Idolatry and Self-Alienation

Their idols 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: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. — Psalms 115:4-8

Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order. This is the situation of politics which Fascism is rendering aesthetic. — Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

I want to reach back, today, to resurrect an earlier theme — its main theme in fact — from The Dark Age Blog, particularly the relationship between idolatry, “culture of narcissism”, and self-alienation, for they are interweaving issues and processes. The Psalmist’s denunciation of the idols, Walter Benjamin’s observations on self-alienation, and Christopher Lasch’s “culture of narcissism” are all riffs on a common theme, including Nietzsche’s objections to our “flowing out into a God”. In many respects also, fundamentalism and reductionism are also implicated in idolatry and self-alienation. In effect self-alienation is idolatry, and idolatry is narcissism.

Self-alienation is the investment of identity — even of individuality — in externalities, be these externalities “brands”, or money, or ideologies, or nationalities, or race, or gender, “power objects” and so on. Self-alienation is otherwise called “projection”. Once the identity becomes fully invested in the externalities, or projected into the externalities, they become idols or fetishes, and any change in the externalities is sensed as an attack on the identity.

The idols, now invested with the life or vitality that properly belongs to the subject, but which has become alienated in the externalities, will be defended by all means. Much of this is what we imply by “post-rational” or “post-truth society”. It is the defence of the idols, the images, which have been invested with their own “mana” and are enlivened to the same degree as the self is emptied and alienated in them. The defence of the idols even becomes a life and death issue since the identity is so much invested in them. This is called “projection”. In a sense, the idols are symbolic forms that have become opaque to insight and have become, then, fetishes.

What Gebser refers to as “transparency” is equivalent, then, to the withdrawl of the projections in that sense, that the idols are again rightly seen as symbolic forms.

Since this is a world of time and death — for all things pass away and all things are subject to the law of impermanence — so too do the idols — (Plato’s “shadows” in the parable of the cave) — and since identity is so heavily invested in these externalities and in these “shadows”, time and change processes are experienced as an existential threat leading to reactionary responses. The practice of “deconstruction” might be, for some, an emancipation of the mind from the “mind-forg’d manacles”, but for others it is an attack on the identity itself.

The original practice of “disinterestedness” in science was to counter what Francis Bacon called “the Four Idols“, and was quite equivalent to the practice of “mindfulness” or “non-attachment” in Buddhism. But “disinterestedness” has since decayed into something else altogether — objectification and reductionism and the presumption of “value-free science”. Objectification, in this sense, bears enough resemblance to mindfulness or non-attachment to be confused with it, however. So much of contemporary science is now as much idolatry and narcissism as you find anywhere, caught up in a labyrinth of its own projections and objectifications, and so much so that it has raised alarm even among other scientists (including Einstein).

It is this self-alienation into the idols of the tribe, idols of the marketplace, idols of race or the idols of abstraction, and so on that is described as “trance” or “sleepwalking” or “delusion” or “narcissism” and such terms, and its the sorceric manipulation of the idols in which individual and collective identity is invested that leads to “technocratic shamanism” or “meme magick” and “branded behaviours” for that matter.

When ideas or the forms cease to be transparent, then you have idolatry. This is the meaning of Blake’s distinction between seeing “with the eye” or “thro’ the eye”, and in that sense it is quite true that only a hair separates the false from the true, and the superstition from the fact. The difference lies in the opacity and the transparency of the forms, and the difference between sightedness and insightfulness.

If so much deceit, duplicity, falsehood, prevarication, dissembling, pretense and such is being expended today in defence of the idols of the tribe, of the marketplace, of the mind, it is because it is “the twilight of the idols” as Nietzsche forecast, and the processes of “disintegration” and “fragmentation” also involve the decay of the idols which, because of self-alienation and self-objectification, is felt and sensed as a threat to identity. If anything, Iain McGilchrist’s “Emissary” mode of consciousness (in The Master and His Emissary) is a Grand Idolator.

It’s in this sense that Nietzsche’s “twilight of the idols” and “chaotic transition” are identical processes. In chaotic transition, past and future are at war with each other, and as usual in such conflicts, truth and reason are always the first victims.

It’s all about preserving the idols, because of the identity invested in the idols, for “they that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them”, and this is what Benjamin describes as “self-alienation”.


74 responses to “Idolatry and Self-Alienation”

  1. andrewmarkmusic says :

    I think this fits here:

    I suspect Hollywood in the generic sense is woven quite ubiquitously into the Deep State. It’s difficult for me to believe that this years theme wasn’t foreknowledge of the election cycle.

    Anyway, that speculation aside, the fascistic themes of the show were never hard to spot which wouldn’t be a problem in a culture that was mindful to the boundaries of fantasy and reality.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’ve never seen it. I don’t own a TV. But it brings to mind many a “reality TV” show that seems to follow along much the same lines.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      A populace divorced from print and bombarded by discordant and random images is robbed of the vocabulary as well as the historical and cultural context to articulate reality. Illusion is truth. A whirlwind of emotionally driven cant feeds our historical amnesia.

      The internet has accelerated this process. It, along with cable news shows, has divided the country into antagonistic clans. Members of a clan watch the same images and listen to the same narratives, creating a collective “reality.” Fake news abounds in these virtual slums. Dialogue is shut down. Hatred of opposing clans fosters a herd mentality. Those who express empathy for ‘the enemy’ are denounced by their fellow travelers for their supposed impurity.

      ‘Fake News’ [in America]: Homegrown, and Far From New. Propaganda, by any other name, smells just as foul.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes, and so here’s the problem: some are working to dissolve the “mind-forg’d manacles” and break the thralldom of consciousness to the idols, while others are working to the exact opposite ends — to ensure that consciousness never leaves the orbit of the idols and remains in thralldom to them from the cradle to the grave.

        Earlier in the year, I spent a lot of time looking at that in terms of “marketing 3.0” or “spiritual branding” which has exactly that aim of ensuring that the mind never, ever escapes the state of thralldom. That is, essentially, the meaning of “technocratic shamanism”.

        So, how do we break the spell — this thralldom? Some have tried “culture jamming”. Some have pursued the iconoclasm of “deconstruction”. The difficulty here is that because identity is so bound up with, and invested in, the idols (or as “meme magick”) that iconoclasm almost feels like an amputation of the identity and will be fiercely attacked, even as “nihilism”.

        It’s a tough nut to crack, and the only solutions offered to this in the past have been “natural mortality”. Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions credited mortaity of one generation with the shift in paradigms of the next; Max Planck said, equally, that science progresses “funeral by funeral”; while Rosenstock-Huessy insisted that only the mortality of the generations can serve as a guarantee of human progress.

        Relying on mortality doesn’t see like the most reliable method of terminating thralldom.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          You should go home to your hermitage; it is inside you. Close the doors, light the fire, and make it cozy again. That is what I call ‘taking refuge in the island of self.’ If you don’t go home to yourself, you continue to lose yourself. You destroy yourself and you destroy people around you, even if you have goodwill and want to do something to help. That is why the practice of going home to the island of self is so important. No one can take your true home away. —Thich Nhat Hanh

          It’s a start.

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s an excellent piece by Hedges, by the way. Yes, the situation is completely “unpresidented” — Freudian slip, I’m sure, since Trump is going to unpresident the presidency too.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Speaking of Freudian slips, Hedges mentioned Bernays and I’ve probably shared this before, but it’s worth repeating: The Century of the Self

          It would probably go over better if it were titled The Century of the False Self, but — well — there it is.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I note that Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year is surreal.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I found this interesting as well.

      Humanity is dealing with major crises like global warming, the sixth mass extinction, extreme inequality, political corruption, and an economic system built on greed and short-sighted wealth hoarding. So why is it that so many of us keep getting caught up in the celebrity worship of politicians in the top 0.1% wealthiest people on Earth?

      If we were to somehow measure the total amount of attention that humans are giving to topics they care about, how much would be on the systemic threats to our civilization? To what extent would the focus on celebrity culture (including political candidates and electoral races) be a distraction from what is really important?

