The Eternal Library

TRC contributor, Christoper Weller

[This essay is lovingly dedicated to Carl Sagan.  Also, see Editor’s note at the bottom.]
“Present global culture is a kind of arrogant newcomer.  It arrives on the stage following four and a half billion years of other acts, and after looking about for a few thousand years declares itself in possession of eternal truths.  But in a world that is changing as fast as ours, this is a prescription for disaster.”

“No nation, no religion, no economic system, no body of knowledge, is likely to have all the answers for our survival.  There must be many social systems that would work far better than any now in existence…our task is to find them.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos
Forty thousand generations of the human species have existed up to this point.  There have been many peoples that have risen and fallen. So much of our history has been lost along the way.  We are unable to recount the countless cultures who may have existed.  Our earliest histories were mouthed from generation to generation, an oral tradition that only survives as long as the story-telling culture does.  Paradoxically, the very culture that has culminated into the one which is on the verge of destroying us all, the culture of civilization, is the same culture that birthed the written word. Similarly paradoxical, the rise of our scientific and philosophical understandings of every characteristic of the world, the universe, and our minds began during the rise of human civilizations. Our technological advancements, an integral part of this evolution, have brought us miraculous advantages, yet simultaneously responsible for our pending self-destruction.
The culture of civilization from its beginning has taught us that our advances in knowledge and technology, as well as their unintended consequences, are what comes along with what it calls “progress.”  It is no wonder then, that the majority of us in modern, industrial civilization have built upon our psyche a well-reinforced sense of pride.  It is no wonder we have so easily adhered to the belief that we can, and will eventually accomplish all things.  “It’s just a matter of time.”  It is no wonder we are filled with a great arrogance about ourselves and our place on this planet.
It is what our belief in the right of dominion over all things has created — a belief that has only become reinforced by our advances in knowledge.  We have built up a “Library of Humanity,” but it only sits atop infertile ground, it sits atop the ashes of a history of failed culture — It is the failure of the culture of civilization.  It is no wonder that things have gotten to the point that they are today.  For, with all of our acquired knowledge we seemed to have gained no wisdom, no compassion, and have lost the connection to what is infinite and eternal in the Cosmos.
It is no wonder then, with the great tragedy of the history of human knowledge so plain to see, of its seemingly endless ascent and decline as it continues to adhere to the culture of civilization, that we believe it can only continue — that we will once again fail and lose everything, and upon the ashes attempt to build this Library of Humanity anew.
But what of us in the Transition Culture?  What about us, who have made it to the realization of how the world really works, and are fully aware of where it is headed?  And, in addition, why is it that there are so few who have been able to achieve our sense of existence and understanding?
Many of us have seemingly two polar positions when it comes to the collapse of industrial civilization.  We believe that the current global paradigm, and the evolution of human progress will continue along, devolving into a state of dystopia, with the majority of the human race in absolute slavery to a well — entrenched minority, until there remains nothing left to consume but ourselves. Or, we will end up in a seemingly post-apocalyptic wasteland, devoid of community, compassion, and a life of meaning, and possibly devoid of life altogether.  Either way, we believe we will eventually lose everything we have gained. But, when we realize we must abandon the culture of civilization to survive, must we likewise abandon the knowledge we have gained from it as well?
When most of us had awakened to the knowledge of the impending doom of the collapse of industrial civilization, we experienced a level of pain, fear, and dread that we had never experienced in our lives.  Many of us scrambled to find some way to prepare.  It felt as though the world became more dangerous than it had already been.  What seemed to have overwhelming effects on our lives was the thought of losing all that we knew to be safe and secure in our lives.  We wondered: Could it come to a point where we would lose everything?  Would we lose all that we had found to be sacred in the culture of civilization?  Would we lose all that we had gained?  Would we lose the very advancements in human thought, knowledge, and science along with the collapse?  Would there be a new dark age, where the human race would have to crawl out of the quagmire of desolation and misery once again?
Some have claimed that the fall of the Greco-Roman era, signaled by the fall of Rome and the rise of the Holy Roman Empire as being the dawn of what has been hailed as The Dark Ages.  The most significant event in this great paradigm shift that symbolized the collapse of the old order was the destruction of the great Library of Alexandria in the port city of Alexandria, Egypt, a center for culture of the ancient world for seven hundred years.
