Every culture (or anyway every major urban/agricultural culture) cherishes two myths which apparently contradict each other: the myth of Degeneration & the myth of Progress. Rene Guenon & the neo-traditionalists like to pretend that no ancient culture ever believed in Progress, but of course they all did.
One version of the myth of Degeneration in Indo-European culture centers around the image of metals: gold, silver, bronze, iron. But what of the myth wherein Kronos & the Titans are destroyed to make way for Zeus & the Olympians?—a story which parallels that of Tiamat & Marduk, or Leviathan & Jah. In these “Progress” myths, an earlier chthonic chaotic earthbound (or watery) “feminine” pantheon is replaced (overthrown) by a later spiritualized orderly heavenly “male” pantheon. Is this not a step forward in Time? And have not Buddhism, Christianity, & Islam all claimed to be better than paganism?
In truth of course both myths—Degeneration as well as Progress—serve the purpose of Control & the Society of Control. Both admit that before the present state of affairs something else existed, a different form of the Social. In both cases we appear to be seeing a “race-memory” vision of the Paleolithic, the great long unchanging pre-history of the human. In one case that era is seen as a nastily brutish vast disorder; the 18th century did not discover this viewpoint, but found it already expressed in Classical & Christian culture. In the other case, the primordial is viewed as precious, innocent, happier, & easier than the present, more numinous than the present—but irrevocably vanished, impossible to recover except through death.
Thus for all loyal & enthusiastic devotees of Order, Order presents itself as immeasurably more perfect than any original Chaos; while for the disaffected potential enemies of Order, Order presents itself as cruel & oppressive (“iron”) but utterly & fatally unavoidable—in fact, omnipotent.
In neither case will the mythopoets of Order admit that “Chaos” or “the Golden Age” could still exist in the present, or that they do exist in the present, here & now in fact—but repressed by the illusory totality of the Society of Order. We however believe that “the paleolithic” (which is neither more nor less a myth than “chaos” or “golden age”) does exist even now as a kind of unconscious within the social. We also believe that as the Industrial Age comes to an end, & with it the last of the Neolithic “agricultural revolution,” & with it the decay of the last religions of Order, that this “repressed material” will once again be uncovered. What else could we mean when we speak of “psychic nomadism” or “the disappearance of the Social”?
The end of the Modern does not mean a return TO the Paleolithic, but a return OF the Paleolithic.
Post-classical (or post-academic) anthropology has prepared us for this return of the repressed, for only very recently have we come to understand & sympathize with hunter/gatherer societies. The caves of Lascaux were rediscovered precisely when they needed to be rediscovered, for no ancient Roman nor medieval Christian nor 18th century rationalist could have ever have found them beautiful or significant. In these caves (symbols of an archaeology of consciousness) we found the artists who created them; we discovered them as ancestors, & also as ourselves, alive & present.
Paul Goodman once defined anarchism as “neolithic conservatism.” Witty, but no longer accurate. Anarchism (or Ontological Anarchism, at least) no longer sympathizes with peasant agriculturalists, but with the non-authoritarian social structures & pre-surplus-value economics of the hunter/gatherers. Moreover we cannot describe this sympathy as “conservative.” A better term would be “radical,” since we have found our roots in the Old Stone Age, a kind of eternal present. We do not wish to return to a material technology of the past (we have no desire to bomb ourselves back to the Stone Age), but rather for the return of a psychic technology which we forgot we possessed.
The fact that we find Lascaux beautiful means that Babylon has at last begun to fall. Anarchism is probably more a symptom than a cause of this melting away. Despite our utopian imaginations we do not know what to expect. But we, at least, are prepared for the drift into the unknown. For us it is an adventure, not the End of the World. We have welcomed the return of Chaos, for along with the danger comes—at last—a chance to create.