Tuesday, June 10, 2014

post- America

Far in the distance, canons were heard, shots that rumbled and boomed. The low slung clutter of buildings that was Batavia, which was to become the city of Djakarta in what is now Indonesia, soldiers were dispatched to look for the source of the fighting, their uniforms clinging in the humidity. It was not quite war, unbeknownst to the administration and others, Napoleon had escaped from Elba, and was making his way to Paris, but two decades of war had left too many marks, indeed Batavia was under British administration even though it was formally owned by the Dutch. But no fighting was found. It is the evening of April 5th, 1815, and across the sprawling archipelago that forms the barrier between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, thunder and detonation sounds are heard, on Borneo, on Sulawesi, on Bali.

It was the sound of a new world being born, in the explosive depths of a volcanic eruption. It is the begining of the way we now structure time, into pre- and post- and neo-, where an era is defined by what it is after, and what it is before, where moments are so powerful that everyone after must pay a rent in mind and society to them. However unreal that may be.

The sun had turned from one phase to another, and the earth with it. The world we understand as "the 19th century" was being created in a caldron of fire. This even would mark culture, politics, and language, including the creation of an idea that haunts us today: of a "post" world. This essay is on the creation of Post-America, and what that means for the future. But to understand the idea, it will be necessary to go farther back into the past, into the earliest moments of the creation of humanity, through the birth of revolution, and past markers of events and moments which are an analog to our own. 

On the morning of the 6th however, Sir Thomas Raffles, noted that all doubt as to the source were erased, and that the sounds seemed "close at hand." In reality, there were over a thousand kilometers away. The sun was obscured, "as if enveloped by fog." The explosions shook houses, and on the 12th, in the afternoon, the ash was so think as to limit visibility to 300 yards. He would later collect letters that described the torrent of ashes that darkened the daylight. He quotes one from Sumanap, that explosions shook like a cannonade on the 10th – a description echoed by others in other places – and reported people using candles in the afternoon of the 11th.

Those who had passed closer were able to identify the source: "Tomboro Mountain", which seemed to be on fire, and creating a vast pillar of ash and pumice. Nothing like it was remembered, nor recounted in tradition. Raffles noted in his memoir that it seemed the largest such eruption in history – and science concurs with him. A huge cloud of ash and pumice, darkened the sky and left inches of ash behind it, with some areas not seeing the sun again until the 15th of April.

Nearer the explosion, whole islands were ripped of all vegetation and human inhabitation, pumice and ash was feet thick and even the monsoon rains were not able to wash it away. The rains had obscured the sound in some directions, but as far as 970 miles away the distinct "cannonade" explosion, which marked ripping apart of the mountain, had been heard. An eyewitness, the Rajah of Saugar told a cruiser captain that on the 10th of April, at 7pm, three columns of flame had burst forth. In an hour the mountain was obscured, and shortly after that rocks, some "as large as two fists, but most the size of walnuts," came pouring from the sky. A tsunamai was reported, "12 feet higher than the sea had ever been seen before" and a wind uprooted trees. In the villages near where the Rajah was, some 12,000 people were missing.

The tall graceful mountain, over 4000m tall, had lost almost 1500m of height, and left behind a caldera miles across. An estimated 130 cubic kilometers of "hard rock equivalent" had been thrown into the atmosphere. There was starvation and death, tens of thousands would die from famine or the direct effects of the eruption.
But Tambora was not done with the world yet.

Beginning when Tabmora started venting in 1812, there are waves of sulpher dioxide found in ice cores around the world: in Greenland, in the Andes, in Antarctica. These layers indicate that the gas was floating in the atmosphere, and creating a wave of cold that sat heavily on regions around the world, two of these, were Western Europe, and the Eastern area of North America, which was where the population of English speaking people was centered. Tambura's co-conspirators were the 1812 eruptions of La Soufriere on St. Vincent, Awu in Indonesia, Suwanosejima on Ryukyu in Japan and Mayon in the Philiplines.

The cold snap from 1812 to 1816 culminated in a disastrous harvest because of the rain and the cold. Snow fell in North Montreal and as far south as Connecticut in July.

The above charts are from the WDC for Paleoclimatology, based on Tree-Ring density. The larger the triangle, the larger the temperature departure from the norm. Blue, of course, represents colder. Cold waves blanketed Western, Northern, and Central Europe. There had been a similar volcanic cold snap in 1782, but it was much smaller. Famine had contributed to the instability of the Ancien Regime, and it now created a new crisis for the restored one. This string of cold years was the worst in decades, and it stretched around the world.

The other co-conspirator was the Sun, which was undergoing what is called the "Dalton Minumum" of Sunspot activity. While the mechanisms that connect sunspots to climate are not well understood, the linkage has been explored in numerous papers. We know that sunspots, while optically dark, represent magnetic fields, and the current theory is that the magnetic force between pairs of sunspots increase the sun's output of energy, and decrease the amount of lightening and rain, thus leading to a warming on earth. The level of sunspot activity began sliding late in the 18th century, and did not start rising again until 1820. The volcanic activity thus flooded Sulfur dioxide and dust into the atmosphere, at the same time the sun was emitting less energy.

Europe, exhausted from the Napoleonic Wars, was in no position to take this sharp drop of output, indeed, looking at the shape and size of the problem, the fall of Napoleon can be seen in a very different light, as economic pressure would have added to military pressure on the over-extended empire. The story of what the restored order would do has filled many volumes, and could fill many more. There was, in Europe, a revival of the Catholic Church's influence in politics, particularly in the Restored monarchy in France. There was continued economic turbulence, as all of the problems that had lead to the upheavals were still in place: industrialization, alone, was the solution to Europe's production problems, but the misery which it created was an intractable political explosive waiting to be set off. France would see restoration in 1814, the hundred days of Napoleon, restoration again, a revolution in 1830 for a constitutional monarchy, a revolution in 1848 for a Second Republic, and then the Second Empire beginning in 1852.

The shock of Tambora and the Dalton Minimum of Sunspots then, was a beginning of a new, and more conservative, era, where the forces of conservative adherence, and the forces of nascent liberal and socialist orders, were in a punctuated balance: revolts spread across the Americas against the Spanish Empire, Belgium split from the Netherlands. At the same time the political power in Europe rested, at least nominally, with a "Conservative Order" that left monarchies in place. Where the Laki eruption from the 1790's had created a small drop, primarily in Europe, this was a world wide volcanic winter. As much of the disruption from Laki was from the ash itself, poisoning crops, and setting of an orgy of inflation. The early 19th century drop set off deflation, in no small part because England was recoining its entire currency, and much of the rest of the world was moving to a trade based system. This system was intended to make food available to those who could pay for it. On this more later.

"I had a dream, which was not all a dream."
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum'd,
And men were gather'd round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smil'd;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and look'd up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twin'd themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.

Darkness, 1-37 George Lord Byron, July 1816

While the eruption of Europe largely did not trouble sleep on that troubled continent, the only Europeans who really cared were those close at hand, the five year long sunspot and sulfur cold snap would send ripples through the culture. It has often been speculated that Frankenstein and the modern Vampire were born of an outing on a Swiss lake. The tale, based on Mary Shelley's own account, and revised somewhat by later investigation goes like this: in 1816 Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin, her boyfriend and later husband Percy Shelley, George Lord Byron, Claire Clairmont, Mathew Lewis and John William Polidori, Byron's physician and aspiring author himself spent time around the Villa . They had expected to spend a great deal of time outdoors, but the weather, and the famine in Switzerland, prevented this. Instead they turned inward – including, it has been speculated, some amount of bed hopping – and spent the rainy days talking, writing, and reading, After reading from a collection of ghost stories, Byron proposes they write their own. Mathew Lewis recounted several, which Percy Shelley set down, Polidori took a fragment from Byron and turned it into Vampyre, and Mary set down what she called the results of a waking dream, as Frankenstien: or Modern Prometheus.  Mary would turn to what we would now call science fiction again with her apocalyptic novel, also drawn from her character sketches of Percy and Byron,

The Last Man.

