Does consciousness have a structure?
Consciousness itself has no structure or form. It is polymorphous. To say it is polymorphous is essentially to say it is formless, because only something that is essentially formless (hence undefinable in any determinate and fixed way) can be polymorphous. This is the essential import of Rumi’s poem I once cited in The Dark Age Blog,
“I am the morning mist,
and the breathing of evening.
I am the wind in the top of the grove,
and surf on the cliff.
Mast, rudder, helmsman and keel,
I am also the coral reef they founder on….
Both candle and the moth
crazy around it…
I am all orders of being,
the circling galaxy,
the evolutionary intelligence,
the lift and the falling away.
What is and what isn’t…”
This “I” here is not Rumi’s “I” of the human person. It is the consciousness itself speaking, which is nonetheless also Rumi’s consciousness and Rumi’s “I”. They are indivisible. This “I” is what Carl Jung would call “The Self” as opposed to the Ego. The ego nature, which is Rumi’s person, is itself only one form that the consciousness can and does take, and which we call the human mold or the human archetype. Thus where Rumi writes of this “I” of consciousness being “what is and what isn’t…” it is because consciousness is essentially formlessness, but in being formlessness can express and experience itself as any and all forms (the polymorphic). The phrase “what is and what isn’t…” pertains to the formal and the informal respectively, or the actual and the potential, respectively. This is the basis for “shape-shifting” in shamanism or the polymorphous nature of the gods in mythology.
There are many, many passages in Rumi about this essential structureless but simultaneously polymorphous nature of consciousness. The structurelessness state of consciousness is called “non-existence”, as in the following poem:
Become More by Dying
O my noble friends, slaughter this cow,
if you wish to raise up the spirit of insight.
I died to being mineral and was transformed.
I died to vegetable growth
and attained to the state of the animals.
I died from animality and became Adam:
why then should I fear?
When have I become less by dying?
Next I shall die to being a human being,
so that I may soar and lift my head among
Yet I must escape even from that angelic
everything is perishing except His Face.
Once again I shall be sacrificed, dying to the
I shall become that which could never be
I shall become nonexistent.
Nonexistence sings its clear melody,
Truly, unto Him shall we return.
It might seem that “nonexistent” is the most undesirable state possible, unless you understand what Rumi is saying here. To become non-existent is to become formless, and therefore realise consciousness as being infinite and eternal (formless and timeless or beyond time and space). Being “nonexistent” therefore means that this consciousness can manifest as any form it chooses to become. Again, in this poem, the “I” is not the egoic “I” of Rumi, but the pure voice of consciousness or awareness itself. In our human terms, to become formlessly aware or as “pure awareness” is to shed the human form, or what is hinted at also in the term “anthropocentric attitude” (which is a variant of narcissism). This process is called “binding and loosening”, and pertains to the formal and informal. As such, what is called “The Great Nothingness” or the Void, the Nihil, etc doesn’t really exist except as the fullness of potentiality, and which Rumi here calls the non-existent or non-being.
The power of binding and loosening, which is the modus of this “I” of consciousness, is represented by Rumi in another poem called “Nobody” which is worth citing,
says it correctly.
What is Paradise
but nothingness ?
The religion and doctrine of Lovers is
Or again from Rumi, where “birth” is the binding to form, and death is the loosening away from the form.
Your non-existence before you were born
is the sky in the east.
Your death is the western horizon,
with you here between.
The way leads neither east nor west,
Remarkable stuff, really.
When I was an undergraduate student at university, I was frustrated with sociological studies and really didn’t know why. Later I understood that my frustration with sociology was largely due to the omission of consciousness from the study of society. Society was conceived as a kind of great public machine, while consciousness was treated as a private matter and as tabula rasa or terra nullius. This is impossible because society is the formal structure in spacetime of a common structure (really, a structuration) of consciousness. Any society or civilisation is the formal, symbolic expression of a consciousness structure and in that sense, always comes into being as an experiment in formalising (or conventionalising or ritualising) consciousness itself. Historical eras, which are societies and civilisations, are articulations of a consciousness structure over time, which we call “the formal”. It is the act of binding consciousness to form that results in “institutions” and “conventions”, rites and customs. The decline of historical eras and civilisational types into “informality” (so to speak) is the loosening away. This almost playful, creative, experimental binding to form and loosening away from form is what we call genesis and nihilism, or the rise and fall of eras.
A consciousness structure, then, is its formal expression in institution and convention, which is the act of binding to form. The formal expression of a consciousness structure is the formal process of institution.
So, it is licit to speak of a “consciousness structure” even though consciousness really has no extensible structure or form itself. In this sense (when speaking of social institutions) we can speak of the formal and informal aspects of society as the binding and loosening of consciousness to and away from form (or the “phenomena”).
At present, there is quite a bit of “loosening away”, which is the process “formally” known today as “deconstruction”.
And while we are on the subject of form and the phenomenal, I’ll leave the last word in this post to Rumi,
“It’s not always a blind man
who falls in a pit. Sometimes it’s one who can see,
A holy one does sometimes fall,
but by that tribulation, he or she ascends,
escapes many illusions, escapes
conventional religion, escapes
being so bound to phenomena.
Think of how PHENOMENA come trooping
out of the desert of non-existence
into this materiality….
This place of phenomena is a wide exchange
of highways, with everything going all sorts
of different ways.
We seem to be sitting still,
but we’re actually moving, and the fantasies
of phenomena are sliding through us
like ideas through curtains.
They go to the well
of deep love inside each of us.
They fill their jars there, and they leave.
There is a source they come from,
and a fountain inside here.
Be grateful. Confess when you’re not.
