chapter  5
Demythology and vertical time
Pages 31

When does a genealogy of cultures begin? The short answer to the question, “At what point in their history would cultures turn to other cultures to justify their existence genealogically?” is “sometimes.” But the longer answer is considerably more complicated, and in fact forces us to qualify even the short answer of “sometimes.” The conviction of transcultural descent seems to be stronger in certain eras and under the pressure of such things as ethnic chauvinism and royal succession. In terms of the early modern era, we can begin by saying that the uniquely humanist notion of transcultural cultural descent – specifically, that later civic and intellectual cultures, as opposed solely to religious cultures, are the hereditary descendants of prior intellectual cultures – is a function of widespread multiplications of vertical time. Stephen Jaeger maintains in Enchantment, his book on charisma in the arts, that “aspiration feeds on charisma, looks to role models and inspiring figures who embody the goal of aspirations.”1 Genealogy is always aspirational. When the genealogical technique is applied to culture, the result is the transhistorical descent of role models transformed into art forms.