It was not a grouping that had an auspicious future: Polidori would die, perhaps of suicide, in 1821, aged 26. Lewis would die in 1818 at age 43 of a fever, Percy would die at age 29 in 1822 in as his small boat sank, Byron would die in 1824 campaigning in Greece during the Greek War of Independence at 36. Mary would outlive all of them, and to a great extent is a lens into this formative group of romantics. If anyone needs to know why death haunted the Romantic movement's later phases, reflect on the ages 26, 43, 29, 36. In all likelihood, to quote the famous line, by the time he was your age dear reader, a romantic author had been dead for several years. Travel and illness figure prominently: Percy in a boat, Lewis from a fever after travel, Byron while at war. The young generation in the arts and mathematics had similar swathes cut through them: the co-inventors of group theory Neils Abel at 26 from tuberculosis, Evariste Galois was shot at age 22. The young deaths of several romantic composers, Schubert, Schuman, and Mendelssohn are often noted. The generation before, despite war and disturbance, was not so afflicted: dipping down into the river of accomplished writers and thinkers before, Mozart died tragically early, but comparable figures generally lived longer: Beethoven, Haydn, Poisson, Alexander Pope, William Blake, Goethe, all had longer lives, and many lived past the young romantics die off.

Other movements would flower at the same moment, driven by a very interesting shift in the ideological and intellectual drift of that moment. Mormonism, for example, has the same scientific trappings and tropes, for example the finding of prophecy, that are present in Mary Shelley's The Last Man. It is interesting to contrast Matthew Lewis' most famous novel, the now seldom read or referenced The Monk with the work of the younger novelist. Like Frankenstien, The Monk was an exuberant product of a young mind in a short space of time, but that time was the late 18th century, not the early 19th century. In it, incest and magic are driving factors, and the religiously forbidden is the powerful current which drives the horror. The world of 1796, when Lewis poured out his novel, was on the cusp of changes. It looked back to a hidden and occult knowledge, and saw the Devil as the source of violent instability, where as Shelley, both of them, and Byron, were penning wholly materialistic terrors, even if grounded in religious literature such as Milton's Paradise Lost and biblical verses. 20 years had transfigured the imagination of Europe, and their relationship to their own revealed texts. Even the religious mind had been altered, and in ways that will be looked at shortly in the creation of Pre-Millenarian Dispensationalism.

The European world was going from a pre- to a post- event horizon, and at the same time the imagination was going in the other direction. The occult examination of Faust in Goethe, and in The Monk presumes that knowledge was known once, and is recovered through magic. There was an age, the age had a fall, and that fall left the truth of the workings of the world unknown to this, a less learned age. The secrets were held in the hand of a spirit, that spirit had a name, and that name could be found. Thus the people of pre-Revolutionary imagination, because of course Goethe, Grainville and Lewis had their imaginations formed in pre-Revolutionary times, looked backward even as events were exploding upon them, the imagination of younger Mary Shelley, and George Gordon. The past is not the source of unholy knowledge, but instead, it is the scientific inquiry which produces a "Modern Prometheus."

The apocalyptic imagination was not new, not even to the writers of this particular moment. Swedenborg had spent a long tract dated from 1766, in Latin, analyzing The Apocalypse of Saint John, or the Book of Revelations, and in 1806 an religious apocalyptic work, Le Dernier Homme was published, with a bad translation into English following shortly afterward. Apocalyptic literature flourished in Europe after the Black Death, and is a recurrent theme in cultures going back to the beginnings of writing, and before that, in oral traditions. The end of all is a subject that is close at hand because humanity has suffered repeated die offs, dating back into deep time, as can be seen from our genetic and archeological heritage. Massive famines, great wars, climate change, internal collapse, invasion from outside, are factors which recur in history. Some can be directly attributed to specific events, or to long term changes. Others seem to stand out as being caused by the defects in the societies of the time, which weaken and hasten collapse, others from events which throw populations. To take one example, Song China was not a deeply troubled society, but it was no match for the Mongol invaders, even though it held out for a long time and was conquered only with great difficulty by a dynasty that did not last for long. Fast moving empires, Assyria, Akkadia, Alexander's conquests, the Turks, the Islamic conquests, have destroyed societies which while they were troubled, were not in any sense on the verge of collapse, and were not under pressure from natural forces. The same natural forces which doom an old society often create openings for others.

The previous generation did not see the end of the world, as much as a foreboding of the end of their established order: Malthus' famous essay on population is from 1796, Gibbons began writing Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire in 1773, and the last volumes were brought out in 1788. To understand the difference between, Decline and Fall; Malthus; Swedenborg on one hand, and The Last Man, Darkness  and Mormonism and  on the other.

It is a mistake, given the long history of the Doom genre in Christian art, the thousands of apocalyptic texts in every language, and the continuing fascination of ending, to ascribe creation to a particular moment. However, what can be shown, is that each particular moment inhabits the theme of the apocalyptic with its very present concerns and very present experience. It is possible to construct complex theories relating events to broad outcomes, this is because of our own defects in knowledge. We look for necessary and sufficient, because managing the non-linear world often eludes us
Islands of What was Become

The greater part of the city is built upon a high hill, which rises from an extensive plain, but several of its circles extend for some distance beyond the base of the hill, which is of such a size that the diameter of the city is upward of two miles, so that its circumference becomes about seven. On account of the humped shape of the mountain, however, the diameter of the city is really more than if it were built on a plain.

It is divided into seven rings or huge circles named from the seven planets, and the way from one to the other of these is by four streets and through four gates, that look toward the four points of the compass. Furthermore, it is so built that if the first circle were stormed, it would of necessity entail a double amount of energy to storm the second; still more to storm the third; and in each succeeding case the strength and energy would have to be doubled; so that he who wishes to capture that city must, as it were, storm it seven times. For my own part, however, I think that not even the first wall could be occupied, so thick are the earthworks and so well fortified is it with breastworks, towers, guns, and ditches.

The City of the Sun, Tommaso Campanella, 1625, translated 1901.

We do not think of elites generally as predicating their power on a grand change, why would they? The answer is that newness inspires the belief that oldness can be transfigured. Elites, to stay or rise as elites, must often be in front of the rhetoric of new, in order to show that the new or unknown will not be a revolutionary change, but instead make the perfection of the existing order more obvious. In the Lord of Aratta text, the wealth of an unknown city is used to perfect the real one. This vision from nearly the dawn of written records as narrative, is repeated. A particularly obvious eruption is with the discovery of the new world. Religions and revolutions both are struggling to reach a future state, better and different than this one. Religions seek to prove that without the evils of people who are insufficiently pious, the new will be better than the old, while revolutionaries see the established hierarchy as being the problem. Religions argue, as in the Laments of the Neo-Sumerians, that the lord and the religion that he heads, did not have enough control, and the collapse of order that follows this is the source of evil, while revolutionaries argue almost the exact opposite, that excess of control is the problem.

The term New World dates from the 1550's in English. But English is not the first language to be touched by newmania: the crown of Spain established Neuva España in 1535 for the Vice-Royality of the northern territory claimed or captured in the Americas, and in 1717 Nueva Granada, in 1614 the Dutch declared "Nieuw-Nederland" and in 1620 the English colonists declared "New England" along the Atlantic Coast of North America, the declaration of "Nova Scotia," that is "New Scotland" in 1621, Sweden established " Nya Sverige," or New Sweden along the Delaware river in 1638. This is in contrast with exploration and colonization of Afro-Eurasian lands, where there is a singular lack of "New," as opposed to in the Americas, where new clings to every city, state, and county: New Amstel, New York, New Castle, New London, to name but a few.

In 1621, Lord Chancellor, Sir Francis Bacon, Baron Verulam, Viscount St. Alban, tumbled from political pinnacle in disgrace. He was attainder on 23 counts of corruption, barred from holding public office, and from ever sitting in Parliament again. He would spend the rest of his life as a private citizen, and engaged in philosophy. He had, in 1620, already published Novum Organon, on logic and methods for inquiry, but in 1623 he began writing "The New Atlantis." Bacon, a confirmed believer in New, was about to add to a wave of Utopian fiction.

The original Utopia, by Sir Thomas More written in 1516, only years after the first contact of the Americas by Europeans, meaning "no place" was set on "a new island" in the Atlantic. The New World was then, an impetus for a series of visions about how the old one ought to be reformed. The relationship with religion in all of them is visible: whether it is a simple acceptance of the identity of religion in Bacon, a struggle with religious dogma in Kepler, or the theocratic prophesy of Campanella's 1602 La città del Sole. This work is particularly interesting in looking at Utopianism, in that it prophesizes that the True Faith, led by Spain and the Pope, would conquer and establish a peaceful new world order under a theocratic monarchy.