We can’t know
what the divine intelligence
has in mind!
Who am I,
standing in the midst of this
Those of you who have migrated to The Chrysalis from the old Dark Age Blog will recognise the theme of this post. It seems necessary to revisit that theme briefly once again before moving on.
In The Dark Age Blog, we noted how eras are book-ended by certain mythic characters and names in the form of, first, the hero, but then later as anti-hero. There is a reversal of fortunes in which the older symbol or honoured name is emptied of meaning and value, (the process resembling Nietzsche’s succinct description of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”). In tracing the course of the High Middle Ages, for example, we noted the hero in the form of Parsifal (early 13th century), the fool who becomes a knight, as the heroic figure standing at the beginning of that Era, and then the exhaustion of that type in the anti-hero Don Quixote (early 17th century), the knight who becomes a fool once more — the aristocratic type as buffoon. Cervantes mocking of Don Quixote and the chivalric “Quest” as a mere matter of tilting at windmills parallels the rise of a new historical type — the Bourgeois as the modern, practical, matter-of-fact man. The names Parsifal and Don Quixote really serve to book end the rise and fall of the High Middle Ages.
And so it is also with the Modern Era. At the beginning of the Age stands the figure of Prometheus, whose name means “forethought” or foresight. Prometheus is the proud, cunning, and rebellious Titan who stole the divine fire (self-consciousness) from the gods and gave it to humans, and who was then punished for the crime by Zeus, who had him chained to a rock where his liver was eaten out daily by an eagle. Early Renaissance humanism is fully in the spirit of Prometheus, and “Promethean Man” has often been used as a term of description for the exemplary type of modern human being — the “knowing” and self-conscious Man of Reason (Cartesian cogito).
Often overlooked, though, is the brother of Prometheus. He is called Epimetheus, and his name means “afterthought” or hindsight. By describing these two as “brothers”, the myth tells us that they are two aspects of one and the same process in terms of “fore” and “aft”. While Promethean consciousness is progressive or “foreward-looking”, Epimethean consciousness (which represents reversal) is retrospective consciousness and even regret. We have already moved into the stage represented by Epimethean consciousness, for this is the real meaning of “the post-modern condition”. The man or woman of the post-modern type is Epimethean Man. And as with the end of the High Middle Ages, Epimethean Man represents the anti-hero who negates and empties the heroic-type of Promethean Man of significance and value even though they are brothers. Epimethean Man, though, is a dead end — a transitional figure just as Don Quixote was a transitional figure, being both post- and yet pre- something else.
This binding and loosening, or genesis and nihilism, is like the breath — inspiration and expiration — and is completely necessary. So, even nihilism serves a purpose. In the case of the Modern Era now passing away, its values were simply not congruent with the emergence of a planetary consciousness. I know that many people believe that “globalisation” is simply the expansion of the Modern Era to encompass the globe, but this is not so. This is false consciousness. It is more the case that the planetary era, this new era, is penetrating the old era — the Modern Era — and is dissolving it from within. This process is generating great anxiety and Angst in those formed by the era, and leads to reactionary politics and distorted expressions of “survivalism”.
This process, which we have described as “dehiscence”, has both negative and positive features. It is found in the art of Pablo Picasso, (which might be described as “integralism” better than as cubism). It is also found in the emergence of “World Music” which is the playful experimental search for a common, mutually intelligible and global idiom of artistic expression — a new or transformed modus. Here, I’m thinking of the wonderful Qawwali singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Qawwali is Sufi devotional music. But in the voice and presentation of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan this is devotional music the likes of which you’ve likely never heard. It does rock the kasbbah (especially his last live recording before he died, the appropriately titled Swan Song) and it is powerfully delivered.
These examples demonstrate the principle common to all new historical epochs. It is the artist (not the priest, the scientist, or the politician) that leads into the new era because it is primarily the artist that gives expression to the new emergent principle of self-realisation — the mutation in the consciousness structure. This is, for example, completely true of the Renaissance period in European history, grounded in the emergence of perspective space and the new consciousness of space. This space-bias represented in perspective perception has been the orientation of the Modern mind until… well… Now. Very great art is less about self-expression than it is about self-realisation, or more specifically, the emergent expression of a new faculty of consciousness or power of perception. The artist, here, is simply agent, and the real measure of the great artist is not “invention”, per se, but his or her mastery of the materials through which the new mutation in consciousness enters into our physical reality.
In early modern terms, this process of the new consciousness realisation climaxed in the figure of Leonardo da Vinci, who is often considered the quintessential “Renaissance Man”. Da Vinci, however, was preceded by a few generations before him, generations of artists that struggled to give expression to the new emerging consciousness structure we now call “the mental-rational” or perspectivist consciousness of primarily space-perception. What Newton said of himself, (that if he saw further, it was because he “stood on the shoulders of giants” before him), could be said of da Vinci as well. The new consciousness structure that was only vaguely experienced and struggled with by earlier Renaissance artists, becomes in da Vinci self-awareness and self-realised consciousness structure. Hello World!
