable zooming in and out whilst synthesising past, present and future in a way that seems at odds with conventional thinking. For unknown reasons, many struggle to synthesise this way and on this level, remembering that ‘synthesis’ means ‘the combination of components or elements to form a connected, coherent and cohesive whole’.
To paraphrase Balaji Srinivasan author of the “The Network State”…
Most people do not have the ability to see beyond short-term cycles (i.e. those cycles that are obvious). So cycles of breathing over a few seconds, natural cycles of sleep, calendar cycles of weeks, months, years, cycles of seasons during the year. But they aren’t at all familiar with any cycles that extends far beyond one human lifetime because they usually don’t know much history beyond what the establishment of the era has pointed them towards.
They only see the world as being flat and static with nothing changing very much. The earth looks flat but it is round. The earth looks and feels still but it is spinning and it is hurtling around this massive ball of fire and light at high speed and because people don’t think about cycles, they don’t think about curves either. They live on a kind of Flatland, except rather than being flat as in the sense of two-dimensional, it is flat as in the sense of a curve with zero-derivative.
Thomas-Cole’s “The Course of Empire”…
A trip to Europe back in time to witness the ashes of ancient Greece and classical Rome, heavily influenced artists like Thomas-Cole (1801-1848), an English-American painter known for his landscape and history paintings. He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, an American art movement that flourished in the mid-19th century. It was visiting Europe where he witnessed first hand the fascinating ruins of ancient civilisations, once mighty remnants of the ancient past that could not be seen across America.
The Course of Empire reflected growing interest in deep and ancient history among elites just as America was in its ascendancy. The title of the painting series comes from a well-known eighteenth century poem by British philosopher Bishop George Berkeley (1685-1753), “Verses on the Prospect of Planning Arts & Learning in America” (1726). The poem alludes to five states of civilisation which Thomas-Cole drafted below and an implicit prophecy that America would prove to be the next great empire. Whilst this prophecy proved to be true, Thomas-Cole also discovered something ominous having read Lord Byron’s 1818 work, “Childe Harold” citing these infamous words:-
There is the moral of all human tales;-
“Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First Freedom and then Glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption—barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page.”
No civilisation has figured out a way to short-circuit this cyclical journey and thus its own demise. Today however, we can take things to the next level of mastery re our understanding of civilisations. By dancing back and forth between academic disciplines across multiple subjects, we can gain dominion thus giving us unparalleled learning and predictive superpowers. Today, research scientists are developing working theories of societies that can be tested with scientific rigour and accuracy in any university biology department. They’re discovering that environment, childrearing patterns and cultural values, all seemingly combine to determine whether civilisation prospers or collapses.
Epigenetics (Greek prefix epi- (ἐπι- “over, outside of, around”)), mysterious processes that seem to operate above the genome. It is a revolutionary research field in biology. It also happens to be one of the best scientific lenses with which the fate and fortunes of entire civilisations can be best understood, explained as: instructional information linked to DNA that changes genetic activity without affecting the genetic code itself. Epigenetic “marks” then instruct cells to process parts of DNA in different ways. These instructions are then ‘tagged’, or layered, to DNA sequencing letters – A, C, G and T, telling our bodies which genes to ignore and which to use. It is an ongoing process that is entirely normal to development.
To better understand epigenetic impacts upon civilisations, think of a grand piano with fixed keys. An 88-key piano has seven octaves plus three lower notes (B, B flat and A) below the bottom C. It has 52 white keys and 36 black keys (sharps and flats), with each octave made up of seven white keys and five black keys.
Those piano keys are similar to our genes. They’re fixed from birth and they’re not going to change throughout our lifetime. What can change however is how those keys are played. Dependent upon how those keys are played, could mean the difference between a harmonic masterpiece such as Beethoven, or two cats fighting in the street along with everything in between. This is what is meant when introducing the idea that there is a temperamental spectrum. This applies to us as individuals and it also scales up to entire civilisations through space and time. We can map out where societies are on the spectrum. We tend to gravitate to those who are of similar temperament which forms the underlying basis of politics and world affairs. We are being played like mood music. This means that variables such as different environments, cultural values, childrearing patterns, can all influence our gene expression, thus how we think, feel and ultimately behave.
Changes in social, political and economic behaviour reflects changes in temperament. It accepts the prevailing view that temperament is a behavioural and emotional state that varies among individuals, is relatively stable over time and situation, is biologically based and appears early in life, but is influenced by parenting style and other environmental variables which conditions how the inherited temperament is expressed. The prevailing temperament of the population is absolutely key to all this. Far more important than political and economic institutions, decision of leaders, or any other factor. One of the systems seems to be triggered by mild yet chronic food shortage, the other by occasional famine or predator threat. Both work via physiological signals that influence expression of genes. In turn, behavioural change renders individuals more likely to survive and prosper.
