The Spirit of the Age and Contemporary Nihilism
One of the main causes of the nihilism of our times is that Man has not found his Spirit of the Age – his Zeitgeist. The Greek poet Hesiod divided the Ages of Man into five quasi-mythological epochs, e.g.; the Gold, Silver, Bronze, Heroic and Iron Ages. Likewise, the Hindus believed in four corresponding Ages or “Yugas;” the Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga and, finally, the Kali Yuga. Historians have also divided history into eras, comprising the Ancient Age, the Middle Ages, the Modern Age and Information Age. For our purposes, we will take up this line of historiography, since it takes into account the development of Man in the world as we know it. While the first two approach the metaphysical world, the latter two Ages or Eras represent a down-going of spiritual vigor, a decline in Man’s connection to Transcendent principles.
We can then find evidence of a Spirit belonging to each of the periods of the contemporaneous Periodization of History. Although it is impossible to summarize an entire epoch by only one aspect, there is, however, a central feature that needs to be highlighted. Following this chronology, we begin with the Ancient Age: the spirit of the Ancient Age is Civilizational, because it is in this period that Man discovers himself as a social being and from that, develops complex societies. The key concept here is Aristotle’s definition of Man as a political animal, since it describes the nature of Man – a rational animal that speaks and thinks (zoon logikon) – in its necessary interaction in the city-state (polis). In short, for Aristotle, Man is a political animal because it is fully realized within the scope of the polis. The “city or political society” is the “highest good” and therefore men associate in cells, from the family to the small town, and the gathering of these groups results in the city and the state. During that age great civilizations arise, which shape the world culturally and politically. The Spirit of this time will be the civilizational foundation for later ages. From then on, man is constituted as a social being.
With the fall of the Roman Empire, the greatest of the civilizations of the Ancient Age, begins the period of the Middle Ages. This period is marked by great introspection, both for Man and his place in society. Man is surrounded by fiefs and isolated communities. His places of worship, formerly done outdoors in the Pagan era, are transferred to closed environments – the Church. Man dedicates himself to the study of himself, his faith and his spirit. Universities are created, that seek the deepening in the study of the truth and the sciences, aiming at a greater connection with the Sacred. Hardly in this period did the Man have contact with the Profane, since even wars had a Sacral character. It is in this period that the deepening with the Sacred and the discovery of the Man as spiritual being takes place.
With the advent of the Modern Age, being socially and spiritually strong, Man enters in an age of discoveries. New continents and new peoples are discovered through navigation. With the newly founded intellectual movements of Humanism, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, Man focuses on himself, but not spiritually as in the Middle Ages, but intellectually. “I think, therefore I am”, a phrase written by René Descartes, marks the Spirit of this age, characterized by anthropocentric thinking, in which Man shapes the world according to his Reason. There is in this age a great scientific development, marking the meaning of Man as an intellectual being.
After long development in these three eras, contemporary Man would also adopt a new Spirit of the Age. But what marks the Information Age? It is assumed that from his constitution as a social, spiritual and intellectual being, contemporary Man would be able to synthesize these different spirits and incorporate them into a new and complete way of expression, but the result is completely different. Contemporary Man embodies an individualistic spirit, rejecting his conception as a social being. He has become materialistic and profane, desecrating himself and rejecting his spirituality. One could think that he has maintained his intellectual character, but Man has since abdicated his productive character, adopting instead a consumerist character. He rejects everything that has a long-lived character and composition built upon strata, for the immediate attainment of something ephemeral, for the purpose of instant gratification. Because of his attachment to the ephemeral, how can he continue to be an intellectual being, if true knowledge comes from meditation, introspection and reflection? Contemporary man does not create or produce, only reproduces and consumes.
Far from the romantic Ideal attached to the previous ages as perfect and structured by the Divine, it is obvious that the present age is the most fallen compared to it’s predecessors. I try not to be pessimistic in adopting the following example as the Spirit of the Age of contemporary Man, but this is his present state of being. The contemporary spirit is the spirit of fire. The more Man feeds, the more the fire consumes him with an insatiable hunger. It grows in size and devours what lies before it. Man has become destructive; it destroys nature and, through firearms and mass destruction, destroys itself. Because of this destruction, a great emptiness is created within the spirit of contemporary Man, a great nihil, establishing the nihilism that reigns over Man. The same fire has led us to the entrance of the Iron Age.
Here, then, it is necessary to return to the concepts of Hesiod and Hinduism concerning the Iron Age. Hesiod defines the Iron Age as the most terrible of all. An incessant time of misery and anguish. In his opus Works and Days, Hesiod describes this era as:
“Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils.
The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime.
Men will dishonor their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture.
Might will be justice; and one will destroy the other’s city. Neither will he who swears really be favored nor he who is just nor he who is good, but he will be granted promotion to honor who is a doer of evil and hubris. Might will be justice and shame will no longer exist. The bad will injure the good, speaking crooked untruths and bearing false witness there to. Envy will be in attendance upon men, every miserable mortal, causing commotion, rejoicing in evil, with face full of hate.
Then to Olympus retiring, leaving the broad-wayed earth, wrapping their lovely forms of gleaming white, Shame and Nemesis, abandoning men, will return to their lives among the immortals; and what will be left for mortal men are only the anguishing pains, but no defense against evil.”
Although Hesiod describes himself as belonging to the Iron Age, he could never have foreseen that the forces of subversion at work two-thousand years hence. The Hindus too believed that we are already in the Iron Age – the Kali Yuga – for more than five-thousand years:
“The essence of the Kali Yuga is the cause of the separation between man and nature and all the devastation of the modern world leading to the loss of contact with the cosmic order where the mind of humanity is fixed on the most dense and material elements of reality . It is an Era where wars, vices, ignorance, and devoid of all virtues dominate. The leaders who govern the nations are violent, corrupt, exploiters of their peoples, thus becoming a perverted world, where chaos, hunger, disease, destruction, excessive selfishness, materiality, evil and lack of respect for man by his fellow man.
Well-being and religiosity will diminish day by day, until the world becomes completely depraved… The patrimony will confer the social position alone; wealth will be the only source of devotion; passion will be the only bond of union between the sexes; falsehood will be the only factor of success in litigation; and women will be used as objects of purely sexual satisfaction. The outer appearance will be the only distinctive of the various orders of life. The lack of honesty will be the universal means of subsistence; weakness is the cause of dependence. […] Thus, in the Age of the Kali Yuga decay will continue constantly, until the human race approaches its annihilation. ”
I venture to say that the Iron Age or Kali Yuga began – or began having it’s greatest expression contrary to what Hesiod and the Hindus attested to having begun for millennia, in our own contemporary Age. It is up to us to overcome this inverted Zeitgeist and avoid continuing along such a devastating path. The path of Higher Man is the search for the union between the social, spiritual and intellectual spirit. Thus, uniting our forces in one body, one spirit and one mind, we can fight the destructive fire that consumes our lives.
 Kālī Yuga and the Law of Cycles: http://fundacaomaitreya.com/artigo.php?ida=714