Likewise, Picasso had his precursors who also struggled with the frustrating limitations of perspectivism, as you will learn in history of Late Modern art. This agonising frustration with the limitations of the media and a constricting conventional perspectivism also indicates the emergence of a new consciousness mutation (as described, for example, by Jean Gebser in his Ever-Present Origin). And, as Gebser (who personally knew Picasso) pointed out, Picasso’s art is not essentially about space but about time, which is why it strikes the modern spatially-oriented, perspectivising perception as being somewhat confusing and dissonant. The plastic arts, however, are not likely to be the preferred medium for the self-realisation of the new consciousness structure. The new “integral” structure, which is largely time-oriented, is more likely to become articulated through, and find its voice in, music and film, where the sense of time and timing, rhythm and harmony, is more pronounced. And, like everything else, there will be heroic, artistic struggles that will result in better (faithful) and worse (distorted) or abortive efforts. This is the new consciousness structure itself attempting to come to self-realisation and awareness, and seeking its own route to expression, manifestation, and self-realisation within the physical system of spacetime. In a sense, it is a Titan or god as the Greeks experienced this, for the consciousness structure is not personal nor a personal possession. It employs the person for its own self-realisation and self-manifestation.
(But more on that later).
The significance of this can’t be overlooked, either, for it is the artist who is becoming the new “entrepreneur” and who displaces the bourgeois-type of market-oriented entrepreneur or “go-between” (as the word means). The mastery of technology (media) will be the work of the artist and not of the “practical” man of money and markets. As ever, the new consciousness structure will rely primarily on the artist for its realisation. So, we will have to examine this theme of artist as entrepreneur, or the “go-between” who serves as the midwife of the new consciousness structure and the new era that attends its self-manifestation and self-revelation (and which will be experienced as apocalyptic in the sense of “unveiling”).
Observing the seemingly chaotic piontilist and stoccado-like character of contemporary events, one can become very discouraged and gloomy about the prospects for the future of life. Time present has less the character of a flux, of an ebb and a flow, than of the rapid machine-gun fire of news bullets (bulletins) and of talking-points thrust at you like a knife blade. We are daily being mentally mugged by infomercials, advertising, disinformation, buzz, spin, outright falsehoods, and other sundry competing propagandas seeking to capture our “hearts and minds” within a kind of Iron Maiden of “information”. The irony of the times is that we have “free speech” but captive audiences. Nobody seems to notice this self-devouring contradiction at the heart of Late Modern democracies, which is why they are collapsing and disintegrating.
What is called “information overload” is precisely this constant rapid-fire character of mass mediated info-bullets fired at us continuously. Right here, in fact, you see the truth of post-modernism’s “end of the grand narrative” in the seeming incoherent cacophony of advertising spots, infomercials, and news items. This is the Age of Analysis run amok and now running to ground. The penetration of the so-called “Free Market” in the name of “free speech” into every cozy non-commercialised private refuge has transformed the entirety of society, 24/7, into a constant battleground in a kind of war of all against all designed to capture hearts and minds (and wallets).
The near ubiquitous nature of contemporary propaganda and surveillance is less some sinister plot or conspiracy against the public to engineer a permanent captive audience than it is the fulfillment of a deficient logic inherent in the structure of modern rationality — feedback and control, prediction and control — extended now to the engineering of nature both human and non-human. We already live in a Technocracy, in fact — the World Machine called Global Economy. And for the sake of this World Machine nothing spontaneous must be allowed to exist or develop in its own terms; nothing must be left to chance in either Nature or Society (we must now even fear and manage asteroids). Everything must be “harmonised”, standardised, rationalised, assimilated, co-ordinated and synchronised with the requirements of this Brave New World, including politics and the Great Beyond.
This is the very meaning of the passage I quoted earlier from Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy in The Christian Future, which even some his students also seem not to comprehend sufficiently. It’s worth quoting again:
“A powerful hand has lifted up the particles of the human race and now puts them down again under a new horizon of existence. We see this horizon as dimly as the eastern sky one hour before sunrise; yet it determines already the lives and livelihood of all of us despite our nation or denomination. Granted that twelve generations or so lived happily within “Church” and “State” (the very word “State” is not older than 1500) and got their orientation from these two sources of light; this no longer is true.
We are unemployed, impoverished, inflated, killed, moved around, in nations great and small, in Churches free and orthodox, because of a new ‘within’. Against this new ‘within’, the millions find little protection, either within their nation or within their Church. Global economic cooperation is the new ‘within.’ Neither the New Deal nor the GOP nor Hitler nor Stalin can guarantee prosperity because the globe is not governed by any one statesman. The Great Society, this speechless giant of the future, does not speak English (neither does it speak Russian). And it is this Great Society which claims all of us who have to make a living, as her material, her victims, her assets or liabilities in terms of capital and labor.
The two world wars were the form of world revolution in which this new future reached into everybody’s life; the nationalist and communist ideologies with their dreams of revolution were checkmated and are mere foam around the real transformation. The real transformation was made by the wars and it make the Great Society final. She is the heiress of State and Church.” (pp. 4 – 5).
What is here called “Great Society” is, in fact, the Global Technocracy. Some years ago, the American sociologist Daniel Bell wrote a book entitled The End of Ideology (which, I think, must have influenced Francis Fukuyama in announcing “The End of History”). Bell (much like the French sociologist Jacques Ellul in The Political Illusion) anticipated what became the reality in the troika of neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism/neo-socialism — that consensus of political formations that demonstated the impotence of human choices against the inexorable logic of the Global Technocracy. The ideologue has been displaced by the technocrat, and for the technocrat there are no political options or alternatives. There is logically only “the one best way”. And this is not even the techocrat’s choice. It is mandated by the necessary circumstantial logic of the System itself, which is our new “within” or global environment. (In some ways, too, our true “Second Nature” as the manifest unfolding, in spatial and temporal terms, of what was formerly called “Universal Reason”).
And wondrous strange it is that we have made real and actual in history what was only once imagined in the form of Universal Reason as the Clockwork Universe with God conceived as the Grand Architect. Fukuyama’s “end of history” is the realisation of the technocracy as the globalised World Machine of Universal Reason. Only, Mr. Fukuyama didn’t actually realise or understand this himself — “The imagined world made real”.
