But this slowly decadent Hellenic world, which, after having been subjected to Christianity was only to be reborn to detach itself more and more from ‘Europe’ without being able or willing, even today, to integrate with it, is characterised by the boom in experimental sciences and their applications.
The thirst to study the phenomena of Nature and to discover its laws (that satisfy reason and is becoming more widespread as the traditional science of the priests of Greece and Egypt, fruit from a direct intellectual intuition of the very principle of these laws) becomes rarer there. And above all, there was a growing determination, as there was later during the Renaissance and even more so in the 19th and 20th centuries, to use these physical laws to construct devices of practical use—such as the endless screw, the inclined screw and forty other machines whose invention is attributed to Archimedes such as the ‘burning mirrors’, enormous magnifying glasses using which this same man of genius set fire to the Roman ships that blocked Syracuse, or the ‘compression fountains’, or robots, of Heron.
Anatomy, physiology and the medical art which is based on both are, and this too is to be noted, in the spotlight. If it is true that in the 17th century Aselli and Harvey were already foreshadowing Claude Bernard, it is no less true that at the end of the 4th century B.C., two thousand years earlier, Erasistratos and Herophilus were foreshadowing not only Aselli and Harvey but also the famous physiologists, physicians and surgeons of the 19th and 20th century.
Of course, there is a long way to go from Herophilus’ automata to modern computers, just as there is a long way to go from Herophilus’ dissections and, four hundred years later, Galen’s dissections, however horrific they may have been, to the atrocities of organ or head transplanters, or even to those of cancer specialists, carried out today in the name of scientific curiosity and ‘in the interest of mankind’.
There is a long way to go in terms of results, from the embryonic technique of the Hellenistic world, and later the Roman world, to that which we see developing in all areas around us, and even to that of the 16th century. But it is no less true that in these two periods when a form of traditional religion relaxed before being definitively cut off from its esoteric base, there was a resurgence of interest in the experimental sciences and their applications, a reawakening of man’s desire to dominate the forces of Nature and living beings of other species than his own, with a view to the profit or convenience of as many people as possible.
This is not yet the excessive mechanisation and mass production that the 19th century would inaugurate in Europe and that the 20th intensified with all the consequences that we know. But it was already the spirit of the scientists whose work had, in one way or another, prepared this evolution: the spirit of experimental research to apply the information gained to the material comfort of man, to the simplification of his work and the prolongation of his physical life, that is to say, to the fight against natural selection.
The machine enables the individual or the group to succeed without innate strength or special ability, and the drug or the surgical operation prevents even the most useless and uninteresting patient from leaving the planet and giving up his place to the healthy man, more valuable than he.
It is difficult not to be impressed by the ever-increasing importance, both in the last centuries of the ancient world, in the early modern period, and in our own time, of experimentation on living beings to gain more complete information about the structure and functions of bodies and apply it to the art of healing—or trying to heal at any cost. These are times when, as today, the physician, the surgeon and the biologist are honoured as great men and when vivisection—older, of course, since as early as the sixth century B.C. Alcmaeon is said to have dissected animals, but increasingly encouraged thanks to unrestricted anthropocentrism—is regarded as a legitimate method of scientific research.
There are, therefore, precedents. And we would no doubt find others, corresponding to other collective declines, if the history of the world were better and more uniformly known. But it seems that the further back in time we go, the less certain traits that bring the most sophisticated ancient civilisations closer to today’s mechanised world are evident. I am thinking, for example, of those very old metropolises of the so-called Indus Valley civilisation, Harappa and Mohenjodaro, where archaeologists have attested to the existence of seven- or eight-storey buildings, and pointed to the enormous mass production of earthenware vessels and other objects, all of them perfectly made but all hopelessly similar. How can we not be struck by this uniformity in quantity and imagine, in the workshops from which these mass-produced objects emerged, on the assembly line, a robotization of the worker that already, five or six thousand years later, prefigured that of the ‘human material’ of our factories?
