I left off yesterday’s post on Narcissism and ‘The Point of View’ with a question about whether it is possible to escape the entrapment of consciousness (and identity, or the self-enclosure of consciousness) in the narrowing ‘point of view’ mode of consciousness called “the perspectival consciousness structure” (or “sensate consciousness”) now become deficient. “Deficient” is the term Gebser uses rather than “decadent”, although it amounts to the same thing. “Single Vision & Newton’s sleep” is how William Blake once put it.
That deficiency, or decadence, is best exemplified by two current mainstream phenomena that are, in fact, identical in meaning: Reformation has ended finally in fundamentalism, and Renaissance and Enlightenment have ended in reductionism. Fundamentalism in religion, and reductionism in thought are both the same reductio ad absurdum, equivalent in being the exhausted residua of Reformation and Renaissance, and perhaps best exemplified in the absurdity of the evolution versus creationism controversy — reductionism versus fundamentalism. I have absolutely no interest in this debate except as evidence of the exhaustion of all further possibilities for perspectivist perception and the current state of the ego-consciousness. The full truth of origin is much more subtle and nuanced than is represented by either term of this debased dialectic. From the aperspectival vantage point, reductionism and fundamentalism look exactly the same — both absurd.
Narcissism, as I’ve said before in The Chrysalis, is the human condition — the all-too-human condition. It is the inevitable problem of creatures, such as ourselves, that become reflexively self-aware — that is to say, which develop an ego-consciousness. It is the chief spiritual problem, for long before it was called “narcissism” it was also called “idolatry”. Idolatry is, fundamentally, not about the making of images, but of confusing the images with the reality that the images only represent. The images (or symbols) cease to be transparent. They become opaque. A “bubble of perception” develops (called by William Blake the “Ulro”. The illusion of the real becomes confused with the real, which is Plato’s Cave Allegory. This comes about as a result of the confusion between the so-called “false self” and the “true self”. The false self, called “ego-nature”, is only the shadow of the real, but is misconstrued as being the real. It is only the self-image. This is called “delusion”.
“The culture of narcissism”, highlighted by Christopher Lasch in his book by that title, is the problem of what we call “the System”. Narcissism has become structural and systemic. But the fact that we seem to be waking up to narcissism as a social and spiritual problem — and as being a systemic problem — is an encouraging sign in itself.
The obsession with artificial intelligence is a very strange obsession, even something of a mania. Even though they are touted as “rational machines”, the justifications for them are not rational. Robots for companionship. Robots for intimacy (even sex). Robots are desired because they will satisfy all human desires — for love, for companionship and fellowship, for intimacy, for friendship, for amusement, for war and power.
Do you see the absurdity in this? What more evidence is needed than this to realise the disintegrate state of human societies and the human personality when we look to machines to satisfy such needs and desires rather than other human beings? Another techno-fix.
There is a magazine called What is Enlightenment? I glanced through it one day while at a friend’s place. It might be called the organ of Western Buddhism, for it seems to agonise over reconciling the Western meaning of “enlightenment” and liberation with the Eastern meaning of “Enlightenment” and emancipation, the “tabula rasa” with the “empty mirror”, the liberal principle of “self-realisation” with the Buddhist doctrine of “no-self” or “no-mind” (anatman). This understandable perplexity even informs the inquisitive title of the magazine.
So, let’s take a stab at helping to formulate an answer to the question “what is Enlightenment”? What is the real meaning of “self-realisation” if there is no self to realise?
I should mention (and this seems significant enough for me to highlight it as a follow-up posting to a comment I made today to the earlier post “Just Another Strange Attractor”) that the relation of the Falcon and the Falconer in W.B.Yeats’ ominous poem “The Second Coming” is the same relationship of the Master and the Emissary that Iain McGichrist highlights in his book on the divided brain called The Master and his Emissary. That may help you interpret both the meaning of Yeats’ poem and McGilchrist’s concerns as well.
And, as I mentioned in that comment to “Just Another Strange Attractor”, Yeats’ “widening gyre” has some meaning in terms of Holling’s Adaptive Cycle, when properly understood.
And that’s all I will have to say about that for the time being, as you may not have previously realised the connection between the divided brain, the Master and Emissary, and Yeats’ Falconer and Falcon.
I’m surprised that everybody seems to know about this unnerving film documentary called The Four Horsemen but me. I only came across it today, even though it covers many of the issues addressed in The Chrysalis and the earlier Dark Age Blog. In fact, I don’t think The Four Horsemen actually has covered the half of it (well, maybe the half of it).
Nonetheless, I highly recommend everybody watch this video.
Browsing around the pages of The Guardian this morning, I came across this beautiful award winning photo of an “oscillating microbubble” (whatever that is) that clearly has the characteristics of a Strange (or Lorenz) Attractor, otherwise known as “Butterfly Effect”. It clearly shares the same features as the Holling’s Adaptive Cycle — the pathway that energy follows in any selected ecosystem, or the dynamics of any system for that matter. I’ve even suggested, tentatively, that it may show the path of energy through the right and left hemispheres of the divided brain, for example. At the same time, though, it uncannily takes the form of the traditional symbol for infinity.