It is in the context of the new global technocracy as realised “Universal Reason” (albeit in deficient expression) that cybernetic feedback and control take the social form of surveillance and propaganda. The function of much of this surveillance and propaganda today is to adjust and assimilate human beings (all life, in fact) to the new reality of the technocracy as “Great Society” (through the co-optation of dissent, for example). We are given the illusion of choice without the reality of it. Lip-service is paid to old values because these old values are now irrelevant in the context of the new reality. As someone once said, “the future ain’t what it used to be”. But that future is already here without a great many people knowing or understanding this. Thus confusion and frustration abound, and this agitation and irritation with the times often takes the form of a futile (and often ugly) reactionary politics.
But the problem is, that we must either transcend the machine logic of the Global Technocracy or become enslaved to it as its “captive audience” in much the same way Rosenstock-Huessy describes above. We already speak of human beings in the new technocracy as “resources” where an older language once spoke of “souls”. The problem is to make the System serve the purposes and goals of life and the earth rather than vice versa. This radical devaluation of values by which human beings were gradually revalued from “souls” to “resources” illustrates the “boiling frog” syndrome in a nutshell. History has been the cauldron. The Technocracy has no need of “souls”. It only requires resources. And it especially has no need of “resources” with potentially unmanageable purposes and meanings of their own.
This is the great struggle of the time. It is something Rosenstock-Huessy spent his life working on: how to guarantee the survival of “a truly human and humane society” in the face of this “new within” — the globe-straddling Juggernaut that had now become a common fate for all of us. It was also something that engaged the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche. Both men were misunderstood (and still are). Also, however, both men did not go far enough in formulating the problem or formulating a response.
“This is a time that tries men’s souls”, Tom Paine once wrote. But our problem is made doubly difficult today by the dis-spiriting of the human — by his or her “soullessness”. Few believe that they are “souls”. They are literally dis-spirited. This dis-spiriting is what we call “apathy” today. Universal Reason translated into the World Machine has no need of souls. Therefore, there are no souls. The Global Technocracy has no need of purpose or meaning. Therefore, there are no purposes and meanings. There is just the logic of the System itself — the logic of Blake’s demented god Urizen and of the old savage god Moloch.
The transformation of the World Machine and of the Global Technocracy into a true Earth Community and Planetary Civilisation (globalisation into globalism) and into a genuine Life World is our great multi-generational task. Since the mental-rational structure of consciousness, conceived as Universal Reason (and in deficient expression, now functioning merely as instrumentalising “rationalisation” and as a debased technicism) lies at the root of the problem, we must learn to master this structure with its implicit deficiencies in order to make it serve life and the earth (and not just human life either). The problem remains, as ever, human narcissism. And if we don’t address that, we will not resolve the problem at all.
Fortunately for us, “where the peril is greatest, there lies the saving power [or grace] also”, and in Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of values” lies the procedure for salvaging the situation. For it is very true that, as Omar Khayyam once expressed it, “only a hair separates the false from the true”. The alchemical transformation of lead into gold isn’t as difficult as most imagine.
By now some of you may have read or heard about the embarrassing exposure of the Netflix promotion in Toronto, where Netflix confessed to engaging paid actors to excitedly hype Netflix’s debut in Canada. The actors were coached in the pretense of just being casual passers-by and regular, average-guy-and-gal, Dick-and-Jane members of the demos. InformationWeek, for example, headlined the story (first reported in The Globe and Mail) “Netflix Apologizes for Misleading Media“.
Gee. Misleading the media. Is that it? I wouldn’t even bother to comment here on this minutiae if it weren’t so illustrative of the more wide-spread problems of late modern consciousness, (and for being somewhat exemplary of Robert Parry’s article on “America’s Decoupling from Reality” that has become a point of controversy on The Chrysalis, too).
That the media, misled, should find this particular, (and relatively minor) pretense and deception surprising and news-worthy is really the only real news-worthy thing about the incident, because this sort of thing goes on all the time and even on a grander scale than this. There are very many “how-to” manuals (and I’ve read quite a few of them. They are all direct descendents of Edward Bernays‘ crucial 1928 book Propaganda) containing recipes and formulae for generating just such faux events and fake news: buzz, spin, disinformation, “guerilla marketing” and other such examples of hyperventilating, hyperbolic speech-acts designed for the daily production (and our consumption) of marketeers, advertisers, public relations professionals, political hacks, propagandists, and other sundry sorts of confidence men and women to follow: books like Emanuel Rosen’s The Anatomy of Buzz or (especially) Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
(And there you go — I’ve already created a blog “buzz” for Ries’ and Trout’s book just as they intended).
This sort of stuff is ubiquitous. This info-pollution — which it truly resembles — saturates and permeates the Late Modern air(waves) like smog, obscuring our attempts at gaining fresh insight into reality, suffocating the perspecuity of our reason, and confounding and confusing our perceptual clarity and mental hygiene (let’s call this process “de-mentation”, as in de-mented). “Buzz”, “spin”, “hype”, “disinformation”, or (one of my favourite euphemisms for propaganda) “public diplomacy” are, nonetheless, only the rivulets of what is more broadly called “perception management” — the Mother-of-All-Propaganda-Objectives. But all these are also instances of what the “speech-thinker” Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy diagnosed as “diseased speech” — killer of societies and civilisations.
