The Rise of the Profanernby Thomas MolnarrnAt some point in their development, civilizations cease believingrnin the sacred and plunge into a new set of absolutes.rnNo community likes to speak of decadence and its usual-rnIv harsh symptoms; no one may even grasp the meaning of suchrnan upheaval. Yet new absolutes appear on the horizon whichrnseem to be barbarous because they are denials of the earlier sacred.rnFor the sacred, in the eyes of the people, appears to be anrnabsolute; it affects their imagination and judgments—until arn”thomaskuhnian” revolution (philosophical, scientific, moral,rnaesthetic) diverts their attention to something else.rnSo-called transitional periods experience a parallel mobilizationrnof two currents: the old, stable center survives in name,rnwith its symbols and rituals, while a new focus, as yet amorphousrnand without validity, emerges with its own discourse, itsrnown art forms, and its own set of acts to be performed. For arnwhile—it may be many decades—the two run on parallelrntracks; we call the first “sacred,” the second “profane,” and justifiablyrnbelittle the latter, measuring it in the habitual terms ofrnthe former. At such times, we witness the transvaluation of therntradition toward the as-yet unknown, and remain perplexedrnwhile the new, the profane, occupies the center of loyalty. Arnnew foundation is sacralized.rnIt is obvious that we now approach the end of the “Age ofrnFaith,” and that our “profane” is the surrounding milieu of industrial,rninfinitely multipliable, objects and technological proceduresrnthat point to a kind of infinity in space and time. Thernnew profane, on the way to sacralization, appears as a worid ofrn’Ihomas Molnar’s Philosophical Grounds was recently releasedrnby Transaction Publishers as Archetypes of Thought.rnsurprises, even of miracles; it insinuates itself in our nervous systemrnas a series of spectacular presentations for our industriallyrnunderlined comfort, from the Internet to biogenetics. Newrngenerations pay lip service to the old “values” (nobody knowsrnwhat they are and what they mean), but accept technology andrnits mechanical procedures as a trusted new reality. Withoutrnnecessarily knowing what they perform and achieve, the newrngenerations organize their conceptual and practical life accordingrnto the rules of a changed liturgy. The profane has becomernthe new sacred.rnThe consequence is the rise of “profane” ceremonies, manners,rnbehavior. For example, marriage ceremonies of a secularrnnature in secular surroundings, performed by state officials, replacedrnthe church’s blessing at the French Revolution, and receivedrna new consecration from the Bolsheviks and in Westernrnsecularized states. Abortion and euthanasia mechanize—literallyrnindustrialize—the acts of birth and death, and we may expectrnthat at some time both will elaborate their own secular rituals,rnas now accompanv some divorce proceedings. Same-sexrnmarriage will also do away with the ecclesiastical remnants inrnceremonies and seek legitimation through profane rites. Thernpresence of female personnel, from seaman to admiral, fromrnprivate to general on navy ships, in army units, will also modifyrnthe initiation ceremonies of manhood and womanhood, sincernthe centralit}’ of the male principle in public affairs and in sacredrnmatters had hitherto been taken for granted. In sum, wernwitness deeper changes in functions and rituals than mankindrnever did before, but for the moment we are merely shocked byrnthem, without measuring their civilizational impact. We arerncarried awav bv them, and ascribe them to a varietv of causes:rnDECEMBER 1996/21rnrnrn