      “Tweets” are hardly representative of all the “conversations” taking place. (At 150 characters, “tweets” might be characterized as soundbites themselves. Not a lot of contextual material there.) But this analysis does bring up a number of important points and the author does say, “We have merely scratched the surface….”

  2. abdulmonem says :

    It is a question of worship, no wonder we read in the quran, and I have created the jinns and the humans solely to worship,that is to know what to worship and respect, what to love and how to be empathic, in a universe filled with antagonistic forces and many things that grape the humans attention and divert their intention. Again it is a matter of concepts and ideas and how we interact with these concepts and ideas since our universe is a universe of language, of meaning ,of quality and not of number and quantity. It is only natural, that after humans attention and intention are diverted solely to number and quantity,we are facing all these false idols. The words of the dying hearts are themsleves are dying that is why our mechanical language has lost its ability to produce rising meanings. In the realm of a formless god, it is dangerous and misleading to box him in a specific form, that is why Mumford in the comment sent by Mike on the age of revolutions said I resist to give a name. This also because, the vitality and the effectiveness of meanings all reside in the spacious silence of the god. As there are false gods there is only one true god and the whole struggle is to determine who will follow the one and who will follow the many , without being oblivious of the flow of the one in the many and the return of the many to the one. Sometime I wonder if I am speaking my words or are the words are spoken through me as Rosenstock professed in one of his moment of revelation. In the world of opposite we have no choice but to take side and not to wear a hypocritical attire that we change as the situation demands. When the stabilizing concepts of the day after and the divine system of reward are destroyed by those who have carried the false flag of the white man burden and cause havoc in the earth and left an ugly inheritance that our time is suffering from. The cries of the oppressed are rising a cross our polluted earth. it is the diverging roads Seth and Gebser and many others have talked about and still are talking about.

  3. mikemackd says :

    Following on from Scott’s post’s and abdulmonen’s insights, I note that the USA’s Council of Foreign Relations’ Walter Russell Mead, in his work “God and Gold”, sources the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr for his insight that the major problem in identity constructing is that the more frustrations we have in life and the more we are infuriated by humiliations, then the more we project our narcissistic requirements of grandeur to such collective dimensions of our identities (Mead 2007, Atlantic Books, London, pp. 387-390).

    In his “The Origins and History of Consciousness”, the Jungian Psychologist Erich Neumann noted the same phenomenon decades ago in Mead’s America when he wrote:

    “When the individual falls away from the cultural fabric like this, he finds himself completely isolated in an egotistically inflated private world. The restlessness, the discontents, the excesses, the formlessness and meaninglessness of a purely egocentric life – are the unhappy results . . . Following the collapse of the archetypal canon, single archetypes then take possession of men and consume them like malevolent demons. Typical and symptomatic of this transitional phenomenon is the state of affairs in America, though the same holds good for practically the whole western hemisphere. Every conceivable sort of dominant rules the personality, which is a personality only in name. The grotesque fact that murderers, brigands, gangsters, thieves, forgers, tyrants, and swindlers, in a guise that deceives nobody, have seized control of collective life is characteristic of our time. Their unscrupulousness and double-dealing are recognised – and admired. Their ruthless energy they obtain at best from some stray archetypal content that has got them in its power. The dynamism of a possessed personality is accordingly very great, because, in its one-track primitivity, it suffers from none of the differentiations that make men human. Worship of the “beast” . . . prevails wherever one-sidedness, push, and moral blindness are applauded, i.e., wherever the aggravating complexities of civilized behaviour are swept away in favor of bestial rapacity. One has only to look at the educative ideals now current in the West.

    “The possessed character of our financial and industrial magnates, for instance, is psychologically evident from the very fact that they are at the mercy of a suprapersonal factor – “work,” “power,” “money,” or whatever they like to call it – which, in the telling phrase, “consumes” them and leaves them little or no room as private persons. Coupled with a nihilistic attitude towards civilization and humanity there goes a puffing up of the ego-sphere which expresses itself with brutish egotism in a total disregard for the common good and in the attempt to lead an egocentric existence, where personal power, money, and “experiences” – unbelievably trivial, but plentiful – occupy every hour of the day.”

    (Neumann, op cit 1995 publication Bollingen Foundation, Princeton University Press, pp. 391-392).

    Neumann’s concluding words to his book were:

    “But only when the conscious development of mankind as a whole, and not merely single individuals, has reached this stage of synthesis, will the supra-individual uroboros situation truly be overcome, and with it the collective danger of the dragon. The collective unconscious of mankind must be experienced and apprehended by the consciousness of mankind as the ground common to all men. Not until the differentiation into races, nations, tribes, and groups has, by a process of integration, been resolved into a new synthesis, will the danger of recurrent invasions from the unconscious be averted. A future humanity will then realise the centre, which the individual personality today experiences as his own self-centre, to be one with humanity’s very self, whose coming to birth will finally vanquish and cast out that old serpent, the primordial uroboric dragon.” (Neumann, ibid, p. 418).

    I think Trump’s tacticians would have been well aware of the above, and exploited it to empower financial and industrial magnates of the ilk now being appointed to his cabinet. If so, Trump is a modern Dr Faustus.

    • mikemackd says :

      Lewis Mumford had read Neumann. In The Pentagon of Power (1970, volume two of The Myth of the Machine) in Chapter 14: The New Organum, part 6, “If the Sleepers Awaken”, he wrote:

      At this point the method of psychoanalysis offers a clue that may be of value in handling the present collective breakdown: this lies in the effort to trace present symptoms back to earlier mishaps or injuries, deeply buried in the psyche, difficult to uncover, which deflected the organism from its normal path of growth. By bringing such traumas into consciousness, the patient may better understand his own nature and acquire insight into the conditions under which he can, through his own efforts, make the most of the potentialities that his personal life and his culture offer him.

      The unbaring of man’s historic past during the last two centuries may well prove a more important contribution to man’s survival than all his other scientific knowledge. This reclamation of human history will involve, as Erich Neumann has emphasized, absorbing into man’s conscious existence the evils that, if unidentified and unrecognized, will otherwise continue to thwart him. Our megatechnic culture, based as it is on the strange supposition that subjective malice has no reality and that evils do not exist, except in the sense of reparable mechanical defects, has proved itself incompetent to take on such responsibilities.

      For its effective salvation mankind will need to undergo something like a spontaneous religious conversion: one that will replace the mechanical world picture with an organic world picture, and give to the human personality, as the highest known manifestation of life, the precedence it now gives to its machines and computers. This order of change is as hard for most people to conceive as was the change from the classic power complex of Imperial Rome to that of Christianity, or, later, from supernatural medieval Christianity to the machine-modeled ideology of the seventeenth century. But such changes have repeatedly occurred all through history; and under catastrophic pressure they may occur again. Of only one thing we may be confident. If mankind is to escape its programmed self-extinction the God who saves us will not descend from the machine: he will rise up again in the human soul.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I read Neumann’s book when I was an undergrad. Very impressed with it. I’ll have to go back and read it again I think, since it’s pretty much a foundational text in the origins and history of consciousness.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Some have been referring to Trump’s campaign for the presidency as “bait-and-switch”, and while it certainly seems to have that characteristic it might just as well be described as a “false-flag” operation, or even as “black ops”. All these things seem to be implicated in the fuller meaning of “post-truth”. Black Ops, Bait-and-Switch, and False-Flag.

  4. Charles Leiden says :

    Good writing as usual. Fake news has been around for awhile. I was involved with a grassroots environment network and we were handing out the book Toxic Sludge is Good for You – John Stauber

    I suggest that the mass media is like the nervous system of the global economy and obviously giving all the wrong messages. The corpocracy is creating/causing fires but the feedback loop is controlled by the same group that is causing the fires.

    Scott wrote

    “for the the relationship between idolatry, “culture of narcissism”, and self-alienation, for they are interweaving issues and processes.”

