Aesthetics for a New Age
The Source of Value in General and of Aesthetic Value in Particular in theLight of the “Perennial Philosophy of History”
One would say that there is something like a Gresham’s law
of culturalevolution, according to which excessively simplistic ideas always replace the moreelaborate ones, and the vulgar and obnoxious always replaces the beautiful. And yetthe beautiful persists.Gregory Bateson
In the second essay of my book
I elaboratedupon that which I have called the “Perennial Philosophy of History”—a view of human evolution as a process of progressive corruption of the perfect, spontaneousprimordial order that the Bible called Eden, that the Indians called
(“Ageof Truth”) or
(“Age of Perfection”), that the Stoics and other Greco-Roman systems and individuals called “Golden Age,” and that Taoist sages in Chinaconstantly referred to by different terms. In the third and last of the essays in thebook in question, on the basis of the philosophy of history I had presented in thesecond essay, I developed the theory of the nature, genesis and development of valueat the root of the present paper. Although, in many senses, this theory returns to themost ancient doctrines known, I am convinced that it responds to the needs of thisgreat dusk of history and of humankind, and that this flight of Athena’s owl mightperhaps show us some of the most appropriate ways to follow in order to remedy theextremely grave crisis that we face on the ecological, social and individual levels.According to Mahayana Buddhist doctrine, plenitude, happiness and aconsummate dealing with practical matters are made impossible by the basicdelusion that the Buddha called
and the Heraclitus referred to as
, whichresults from the “delusorily valued conceptualization”
of the fragmentary contentsof consciousness.
We could say that the most immediate effect of this lack of systemic wisdom is the illusion of being an inherently separate entity with a private,particular consciousness and intelligence separate and independent from the Logos of which, in truth, every consciousness and every intellect are functions. As stated byHeraclitus:
Although the Lógos is common (to all, being universal rather than personal),most people live as though they had a separate (psyche or) intelligence (of their own).
According to the cyclic theory of human evolution and history at the root of this paper, the delusion to which Heraclitus refers and the lack of systemic wisdom at3