The Threat

Canada’s controversial, newly re-elected Conservative Prime Minister, Mr. Stephen Harper, was recently quoted in the media as saying that “Islamicism” is the principal security threat to Canada. Afterwards, a terrorism expert from the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto stated in a CBC radio interview that Mr. Harper’s views constituted what he called, politely, “legacy thinking,” — which may be something of a euphemism for “reactionary”.

“Legacy thinking” could easily be another way of expressing what we have referred to as “deficient rationality,” following the usage of cultural historian Jean Gebser, who (along with many others today) identified it as the signal symptom of the  deteriorating situation of the Modern Era and the dissolution of its specific mode of consciousness — “the mental-rational structure.”

Others call all this “madness.” I will call it what it is in quite similar terms — delusive thinking.

My own survey of the historical decline and fall of civilisations, eras, societies, or empires suggests that delusive thinking about the nature of “threat” was almost invariably the cause of their demise. It is somewhat akin to Marx’s notion of “false consciousness.” And while this more or less corresponds to Jean Gebser’s meaning of “deficient rationality,” I feel that “delusive thinking” is perhaps the more easily accessible term. Still, “false consciousness,” “deficient rationality,” “delusive thinking” (or even “legacy thinking”) could all serve as interchangeable terms for describing the crisis of modernity as being characteristically a crisis of consciousness and perception. “False consciousness” may also be described as “legacy thinking” revealed in the incapacity of the Late Modern mentality — grounded in dualistic logic — to master the circumstances it has largely created for itself by its own applied rationality in the form of an objectified technology. To actually do so, it would now have to transcend itself and its own present limitations, for it has become anachronistic.

The most evident present way this is expressed today is in the climate change “controversy,” (which is really only “controversial” outside climate science itself). It’s not coincidental that Chaos Theory and Butterfly Effect first arouse from problems encountered in meteorology and with the study of weather, problems which challenged any straight linear cause-effect relationship between a limited set of variables. In this sense, meteorology was simply catching up with corresponding discoveries in quantum physics (uncertainty) and ecology (complexity) and dynamic systems. The corresponding problems for sociology and history in the global era are pluralism, cultural diversity (multiculturalism), and the co-existence (and co-evolution) of many human histories or traditions.

The common challenge all the departments of knowledge confront is the same — non-linear, non-dualist reality confronts a legacy of linear, dualistic consciousness, thought, and perception and reveals these as being deficient or insufficiently realised. This is the source of much stress today, as reality applies pressure on our consciousness and perception. This has only been gradually revealed since the First World War and constitutes the profounder aspects of the oft-mentioned “paradigm shift” of our times — the deeper interconnectedness of all things.

And it is in this new global context that “legacy thinking” and ways of perceiving become anachronistic and frustratingly deficient for those who cling to them. It is the same problem that reveals itself, say, in the bizarre manifesto of the reactionary conservative Anders Breivik. Unable to consciously handle non-linearity, multiplicity, plurality, complexity, and more than a very limited set of social variables, he forces them all to collapse into a single entity and Hydra called “cultural Marxism” (or “socialistic multiculturalism” as others have put it) and reverts to a pre-modern and anti-modern ideal of society.  It is this that I’ve referred to earlier as threat conflation leading to threat inflation. “Cultural Marxism,” a deficient mentalistic abstraction, is massaged into a mythological creature and symbolic form corresponding to the old archetype of Satan.

The problem of delusive thinking (or false consciousness; or deficient rationality) is that it results in defective, inadequate, incompetent, or inappropriate and unskilful responses to perceived existential threats or crises. Deficient responses, generally described by the term “reactionary,” take the form of self-destructive or nihilistic responses. In our time, this typically takes the form of revived latent forms, but still deficient, of predominantly pre-rational magical or mythical consciousness such as we witness in the fascist period.

It is for similar reasons that literary or art critics often decry the appearance of cliché, formula or cant in uninspired and uninspiring artistic works as belonging to the decadent, ungenuine, or inauthentic. At one time, these same devices (such as perspectivism in art) were innovations, lauded truly as the works of creative genius in their time, and were widely imitated and emulated. But when these devices no longer answer or correspond to our experience of ourselves or our reality, they degenerate into these inauthentic forms of cliché, formula, or cant. They become the elements of “legacy thinking.”

Even to judge, critique, or evaluate artifacts or works of art in those terms already suggests that there has been a change in consciousness and in the mode of perception.

Since the First World War, our self-understanding and our experience of “reality” has changed completely, and the war has left us with a turbulent legacy of still unresolved social issues. Yet our thinking (and our pedagogy in consequence) has barely caught up with the fact, still being blinded by a patently false sense of triumphalism that conservatives, especially, seem to want to revive and recover from post-modern cynicism and value deconstruction. In very many ways, thinking still moves and circulates repetitively in old grooves like a stereophonic needle upon a broken record. “The sins of the fathers shall be visited down to third and fourth generations” is simply a statement of the sociological fact that, as another man put it, “time makes hypocrites of us all”.

“Reality,” “truth,” etc, became a problem for us after the World Wars because our real experience of the global era the wars inaugurated no longer conformed to our “legacy thinking” — our basic historically-conditioned assumptions about ourselves and our reality. Disillusionment is no bad thing, actually. We need to become disillusioned and disenchanted in order to even overcome ourselves (Narcissus would have lived had he been properly disillusioned and disenchanted). If people experience this as apocalyptic “nihilism,” so be it. Perhaps the infant been weaned away from the Mother’s breast also feels this as an existential threat. The great threat today is internal to ourselves, and it originates in-and-as a delusive thinking that results in inappropriate, inept, and unskilful responses to the questions and challenges that the new reality of the planetary era presents to us in our time. Getting clear about our situation is the first step in resolving the crisis.

Unfortunately, there are many vested interests, “powers and principalities” and systemic factors that have a stake in preventing us and obstructing us from achieving that clarity about our true situation. Once called “propaganda”, today it is largely referred to as “perception management.” They are also in possession of the means and resources to do it, too. Consequently, as Mr. Einstein once put it, we are hurling headlong towards catastrophe — a self-inflicted, designer apocalypse.

To me, that seems simply self-evident. Perhaps it is even necessary, if the only way out is now through.


16 responses to “The Threat”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    “There is a saying that “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.” [This] is the time when we realize that the guidance or imaginal cells of our bodies, our communities, and, yes, even of the cells of our planet are calling us to come together in all our parts to form something gorgeous, interdependent, living lightly on the Earth, cross pollinating cultures, ideas, spiritual forms, glowing with the light that suffuses us, becoming transparent to transcendence. And to rise out of the mush we have been caught in these many hundreds of years and to take flight in the air of the new story which is emerging in our time.” ~ 3 Keys to Activating Your Life Purpose by Jean Houston

    Refreshing. The “five shifts” are among patterns I’ve been tracking for quite some time. Oh yeah. The times they are a-changing.

    • Scott says :

      Well… you are quite amazing, infi. There’s something archetypal about you I’m still trying to put my finger on. But your facility for responding so quickly with the most appropriate references or links is quite incredible. Of course…. the caterpillar is what the Chrysalis is all about (although have to point out that the caterpillar is correct… for it, it is “the end of the world” as it is and knows it).

      Some quite interesting and engaging comments made there by Jean Houston that speak to the problem of “legacy thinking” (and also the earlier piece on “sin and the system” — how the system “shuts up the kingdom of heaven,” and won’t release the keys, so to speak. “Three keys” for three sins?

    • Scott says :

      “We simply haven’t been trained in how to bring the possible future into the present.” — Jean Houston

      Well… doesn’t take much to understand why that is. Ivan Illich once wrote a book called Deschooling Society which had a much similar criticism of “schooling” (different from “education”). But what Jean is asking us to do is implement a programme of “permanent revolution”, and that’s certainly not what most education is about (except maybe Paulo Friere’s “pedagogy of the oppressed” and his general educational theory. Illich and Friere are both wise, but don’t look to the corporate state to implement their pedagogy — or Jean Houston’s — soon).

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      the caterpillar is what the Chrysalis is all about

      And all this time I thought the Chrysalis was about trans-form-ation. What was I thinking. 🙂

      I think the Master would actually say the caterpillar and butterfly are the same entity, so I’m not sure what Jean’s reference might be. Whether the transformation is ever complete is an open question we’ve already discussed.

      don’t look to the corporate state to….

      Not to worry. I don’t look to the corporate state to do anything but assimilate. When I’m feeling down about that, your TDAB comment that “our institutions will be the last to change” (seared into my heart on the spot) brings me solace.

      Well… you are quite amazing, infi.

      Not really. I’ve cast a wide net upon the Interweb. Jean’s post appeared in the Twitter feed at roughly the same time yours appeared via RSS. I believe Jung referred to the phenomenon as synchronicity, but — no offence to Jung — I find psychology extremely limited (and limiting).

      There’s something archetypal about you I’m still trying to put my finger on.

      I’ll try not to take it personally. 😉

      • Scott says :

        I’m thinking… Hermes or Her-metic (as opposed maybe to His-toric). I went to see the Harry Potter movie Friday, and there’s this character called “Hermoine”(?). Her name is associated with Hermes and the Hermetic, of course. In that sense, she’s archetypal. 🙂

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Hmm. Think I’ll stick with my spirit animal. 🙂

          This reminds me, though, that I ran across something the other day I intended to look into a little more deeply (but unfortunately lost track) and that is a resurgence of the theme of omni-science alongside omni-presence. As we know, religion was once considered a “high science” as opposed to (but not in conflict with) the lower order of natural science…until the sanctimonious split between the two.

          As Vivekananda put it, “All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind.” I take this to mean not that we know everything (although, perhaps, we do in a way), but that we do not learn “knowledge” so much as we discover and remember it within ourselves — intuitively and methodically.

        • Scott says :

          As Vivekananda put it, “All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in your own mind.”

          Yes… but what is mind?

          There’s an old Buddhist parable. A monk in mental distress comes to see his teacher and laments that his mind is not pacified or tranquil despite months and years of meditation. “Show me your mind,” says the teacher, “and I will pacify it for you.” “But I can’t find it!” says the monk. “There!” says the teacher, “I have pacified it for you.” (the dharma of No-Mind).

          The “library” that Vivekandanda is describing is “the akashic record” or akashic library. It is the same that the Buddha consulted after his enlightenment when he was asked questions by his interlocutors. (He states so, but without using the term “akasha”). The same was once called “the luminiferous aether” in early modern science/alchemy (these shared much in common, initially, and maybe I should post something about that, because it is instructive of transitional ages, just as Plato’s “archetypes” or Forms/Ideals (the eidola) were only a translation of the gods, now denuded of all personal will and of any subjectivity of their own — the gods, who were passions, became the Ideas, and the Ideas became Ideals, and perhaps also Idols).

          It would appear that one of William Blake’s “memorable fancies” recorded in his Marriage of Heaven and Hell is his own eccentric (?) vision of the akashic library draped in metaphorical and alchemical symbols, but experienced by him as realities. He called it “the Printing House in Hell” ( )

        • amothman33 says :

          There is a book by Franz Bardon called , initiation into hermetic. if we practise it it can help solve the riddle.

        • Scott says :

          “Bardon my Franz”, but I looked up Mssr. Bardon’s entry in the Wikipedia and found it quite intriguing. One quasi-biography/novel mentioned there Frabato the Magician describes it as being in part a description of “the dark occult forces that lay behind the rise of the Third Reich”. That’s pretty intriguing to me because the famous German author, Thomas Mann, wrote a book called Mario and the Magician with a somewhat similar theme. Quite possibly, Mann knew of Bardon’s book and maybe modelled his own upon it (but maybe not).

          (Bardon’s quasi-autobiography/novel is available for downloadin .pdf format online for anyone interested).

        • Scott says :

          Frabato the Magician — a curious little book.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Yes… but what is mind?

          Unfortunate that conceptualization and language are necessary to communication at times.

          “In ordinary usage, the word ‘mind’ refers to thoughts, the thinking process, or the thinking apparatus. But there are other usages: in the East, for example, ‘mind’ includes more than just the thinking sphere. And here in the West as well, the word often has a larger meaning.” ~ A.H. Almaas

          As in “mindfulness,” itself a communicatory expedient. No wonder the Buddha hesitated to teach. lol

          I prefer the term “Logos” or “organizing principle” myself. No need to define it.

        • Scott says :

          Mind and the problem of translation. Almaas is correct to note that “Mind” in the East encompasses far more than just thinking. The Sanskrit word often used is “cetta” and more or less refers to any and all the contents (concepts and percepts) and processes (affects, emotions) of consciousness. Sometimes translators try to make a distinction between “awareness” and “consciousness” to cover the distinctions between what we all “consciousness” and “mind” correspondingly. In don Juan’s/Castaneda’s world, “cetta” would correspond to “tonal”, while “nagual” would get closer to what Buddhism would call “No-Mind” or “No-Self” or “No-Soul”. While we are tempted to translate terms like “cetta” or “tonal” as “ego” or “mind”, ego and ego-consciousness (mind), these are only one aspect of the tonal or cetta. There are various “spheres” or “layers” or “psychic sheaths” (Gurdjieff’s term) to what we call “mind” that were symbolically represented in old charts as the orbits of the planets in the geo-centric/astrological model of the cosmos. We also tend to use the term “psyche” to encompass all aspects of conscious and unconscious process, which might get closer to the meaning of “cetta”.

          That the old geo-centric model of the heavens in terms of “spheres” was actually a model of the “soul” (for don Juan, this still belongs to the level of the “tonal” as does “God”) is what the controversy over the Copernican model and the Scientific Revolution was all about, of John Donne’s lament in “An Anatomy of the World” about the loss of the world soul, and inform’s Nietzsche’s concern about “since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre towards X”. That last statement wouldn’t make any sense unless the geo-centric model was actually not a model of the heavens so much as a model of the soul of man as understood in those times. That is to say, as autobiography — a particular “structure of consciousness” and mode of perception, in Gebser’s terms, which he called “the unperspectival” which distinguished the older concern with “Being” to later concerns with “Having”. That is to say, “being-in-the-world” and nature gave way to possessing a world and nature. This shift reflects the “rolling away” from the centre — from geo-centric to helio-centric.

          The recent attempts by conservative Catholics to retry Galileo (“Galileo was wrong”) reflects this. It is very reactionary, but has less to do with science than with certain problems arising from contemporary psychic (mal)functioning and the breakdown of the mental-rational structure of consciousness and its mode of perception: ie, perspectivism. The Copernican helio-centric model, as image of mind, is very much tied to the earlier discovery of perspectivism in Renaissance art, ie, the conceptualisation of space in three dimensions rather than two, which is the very basis and foundation of what we call “the modern mind”.

          The addition of a fourth dimension (time) has had a very disruptive effect on overall psychic functioning (“legacy thinking”). Even Einstein had difficulty accepting some of the implications of his own model (the quantum world) which made him actually the last of the great Newtonian scientists rather than the first of the quantum scientists. And yes, there is also a “get Einstein” movement as well that parallels the “get Galileo” one. These same folks also tend to be climate change deniers and right-wing conspiracy theorists (paranoia, anxiety about the self and its identity reflects psychic turbulence and disturbance and malfunction).

      • Scott says :

        Do you think I should post something more lengthy about this issue? I covered quite a bit of it earlier in The Dark Age Blog, but maybe the manifold confusions and the psychic dysfunction (now becoming fully manifest in politics, economics, social functioning, etc) of the present era require a new clarification? The root of it all is very easy to understand, but describing it is often difficult.

  2. amothman33 says :

    The world will not end, until the human understand the full truth.We are on that path.Mr Harper is not aware that he lives in ugliness. some catterpiller may die on the way, other may bloom. Mr Harper is a dying catterpiller. Jean is a blooming one.Jean also said we donot just live in the universe, but the universe lives in us. We are experiencing the second phase.

  3. Scott says :

    I hope our time will be remembered as an Age of Ironies, for it is. Mr. Harper talks glibly about the threat of “Islamicism”. Maybe he means militant Islamism or maybe he shares the same paranoid delusions as Bat Ye’or and the other “counter-jihadists” about Eurabia, etc, etc. And maybe Mr. Harper is deliberately trying to obscure the differences between Islam and reactionary Islamism.

    This paranoia about “Islamification” is somewhat delusive. There is a certain irony in the fact that the Catholic Church and a neo-Marxist like Slavoj Zizek both believe that it is Buddhism that represents the chief “threat” or competitor to both Christianity and Marxism.

    (found this interesting bit of history on the web this morning: suicide protests are not unknown amongst Buddhists — )

  4. amothman33 says :

    As there is black magic there is white magic. The question is how we orient ourselves to move from belief to knowledge.In spirituality, there is great differance between mere knowledge and practical knowhow.Sufism is the practical knowhow to contact God, the everything.

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