The Library inspired much of what we have grown to believe is common sense.  What we know of medicine began there with the likes of Alexandria thinkers such as Galen.  What we know of mathematics and geometry began with the likes of Euclid studying at the Library.  What we know of astronomy came from studies at the Library by Hipparchus, Eratosthenes, and Aristarchus.  The foundations of drama came from Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides, who wrote their tragedies in the Library.  It was a place where all human knowledge, from all cultures were welcome — from Arabia, Syria, the Hebrews, Persians, Italians, Gauls, and so on.
It is believed it held hundreds of thousands of texts, ranging from history, philosophy, drama, science, to some of the first writings of both the New and Old Testaments.  Scholars would come there from all over the ancient world to study, exchange knowledge, share ideas, and test their theories.  Ships would arrive at its grand port on the Mediterranean carrying elements of the cultures from which they had come, and the inhabitants of the Library would eagerly trade goods and supplies with the mariners for any samples of knowledge they had brought with them from afar.  They’d copy down the knowledge upon their papyrus scrolls, and thankfully return the precious documents back to the seafarers before they left port.
They had built nothing other than a true, complete “Library of Humanity.”  A place where knowledge became sacred.  As infinite as their gods, their pursuit of knowledge had no limit.  The dream of a human civilization built upon science and reason was coming to existence upon the Earth for the first time.  Nonetheless, their ambitions to create a center for human knowledge had but one major flaw. Equal to their advancements in knowledge was their arrogance.  They had locked out much of the cultures around them by not making an effort to bring their discoveries to the vast majority of the population of the ancient world.  The vast majority of those in their society were not only shut out from the rights to study there, mostly because of social class or status, especially those who inhabited the lands around the Library, but were mostly illiterate, and had not the ability, and hence the interest, to indulge in or even understand the blessings of the epistemological achievements that were developing inside the walls of the Library complex.
However, the paradigm had begun to shift.  The dominant culture which had controlled this civilization for centuries had begun to collapse, opening the void for a new dominant culture with very little sympathy for the old.  The Greco-Roman world was collapsing, and the new paradigm of the Holy Church of Rome was to take over the reigns of civilization.  The Library soon became a target of Church dogma, and a growing animosity began to develop rapidly around the city.  The Library became to be recognized as not only a symbol of the old order that Christianity had suffered under for so long, but it also came to be believed as a center of paganism and, most especially, a symbol of sin against the edicts of the Church.
Cyril, the bishop of Alexandria, began a fear campaign amongst his devoted followers that inhabited the city. And upon the decree by Holy Roman Emperor Theodosius I, in 391 C.E., paganism was declared unlawful, giving the bishop an open door to instigate a mob to attack and overrun the Library complex and its surrounding temples.  And, what had allowed for such animosity to be so easily gathered against the inhabitants of the Library was, ironically, their extreme arrogance which blinded them into believing they could not be harmed atop their “ivory tower,” especially by those who they saw as uncultured, illiterate heathens.
With backing from the hierarchy of the Church and the Emperor, nothing could stop them, and his followers and parishioners destroyed what was left of the Library, and burned whatever documents they could get their hands on, deeming them evil, sinful representations of the fallen, pagan Empire of Rome.  The Library was set ablaze, and what remained of the complex was turned into stables for animals.
Through this example of what can happen during the collapse of an empire, collapse of a culture that extended to half the world at the time, we can imagine the pain of the loss for those that had survived, and had gained so much, and knew how much was being lost forever.  It took centuries for humanity to regain the loss of human knowledge that was destroyed there — to rediscover what had already been known centuries before in Alexandria.  It was not until over a thousand years later, with the Renaissance, that the dreamed Library of Humanity was beginning to be built again.  It is no wonder so many of us in the Transition Culture have the belief, the dreaded fear of losing the whole of human knowledge as the Collapse becomes complete.  What we must contemplate in the Transition is why this had failed humanity?  As with other failed civilizations, why is it that much of what is gained is just as equally lost?