True enough. It is all diseased speech. And this diseased speech is the most publicly manifest symptom of what historian Jean Gebser referred to as the latter-day “deficient mode of the mental-rational structure of consciousness” or decay of the Modern Era. Diseased speech is the general symptom of the decline of an Era. A deficit being the result of a deficiency, there is in this instance a deficit in sincerity, authenticity, and clarity generally characteristic of the circulating public speech of Late Modernity. This deficit manifests as duplicity, hypocrisy, dissembling, pretense, mendacity, and prevarication — all of which are, indeed, the modus operandi and characteristic psychopathic traits of the thorough-going narcissist and of narcissistic personality disorder.
So, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by the recent spate of books on the problem of narcissism that began (more recently) with Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism (a pioneering and worthwhile book, in that regard, but in my opinion far from adequate in its assessment of narcissism as being something unique to “America in the Age of Diminishing Expectations”, rather than as being something general to the human condition. In fact, in focussing merely on the “American” experience, Lasch was demonstrating something of the general problem of narcissism himself! You mean, Christopher, that Canadians, or Iranians, or Russians, or Arabs, etc aren’t narcissistic? Of course, maybe that omission itself inadvertently proves Lasch’s very point — that he himself was so narcissistically “Americo-centric” that he couldn’t recognise narcissism as the general problem of being human, just as Morris Berman could only write about a Dark Age America. It’s all very ironic. Even America’s own native critics of American self-absorption are now engaged as self-absorbed nativistic American critics. The problem, though, is not a geographical or territorial one, but one of an entire Era in decline.)
There really isn’t enough space, even on WordPress, for what I could write about “perception management” and the dementation of the Late Modern Mind as being the very meaning of Gebser’s “deficiency” — as a deficit in a necessary and vital human faculty or competency (deficiency being, in some ways, the negation of both efficiency and, especially, of sufficiency. And what is “sufficiency”? It is, in fact, another word for “sustainability”).
In other words, the situation is completely unsustainable. And unsustainability is the hallmark of an Era in the throes of decline and fall.
That’s the lesson or insight that our media might have taken from this particular episode if it had examined the complete context of the incident as one episode amongst very many of the falsification of reality. But, perhaps it was only noticed or highlighted as extraordinary event because Netflix attempted to generate “buzz” and hype, but was found out, without actually paying for it as advertising revenue stream — such advertising, editorial commercialisation, or infomercial articles being, today, the normal protocol and commercially acceptable format and forum for the conduct of “public diplomacy” and perception management. Maybe the loud indignation over Netflix’s manoeuvre was simply resentment at the fact that Netflix had tried to pull one over on the media gatekeepers and tried to get a free-bee?
Is that why InformationWeek described it as an act of misleading the media and not, as was the real objective, misleading the consumers of the mediated message? Does this mean that, it is OK to mislead the public (as long as one follows proper protocols and pays for privileged access to the mediated public), but not OK to mislead the media as the jealously guarded access to public perception? If Netflix had paid actors to pretend to be Dick-and-Jane types (or the famously white-coated medical and scientific types) and then paid the media access agency to publicly broadcast this pretense (as happens every hour of every day), it wouldn’t even have been news-worthy at all.
Can you imagine as an alternative headline in the mainstream media: “Advertisers mislead public”?; or “Goverment pays media to disinform public”?
I once became involved in a very strenuous argument with a man about education. I objected to his particular use of the word “student”, which I considered evidence of an unclear and sloppy thinking that obscured the real problem in contemporary education and pedagogy. He tended to use the words “student” and “pupil” as synonyms, which is superficial. Students and pupils were for him the same because he merely saw youths congregating in schoolyards or trudging their texts to school.
But there is here a first rank problem of Late Modernity which this episode illustrates — its superficiality. Student and pupil do not have the same significance at all. The man treated these words as identical in meaning only because he used his eyes and not his ears to judge the reality of things, and he was angered by my insistence that he was mistaken in doing so, and that in consequence of this, he was merely speaking nonsense and thinking confusedly about the problem of education in society.
We have two words for this condition of being student and pupil because there are two aspects to the process of schooling and learning. A pupil may well be schooled, but only a student will actually learn. This is because the words “pupil” and “student” pertain to the external and internal character of the boy or girl who comes to school to be educated.
The word “student” comes from Latin “studere“, and it means “to be eager”. To be inwardly eager and hungry for real knowledge — or knowledge of the real — is the condition of the true student. A pupil, on the other hand, may not have this inner hunger and eagerness at all. To be a pupil is no more than a statistical or observable fact about the presence of this young boy or girl in the classroom. The word “pupil” is related to “pupa” (having much the same meaning as Greek “chrysalis”). Pupa is defined as “the quiescent stage in the development of the insect, following the larval and preceding the adult stage”. Equally, to be a “pupil” in a human way is to be in the unformed, larval, quiescent state of the immature human being. It is to be pre-mature. The real and authentic problem for the educator is how to inspire this merely statistical “pupil” that sits bodily and bored before the teacher to become a real student by arousing and awakening the hunger, the desire, the love of, and eagerness for, knowledge.
One may, indeed, remain a life-long student. But a man or woman who remains merely a pupil because the inner man or woman has never been called upon or aroused never reaches full maturity and stature as a responsible adult or citizen. He or she may well be “schooled”, but certainly not “educated” in any genuine or authentic sense. And it was this problem, to a very great extent, that led to the Student Revolts of the Sixties’ era with its often inarticulate demands for “relevance” in education and the rejection of rote schooling. But neither administrators, educators, nor the student rebels either really understood the true nature of the problem, which still goes largely unaddressed today.