    I agree. I suggest that the mass media is like the nervous system of the global economy and obviously giving all the wrong messages. The corpocracy is creating/causing fires but the feedback loop is controlled by the same group that is causing the fires.

    mikemackd wrote

    “When the individual falls away from the cultural fabric like this, he finds himself completely isolated in an egotistically inflated private world. The restlessness, the discontents, the excesses, the formlessness and meaninglessness of a purely egocentric life – are the unhappy results”

    Wilber called it the Atman Project. “because a human wants real transcendence above all but because one will not the death of his separate-self sense, one goes about seeking transcendence in ways that actually prevent it and force symbolic substitutes.” Fame, money, power, food, sex, shopping…

    So, how do we break the spell — this thralldom? That is the question? There is a push and a pull. Every view of reality (paradigm if you will) attracts its own crises.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Their ruthless energy they obtain at best from some stray archetypal content that has got them in its power.

      What if we told you that humanity is being driven to the brink of extinction by an illness? That all the poverty, the climate devastation, the perpetual war, and consumption fetishism we see all around us have roots in a mass psychological infection? What if we went on to say that this infection is not just highly communicable but also self-replicating, according to the laws of cultural evolution, and that it remains so clandestine in our psyches that most hosts will, as a condition of their infected state, vehemently deny that they are infected? What if we then told you that this ‘mind virus’ can be described as a form of cannibalism. Yes, cannibalism. Not necessarily in the literal flesh-eating sense but rather the idea of consuming others—human and non-human—as a means of securing personal wealth and supremacy.

      Wetiko, in other words.

      Why am I reminded of Agent Smith?

      Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with their surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to another area, and you multiply, and you multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we are the cure.

      What makes quote that memorable is its “truthiness.” Except that we’re not the virus. Carriers? Maybe.

      Ick. And with that, I shall return to my little “hermitage.”

      • mikemackd says :

        Ahem. Tapping at the door of your little hermitage, Infinite Warrior, I would like firstly thank you for that quote from:

        I had seen the article before, but not troubled myself to read it. That was a mistake which you have now got me to rectify.

        Secondly, I would like to submit that Wetiko – cannibalising the lives of other human beings for profit, IS Lewis Mumford’s Myth of the Machine:

        – So [machine minds] never learned from either their own experience or from history the fact that unqualified power is inimical to life: that their methods were self-defeating, their military victories were ephemeral, and their exalted claims were fraudulent and absurd … Psychologically healthy people have no need to indulge fantasies of absolute power; nor do they need to come to terms with reality by inflicting self-mutilation and prematurely courting death. … power cannot long prevail unless those on whom it is imposed have reason to respect it and conform to it.

        For mark this: the [machine] was not born alone. the [machine] has been accompanied, we can see now, by a twin, a dark shadow-self: defiant, not docile: disorderly, not organized or controlled: above all, aggressively destructive, even homicidal, reasserting the dammed-up forces of life in crazy or criminal acts. In the emerging figure of man … a reversed hierarchy … lowers the authority of the brain and puts the reflexes and blind instincts in command. The aim … is to destroy those higher attributes of man whose gifts of love, mutuality, rationality, imagination, and constructive aptitude have enlarged all the possibilities of life. It is in the light of these impending negations and destructions that the whole concept of subjugating nature and replacing man’s own functions with collectively fabricated, automatically operated, completely depersonalized equivalents must at last be reappraised.

        With every increase of effective power, extravagantly sadistic and murderous impulses erupted out of the unconscious. This is the trauma that has distorted the subsequent development of all ‘civilized’ societies. And it is this fact that punctuates the entire history of mankind with outbursts of collective paranoia and tribal delusions of grandeur, mingled with malevolent suspicions, murderous hatreds, and atrociously inhumane acts.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Windigo (or Wendigo or Wetiko) and the zombie are the same. There are features of the windigo that resemble Kali Ma also. Descriptions of windigo I have heard (and representations I’ve seen) suggest the windigo may be the alter-ego or shadow side of the Green Man, and I know it as a “tree demon” — demon of the forest.

        The cannibal aspect of the windigo suggests also the ouroboros — life feeds on life.

        I only know of three historical accounts of windigo possession in Canada, described by Europeans. One is recorded in the chronicle of the Frog Lake Massacre

        And another is described in George Nelson’s letters to his father published as The Orders of the Dreamed where he describes a case of windigo possession he witnessed first hand.

        • mikemackd says :

          Hmm. In that case, I withdraw my conflation of Mumford’s Myth of the Machine with Windigo. There do appear to be homologies, though.

          Mumford (poor Mumford; I am presenting an imbalanced picture of him here as some kind of ranter: he was far more than that) refers to “organization man” as those who take “for granted that there is only one acceptable view of the world, that which they stand for: only one kind of knowledge, only one type of human enterprise has value—their own, or that which derives directly from their own. Ultimately they mean that only one kind of personality can be considered desirable—that established as such by the military‐industrial scientific elite which will operate the megamachine . . . [and will] if necessary `do without’ those who may challenge their methods or deny the validity of their ends. This, then, is the final demand of Organization Man: the authority to make the world over in his own shrunken image.”

          John Cleese, in his movie 1986 Clockwise, satirised such.

          Organization men both attract and manipulate Bob Altemeyer’s “authoritarian followers”,
          and it is these who seem to be more susceptible to the immersion into “collective paranoia and tribal delusions of grandeur, mingled with malevolent suspicions, murderous hatreds, and atrociously inhumane acts” of which Mumford speaks. Altemeyer’s focus is on the right wing authoritarian followers, but the point is their emotional need causing their susceptibilities, not so much who their authority figures are.

          I do not claim any us versus them diabolical dichotomy, though. We can all be either or neither.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Actually, I think the comparison with windigo is quite appropriate. Certainly Buffy St. Marie made the comparison in her song “The Priests of the Golden Bull” (and she’s Cree and from the area I live in — the Qu’Appelle Valley).

            • mikemackd says :

              Well, yes. I read all her lyrics. I am again content with the comparison.

              Interestingly, I think Mumford and Buffy’s point about the Machine/Wendigo co-birth and co-development was first mentioned by Rabindranath Tagore, the guy who gave Gandhi the moniker “Mahatma”. Tagore referred to the Machine’s with “its mental slaves hypnotized into believing that they are free?” (Tagore 1918 “Nationalism”, London, Macmillan and Company Limitedpp. 26-27)

              Another who railed against The Machine was Sayyid Qutb, executed by Nasser, who is believed by some to have been an inspiration for Al-Qaeda.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Also, there may be some connection between the windigo and Buddhism’s “hungry ghosts” — an aspect I haven’t explored as yet.

        Also, in Black Elk’s vision, recorded in Black Elk Speaks, he saw a vision of a “Blue Man” ravaging the Earth, associated with the idea of drought, which may be the windigo.

  5. Charles Leiden says :

    Wow. Wetiko A good description. Yuga- an Anatomy of Our Fate Marty Glass An insightful book that describes the Kali-Yuga as it is happening at present from one’s erpective. Mumford, Ellul, Postman, Roscak all describe the human as we know him and parallels windigo. Glass mentions George Morgan who described “prosaic man”.

    “the prosaic man is interested in abstractions, in groups of properties that can be abstracted from people, objects, events, and so on, and used to deal with them.”
    The qualitative aspects of life are meaningless to this type of human -prosaic man.

    “interest in quantitative facts is intimately connected with the devotion or the prosaic mind to a particular abstractable property – progress…increases in size, speed, precision, production,salary, circulation, and membership are goals the prosaic man pursues, confident that he knows when and how much progress is being made.” Progress in other words, the measure and language of our degradation, our debasement.
    Questions that don’t fit this criteria are meaningless, which as Glass writes, are most of a humans subjective life.

    The last chapter is Christ & the Kali-Yuga. He is speculating in many ways. The innovation of the Judaeo-Christian tradition is the fall into time. Time became linear with a beginning and a end. Eliade writes: Christianity goes even further in valorizing historical time. Since God was incarnated, that is, since he took a history-conditioned human existence, history acquires the possibility of being sanctified…’ They were chosen.
    J.M. Roberts and others. Roberts writes about the secret of the “success” of the west “I believe that two central myths can be found at the heart of the western view of history. One is the idea that men are, in some sense, able to take change of their own destinies: they are autonomous. The other is the idea that history is meaningful because it has direction; it is going somewhere.”

