Chaos and Modern Consciousness, II

All talk about “Late Modernity” or “Post-Modernity” must begin with Nietzsche. All this blather about “cultural Marxism” being the Zeitgeist is so utterly delusional that I have to consider it a sign of a mass psychosis. We are not in or entering a Marxian phase. We are in a Nietzschean phase. Hegel and Marx were both checkmated by the World Wars, and it is Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” that is currently the dominant tendency.

So, we need to grapple with Nietzsche and the meaning of Nietzsche’s “nihilism” if we are to understand the condition of the consciousness of Late Modern Man as I raised it in the last post.

Nietzsche’s formula for nihilism is this: “all higher values devalue themselves”, and the highest value of all, God, Nietzsche announced to be dead… murdered, actually. All values begin to devour themselves. This devaluation of values is decadence, and decadence is a form of nihilism — the process of emptying all values of meaning in self-negation or self-annihilation.

Rosenstock-Huessy called this decadence a “disease of speech”, and identified it with “lip-service”. Another name for the disease of lip-service is “hypocrisy”, and the problem of hypocrisy is the lack of integrity between the word and the act. One still speaks the old language of values, but one acts in such a way as to negate and make void those very values. This need not be a fully consciousness duplicity. Very often it is not. The problem of lip-service as a symptom of decadence is what is expressed when it is said that “we talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk”.

This is the issue that I tried to draw out in the last post in noting how “new” conservatism has jettisoned the very principle of conservation, while liberalism has jettisoned its own core value of universality, and how this devaluation of values now impacts on our present situation of environmental crisis and at the same time, growing inequality in society, or what is called “the democratic deficit”. A conservatism that conserves nothing is a self-negation, just as an “illiberal liberalism” is a self-negation. They still speak the old language of values, but they act in such a way as to completely negate them.

In other words, the talk and the walk meet each other as complete contradictions — and like matter and anti-matter, they collide, become mutually annihilate and disintegrate, and leave a void of meaninglessness… a chaos. That is the gist of how all higher values come to devalue themselves. And Nietzsche saw this disintegrative tendency as the inevitable fate of the Modern Era and the modern consciousness– as its “two centuries of nihilism”.

And what is being called “the new normal” is this self-negation; is this “two centuries of nihilism”; is this disintegration of the modern consciousness structure as Jean Gebser later described and diagnosed it in his Ever-Present Origin. It is Nietzsche’s catastrophe in the making. “Death of God” was simply Nietzsche’s term for this total disintegration and the desolation of the abysmal, or what W.B Yeats and Jean Gebser later called the loss of the vital centre, for the vital centre is the unifying centre. This is the gist of Nietzsche’s remark,

“Since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre towards X

Nietzsche attempted to give “X” a meaningful value despite his two centuries of nihilism, and that value he called übermensch — the “overman” or “transhuman” — which value has been so badly abused and misunderstood. The Nietzschean “overman” is still the Christian “god-man” of the early church — an “ascended” type in terms of his or her consciousness. For Nietzsche, Goethe had been the closest exemplar to his ideal of the overman.

It should be noted that Blake had already perceived the disintegrative tendency in the modern consciousness, which he called “single vision”. A lot of his “Prophetic Books” are about the desolation of this disintegration, and his poems are actually maps of consciousness in the throes of either disintegration or re-integration.

Nietzsche, likewise, sought out the keys to a new integration of consciousness. The situation wasn’t all doom and gloom for Nietzsche. But there is something about Nietzsche’s resolution of, and corrective to, the problem of nihilism or disintegration that already seems somewhat curiously antiquated. Nietzsche raged against the narrow nationalisms and racial bigotries of his time, which he dismissed as being nothing more than “nook-and-corner perspectives” that would bring Europe, if not all mankind, to grief. Precisely that “mentality” that we have called “the point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness, and which Gebser later was to describe in terms of reified perspectivism, but which Blake had already called “single vision”. Blake’s “single vision” is this same “nook-and-corner” perspectivism denounced by Nietzsche as typical of the nationalist, religionist, or racialist bigot — a type that Nietzsche particularly detested as especially nihilistic. It was the cause of his decisive break with Richard Wagner.