The word “educate” means “to lead out” or “to lead forth” (e- or ex-ducere). This is true leadership in that the educator as leader must work to draw out from within this unformed, human larval stage of the pupil the mature man or woman, which can only be done through an inspired and inspiring teaching that transforms the mere Pinocchio-like pupil into a real student. Otherwise, the pupil is only “schooled” (disciplined) in all the worst senses of that term (and even this word “discipline”, which contains “disciple”, is only an exhausted manifestation of its former truth and meaning). A real student is, in effect, a disciple.
Too many people, today, have been “schooled”, but have never been educated in the true sense. They walk around as mere shells and phantoms of human beings with no real direction or authentic inner life. They have been deformed by schooling, rather than transformed through education, and they consequently have remained trapped in this pre-mature period of the “pupil”, having never really been called upon to realise their authentic manhood or womanhood. They were never really aroused to a great passion for truth, or, for that matter, to any consciousness at all. They are locked into the pupa stage. Apathetic is this stage.
What a gruesome fate.
You can argue, of course, that this wasn’t just a mistake or the result of a wrong-headed philosophy, but the design for a “modern education”. There is certainly evidence of that too. For although modernity has spoken glowingly of the “self-directed” (or self-made) and individuated man or woman, the exact opposite of the ideal was implemented because the last thing any political authority wants to see is passionately self-directed or conscious human beings. Modernity wanted workers, not citizens. It wanted producers and not founders, even though much vain and empty lip-service was paid to the grander ideals publicly.
As discusser earlier in The Dark Age Blog, the suspicion that design, and not negligence, played a role in keeping human beings inwardly quiescent and apathetic was the educational philosophy of the Prussian educator Johann Gottlieb Fichte as cited from his Addresses to the German Nation (1807):
The new education must consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate, and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will, the opposite being impossible. Such a will can henceforth be relied on with confidence and certainty.
If you want to influence him at all, you must do more than merely talk to him ; you must fashion him, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than you wish him to will.
This, however, is a description of “schooling” in all its worst senses, and not of education.
In conclusion, I will narrate an anecdote from my own experience. The student in me was only aroused, and the inner-life inflamed, after 13 years of deadening schooling by a chance question from a professor at university. He asked me if I knew what the opposite of “diabolic” was. Not knowing, he also supplied the answer: “Symbolic”, he said. My eyes lit up, and much to his evident delight because it was just the response he was looking for. His wry smile told me, then, that he knew he had hooked me and had recruited me to join in his own fight for the survival of a truly human and humane society. Since then, exploring this mysterious and riddling relationship between the symbolic and diabolic has been the quest of my life. In a moment, I ceased to be a mere pupil and became a real student.
In Memoriam: Louis Xhignesse, Educator: (? – 2010).
I’ve been struggling to put together a piece on the significance of co-emergence as a challenge to the mental-rational structure of consciousness and to modernity’s roots in Cartesian metaphysical dualism. So far, I haven’t been satisfied with the results.
But the principle of co-emergence bodes fair to finally displace the disease of metaphysical dualism, so I suggest you familiarise (maybe even saturate) yourself with it by reading as much as you can on the subject. Co-emergence has the same significance as “dependent co-arising” or “co-origination” (interdependency and interconnectedness) in Buddhism and is also implicated in ecology and quantum mechanics. This has a great many implications for the future of consciousness and the needful re-orientation of society in the Planetary Era.
For today, however, I wanted to draw your attention to an older article titled “It’s Finished” on the financial crisis by John Lancaster in The London Review of Books (LRB). Perhaps one of you even directed this to my attention in the old Dark Age Blog. In any case, I finally got around to reading it through to the end. It’s lengthy, but worth the read. And I may even try to acquire his book about it which he has entitled Whoops!
But after reading the article, I wasn’t entirely sure what exactly “It” was that Lancaster considers finished. I’m not even sure if Lancaster isn’t alluding to the famous last words of Jesus on the crucifix — words that, in effect, closed the era that had preceded him. And perhaps that is what Lancaster intends by entitling his article “It’s Finished”.
“It” could be understood as the Modern Era. You will note in the article some strange coincidences in this regard, particularly his mention of da Vinci’s assistant, the Franciscan monk Luca Pacioli who is credited with inventing modern accounting methods. That association of Pacioli and the perfector of perspectivism isn’t coincidental. (And if you find that association intriguing, you might want to learn more about it in Alfred Crosby’s higly recommended book The Measure of Reality: Quantification in Western Europe, 1250-1600, an important contribution to understanding the roots of the mental-rational structure of consciousness in perspectivism and the origins of the Modern Era itself).
In other respects, “It” could refer to the consensus or troika of neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism/neo-socialism that formed around the ostensible superiority and inevitable victory of the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism. You don’t really hear much about this any longer since the free market meltdown forced its proponents to eat some crow. For Lancaster, “It” is the now waning leadership role of the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism and of the consensus that formed around its alleged superiority (and about which it presumed to lecture the world).
Oh, you can bet, though, that there will be plenty of attempts at reconstructing that narrative in defiance of the reality — a lot of “perception management”, about which “manipulatory activity” LeapE2020 warned in its article on the global systemic crisis to which I linked earlier, even in the guise of “creative accounting”.
In any case, one of the aspects of the mental-rational structure of consciousness having entered into its deficient (or “de-mented”) mode is that “the pursuit of rational self-interest” slides very easily into the mood of “every man for himself” typical of the shipwrecked. That was also the ever-present negative and perverse aspect of the principle of self-interest waiting for its opportunity to erupt.
Dehiscence, dispersal, disintegration. The measures taken by governments and financial institutions to date, described by Lancaster, are stop-gap. They are not solutions because they do not address themselves to the underlying structural problem.
I have suffered a bit of an injury. It isn’t life-threatening, but it’s distracting. It has belayed my plans to launch into a series on the significance of co-emergence.