    If one accepts that as Glass writes “the Church became Western Christendom, and Western Christendom became Europe, and Europe in full flower, became the West,” then one can understand that material progress (salvation) is a substitute for spiritual enlightenment.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yuga sounds like a very interesting book which I will have to read. The description is quite intriguing,

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      material progress (salvation) is a substitute for spiritual enlightenment

      This strain of the virus goes by the name “prosperity gospel” today. The Christian contemplative tradition (which is rarely named alongside Sufism, Taoism and others), however, is regaining traction and faring well.

      … poetic and novelistic vocabulary…. book as a provocation rather than as argument…. voice speaks so palpably from the author’s heart that we find it resonating in our hearts as well.

      Sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. andrewmarkmusic says :

    I had guessed that you lived in the Qu’Appelle Valley! It’s been years since I’ve been there ( hitch-hiking) ; but beautiful beautiful country as far as I can recall!

    • Scott Preston says :

      The Valley’s kind of off the beaten path for hitchhikers. But, yeah, it’s always a surprise to anyone new to it. You’re driving along for miles and miles of bald prairie and then, suddenly, it’s “whoa! Where did this come from?!”.

  7. andrewmarkmusic says :

    From The Pros and Cons of Hitch-Hiking:

    I have a few anecdotes from my time hitchin’ on The Prairies:)

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Ties right in with Andrew’s initial comment. I wrote something about “The Cult of Celebrity” years ago, following on the heels of an old college essay on the theme of the supposedly “nonconformist” perversely “conforming” themselves in actuality.

      Like everyone non-famous, though, some “celebrities” are actually quite down-to-earth, unaffected, thoughtful and responsible people. So, I wouldn’t want to make a monolith out of “celebrities” any more than any other group.

    • andrewmarkmusic says :

      There is a reason the sports and entertainment complex are being paid obscene amounts of money and Monbiot captures it rather well; although I think I was saying the same thing way before he expressed it . My initial reaction to the 80’s and ‘ I wonder why we’re so rich and famous and narcissistic” was to puke and say WTF! But I concede to having a Woody Guthrie shadow.
      Now the vapid ethos has been normalized and gone mainstream .
      I stick to my ‘we are doomed’ assessment of the whole bloody mess:(
      Another way to look at this is these celebrities have won big time in the casino and why wouldn’t they be thrilled. They are certainly not going to question the legitimacy of the casino . In fact, they will do everything they can to support it; espousing endlessly that things are only getting better and better . Sure they are you’ve walled yourself into a gated private golf course!

  8. abdulmonem says :

    Who are the major actors on our present space time platform,that is our devastated earth stage. Saying it is the judaeo-christian alliance is not precise, a more accurate identification is the zionist- anglo alliance who have been the major campaigner of the white man burden mission that scatter havoc on the earth which we are still suffering from its trails. Not all jews or christians are part of that mission however they have been kept silence by the treasures poured on them by the robbers. All scriptures professed such time including the quran where it stated that the isralites will regain the authority in the earth and rule over the ismaelite and do havoc in it with the help of the christian zionist, including their return to palestine. No wonder you see all this destruction and abuse in the ismealite region, which has been filled with traitors and agents working for the mentioned alliance. I am not raising these issues away from the five falls, Glass talked about and the final trip of humanity and the realization of the second coming of Jesus, I think the majority of the christains and some jews have been cheated by the prosaic humans as described by George Morgan as the best representative of the the campaigners who killed all the good qualities of life and raised the flag of quantity high in sky. These are historical facts that haven been displayed on our earth stage, in line with the divine plan whose most people deny and can not digest but the truth remain the truth and it does not bother by the deniers or the coverers of truth. We are living in a time of disclosure as it is seen by its extraordinary events. Whitehead said it ,we are living under the most murderous governments the earth has seen that give no respect to the most beautiful valleys or most nourishing rivers, as for murdering the trees you can write aplenty sad stories. The most tragic incident is deceiving people by making them think that they are living in a leashless world and persuade them to believe that they are the god of the earth after all god is another human and likes him we can take charge of our destinies and that the purpose of life is material progress and in it as Charles concluded, resides the humans salvation and therefore I may add that we do not need to listen to the fools who talk about spiritual enlightenment. Bear with me Scott , this is not a conspiracy theory. We need to reread our history more viglianly and call things by their actual names. We are fed up with fake news and half-truth. Watch fot hurricane trump as Feller called it.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      All the world’s a stage,
      And all the men and women merely players;
      They have their exits and their entrances,
      And one man in his time plays many parts,
      His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
      Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
      Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
      And shining morning face, creeping like snail
      Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
      Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
      Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
      Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
      Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
      Seeking the bubble reputation
      Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
      In fair round belly with good capon lined,
      With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
      Full of wise saws and modern instances;
      And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
      Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
      With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
      His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
      For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
      Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
      And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
      That ends this strange eventful history,
      Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
      Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

      As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII, William Shakespeare

      And there’s that number again.

  9. andrewmarkmusic says :

    Listening to the song, Renegade, which, I believe , was commissioned by the C02 polluting industry !
    Anyway guys, my issues really can be broken down to two. I will exclude the issue of what the nature of reality is because I don’t believe we know for certain ( we might not know at all).
    So, 1) pollution in ALL it’s forms must be taken seriously by all people and all business . 2) The inequality of wealth is abhorrent and everyone needs to find a solution to this extreme and unacceptable situation . The solution to two can’t contradict the first one.
    I’ve been proposing a one house person Global Commons initiative combined with a Global Commons MBI ( minimum basic income initiative). If the MBI was tied to ‘green’ living clauses in exchange for income then two wouldn’t contradict one!
    How simple is that!

    • abdulmonem says :

      How can you abhor or attack pollution or inequality if you do not have a real scale built in you to ring the bell of protest which we call the real which you try to put aside in your struggle for correction. Reality is the realm of faith not of knowledge and here i agree with you on our incapacity to know the real but that is exactly why we start with faith that may lead us to have a better understanding of the real and not a comprehensive knowledge because it is obvious that the finite can not encompass the infinite. We have to be humble.

  10. abdulmonem says :

    I wonder who sets these biological stages and is it wise that such dynamics ends in oblivion and jesus is equated with hitler. What a haphazard plan and we think our universe is well-designed construct . As there are biological stages there are spiritual stages where the true evaluation reins,since we have no hand in our biological development but we have the whole volition in the spiritual realm. On a different note I do not see any progress in calling the satanic negative energy that transverses the human psyche by witko or other similar terms. It is time to recognize that there is a universal god we are responsible for, and our talks and actions need to be aligned with his commands despite the deniers. It is a presence not everybody can enjoy.

    • mikemackd says :

      Dear Abdul Monem,

      While I consider your assertion concerning the Zionist-Anglo alliance robust – one just has to view the length of the standing ovations Netanyahu gets whenever he visits the US Congress to confirm it – from my limited perspective you appear to be confusing the situational with the systemic.

      The problem is The Myth of the Machine, a.k.a witeko. Once these mass murderers have had their day, another lot will come and take their place for as long as The Machine is in place, and it is not going anywhere soon without taking our species with it.

      The new lot may be more Zionist-Anglos, they may be the Chinese, or whomsoever. The problem is with our species, not necessarily any one of us in particular, like Hitler. There are millions like Hitler, but most will never develop a fitness landscape of the scale he had.

      As Mumford put it in The Human Heritage (1972), “In raising the ceiling of civilization’s constructive achievements, the modern megamachine likewise lowered its depths”. It is a very dangerous artefact, more so than all the lies and other weaponry it develops and employs, in the hands of those expressing witeko.

      Jesus refused the temptation to the megamachine’s power in the temptation in the wilderness. Others did not, do not, and will not. The rest of have to either live with that, or make it obsolete.

