The Corruption of Form

An extract from the chapter "The Language of Form" in The Feminine Universe

We have already considered deracination, with its attendant atomisation and deformism, at some length from the theoretical point of view. It is now necessary to consider their practical effects and workings in the post-Eclipse world.

When we said that in order to understand the cure we must first understand the disease, we were not speaking merely figuratively. The effects of deracination, when it takes hold of a society, are very similar to the effects of a disease, upon an individual body, or of an epidemic upon a community. Like a disease working within an organism, deracination, atomisation and deformism rapidly take hold of all the different functions and expressions of a culture, corrupting and despoiling each one until there is no aspect of the diseased society that is not riddled with the disease and its effects.

Before the Eclipse, Western society was an organism infected by the disease, but still fundamentally healthy; its antibodies were still fighting the disease and full recovery still a daily possibility. After the Eclipse, Western society is an organism whose immune system has collapsed and in which the disease runs rampant and unchecked in every direction, corrupting every avenue of social expression.

In certain areas this is obvious. In others it is perhaps, at first, less so. There is little difficulty for most healthy people in seeing the disease in the way post-Eclipse people dress, in the raucous and degenerate popular 'music', in the garish and exploitative nature of many magazines, films and television programmes, in the crude immorality that is promoted by every organ of public communication, in the cult of selfishness that is propagated everywhere, the break-down of trust and of the sense of community, the embrace of ugliness, the increasing 'acceptability' of foul language and many other of the most salient everyday features of post-Eclipse society.

What is subtler and less obvious until one begins to understand these matters more fully is that every aspect of post-Eclipse culture is a carrier of the same psychic disease. One area, for example, whose importance is frequently underestimated is that of design. The design of a post-Eclipse motor-car, telephone, plastic kettle, set of music-playing equipment or any other item of everyday use is as diseased as the nastiest popular song or most blatantly vile picture-magazine.

In order to understand this, we must realise that no object of human design and manufacture is morally or philosophically neutral. Every made object is saying something. Design is not and never has been mere meaningless embellishment. In the traditional Sattwic society the design and ornamentation of every object of daily use had a spiritual and metaphysical reference. Scholars such as Ananda Coomaraswamy have commented at length on the profound and beautiful intellectual significance of ancient artefacts. As this author put it: "The 'history of design' remains an absolutely sterile exercise when abstracted from the intellectual life that can alone account for the facts of design."

Exactly as we should expect, the language of design as used in Traditional, or Sattwic, cultures expresses upward-leading truths; spiritual and metaphysical realities. The ornamentation and form of every object of daily life carries a meaning which is a constant 'reminder' to the user of her Celestial origin and of the Path of Return. Just as every craft is a Way for the craftmaid, an Initiatic path of reintegration, so the 'products' of her craft, from a pot to a chariot to a palace, contribute to the psychic health and wholeness of the user and of all who behold them.

In the Normal, or Rajasic, culture, the intellectuality of the Language of Design is progressively forgotten. The ornamentation of an object is eventually reduced to 'mere decoration' in the minds of both its producers and its users. Design has no conscious object other than to be pleasing and convenient. Nonetheless, as we have pointed out before, whatever its conscious aims and intentions, the human mind is always conditioned by the Archetypes; and so long as it has not been poisoned or inverted, it is positively conditioned by them. So, in the Normal culture, while the conscious intellectual underpinning of design is progressively lost, design itself continues to represent healthy forms. Its direction is now 'outward' or Rajasic, as opposed to the metaphysical or upward orientation of the design of artefacts in a Traditional Society: but insofar as this healthy outward development is untainted by any perversion, it will necessarily remain true to the Essences of all true form, and thus will always refiect 'secondarily' the upward direction.

From an eighteenth-century carriage to a 1958 Chevrolet; from powdered wigs and face-patches to the New Look of Christian Dior; from an early-Georgian mansion to the Empire State Building -- all these are representative of the same design language: that of the Normal or Rajasic culture of the modern West. It is a language referring essentially to this world and neither to the superior states above it, nor to the chaotic regions of inferior psychism below it. Nevertheless, since the forms of this world, so long as they are not corrupted, are always refiections of the eternal Forms, the design of the normal culture is never wholly severed from superior principles, even though its attachment to them may be largely unconscious.

As we have said, no object of human design is morally or philosophically neutral. The design of Sattwic cultures is consciously intellectual. It deliberately expresses a spiritual thesis that is as clearly 'readable' to any cultured person as the words in a book. The intellectual content of design in Rajasic, or Normal, cultures is no longer conscious, but it is not one whit less real. Every line of every artefact made in the Rajasic period expresses a thesis. The exact nuances of that thesis change somewhat between, say the eighteenth century and the Art-Neo period and the precise nature of those changes would make an interesting and valuable study in themselves. For our present purposes, however, we need merely note that the broad outlines of the Rajasic thesis remain the same: a this-worldly emphasis (which from the standpoint of design-language -- now divorced from conscious intention -- is as true of 'religious' art and design as it is of secular), but a concentration upon the healthy, the beautiful, the noble and the elevating aspects of earthly life -- as indeed, is no more than natural when maid is designing for her own use and pleasure. And since all that is healthy and noble and beautiful in earthly things is also closely connected to the celestial Archetypes (indeed, what do the terms 'health', 'nobility' and 'beauty' mean in terms of form other than fidelity to the Pure Forms?), the Rajasic culture is always 'secondarily' Sattwic.