The answer becomes clear.  It is because of what drives the culture of civilization, then and now.  It is because it influences and instigates a sense of separation from the world into every human endeavor.  It creates an arrogance in all human pursuits, which includes the pursuit of knowledge and truth.  It corrupts our passion for knowledge by subsuming it with the belief that by achieving greater understanding of the universe we are somehow elevated above Nature herself.
We discover the mechanism of the stars and planets, but we don’t recognize them as part of ourselves. We understand the workings of our bodies and minds as no other culture has before, but we have ignored what true health really means — we ignore that our entire anatomy is a product of the Earth from which we sprang, and that as it is destroyed for greed, power, and pride of dominion, so do we destroy ourselves.  We can entertain the human mind faster, with more potency, and reach the entire globe in an instant with our works of drama, literature, and the arts, but we have forgotten the soul, we have forgotten what art really is for — to reflect upon the experiences of our time, whether it be progress or decay, happiness or tragedy, praise or judgement.  When our advancement in knowledge has no harmony or foundation with the natural world, when we have forgotten our heritage upon the Earth, when we have lost our connection to the infinite and the eternal nature of the universe, our knowledge will always be vulnerable to being lost forever.
Today, because of the culture of civilization, we are not only about to lose what we have gained since the Renaissance and the subsequent Age of Reason that followed, but also we are losing an even greater wisdom from the indigenous cultures of the world, slowly being pushed out of existence by the dominant culture — knowledge that had survived, and thrived, much longer than any other, only to be forgotten, many times intentionally, by the rise of the current culture at the reigns of civilization.
But what we are losing as dominant culture erases these ancient, indigenous societies out of existence, is the true Library of Humanity we have been seeking — that which we seem to have been pushed by the forces of Nature to find, the ultimate collection of knowledge.  Nature is telling us its secrets, all of its knowledge.  It is telling us to let go of the culture of civilization, and we will find the knowledge we seek.  Instead, we continue to ignore her.
We must not be the ones desecrating this true, eternal Library, burning its books, destroying our memories, our passions, our ideas, and our dreams, extinguishing them forever.  To do so, is to continue erasing the chance of learning the very wisdom of true existence and a life of meaning on this planet.  It is the wisdom and knowledge necessary to live in harmony, in absolute synchronicity with our Mother Earth.  Without taking this wisdom and knowledge with us through the Transition, we will never be given the opportunity, and the right to begin to fully understand the great clockwork of the universe, and for us there will be no time left.
As the rise of our knowledge expands the entirety of the human race, across the globe, and as long as it is held captive, just as we are, to the culture of civilization, it will continue to rise and fall, ascend and descend, be rebuilt and collapse, until all that is left of life on this planet is destroyed — all will be lost until our pursuit of knowledge lets go of the false sense of pride, the arrogance, and the belief in dominion.  We must come down from our ivory towers and be part of the Earth again.
What must occur this time, the final time, during this final paradigm shift, is for the knowledge and truth found through the beaten path of civilization and the sacred treasure of the indigenous knowledge, that which is found by listening to Nature, to both be taken with us through the Transition — for they are both part of our past and must be part of our future.  Only through a union of the ancient with the new can we begin to finally mature as an intelligent species on this planet.  Only through such an alliance can we conquer the fear, the pain, and the loss of what the pending collapse will surely produce.  If such a merger were to occur, they will enhance each other.  They will immortalize each other — one teaching us how to survive, how to exist on this planet, to be one with it, and the other teaching us how to understand it, to further develop the human mind, and give us a seat in the college of intelligent beings in the Cosmos.


“Those afraid of the universe as it really is, those who pretend to nonexistent knowledge and envision a Cosmos centered on human beings will prefer the fleeting comforts of superstition.  They avoid rather than confront the world.  But those with the courage to explore the weave and structure of the Cosmos, even where it differs profoundly from their wishes and prejudices, will penetrate its deepest mysteries.”