      I do not know how I would fare handling that much power. Obama fluffed it big time (witness Syria), and look how great so many thought he was! What you term “the satanic negative energy” is a very broad church, and a similarly broad vocabulary helps us to look into the fabulous darkness in which that old serpent, the primordial uroboric dragon, drives us from inside. Our task is to bring it into the light of day.

      As Prospero put it in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, “this thing of darkness I acknowledge mine”.

      You guessed it; Mumford has already been there, in his essay, “The Uprising of Caliban”, available online, in which he refers to the ruthless killing of helpless noncombatants under the guise of military necessity (p. 336), and the gratuitous humiliation of security investigations (p. 338), accompanied by these macho murderers “taboo on tenderness” (p. 343).

      Well, thank heavens we don’t have to worry about those any more!

      • abdulmonem says :

        Thank you Mike, on the question of the situational and the systemic, it is only obvious that the humans are situational creatures and can not leave addressing their situation and highlight the systemic, however that does not mean to neglect the systemic, the background of any situation if we want not to fall in the dark den, our ancestors had fallen into. Nothing in the world stay put ,the change never stops and there are always new people to play new roles when the old team stagnated and refused but to project their shadows on the others and stop acknowledging them as theirs. This is how the world is made.This also remind me of Bush axis of evil and the coming tempest of trump. I fully agree with Mumford on the jinn of the machine and the abyss we are moving into. It is strange that all humans are prone to vision their future and all scriptures are involved in putting scenes of the future for humans pondering.

  11. andrewmarkmusic says :

    I’m a bit more of a pragmatist then you are, sir. My goal would be to achieve a secular spirituality which highly valued the earth, its life forms and the humans who live upon it . It wouldn’t skip or dismiss humanities basic needs nor exploit other life forms or resources beyond a healthy limit.
    On metaphysics: it’s just something I’m not into discussing anymore and I say that as a theist:)
    But it’s not just Christian’s turning God into Hitler; it is jews turning Yahweh into Hitler, too; and muslims turning Allah into Hitler. Religiosity gone mad!

  12. mikemackd says :

    In contrast to the savages in suits manifesting wetiko, there is a quality here in Africa termed ubuntu that could be both wetiko’s counter and cure.

    Ubuntu is not directly translatable into English, but involves the recognition of the high intrinsic value of one another’s common humanity. Moreover, in contrast to the Cartesian “I think, therefore I am”, ubuntu means “whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole group, and whatever happens to the whole group happens to the individual. The individual can only say: ‘I am, because we are; and since we are therefore I am’” (Mbiti 1990, African Religions & Philosophy, Pearson Education, p. 106).

    Like wetiko/windego/windigo etc. it is variously expressed and nuanced – ubuntu, hunhu, humwe, wbwananyina … – it further means “the humanity/humaneness in me recognises the humanity/humaneness in you”, what the Indian greeting “Namaste” means, the Buddhist loving kindness expressed by skilful means, and so on. It also appears similar to what Walt Whitman in his Song of Joys called “the joy of that vast elemental sympathy which only the human soul is capable of generating and emitting in steady and limitless floods” (Whitman 1860, available at:

    Further, it considers that without Ubuntu a person is only semi-authentic, and that a person can only become a real person through other persons. Hence the African saying that it takes a village to raise a child, and Mumford’s that we are not born human, but may become one.

    In several African and other cultures, generosity is considered an indicator that a person has become a real person. Several Melanesian cultures emphasise this. Just as Mumford emphasised that “in terms of the human organism itself, mechanical time is even more foreign: while human life has regularities of its own, the beat of the pulse, the breathing of the lungs, these change from hour to hour with mood and action, and in the longer span of days, time is measured not by the calendar but by the events that occupy it”, and that “the past that is already dead remains present in the future that has still to be born”, so the anthropologist Leenhardt in his 1979 book Do kamo: person and myth in the Melanesian world, Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press. called on p.102 for “a wholly different sociology from our own, based on rhythm and not on number, on the cadence of oscillation and not on quantitative measurement, and on the play of relationships between elements whose symmetry is revealed over time” (Leenhardt, M.), highlighting myth and rationality as being “two complementary modes of knowledge”, and asserting that “primitivity lies here, in this aspect of unilateral thought, which, by depriving man of the balance between two modes of knowledge, leads him into aberrations” (ibid, p. 194).

    So, Scott, I think a path to answering your question, “how do we break the spell — this thralldom?” is in manifesting ubuntu by skilful means. However, answering it also involves respecting it as a “wicked problem”, for which complex responses are required, for simple ones just make matters worse. Like McGilchrist, but not just like McGilchrist. Not easy, but who said that life was meant to be? Easy life, empty life: time to get to work.

    And how to get to work? Well, I’m a fellow of the RSA, and today they published the following. It is a pointer, but there are as many hows as there are people on the planet, whether they are serfs of The Machine or otherwise. It’s up to everyone, with one caveat: fighting it only makes it stronger.

    View at

    • Scott Preston says :

      It strikes me that “ubuntu” is what we call “empathy”, and that is also reflected in Elbaek’s article, where the word “empathy” appears four times. And yes, absence of empathy correlates with “culture of narcissism”.

      The awakening of empathy is what some contemporary films like Avatar or American History X share as a common theme, or you might call it “ubuntu”.

      And, or course, empathy — very profound empathy — is what Jill Bolte-Taylor discovers in her “stroke of insight” as described in her TED talk. It is what Buddhists call “compasssion” or, when perfectly realised, is called “oneness” or “one with God” and so on. Empathy is neither sympathy nor antipathy, and it’s contrary is actually apathy. So, you have the articulations of pathos in these terms — sympathy, antipathy, apathy, and empathy, corresponding to the directiveness of consciousness in terms of the cross of reality, and are all connected with the “four ways of knowing”. The “skill” lies in knowing when one more appropriate than the others in any particular circumstance. All have their purpose.

      A deficit of empathy means a surfeit of one or more of the others — apathy and antipathy especially today.

    • abdulmonem says :

      This remind me of Joseph Conrad heart of darkness where he said there is no difference between the civilized and the savage. It is sad how the civilized released himself of any moral responsibility and become more savage than the savage. This is not a condemnation but a reminder to wake up. It is ironic how the culture of the savage becomes a source of inspiration to the civilized.

  13. andrewmarkmusic says :

    Excellent post Mike! Good to hear the Danes have had enough and want better. I’ve been following Iceland for ten years now and they are another country that wants better; Bolivia, too; as far as I can tell from a distance .

    Unfortunately, Canada is in slumber mode. Too much narcissism, excess and not enough basic needs being met .

    For abdulmonem:

    I read this guy everyday, too. You might like him:)

    • abdulmonem says :

      Thank you for the link Andrew, I know from a previous mention you are a fun of that site. The question of mythology can not be settled because its settlement means spiritual death and the human is programmed toward never-ending expansion of consciousness until he faces his end. Posing the human predicament in fallenness or idiocy runs contrary to the human program to know and to be actively of service to himself and others, a point the writer himself mads clear when he said that the mythical human does not pose questions because he knows the purpose of his existence, God does not gamble or play dice with his creation ,he created them and made clear to them the purpose of their creation. I do not like playing with words such as dievoices and unhappitants and feel more inclined to simplicity and straight forwardness. As for self-sacrifice which should not be understood to be confined to the human physical form but to signify the human ability to detachment from anything to gain his true freedom. Sacrifice is the core of the religious experience for those who know how to use and when to use it. The stories of defending the dear is well-illustrated by literature. I feel sorry for the renegade who does not know why he is renegading.

  14. Scott Preston says :

    Basically, our collective “common sense” is about to take a shit-kicking from reality. That’s the most basic way of defining “apocalypse” — taking a shit-kicking from reality.

  15. Charles Leiden says :

    I appreciate being involved in a such good discussion.

    Infinite Warrior wrote

    This strain of the virus goes by the name “prosperity gospel” today. The Christian contemplative tradition (which is rarely named alongside Sufism, Taoism and others), however, is regaining traction and faring well.

