More Thoughts on Metahistory and the Cosmic Path to 9-11
I was trying to place the controversy of the 9-11 movie in a larger context, when I thought of the great historian Christopher Dawson, who made the provocative and yet axiomatic assertion that being an eye witness to history is of no consequence whatsoever to historical insight. Obviously, most of us lived through the Clinton years, so we think we know what happened. We were there. But were we really, at least historically?
Dawson uses the example of the Battle of Hastings, which every British schoolchild evidently knows: “A visitor from another planet who witnessed the Battle of Hastings would possess far greater knowledge of the facts than any modern historian, yet this knowledge would not be historical knowledge for lack of any tradition to which it could be related; whereas the child who says ‘William the Conqueror 1066’ has already made his atom of knowledge a historical fact by relating it to a national tradition and placing it in the time-series of Christian culture.”
Similarly, an eye witness to the crucifixion of Jesus would have undoubtedly taken as much notice of the two criminals who were crucified beside him. Only in hindsight was the centrality of Jesus’ death recognized. It is fair to say that no one who witnessed it thought to themselves, “Hmm, interesting. This is the center and still point of history. Yesterday was BC. Tomorrow will be AD.”
As Dawson writes, “Behind the rational sequence of political and economic cause and effect, hidden spiritual forces are at work which confer on events a wholly new significance. The real meaning of history is something entirely different from that which the human actors in the historical drama themselves intend or believe.” A contemporary observer cannot have imagined that “the execution of an obscure Jewish religious leader in the first century of the Roman Empire would affect the lives and thoughts of millions who never heard the names of the great statesmen and generals of the age.”
Thus, there is an unavoidably eschatological aspect of history. Events cannot be fully understood without reference to their finality, that is, what they point toward and reveal only in the fullness of time. As Dawson says, “The pure fact is not as such historical. It only becomes historical when it can be brought in relation with a tradition so that it can be part of an organic whole.” Another historian, Dermot Quinn, writes that “The fact does not tell the story; the story, as it were, tells the fact. It is the latter that gives pattern and meaning; it is the former that lacks a meaning of its own.”
Therefore, in order to be a proper historian, you had better have your story right. And what is the story? Ah, that’s the question, isn’t it? For it is fair to say that left and right are operating under the umbrella of vastly different stories--politically, culturally, economically, psychologically, theologically, and in just about every other -ally way.
If history involved nothing more than the accumulation of facts, it would be of no use to us. Detail alone does not constitute history, any more than randomly played notes constitute harmony and melody. Only by knowing what history is for can we know what is of importance in history. Since history as it happens consists of unique and unrepeatable events, it is unintelligible unless bound into a larger scheme of order.
As Quinn puts it, “Randomness has no meaning. Yet to give meaning to events in time is to remove them from time itself, to deny them the singularity that makes them historical.” Likewise, as the philosopher Michael Polanyi argued, to see meaning beyond the local is to see it in the local. A fact does not and cannot speak for itself. Depending on your nonlocal understanding of history, you will see completely different facts and regard them very differently.
For Dawson, it was the incarnation of Christ that gave history its center and therefore significance: “Viewed from this center the history of humanity became an organic unity. Eternity had entered into time and henceforward the singular and temporal had acquired an eternal significance. The closed circle of time had been broken and a ladder had been let down from heaven to earth by which mankind could escape from the ‘sorrowful wheel’ which had cast its shadow over Greek and Indian thought, and go forward in newness of life to a new world.” On the other hand, people outside the Judeo-Christian tradition tended “to solve the problem of history by a radical denial of its significance."
Thus, Dawson admits his metahistorical prejudice at the outset. And whether they admit it or not, all historians operate under a similar “metahistory.” Without one, they could not “see” or imagine history at all. I know I have my own metahistory. It is outlined in my book, where I did my best to take into consideration all of the facts of existence--scientific, biological, psychological, anthropological, historical, and theological--and weave them into a tapestry of 13.7 billion years of cosmic evolution. Based on this model, I know what is of historical significance to me. It is those things that either facilitate or impede the cosmic evolution of which human consciousness is the leading edge.
In ether worlds, I attempted to place history in the ultimate context, for in the absence of an ultimate context, secular history really is a dark prison from which there is no hope of escape: “It is a prison in which the human spirit confines itself when it is shut out of the wider world of reality. But as soon as the light comes, all the elaborate mechanisms that have been constructed for living in the dark become useless. The recovery of spiritual vision gives man back his spiritual freedom” (Dawson).
The radically secular culture of the left can only exist by keeping us in the dark. So don’t ever be surprised when they attack the Light.
When the prophets are silent and society no longer possesses any channel of communication with the divine world, the way to the lower depths is still open and man's frustrated spiritual powers will find their outlet in the unlimited will to power and destruction. --Christopher Dawson