But today I want, at least, to perform the overture and highlight what I believe will be four key features of the next era currently in its incipience, as well as provide a brief explanation why I think these themes will be defining of this era that we can call (for lack of better terms at present) “transmodern” or “transhumanist”. (You will recall from The Dark Age Blog, that in using the term “transhumanist” I mean only what Nietzsche intended by the German term “übermensch” — wrongly translated into English as “superman”. And by “transhumanist” I certainly do not endorse the more recent tendency to use “transhuman” as a synonym for man-machine hybrid entities or cyborgism).
I’ve already given the game away in the title of this post, of course: time, co-emergency, field, and consciousness. Now I have to explain why these four in particular are key features of the new era.
Time and Space: The Modern Era
The Modern Era, now passing away, was space-obsessed. The discovery of deep space approximately 500 years ago in the Late Medieval or Early Renaissance period established the spatially-accentuated orientation and bias of the Modern Era and the Modern Mind. This is the significance of Petrarch’s account of his ascent of Mount Ventoux in southern France, famous in its time, for which his account has been rightly regarded as one of the first self-conscious expressions of the early spirit of Renaissance humanism. In his book, Ever-Present Origin, cultural historian Jean Gebser also interpreted the significance of Petrarch’s experience (which Petrarch called his “confession”) as a crucial episode in the historical emergence of the structure of consciousness peculiar to the Modern Age — the mental-rational (equally, the logico-mathematical) or “perspectival” consciousness structure.
(That Petrarch described his record of the ascent and experience at the summit as a “confession”, demonstrates his sense that what he felt in surveying the vastness of deep space from the mountain summit was a crime or a sin. He specifically refers to it as such. It illustrates the fact, though, that all new eras are established through just such an act of primordial “sin” or through a “crime”. This conception of the creative “crime” or “sin” we also find explored in Nietzsche’s philosophy. And as Goethe once put it equally, “Im Anfang war die Tat“– “In the beginning was the deed” or act).
Also significant in terms of the spatially-oriented theme and bias of the Modern Era was the invention of perspective representation itself, beginning with the earliest and most crude attempts at the perspectival mastery of space by Giotto (1267 – 1337) in the 13th century, passing thereafter (amongst others) through Brunelleschi (1377 – 1446), Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472), Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528), and perfected in the art and perspective theory of Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519): the quintessential “Renaissance Man” and “universal genius” (as he is regarded). The discovery of the perspective representation of deep space in art (which was the discovery of “depth” itself) preceded by a century Copernicus’s de Revolutionibus where Copernicus (1473 – 1543) introduced (post-mortem) the helio-centric theory of the cosmos launching “the Scientific Revolution”. The well-known and well-regarded historian of science Thomas Kuhn wrote in his study of Copernicus and the Scientific Revolution, that he felt that Copernicus must have had some knowledge of perspective in order to conceive of his helio-centric order of the cosmos at all.
Put another way, perspective perception and the dominance of the eye as the organ of knowing — all of which is characteristic of spatially-oriented consciousness — was becoming the “common sense” of the Era which we have shared until lately.
From this time onward to the present day, space and the domineering (even imperialistic) organisation of (subjective and objective) space and spaces (Nature and Psyche mastered via “Universal Reason” now realised as “Global Economy”) has been the overwhelming obsession of the Modern Era. But this has occurred at the expense of our consciousness of time and life-time. Today, this neglect and ignore-ance of time is manifesting as the essential deficiency and defect in the mental-rational structure of consciousness, expressed in such problems (and contemporary crises) as the desperate attempt to “find time”, “pass time”, “waste time”, “kill time”, and in social problems pertaining to time as life-time in such difficult social issues symptomatically expressed as the quest for “work-life balance”.
We will have more to say about this fatal defect and deficiency in the mental-rational structure of consciousness, as it pertains to the neglect of time, in later posts. We will only remind that dichotomistic terms like “individual” and “the mass”, or “private” and “public”, or “idealist” and “materialist” are categories organised around the (faulty) Newtonian-Cartesian (Rene Descartes, 1596 – 1650) conception of space in terms of atoms and molecules, or as the subject and object spaces of Cartesian metaphysical dualism (the so-called “mind-body problem”)
Time and Space: The Transmodern Era
In the now emerging Transmodern Era, time, and not space, is becoming the central focus. This is being forced upon us whether we like it or not. It has, in any event, become the overwhelming issue in formal thought (and practical life) since Darwin, Freud, and Einstein at the turn of the 20th century — (or, the evolutionary, the primitivistic, and the relativistic respectively). I would insist, however, that these representatives of the budding time-oriented consciousness do not represent full and mature developments of time-consciousness so much as early and very often fumbling, inadequate, and defective attempts to grasp the emergent phenomena of time and temporality as these were becoming dimly perceived. In some ways, it makes sense to say that the crisis of the age occurs where time- and space-consciousness have come into conflict and radical contradiction. As we say, “time is of the essence”, and this is certainly the case in the emerging Transmodern Era.
(Darwin, Freud, and Einstein were correct. Only, the weren’t correct enough).
