Archive | April 2016

The Formula and the Fetish

E=mc². In hoc signo vinces.  There is a sense in which Einstein’s famous formula has become the sign and motto of the Age Electric, or Age of Energy, somewhat displacing Francis Bacon’s scientia potens est (knowledge is power) which as served as the motto, and commandment, of the Age Mechanic — the Age Industrial.

The formula is tinged with magic and myth as well as mathematics. Few people, I think, really understand what it means, but pay it extraordinary veneration, deference and awe knowing that it has something to do with the atomic bomb, and so it becomes a kind of fetish — a power object. The formula in general has magical properties, inasmuch as magic also relies upon the precise and exact repetition of the formula to effect desired outcomes. Any deviation from method, procedure, or exact replication of the spell can result in undesirable and disastrous outcomes. In that sense “operative magic” and “instrumental rationality” do share very similar approaches, just as much as propaganda is a form of spell-casting. Technology, it might be said, is magic by other means. Especially in propaganda or “perception management” we find all the hallmarks of the “deficient mode” of the magical consciousness structure — expressed by Hitler as “the triumph of the will”.

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Consciousness Structures and The Clash of Civilisations

There have been a few comments lately referring to the magical and mythical consciousness structures and how we are to interpret them, which is important because they continue in us as part of our greater psychic configuration (or what I’ve called “the human form”).

The issues and questions raised brought to mind an indigenous story I came across, some time ago, from a time when I was pouring over hundreds of stories from North American indigenous cultures. This one story, especially, stood out for me, although I don’t now remember it in detail and haven’t been successful in finding it again in my collection. It illustrates something, though, about the clash of consciousness structures as it appears through the eyes of the emergent mythical. It may provide some feel for Gebser’s observations on consciousness structures.

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The “Post-Oil Era”

Now, here’s a stunning bit of news that deserves to be highlighted, and not just mentioned in a passing comment: Saudi Arabia preparing social reforms for a “post-oil era“.

That’s not going to be an easy ride. There will be all sorts of turbulence and disruption. The “chaotic transition” intensifies.

Ethics, Morals, Laws

As long as I’m laying bare my premisses, in preparation for shifting to the “time dimension”, and in conjunction with my previous post on “Values and Physical Reality“, I want to discuss how I understand the relationship between ethics, morals and law, for these also reflect the human perceptions and interpretations of physical reality.

In “Values and Physical Reality” I argued that time and space are, and were originally, essentially powers or values and not things or objects. This reflects the original meaning of the word “physis” itself, which did not mean “physical” in the sense we use it today. Physis (and its retained meaning in the word “physiology”) principally meant the realm of “growth”, ergo, the lifeworld and even as being themselves living potencies. This accounts for some of the peculiarities of pre-Socratic philosophy, which is still mythically-attuned (and which Nietzsche preferred). In fact “physis” in this originary sense is very much connected with Nietzsche’s “Dionysian” mood or consciousness and his Dionysian philosophy —  and with his critique of morality and “modern ideas”. If you read the pre-Socratic philosophers, you will see that time and space are basically projected or “evolve” out of the soul and maintain their connection to the soul, forming a “lifeworld” — the realm of physis. “Physical” for the mythical consciousness is something very different, and even contrary, than what “physical” means for the rational consciousness. And so, too, ethics, morals, and laws also map to mutations in consciousness structure.

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Adam Smith and Neo-Liberalism

When we speak of “liberal economics” and the economic and social philosophy of competitive egoism (or competitive self-interest) it is usually in reference to the father of liberal economic theory, Adam Smith (1723 – 1790). In some ways, it makes sense to say that since “the death of God”, we are no longer “the children of God” so much as the sons and daughters of Adam Smith. Smith is remembered for two major and hugely influential works: The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and The Wealth of Nations (1776).

I’m far from being completely conversant in these two tomes, but am conversant enough to realise that neo-liberalism, which purports to be a return to pre-Keynesian classical liberal economics of the Adam Smith variety, is actually its complete contradiction, and that those who claim Adam Smith as their precursor, precedent and model are actually deceiving themselves and others. Smith, undoubtedly, would be turning in his grave at the association of his name with neo-liberalism.  It’s become an inversion of what Adam Smith actually taught. Like so many other social and cultural trends of Late Modernity, it represents reversal and inversion in a self-negating, self-contradictory, self-devouring dynamic — a nihilistic trend undermining and subverting its own foundational values and principles. An Era now negating and annuling itself.

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Values and Physical Reality

One thing which I should make clear before proceeding further with The Chrysalis, and which I probably didn’t make clear in the past, is this: It tends to be the “common sense” of the mental-rational consciousness structure that space and time are measurable quanta. But that our experience of space and time can be treated and handled like measurable quanta is not proof that they are physical at all. It is sometimes simply a convenience to treat them as measurable quanta. In fact, they’re not. They are values or powers.

Now, because physical reality and consciousness structures are very much intertwined and reciprocal, there is no one “physical reality”, and probable worlds theory was no more relevant than in this respect. Every distinct consciousness structure implies a different physical reality, because space and time are not “things”. Rather, they are principally the feelings we have for them, and that means “values”. Unfortunately, also, because we have identified “values” also with measurable quanta — x and y values, for example — this is how space and time now appear to us — as principally geometrical or mathematical abstractions.

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Shifting Gears: The Sea of Time

Some time ago in The Chrysalis, I suggested we change the designation “spacetime” continuum to “timespace”, reflecting the primacy of the time “dimension” for the lifeworld. Time is of the essence. And yet nothing perplexes and confounds the mind, or arouses its anxieties, as the mystery of time. Descartes, the father of contemporary rationalism, was baffled by time and consequently made no place for it at all in his “wondrous strange method”.

The Chrysalis has been both a critique of space-bound perspectivising rationality or “point-of-view” consciousness and perception, as well as a preparation for a kind of “revaluation of values” — much as the chrysalis stage is itself. It’s appropriate because the butterfly or moth is also a traditional symbol of the soul. And as Augustine once put it, “time is of the soul”.

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