Peak Chaos and “The Compulsion of the Stars”

I don’t know if you caught the fifth and last lecture in Charles Taylor’s series on “The Malaise of Modernity”. It’s well worth taking in. And I want to comment, in that regard, on what he characterises as the three pillars of the modern malaise in their deficient aspects: (market) individualism, instrumental rationality (technology), and the political malaise, which he describes in terms of “Invisible Hand mechanisms” in the sense that they are felt to be semi-autonomous processes or “inevitabilities” in the face of which we seem to be unable to do very much.

This threesome of “Invisible Hand mechanisms” which have the appearance of autonomous processes is a curious one, since it brings to mind the Three Moirai or Fates of antiquity and therewith, ironically, also something deemed completely irrational by modernity itself — “the compulsion of the stars”.  This is another case of what I call “ironic reversal at our end of history”.

These apparent irrational compulsions in the form of “Invisible Hand mechanisms” represent a reversal of the Modern Project of liberation itself, for when we accept them as inevitabilities we are basically reintroducing the old “compulsion of the stars”, and therewith what was considered the old problem of paganism — the lack of all sense of responsibility for one’s own life and choice of destiny. And it is in these terms that Modernity is in the process of negating itself. In the very name of “rationality” we are asked to accept what is deemed to be fundamentally irrational — the return of the compulsion of the stars in the form of “Invisible Hand mechanisms”. This is a key aspect of what Gebser calls “the mental-rational consciousness” now functioning in “deficient mode”, i.e, breakdown of the consciousness structure.

In effect, what Taylor wants to say in addressing these “Invisible Hand mechanisms” is that these are superstitions only, but their influence as such prevents and inhibits our ability to form an authentic “democratic will”. That is to say, to form an effective holonic “We” that can challenge these alleged “inevitabilities” in an enlightened manner. And that is the theme of M Follet’s essay on community as process that Dwig referenced in a comment to an earlier post, and which Rosenstock-Huessy also addresses in his social philosophy and expressed in his short book The Multiformity of Man.

These  “Invisible Hand mechanisms” as autonomous or mechanical processes (or what we call “Juggernaut” after the Hindu god by that name), and thus as a return of the Fates and of the compulsion of the stars, is exactly parallel to those developments called “technocratic shamanism” as described by Algis Mikunas in his essay “Magic and Technological Culture”, by Richard Stivers in Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational, by Lee Worth Bailey in The Enchantments of Technology, and, of course, in the warnings about this issued by Jean Gebser in his Ever-Present Origin.

Margaret Thatcher’s “There is no Alternative” or “TINA” principle belongs to the same irrationality and superstition about fate, inevitability and the compulsion of the stars. And to the extent it is accepted, the realm of freedom actually contracts, and with it the sense of responsibility. And with the loss of the sense of responsibility and self-responsibility, so do the possibilities of consciousness also contract. This is the theme of the “zombie”. And it is only in those terms that “Peak Chaos” becomes a fate for us — as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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8 responses to “Peak Chaos and “The Compulsion of the Stars””

  1. abdulmonem says :

    As you know Scott my comments represent the result of an awful lot of pondering and contemplation and knowledge that there is an effective source of knowing and confine my wandering around that basic concept of the original primordial energy source of everything, the one and the many and the two others basic concepts that of the positive force and that of the negative force and the fourth field of the human energy where all the above forces display their manifestations in that basic field.The Human field where all different events, processes and manifestations took place to ward the realization of the truth behind everything physical and non-physical, noumenal and phenomenal, form and formless. The human is not a passive field but an active force that through his faculties interacts with these energies either positively or negatively. This takes place through the manipulation of the different non-physical structures of consciousness. The cognitive character of the mystical consciousness differs from one person to another and over time. One has to make himself able to understand god through his conviction that the soul particle he possesses is part of the divine wave that represents the whole field in which we are all exist, persist and vanish and to him we return. Of course there is difference and distinction between the epistemic mode of knowledge and the gnostic mode, R M Bucke the canadian psychologist described his gnostic experience saying that he has learned in few seconds, what surpasses the amount of knowledge that can not be gained but by only long period of pursuing the epistemic road of learning as mentioned by Follet A cognitive experience that has been tested and tasted by so many across the ages. It is a personal conscious journey in a collective context. Ibn Arabi emphasizes the collective context of the human spiritual development saying it can not give fruits outside that context. The never stop processes of the mentioned energies until we return to read our accomplishment over the tablet of our existence among the other billions and billions entities of this diversified non-ending existence. It is important to say that that I mean by collective is the collective that embraces all the above mentioned energies. I also like to mention the limitation of reason in the realm of the divine that has no visible appearance and why there is faith beside reason to enable the human to understand the non-visible, the world of the noumena. To know that matter can not be grasped without an observant mind and that the divine mind is the source of everything we observe through his gift of letting us participate in his consciousness. We are in a continual motion and it is very dangerous to stop with a fixed box that is why Ibn Arabi declared that his heart has become an abode to all objects of worship.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    I came across a Chittick statement which I find pertinent to my latest two comments which I thought to quote here, Many important thinkers have concluded that the west never should have abandoned certain teachings about reality which it shared with the east……. in putting complete faith in reason the west forgot that imagination opens up the soul to certain possibilities of perceiving and understanding not available to the rational mind. Chittick is a fan of Ibn Arabi who said that the imaginal tool is the only tool to god, the base for all religions.

  3. Steve Lavendusky says :

    • Scott Preston says :

      Well, dang it. There you go again anticipating what I was drafting out earlier this morning. It was actually a brief commentary on Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell in relation to previous posts on “Peak Chaos”. Raine here covered about half of what I had written up, so now it looks a bit second hand and derivative. So maybe I’ll file it away for some later time. Maybe after Peak Chaos.

      • abdulmonem says :

        Blake revolt of imagination against the rationality of Darwin and the like,did not succeed that is why we have the call of Gebser for integral consciousness , this only confirms what Chittick said. It did not stop there but it continues in the allies of falsification and lie as we see in the fields of advertisement and propaganda and the circus of the election tournament where not even the rational human dialogue is observed. They want to make America great but they do not abstain from heaping insult on the other american who they want to make great. The purpose of any human dialogue is to serve truth and justice,good talks and good deeds. Thank you all.

        • Scott Preston says :

          “The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.” (Psalm 118:22).

          All in good time. Blake revival has only occurred within the last 50 years or so. Like all prophets, they are never understood until years or generations afterwards. The mere fact of revival of interest in Blake is an indication that something has changed in human consciousness.

  4. Charles Leiden says :

    I published a newsletter back in the late 1980’s that echoed these themes. I wrote that a “fundamental transformation” is needed…I feel that humans and the world are in the midst of transition and transformation. It is important for people to understand the necessity of change; to gain a perspective and knowledge of why this is happening; and to take these insights and begin to imagine and work towards a different world. There was a series on Constructive Postmodern Thought (SUNY) that was edited by David Ray Griffin. I wrote
    The thought in this series could be called constructive or revisionary, in that it does not want to eliminate all worldviews, but seeks to construct a “postmodern worldview through a revision of modern premises and traditional concepts.” The editor David Ray Griffin writes: “Going beyond the modern world will involve transcending its individualism, anthropocentrism, patriarchy, mechanization, economism, consumerism, nationalism, and militarism. Constructive postmodern thought provides support for the ecology, peace, feminist, and other emancipatory movements of our time, while stressing that the inclusive emancipation must be from modernity itself.”

    I mention this because Griffin articulates in his own way, the “three pillars of the modern malaise in their deficient aspects” that you mentioned in the article above.

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