Presently, however, our spatially-oriented static consciousness is being discombobulated and disoriented by the “irruption” of the ignored and neglected dimension of time, and is desperately trying to salvage the older situation (the status quo ante) by forcing time to act as the “fourth” dimension of space. This manoeuvre is characteristic of a consciousness still inflexibly adhering to outmoded models. Here “duration” (or the lack of duration, which is the true meaning of “eternity”) is compelled almost imperialistically to act, in terms of the defective logico-mathematical consciousness, like spatial “expansion” or “contraction”, or inflation and dilation. The entrenched habits of a spatially-oriented and biased consciousness structure attempt to compel time in its dynamics to behave like space in its dynamics. But the real difference between these is as between “quality” and “quantity”, or “intensity” and “extensity”. Time, as such, is a quality and not a quantity. This is the consciousness of the more advanced thinkers about time, such as we find often in Chaos Theory in chemistry (the late Ilya Prigagone), in social theory (the late Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy), or in history (the late Jean Gebser). To the purely spatially-oriented and spatially-biased consciousness, so characteristic of the now declining Modern Era, these “time-thinkers” seem like absurd mystics (that is to say, “irrational”), whereas in terms of the consciousness of these new time-thinkers, it is the spatially-biased perspectivist consciousness (the mental-rational) that is become decadent, irrational, and absurd.
I happen to agree. If the relation of the finite to the infinite was characteristic of the Modern Era, and which dialectic conditioned the perspectival consciousness, in the Transmodern Era it will be the relation of time to eternity (inevitably, therefore, the problem of the relationship of the secular to the spiritual) that will principally guide the perceptions and ruminations of the transhuman era.
Co-Emergence versus Cartesian Metaphysical Dualism.
The principle of the new era that will supplant the Age of Reason, (narrowly conceived as it was in terms of Cartesian metaphysical dualism and of man narrowly conceived as “rational man”) is the principle of co-emergence, which is the negation of dualism. Metaphysical dualism established an absolute and inviolable difference and contestual, agonstic relation between ego and world, mind and body, self and society, individual and mass, private and public, subject and object, man and nature, or idealist and materialist. This dualism is untenable and finally unsustainable. There was no bridge formable or possible between these exclusive and exclusionary subject and object spaces each ensconced within their own private horizons of significance.
Co-emergency, however, negates metaphysical dualism. It is the principle behind Jung’s “synchronicty” and which informs David Bohm’s “implicate order“. Moreover, unlike Cartesian metaphysical dualism, it is not a “metaphysical” principle or merely an assumption. Co-emergency means that cosmos and psyche (world and soul, or object and subject) co-evolve, co-originate, or co-arise in an intimate relationship of interdependency or inter-connectivity. This is not even a matter of speculation. It is the established evidence of quantum mechanics as well as of our more consciously aware biologists and evolutionary ecologists. Buddhism calls this “dependent co-origination” or “co-arising”. In other terms, co-emergence is described by Jung’s “synchroncity”, by Bell’s non-locality theorem, the “implicate order” of David Bohm, and in terms of “observor created reality” in quantum mechanics. (The spatially-oriented, and now deficient mental-rational structure of consciousness, still does not know how to handle these subjects, and can only describe them — from its perspectivist logic — as being “mystical”).
Co-emergence (or co-origination, co-arising, co-evolution, etc) is the final negation of the absurdities of Cartesian metaphysical dualism which permitted of no real communion or vital connection between consciousness and reality, or any intimate relationship between Man and Nature, or psyche and cosmos.
All this is changing today.
Field versus Point of View (POV).
Since the beginning of quantum mechanics and of Picasso’s art too, the all-inclusive “field” has been displacing the Newtonian-inspired, atomistic, egoistic, and perspectival “point of view”. The point of view locates consciousness in space, not in time. The quantum field theory represents the rejection of the primacy of atomism and particularism. It corresponds in physics to the interconnectedness of entities in evolutionary ecology. The anxiety and difficulty that some people have today with the concept of “field” is a residuum of the Newtonian Era of space-consciousness and the deficiency of the principle of “self-interest”. “Field” includes time and space as a continuum. What we call “past” and “future”, or “inner” and “outer” co-exist or co-arise as a continuum within one field of reality. There are not two separate realities of subject and object, or mind and body, where one constitutes a “beyond” or “other world” and the other, a “this world”. In effect, the “field” constitutes the meaning of “omnipresence”. With that, also, the principle of “self-interest” that arises from the perspectival point of view is challenged. The human ego, being a socialised construction of “point of view” and “rational self-interest”, naturally feels threatened in its existence by the implications of field theory. “Field” awareness is what is presently understood as “holistic” or “integralist” as opposed to the merely perspectivist “nook and corner pespectivism” (Nietzsche) of the excessively and exclusively self-interested or ego-centric point of view.
Consciousness versus Intellect.
In consequence of all the above considerations, consciousness is now understood as being different from “mind” or “intellect”, and especially from ideology. The principle of the Modern Era, established by Descartes in the formula cogito, ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) made existence (and awareness) and thinking identical in meaning. Being and thinking are made one and the same. In consequence, animals were not considered to have a “soul” (as an example) because they lacked a rational faculty, (conveniently excusing the practice of animal vivisection). One of the most decisive and defining features of the emerging transmodern or transhumanist era is the rejection of the equivalence of thinking with consciousness or being. Consciousness is not ideology, nor is it merely mentation, ratiocination, and intellection.
Consciousness precedes logic. How could it be otherwise? One must be conscious before one can learn to think properly at all. But our contemporary Artificial Intelligence fanatics believe the inverse of the truth — that a machine can become conscious by being made to logify and logificate first (to form a couple of neo-logisms). True intelligence has nothing to do with thinking directly. Thinking is only the overt and manifesting expression of an innate intelligence that can never be synthesised in a machine or even completely objectified and quantified.
Consciousness is the nexus — the bridge — that relates all the other factors: it is field, it is co-emergence, and it is the originator of time as we experience it in its fluidity and mutability.
In subsequent posts, I will want to explore individually each of these four pillars of the new era in more detail.