Domed City and Closeted Minds

The fantasy of futuristic domed cities is, along with the body as perpetual motion machine, the wet-dream of every technophile, and these are, in that sense also, the fantasy of the mortal self in time (Mr. McGilchrist’s “Emissary”) — its aspirations for permanence and immortality reflecting the ego-nature’s fear of Time, Death, and Dark Night. These fantasies have their roots, not in the rational portions of the psyche, but in older and more non-rational and “irrational” portions of the psyche — in magic and myth. The rational mind merely rationalises them.

The domed city is not only a return to the sanctuary of cave and grotto and even the womb, but an image of “paradise” in technological disguise, for the very word “paradise” means “a walled enclosure”. The walled enclosure, like the contemporary gated community, is an ideal of wild and unpredictable Nature totally tamed, domesticted, and regulated, barricaded and isolated from real, living Nature by substitute technical processes — but completely insulated against “the law of the Earth”. And in some ways the “Anthropocene” is already an image of this self-enclosure of the rational upon itself in tautology.

It’s a delusion of the mind that it can barricade and insulate itself against the law of the earth, or against the terrors of time and dark night. Technology does not, and cannot, rewrite the laws of nature. It can only imitate them and exploit them. But in no way can it alter them. As Gebser puts it, this “law of the earth” is inexorable and will be fulfilled regardless. If it is not fulfilled “naturally”, it will be fulfilled “unnaturally” — in and through technology itself.

Technical processes, which proceed by substituting natural, organic processes with artificial or man-made ones, do not in any way provide security or safety against the fulfillment of the law of the earth. It’s a false logic — a dualistic logic — that holds that it can isolate and enhance the “good” aspects of nature from the “bad” or undesirable aspects of nature. Nature has no obligation to conform to man’s logic or expectations, or to act as if it were only a mechanism. Technology, by the very fact that it is mimicry, must necessarily incorporate the laws of nature itself in its construction and operations. It simply focusses, concentrates, and amplifies them. In that sense, technology is also a “trojan horse”, also fulfilling the law of the earth.

Rational man seems completely blind to this, even though the evidence is rather incontrovertible. The so-called “peaceful atom” is also attended by the destructive one. The “virus”, contagion and epidemic, and their vectors, are also merely replicated in technical and human form. The fear of the Zika virus, and the Aedes species of mosquito that carries it, because of its implication in serious birth defects somehow seems to eclipse in urgency and alarm those synthetic chemicals present in the environment that result in the same thing. The (from man’s point of view) destructive powers of earthquake, flood, storm, volcano become replicated in mankind’s destructive weaponry and weapons of mass destruction. Genetic engineering has succeeded in creating “superweeds” that have become ineradicable (GMO, Round-up Ready canola, engineered to defeat weeds, is now classified as a superweed itself. Voluntary canola is now the 4th most prevalent “weed” in Saskatchewan, beating out Canada Thistle in fifth place). The “wild and uncontrollable” aspects of the law of the earth are always necessarily implicated in the tamed and domesticated aspects. Technology, it should be clear, does not insulate or isolate the human from the law of the earth or the terrors of the wild, of time, decay and of darkness.  Both the wonder and the terror are mimicked and replicated in the technical process. That’s the irony of technology and the technological system and process.

But, it is often objected, human consciousness can prevent the law of the earth from being fulfilled in and through technology and the technological process. So far, however, it has not proven very adept at doing so. Wars like Desert Storm, or Shock and Awe, invoked nature’s own law of “creative destruction”, which might be said to be one aspect of the meaning of “the law of the earth”, as justification and rationale. Man’s so-called “consciousness”, then and still, does not prevent the potentialities implicit in the technology from carrying out the law of the earth, and in fact amplifies it dramatically. Even climate change is, in some circles, being rationalised as “creative destruction”, or its development and application the workings of “the Invisible Hand”, and not as the testimony to, and evidence of, man’s irresponsibility and lack of conscientiousness. To claim that “technology is morally neutral”, and it is man’s use of that technology that is the issue, is rather blithe. The laws of nature are also “morally neutral” in that sense, and yet they can’t help but be carried out in and through technology itself.

For that reason technology is a “trojan horse” in its ambiguity. The old saw related to that, “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”, applies also to all technology. So does the old saying “be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it” —  in unpredictable and unexpected ways, exemplified by the ambiguous prophecies of the Delphic Oracle. This “Man” isn’t even conscious of what he or she truly wishes for because this “Man” lacks insight into himself and his own psychic constitution.