These systems can be activated in other ways too. Codes of behaviour related to religions that mimic calorie restriction which then ‘conflict’ with our natural inclinations strengthened by competition between cultures. We actually discover that these cultural technologies went on to make the rise of farming possible, push wider political loyalties, develop more advanced economies, what we term “Civilisation”.
A weak point about these cultural systems is that they are vulnerable to the effects of abundance and population density. Wealthy urban societies such as the modern West with lots of food, tend to abandon behaviours which underwrites civilisation (e.g. restriction of sexual activity which mimics effects of food shortage). The greater the wealth and density of society, the harder it is to maintain cultural strategies once responsible for its rise. This is how civilisational collapse should be best viewed.
‘Civilisational decay’ which really means ‘temperamental decay scaled up’, leads to inevitable economic decline and there are many signs today indicating that this process has begun. Unfortunately, this also means that the end of democracy cannot long be delayed. Most Western governments have plunged deep into debt to buy voter support just as demagogues once bought support from the Roman mob with bread and circuses. Ageing populations (due to declining fertility) demanding evermore services as tax revenues decline, could end up compelling governments to renege on debts or more likely, hyperinflate their currency further depressing their economies. Then follows ‘one man rule’ or ‘foreign conquest’ as nations grow too weak to defend themselves, too demoralised to care.
There is also a misplaced belief in modern Western thought that people from any background can succeed economically given the right education. This myth too must be dispelled. Conventional wisdom today would have us believe that other cultures fail to flourish because institutions and governments hold them back. If only they can be changed along western lines the thinking goes, then these societies will become wealthy, democratic and wonderful, and aside from levels of knowledge and cultural habits, people in different societies are all basically the same.
This premise is false because behaviour and attitudes are largely determined by physiology which is biology which is hard science. People in different societies and in different periods of history, are fundamentally different at emotional and behavioural levels, and both economic and political systems reflect these underlying physiological differences. Temperament (better known as character) is set early on in childhood and even to some extent at birth, and can only be changed in very limited ways by later experience.
As a general principle with exceptions to the rule, Western forms of governance and economic systems will not work in those societies where people are unsuited to them by temperament. Equally, people without the appropriate temperament, cannot function well in Western societies regardless of education, nor can they become wealthy.
Therefore the key to understanding Civilisational Mechanics, is that this is not a matter of genes (IQ) which tends to get proponents of such ideas into trouble. We actually find that the key differences between societies are not genetic but epigenetic, which has a far greater impact on the fate of civilisations than genes. This means that the future for the modern West looks ominous. Levels of C traits (Athenian/Scholar temperament) & V traits (Spartan/Warrior temperament) following the course of the civilisation cycle, are in long-term decline. Over the next few centuries, possibly sooner, this will bring about the end of Western civilisation. This means that after centuries of world dominion, the West has had its time. The future will belong to the more vigorous High-V cultures of the world, particularly Islam and its dominant patriarchal system. In fact, Islam is one of the most stable, durable and conservative cultural systems to have emerged after Judaism and Christianity.
Conventional measures can do little to stop decline either. For example, financial incentives cannot raise birth rates when people do not want children. Japan seems to be learning that the hard way experiencing rapid population decline. Education cannot teach people what they do not have the temperament to learn, such as habits of innovation and hard work. Economic stimulus packages cannot make people more productive. The best political campaigns cannot win support from people no longer psychologically equipped to provide it. Pro-market economic policies can only unleash productive forces when they are available to be unleashed, and declining C traited populations have less taste for such policies today anyway.
A nation’s potential for economic growth is thus limited by the epigenetically-set temperament of the population. For example, China has High-C traits, so they are more capable of rapid industrialisation once held back by Maoist policies until reforms by Xiaoping unleashed their true potential. By contrast, other continents remain in abject poverty under various socialist and capitalist regimes despite billions in aid. Sub-Saharan Africa an example. Government policy is thus negative because it can limit growth below the economic potential of the people but it cannot raise growth beyond that level. It is the bulk of the population that matters, their true physiological temperament.
This means that elites trying to impose liberal democracy on countries like Afghanistan and Iraq was foolish and it was always doomed to fail because the underlying temperament of the population cannot support such a system. In fact we find that major wars are driven less by social and political concerns but by the underlying temperament of the population as a whole (especially young men in their early twenties who are at their most aggressive). Economic booms and recessions should also be thought of similarly. Physiological measurements can in fact predict wars and recessions, reminding readers that this is a matter of biology, thus hard science.
