Shamans, Satyrs, and Cyborgs

It is very instructive to compare the meaning of the Shaman, the Satyr, and the Cyborg as variations on a single them, and that these types correspond to the different structures or articulations of consciousness as described by Jean Gebser in his Ever-Present Origin (for they do represent something that is, in fact, abiding about the archetypal human). They all, in their own terms, represent the intersection of the natural and the supernatural, the temporal and the eternal, but within the framework or context of their own consciousness structure.

In those terms, the shaman is the image of the magical structure, the satyr the same image within the context of the mythical structure, and the cyborg the same image within the context of the mental-rational (or technological) structure, for the cyborg as symbolic form relies as much for its meaning equally upon the persistent, unconscious influence of the magical and mythical.

I’m sure it may come as a surprise to many that the shaman, the satyr, and the cyborg are, in one sense, one and the same creature. Typically, those who extoll humankind’s cyborgian future don’t think of themselves in terms of the “satyr-ical” at all, although Donna Haraway’s difficult “Cyborg Manifesto” seems to mix them all together, confusedly, willy-nilly (as the illustration from her book exemplifies)

Donna Haraway "Cyborg Manifesto"

Donna Haraway “Cyborg Manifesto”

But compare the following three images of Shaman, Satyr, and Cyborg as they appeared in different eras,

Shaman

Shaman

Satyrs or Fauns

Satyrs or Fauns

Cyborg

Cyborg

The cyborg might be described as the residual image of the shaman or satyr (the Latin “faun”) adapted to a “rationalised” technological milieu, but which nonetheless bears the imprint of its origins in the “irrational” — that is to say, in the magical and mythical layers of the psyche.

What the symbols evoke is the intersection of the natural and supernatural orders, and this is just as true of the cyborg. In the “second nature” or “artificial nature” of the technological system, technology has become an all-encompassing affair and environment, and therefore constitutes a new “supernatural” order. As the shaman represented the conjunction of the natural and supernatural, and the satyr (or faun) likewise the conjunction of immortal god and mortal beast, so the cyborg represents the conjunction of supra-human machine and the frail human.

All, however, represent the intersection or “marriage” of the supernal with the infernal as conceived within that consciousness structure’s framework — the magical-shamanistic, the mythical-satyrical, or the mental-rational-cyborgian, and the latter has just as much its roots in the “mystical” as the magical or mythical. And ultimately, it is the image of the intersection of eternity with the time-bound, the immortal with the mortal.  Carl Jung might call this, the persistence of the “archetype” of “the collective unconscious”.

Many “aliens” from outer space that we see in movies and science fiction are actually aliens from “inner space” — the forgotten semblances of the gods or remnants of the shamanistic or of the satyr.

The cyborg, nonetheless, represents a deficient and perverse representation of the shamanistic and mythical satyr insofar as it is completely unconscious of its roots and origins in the magical and mythical dimensions and dynamics of the psyche.  The cyborg is a forced marriage of power and frailty, of “eternity” (misconstrued as “foreverness”) with all that is time-bound, and therefore an attempt to forcibly overcome the apparent contradiction of the immortal and the mortal.

And because the cyborg is not transparent to the mental-rational consciousness as symbolic form, however deficient it may be as symbolic form, it is an idol. The cyborg makes opaque its implicit connection to the shaman and the satyr, and instead makes of the shaman and the satyr imperfect realisations of itself — of the cyborgian ideal, whereas the truth is the exact opposite. The cyborg is the deficient or imperfect  mode of manifestation of the shamanistic — “imperfect” in the sense of incomplete.

The shaman and the satyr (or, the magical and the mythical) might be said to express the mystery of an immortal being inside a mortal, natural body. Or, it may be a way of expressing the miracle of the human as “the speaking animal”.

The cyborg dream is the defeat of time through the construction of machine-bodies in the image of a perpetual motion machine. “Perpetual motion” thus becomes the perverse understanding of “eternal life” or immortality.

Other than these shared commonalities, the satyr and the cyborg are enemies.

 

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10 responses to “Shamans, Satyrs, and Cyborgs”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    This is really quite uncanny, but yet another Guardian article that partially speaks to the themes raised above has appeared this morning. Jonathan Freedland writes “Are smartphones causing a bonking crisis?”

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/26/smartphones-bonking-crisis-british-less-sex-technology

    Now one thing about satyrs and nymphs is that they are wild, uninhibited, lusty, passionate critters — Dionysian revellers intensely embodied one might say, and excessive in almost every way. Yet they were also deemed the wise ones. The satyr Silenus, made notorious again by Nietzsche, was the teacher and mentor of the god Dionysus, and famed for his wisdom.

    What Freedland does here, in pointing out the near sexlessness of the cyborg, draws very near to marking what distinguishes the satyr from the cyborg, and why it matters today. That contrast between the wildness of the satyr and the over-civilised cyborg couldn’t be made sharper than in Freedland’s article.

  2. Abdulmonem says :

    Jung said if you do not kill your shadow. you will never receive the light. Staying in the darkness of the shadow, dim our perception. There is no pure shaman or pure cyborg or pure satyr. they are aspects as you said of the human psyche. No wonder Rosenstock calls himself an impure thinker and asserts the addresseeship of the human situation and replaced the Descartes motto into respond in order to change. Being an addressee you need to respond to the message. Rosenstock is among those who asserts there is a message and not the among the deniers who navigate in a sea of words aimlessly without knowing the anchorage of names.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Ah, I see you’ve been doing homework, Abdulmonem! Hopefully, you enjoyed the essay.