And how can we fail to see in the successive Aryan invasions which, from the 4th millennium before the Christian era if not earlier, that came up against this ultra-organised world—mechanised, as far as it was possible at the time—and destroyed it (while assimilating, certainly, the best that its elite could offer). How can we fail to see in them the blessed instruments of a recovery?
How can we fail to see in their work the installation of the Vedic civilisation in India: a halt, at least momentarily, in the downward march of the Vedic civilisation?: a halt in the downward march that the course of our Cycle represents, especially in the Dark Age, then close to its beginning: an attempt to fight ‘against Time’ undertaken by the Aryas under the impulse of the Forces of Life as were to be undertaken, centuries later, still driven by these same Forces by invaders of the same race, the Hellenes and Latins at the decline of the Aegean and Italic cultures, technically too advanced; the Romans, at the decline of the Hellenistic world, the Germans, at the decline of the Roman world?
But the hold of mechanisation on the civilisation of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro—modest mechanisation, moreover, since it was still only a matter of mass production of crafts—was to be less fatal than that which the Mediterranean and then the Western world underwent, respectively in the time of Archimedes, then Heron and the ergastulas of Carthage, Alexandria, then Rome, and in the 18th century and especially the 19th and nowadays. The world of the Indus Valley still had, even in its decline, something else to give to its successors than recipes for production. It is said that they learned at least some forms of Yoga. In the same way, the Hellenistic and later the Greco-Roman world even in its most advanced decadence retained, if only in the Neo-Pythagoreans and Neo-Platonists, something of the essence of ancient esotericism. This was, along with what was eternal in the teaching of Aristotle, assimilated into esoteric Christianity, survived in Byzantium and gave rise there, as well as in the West throughout the Middle Ages, to the flowering of beauty that we know: beauty is the visible radiation of Truth.
But of the treasures of the Middle Ages—of all that it had preserved of the eternal Indo-European Tradition, despite its rejection of the forms that this had taken in Germania and in the whole of the north of the continent, as in Gaul before the appearance of Christianity—the narrowly ‘scientific’ spirit of the Renaissance, and above all of the centuries that followed, wanted, or was able, to retain nothing. If we are to believe René Guénon and a few other well-informed authors, these treasures would have been put beyond the reach of the West as early as the 14th century, or at the very least the 15th, as soon as the last direct heirs of the secret teachings of the Order of the Temple disappeared.
The interest of so many 19th-century writers in the Middle Ages remains, like the 16th-century infatuation with classical antiquity and Greco-Roman mythology, attached to the most picturesque and superficial aspects of that past. The proof is that, for them, it goes hand in hand with the most naive belief in ‘progress’ and the excellence of generalised literacy as the surest way to hasten it (we may recall the pages of Victor Hugo on this subject). The link with immemorial Indo-European wisdom, and even with the little that Christianity has managed to assimilate from it after having destroyed—by snatch or by violence, from the Mediterranean to the North Sea and the Baltic—all the exoteric expressions, is indeed cut.
And it is in the place of this ancient wisdom that the West is seeing a true religion of the laboratory and the factory take shape and spread and flourish: a stubborn faith in the indefinite progress of man’s power, and I repeat, of any ‘man’, ensured by the ‘enslavement’ of the forces of Nature, that is to say, their use in parallel with the indefinitely increased knowledge of its secrets. It is in its place that he sees it imposing itself, and no longer alongside it, as in India or Japan and wherever peoples of ‘traditional’ civilisation have, reluctantly, and while clinging to their souls, accepted modern techniques.
This leads to the ‘conquest of the atom’ and the ‘conquest of space’ (so far, of the tiny space between our Earth and the Moon; less than half a million of our poor kilometres). But we are not discouraged. Soon, say our scientists, it will be the entire solar system that will fall within the ‘domain of man’. The solar system and then, for why stop?, ever-larger portions of the physical Beyond ‘without bottom or edge’. This also leads—at the cost of what horrors of experimentation on a world scale!—to the Luciferian dream of the indefinite prolongation of corporeal life with, already, the terrible practical consequence of the efforts made so far to reach it: the unrestrained pullulation of man, and more particularly of the lower man at the expense of the noblest flora and fauna of the earth and of the human racial elite itself.