What, then, do we find in the design-language of the Tamasic period that followed the Eclipse of the early 1960s and reached its fullest intensity some two decades after? In every area we find the rejection of nobility, followed inevitably by the rejection of beauty and health. Design, at its best, is marked by a slickness and garishness that negates any possibility of the noble or the uplifting. At its worst -- which increasingly becomes the norm -- it aims quite consciously at being odd, outlandish, lopsided and abnormal. A plastic jug-kettle, for example is a deliberate negation of the Archetype of a kettle, rejecting every element that links it to its ontological root. The slick soullessness of the telephone kiosks which wantonly and quite unnecessarily displaced within a year the beautiful red Art-Neo British 'phone box' shriek of the emptiness and impoverishment of the post-Eclipse world.

Much post-Eclipse design uses the excuse of 'cheapness' and 'convenience' for its hideousness, but this is nothing more than an excuse. Given the same budgetary limitations, the same technics and the same materials, the inspired designers of the Art-Neo period would have produced very different objects. Objects which would uplift the soul rather than filling it with a sense of hollowness and worthlessness. Design is, before all else a language, expressing a thesis: and the thesis of post-eclipse design is the cheapness, ugliness and worthlessness of life, and ultimately the chaos and the meaningless glare and babble of the inferior psychic regions.

Cheapness itself is a symptom. The very willingness of the deracinated post-Eclipse person to fill her home with slick plastic in order to pay a little less money is symptomatic of a very terrible change. An Art-Neo wireless set is, before all else, a piece of furniture in polished wood and gleaming metal or bakelite. It cannot be anything else, because the home, before the Eclipse -- every home, from the greatest to the humblest -- is still vestigially a Temple of Hestia, and its mistress still a Priestess of the Hearth-Fire. The remembrance of this Mysteria Domestica may be extremely remote, yet it is still a living thing that governs human actions at a very deep level. Only that which is solid and good and worthy of the dignity of the Temple of the Home will be admitted within it. A radiogram which is to occupy a prominent place within the home must be a noble and beautiful piece of furniture, else it cannot occupy that place.

So much hardly needed to be stated before the Eclipse. It was simply obvious to every one, to manufacturer and advertiser and mistress of the house alike. No one could possibly imagine that for the sake of a marginal financial saving any sane person would desecrate her home with the sort of form-filth that fills every shop selling wireless equipment (or anything else, of course) in the last decade of the twentieth century.

Such a thing was not even thinkable before the Rajasic period passed into the Tamasic; and it is only necessary to contemplate this phenomenon for a few minutes -- those who have eyes to see and souls to sense with -- to understand very intensely what a terrible thing has befallen the Western soul over the course of these few short decades.

Nonetheless, we must reiterate that the Cult of Cheapness, although it is certainly a significant part of the malaise of the post-Eclipse world, does not and cannot provide a true explanation of the soullessness of post-Eclipse design. It is true that a racinated person would not put cheapness before every vestige of dignity and beauty in buying appliances for her home, but even if cheapness was for some reason the overriding consideration in design; even if racinated designers were faced with exactly the same material and financial considerations as the designers of the late twentieth century, deracinated design would not and could not be the result.

Conversely, however much money a deracinated designer may have at her disposal, however much may be lavished on materials and design values, the result is always deracinated design. Design is, we repeat, a language, and one that, after the decline of the intellectuality of the Sattwic ages, operates largely unconsciously. In other words, the designer of the Rajasic period cannot do anything other than produce worldly-but-racinated design, and the designer of the Tamasic period cannot produce anything other than deracinated design which is poisonous to the soul. The very fact that these designers (as well as their 'consumers') do not know what they are doing makes them all the more powerless to do anything other than what their 'culture' directs them to do.

The corollary of this is that nothing produced in the post-Eclipse period is free from the psychic disease of deracination and deformism, and this extends to every possible area of expression. For example, some people say that while most post-Eclipse television programmes are clearly poisonous, some are quite harmless and innocent. Now, even if this were true of the overt content of the programmes (a very much more unlikely state of affairs than one may realise), the disease still manifests itself in a hundred ways of which we may not at first be fully conscious -- in the typography used for screen-lettering, in the colours and forms used for display material, in the clothes worn by the announcers and other visible personnel, in the camera-angles, in the use of music and sound, in the very gestures and speech cadences employed for the commentary (invariably performed by people specially trained for the job, and therefore more 'advanced' in the deracinated human manner than the average person). Apart from its obvious, conscious content, every television programme is sending a thousand signals into the mind, most of them unnoticed and therefore 'subliminal', but certainly no less effective for that.