    I agree. I was blessed to be nurtured in a home that read both Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton. I feel that as more problems become visible, prophets will come out of wherever to respond to human suffering and injustice just as Martin Luther King Jr (to mentioned an example) answered a call.

    Marty Glass makes the distinction between what is called esoteric and exoteric. He suggests that what goes by the name of normal religion is the exoteric type. There is a continuum of levels of consciousness and it always a small minority that is seeking to transcend their egos or understand that each culture is relative. One could suggest that most humans just conform to whatever culture they are born in. One writer suggests that our experience of reality, a “reality posit” is produced from the dialectical dance of consciousness and culture, always on a particular historical stage. Each human being for a variety of reasons can experience a “crack in their cosmic egg” and start to question their cultural dogma and seek a more authentic path.

    I agree with Mike and Scott about empathy.

    ubuntu means “whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole group, and whatever happens to the whole group happens to the individual. The individual can only say: ‘I am, because we are; and since we are therefore I am’

    I feel that each of us imagines an image of a human being that we aspire to be in a sense and this includes the question of “what is the purpose of life” and “what is the purpose of a human being.?

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      He suggests that what goes by the name of normal religion is the exoteric type.

      Yes. As Scott has made clear over the years, religions also have their so-called “secular” counterparts, which follow the same pattern. For all the insights about perspectivism and so forth, however, it’s this that strikes me as the true root of the crises human beings have both created and eventually faced since the “dawn of Man” (whenever that is). It certainly didn’t start with the Renaissance, but has been with us all along.

      Think upon this: every “social movement” that’s occurred in our brief history upon this planet — including the “movement” of which Jesus himself was leader — has been destroyed, cut short, driven underground, co-opted or deformed and, therefore, might be considered “abortive” in Gebser’s terms. I suspect the same will happen with Gebser’s “Integral” because its already become not just a social movement, but a “religion” to many. “Integral-ism” is everywhere, but this blog (which introduced me to Gebser) is the only rest stop (of which I’m aware) that treats it as a study and hasn’t turned it into a “we’re smarter-, better-, more worthy or holier-than-thou” ideology.

      There’s something else going on here and, for whatever reason, I’m utterly unable to get across what I think it is and damn my own inadequacy every day for being unable to do so. All of our “esoteric” practices are compromised the moment they become “exoteric” practices, that is “-isms.”

      Why is that?

      • mikemackd says :

        Infinite Warrior, here’s my three cents’ worth in reply to your question … OK, two cents then. You drive a hard bargain.

        The Tao that can be known is not the eternal Tao
        The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.

        I submit that Abdulmonem’s first response to you enfolds this answer to your question, but I will try to reply more specifically.

        To simplify: there are four kinds of problem: simple, like baking a cake; complicated, like sending a rocket to the moon; complex, like raising a child (Glouberman and Zimmerman 2002, p. 2)*. The fourth kind is wicked problems, as I defined above.

        The first can be dealt with by recipes, and the second by formulae, but both recipes and formulae have at best limited, at worst destructive, results when applied to the third or fourth groups.

        The frustrations cause to our in-built feelings of infantile omnipotence (original sin) resulting from such unskilful means caused, and continue to cause, the co-arising of The Machine and wetiko: the terrible twos redux.

        Every -ism is a recipe or formula, a heuristic, and as such may be true or untrue, but always partial with complex and wicked problems, and its partiality may result, whether or not it is true, in making matters worse. Hence Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, about the lilies in the field etc. And – forgive me if I am mistaken here, Abdulmonem – “Islam’s” deepest meaning of “surrender”.

        But the Beast, wetiko, does not surrender: the idea seems as utterly preposterous as bowing before a pig. And we stick to the easy methods rather than embrace the complexities and address them at the level they require. For that, we require full mind-soul engagement, and even that may not suffice. So we band together to solve them, but even that may not suffice.

        So back we go to recipes and formulae and into the arms of wetiko, as in Roderick Tweedy’s book “The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor and the Myth of Creation”, (mentioned by McGilchrist (but not using that term) in the Blake address that Scott linked us to a short while ago).

        Earlier again, I mentioned Mumford’s “The Uprising of Caliban”. Here is a quote from that, similar to the link to the Jungian interpretation I provided above:

        “For the sake of brevity, and for reasons that will become plainer as I go on, I personify the demoralizing forces of modem barbarism by the figure of Caliban. That fawning brute, that gibbering fool, that snarling animal as Shakespeare pictured him in ‘The Tempest,’ may well stand as image of the lower powers of man – of nature untouched by nurture, to use Shakespeare’s own terms – against whose uprising and domination no person, no civilization, is ever entirely safe.

        In an effort to curb this creature, earlier societies had made him a prisoner and· thrust him into a dungeon, treating him with a savageness that disclosed the proper fear that the ever-seductive temptation to relapse into brutishness provokes in the human breast. To make reparation for that harsh attitude, our more humanitarian age, prompted by a complacent naturalism and a misapplied egalitarianism, put Caliban on the same level as Prospero, and accorded him an equal degree of power and authority.

        In repayment for this kindness,· Caliban now refuses to acknowledge that there Is any higher power than his own: indeed, higher and lower are meaningless terms to him, along with good and bad, creative and destructive; but insofar as his behavior implies a recognition of difference, he is on the side of the destroyer. As a result, the problem of our time, the problem that holds a key to every other issue, is to bring Caliban back once more under the control of Prospero.

        In contrast to Caliban, Prospero is the incarnation of man’s higher powers. His is the discerning intelligence that foresees and anticipates, in a state of constant alertness against blind habit and meaningless automatism. His is the sensitive morality that weighs and evaluates, restrains and directs human conduct; his is the brooding imagination that, by means of art and· love, fashions a fresh form for man’s every activity, a more human mask for the face and character of man, and a higher destiny for his life.

        To Prospero, finally, belongs the religious insight that seeks to unite the limited purposes of man with cosmic processes that outlast his brief existence; and through Prospero’s very ability to interpret these processes, he takes over nature’s responsibilities and turns them more consciously into the path of development and perfection. If Caliban is brute vitality and energy, undirected and self-destructive, Prospero is potentiality and purpose, value and meaning, power molded by form, providentially directed to the service of man’s present life and toward the development of a greater life that shall transcend its limitations.

        Caliban is the symbol of the primitive unconscious forces in man which, when neither controlled by morals nor expressed by art, offer a greater threat to reason and love than their more obvious enemies. My figures are as simple, indeed as old-fashioned, as that.

        * GLOUBERMAN, S. and ZIMMERMAN, B. 2002. Complicated and Complex Systems: What Would Successful Reform of Medicare Look Like? In: CANADA, COMMISSION ON THE FUTURE OF HEALTH CARE IN CANADA. (ed.). Toronto. Available online at:

        • mikemackd says :

          Oops. I had just mentioned wicked problems above, not defined them:

          “A wicked problem is a complex issue that defies complete definition, for which there can be no final solution, since any resolution generates further issues, and where solutions are not true or false or good or bad, but the best than can be done at the time. Such problems are not morally wicked, but diabolical in that they resist all the usual attempts to resolve them” (Brown, Deane, Harris and Russell in Brown, Harris and Russell 2010 Tackling Wicked Problems Through the Transdisciplinary Imagination, London, Earthscan through Routledge., p. 4).

          Often with wicked problems, the facts are uncertain, the applicable values to address the problems are in dispute, the stakes are high, and the decisions are urgent. So we do what we can to address them under such conditions, and deal with any unintended consequences later. Or not, if they only affect others we don’t care about, such as those defined away as “collateral damage”.

          Then, they are not wicked problems: we are.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            Then, they are not wicked problems: we are.

            Yes, indeed.

            Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself. ~ Leo Tolstoy

      • Charles Leiden says :

        A question. How does one put words into quotes?

        infinite Warrior – I agree with your what you are writing above. When you write

        ‘I’m utterly unable to get across what I think it is and damn my own inadequacy every day for being unable to do so.” My feeling also.