His vision was closer to the "new" that would become than we would like to think now. Despite his book being buried, it is a better description of the Spanish Empire, with its militant theocracy, than anything from Thomas More's pen. Despite its status as obscure, it is a better description of the vision of a large wing of the Republican Party today, than anything by Sir Francis Bacon. The empires of reason, then, as now, conflict in the human mind, with empires of faith alone.

The theocracy of City of the Sun is as important as the rationalism of The New Atlantis, intellectuals, as much as mercenaries and empires, are at war over the new. Bacon details the parts of his system of inquiry in Salomen's house. It is worth noting that both Campanella and Bacon were disgraced at the time of their writing their books. It is also worth noting that More would eventually be beheaded, that Kepler was in constant tension with the church

By contrast, The New Atlantis begins with a voyage from "Peru" where the narrator has stayed, "for a year." He is not alone in wishing himself to be on a new, but definitely real, place. Johannes Kepler is writing Somnium, which views the Earth from the Moon, not long there afterward Cyrano de Bergerac would write about the states on the Moon.

What the revolutionary authors have in common is a critique of the present state of their world affairs, and the desire to pin that critique, not on an imaginary island, as Atlantis and Utopia are pinned on places which are not known to exist, and are even intentionally so, but on places which do exist, and can be seen. The trope of visiting an unreal place is not new, in fact the Sumerian text referred to above, Aratta, is a fictional place. As are other establishment works. The revolutionaries, by contrast, are set someplace.

The reason for looking at this wave of newness, is precisely because it combines both New and Neo-. The works mentioned here, without exception, all partake of Aristotlean and Platonic models, but they are not Neo- in that they do not locate the good in some past movement or some past moment other than the mythic Eden of the fall itself. It is also important to realize that works that are too doctrinaire are often as likely to be viewed with suspicion as works that are too radical, this is because hierarchies live in the real world, they have to make compromises, and very often shift resources from the great project, whatever that is, to their own personal luxuries. Moralizing philosophers have lectured rulers on excessive luxury for a very long time, and people who are too pure are often as much of a threat as those who are heretical. For any number of examples, see how the Catholic Church has dealt with various movements that emphasize the poverty of Christ.

So why talk about the newness of this period almost without a name? Because it shows an important idea, and that is that a rhetorical framework is useful precisely because it can be turned in either direction: it is a poor sword, that has only one edge.

But it is not just newness that is being created in this epoch, it is time rhetoric as well. And just as with newness, it can be turned in either direction. One might think that pre- comes before post- invariably, as in pre-War and Post War. However, it can follow as easily the other direction, the present moment can be seen as post- a mythic or legendary past, and pre- the return of that past. This is the narrative of religion: it is the narrative of Nibur, and it is found in the 1600's in the landmark epic poem, Paradise Lost by John Milton. Looking at this poem is important not only because it shows how post- can precede pre-, but because Milton directly asserts an idea that underlies his version of the framework, and which will be found in other versions: that of determinism and predestination.

Milton's work is broad and vast, and thus, as a great work, defies any one specific and particular reading. Milton, when he became far more explicit and concise, wrote Paradise Regained which has not been spoken of with the same awe or reverence as the sprawling and imprecise epic. What is interesting for this inquiry is the post/pre narrative that it outlines and how it outlines it. Milton's work is about two revolutions: one by Satan which fails, and another by the Son of God, which will prevail.

Let us start with Satan's revolution, from Book I:
Whereto with speedy words th' Arch-Fiend replied:--
"Fallen Cherub, to be weak is miserable,
Doing or suffering: but of this be sure--
To do aught good never will be our task,
But ever to do ill our sole delight,
As being the contrary to his high will
Whom we resist.  If then his providence
Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,
Our labour must be to pervert that end,
And out of good still to find means of evil;
Which ofttimes may succeed so as perhaps
Shall grieve him, if I fail not, and disturb
His inmost counsels from their destined aim.
But see! the angry Victor hath recalled
His ministers of vengeance and pursuit
Back to the gates of Heaven: the sulphurous hail,
Shot after us in storm, o'erblown hath laid
The fiery surge that from the precipice
Of Heaven received us falling; and the thunder,
Winged with red lightning and impetuous rage,
Perhaps hath spent his shafts, and ceases now
To bellow through the vast and boundless Deep.
Let us not slip th' occasion, whether scorn
Or satiate fury yield it from our Foe.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
The seat of desolation, void of light,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
Casts pale and dreadful? Thither let us tend
From off the tossing of these fiery waves;
There rest, if any rest can harbour there;
And, re-assembling our afflicted powers,
Consult how we may henceforth most offend
Our enemy, our own loss how repair,
How overcome this dire calamity,
What reinforcement we may gain from hope,
If not, what resolution from despair."
 Thus Satan, talking to his nearest mate,
With head uplift above the wave, and eyes
That sparkling blazed; his other parts besides
Prone on the flood, extended long and large,
Lay floating many a rood, in bulk as huge
As whom the fables name of monstrous size,
Titanian or Earth-born, that warred on Jove,
Briareos or Typhon, whom the den
By ancient Tarsus held, or that sea-beast
Leviathan, which God of all his works
Created hugest that swim th' ocean-stream.
Him, haply slumbering on the Norway foam,
The pilot of some small night-foundered skiff,
Deeming some island, oft, as seamen tell,
With fixed anchor in his scaly rind,
Moors by his side under the lee, while night
Invests the sea, and wished morn delays.
So stretched out huge in length the Arch-fiend lay,
Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence
Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will
And high permission of all-ruling Heaven
Left him at large to his own dark designs,
That with reiterated crimes he might
Heap on himself damnation, while he sought
Evil to others, and enraged might see
How all his malice served but to bring forth
Infinite goodness, grace, and mercy, shewn
On Man by him seduced, but on himself
Treble confusion, wrath, and vengeance poured.
 Forthwith upright he rears from off the pool
His mighty stature; on each hand the flames
Driven backward slope their pointing spires, and rolled
In billows, leave i' th' midst a horrid vale.
Then with expanded wings he steers his flight
Aloft, incumbent on the dusky air,
That felt unusual weight; till on dry land
He lights--if it were land that ever burned
With solid, as the lake with liquid fire,
And such appeared in hue as when the force
Of subterranean wind transports a hill
Torn from Pelorus, or the shattered side
Of thundering Etna, whose combustible
And fuelled entrails, thence conceiving fire,
Sublimed with mineral fury, aid the winds,
And leave a singed bottom all involved
With stench and smoke.  Such resting found the sole
Of unblest feet.  Him followed his next mate;
Both glorying to have scaped the Stygian flood
As gods, and by their own recovered strength,
Not by the sufferance of supernal Power.
 "Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,"
Said then the lost Archangel, "this the seat
That we must change for Heaven?--this mournful gloom
For that celestial light? Be it so, since he
Who now is sovereign can dispose and bid
What shall be right: farthest from him is best
Whom reason hath equalled, force hath made supreme
Above his equals.  Farewell, happy fields,
Where joy for ever dwells! Hail, horrors! hail,
Infernal world! and thou, profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor--one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
What matter where, if I be still the same,
And what I should be, all but less than he
Whom thunder hath made greater? Here at least
We shall be free; th' Almighty hath not built
Here for his envy, will not drive us hence:
Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,
To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell:
Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.
But wherefore let we then our faithful friends,
Th' associates and co-partners of our loss,
Lie thus astonished on th' oblivious pool,
And call them not to share with us their part
In this unhappy mansion, or once more
With rallied arms to try what may be yet
Regained in Heaven, or what more lost in Hell?"

There is a great deal here, but it can be summarized: first there is a direct attempt to overthrow the established order by main force. Compare this with the "Overturning" text, and one sees that Satan fails to do as revolutionary what the Gods chose to do as overlords. But having failed, Satan puts forward principles of his new order in Hell. First that their delight will be in opposing the power that has cast them out of Heaven, doing ill not good. Second, that the mind, the inner self, not the environment is determining, and third that to rule is better than to serve. Satan's revolution then is one of opposition, unchanging will, and power.

