The Foreign Installation

It is probably a bit premature to offer new comments on the meaning of “the foreign installation”, but in my reading of Gabriel Marcel’s Man Against Mass Society, I came across a passage that brought it immediately once again to mind, and which might be helpful in conceiving of the foreign installation in more concrete terms.

We’ve had occasion to bring up “the foreign installation” — the occupied part of the psyche — in earlier discussions, and particularly in reference to Johann Gottlieb Fichte’s formula for a modern education. Here’s something that Marcel has to say about the matter that expands on the issue,

“…[T]he very essence of those modern techniques of degradation… consists precisely in putting the individual into a situation in which he loses touch with himself, in which he is literally beside himself, even to the point of being able sincerely to disavow acts into which nevertheless he had put sincerely his whole heart; or on the other hand of being able to confess acts which he had not committed. I shall not attempt at this point to define the kind of sincerity, obviously a factitious and artificial kind, that we are talking of. I shall note merely that, though in recent years such techniques of degradation have been brought to an almost unimaginable degree of refinement, they are already in use in periods much earlier than ours.”

After discussing the strange case of the persecutions of the Knights Templar, who sincerely confessed to crimes they had not committed, only to later retract those confessions, Marcel follows up that comment by adding,

“Physical torture by itself seems incapable of producing such sincerity; it can be evoked only by those abominable methods of psychological manipulation to which so many countries, in such various latitudes, have in recent years had recourse.” (p. 18)

That is the issue of “perception management” in a nutshell, of course. And if you have watched such documentaries (highly recommended) as Adam Curtis’s The Century of the Self, or have read anything of the broader literature about propaganda (such as Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, or Noam Chomsky’s excellent work Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, or Manufacturing Consent) then Marcel’s phrase “psychological manipulations” won’t come as much of a surprise, (although the increasing refinement, sophistication and effectiveness of such techniques might come as a very unpleasant surprise). How men (or women) are able to be made to live in a condition “in which he is literally beside himself” is an issue directly connected to “the foreign installation”.

The word “paranoia” (para-nous) is exactly the meaning of the word “beside oneself” or “not in one’s right mind”. And that is the issue that Harry Enten equally raised in The Guardian earlier when commenting on Julian Sanchez’s astonishing research on what we might call “cognitive dissonance” (just a fancy term for “duplicity”) or the role of “symbolic belief” (“Why Obama is a ‘Muslim'”).

So, indeed, the foreign installation is not just a figure of speech. It is a very serious issue to be confronted with the probability — even the fact — that the thoughts one thinks are not even one’s own true thoughts, or that the life one leads is not even one’s own real and authentic life. The power and effectiveness of modern technologies of social control to estrange one from one’s own inner feelings, and from one’s own native conscience and good sense (rather than “the common sense”), and to alienate an individual from his or her own lived life and immediate experience — this is very serious business indeed.

“The foreign installation” is the mediator, in fact. And that contrasts with the meaning of “immediate”.

This is not just “degradation”, as Marcel puts it. It is the very meaning of the word “diabolical”.

13 responses to “The Foreign Installation”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    I read this piece last night and went to bed thinking about the question of ‘When exactly does “The foreign installation” begin to impart its effect in our lives for the first time?

    I arrived at an answer before falling to sleep. When I got up this morning, I still agreed with that answer. Remarkably, when I saw and read “The Foreign Installation II” this morning after I woke up, I found that you have already addressed the question by pointing out “the parents” as the first source of the foreign installation. It was very satisfying and gratifying to see that this is precisely the answer I had come away with. And the fact that Rumi was also aware of the condition 800 years ago makes the issue of the foreign installation more transcendental and connected to the ever present human condition — narcissism.

    • Scott Preston says :

      In some ways, Rumi’s statement about parental authority or influence is not significantly different from that of Jesus’ “he who loves mother and father more than me is not worthy of me”. That has to be deciphered somewhat in its meaning that parental authority is an impediment to achieving what we might refer to as “Christ consciousness”. In effect, the statements of Rumi or Jesus amount to saying that all tradition — all loyalty, obedience, authority — is contingent only, and that Man has a higher calling than the “vocation” of tradition that parents often select or steer their children towards. This is Rumi’s meaning, also. Our first encounter with the authority of “society” or tradition is through our parents. So, their image in us as “superego” must be repudiated if we are to transcend ourselves. For even in political terms — the “daddy state” and the “nanny state” are both patriarchal or matriarchal images which condition our attitudes of loyalty or obedience to power and authority as being binding. But that really means, in those terms where our attitudes to power are shaped by our prior experience of parental authority, that our attitudes to power remain childish or infantile.

      Even Castaneda had a pretty harsh method of breaking the controlling authority of the parental image — the foreign installation, as it were. It was to imagine crushing the image of your parents as “bugs” between your thumb and fore-finger. Symbolic action it may be, and perhaps effective, and maybe a little extreme, but not much different in import than Rumi’s statement or Jesus’ rebuke of his mother Mary when he said “Woman, what have I to do with thee? I am about my Father’s business”. That was pretty harsh, too.

      Now, I’ve just been reading again in Seth’s The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events and have reached Part II where Seth begins to talk of Framework 1 (ordinary reality) and Framework 2 (which we might call “extraordinary” or “meta-reality” perhaps). Blake, it seems, lived almost exclusively in Framework 2. Newton’s “Frame of the World” actually belongs to Framework 1 and is none other than Gebser’s “mental-rational” consciousness structure, it seems. In Framework 2 — the meta- or trans- state, as in “meta-noia” — symbolic action is the only reality and supplies the energy source and “patterns” for manifestation in Framework 1. Apparently, those energy or symbol “patterns” or “gestalts” are the same as “the archetypes”. This Framework 2 is Castaneda’s “Separate Reality” that he wrote about in his second book by that title, although not at all separate worlds. Framework 1 is a reflection of Framework 2 (traditional science inverts that in suggesting the physical or sensate is prior to the symbolic or ideational, but Seth insists that this inversion is false). Don Juan always insisted that there was only “one world”, not two, but that one world had infinite aspects to it, any one of which could be opened by shifting perceptions which, as you know, was called “shifting the assemblage point”.

      The “foreign installation” basically keeps us fixated on Framework 1, and thus we never really arrive at the truth of things. It is the state of delusion and illusion associated with purely sensate existence. Reaching Framework 2 (Nietzsche’s transhuman state) is a matter of confronting and defeating the “foreign installation”.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        “all loyalty, obedience, authority — is contingent only, and that Man has a higher calling than the “vocation” of tradition that parents often select or steer their children towards.”

        Not even a year ago, I was sitting in my parents’ living room and reminiscing with my mother about the past and the memories she and my dad had had of raising two sons. At one point, after delving into pondorous silence for a minute, my mother said “We [parents] are just vessels. We are only meant to bring forth the new generation. After that, we must back off and assume a supportive role.”

        To hear that from a parent, who, along with my dad, had been such a staunch disciplinarian, was quite elating for me. Because I could see that my mother no longer viewed her children as possessions that she had to protect and steer in a certain direction “for their own good,” but as autonomous individuals who would be best left to chart their own course of life according to their own affinities. As Seth explains in “The Way Toward Health,” — age — is also part of being healthy.

        • Scott Preston says :


          That’s the key word here, of course. “disciplinarian”, and what that actually means in the bigger picture. Although it is connected to the word “disciple”, it takes on a completely different colouration when it is connected with meanings of coercion or forced conformity through reward and punishment for supposedly “deviant” behaviour.

          Interrogating the sources of one’s own beliefs — that would be true “inquisition”, as it were. Unfortunately, it often gets projected outwards unto others, and becomes “Inquisition” in the worst sense — a persecution of those who do not conform to the mandates of the foreign installation which, in Blake, is called “Urizen”.

          While it is necessary for parents to give their children the tools and necessities they require for survival in the social context they live in, it is not always done wisely.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    Well put. Thank you.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Come to think of it, Frye had something to say about that in relation to Blake’s views of the matter, too. Blake warns against what he calls “soft Family-Love” as being (in Frye’s terms) “one of the most formidable bulwarks of social conservatism. The notion that a child is the possession of its parents is very hard to eradicate, especially in loving parents; and this kind of parental love is denounced by Blake as a vicious appetite. The most elaborate form of it is the Platonic educational love which has as its goal the retention of the boy in the larger family unit of the city-state”. (p. 73)

      Frye here, I think, has actually somewhat gone off track in his commentary, but it’s a fair description of the foreign installation as a “formidable bulwark of social conservatism” and, in further respects, a kind of enslavement insofar as the aim of this “educational love” that Blake considers “a vicious appetite” is to establish possession, and, essentially, to put one’s brand on the child’s mind as the meaning of “retention”. That is, of course, the source of Fichte’s nefarious views on a proper education as taking command of the will of the child in such a way “that they cannot will in any other way except as you want them to will”. This is that “Family-Love” or the abstract kind of “Platonic love” that Frye is commenting on, but which would have been better fleshed out had Frye been familiar with Fichte.

      Plato was definitely revealing his preference for Sparta in that respect (which Mr. Frank Miller merely reflects in that movie 300), but it is on this point that so many believe that Plato is the source for contemporary fascism. This is the “disciplinarianism” or the total “disciplinary state” that I have in mind. In any equivalent sense, though, the “foreign installation”, which is instilled under the pretext of being “instruction” (but which is merely appropriation), is what Nietzsche calls “herd mind” or what Frye calls “the commonplace mind” or what White calls “the mass mind”. And it is what Pink Floyd’s angry album “The Wall” is pretty much about, too.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Wow! How interesting! It’s so gratifying to see Frye give recognition to the detrimental impact that possessive parents can have on their children — namely, in the form of fostering social conservatism. From my experience, that’s so true. Thank you for mentioning the quote from Frye.

        I’m still trying very hard to make time and get to my books by Nietzsche. Not having read him yet, though, Nietzsche’s “herd mind” as being incorporated within Blake’s notion of “soft Family-love” makes a great deal of practical sense to me. The vast majority of parents would like to see their children “succeed” in the definition of success and succeeding that is prevalent in the society: a high paying job, a nice house and a car, etc. Right there, we see a door open for the infiltration of Nietzsche’s “herd mind.” — I think.

        I saw “The Wall” when I was barely a teen and I absolutely loved it. The command “Teachers! Leave the kids, alone!” was my favorite piece in all of the songs on that album 🙂 A few weeks back, actually, I was watching Youtube clips of David Gilmore and was surprised to hear his voice is still as good as when I first heard him.

        • Scott Preston says :

          By the way, Seth also, as I’ve just discovered, has a great deal to say about this very issue in The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events. Pertinent passages begin page 115 and onwards. I was thinking of posting something about it but realised I would probably have to quote a couple of pages to provide the proper context. But in those passages also is contained virtually everything Blake was also attempting to express in his Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. I’m just reading the sessions where Seth discusses the consciousness of early man, and its resonance with Blake’s own consciousness is quite remarkable. Lots of opportunity for further insight into the meaning of Blake’s poetry.

          The meaning of Nietzsche’s “herd mentality” (or equally “slave morality”) can’t really be appreciated, I think, except in reference to Frye’s “the commonplace mind”, but the real work of delineating or mapping out what that means was done by Rene Guenon and Gabriel Marcel, in The Reign of Quantity and Man Against Mass Society respectively, but equally in some crucial passages in Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin. But I think the most valuable thing I’ve discovered so far in this Seth book is the insights in provides into some of the more obscure writings of William Blake.

          He also has some great lines or words — words like “pseudothreats” and their biological consequences which really deepened my understanding of the pernicious and self-destructive effects of propaganda as well as the consequences of the artificial stoking of mass anxiety. His delineation of “Framework 1” (the physical system of space-time and the environment of the “outer ego”) and “Framework 2” (the psychic or energy environment that is the habitat of “the inner ego”) has a good deal to recommend it. Blake lived almost exclusively in Framework 2, it seems. And it is the appearance of Framework 2 within Framework 1 that he often writes about, but which is equally what Gebser calls “the diaphaneity” or “translucency” of the world to the integral consciousness.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    A few days ago, I ordered 8 books, one of which was “The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events. Blake’s “Song of Innocence and the Songs of Experience” will be part of the next batch 🙂
    Thank you for mentioning it. I very much like to become more familiar with Blake’s works. The edition of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” that I read from had the author’s interpretation of Blake’s wonderful drawings or paintings, as well. It was very helpful to read those interpretations. Otherwise, their meaning was not obvious for me.

    • Scott Preston says :

      You could probably find most of Blake’s works already posted on the internet.

      It’s not always evident, at first blush, how Seth is pertinent to Blake’s visionary art and poetry. I’ve just finished reading Seth’s description of the consciousness of “early man” (how early, he doesn’t say) but it leaps off the page, as it were, because it seems a precise description of what Blake understands by “The Golden Age”, and quite characteristic of Blake’s own consciousness. So, I didn’t really understand what Blake intended by “Golden Age” until I read the pertinent passage in Seth on the psychology of early man or the imagination as the basis of human life.

      Here again… interestingly, Seth touches on civilizations as imaginative/intentional psychic constructs, and this bears on that earlier post in which I commented on Frye’s interpretation of Blake’s four “states of the imagination” in terms of Ulro, Generation, Beulah, and Eden as being — or so I feel — correspondences to Gebser’s “structures of consciousness” — archaic, magical, mythical, mental-rational, and that the energy that sustains them actually comes from what he calls “Framework 2”. Framework 2, in this sense, is McLuhan’s “invisible environment”, yet is the medium in which we truly exist, which we would know if we weren’t so highly focussed on “objective” reality, which is Framework 1, in Seth’s terms. These terms “Framework 1” and “Framework 2” are very useful, and much better than using terms like “matter” or “spirit”. I see, in retrospect, that it was this kind of representation I was groping toward when I attempted to dissect or revalue Newton’s “Frame of the World” as being only a distorted mental abstraction or theoretical structure, not “reality” so much as an overlay on reality that mediated our perception of the true — it came between our perception and our experience and, in effect, specified and proscribed how we were even to perceive and experience. In a nutshell, another aspect of “the foreign installation”, which Blake denounced as “single vision & Newton’s sleep”.

      In that sense, Seth insists that our own civilization is just as much a collective hallucination as anything we might dismiss from the past. We live within a mental abstraction that we call “reality”, but it is only a mental abstraction.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Thank you for mentioning that Blake’s works may be found on the web. After a quick search I found two copies of the “Songs of Innocence and Experience” on the web.

        Having become more and more familiar with Seth’s work, I can better understand your description of his “Framework 1” and “Framework 2.” it seems to me, then, that emotions and feelings are part of the primary mechanism through which our experiences within “Framework 1” become an immortal part of “Framework 2”. I’m thinking without our emotions and feelings we would be just a robot that could move and act in “Framework 1” but with no imprint on “Framework 2”. Beliefs and thoughts would then and ideally be part of Framework 1.

        Trying to tie everything together, then, I’m thinking that beliefs, thoughts, and emotions and feelings, altogether and with various levels of intensity, form the physical experience in Framework 1. Further, it seems to me only emotions and feelings are responsible for carrying the experiences and knowledge gained within Framework 1 to Framework 2. Once in Famework 2, all knowledge and physical experiences and the accompanying emotions and thoughts become part of the unique psychic energy that we are.

  4. amothman33 says :

    framework 1 and framework2 of Blake, according to my enterpretation is similiar to the two human installations i referred to on the same topic ,the diabolical and the angelical, let me expound the local and the global and the capacity of the human to go glocal ,that is he can reflect the divine vision without loosing the human vision, that is in the same expression used by LBM , that all manifestations of the human psyche become, in full awareness, the manifestations of the divine psyche. knowledge is basically a divine manifestations and the only thing that matter is our encounter with the infinite, as it manifests its energy in the universe ,above and below.let us expose our hearts to its radiance,activating the tools that we possess, without getting disheartened by the gloom around us because this the way our universe is designed.everyone carries his own luggage.

  5. amothman33 says :

    of Seth not of Blake

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