Only through hard science and study of physiological temperament, can we gain deeper insights into the way religions function too, why they seem to be so successful, and why they seem to be so widespread. In fact, we discover that religious practices and traditions are often the main drivers of High-C traits taking the opposing view against those who dogmatically espouse enlightenment values such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Christianity for example, seems to be responsible for the meteoric rise of the modern West, advanced democracies, women’s rights and even the scientific revolution. The decline of Christianity (thus moral, or character optimising principles with it), portends a harbinger for the West’s future thus the decline of Western civilisation is happening in the same way and for the same underlying biological reasons as has been the case for all wealthy and urban societies throughout history. Western governments actually have far less power than they believe and we are now starting to see this hard-hitting reality play out.
Can we begin to think about altering the course of history with these kind of deeper insights that seem to be more accurate?
Now that we are beginning to understand how the two physiological systems Athens/Sparta work within us, how they can be either promoted or undermined, could we manipulate them directly? Could we slow decline, even halt or reverse it? The required countermeasures needed to arrest decay in temperament might prove politically and socially unacceptable. If this is the case, then a Dark Age beckons and this future must be hedged against.
We certainly need to take a closer look at diet, behaviour and traditional culture. We also need to consider ways to stabilise falling C traits through the adoption of C-promoting diet and cultural technologies. Several forms of human behaviour that promotes C traits exist, from fasting to repetitive rituals, even the prevention of squandered sexual energies through abstinence rituals – all examples of cultural countermeasures serving to reinforce society.
So the adoption of more ascetic lifestyles, dietary restrictions, the regular performance of High-C rituals, limits on sexual behaviour and stricter regulations on daily life – are all examples of countermeasures which serves to stabilise and reinforce civilisation. These C-promoting behaviours and restrictions once supported sub-Rome Europe effectively, but it was a long, slow and painful process of cultural recovery.
A large uptake of these temperamental countermeasures are next to impossible in our modern wealthy and densely packed urban societies, because our dominant culture today reflects rapid decline of C. We live in a modern culture that is openly hostile to traditional values. Governments, school systems, universities and mass media, all encourage harmful behaviours that undermine C traits. Some governments take it even further by penalising higher C behaviours (strict discipline in schools for example eradicated). Traditional temperaments are thus a small and embattled minority. Even if we do observe an uptake in tradition again, when analysing the fall of Western Rome, we find that Christianity couldn’t even slow, let alone stop, the decline of civilisation. As mentioned earlier, we also find that the seeds of decline were sown hundreds of years earlier. The tremendous momentum of decay was locked in proving too difficult for Roman society to overcome.
Are there other ways to stabilise C without the traditional route? Is there a psychological angle? What about artificial C promotion through biochemistry, biotechnology?
Theoretically, yes. Locked in the worst world war in history, scientists of the twentieth century opposed to the brutality of Nazi Germany, worked effectively together with the US government to figure out how to harness the power of the atom. Via the development of C-promoting supplements in conjunction with participation in a C-promoting culture, we could theoretically crack-the-code with respect to human nature as we head towards some form of human singularity by pushing consciousness forwards. Our temperamental set-point as a species is low, we want to be hunter-gatherer. The civilisation cycle means that we’re either regressing temperamentally, or we’re progressing.
The effect-feedback cycle suggests that a combination of the two countermeasures may be the most effective in shortening the length of a Dark Age.
High-C temperaments helping to raise civilisation, have only been possible with High-V and Stress. Unfortunately, high stress also promotes more aggressive thought patterns that begins to look like authoritarian power, patriarchy and the harsh punishment of children. C-promoting supplements might have none of these drawbacks.
Genesis 2.0: 21C Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project focussed on 20th century physics, Genesis 2.0 should focus on 21st century bioscience…
A long-term project like Genesis 2.0, could help plant the seeds for a super-Civilisation. This more advanced society, would likely be more positive about family, more likely to want children. They would avoid ‘high-stimulus’ environments (thus lowering levels of anxiety). Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, high calorie foods, would all look far less attractive. These individuals would be less likely to behave criminally too. They would also be more resistant to disease and infertility, which tends to plague late-stage civilisations as they decline. They would be deemed far better educated, they would become more effective workers, they would be more entrepreneurial. High-C society with lower levels of stress-based rigidity which in turn, means more creativity and innovativeness. These individuals might also be more religious too.
Today we discover that historical and social changes are the result of physiological changes impacting temperament affecting behaviour. Organised religions, traditional cultural practices, have all induced physiological states necessary to build and defend civilisation. These complex processes tends to take place over hundreds of years, thus the rise and fall of Rome comprised one civilisation cycle and today, the the rise and fall of the modern West comprises the second civilisation cycle. Now it’s time to sow the seeds for a super-Civilisation perhaps surpassing the modern West.
Fort culture may one day evolve into a new kind of networked state in response to our declining civilisation. The fortification of culture via telesis. Telesis defined means “progress that is intelligently planned and directed: the attainment of desired ends by the application of intelligent human effort to the means”.
