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.