Is the domed city, then, a paradise or a tomb? It’s certainly ironically suggestive, in its structure, of the Iron Age burial mounds of tribal Europe, even if it’s imagined rather as a “Camelot”. And it’s certainly symbolic of the contemporary closeted mind, resembling now Blake’s remark that “man has clos’d himself up, til he sees all thing thro’ the narrow chinks of his cavern.” Is not, then, the domed city only the fantasy construction of the ego-nature’s own narcissism? It’s really the image of the Cartesian mind’s total isolation from its greater reality, just as much as the gated-community seeks to isolate itself from the greater society in which it is, nonetheless, embedded.

The little paradises or little “ends of history” of suburb, gated-community, and domed city eventually become tombs of the mentality that occupies them. So too will the spectre of the Anthropocene unless it is dispelled. I’m reminded (and I’ve mentioned it once or twice before) of a little known cult movie classic starring Sean Connery called Zardoz (a play on “the Wizard of Oz”) in which this very reversal occurs. The immortal’s paradise, isolated from the barbarian world around it, becomes their own tomb. So is the Anthropocene, which has become pretty much synonymous with garbage, and with deterioration, degeneration, and decay. Certainly not with Camelot.

But then, even Camelot, it seems, succumbed to “the law of the earth” finally.

And one can certainly put the question in the ironic sense. Is the domed city (and even the Anthropocene) really Man insulating and isolating himself against “nature”, or is it the Earth imposing a quarantine — isolating, and insulating, itself against “Man”?

13 responses to “Domed City and Closeted Minds”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    “Domed Cities” may well be the next big proposed techno-fix to counter climate change, since many are balking at large scale geo-engineering. But, in effect, domed cities are geo-engineering by another name — geo-engineering lite, perhaps. Just a matter of scale.

    So, I wouldn’t be surprised to see serious proposals for this in the near future — a scaled up version of domed stadiums.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Domed cities are extensions of domed humans,so actually we are addressing the story of the perverted humans who infuse spiritual famine in all societies of the world, the famine that expresses itself in all types of social unrest. The problem is not in closing but in the intention and attention lurked behind the actions. Life is build on openness that is why all scriptures oppose concealment and hideaways and impose on the humans to reveal even their gains thus teach others not to conceal and call them to acquire the two basic qualities that of truth and justice. It is also not a question of environments,because even among the aboriginals there are the wicked and the ugly. The human problem resides in his negation of god as the code of values that must be respected and recognize his divine origin who has provided him not only with the faculties to perceive and understand,but also with all the free abundances he lives in, disrespecting his divine creation and resort to such lies as he has been evolved from donkeys or apes or amebas or the other names of his graduation from primitiveness to homo sapiens sapiens. What a perverted story that has been propagated in the name of science despite the ample evidences to the contrary. Please bear with me in my revolt against these lies

  3. abdulmonem says :

    We need souls that appreciate the beautiful creations around them and appreciate the one who has created such beauty and stop underestimating our ingenious wonderful creation and the astounding creations around us and look above us and ask ourselves are all these cosmos are putting there in vain and perform our missions in appreciations and thanks and halt being tools of perversions, destruction and death. Sometime I wonder for how long the watcher will continue watching this pathetic human scene.

  4. Max says :

    Although humanity tries to control nature contrary to its laws, there is some truth to that impulse, since there is obviously a reason why Man was placed on the earth and were given the faculties that he has. Man himself must also be a part of “the law of the earth”, we are partly made up of earthly matter, so we should work with it rather than try to escape it.

    Does an enclosed space necessarily have to negate all else -and be hostile to what remains outside of it? Can there not be a place for degrees of nearness and familiarity, such as when the land surrounding a city is allowed to become gradually more wild, with different land uses at various distances from the central square. The problem is not so much differences – everything does not have to be exactly the same, and can not be – but the very sharp and impermeable boundaries which does not allow any exchange and communication between different fields of life and human activity. If that is account for, then the influence of a paradisaical “walled enclosure” does not have to be jealously guarded, but can organically influence every corner of the world, without for that matter forcefully imposing anything.

    There is a value in domestication to the extent that it improves upon creation, and develops it through human activity – up to a point that it could perhaps not have reached if left to itself. Naturally selecting for larger and sweeter apples does not do any violence to nature as an example, and is to great benefit to wild animals as well when they come and seek out the fruit of best trees in our gardens. The fault would rather be to try to prevent them from doing that by isolating ourselves from our environment on which we depend. All of this has a lot to do with the idea of the garden, which I think have to be made up of both wild and ordered elements in harmony. There is a theory that “Eden” originates as a loanword meaning “desert”, so that the Garden of Eden means the garden in the desert, expressing an idea of making the barren wilderness bloom.