It is not hard to see Milton's political commentary on his own moment, just as the other texts have their own political commentary. One could be very reductive. While the condemnation of brickwork and praise of feasting of the old cities has a symbolic importance, one could also read it in a more pragmatic way, as a plea to pay for food rather than improvements to the temple. "Bricks? No we don't eat bricks." In Milton's case, clearly, he is post-Civil War in his values and Post-Republican. He accepts directly the need for a hierarchical head, by casing Satan in the role of Oliver Cromwell. While not denying such a historicist interpretation, what is useful here is both his thrust for the Second Revolution, that of the Son of God, and the strategies he uses to argue for it. Other minds would reach a Miltonian moment, and they would make some of the same choices directly, indirectly, and orthogonally.

Satan's revolution, in Milton is both ordained, because all is ordained, and it leaves behind change: Eve and then Adam eat of the tree of knowledge. Importantly, Satan lies to tell the truth to get Eve to do this, and Adam follows because he loves her more than above. This is not inconsequential: Milton is locating human goodness in bonds between people that are above the bonds to abstract cause.

The Second Revolution in Milton is that of the Son of God. That SoG is a conservative is easy to prove, that he is a revolutionary not much more difficult:

First the Son of God as Conservative:
Know then, that, after Lucifer from Heaven
(So call him, brighter once amidst the host
Of Angels, than that star the stars among,)
Fell with his flaming legions through the deep
Into his place, and the great Son returned
Victorious with his Saints, the Omnipotent
Eternal Father from his throne beheld
Their multitude, and to his Son thus spake.
At least our envious Foe hath failed, who thought
All like himself rebellious, by whose aid
This inaccessible high strength, the seat
Of Deity supreme, us dispossessed,
He trusted to have seised, and into fraud
Drew many, whom their place knows here no more:
Yet far the greater part have kept, I see,
Their station; Heaven, yet populous, retains
Number sufficient to possess her realms
Though wide, and this high temple to frequent
With ministeries due, and solemn rites:
But, lest his heart exalt him in the harm
Already done, to have dispeopled Heaven,
My damage fondly deemed, I can repair
That detriment, if such it be to lose
Self-lost; and in a moment will create
Another world, out of one man a race
Of men innumerable, there to dwell,
Not here; till, by degrees of merit raised,
They open to themselves at length the way
Up hither, under long obedience tried;

Crucial to this passage is that the powers that be must respond to Satan's revolution for "dispeopled" heavan, and must create anew a world. Thus Adam is a post-fall character, even before the fall from grace in Eden. Eden, the "New World" a term already well in use by Milton's moment, is "New Heaven." This section is also one of the first uses of the term "race" applied to people in English. Race too, is a relatively new word, entering the language in the late 16th century. It's function here is to set that intrinsic good comes from the creation of God, a theological point well established by the time of Milton.

The conservatism is easy to spot: "Up hither, under long obedience tried;" is not the creed of anything other than a conservative. However, SoG is also a revolutionary:

By doom severe, had not the Son of God,
In whom the fulness dwells of love divine,
His dearest mediation thus renew'd.
Father, thy word is past, Man shall find grace;
And shall grace not find means, that finds her way,
The speediest of thy winged messengers,
To visit all thy creatures, and to all
Comes unprevented, unimplor'd, unsought?
Happy for Man, so coming; he her aid
Can never seek, once dead in sins, and lost;
Atonement for himself, or offering meet,
Indebted and undone, hath none to bring;
Behold me then:  me for him, life for life
I offer: on me let thine anger fall;
Account me Man; I for his sake will leave
Thy bosom, and this glory next to thee
Freely put off, and for him lastly die
Well pleased; on me let Death wreak all his rage.
Under his gloomy power I shall not long
Lie vanquished.  Thou hast given me to possess
Life in myself for ever; by thee I live;
Though now to Death I yield, and am his due,
All that of me can die, yet, that debt paid,
Thou wilt not leave me in the loathsome grave
His prey, nor suffer my unspotted soul
For ever with corruption there to dwell;
But I shall rise victorious, and subdue
My vanquisher, spoiled of his vaunted spoil.
Death his death's wound shall then receive, and stoop
Inglorious, of his mortal sting disarmed;
I through the ample air in triumph high
Shall lead Hell captive maugre Hell, and show
The powers of darkness bound.  Thou, at the sight
Pleased, out of Heaven shalt look down and smile,
While, by thee raised, I ruin all my foes;
Death last, and with his carcase glut the grave;
Then, with the multitude of my redeemed,
Shall enter Heaven, long absent, and return,
Father, to see thy face, wherein no cloud
Of anger shall remain, but peace assured
And reconcilement: wrath shall be no more
Thenceforth, but in thy presence joy entire.

Thus he opposes the full force of the punishment, and proposes a new order, one where he pays the debt of those below him, in the fullness of time that they will raise to the level of heaven. This is a revolution, in favor of individual freedom, whose seed was planted twice by Lucifer: first in the need to create a race of men, and second in the binding of person to person in the following of Eve by Adam. The Son of God limits man to what he should know, places every caveat possible but cannot avoid laying down a stone where there is the end of pure hierarchy.

This then is a post/pre narrative: there was a before, and a fall, then a second creation, and then another fall. The Son of God's action makes no sense except in reference to these falls. The story is Post-Fall. However, the direction of the action is to the future, when there will be a reunification in a new state of Paradise. Pre comes after Post in this narrative.

What joins the two, is predestination, prophecy, and determinism:

The law of God exact he shall fulfil
Both by obedience and by love, though love
Alone fulfil the law; thy punishment
He shall endure, by coming in the flesh
To a reproachful life, and cursed death;
Proclaiming life to all who shall believe
In his redemption; and that his obedience,
Imputed, becomes theirs by faith; his merits
To save them, not their own, though legal, works.
For this he shall live hated, be blasphemed,
Seised on by force, judged, and to death condemned
A shameful and accursed, nailed to the cross
By his own nation; slain for bringing life:
But to the cross he nails thy enemies,
The law that is against thee, and the sins
Of all mankind, with him there crucified,

The future, is written in a post-/pre- narrative. The speakers in the post/pre moment tell the following story: the admit of the fall, and of its ruinous consequences, whether the fall of Man, capital "M" or the fall of Nibru and other cities. However, the offer an explanation: the lack of fidelity to the forces which produce what the Chinese would call the Mandate of Heaven. Focus on physical power, and loss of piety cause the fall, in this narrative. That is the post- then there is the pre-, which says that the piety restored, the favor of the gods or God, return. But to enact this new piety, the sins which led to the first fall must be corrected. The brickwork brought bitter tears.

Thus New and Post/Pre are connected even in the 1600's. A new creation is the response to a post-event which cannot be undone in its then form. This is the essence of post-ness in our own time, and while Milton knew the concept, he saw no need for the term in this context as a common modifier. While Milton knows Post-ness, he has so few examples of it, that they are nameable individually. He doesn't have hundreds of ideas and events to be post, just a few: the fall of Satan, the fall of Eden, the fall of the Stuart Monarchy, the Fall of the Commonwealth. Milton's generation does not need post- as a matrix through which other ideas are projected in time.

The rhetoric of post/pre then has now in between them. Now is post some event which might be taken to destabilize faith in established authority. The post/pre narrative accepts the reality of that event, explains why it was the common follower's lack of sufficient devotion that caused the event, and not a flaw in the revealed authority, and predicts a better future for having fallen. This idea, that you do not know what you have until you have lost it, has tragic forms, but also is the basis of "boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again." High and low.

However, they do need Neo- and they do need Proto-. Protochronicler, Protoprotestant, protobishop, protopoets, Protopattern are all from the 1600s and displaying a nuance of meanings, but focused on the state of having a quality slightly before its official or fully formed state.

