I was surprised to read in the local paper that Mark Anderson, a professor of history at the University of Regina, is going to be teaching a course entitled “Zombies, A History” and the role of the zombie as a contemporary cultural meme. After reading the article I just had to drop him a line, suggesting he broaden the scope of that history to include the Jewish Golem as well as what Frank Broucek referred to as “zombie logic” in his book Regaining Consciousness. For good measure, I added the words of the Psalmist from the Old Testament which strike me as a perfect description of “zombie logic”,
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them
I recall reading once where Rudolf Steiner, commenting on the Latin language, described it as a most peculiar language because it was structured in such a way that you really couldn’t think in it, the grammar itself did the thinking. But, in many ways, that’s true of all grammars. If we aren’t mindful or heedful, we can easily allow the grammar to do our thinking for us.
Theoretical models are also grammars — specialist grammars. The problem of “zombie logic” is then this: that we construct the model (like the clockwork universe or mind as computer) but then forget they are models or tools and allow them then to do our thinking for us. They become for us what George Steiner called “grammars of creation”. The model becomes an idol in the same way the Psalmist describes above, and with the same consequences. In those terms, then, “zombie logic” and “narcissism” are equivalent terms. Not only do we surrender the autonomy and fluidity of our consciousness to the model (which is called “reification”), we give up even our imagination to it as well. The tool, the model, then comes to dominate us, and to such an extent that we become oblivious to those things which contradict it — the “anomalous”, as Kuhn described in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. We self-censor. Our perception narrows dangerously. We become, in effect, a Golem.
This is exactly true of “structures of consciousness” also, as described by Jean Gebser. The structures are like George Steiner’s grammars of creation. Over time, we cease to be conscious of the structure and then allow it to have hegemony over our awareness and to such an extent that it becomes an automatism. We become robotic, predictable, calculable. It is no longer we ourselves who think, or feel, or will, or sense with the native and inherent fluidity of consciousness. It is this “structure” that does so, as a compulsion. This is the condition of the zombie.
For this reason, as Gebser states, we must become conscious of the structures or grammars that constitute us, in the same way that Rosenstock-Huessy tried to make us conscious of grammar as “metanomics“. Metanomics is the science of how grammar legislates our conscious experience of reality. In that sense, metanomics is very akin to Buddhist mindfulness.
We need the same kinds of mindfulness or “metanomics” when it comes to our theoretical models, in fact, to the consciousness structure or “identity” more generally. Without that mindfulness, we become heedless. We become zombies. That is the condition called “loss of soul” or “self-alienation”.