Progressives and Conservatives

The world is growing exceeding mad and whacky, is it not? Who can overlook the sheer lunacy of current events? The world is going COMPLETE. STARK-RAVING. MAD.

You have 30% of US conservatives wanting to bomb a country that doesn’t even exist — Agrahab. You have the unusual — surreal even — spectacle of two thorough reactionaries, Vl. Putin and Donald Trump praising one another. The multiple conflicts in Syria and Iraq are beyond intelligibility. A historical record 60 million people have been involuntarily displaced — worse than the world wars. The list goes on and on. The waning of the Late Middle Ages, with its mass hysteria, paranoia, and epidemic of destructive irrationalities, was nothing compared to this.  And just when you think the madness has reached its limit and could not become more acute, it surprises you with some new shock.

What you are witnessing is, of course, Peter Pogany’s emergent “havoc”, or Gebser’s breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness, or in broader terms, the disintegration of the type “homo sapiens“. The species homo sapiens has become unfit, and is everywhere involved in negating itself. The word “decadence” is even too weak a term to describe this self-negation. The so-called “Sixth Extinction Event” also implicates homo sapiens as well.

The new type anticipated by Nietzsche, Gebser, Aurobindo (and even Seth) is not just a new, improved version of homo sapiens. These men felt that we were in a world historic transition because the species homo sapiens had become unviable. The Nietzschean “overman” or “transhuman” is not a new, improved model of homo sapiens, but an entirely novel species for which there is, as yet, no determinate name.

This has perhaps, not been emphasised enough in speaking of “new consciousness”, except perhaps by Seth. It is not just a change of consciousness structure or a “revaluation of values” alone that characterises the new species, but also a physiological and biological mutation — a new species with a new consciousness. So, the present “chaotic transition”, assuming we survive it and the Sixth Extinction Event, will be marked not just by changes in values, but by biological ones as well — a new species. That is the implications of Seth’s remarks that I previously described as “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature

You are now poised, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways. There are species of consciousness. Your species is in a time of change. There are potentials within the body’s mechanisms, in your terms not as yet used. Developed, they can immeasurably enrich the race, and bring it to levels of spiritual and psychic and physical fulfillment. If some changes are not made, the race as such will not endure

The “chaotic transition” does not simply happen in the realm of values or ideas. It involves the whole human form and structure, which is why I’ve chosen the “Chrysalis” as a symbol of the present human condition.

And, of course, “progressive” and “conservative” cannot have the same meaning in this context of the Sixth Extinction Event and species mutation as these have had hitherto (which is one reason many people have misconstrued Nietzsche’s meaning). For Nietzsche, “progressives” were those who were not so much concerned with “saving” or “preserving” homo sapiens as preparing the way for this new species — the transhuman. So Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” basically amounts to an older species — homo sapiens — negating itself as being no longer fit for purpose.

What “purpose” is that? The ideal of human unity. Homo sapiens has finally proved unfit for purpose in that sense, and a new species, capable of an authentic “global consciousness” has become needful. This is not simply a moral necessity. It is an evolutionary one, and a stress that is seizing and remolding the whole human form — body, mind, soul, spirit. Years ago, in the old Dark Age Blog, I described that stress or distress as akin to being stuck between the “hammer of God and the anvil of the Earth”, and described homo sapiens as the rough, crude, raw material being shaped into a jewel. You might think about the “chaotic transition” in that way. And, in fact, the whole of the opening pages of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra are about this “chaotic transition” or mutation (especially section 4).

The progressive ideal is the ideal of human unity, which however has failed more often than it has succeeded. It was assumed to be either an imposed uniformity (or homogeneity or imperialism) or a matter of mutual “tolerance” of “live and let live”. Both are quite inadequate responses, and ultimately blundering failures. The conservative response has been, on the other hand, to deny the ideal of human unity and to maintain divisions — nationalism, tribalism, sectarianism, racism, sexism, identity politics, etc. “Good fences make good neighbours” as one Canadian conservative leader once famously put it, and everywhere conservative reactionaries of all nationalities, religions, and ideologies are erecting new walls and fences and divisions or planning to do so, for they have all confused respecting difference or diversity with maintaining divisions.

The progressive ideal, which is the ideal of human unity and solidarity — and even well beyond that to the unity and solidarity of all life — cannot be accomplished by “Man” in his or her present form. Mankind, in its present form, is not adequate to the task. It is not just “mind” that has reached the “end of its tether”, as H.G. Wells once put it echoing Gebser’s diagnosis of the failure of the mental-rational consciousness. It is homo sapiens that has reached the end of its tenure. This has simply become an evolutionary necessity. Everything from the Sixth Extinction Event, to climate change, to war and terrorism, to mass migration — global “havoc” and “chaotic transition” or Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” — is connected with species change or species mutation. It is the entire Earth — the entire web of life — that is under stress and in crisis and upheaval.

These challenges are beyond the existing species’ capabilities and resources to outrun or to master. Many people have, of course, intuited that homo sapiens has reached an evolutionary dead end and must now transcend itself or perish. Some of their “rational solutions” are part of the same madness, however — like cyborgism, genetic engineering, etc and various similar disruptions and interventions in the web of life or the evolutionary process, none of which — and least of all the “universal market” — address or can resolve the essential problem.

Some have assumed that the Nietzschean “transhuman” or Aurobindo’s “supramental” or Gebser’s “integral consciousness” is simply a self-realised maturation of the type homo sapiens. But it’s a different species altogether, as different as Cro-Magnon was from Neanderthal. And yet, the latter two co-existed as different species for some time. Many earlier human species co-existed for a while and were contemporaneous with one another. Nature was experimenting with different forms. Those changes haven’t ceased with homo sapiens.

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3 responses to “Progressives and Conservatives”

  1. Steve Lavendusky says :

    Scott – Given the dialectical speed of the chaos, God knows how far meglomanic consciousness will go! The fire of Prometheus is growing dim.

    When I think
    About the misery
    Of those in this world.
    Their sadness
    becomes mine.

    Oh, that my monk’s robe
    Were wide enough
    To gather up all
    The suffering people
    In this floating world.

    Nothing makes me
    More happy than
    Amida Buddha’s Vow
    To save
    Everyone.

    Ryokan

    • Scott Preston says :

      In the small town in which I live, “chaos” seems pretty remote. Today, especially. The sun is shining, the air is still, there’s a glorious and spectacular frost in the trees, sparkling like dancing spirits. It’s a picture of serenity.

      Tree Frost

      Frost near Indian Head

      Saskatoon winter

      I can only imagine what the Syrian refugees arriving here lately, especially the children, must be feeling when they see this. Chaos seems very remote indeed.

  2. Steve Lavendusky says :

    You are a lucky man. I live in Austin Texas. Do you know the nature writings of the Canadian Roderick Haig Brown? I have all his books.

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