      On the shadow…. there’s a poignant couple of lines in the Led Zeppelin song “Stairway to Heaven” that occurred to me. Some people think the song is the greatest rock and roll song of all time, but apart from these two lines I think its mostly gibberish.

      (I don’t know what might be the greatest rock and roll song of all times, but if forced to cough up an answer, I’ld give first place to the Rolling Stones “Gimme Shelter”)

      Anyway, the two lines from the song “Stairway to Heaven” are

      “And as we wind on down the road
      Our shadows taller than our soul.”

      It’s hard to say where Robert Plant/Jimmy Page came up with that one, but perhaps they knew Jung. They were, in fact, heavily influenced in many of their songs by Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings also.

      But those two lines strike me as being very poignant, given the current world situation.

      • Scott Preston says :

        By the way, as you might see by now, there is a battle being waged for “the soul of Western Man” (as we might put it) and it is constantly shifting ground, and sometimes the battles are waged in the oddest of places. It’s not just in terms of sociology (Rosenstock-Huessy), or psychology (Jung), or cultural history (Gebser) or in arts and letters (like William Blake. Very rarely is it in politics), or in the “blogosphere”, but more often than not comes through music.

        And it’s a very odd thing, for example, that the most popular poet in America presently is… Rumi. It is as strange as if Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson were to be the most popular poets in Saudi Arabia.

        So, it is a battle. And there is no let up in it because the urgency of lifting the veil over the eyes and ears is great, and that is the point of Rosenstock’s essay “Farewell to Descartes”.

  3. Abdulmonem says :

    Exactly Scott and harken Israel is a present call to those who understand the timelessness of the voice of god. Israel is killing itself and the wall she is building about itself is an indication. Thank you Scott , I have enjoyed the man a lot.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    “In those terms, the shaman is the image of the magical structure, the satyr the same image within the context of the mythical structure, and the cyborg the same image within the context of the mental-rational (or technological) structure, for the cyborg as symbolic form relies as much for its meaning equally upon the persistent, unconscious influence of the magical and mythical.”

    Enlightening.

    “Many “aliens” from outer space that we see in movies and science fiction are actually aliens from “inner space” — the forgotten semblances of the gods or remnants of the shamanistic or of the satyr.”

    I think I am finally beginning to understand archetypes 🙂

    “The shaman and the satyr (or, the magical and the mythical) might be said to express the mystery of an immortal being inside a mortal, natural body.”

    This is very true. Before I began elementary school, my parents were forced to take me to see a shaman, since doctors couldn’t figure out or treat a skin condition I had developed. He lived on the outskirts of the village where my grandparents lived, where he was a blacksmith. A very large guy with a face that looked to be the splitting image of “Hagrid.”

    Except, Hagrid looks friendly compared to this guy. He had me walk a copper bowl of wheat grains submerged in water to his shop without spilling a drop before sunrise. I had my grandfather and my mother following me and ordering me where to go and turn and all that. Then, the shaman did his ritual and mumbling some words I couldn’t hear and told us to go away.

    The next morning when I woke up, the skin condition was gone without a trace. Even as a kid with a very active imagination I couldn’t believe what had happened. Mystery, indeed.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    I think I am finally beginning to understand archetypes

    Yes, archetypes are, in effect, ever-recurrent themes regardless of the particular structure of consciousness in which they rise to expression. We may pride ourselves on our “progress”, but in deeper terms, there is no progression, only different articulations of the same underlying psychological pattern or current. The sap that feeds the petals of a flower is the same sap, despite the petals pointing in opposite directions, one might say.

    Archetypes, in Jungs psychology, are universal components of the so-called “collective unconscious”. By “universal” means, omnipresent — everywhere and at all times. This “collective unconscious” might be called the true “commonwealth”. Blake simply called it “the Imagination” or “Divine Human” or “Poetic Genius” but it has much the same meaning as Jung’s “collective unconscious”.

    The old saying that “the more things change, the more they stay the same” is valid in those terms.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      “The sap that feeds the petals of a flower is the same sap, despite the petals pointing in opposite directions, one might say.”

      That’s an elegant metaphor you have used before – as I recall – and its meaning is beginning to sink in for me now.

      Also, Jung’s “collective consciousness,” as being synonymous to Blake’s “the imagination,” or “Poetic Genius” was wonderfully illuminating. Thank you.

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s an elegant metaphor you have used before – as I recall – and its meaning is beginning to sink in for me now.

        The “sap” is kundalini. I think you may already be familiar with that. But if not, wiki has a fair article on it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini

        • LittleBigMan says :

          ” I think you may already be familiar with that.”

          I sure hadn’t heard of it 🙂

          The Wiki page to which you provided the link has some fascinating information. I am pretty sure I have experienced the “intense love,” symptom of an awakening Kundalini since my early 20s. But over time (in decades) I learned they were – in my case – warnings of an imminent danger than symptoms of being elevated to an higher state of consciousness. After that discovery, whenever I feel that sudden surge in feeling of “intense love,” I always know that I must prepare for an inevitable precarious situation. It has never failed me and it gives me a great sense of awareness and control over the situation. It is a lifesaver in the truest definition of the word.

          “It should always be remembered that despite appearances to the contrary, the complete control of Kundalini through the spinal column is man’s only reason for being on Earth, for when this is accomplished, the lessons in this classroom and the mystical examination is passed.” – From the Wikipage.

          Indeed.

          I think a good place to start for me would be by reading “The Serpent Power.” Thank you.

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