Life Era, or Death Era?
This may be my last post for a while. I have been called away owing to a family emergency and may be gone for some time. I will be responding to comments while away, and perhaps will even find opportunity to finally finish my series on the Seth material we’ve been covering lately — how we can outrun the fate that Seth insists is inevitable for the planet and the human race unless the ego consciousness changes, and now becomes “familiarized with its roots”.
I still need to demonstrate how this is presently playing out.
An article by Robert Manne, a professor of politics from Australia, appeared in this morning’s Guardian. It’s entitled “Climate Change: some reasons for our failures“. Manne touches on some of the themes raised in The Chrysalis, but which require further elaboration.
I mentioned in an earlier post Eric Chaisson’s description of our post-modern era as the beginnings of “the Life Era“. Given the dangers of the sixth extinction event, environmental debasement, climate change, and Seth’s warning that the race may not endure unless certain changes of a biological and psychological nature are made, it seems contrary to reason to describe the new age as “the Life Era”, when it appears rather more like “the Death Era” — the unfolding process of Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”.
What Chaisson is referring to is the displacement of physics as queen of the sciences by biology. But whether biology can fulfill its promise and free itself from the shackles of an outmoded mechanistic model of life derived from Newtonianism and Cartesianism is another matter. It is, nonetheless, the very issue which Rosenstock-Huessy raises in his essay “Farewell to Descartes“.
This is, certainly, one of the underlying issues in Manne’s article, even if it is not made explicit. Manne does address the problem of the modern mind in self-contradiction, of the way in which the “rational pursuit of self-interest” has become indistinguishable from the irrational pursuit of self-destruction. He raises some important points of whether democratic institutions are fit for purpose, or have become captive of moneyed interests and an “opportunistic populism”; of whether the threat of climate change and our apparent inability to resolve it doesn’t represent, in fact, “the greatest instance of market failure in the history of humankind”; of whether the various “isms” and ideologies of the modern era haven’t already become obsolete and anachronistic, but still hang around, zombie like, as lost causes. It is the issue of what I’ve referred to as the stubborn persistence of “legacy thinking”.
Manne’s undertone of disillusionment with democratic institutions and processes, and the problem of “opportunistic populism”, is unmistakable. I detect an envious side-long glance at China’s authoritarian model as being more fit for purpose in order to take command of the situation and definitively address the crisis of the modern era, albeit following what he calls a “left-conservative strategy”. A “left-conservative strategy” sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it actually corresponds to Rosenstock-Huessy’s holistic and integralist model of consciousness, which will be discussed later in relation to the Seth material. Manne feels, nonetheless, that the polarisation of “progressive” and “conservative” or the Left-Right “culture war”, as being, and having been, a serious impediment to resolving the larger questions of the survival of the planet.
It would be of course, the greatest cosmic irony if “the most successful species” in evolutionary terms — the human — should turn out in the end to have been the most unsuccessful. A population of 7 billion overrunning the Earth is given as the measure of proof of that success. Meanwhile, we look forward to 9 billion in short order. It will be ironic indeed if the measure of the specie’s “success” should also be the exact same measure of its absolute failure. Here, winning or losing, success or failure, look exactly the same, which is the very issue of ironic reversal that John Ralston Saul summarised in a notable remark,
“Nothing seems more permanent than a long-established government about to lose power, nothing more invincible than a grand army on the morning of its annihilation.”
The “population bomb“, as Paul Ehrlich once called it, isn’t however one of Manne’s concerns in the essay, although it must be considered the elephant in the room.
That apart, my only objection to Manne’s essay is that it fails to cut to the quick in recognising that the crisis of late modernity is a crisis of consciousness — a conflict between what we might call “the Modern Soul” and “the Global Soul”. One of the reasons is, I think, that Manne radically foreshortens his perspective on the history of modernity and the nature of the nation state system,
“In the way it has evolved, the post-war international ‘system’ of nations is entirely unfitted to the kind of broad-ranging international cooperation now required. Nations participate in the international system predominantly to safeguard and advance their self-interest — the so-called ‘national interest’. Only when they think the national interest is served will they form alliances or involve themselves in broader schemes of international cooperation”.
But the utilitarian “pursuit of self-interest” or “national interest” has been around at least since the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 effectively dissolved the Holy Roman Empire and established the beginnings of the modern system of sovereign and independent nation states pursuing their own “self-determination” or national interests and national advantages.
It isn’t actually the post-war system. As I have been saying in The Chrysalis, following the insights of cultural historian Jean Gebser, the modern era is now in a state of conflict with the newly emerging global or planetary era. In that sense, the clash of two different structures of consciousness underlies the surface conflict between “legacy thinking” and the requirements of the new global age of transnational (planetary) space, or, to put that differently — the “mental-rational structure of consciousness” (the “perspectivist’) is in conflict with the emerging “integral structure of consciousness”; or, to put it more prosaically, the Modern Soul and the Global Soul are in a state of conflict and contradiction. (It doesn’t matter whether we use “structure of consciousness” or “soul” as terms to designate this).
Nation States cannot be “good global citizens” as long as the very premisses of their existence were laid down earlier in the principles of utilitarianism and “the rational pursuit of self-interest” or “national interest” as the norm of conduct. “National interest” or “self interest” is just another way of saying “point of view”, and this is a narrowly perspectivising way of perception. In the extreme (and what today is not extreme?), this perspectivising perception with its “point of view” becomes the petty-mindedness and the small-souled “viewpoint” of the ultraconservative, the reactionary, the chauvinist, and the jingoistic nationalist, where this tiny point called “point of view” is made grandiose, universal, absolute and bombastic; or what psychologists call “psychic inflation” (by which they mean ego inflation).
A “paradigm shift” is not as simple as doffing one hat and donning another. “Paradigm shift” is a metanoia — a revolution within, a “thinking anew”, a radical and complete restructuration of the ego consciousness itself, and ultimately of society itself. There is no case in history where a “paradigm shift” or historical transition, as a restructuration of consciousness, has not been attended by great upheaval, stress, strife, and conflict. And that is exactly what the transition from Newtonian-Cartesian Man to Quantum Man, from physics to biology, from the Mind Mechanical and Perspectivist to the Mind Electric and Ecological-Integral is — a huge metanoia and paradigm shift, but which is, in essence, a complete restructuring of the ego consciousness itself.
Or, as the New Testament puts it —
“No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.”
A paradigm shift isn’t simply a matter, then, of tacking new ideas onto an old structure — a pastiche. Unfortunately a “pastiche consciousness” — a structure of dissonant and inconsonant effects and ideas, and which literally doesn’t know whether it is coming or going — is what we have presently. That is not to be unexpected in ages of rapid transition, but a pastiche consciousness or identity, simply cobbled together from bits of this and pieces of that, isn’t an integral or holistic one and doesn’t constitute a metanoia in the meaning of that term — a “new mind”.
The Modern Mind was space-obsessed, befitting a consciousness structure that began in the interpretation of perspectivism in the Renaissance. In times of transition, however, time and timing becomes the outstanding problem — how to transition from the past to the future peacefully, and that means, from an older structure of consciousness and perception to a new structure of consciousness and perception, and from old loyalties and identities to new loyalties and identities. It is like a faithful old dog who won’t leave the corpse of its deceased master — the question of how to wean identities and consciousness away from loyalties and allegiances to dead idols and to the corpses of ideas that are no longer life-affirming or life-enhancing — the problem of a legacy thinking which won’t let go, and can come to resemble necrophilia.
A “necropolis” is a City of the Dead. That is the Late Modern Era. It is not Blake’s “City of the Imagination” or Augustine’s “City of God”, or even the humanists “City of Man”. Necropolis is the meaning, I believe, of this current obsession with the zombie as contemporary icon.