Against these bigotries and nationalisms of the “nook-and-corner perspective”, Nietzsche posited himself as “the good European”. Today, that sounds somewhat quaint to our ears. In Nietzsche’s time of competing nationalisms, however, it was somewhat radical to consider oneself a “good European”.  It seems that even Nietzsche’s counter-nihilism of a new integration extended no further, really, than the continent and culture of Europe.

I want to emphasise that for this reason: because within the time of four generations since Nietzsche, we have gone from that issue of European integration to the problem and issue of global integration and globalism. We have gone from Nietzsche’s “nook-and-corner perspectivism” to “overview effect” in a very short time indeed! The “overview” against the “point-of-view”, in other words.

What does this mean? It means that even as we endure and suffer Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” a new integration of consciousness has also been occurring. This is that strange “double-movement” described by Jean Gebser — a disintegration accompanied by a new integration. We have gone from Nietzsche’s “good European” to the “Global Soul” in a very short space of time. Human consciousness is expanding even as it is narrowing and contracting, too.

Nietzsche, even in his time, seems to have had some trouble thinking of the Earth as a global whole. It isn’t until after the world wars that we begin really to think of the planet as a global whole, and then it is sealed definitively by the views of Earth from space — the “overview effect” is this continuing new integration of consciousness.

So the 1948 statement by Fred Hoyle that opens the video The Overview Effect is profoundly true,

“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available…. a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”

That idea, though, seems to begin with Nietzsche’s “Be true to the Earth!” and that idea is the idea of a new integration of consciousness occurring even in the midst of the ruins of an older consciousness which Gebser calls “the perspectival” or “mental-rational consciousness structure” now in the throes of dis-integration and self-negation.

The real issue is now, how to outrun that disintegration in Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”.


7 responses to “Chaos and Modern Consciousness, II”

  1. Heraclitus says :

    Scott, do you spend time reading or reflecting on technology and its implications on our future?

    I’m curious what you think about Virtual Reality and VR devices becoming as ubiquitous as a TV. This 15 minute video shows that the possibility of living in a VR matrix like world isn’t too far off:

    Although it focuses on my interest, filmmaking, I see this as a great blow to not only the medium of filmmaking but our consciousness as well.

    I guess it’s tied to the conversation of how the more technology connects us, the more we seem to be mentally disconnected from reality.


    ps, this film ( might interest you.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Sorry to be long in replying. I had to think about the TEDx talk by Bloom for a bit. Like anything else, potential for use and for great abuse. This VR reminds of “the feelies” in Huxley’s Brave New World doesn’t it? On the other hand, VR is the technological counterpart to lucid dreaming, and so there is great possibilities in that, too. It’s conceivable that future wars may be fought in VR.

      Of course, there are plenty of opportunities for abuse, too — and that type of abuse has been well explored in movies like Lawnmower Man or The Matrix. But I would rather see some worlds of the imagination realised in VR than in everyday life — example, hybrid animals or monsters are best molded in VR rather than through Genetic Engineering.

      I suspect, though, that VR and non-VR realities may become confused and overlap to some degree. What would that mean? Perhaps a complete return of the mythological world — a world where apparitions, spirits and ghosts, demons and goblins, angels and devils co-existed with flesh and blood. VR is, in effect, an “outering” of the dream world. That will have unpredictable consequences.

  2. InfiniteWarrior says :

    The video gaming community is all abuzz about the possibilities of Oculus Rift, but I don’t really get the impression that it would change the experience much, if at all. In addition to “surround sound”, there will be surround vision. So what? The aspect of our experience that it targets is immersion and, as a PC gamer, I can tell you that “surround vision” is entirely unnecessary to the purpose of immersion in a virtual world because, while immersed, all else disappears anyway.

    It’s hard to explain, but much like losing one’s self in a good book, when playing in a virtual world, one is essentially immersed in his or her own imagination, especially when what happens in that world is not entirely pre-programmed. This is, I think, the number one reason for the success of Skyrim — a bug-riddled game with (mostly) lame questlines. It’s an “open world”, meaning primarily that it is limited only by one’s own imagination and, of course, the greatest thing about it is that it affords us the opportunity to experience things that could never be experienced otherwise.