“The Network State” Balaji Srinivasan:-
The Global Axis in 2022 is Ethno-Cultural. By 2022, what did the global political spectrum look like after the Russo-Ukraine war?
1. US Establishment: ethnomasochist far left, denoted by Rainbow Progress Flag.
2. Western Europe: centre left, but with increasing variance.
3. Bitcoin/Web3: Pseudonymous centre.
4. India, Israel, Singapore, Visegrad Group: centre right.
5. Republican America: nationalist right.
6. CCP China, Russia: ethnonationalist far right, “Z Flag”.
First thing we see is that the major axis has shifted. The primary axis is no longer the politico-economic axis of capitalism-vs-communism, but the ethno-cultural axis of ethnomasochism-vs-ethnonationalism.
Is it the ultimate evil for a state to consciously represent its majority race (as America contends)? Or, is it the ultimate good (as China contends)? Or, should it be neither (as the pseudonymous economy contends)?
2nd thing we see is that the middle has shifted. Switzerland is no longer neutral, as it’s siding with the US today.
3rd thing we see is that we don’t use the US flag to represent the US establishment, as it is very much a disputed symbol with some in the establishment claiming it while others claim it is disturbing. So instead, we use the “Rainbow Progress Flag” for the US establishment as (a) this is proudly raised by the State Department and in the White House and (b) it sharply distinguishes the establishment from a Republican America that very much does NOT fly the Rainbow Progress Flag, but might instead fly the “Thin Blue Line Flag” or (eventually) the “Bitcoin Maximalism Flag”.
4th thing we see is that we don’t think of Republican America as coincident with the US establishment anymore because the US is a binational state with two warring ethnicities (Democrat & Republican).
5th thing we see is that Europe is broadly to the right today of the US Establishment on ethno-cultural issues, whereas it was to the left of the US in 1988.
Last and most important of all, is that this is a rough inversion of the 20th century, as the formerly communist/socialist countries are on the ethnocultural right, while the capitalist bloc is on the ethnocultural left. Indians, Israelis, American dissidents, Chinese liberals, tech founders/investors & people from other countries that all seem determined to maintain their own sovereignty, will need to avail themselves of Bitcoin/Web3 for decentralised communication, transaction and computation.
Today we can see armies of sovereign cryptocosmic forces rising in response to the fall of Rome 2.0 but this time, we have the power of the internet working hard towards the ‘great unbundling’ and dispersing of computer power and commerce, thereby transforming the economy, the internet and society as a whole. The seeds for a super-Civilisation most likely coming from global temperament pools 3 & 4 as outlined above.
This is precisely why it is so important to track societal temperament and why adopting a Dual Faith/Reason approach (i.e. a combination of scientific & religious thinking is required).
Cultural technologies are just as important as physical ones because they provide the temperamental basis that civilisations rest upon. A major weakness with religions, is that they can be easily undermined by rising levels of wealth and population density. This is what has happened to the modern West and why our civilisation is in decline.
The civilisational potential to be realised by helping individuals optimise their temperament combined with new digital technologies like Bitcoin and Web3, decentralised communications, transactions and computation, might one day help us to start new companies, communities and currencies. Perhaps even build new cities, start new countries.
As Rome 2.0’s collapse accelerates, everything will change remembering that the Bible tells us that there is also a story of eternal hope to be found in these deep, cyclical patterns of history. Now is the time to start thinking critically, to begin reasoning by first principles asking fundamental questions of our age. Deeper questions that have often exercised the minds of scholars for thousands of years.
First we must think smart and to do that, we have to go back in time far past our own lifetime. Then we have turn inwards whilst looking backwards studying human nature under a microscope. Then we have to compare the present with the past thinking about the most likely future, because we realise that the past is the future.
No one yet has figured out ways to get off this cyclical ride of temperamental sunrise, zenith and sunset, nor short-circuit decline. This means that the rise and fall of civilisations is based upon ‘temperament’, defined as the psychological and emotional foundations of personality which underpins our behaviour, virtues, vices, morals, ethics, even how we structure the economy and choose our governments. Temperament has a biological basis which changes over time, impacting our culture, shaping our identity right down to our DNA.
In order to master civilisational mechanics – how it applies today in real-time – we need to analyse multi-disciplinary subjects such as history, biology, cross-cultural anthropology, economics, epigenetics, neuroendocrinology and more.
We must start thinking about how to short-circuit an impending Dark Age and this is what Fortculture hopes to do, provide fertile ground. Our only hope now for civilisation may lie hidden deep within human nature itself. Perhaps we can unlock secrets where others have failed?
Time, no longer our ally. The history of civilisations, their rise and fall in one picture: