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