Consider one of the first users of proto-, not only that a liberal user of proto-, Robert Parsons, who in A treatise of three conversions of England from paganisme to Christian religion published in 1604, uses the word "proto-" to describe both proto-protestant, and proto-martyr. He is not a protestant, and instead is a Catholic apologist, however recognizes the power of proto, even as he tries to refute the claim of martyr status for particular heretics before the coming of Protestantism to England, on pages 354 and 355 of the third part of the treatise, he first attacks the idea that Taylor disagreed with fundamental Roman Catholic doctrine, and thus, according to Parsons, Taylor could not be heralding a general movement towards Protestantism. Then Parsons must then outline what he thinks Taylor's heresy was, and that he was rightfully condemned, but not for reasons good for Protestantism. The point is lost to history, as the very Catholic king Henry VIII would behead the very Catholic Utopian thinker Sir Thomas More, to get a divorce and take England to Protestantism. The real proto-ness of the martyr was that he was in favor of a secular calendar, instead of obedience to Rome.

This then is an attempt to attack a pre/post narrative. But the attack is written precisely because Parsons is worried that it might have force, resembling, he admits, the martyrdom of others who brought England from "paganism" to Christianity in the first place. The pre/post story is around an event in time, an event that is not, necessarily, now, but which might be. The proto- in Parsons, represents a claim of pre-ness, in this case one he rejects, but in rejecting sets it down for history. Then there is post-ness, the time after the event. Parsons argues that there is not enough connection between the doctrines of Protestantism, and the proto-martyr they claim, But again, he illuminates what pre/post means. Pre/post as a narrative argues that there is a positive connection between the pre and the post, that is that some quality or aspect of proto-martyr must connect to the post- time. At least, if there is to be any validity.

This is in direct contrast to the post/pre narrative, which holds that the disconnection is the defining characteristic: the lack of piety of the old order connects people to the fall, and the narrator warns that any lack of piety now will lead to yet another fall. Floggings will continue, until morale improves.

The other point from Parsons is that it is Pro-testant not prot-estant. This is seen from the hyphenation of his margins, where Protestant appears hyphenated, he has the first syllable as Pro-. For an age relatively indifferent to standardized spelling, orthography being as yet, a distant concept, this is important. Parsons, in general, prefers the long vowel as the end of a word, even when later we would not do so, his English is richer in long vowels than our own. For Parsons, the Pro-testants, have yet to be tested. Parsons' linguistic advancement is combined with the reality that he is a lousy theologian, many of his arguments, such as how can someone be a martyr who denies being one, are answered elsewhere, martyrs often deny being so, often under torture, but become martyrs precisely because others see them as leading towards the very struggle that the present faces.

At that moment, the conservatives need proto- precisely because there is movement, movement towards revolution, and the rhetorical job of the conservative, is to deny such trends, to deny connections, to attack the idea that there is a growing wave of before, to attack the consistency of those who hold the movements, as he spends pages attacking Archbishop Cranmer for recanting his faith, and then recanting the recanting. To the conservative mind, consistency is damned if you do, and damned if you do not. Milton condemns Satan for making up his mind, and then for changing it. Milton's God is not irrevocably cast to decisions, except when he is. Thus in 1702, Lucifer is "the proto-sinner of heaven." The concept of proto was needed in the 1600's in a way that post-ness was not, and thus the proto- prefix was appropriated from its other use, meaning of the first rank, such as protojustitiar, which dates from 1250, and a sense still current in the 17th century. Proto as "head" or "chief" is the principle use of post-classical Latin, leaving a wide trail through legal Latin in the pipe rolls. It is in the use as "first" containing the pattern, and beforeness that proto- is now in the English Language, that is, it is a version of our rhetoric of Pre- in reverse. Pre- contains the seeds of the demise of that moment, as in Pre-War, while Proto- the seeds of its resurrection. Looking carefully, we see the usage form that this might have come from, so long as we do not draw too causal an inference, namely the use of proto- in post-classical Latin is "chief" or head, while its use in revived Ancient Greek, was for first, as is attested in the early 16th century, and in texts on Latin throughout that period.

Why the 17th century needed to create proto in a form that we still need, displacing a form that must be considered older, but more archaic, given that the concept of postness is clearly there and does not have a prefix, is an answer to why we need it so much.

It is, then, ironic that Parsons' attack on the idea of a gathering storm did more than any single contemporary to document the idea, that the could be, a gathering storm, and a fundamental pattern, which was visible despite all other defects from what comes later.

So sitting in plain sight are the pieces of pre-, post- and neo-. But they are not arranged in a formal structure which is attached to everything. As much as the English speakers of the 1600's loved Latinate construction of words, they did not apply any of these words in the same way. Neo- meant, really, just post an event, as in neonate. Pre- and post- were used in a more legalistic way, and not as specifically rendered in time. It is the 19th century that develops and uses aggressively these words in a way we would see now as being like our current usage, with dozens of uses first attested starting in the mid 19th century, after a trickle in the early 19th century.

This is an age of post-. We talk of ourselves in terms of our weights from the past, and in terms that show we are not really after a cataclysmic change, but, instead, before one. People look back most when there is a large stretch of years that seem to imply an order to the world, and a stability. Our present is defined not by what we hope for, but by how we justify a position of wealth and privilege which we are no longer earning, but are determined to keep. At the same time, what we are post- is a rent, and the burden of that rent is strangling us, as a polity, as a society, as a country, and as humanity in general. The cost of the privilege, feels heavier, than the lift it provides.

If one looks through the 19th century, and the early 20th century, despite the massive changes, they did not attach post- as a prefix to almost every event. New was used, as was pre-, but there was no relentless compulsion to define themselves by a war they did not fight, and by a moment in history which was demographic more than historical. As one writer noted, every American Presidential election since 1960 has been about the 1960's. He was part of it, and had every reason to recall the moment when that year became a marker. We, despite living in a world transfigured, are encapsulated in pastness, and postness.

Tambora was a visible event, of what caused this transition: it was in the middle of what might be called the last great outpost of the "Little Ice Age." Where as a smaller shock in the 1790's caused an inflationary spiral that would culminate in the the American Constitution of 1787, and the French Revolution of 1789, along with a series of wars and changes in the next 20 years, the cold snap associated with the Maunder minimum became a spur to an expansion and founding. This difference provides a lesson for our own age, if only we can read it. It is a Rossetta Stone, because one part is written in the language of the past, and another in the language of the future. To read this stone requires looking backwards to similar moments.

In our present practice of writing and thinking, in our rhetoric of politics and knowledge, we have come to a point of confusion. There will always be confusion, doubt, and despair – but ours is existential, and as a consequence paralyzing at the moment when action is needed. This paralysis will only make action more dramatically necessary, and more painful, when it arrives. Our problem, like that of Gibbons' England, is that we are looking backward at founding moments as the reason for our success, and continuation of the future, when, in fact, this is a founding moment, of a world which exists, but is shackled by chains posted into the dialog and discourse.

This essay is a journey, so here I erect a sign post of the markers along the way, the first is what we mean by post- and why it has exploded. The second is to search for moments in the past who have similarly looked back just at the moment when they should have looked forward. The third is to step forward from the world of post- to a world of proto-, from a narrative that is after, to one that is before. Along the way we will meet Enlil from Sumer and Akkad, stand at the base of volcanic fury as it wipes away old worlds, read Milton and his turning of post- into pre- for his age, look deep into the broad science that paints the history of humanity as a fresco in sulfur and carbon. Along the way we will look outwards to the last man, and meet Mary Shelley's first man.

We will look at the modern governments and their arrangements, and why there is paralysis, not merely in America, but in Europe and Japan and virtually every developed economy. We will come face to face with one of the demons of our present, the paradigm of race, which, it will be show, is not merely a description of people, but a whole way of organizing knowledge, defending rights, granting morality and being itself. The very meaning of post- will change under us, and allow us to set down this burden that shackles our thinking.

And in all of these moments, we will see ourselves, and how we have imposed a falseness on the past. From there it will be possible to see why there is such fury over the idea of a post-racial society, because, in reality, there are two meanings to this phrase, one part of a darkening threat to their position, the other the laying down of a burden.


The ubiquity of "post" might make it seem as if it were a fundamental property of language, that there should be a whole family of words surrounding it. To find this out, we have to look at a projective paradigm, that is taking all of the close combinations of sound, and by close that means the combinations of sound that could have evolved by changes in consonants, and project them through the different vowels, looking at the etymologies of each.

We live in an age of prefixed movements and identifications, three of the most important of these are the labels in time: pre-, post-, and neo-. However the literature on history and communications has been light with a strong inquiry into the ideas which these pre-fixes attempt to convey when attached to a word, and lack a rigorous sense of what uses they should be put to. Why is there, for example "post-modernism" but not "post-Victorianism?" Why do we have post-Impressionism. Is it merely that post is a bucket for an after that does not have an essence of its own, or is it that labeling has meaning, and not labeling has a forbidden meaning? Is it that some post- labels simply didn't have enough utility? Or is it that the utility they had wasn't welcome?

But in exploring the uses of these three prefixes, and where they have been used and by who, and how that has been received, both in scholarship, and in the wider world shows that post is not a core concept of Indo-European languages, but, instead, a relatively late construction. The consciousness of history as having befores and afters, is a relatively late innovation in our world.

Taking a cyclical view of historical movements, this argues for a framework  using pre-, post-, neo, and an unsuffixed peak as being a background "meta-" of our construction of history.  Our organization of time views every movement should be looked at through a four phase lens, and given a full matrix presentation in that context. Every movement has a before, a during, and an after, as well as a revival, even if that after has not arrived yet, and even if the revival is only a trope, because the first death has not occurred yet. But to think of history as a parade of movements is also rather new.

Some periods label themselves, and thrust their labels on the world, while others have labels thrust upon them. Our age thrusts its labeling on the past, and not always to our advantage.

In examining any term, it is necessary first to examine not merely the history and etymology, but the project of the primitive of the term through the matrix of the language. We must feel the idea rip its way through the fabric of sound, and assert its independence, all yang metaphors intended, and also feel how it is encompassed and enrobed by language and meaning, all yin metaphors intended. The phases of language formation, projection, rejection, injection, reception, all have a part in how people feel terms, how those terms are made to mean, and thus the complex of meanings that will be present. There is no one meaning, and meaning does not live any place, but it does tend to loiter in favorite hang out spots.

In thought a paradigm is a way of organizing knowledge or detail into a theory, to set markers and measurements, so that disparate may become relative, and relative may become absolute. First we take different observations, and correlate them, and then we pin that floating mat of relationships to some hard point. Only then, linked together, can observations become facts. Language is learned by the young mind organizing itself, to be an inner mirror, called a "idiolect" of the sounds and sights absorbed by hearing and seeing.

In linguistics we have paradigms of inflection, for example the mi- paradigms of Greek verbs, which mood, which voice, which tense, which aspect produces which endings and which changes. We also have paradigms of word relationships. Our understanding of the evolution of language comes from the way that sounds shift over time, and the way that sound groups are projected through the musicality of the language, to produce prospective words and "phonemes" – bits of sound that have meaning. To trace an idea, is to trace how these prospective attempts at relating and communicating are then injected back to speech, and some are accepted and others rejected. Different original sound patterns are merged together to strengthen their relationships, and different sound patterns are applied to similar ideas. Consider the word "computer," which comes from a relative of the word "count." Once, that was enough of a word for the idea. Now we have mainframe, mini-computer, laptop, netbook, iPad, PC, console, workstation, desktop, server, rack, blade. Different words, and different origins, because there are many ways to think about computers. Many are based on how the computer is placed in the world: laptop, desktop, blade, rack are not about the computer itself, but how we access it. The paradigm of computers is more the physical package, and less the contents. That paradigm of shape and placement projects through words to produce a host of different words for what are, essentially the same objects: a processor, some fast access of memory, some storage of permanent memory, and some ways of getting input and output.

Next time someone tells you about how many Hawaiian words for ash, or inuit words for snow there are, ask yourself how many words were in Victorian English for computer, and how many are likely to remain at the point when computers are ubiquitous.

This is based on the physical means that language is carried out in the mind, and the social means by which language is transmitted. The cognitive and communicative mechanisms are always in play, and the toss the sense of the truth of a word back and forth between them. Every person has an idiolectical view of meanings: phonemes, memes, ideas, signs, signifiers, and an idiocial, pronounced id-I-o-shal, view of their society. Both of these views work on how people think, and think about, the words they hear, and feel. The presence of a word then, is both how a person feels about it, its parts, and the images that are associated with them, and how they feel others will react to a particular use of a particular word, in a particular context.

This presence is invoked by the use, allusion, or image associated not only with the word, but with its paradigm. When we see "post-" we are thinking not merely of the meaning of after, but the puns, of letters and lumber, and of the sense of distance. While PM means "Post-Meridian" the abbreviation does not convey the same sense of backward looking tha t"post-modern" does. The afternoon does not look back contemplating the dawn, nor miss the early hours in regret or rejection in general. The Post in PM, is silent in a way that the Pre in PMS is a modifier to period of the month. It has disappeared because we do not want to feel the reference to the idea of post as such.

The use of post- as a prefix is quite old, because of its derivation from other languages, it has become part of a complex of words by vowel shift. One might think, for example, that post- and past share a common root, but in fact they have been reinforced on to each other. Pass comes from Pace and the French Pas, and is relate to the Latin Pace. It's paradigm is a foot, or striding, as in the rate of walking, and by 1300, a route. The single consonant shift words beginning in f-, such as foster, feed, and so on are possible related through this same Indo-European root, but have long since not been part of the same linguistic paradigm, instead post- becomes more like past as post- becomes more common, thus the vowel shift. The closest family, taking a shift from Verner's law, is really Indo-European, poeter, that is faeder or father. One is post one's father.

The use of the word post as a pillar is in fact related in the distant nature of the Indo-European languages as pro- stare, or for standing. But has seldom been part of the same paradigm. The search for the post- paradigm finds few words of the same sound pattern having even passing relationship: pat, pad, pace, pace, postulate, part, parse are part of different paradigms. Clearly this is not a case of a single project word through a vowel matrix, but instead the creation of similar sounds from a variety of different sources, with post- and past becoming unified as their meanings became more clearly related. Indeed many uses of the word "post" as in mail, are in fact pas.

The time paradigm was, then injected into the far larger pas- paradigm, and takes on the coloration of standing, of specificity in place. We post- a word, because we have the sense of posting, past, and pacing, combining two senses of what feet are for: standing, as in pasture and pose, and the moving senses described. Thus is not a paradigm, but has been paradigmed.

Pre- on the other hand, is a paradigm, its related forms, such as fore, forte, and forth all not only exist, but flourish. Included here is a clear projective matrix with pro- and proto- The contrast is striking: pre- is a projection that includes three other roots and a variety of results, and pas is the paradigm which absorbs post. Beforeness, leaves a far greater impact on language and proliferates, where as the pastness does not. This makes the wide adoption of post- interesting, in that it has asserted itself as a fundamental particle of meaning, rather than a paradigm that is projected. Instead, post- is a phoneme through which other phonemes are project as part of a phoneme matrix. That it is an important one is almost beyond need to document.

In contrast, neo- is like pre- in that it is happily part of a large family of words from the same projection, including all of those that are based on •nu- and gen-. This includes such words as far afield as gentle. But like post- it maintains a specific technical aspect. We do not use many neo- words except in a way to divorce them from the presentness of our daily language, and neo- maintains its relationship to pre-vowel shifted meaning. While neotony is a perfectly good word, it does not show up in conversation very much. This is important, because "old Anglo-Saxon words" often are not, instead, words are Saxonized, that is made into what we associate with short words, namely English words which are vowel shifted higher and farther forward. In fact, the lower and longer words, like neo- are more like the pronunciation of ante vowel shift English, as attested by the brogues of northern and Welsh dialects, and of some surviving English dialects from early colonial periods, including, but not limited to, some isolates from Appalachia, and Indian English.

Neo-, then, is intentionally distant, even though this makes it more archaic. The root of new in Indo-European, the true old word, is new(ij)os. The rise of neo- in the 19th century meaning not merely neo, but revived, is prefigured by almost 150 years, in the reference to neo-Pelagianism. This is a strange reference, in that Pelagianism is a heresy. The great divide between biological and scientific uses of neo- is that the these senses are "newly" as in neonate, neogam, neologism, neoplasm. The older use in humanities is simply new, as in neoterics, from 1857. Neo- is not newly, nor is it new in the simple sense when we speak of neoclassical, neo-Keynesian, neo-realism but is in neostriatum. The neo- of the humanities is then related to the use of post- in that it means post- squared. It is post the original, and it is post- whatever the reaction to that original is, where as in biology, it means just after, or really "post" in a specific tense, in that the starting point is still dominant and unfinished. A neonate, is a new born, but a mother is post-partum.

