In the past, nations that foresaw their own demise fell to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War, Plague, Famine, and Death. Riding point for the old quartet in today’s more civilized world is a Fifth Horseman: Loss of Faith.
Today’s cultures are dying of apathy, not by the swords of their enemies.
== How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), David Goldman
There is now, a Spirit of America, the soul of a people, and it is this which has made the United States and which still animates and controls them. The first and most potent factor in the soul of the American people is the spirit of self-reliance.
This was the most dominant and formative factor of their early history. It was the inward power which animated and sustained them in their first struggles and efforts; it was deepened by religious conviction and intensified by practical experience. It took shape in political institutions, declarations, constitutions; it rejected foreign guidance and control, and fought against all external domination. It assumed the right of self-determination, and took for granted the power of self-development. In the ignorant and noisy it was aggressive, independent, cocksure, and boastful. In the thoughtful and prudent it was grave, firm, resolute, and inflexible. It has persisted through all the changes and growth of two centuries, and it remains to-day the most vital and irreducible quality in the soul of America—the Spirit of self-reliance.
== The Spirit of American, Henry Van Dyke, 1910
In 1910, Henry Van Dyke, a professor at Princeton, gave the Henry Hyde Lectures in Paris France, subsequently published that same year with the title for his lectures being to The People of France, the book was, The Spirit of America. Van Dyke wished to convey what he, and clearly many of his contemporaries held to be the core, essential principles that, when combined, comprised a uniquely American spirit, what we might call now the spirit of American Exceptionalism. He described first, as in the quote above, the first principle of this spirit which he described as the “spirit of self-reliance“.
The next of his five essential traits of the American Spirit was the “spirit of fair play and democracy“. Van Dyke told his audience that “the spirit of fair play, in its deepest origin, is a kind of religion” and further that the deeply embedded sense of fair play in America “appears simply as the wish to conduct trade with just weights and measures, to live in a State which affords equal protection and opportunity to all its citizens, to play a game in which the rules are the same for every player, and the good stroke counts, no matter who makes it”. Of America’s democratic passions, entwined, Van Dyke professed, intimately with the notion of fair play, equality of opportunity and the ability of all citizens to transcend their birth circumstances because every American should be given what Teddy Roosevelt spoke of as “the square deal for everybody”. And although, he addresses the imperfection of America in achieving this goal universally, but still, it was that the “soul of the American people” answered to these words because Roosevelt had expressed one of their dominant, core ideals. Despite its failure of universality, all, with the exception of the Jim Crow south, embraced this ideal and even there, perhaps, a majority believed that someday it could be achieved, just not then.
The third group of principles driving the spirit of America was tilted “will-power, work and wealth“. “la vie intense—which is the polite French translation of “the strenuous life”—”is regarded as the unanimous choice of the Americans, who are never happy unless they are doing something, and never satisfied until they have made a great deal of money”. But it is will-power that is the key attribute that joins as the third core element of America’s energized spirit of the time, “that vital energy of nature which makes an ideal of activity and efficiency. The man ‘who does things’ is the man whom the average American admires”. Work and the will to keep striving, the appreciation of the “strenuous life” and all that must accompany this were endemic in America at the time, an important element in its productive success and its national persona.
Next, in the limited pantheon of the DNA of the American Spirit was what Van Dyke called “love of common order“ or “the sentiment of common order, and the building up of a settled, decent, sane life in the community.” Here we see, in the mild light of unconscious self-revealments, one of the chief ends which the Spirit of America desires and seeks. Not merely a self-reliant life, not merely a life of equal opportunity for all, not merely an active, energetic life in which the freewill of the individual has full play, but “also a life shared with one’s fellow-citizens under the benign influence of good laws, a life which is controlled by the principles of harmony and fruitful in efforts cooperant to a common end, a life rangée, ordonnée, et solidaire, –this is the American ideal.”
In other words, community and civic virtue, the common order and the engagement of citizen, of any means, in voluntary associations to work together for common purpose, these were the important ends for the self-reliant hardworking American of all stations. It was George Washington, retired from his years of unparalleled public service to his country, who set this tone from the beginning when he declared that he wished to “partake in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors and dangers.”
Finally, Van Dyke comes to the formerly quintessential American trait the desire for personal development and education, “The Spirit of America shows its ingrained individualism nowhere more clearly than in education: First, by the breadth of the provision which it makes, up to a certain point, for everybody who wished to be educated. Second, by the entire absence of anything like centralized control of education. Third, by the remarkable evolution of different types of educational institutions and the litany of choices that they offer to each student.”