Carl Sagan, Cosmos


With all the lies, trickery, and false promises of the decaying, culture of civilization, they are like a dying superstition about to be revealed as a grand cult of fear, scaring the world, abusing the world into submission, completely out of sync with the mechanism of the Cosmos.  It has held not only our minds, our bodies, and our souls as captive slaves to its dominion, but it has held captive the breadth of all human knowledge.  It has separated our science from our spirituality.  It has kept separate our love from our planet and from each other.  It has kept separate the alliance between human knowledge and human existence.  For to divide is to conquer.  But to pass through the Transition, we must let it conquer our lives no more.
Do we really have any thing to fear about losing the collection of human knowledge as we pass through the transition?  Will it really be lost forever?  Will a doctor all of a sudden lose her ability to treat a sick, dying patient when the money system collapses?  Will our pharmaceutical scientists suddenly lose the ability to design medicines when the stocks of their companies are finally reduced to nothing?  Will our astronomers abruptly lose their understanding of the vast magnitude of the Cosmos, of space & time when their funding runs dry?  Will our teachers lose their passion for educating the young when our governments fall?  Will our soldiers lose their courage and heroism when the wars of conquest & acquisition become obsolete?  Will our artists and dramatists lose their ability to interpret and express the state of the world, to inspire, and to entertain, once the entertainment industry goes bankrupt?  Will writers and essayists lose their ability to create great works of literature and satire?  Certainly not.  We will only be losing what has tainted it, what has corrupted it, and what has poisoned it.
Part of what it means to accept what is happening to the world and coming to welcome the Transition joyously is that we recognized that we have the opportunity to shed the elements of the dying culture that has plagued us for so long, once and for all.  But this doesn’t necessarily have to mean losing everything.  We will be astounded by what will come about in the world when it reaches the end of that which has corrupted and infected our society for millennia, when they are washed clean from humanity.
Advancements in science, philosophy, logic, literature, and the arts will no longer be valued through the marketplace.  They will no longer be driven by the greed and corruption of the sick, dying culture. These disciplines will be enhanced as they have never been before.  Like the chains of Prometheus upon Mount Olympus, they will be broken and we will be set free to explore the true limits of human knowledge and our minds, when we have no longer strained the limits of our planet, our communities, our emotions, and our souls by the destructive culture of civilization.  The totality of our human knowledge will no longer be attached to the fantasy of “growth” at all costs, but be a part of the development of the human mind, body, & soul — to the development of the world entire.
It will merge with the Great Remembering.  It will become the moment upon which we have finally matured.  Development will become wisdom as it should be.  The entire culture of Transition will lead to a point where the entire Library of Humanity will include us all and it will exist in every corner of the Earth.  For the Library had always existed in the hearts and minds of humanity, and its pages and scrolls existed all around us, written in the sky, water, land, air, and life of this planet, safely preserved in Nature, to be uncovered, rediscovered, and understood for eternity.
For human knowledge came from Nature and can be understood through Nature, because we are part of Nature.  And, only if we are a part of it can we learn from it.  Once the plague of the culture of civilization has been lifted from the pursuit of knowledge and truth, it will settle amongst all of the sources of wisdom in the world.  It is like that of the Phoenix.  It can be burnt, but through the fire of Collapse can be, once again, reborn anew.  Just as life can return to this planet if it is beaten down from the wrath of civilization, so too can the knowledge be gained from it.  It is like evolution itself. Once the species has shed its line of descent with that which limits its survival, its development on the planet, the species can then thrive.  What is lost is forgotten, and what is gained is embraced — it has become truly free to exist, free of its chains, once and for all.  Knowledge & truth are never lost, but are infinite.  The true Library of Humanity will finally be discovered.  It is the Eternal Library.
EDITOR’S NOTE:  When Christopher and I were discussing ideas for the next essay, I was promoting Banned Books Week — so when he mentioned this particular subject matter, I felt it was beautifully timed.  I would like to dedicate this post to my fellow Indiana native, Kurt Vonnegut, a man who understood disgust with civilization, not to mention savvy to peak oil, and also to Ray Bradbury, whose particular work, Fahrenheit 451 inspired me to share important works of unconventional literature throughout my life.  We can tell him We’re Remembering.
Christopher was interviewed on Michael Ruppert’s Lifeboat Hour radio program, Sunday, 9/30/12. We hope you’ll give the archived show a listen.  Many thanks to Mike. ~ Gabrielle