If evolutionary change is the response of an organism or species to its changing circumstances, then it’s not too difficult to see the stimulus for the “mutation” in the structure of consciousness that Jean Gebser and others call the “irruption” of a new “integral consciousness”. That changed circumstance is the emergence, since around the First World War, of the Global Era thanks to technologies of communication and transportation (particularly, earlier, radio and air transport). This “ensemble” of such technologies (to employ a term used by Jacques Ellul) have more or less displaced both Nature and Nation by throwing a net over the planet and constructing a new milieu or environment, which now demands of us a new response.
There is little that irks me more, or that I find more tedious, than this useless controversy about evolution or creationism. Here again, the human brain seems congenitally stupid, incapable of thinking beyond simple dualisms, whereas the truth of the matter is simultaneously more complex and yet also more simple. In a lot of cases, too, “evolutionists” have simply made a surrogate religion of “natural selection”, “random mutation”, and adaptation. “The world created the brain”, writes one.
Nonsense. That’s just sloppy thinking. That’s just dogma, and even an applied willful ignorance.
You probably have all heard the phrase “the ghost in the machine”? It was also the title of a book by Arthur Koestler on the problem of mind-body dualism (which I have yet to read, I must confess).
The ghost in the machine is a reference to Cartesian metaphysical dualism — spirit-matter, or mind-body — which introduced the dichotomy that has more or less plagued the Modern Era since its conception. One fork of the dichotomy led to Hegel (idealism and nationalism) and the other fork of the dilemma led to Marx (inverted Hegelianism, materialism, communism). Also individualism versus collectivism.
As some of you know, I spent a few years in my formal studies at university in what was then called “propaganda analysis”.
Today, “propaganda” has been itself rebranded as “perception management”, a perhaps more accurate term but also a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. In some ways, “perception management” represents the synthesis or intersection of advertising techniques and the techniques of psychological warfare. It has become more “scientific” since its early days during the First World War, and in that sense, perhaps much more effective. We are daily surrounded, penetrated, violated by the stuff, which is, of course, what that movie called The Matrix was all about.
These times — our times — are very reactionary, full of cynicism, hypocrisy (which is self-contradiction), phoniness and fakery, and violence. These are the symptoms of nihilism and of a civilisation or era in the throes of decadence and decline — the end of the Modern Era. It has been called “the revolution of nihilism”. “All higher values devalue themselves”, as Nietzsche put it in his succinct definition of nihilism.
But this is not necessarily cause for despair or grief, even though the stakes and the perils today are very high, if not life or death for the race, perhaps even the planet. War, climate change, environmental degradation, the Sixth Extinction Event…. the list of our seemingly intractable maladies, now global in scope, is rather long and troublesome.
In reference to my earlier post on these subject (“The Horror and the Wonder“) it occurred to me this morning to mention a great book by Erich Neumann entitled The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype. Perhaps some of you are familiar with it or his other really magnificent book The Origins and History of Consciousness? It has been quite some time since I read these works, and I should really dive into them again. They were, as I recall, very wise.