    I believe you have said that our environment, media, technology and so on, are the extensions of man, becoming the effects of humanity’s deficient self-understanding. But in the case man did understand himself thoroughly, then his reflection and extension reaching out to the outside world would cease to have a negative character and impact, but would rather transform it in a positive way, meaning that this “mechanism” in itself is not bad in any way, but is actually connected to our true purpose, pointing towards man’s centrality in creation. The danger is naturally when man stagnantly sees nothing but his own reflection and becomes closed off to anything higher. It becomes a self-enforcing loop without opening, approaching that perpetual motion machine of false and deficient eternity. I think that the experience of Time does not necessarily have to lead so something imperfect, but can also be a way out and an opening up.

    There being such a thing as “Anthropocene”, this can not be “undone” by going back to an earlier era, but we have to learn from it and turn it around to its positive aspect. That means not outright opposing the natural laws but to work with them. You said that when man artificially and technologically opposes nature or tries to improve upon it he obviously still follows the natural laws upon which science is based, so it leads to no transcendence, but only to nature opposing nature, which is admittedly quite stupid since how can the same thing “defeat” itself? The only thing that happens is that it gives rise to unnecessary conflicts, that are purely horizontal, and in the end accomplishes nothing but masking the truly important questions of life.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      An article in today’s Guardian entitled Trees Make Our Lives Better in Unquantifiable Ways has appeared in response to news that a company is trying to measure exactly how much urban trees are worth. As Oscar Wilde said, some people know the price of everything but the value of nothing!

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hello Max. Thanks for the comment.

      It’s important to recollect that “Eden”, as oasis, is a metaphor, and a metaphor in very much the same way that the Shariah is a metaphor. And we know what has happened to both.

      The Shariah is literally the path that leads through the desert to the oasis. Eden, or the paradise, is that oasis. In other words, the same motif of the Prodigal Son, his leaving his true home, his wandering in the desert, and his return to the true home is repeated in the meanings of Shariah and Eden (in that sense, Shariah is like the “yellow brick road” in the Wizard of Oz). To try to locate these in matter, or produce them in the physical world, is a corruption of their meaning, because Eden corresponds to the “kingdom of heaven is within you” and the meaning that “the body is the temple of the living God” — a spiritual state. “Energy is Eternal Delight” is William Blake’s way of saying the same thing.

      Shariah certainly doesn’t correspond to what we all “Easy Street”, nor does Eden correspond to the gated-community or the domed city. These are but shadows and echoes in the “Ulro” (as Blake calls our image of physical reality and our self-image) of eternally valid truths that get all bent out of shape by the human ego-nature.

      “Where man is not, nature is barren” is Blake’s way of describing the “desert”. “Nature” is Blake’s way of describing “physical reality”. What this means is that Nature’s spiritual potentiality is only realised through human awareness — the true, the good, the beautiful of nature can’t be realised except through and via human awareness. This shouldn’t be too difficult to appreciate in the Quantum Age and its paradoxes of “consciousness created reality” or “observer created reality”. And this bears further on another one of Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell” — “a wise man sees not the same tree as the fool sees”.

      And Steve has given a good example of that with his reference to the Guardian article on “Trees Make Our Lives Better in Unquantifiable Ways”. “Realising value” means something quite different for the wise and the fool, which corresponds to Jung’s difference between “wisdom” and “knowledge”. For what we might call the “cynical reason” of a purely utilitarian ethos, as described by Wilde, “value” and “price” are equivalent in meaning and “realising value” is exploitation.

      Man cannot escape his true roots. But he can express them in quite unconscious, distorted and perverse ways the more he distances himself psychically from his authentic centre. That’s the issue of McGilchrist’s “Master” and “Emissary” modes of consciousness. Man’s attempts to replace Natural processes with artificial ones by a process of endless substitutions is the tyranny of the “Emissary”.

      In other words, “the wise man sees not the same tree as the fool sees” corresponds to the relation between the “master” and the “emissary” itself, the first and second attentions. The “emissary” is the Prodigal Son. And inasmuch as “man” (the emissary) attempts to shape nature in his image, instead of letting it speak for itself, he is also a thorough narcissist. In fact, the parable of the Prodigal Son is a parable about human narcissism itself.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    You sufficed, Scott, but I felt compelled not to leave Max statement that the human can improve on nature unattended. This recalled to my mind Al-Gazzali statement that if there is an iota of imperfection in the creation,the creation will not endure and that will mean that the creator has not perfected his creation. In the mythical literature we read that the devil ordered the human to alter the divine creation, thinking he is improving on the god imperfect creation. All genetic engineering and robots and beauty industry is the embodiment of that order.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Two other thoughts I felt I should mention, the walled nation of Israel that refuses to co-exit with others and the statement that we have been created from earth and to the earth we shall return, which need to be completed, and from earth we shall be created again to continue the life we have initiated on this earth.

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