        That is why I appreciate William I Thompson. He articulates patterns in history. For example, he would write “the institution can never sustain the idea.” “We become what we hate” is another favorite. I am reading Pacific Shift and he writes “Truth cannot be expressed in an ideology, for Truth is that which overlights the conflict of opposed ideologies.” He suggest that one requires an appreciation of the “phenomenology of opposites” to move towards a “politics of compassion.”

        E.F. Schumacher wrote about convergent and divergent problems. Fascinating this is similar to what mikemackd is writing when he talks about four types of problems.

        Divergent problems don’t have any clearcut answers.
        Convergent problems relate to the dead aspect of the Universe, where manipulation can proceed without let or hindrance and where man can make himself “master and possessor,” because the subtle,
        higher forces—which we have labeled life, consciousness, and self-awareness—are not present to complicate matters. Wherever these higher forces intervene to a significant extent, the problem ceases
        to be convergent. . . . The moment we deal with problems involving the higher Levels of Being, we must expect divergence, for there enters, to however modest a degree, the element of freedom and inner
        experience. From his book The Guide For The Perplexed

        You ask Why is that? Big questions. There are many mysteries I would say and I feel that neither science or religion has any definitive answers. One idea that I entertain is there is a truth and this truth cannot be articulated into words (the map can never be the territory). The truth is what lasts. It is timeless and it is based on peace and connection, a paradox of diversity and unity. The Tao

        The Tao that can be known is not the eternal Tao
        The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.

        Everywhere one looks there is the problem of power.

  16. abdulmonem says :

    It is a very rich dialogue indeed, it is this type of dialogue that helps one to have some flashes of light to see the road ahead. It is both divergent and convergent both unity and diversity both master and emissary both dark and light. It is the awareness of the two that leads to balance. No wonder W I Thompson called for the appreciation of the phenomenology of opposites in order to move to the divine realm of love and compassion. A phenomenology that does not stand at the doors of the appearance of things. Our experience of reality can not be arrived at without the discourse between the divine spirit and the human soul, the agent of god consciousness in the human. Our relativity can not release itself from limitation until it recognizes and appreciates the limitlessness of god, the only true force that reins through its different manifestations. then and only then humans can find their authentic path, where no longer questions are raised but complete surrender. It is surrender to the limitless in whose dispersed messages, we read, he who saves a human self, saves humanity as a whole and he who kills one,he kills all humanity. It is the diverging relative cultures, converge in the only one human culture that has been fragmented and scattered through the limited vision of the wicked, the negative force which can not be overcome without a higher positive force. It is the eternal force out of which all other forces are emanated. It is the cleansing stillness at his eternal door opens the door of authentic perception, thus moving from the psychotic insinuations to the realm of the tranquil self, leaving behind the swamps of fake news, ugly information and disinformation.

  17. mikemackd says :

    Dear Scott,

    Sadly, this excellent string seems to have reached its conclusion. I wonder if I may post the full text of Mumford’s “The Uprising of Caliban” here, which I quoted from above?

    It’s just under 8,200 words, and is a chapter from a book published in 1979. The paper itself dates from 1954.

    I ask because it seems even more germane now than it was then. We have only survived what he was warning us about by a hair’s breadth, and may not do so for much longer. So I think it’s in the public interest that it be made available in this form.



  18. mikemackd says :

    The Uprising of Caliban
    Lewis Mumford.

    Chapter 31 of Interpretations and Forecasts 1922-1972 (Harvest/HBJ 1979).

    We have the misfortune to live under the sign of Caliban. Hate, fear, suspicion, violence have become almost endemic. In America, abnormality is fast becoming our norm: automatism our overruling providence: irrationality itself the criterion of reason. Fantasies of wholesale extermination and annihilation no longer fill only the minds of certified paranoiacs: their studious translation into the practical devices of atomic, biological, and chemical warfare has dominated the activities of leaders in science and government for more than a decade.

    These practical preoccupations, so quietly pursued, have given a deceptive air of sanity to projects that match the hallucinations of more obvious victims of mental disease, confined to hospitals for the incurably insane. At lower levels, the same methodical irrationality prevails under the sober guise of law, order, national security. Though in every period disintegrating forces tend to break through the crust of orderly life, in our age they have broken through at so many points that they have formed a. second crust: they have spread so widely and hardened so solidly that they threaten to suppress every benign manifestation of life.

    For the sake of brevity, and for reasons that will become plainer as I go on, I propose to personify the demoralizing forces of modem barbarism by the figure of Caliban. That fawning brute, that gibbering fool, that snarling animal as Shakespeare pictured him in ‘The Tempest,’ may well stand as image of the lower powers of man – of nature untouched by nurture, to use Shakespeare’s own terms – against whose uprising and domination no person, no civilization, is ever entirely safe.

    In an effort to curb this creature, earlier societies had made him a prisoner and thrust him into a dungeon, treating him with a savageness that disclosed the proper fear that the ever-seductive temptation to relapse into brutishness provokes in the human breast. To make reparation for that harsh attitude, our more humanitarian age, prompted by a complacent naturalism and a misapplied egalitarianism, put Caliban on the same level as Prospero, and accorded him an equal degree of power and authority. In repayment for this kindness, Caliban now refuses to acknowledge that there is any higher power than his own: indeed, higher and lower are meaningless terms to him, along with good and bad, creative and destructive; but insofar as his behavior implies a recognition of difference, he is on the side of the destroyer. As a result, the problem of our time, the problem that holds a key to every other issue, is to bring Caliban back once more under the control of Prospero.

    In contrast to Caliban, Prospero is the incarnation of man’s higher powers. His is the discerning intelligence that foresees and anticipates, in a state of constant alertness against blind habit and meaningless automatism. His is the sensitive morality that weighs and evaluates, restrains and directs human conduct; his is the brooding imagination that, by means of art and love, fashions a fresh form for man’s every activity, a more human mask for the face and character of man, and a higher destiny for his life.

    To Prospero, finally, belongs the religious insight that seeks to unite the limited purposes of man with cosmic processes that outlast his brief existence; and through Prospero’s very ability to interpret these processes, he takes over nature’s responsibilities and turns them more consciously into the path of. development and perfection. If Caliban is brute vitality and energy, undirected and self-destructive, Prospero is potentiality and purpose, value and meaning, power molded by form, providentially directed to the service of man’s present life and toward the development of a greater life that shall transcend its limitations.

    Caliban is the symbol of the primitive unconscious forces in man which, when neither controlled by morals nor expressed by art, offer a greater threat to reason and love than their more obvious enemies. My figures are as simple, indeed as old-fashioned, as that; and though they may mean more than Shakespeare himself intended, they can be translated without too great distortion into the terms of modem analytical psychology: If your Shakespeare fails you, Dr. Sigmund Freud will stand you in stead: for Caliban, read the id, the primitive underworld self, and for Prospero the superego, even though I shall define that superego in more generous terms than Freud used. If, again, you prefer the symbols of theology, you will be equally near my meaning if you·identify Caliban with the demonic and Prospero with the divine.

    Now those of you who have grown up during the past forty years may, for lack of any other kind of experience, believe that the inordinate violence and irrationality of our times have always characterized our civilization. Most of you cannot remember, as I do, the look of incredulous horror on everyone’s face when they read the morning papers on a May day some thirty-nine years ago, and found that the steamer Lusitania, a ship loaded with many hundred passengers, had been sunk without warning by a German submarine. The shock of that event went far deeper than the first Fascist bombing of civilians in Madrid during the Franco uprising against the constitutional Spanish republic; and that, in turn, was greater than the horror evoked by the wiping out by the Nazis of thirty thousand Dutch civilians in the center of Rotterdam. Again, that event seemed more dreadful, at least to Americans, than our own extermination of one hundred thousand civilians (along with fifty thousand soldiers) in Hiroshima, by our dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945.
    Note that in thirty brief years, violence and slaughter had increased at geometric ratio, while the human reaction to it had altered. inversely. Yet the obnoxious principle in all these cases – the ruthless killing of helpless noncombatants under the guise of military necessity – remained the same. Mankind’s long sustained effort to limit the area of slaughter and rapine even in warfare has been halted in our own age: indeed, its direction has been reversed. Modern war, pursued to its logical end, means not the defeat of the enemy but his total extermination: not the resolution of the conflict but the liquidation of the opposition. This is the characteristic Caliban note of our time: one that is coming more and more to dominate both domestic and foreign politics.