Neo- then, means a return in this context, which was uncommon though potentially present, in the modern English period, but flowered only later when return as a historical idea became important. Like post- in this context, neo- has created a family of meanings related to, but distinguished from, consistent uses in the past, and has become part of the phoneme matrix through which ideas are projected. One does not describe Romanticism in the present, but neo-Romanticism. But modernism, despite it's vehement attacks on romanticism, does not often get called "post-Romantic" or even less so "post-Victorian."

This has to be distinguished then, from the use of the word "new" in the same area. A new classical economist, is not a neo-classical economist, a new Liberal is not a neo-liberal. What this difference is, however, is not to be found in projective linguistics, we are not dealing with the same idea projected through sound, but with a conscious choice of different words in the present.

The result of looking at post carefully is that it barely exists, and instead, has been grafted on to a larger paradigm, that of "pace" which is the word "foot" projected through the vowel matrix. From this we get post as in a fence post, past, pass, pace, and even some of the uses of words like pad. Post the word is so berift of relatives, as to make us realize exactly both how fundamental and artificial it is. Post is a marker, not a matrix: it is how we inflect, not a word which is inflected. However, pre- and neo- both have relatives which are inflected, post does not, it is an orphan.

To overturn the appointed times, to obliterate the divine plans, the storms gather to strike like a flood.
The rise of a family of words which are created by post- and neo- starting in the 19th century and accelerating forward implies a framework, or series of frameworks, that sees a particular kind of temporal relationship as being important in ways that were uncommon, though not entirely absent, before. The best way to understand this is to contrast the use of pre- with the use of another word complex ante and its related forms, including antiquity, ancient and so on. Realize that the suffix –an, meaning belonging to, is part of this construction. One good example of the difference is to consider what the meanings of antebellum South and pre-Civil War South. It is not merely moving a phrase from a antiquitian phrase to an English one, it is that an- and ancient, and ante- mean belonging to and unified with. Antebellum south is unified what comes after, but also unified within itself.

Gone with the Wind celebrates the aspects of the period which are consistent within themselves, and gone, where as the phrase pre-Civil War South. Antebellum glorifies the period, and romanticizes it, where as pre-civil war points to the aspects of the period which considered itself, and presents itself, as an age unto itself, and of "The Old South." Similarly see "ancien regime" versus "pre-revolutionary" in reference to the history of France.

Thus in the present, ante- is both a description of an integrity of the time period, as opposed to what comes after, a description of a romanticized golden age, and a deliberate effeminization of the period. These three moves work together: first, there is a decided focus on the affluence of life, and the comforts provided, but also a description of what sins lead to the fall. These sins, are those which drive out the masculine principle, are seen as the reason for the fall in the mythology. Reality, however, tells a different story. While in the popular imagination of the time, Marie Antoinette's lavish spending was the cause of the budget crisis, the reality was that France was spending heavily on a colonial empire, and had had repeated bubbles which drained the savings of the public. While dresses and jewelry were the obvious examples of spending, it was ships and muskets which drained far more of the coffers. But these, of course, are not "waste." Hence both the Ancien Regime, and the antebellum South, while being military powerhouses that focused on the development of empire extensively are portrayed as having fallen because of the weaknesses of women. Even though there is admiration for the softening qualities of the leadership. Examples of this abound, for example in the apologist tract by JS Wise entitled "The End of an Era" which praises "Old fuss and feathers" as a nickname, notes that Robert E. Lee was "gentle and quiet," while ridiculing the Republican Presidential ticket of 1856 for having its only votes in Virginia cast in "the panhandle," virtually the wilderness.

Thus ante- in the modern sense, while related to its original sense of anti- meaning against, in that it casts a period as integrated, has acquired the sense of feminization and softening of the golden age.
This paradigm, of a fallen golden age, is not new, and is referenced in cultures from around the world. An example from the early Greek corpus is, of course, Hesiod in Works and Days WD Hes. 109-126. However it's association with ante in the Greek corpus is associated with the use of ante meaning both above, as in antepollens, and decreed by fate. But this pattern is found much earlier, for example in what is called the Lament of Nibru, which dates from the reign of Isme-Dagon, some where between 2100 and 1900 BCE taken here from http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/...

As though it were empty wasteland, in one enters that great temple whose bustle of activity was famous. As for all the great rulers who increased the wealth of the city of Nibru -- why did they disappear? For how long would Enlil neglect the Land, where the black-headed  has instead city ate rich grass like sheep? Tears, lamentation, depression and despair! How long would his spirit burn and his heart not be placated? Why were those who once played the em and ala drums spending their time in bitter lamenting? Why were the lamenters sitting in its brick buildings? They were bewailing the hardship which beset them.

In this context the destruction of the old cities, including Nibru, once transliterated Nippur, is presented as a before, that the present ritual listeners both looked back to as a richer time, but whose fall was because of the omission of important rituals by its people. This caused the Gods to "change the fate" of the old cities, withdraw from them and destroy them.

Importantly, the ancient title was "To Overturn the Appointed Time," which is a clear catastrophist reference. It specifically describes Isme-Dagan as the ruler who has rebuilt the city, and attempts to establish the legitimacy of the Isin Dynasty as a restoration of the temples and rituals of Nibru, even though they are not.
This forms the end of an arch of mythology which begins with the text known as the Eridu Genesis, which is a flood story, which described the formation of the cities. And which has its golden age described, not as a past, in the Lord of Aratta text. In this text, Enmerkar asks people of the distant city of Aratta to build for him a richly appointed temple:

[*]Let the people of Aratta
[Bring down] for me the mountain-stones from their mountain (-sources)
Build the Urugal for me, set up the great seat for me
Cause the great seat - the abode of the gods - to shine forth for me
Make my m e flourish in Kulaba
[*]Have them build a "mountain" of a lustrous m e
Have them make it luxuriant for me like a boxwood tree
Have them make its horns shine colorful as when the Sun comes forth from its chamber
Have them make protective-signs on its doorposts sparkle brightly

The Cedar Mountain is a reference to Lebanon, and the control of the range centered around what is now known as Qurnat as Sawda remained an important focal point for legitimization through the ancient period, for example the Assyrian Hymns make controlling this range a specific part of proof of the greatness of their kings. This then is how the Sumerian texts described the pinnacle as it was happening: by their wealth. The laments, on the other hand, do not mention the materials of the temple, but the river, the sheep pens, and other basic forms of affluence. This is important to be noted: a trading empire describes its peak by its wealth, but the post- rhetoric is one that focuses on the affluence. In contrast, "Overturning of Appointed Time" notes that the brickwork only brought lamentation, not once, but repeatedly. The opulence of the past is identified as the source of the "bitter tears." Instead the new king provides beer and "sweetest syrup," and will restore the temples and the ancient rites. That is, Sumerian rites, by an Akkadian people. Note that the references to food are not bounty: oil, beer and syrup are all manufactured foods, rather than fresh harvest. Harvest is the sign of plenty, and instead, these are people living on what they can store. This is an important point.
It is interesting that restoration is part of the lament narratives, and to the point here: the vision of a lost golden age, which it is the present generation's duty to restore, corresponds to the construction of ante-, post-, and pre-: the narrative's description of the golden age is ante-, its placement after the destruction is post-, and it predicts a return to glory, which is pre-. Which means that its authors contemplated themselves as what we would call neo. In fact Ur III which directly precedes Isin is called the "Neo-Sumerian" Empire, even though Summerian, which was not a Semitic Language, and been replaced by Akkadian. But is it neo?

Or are we labeling it that way. It could as easily be retro-Sumerian, that is, the last gasp, and history has some indication that it was.

Despite the nature of the construction of Sumerian as an agglutinative language, there is no such corresponding rhetoric of specificity in time. That is, while the narrative can be neatly described using our present construction of time and distance, the authors of it did not see their narrative in that way as a fundamental set of categories. We are talking about very old ideas, but our desire to clearly label them is not universally present, even when the ideas, to our current eye, are easily visible.
Indeed, it was to label such inter-period acquisition that our terms were created. But the action dates very far back.

Contrast this with the use of "pre-" which first unifies a period with what comes afterwards, and emphasizes its doomed nature. Pre-War has a very different rhetorical feel from the connotatively equivalent antebellum. This focus on an as a weak word and pro- and pre- as strong words can be seen in Greek and Latin, with examples to numerous to count. Mark Kaunisto in his survey on ante- and pre- in early Modern English formation notes the competition in similar words, and argues in Variation and change in the lexicon: a corpus-based analysis of adjectives  to be wary of distinctions which are pat and easily drawn. In language, one deals with tendencies, and regularities are almost always the result of deliberate later synthesis and prescriptive regularization. Consider for example that pre-Modern and Post-modern do not form a pair, that is they do not describe the emergence of a single principle that defines "Modern" and then its disappearance. Instead Pre-Modern merely means lacking some quality that defines modern, where as Post-Modern is a far more complex word.

The reason could well be partly phonetic: ante- is a softened anti-, that is, in modern English ant- is being projected through the vowel matrix, with eh- e- and i- as possible choices. Consider anti- alone, as opposed to antithetical, which is more vowel specified. But there is also the rhythmic shortness of pre- against ante- and that ante- formation includes such examples for rejection as antedeluvian, meaning "before the flood." Before, and pre- are not the same, in that before merely implies in time, and in this case interruption by a later event, while pre- implies the strands that will lead to the crisis itself.

Consider an issue of dating. Around the world, in about 2000 BC, a period of aridification ended. We find the rise of a bronze age civilization in China. We also see rise in civilization in Europe. There 2200 BC to 1950 BC was a period of increased volcanic activity, and sulfur dioxide markers appear in ice cores around the globe. Dating at this range has wide error bands, because like the archeological record, the carbon and other records depend on finding a few eruptive fixed events that mark time, dating them with tools, and then fixing the rest of the chronology to them. This is important: we date our uniformitarian continuous past, by very unusual events. This point will be referenced repeatedly: the vast spectrum of ordinary dates, are known by extra-ordinary events. The placing of these events is important to the whole of the chronology.

In this case the dates for Isin depend on the date of the sack of Babylon, because the king lists and astronomical texts are otherwise floating. The earlier Babylon was sacked, the farther back in the past all of this happened. An Isin that is post the arid period, is a neo-movement that falls to the Babylonians for reasons unknown, but which has legitimate reasons for hope. An Isin that is still in the middle of this aridity, through no real fault of its own, is a retro- movement, and is trying to hold on with claws to a social organization that cannot hold, because it relies on an agricultural reality that will not return.

Consider the text:

The true temple gave you only tears and lamentation -- it sings a bitter song of the proper cleansing-rites that are forgotten! The brickwork of E-kur gave you only tears and lamentation -- it sings a bitter song of the proper cleansing-rites that are forgotten! It weeps bitter tears over the splendid rites and most precious plans which are desecrated -- its most sacred food rations neglected and ...... into funeral offerings, it cries "Alas!". The temple despairs of its divine powers, utterly cleansed, pure, hallowed, which are now defiled! The true temple, which it is bitter to enter on one's own, passes the time renewing its tears.

There are always qualms with translations, but let us set aside the close reading qualms and focus on key points. First: "the brickwork of E-kur gave you only tears and lamentation" At the end of the poem, the restoration is proclaimed, the long list of terrors is responded to by a long list of praises for the restored order, for example:

Now, see! After that time, Enlil, the prince who is full of pity, has been beneficent to his hero who had laid the ...... brick! He put in order again for him the divine powers which had been desecrated by the enemy! He sanctified again the defiled rites for him! He purified its ziggurat temple and made it resplendent for him! Within he made abundance plentiful, he filled it with choice beer and syrup! He established there at that time the pleasing of hearts, the appeasing of spirits, the ameliorating of moods!
Note that the focus is on food, not on rebuilding. While the temple has been made resplendent, it has not been rebuilt. While seeds have sprouted and herd animals are breeding again, this is only the return to business as usual, not verdence.

The date matters, because in the case of an earlier date, this is really a people saying that if they hold to the old rites, they will at least have this reprieve. If they just cut the budget enough, and are pure enough, they will at least have goats, sheep, and grain, from which to make oil, beer, and syrup. In the later date, these are people who are starting to see the signs of a coming improvement, which they might hope to reach. Let's compare this, however, with the Old Babylonian texts, which comes after, from the time of Hammurapi, better known as Hammurabi. There are no lines of destruction of Sumer and Akkad, there are no long introductions of terrors and a pious and pitiful pleading for return, instead, there is just praise and commandment. Hammurapi has no need to be "post-" an apocalyptic event, not one word is spent explaining why we should be concerned with devastation. While there is praise to Enlil, and the mountain, there is the "desert crown" of power. We also see the rulership over the "black headed people." So the motifs are carried forward, but added in, are new Gods, who now sit with the old.

The other thing that returns in the Old Babylonian, is sex. The old Enlil narratives are loaded with sex. Consider the Enlil and Ninlil and one representative stanza:

"At that time the maiden was advised by her own mother, Ninlil was advised by Nun-bar- e-gunu: "The river is holy, woman! The river is holy -- don't bathe in it! Ninlil, don't walk along the bank of the Id-nunbir-tum! His eye is bright, the lord's eye is bright, he will look at you! The Great Mountain, Father Enlil -- his eye is bright, he will look at you! The shepherd who decides all destinies -- his eye is bright, he will look at you! Straight away he will want to have sex, he will want to kiss! He will be happy to pour lusty semen into the womb, and then he will leave you to it!"

This is from the high days of Sumer, and it is typical of the highly sexed mythology and mythopoesis. Indeed, if one looks a cuneiform writing, it is filled with phallic symbols and vaginas. A recent grave complex from Western China shows an obsession with phalluses and vaginas that is as dense, but few other societies before our own have been as nakedly pornographic and exuberantly detailed about sex as the Sumerians. Note that Overturning and its sister texts are almost completely devoid of sex or other kinds of imagery. The only thing breeding, are the goats.

The Babylonian texts, while not as explicit, have returned to praising the gods and goddesses for being handsome or beautiful, for their sexual prowess, and for their desirability. Again, the before, during, and after tribulation shows in how people write.

But about the dating itself. One can divide the Bronze Age in the West into three parts: an old Bronze Age, which runs until 2200 BC, a middle which runs from 2000 BC through the "Bronze Age Collapse" – that is to say, a Dark Ages – and the late Bronze Age. Each era has its own relative dating system of records and pottery and stratification. The post-collapse chronology ties to Greek records, which tie to Persian records, which tie to Egyptian and Assyrian records. A key confirming date is the eclipse of June 15th, 763 BC, which is a key point in fixing Assyrian records.

The old dates of the empires of Sumer, a non-indo-semitic language, and the empires of Akkad that followed, a Semitic speaking people who not only adopted the Sumerian writing system, but their mythological and religious system, and attempted to present themselves as a continuation, are all approximate – floating somewhere 300 years, with three central chronologies that are separated by astronomical time periods. We have records of eclipses, and they establish the possible anchor points of the chronologies. Perhaps, because, as with many ancient chronologies, we have little to no actual inter-related dating. A few texts date the rest. Some pottery fills in the gaps.

But a new set of dating systems has challenged the wisdom of these chronologies, namely, the long record compiled by climate science over the last 30 years. It was compiled, largely, in a project to discover what the variance in historical climate was, and therefore allow us to model the present. But in looking so far back, it shows us clear powerful climatic moments, and gives us some insight both into what forced those prior climate changes, and changes how we interpret the past.

It the case of the "neo-Sumerian" movement, this dating cuts against current interpretation. Before we read them as being after the improvement of global climate. However, taking the astronomically more correct chronology, we see something different.

The last part is the dating of key events, including the volcanic eruption of Thera, and how this change ripples back, to help show that the "neo-Sumerians" are, in fact, late Akkadians trying to hold on to a system that they can no longer afford. If this seems remote from our present circumstances, think again. Then, as now, the budget cutters argued for austerity in the face of adversity. As they did in the 1790s. In both previous cases, the results were the same: facing external disruption with internal austerity, led to the final collapse of an old order.  Which unfortunately will have to  wait.