    Also, as a gamer, I can attest that it’s the minute details — details usually left out of a game by its developers — that determine to what degree it is conducive to immersion. For example, Skyrim’s modding community stepped up to the plate by creating ENBs and mods, e.g. Frostfall, Realistic Needs & Diseases and Wet & Cold, that bring a dimension of physicality to Skyrim sadly lacking in the base game. With such mods installed, Skyrim “feels” the way it looks because your character is affected by the environment.

    I suppose what I’m trying to say is that, when it comes to technology like the Oculus Rift, its potential for use and abuse will still rest on (and be restricted by, if necessary) the receiving end: one’s self.

    • Scott Preston says :

      One of the better uses for VR may be the ability to rehearse or test out probable futures in advance of implementing them in everyday reality. To recall Blake, “what is now prov’d was only once imagined”. In a sense, we are all already dreaming, so it would be a good thing to do it consciously. “We are such stuff that dreams are made on”, to quote Shakespeare.

      Role-playing has come a long way since the days of Dungeons & Dragons, and a lot of people adopted the personae of their fantasy characters in real life, then. It’s not necessarily a bad thing at all to become one’s dreaming, if one dreams well.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    “hypocrisy is the lack of integrity between the word and the act.”

    Reading that comment in-and-of-itself is therapeutic. And a phenomenon very applicable to a lot of people in the organization I work for. They criticize and bitch about the so-and-so not doing anything, but when they think no one is looking, they steal time to do just that: nothing. They criticize others for kissing up to the man on top, but when they get the chance to promote themselves by kissing up to the man on top, it’s a “Love Story” and they somehow transform themselves to the ultimate bitch to the big boss. The system has NO integrity.

    Another thing I found very therapeutic was the following excerpt from “Seth Speaks” (pages 46 – 47). Very meaningful in respect to what we go through in life. It truly puts things in a new dimension:

    “You are so focused in your roles, however; so intrigued by the reality that you have created, so entranced by the problems, challenges, hopes, and sorrows of your particular roles that you have forgotten they are of your own creation. This intensely moving drama, with all its joys and tragedies, can be compared with your present life, your present environment, both individually and en masse.
    But there are other plays going on simultaneously, in which you also have a part to play. These have their own scenery, their own props. They take place in different periods of time. One may be called “Life in the twelfth century A.D.” One may be called “Life in the eighteenth century,” or “in 500 B.C.,” or “in A.D. 3000.” You also create these plays and act in them. These settings also represent your environment, the environment that surrounds your entire personality.

    “I am speaking of the portion of you who is taking part in this particular period piece, however; and that particular portion of your entire personality is so focused within this drama that you are not aware of the others in which you also play a role. You do not understand your own multidimensional reality; therefore it seems strange or unbelievable when I tell you that you live many existences at one time. It is difficult for you to imagine being in two places at once, much less in two or more times, or centuries.

    “Now stated simply, time is not a series of moments. The words that you speak, the acts that you perform, appear to take place in time, as a chair or table appears to take up space. These appearances however are a part of the complicated props that you have set up “beforehand,” and within the play you must accept these as real.

    “Four o’clock in the afternoon is a very handy reference. You can say to a friend, “I will meet you at four o’clock at the corner,” or at a restaurant, for a drink or a chat or a meal, and your friend will know precisely where and when he will find you. This will happen despite the fact that four o’clock in the afternoon has no basic meaning, but is an agreed-upon designation – a gentlemen’s agreement, if you prefer. If you attend the theatre at nine o’clock in the evening, but the actions of the play take place within the morning hours, and the actors are shown eating breakfast, you accept the time as given within the theatre’s play. You also pretend that it is morning.

    “Each of you are now involved in a much larger production, in which you all agree on certain basic assumptions that serve as a framework within which the play can occur. The assumptions are that time is a series of moments one after another; that an objective world exists quite independently of your own creation and perception of it; that you are bound within the physical bodies that you have donned; and that you are limited by time and space.

    “Other assumptions accepted for the same reason include the idea that all perception comes through your physical senses; in other words, that all information comes from without, and that no information can come from within. You therefore are forced to focus intensely upon the actions of the play. Now these various plays, these creative period pieces represent what you would call reincarnational lives.

    “They all exist basically at one time. Those who are still involved in these highly complicated passion-play seminars called reincarnational existences, find it difficult to see beyond them. Some, resting between productions, as it were, try to communicate with those who are still taking part; but they themselves are merely in the wings, so to speak, and can only see so far.

    “The plays seem to be taking place one before the other, and so these communications seem to intensify the false idea that time is a series of moments, passing in a single line from some inconceivable beginning to some equally inconceivable end.

    “This leads you to think in terms of a very limited progress both in individual terms and in terms of your species as a whole. You think, those of you who have even considered reincarnation, “Well, certainly the race must have progressed from the time of the Middle Ages,” although you greatly fear it has not; or you turn to technological progress and say, “At least we have come a long way in that direction.”

    “You may smile and think to yourself that it is quite difficult to imagine a Roman senator addressing the multitudes through a microphone, for example; his children, watching his performance on television. But all of this is highly misleading. Progress does not exist in the terms that you consider it to, any more than time does.

    “In each play, both individually and en masse, different problems are set up. Progress can be measured in terms of the particular ways in which those problems were solved or not solved. Great advances have been made in certain periods. For example, great offshoots appeared that from your viewpoint you might not consider progress at all.

    “In some plays, generally speaking, the actors are each working on a seemingly minute portion of a larger problem that the play itself is to resolve.
    Though I use the analogy here of a drama, these “plays” are highly spontaneous affairs in which the actors have full freedom within the play’s framework. And granting these assumptions that have been stated, there are no rehearsals. There are observers, as you will see later in our book. As in any good theatre production, there is an overall theme within each play. The great artists, for example, did not emerge out of a particular time simply because they were born into it, or the conditions were favorable.

    “The play itself was concerned with the actualization of intuitive truth into what you would call artistic form, with a creativity of such vast and sweeping results that it would serve to awaken latent abilities within each actor and to serve as a model of behavior.

    “Periods of renaissance – spiritual, artistic, or psychic – occur because the intense inner focus of those involved in the drama are directed toward those ends. The challenge may be different in each play, but the great themes are beacons to all consciousness. They serve as models.

    “Progress has nothing to do with time, you see, but with psychic and spiritual focus. Each play is entirely different from any other. It is not correct, therefore, to suppose that your actions in this life are caused by a previous existence, or that you are being punished in this life for crimes in a past one. The lives are simultaneous.”

    It’s immeasurably valuable to me when Seth speaks of:

    “Periods of renaissance – spiritual, artistic, or psychic,”

    because Seth’s work itself has been the source of a spiritual and psychic renaissance in my own life. This spiritual and psychic renaissance has brought me calm, confidence, optimism, surrender, and much more in the most profound ways possible. When I say in the most profound ways possible, I mean in ways that have completely revolutionized my ideas about my past, present, and the future. In that sense, it has been a release from a chaotic idiosyncratic world.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Gebser also speaks of progress only in terms of “intensification” of consciousness, as Seth does here. “Periods of renaissance – spiritual, artistic, or psychic – occur because the intense inner focus of those involved in the drama are directed toward those ends”.

      It could be said that what Seth is describing here overall is the much broader scope of what Carl Jung called ‘synchronicity’, which corresponds somewhat to what some physicists call “supraluminal effect” or non-locality. And, of course, if Seth is right concerning what constitutes real progress, we are, civilistionally-speaking, barking up the wrong tree, eh? What we think of as “progressive” is largely regressive or digressive or aggressive. We aren’t really clear-headed about what we mean when we speak of “progress”.

      • LittleBigMan says :


        It’s very satisfying for me to read Seth say that “Progress has nothing to do with time.” It seems to me, then, that progress has nothing to do with science either.

        I purchased that lovely skinny book by Carl Jung, “Synchronicity”, some years back when you mentioned it in one of your essays. Haven’t had the good fortune of reading it yet, but I am sure it will be an illuminating and enlightening experience.

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