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.