Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Understanding Change (II): the Rising Stages

~ Continued from Part I: "Understanding Change (I): Not Progress, Cycles",
by Dr Sam Holliday ~

We can view changes as either progress or cycles. Today progress is the assumption of most Europeans and Americans. Yet this "progress" is the pursuit of many different Utopias. Yes, it is change, but is it building (true progress) or is it decline, the outcome of manipulation by those with a political agenda. Cycles provide an attractive alternative to "progress". Part II looks at the rising Stages, the first two that make up a full four part Cycle.

Building (Rise) Stages

Birth and Maturity are the first two stages. The building stages of cycles are a time of struggle. The overcoming of obstacles releases the energies of the group to respond effectively to challenges. The survival instinct brings out the ferocity, avarice and ambition in humans; this creates leaders able to build and defend the group. Individuals support the group in their own self-interest. Hegel often refers to each group having a particular "spirit of the people". This is his way of noting the importance of virtues (sacred authority), which are shared moral, ethical, and religious beliefs.

The building stages are the realm of the Faustian man. In literature we find such a person in Shakespeare’s Lear, and Goethe’s Wilhelm Meisler. As expressed by Hegel, history "has ever decided in favor of the stronger, fuller and more self-assured life--decreed to it, namely, the right to exist, regardless of whether its right would hold before a tribunal of waking-consciousness."

While a group is rising the masculine dominates the feminine; although this is less pronounced in the Maturity stage than it is in the Birth stage. For some groups the struggles during the building stages are too great and they are destroyed and absorbed by more powerful groups. Also the tragic truth is, that after the building stages have run their course, the fall begins.

The Birth stage of cycles is a time of troubles and challenges with extinction always close at hand. The driving force of the group is intellectual ignorance and morale baseness. In the group the most violent and enterprising gain power from their ability to provide protection from chaos and extinction. This results in unprecedented effort, unity, sacrifice and loyalty to a single leader who is father, ruler, priest and prophet. The leader is the arbiter of right and wrong, good and bad. A group in the Birth stage is clearly an organism that is more than its parts, and the parts are not interchangeable; the individual is often sacrificed for the benefit of the group.

It is a time for brutish men--not for the timid; for action--not for words; of unity--not of diversity; of passion--not of reason; of myth, legend, custom and tradition--not of science and political correctness; of simple, direct behavior--not of clever, hedonistic behavior; of sacrifice--not of selfishness; of inequality and obedience--not of equality and license.

Some groups are able to skip the Birth stage because they are able to borrow from another group that has failed.

During the Birth stage individuals realize they can only be human as members of a group, for only within the group can they experience the attributes of freedom and morality. Outside of a group an individual would be no more than an animal with sensations. At the end of the Birth stage there is greater personal freedom, greater equality of opportunity, and less reliance on myth and legend.

During the Maturity stage there is an increase in knowledge, numbers, and territory; there is an accumulation of surplus, the development of new technology and new ways to do things. Moreover, the knowledge and technology uses the surplus to increase the power of the group. In the Maturity stage the group exists for the sake of its members, yet the group is still enough of an organism to be able to hold on to the customs, traditions, roles, and sense of duty developed in the Birth stage. While the parts are not interchangeable, there is greater mobility than in the Birth stage.

Heroes are the distinctive feature of the Maturity stage. They become the magistrates of order to provide protection from internal and external threats. The heroes are what some have called "great men" since they are doers and often use wealth to achieve power. They form a ruling class that has a monopoly of both secular and sacred authority, they hold all of the leadership and opinion making positions, and they know how "to win the favor of the gods", i.e., they have earned the "mandate of heaven". They use symbolic language characterized by imagery and metaphors. As Rousseau has said: "What is the object of political association? It is the preservation and prosperity of its members."

Heroes shaped events and are considered the wisest, bravest and best; they are found in different spheres of human activity. Their status is based on merit and is earned by successful performance of duties related to the growth of the group. Among heroes Thomas Carlyle listed: Odin of Scandinavian mythology, Mohammed, Dante, Shakespeare, Luther, Samuel Johnson, Robert Burns, Cromwell and Napoleon. To these could be added: Elizabeth I, Catherine the Great, Thomas Jefferson, Otto von Bismarck, Rudyard Kipling, Theodore Roosevelt, Cecil Rhodes, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Indira Gandhi, and the Chinese leaders that followed Mao Tse-tung.

In the Maturity stage heroes are examples of loyalty, dedication, and patriotism. Their behavior demonstrates honor, discipline, duty, and a sense of purpose. Their demeanor is stern and severe. They are usually motivated by God’s will and the ecstasy of belief. They enjoy a high degree of individual freedom because a strong internal compass controls their behavior. Most heroes favor rule of the few who have demonstrated dedication to the group’s interests, and are united by their wealth, ability, and vigor. Also most heroes favor the structures and processes of governance that discriminate against those that would shift wealth from the "haves" to the "have-nots" or would create a welfare state.

By the fifth century B.C. in the Greek city-states a ruling-class of heroes had taken power from their Kings, and had evolved into the Maturity stage. From then until the end of the wars with Persia (479 B.C.) there was a struggle between authoritarianism and democracy. This period saw the development of the essence of Greek culture: philosophy of Thales, science of Anaximander, mathematics of Pythagoras, Greek drama, Greek architecture, and the idea that every group has a history. The rich and powerful quarreled and dominated both sacred and secular authority. But the rights of all citizens and the overall, long-range interests of the group could not be ignored.

While most of those living in Greece (foreigners, women, and slaves) were ignored, discontent among merchants, craftsmen, and small farmers created effective political opposition. The phalanx of farmer-citizen hoplites, rather than the cavalry of the heroes, became the decisive element in combat. Yet in Greece the Maturity stage came to an end with the degeneration of the proud citizen-soldier into a mercenary tempted by bribery and treachery.

~ To be continued in Part III: "Understanding Change: the Declining Stages" ~

Copyright © 2008 Armiger Cromwell Center

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