Or did it? Human beings are not so much in time as above it; or rather, we have a foot in each realm.
It's like the difference between sitting on the bank of a river (of time) vs. being in the river and pulled along by the currents. Sometimes we are completely given over to the river, for good or ill. Other times we disinterestedly watch it go by.
But that doesn't quite capture the gist, because there is also a kind of timelessness involved in giving oneself over to the river of time. The French have a term that is peripherally related to this submersion: nostalgie de la bout, or "nostalgia for the mud."
I suppose we could say there are two ways for humans to try to evade time: down and up, mud and sky.
And it seems that our most ancient ancestors defaulted toward the former. Thus the title of the next chapter under discussion, The Refusal of History. It begins with a crack by Johann Hamann to the effect that "there is no universal history without Judaism and Christianity," because the idea that we all share "in the same history, a linear history moving toward a goal, only appeared historically with the Judeo-Christian tradition."
You might say that members of the latter tradition said Yes to history -- although it must again be emphasized that the No and the Yes nevertheless coexist, and there are any number of ways to say No to history, secular progressivism being one such way.
The left flees from truths that cannot be un-known, but you can never really put the truthpaste back in the tube.
Progressivism is a collective means of stopping or reversing time, but there are also individual ways, i.e., neuroses, in which a part of the mind continues to live in an earlier time -- in childhood or even infancy.
Prior to the Jews, man's sense of historical consciousness was weak to non-existent; or, to the extent that it broke through, it was promptly repressed and denied, often through collective rituals: "If history is 'the remembered past,'" then there are "two strikingly different ways of remembering it: the mythological and the historical..."
Recall what was said yesterday about early man having to "adapt to mindedness." Bailie notes that "Archaic peoples clung, not to nature, but to religious procedures" designed to keep the gods "favorably disposed to their propitiators." It was literally a kind of circular procedure -- although the circle was wider than it is for animals, who essentially live within the subjective phase space of their instincts.
But man, in being liberated from instinct, is confronted with a kind of terrifying infinity that must somehow be tamed. "Thus these ancient cultures remained profoundly backward oriented," as if to say Please make death's footman, time, knock it off, and while you're at it, would you please make the spooky silence of the infinite spaces go away! And here's some human blood for all your trouble!
In the Christian west, we value history. It has a ground, a direction, and a purpose. Conversely, "Indian thought," for example, "has refused to concede any value to History" (Eliade, in Bailie). This is because time is thought to be a dimension of maya-illusion. Thus, the ultimate point of Vedanta is to escape time by obliterating the ego. Back to the undifferentiated matrix from which we emerged.
"As long as they remained beholden to their gods and the cycle of sacrificial rituals that appeased them, our ancient ancestors lived in a cyclical and not a historical world.... For our ancestors to step even tentatively onto the path of history, they would have to break with these 'archetypal beings' and, to some degree at least, renounce the false forms of transcendence they represented."
These archetypal beings very much remind me of what are called "transitional objects" in psychoanalysis. The latter are essentially symbolic way stations that help the child move from merger with the mother toward individuation and independence. Once safely across the psychic divide, the "security blanket" may be tossed aside.
I wonder if pagan religions are essentially transitional objects to which premodern man clung? Bailie implies as much: "other religions of the world -- ancient and contemporary -- are 'religions in waiting' -- awaiting the truth revealed by Christ..."
I'm not sure when the next post will be -- maybe Monday, but possibly Tuesday. In between we'll be celebrating Christmas, which is a Christian holiday superimposed on a pagan one. It coincides with the darkest day of the year, at which point the light increases and the days begin to imperceptibly lengthen.
You could say that Christianity lifted the holy-day out of its time-denying circle. As de Lubac remarked, "Christianity is not one of the great things of history; it is history that is one of the great things of Christianity" (in Bailie).
"For Christianity there is a progress in the truth of what it means to be. Following Christ one is permanently growing, from one beginning to another beginning. Yet Christianity is not only a part of a larger progress, it is the goal of progress itself" (Lopez, in Bailie).
If primitive man lives in the repetitive circle and secular man on the meaningless line, Christians live in the ever-renewing, progressive spiral.