David Bowie has always been one of my favourite musicians. There’s a touch of the Blakean about his music and his lyrics. This morning I woke up thinking about his song “Space Oddity”, released in 1969, in connection with what I posted earlier about the astronaut or cosmonaut as the contemporary archeytpe of the Prodigal Son. Major Tom, lost in space as image of the contemporary ego-consciousness, became something of a pop cultural meme, even a cult figure, after Bowie released the song and Major Tom continued to pop up, on occasion, in some of Bowie’s other lyrics.
Is a “post-conscious” world possible as the logical conclusion to Blake’s “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”? What if all the “post-everything” today just all adds up to “post-conscious” — the narrowing of consciousness to a nothing — the nothing otherwise known as “oblivion” or what William Blake referred to as “Non-Ens”?
That’s the question I want to put to the readership today, especially after watching Adam Curtis’s recent documentary HyperNormalisation — the follow up to his other great documentary The Century of the Self.
A “Renaissance” is a profoundly paradoxical and ambiguous affair, and usually an apocalyptic one. It just means “rebirth”. There’s no reason to idolise a Renaissance because it could just as well be the rebirth of Yeats’ “rough beast” in his poem “The Second Coming” — the riddling sphinx-like creature slouching towards Bethlehem from the deep deserts who heralds the return of pharoahism and the god-emperor (which is one reason I remain quite uneasy about Jeremy Naydler’s The Future of the Ancient World). “New Renaissance”, as Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna have it in their book The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance, could just as well be a rebirth of the shaman-king and emperor-god, and in that sense a regression rather than a new integration.
I’ve noticed some folks who identify with the so-called “alt-right” use the phrase “virtue-signalling” quite a lot. It’s supposed to be a put down, which they oppose to “plain speaking” or “telling it like it is”. Being a curious sort, I had to look up “virtue-signalling” on the internet to find out what the hell they’re referring to, but apparently they consider “virtue-signalling” some form of political correctness, and thus bad form, although using the phrase “virtue-signalling” itself is hardly a stellar example of “plain-speaking” itself.
There are some attempts to define this “virtue-signalling” meme (here and here). As best I can deduce, it means nothing more than “wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve” (or a flag patch on one’s arm, for that matter). As far as I can tell, “virtue-signalling” means only self-branding — the “Me Brand” — as wanting to be perceived by others (or by oneself) as good, virtuous, righteous, moral and so on. So, in those terms “virtue-signalling” and “political correctness” are treated as synonymous.
One of the things that grabbed me while I was reading one of the Seth books was a simple statement Seth made during a particularly stormy night while beginning one of his “sessions” with Jane Roberts and Robert Butts. Of all the things that should stick with me after reading the Seth material it is, oddly enough, “storms to the stormy”. The phrase recurs to me every time I reflect on problems of climate change or of chaotic transition.
“Storms to the stormy” brings to mind Heraclitus and his admonition that “character is fate”. In the original Greek, though, character is “ethos” and “character is fate” is only a very rough translation of “ethos anthropos daimon“. Heraclitus, the “Greek Buddha” as he has been described, meant by this “daimon” something more akin to the Buddhist “Mara”, Lord of Illusions and “the Architect”. Greek “daimon” is often adequately translated by the Latin “genius“. But neither “demon” nor “genius” mean, today, what they meant then.
I have been reading David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous, once recommended by Charles Leiden, and I am, so far, very pleased with it. I may well be posting more about it in future, but today I wanted to extract a fairly lengthy passage on “the life-world” that strikes me as being particularly important. The life-world (or die Lebenswelt) is a concept introduced by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938), founder of Phenomenology, and to my mind one of the most important philosophers of all time. It is Husserl who coined the phrase “life-world” — the world of our immediate experience.
I’m going to repost a submission mikemackd made today to the comments section of “Idolatry and Self-Alienation” — a lengthy citation from Lewis Mumford entitled “The Uprising of Caliban”. It’s an interesting assessment of Late Modernity that probably deserves to be highlighted and which may well spark a continuation of the conversation that began with “Idolatry and Self-Alienation“.