One of the major features of the modern era, from which we are currently emerging, is linearity. This is propped up by the “myth of progress” wherein all history moves towards the future through Greek conceptions of time – telos (purpose) and chronos (linear time) – expressed though our systemising of natural time via clocks. In this idea, accuracy and efficiency have become of utmost importance, because of our capitalist belief that “time is money”.
And these manifestations of modernity are not limited to the dominant economic model either, communism (especially the Soviet type) had an implicit faith in the ability of this “progress” to transform society, based in scientific materialism, atheistic humanism and Hegelian philosophical optimism.
In the previous post, it was established that a duality exists between sacred and profane time. I’d like to suggest that progress is a manifestation of the profane, for it does away with the importance and significance of other modes of being, in the pursuit of gain, and underpinned by the hedonistic rationale of “eat, drink, for tomorrow we die”.
These modes of being include as we have seen, the sacred. In this, we hold a truly sustainable view that all our doings in this life have eternal implications. Crucially, all aspects of this current life (not just the life to come) have sacred potential. This potential is unlocked not by empirical evidence, nor rational prowess, but by faith. And faith, contrary to its modern perversion, does not equate to certainty, but involves interplay between certainty and doubt.
I’d like to introduce a further modality that has been paved over by modern linearity, and that is the significance of repetitive, as opposed to linear, time. This is expressed as agricultural or natural seasons, social ritual, or the cosmological insight into the nature of matter as vibration.
Seasons were the initial way that man structured the world. As civilisation began to encroach, other calendars became superimposed upon nature, from Roman times forward, to the present day where our lives are more ordered by digital clocks than by sun or moon.
Socially, feasts of harvest marked the year. Within the religious sphere the influence of these feasts waned as liturgical calendars gained pre-eminence. In a secularised society, links to religious as well as natural cycles have been all but lost. (See In Search of a Calendar)
But another feature of the postmodern era is the rediscovery by science of new ways of understanding the cosmos. One current view is string theory which sees all matter to made up of vibrating strings. If this is true, then all life as we know it is based upon loops and repetition. But we have lost the significance of this because of our love affair with the deterministic and the linear. As this disintegrates, we are reminded that the goal of life is not progress, but rather balance.
Before I conclude, this is not a call to dismiss the line, or the over-elevate the loop. The line also gives us the narrative – the story, which has also fallen prey to the modernity, specifically to the “cult of the fact”. Stories are linear, to be sure, but the sorts of stories that will restore us to a truer humanity are open-ended, and entered into via faith and imagination.
To put the discussion in context, we are here talking about “pattern based worship”. While I have a few specific applications of this idea in mind, I do want to acknowledge the resurgence of ancient liturgy in our religious lives. Old forms are being rediscovered, many which until this time have only existed in monastic environments, which are given to repetition and daily cycles.
In summary, there is an underlying shift away from modern linear expressions to a new apprehension of natural season, ancient ritual, a cosmology of vibration, and a “looped” concept of life.