Globalism, The Global Brain, and Integral Consciousness, II
As mentioned in the last post, Duane Elgin’s views on “The Awakening Earth” and Howard Bloom’s The Global Brain are two aspects of the same process, and are implicated also in Jean Gebser’s reorganisation of consciousness as the “arational-aperspectival”. Also pertinent in this respect are Marshall McLuhan’s earlier reflections on media as “the extensions of man” (or projections, if you will) and the social disruptions that would come with the transition from Industrial Age (and Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”) to the Age of Electric in which the human brain, nervous system, and sensory system are “extended” around the globe, and beyond the globe, as network or web. This was of great concern to McLuhan because of the potential for abuse, where others would, as he put it then, “do tap-dances on our exposed nervous system”.
And that pretty much has come to pass, as exemplified in things like the “fake news” controversy, “Gamergate”, trolling, “viruses”, “spam”, and Trojan Horses and other forms of malignant and malicious online behaviours — also post-rational and post-truth.
Usually, however, when we speak of the “Global Brain” and the extended nervous system, what we mean by that is the specialist functions of the left-hemisphere only — those mental functions associated with Iain McGilchrist’s “Emissary” (an equally effective term is the “pilot” or “scout”). It is, however, the whole brain and nervous system functions that are extended, and not just a specialist portion. As a result we are blind-sided when the dream also reveals itself as nightmare too in terms of “unintended consequence”, “perverse outcome”, “blowback”, “revenge effect”, or ironic reversal of what was expected.
This illustrates the deficiency, and limitations, of the perspectivist consciousness structure associated with the left-hemispheric mode of attention — its tendency to “sectoralise” or “compartmentalise” things in such a way as to be blind-sided or side-swiped by unintended consequences. Dialectics and dialectical rationality isn’t the most effective tool for handling the massively interconnected and multivariate world of network and the webwork. As expected, the result is chaos and our received logics are not capable of handling such “chaos” precisely because they were, and are, sectoral or specialist logics.
The analogy I’ve often drawn in connection with this is the Roman roads — built to expand and extend the range of power and empire, they also were the same roads followed by the Northern barbarian tribes to invade and sack Rome, which brings to mind one of Heraclitus’s famous paradoxes: “the road up and the road down are the same”. That is to say, a coincidence of opposites in which the dynamics of rise and fall resemble each other. Rome’s triumphant expansion was also coincidentally its unraveling too.
The global internet, especially, compels us to reflect now on the deficiencies of the mental-rational or perspectival mode of consciousness, because it is quite obvious that the “extended nervous system” includes more “subterranean” or “underlying” dynamics than the specialist functions associated with the left-hemisphere of the brain, and which do not respond to “regulation” in terms of logic, morals, or the protocols of what we call “civilised life”, but includes darker aspects of the whole brain too. It is not only “light” that is extended along the neural pathways of the internet as extended brain and nervous system, but also “shadow”, Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde both.
And we know how that sorry tale ended.
So, there is coincident with the global brain also a crisis of the implicit ethos. It is inadequate for our times, which are characterised now by multilateralism, inter-connectedness, and “Butterfly Effect” and the flux of energy which we refer to as “chaotic”. So, our time needs Heraclitus more than it needs Parmenides, so to speak. We need, in other words, a whole-brain logic to handle chaos. We need, in other words, “overview” rather than “point-of-view”. In other words also, we need a “global soul”, otherwise we are done for, because it’s become quite evident that our consciousness is being invaded from the “hidden domain” beyond the boundaries or parameters of the “Emissary”, or the perspectivising consciousness structure or “the Shadow” or, in other words, the unintegrated aspects of the human psychic structure that have hitherto been suppressed or repressed by the protocols of perspectivism itself. We think we are in control of our projections, today in the form of technologies, but we are not. We have command but no mastery. We are kidding ourselves. And that has become quite obvious.
The Anthropocene, in its present form, as “global brain” is presently only the image of our inadequacy in that respect — the negative manifestation of the extended nervous system. Nonetheless, these very same circumstances are forcing us to a metanoia — a new consciousness mutation in which we must move from this…
…which is to say, from “Single Vision & Newtons sleep” to “fourfold vision”.
It isn’t just the portion of the brain we associate with self-consciousness that is extended into space, but also that greater realm we refer to as “the unconscious”, and of which we urgently need to become conscious through our insight, which is Gebser’s “transparency of the world” correspondingly. Insight is integration. We are going to have to become much more than we presently are in order to survive ourselves, and we have to remain open to being so transformed and transfigured by the very paradox of the situation.
For nothing resembles the old paradoxical situation represented by the present than the Hermetic principle of old, that “God is a circle whose circumference is nowhere but whose centre is everywhere”. That Hermetic principle and foundational logic is also what Rosenstock-Huessy attempted to implement with is “Cross of Reality” and Gebser through his integral philsophy of the four structures of consciousness and the “vital centre”. The same Hermetic principle is implied in Thich Nhat Hanh’s notion of “inter-being”.
It’s the very threat of what Blake celebrates as “the dance of Eternal Death” (Shiva’s Dance, in other words) that is forcing us to shift towards “the Master” mode of attention, meeting again the true meaning of another of Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”. In other words, hubris and Nemesis (or the karmic law of action and reaction) is meant for man’s education, not his “punishment”.
“Post-truth” is, to my mind, a measure of the intensity of the human mind’s self-alienation, estrangement or “distantiation”, as Gebser calls it, from the vital centre and is to my mind more dangerous for the human prospect than even the existence of nuclear weapons. Post-truth acknowledges the extremity of the nihilism of our time and of the dissolution of the consciousness structure of modern man, at the periphery, by the momentum of its own centrifugal force. “Post-rational” is a measure of the disintegration and dissolution of its ratio and sense of balance and proportionality (which we call “justice”). But “post-truth” is a measure of the self-alienation and loss of self.
There is, of course, the counter-dynamic which can be described in terms of the “mandala of integration”, as “whole-brain thinking”, and only this presently represents the possibility of a “New Renaissance”. And it’s in those terms, too, that the present dissolution of truth can also be appreciated as being simultaneously a restructuration of truth itself, coincident with the recovery of the vital centre, and consequently of “human nature” itself — assuming, that is, we manage also to arrest the momentum of “post-truth” and the “post-rational”.
Actually, “whole brain” and “whole body” are quite synonymous, since we are speaking of the brain-body pathways as a whole, since the brain-body is the portal by which, energy as latency or potentiality, enters the physical system and becomes manifest and “concrete” as sensory data or as “knowledge”. (Hence Blake’s paradox that “energy is of the body” and yet “energy is eternal delight”), which is also fourfold in expression — as respiratory, circulatory, metabolic, and nervous system (or Air, Water, Earth, and Fire and their governance through and by the “Logos”. The Logos is the same as “vital centre” and therefore as “truth”).
This isn’t “mysticism”. This is biology or ecology as real “life science”, and is ancient knowledge as well.