Let us be clear that we are certainly not postulating some 'conspiracy' on the part of the television companies (indeed, such a conspiracy would be relatively crude and ineffective compared to what is actually happening). What in fact is taking place is a much subtler and much more all-pervasive process based upon the quasi-organic nature of psychic disease. The disease of deracination and deformism acts just like a material, organic disease. It follows out its own laws and its own logic. Any one who has contracted the disease becomes a carrier and helps to spread the disease to others, without necessarily having any conscious intention of doing so. At the lowest level this is the case with every one who, having been persuaded by her surrounding ambience to wear deracinated clothes, then becomes part of the surrounding ambience that persuades others to do the same. At the higher levels, every one concerned with the design of artefacts, the making of television programmes, the production of advertisements and every other aspect of the 'culture' of the post-Eclipse world (and remember that, to succeed in their competitive fields, these people must refiect the latest and most 'advanced' -- which is to say most deracinated -- approach) is continually injecting the poisons of deracination into the surrounding culture, even as she herself imbibes those poisons from the surrounding culture.2 And as it is precisely her job to be 'au fait with the latest trends' and even (which is not particularly difficult once one gets the 'feel' of a particular aspect of deracinated culture) to anticipate them, she becomes a part of the organic process, helping the disease to develop, step by step, into ever deeper levels of deracination, atomisation and deformism.

Jennifer Gay, children's television announcer
"Charming, well-spoken schoolgirl announcers". Click picture to see film or see a selection of real children's programmes here

If all this should seem a little abstract, let us suggest a very practical experiment. Watch any part of a children's programme from the 1950s, Watch with Mother, say, or one of those programmes that have charming, well-spoken schoolgirl announcers. Now watch any announcer from a current children's television programme which you may have supposed to be 'innocent' -- observe everything, the colour, the style, the sounds, the entire manner. Do you still think it harmless? Compare the psychic health, the order, the serene harmony of the one with the slick neurosis and spiritual impoverishment of the other. Consider how one is (quite unconsciousl) designed to heal and racinate the soul of a child, and the other to disrupt and cheapen it. We have made this demonstration to many people over the years, and not one has failed to perceive the truth of it when confronted by the stark contrast between the two cultures. This exercise alone is sufficient to make clear in the very depths of one's being the meaning and reality of psychic poisoning.

And in general, as soon as we begin to look at the things of the pre-Eclipse period not through the inverted commas of 'belonging to the past' which the post-Eclipse world uses to neutralise their effect; as soon as we realise that they represent a norm and a standard against which the post-Eclipse world can be judged, the insanity and disease of the post-Eclipse world becomes so glaringly apparent as to be the most obvious -- and indeed, the only really significant -- thing about it.

*

We wish to make it clear that this is not in any sense an attack upon the technical or medical advances of the post-Eclipse period. This mistake is easily made by those who have only a superficial understanding of the Essentialist criticism of the modern world.

On the contrary, the technical advances of the Tamasic period belong essentially to the Rajasic period. That is to say, they are products of the momentum built up over the three centuries and more of Normal civilisation. Small, powerful computers and all the other advances of recent years would have happened whether or not the Eclipse had taken place. There is nothing in them that belongs to the cultural degeneracy of the period in which, by an historical accident, they have emerged. Nothing, that is, except their outward casing -- the language of design with which they are surrounded: and this has nothing whatever to do with their inherent nature.

If microchip technics had been developed a little after the First World War, we should now be able to find computers from the 1920s and '30s in beautiful Art-Neo designs, as lovely as those of the wireless sets of the same period.

It is clear, then, that the technics themselves are essentially Rajasic, and, indeed, are possibly the only area in which the Rajasic current of the Normal world continues into the Tamasic post-Eclipse period. Thus, not only is Essentialist criticism of the Tamasic culture not an attack on the technics which have come about during that period, but, conversely, the apologists for the Tamasic society cannot claim those technics as its saving virtue, as they so often try to do. For when challenged to find something worthwhile about the post-Eclipse period, most people will cite some technical or medical advance, since very few people genuinely find its culture acceptable.

But we must go further and say that the very existence, success and continued progress of the technical arts is really no more than a residue from the Rajasic period. The work involved is based upon a discipline of thought and action that is scarcely to be found in other areas of post-Eclipse society, and it is perhaps for this very reason that dominance in technical matters is gradually passing to the Far East where less atomised and more racinated forms of social order still partially survive.

Technical advance, far from being something that belongs to the Tamasic world, is a legacy from the Rajasic world; and one which will eventually become exhausted if no return to a more normal form of society takes place.