Time, Co-Emergency, Field, and Consciousness
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.