This leads to the fifth quality of the Spirit of America which he considers closely connected to the sense of self-reliance and a strong-willpower, “intimately related to the love of fair play and common order—a keen appreciation of the value of personal development.”
During the past 116 years, truly starting with the reign of the progressive, Fabian elites affecting the Administrative State of Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House and all that has flowed with it, in the ebbs and flows of history, culminating in the total surveillance, Administrative bureaucratic technocracy of Obama, America has lost everyone of the glorious, but over-effusive traits discussed in Van Dyke’s, Spirit of America. No matter how surreal the last 7 years may have seemed to many and no matter how further entrenched the morally bankrupt nanny state and its commensurate loss of individual freedoms has come in such a short snippet of our national history, the erosion has been carried forward by almost every Presidential administration since 1913, certainly so since 1933. Obama is but the cherry on the top of a well baked cake that has hardened into an almost immovable stone. It will take a mighty sledgehammer, wielded more by a Thor than a Trump, to break this well embedded stone; the massive stone of the transnationalist Administrative State.
Faith, as C. S. Lewis wrote, “Is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods.” Faith comes in many different forms.There is faith of the religious kind, a belief held without direct confirmable knowledge in the existence of a God, or even many Gods. Kierkegaard described the “existential leap of faith”, as the ability of an individual to hold two diametrically opposed beliefs at the same time, even if held for the briefest of time, such as the belief that a ballerina’s leap into the air is in fact defying gravity, when all reason and sound logic denies it. Ballerinas cannot fly. The antithesis of faith is confirmed evidence and certainty.
However, to the truly skeptical mind, almost all of our rational, well-reasoned “facts” are questionable, which leads to a heavy reliance on faith in order to function, to survive. We skeptics can now even point to the possibility that one of the formerly immutable laws of Einstein’s physics, that nothing can move faster than the speed of light, is in fact false, which if so proven would upend all of 20th century scientific thought on the nature of the universe. Yet, we have faith that our mind’s interpretation of reality is true, that reality exists. This is the kind of faith that is the sinew of the daily functioning of all of humankind’s personal as well as cultural interactions. To exist, we must have faith.
“We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.” The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics (1931), Max Planck
At least with current science the future is improvable. Faith in the future, and its evolutionarily associated optimism, represents one of the essential cornerstones of non-religious based faith. Faith in the honesty and integrity of those we deal with in our lives and society is called trust. Faith permeates all of our lives and the societies that are comprised of us. It is the quintessential essence of the human conscious mind, as it allows each of us to put one foot forward every day, as well as place a man on the moon (and have faith that we actually did it!) Human progress is but a stepchild of our individual and cultural faith.
Thus, taken at any level, from the mystical faith in God’s omniscient presence, an afterlife, reincarnation, or simply oneness with the universe after our physical death, to faith in our family, our business associates, our government and those that represent us therein, faith is essential for survival. Faith is essential to the survival of each of us as individuals and to our culture and civilization. Can any of us survive in our daily lives without relying on faith?
Can a nation, culture, and civilization survive, reproducing its essential heritage and core ideological and genetic quintessence over generations without faith? What happens to a civilization when it loses faith, in its God, in its culture, in its government and in the sanctity of the laws that support it?
The annihilation of faith leads to a sustained, potentially irreversible loss of cohesion, of a society’s internal dynamic, vibrancy and productive energy—in essence a fraying towards thermodynamic entropy, death. All of Western Civilization, with America still its most dynamic representative, is heading towards this end, that is, if we do not undergo a revolution of spirit, and civic and government renewal. We need another “Great Awakening”, a Jonathan Edwards not necessarily of a religious, but certainly of a political bent. We need a revivalist surge that restores the absolute sanctity of the rule of law in America. We need to restore Americans’ faith in government and the “promise of American life”.
This cannot be done unless we restore the “empire of laws” from the sucking tar pits of an empire of the elite, and an Empire of the sword. The false faith of hubris, the faith that government knows best, that what is good for a plutocracy and aristocracy of power sustained by wealth is right for America, is a narcissistic shallow faith that is only self-serving and false. It serves but a few and cannot succor the American soul. America must return to the rule of law. There can be no princes in America. But, there are; they govern us, they entertain us, they control our media, and we spend untold billions idolizing many of them. Moreover, most of them are above the law.
Will it take a revolution, perhaps a violent one, to regain the “Spirit Of America”, the one that Van Dyke praised over one hundred years ago, but this time succeed at building this spirit into a universal one, a spirit for the world to once again seek to emulate and finally attain. Unfortunately, it very likely will so require!