    The import of this fact apparently has not penetrated the armor of habit that protects sensitive persons: even professed pacifists fail to make any distinction between the limited violence of warfare, brutal though that is, and the unlimited violence of mass extermination. Few of you, perhaps, can remember the time when it was taken for granted that the poisoning of the enemy’s water supply, for the purpose of embarrassing his army, was no longer permissible, indeed no longer thinkable, as an act .of war. In those days our current preparations for wholesale extermination – extermination by poisoning water and atmosphere, by utilizing nerve gases and lethal bacteria lest any vestige of life by chance escape the hydrogen bombs -would have been. regarded, even by coarse, unfeeling people, as the proposals, not of men, but of demented brutes. Such measures violate the principle that Immanuel Kant laid down in his essay ‘On the Nature of Peace’: “Confidence in the principles of an enemy must remain even during war, otherwise peace could never be concluded.” When hostilities “degenerate into a war of extermination” the means befoul and blacken every justifiable human end.

    One final story, trivial but no less significant, will give the measure of the change in the moral climate that began in 1914. Early in World War I, when German Zeppelins had begun to raid London by night, Bernard Shaw wrote to the ‘Times’ of London to suggest that the London County Council build air-raid shelters for their school children, in anticipation of Germany’s widening the method of attack. The editors of the ‘Times’ were so indignant over Shaw’s suggestion that they barely consented to print the letter; and in an editorial they reproved Shaw for being so irresponsible as to hint even in jest that a civilized government, like that of Germany, would ever stoop so low as to bomb civilians from the air. There was no need for Shaw to defend himself against that reproof: the Germans themselves supplied the answer.

    I cite these. facts, a handful from among a score I could draw on, to show that the violence and irrationality to which we have become calloused differ both in. kind and in amount from that which one discovers in happier periods of history. Even if a growing part of the population has made Caliban their god, we have no reason to think that the kingdom and power have always been his. What, indeed, is the history of the last five thousand years of civilization, but the continued attempt, often halted, sometimes set back, but never permanently defeated, to restrict the powers of Caliban and to elevate those of Prospero?
    But if we must not make the error of thinking that violence and irrationality, in their present quantities, are normal, we must equally be on guard against another illusion, more flattering to our egos, more soothing to our patriotic pride: the notion that these moments of disintegration are peculiar to peoples who, like the Germans, the Russians, or the Japanese, have long been subjected to a repressive, authoritarian government, and have not been moralized, as we have been, by the more reasonable and co-operative practices of democracy. That illusion perhaps seemed plausible m the thirties, when the contrasts between the practices of American democracy and totalitarian absolutism were more sharp than (to our shame) they now are.

    During that decade the democratic forces in our country had proved their capacity to meet any emergency under the Constitution even the most paralyzing of economic depressions, without forfeiting liberty or even impairing the rights of property, despite the confident proselytism and active intervention of both Communism and Fascism. But by now we must realize that we have no natural immunity against either spontaneous or organized Calibanism. We have still some distance to go before we sink to the Russian level of political intimidation and repression; but in relation to our own conceptions of human decency and freedom, we have already sunk far too low.

    Too easily, indeed, during the past decade, we have attempted to cover up our own uneasiness by redoubling our outrage over the conduct of our enemies: the familiar Freudian device of the transferred reproach. We continue to be indignant over the Iron Curtain that the Communist-dominated countries have lowered, to prevent easy travel and spontaneous social intercourse; but we forget that even under the administration of President Truman, the State Department and the Congress had erected an Iron Curtain of our own, somewhat more open-meshed, but just as arbitrary in its prohibitions.

    Restrictions upon free movement and social intercourse normal, indeed indispensable, in wartime, have hardened into daily routine: people who have no criminal record and no official secrets have been confined to this country by administrative act – the withholding of a passport-as if it were a prison, and candidates for high public office are now subjected to the gratuitous humiliation of security investigations, as if the unedited dossiers of our secret police, filled with anonymous scurrilities, bolstering public confidence in a loyalty that should, in a normal society not ridden by pathological suspicion and fear, be taken for granted. If the fathers of our country had been as frenetically alarmed by Benedict Arnold’s treason, and loyalism generally, as our present-day governments have been by the threat of Communist subversion, they would have anticipated the French Revolution by instituting a Reign of Terror in the name of Public Safety, and thrown our young republic behind the bars of a Police State. Instead, they deliberately extended the protection of the Bill of Rights to all suspected criminals, even traitors.

    Next to disregarding entirely the threat of Caliban to our civilization, the worst folly would be to identify him solely with Nazism or totalitarian communism, and to disregard the many evil features and gestures that can already be detected in our own country. Even if by some providential exhibition of prudence and forbearance we were insured against any major outbreak of international genocide for the next century, that is no guarantee that the forces of Caliban, if otherwise unchecked, might not be dominant at the end of that time. Our children might indeed escape wholesale incineration; and yet find that what had begun as a tentative cold war against Soviet Russia had turned into a permanent cold war, a deepfreeze war, against every human faculty that did not lend itself to mechanical standardization or governmental control: a war against all those people, native or foreign, who differed in thought or attitude from our self-imposed totalitarian orthodoxy. In the act of closing ranks to face the worst we might, in fact, produce the worst.

    George Orwell’s nightmare world of 1984 is already uncomfortably near. The verbal rewriting of American. history, in close imitation of the Russian precedent, has already begun; and if Presidents Truman and Roosevelt have been publicly referred to as traitors or the accomplices of traitors, it will not be long, if this state of mind solidifies, before Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Jefferson will be included in the same category. Whitman, Melville, Thoreau, and Emerson, to say nothing of Lowell and Howells, will vanish from our libraries for the same reason, in an effort to convert the freedom that characterized our past into the inquisitorial authoritarianism that threatens our present and may doom our future.

    So much for the outward signs of Caliban. But if we would be wrong to impute all these symptoms to our present national enemies alone, we would be equally wrong if we imagined that a few malign or honestly mistaken men, in official positions, could by themselves bring about this general lowering of public morality, or that a mere weapon of destruction could by itself produce the other characteristic symptoms of this self-induced illness – baseless suspicion, hostility, random violence, non-cooperation, and non-communication. In diagnosing the collective psychosis that now threatens to break out on an even wider scale, we must not make the mistake, which medicine once made· with regard to disease, of attempting to isolate only the individual germ and to locate the particular areas of infection. That kind. of analysts is important; but it is equally necessary to understand the general state of the whole organism and to identify the factors that· have lowered its immunity. If we are forthright in our analysis, we shall have to admit, I believe, that the inroads Caliban has already made indicate more fundamental weaknesses in our philosophy and faith. Perceptive observers like Delacroix the painter and Burckhardt the historian, had ominous premonitions of the coming barbarism a full century ago. For this reason, an adequate diagnosis may keep us from spending too much time dealing with mere symptoms: it should rather be general enough to open the way for a more radical correction of our whole regimen.

    Our delay m understanding the processes of disintegration at work in our time has, perhaps, been due to the fact that, both in Soviet Russia and m the United States, Caliban has crept into our homes, not as a marauding beast, but in the guise of a friend, bringing special gifts. In Russia he promised justice and equality, the removal of the power of property over the humble and helpless: a life centered on public service, rather than private profit. In the United States, he brought the promise of power and abundance that would transform life from a painful struggle into a picnic: everywhere he stood for a release from all constrictions religious moral legal, sexual. The disguise was all the more effective because Caliban had appropriated, from Prospero, the magical spells of science: for every occasion, he could. quote a scientific authority, as the Devil himself reputedly can quote Scripture. Only recently has it become plain that some of the institutions we have valued most, some of the changes in the human personality we have regarded as most beneficent, have actually abetted the rise of Caliban. Following up this due, I purpose therefore to center attention upon two changes that have come about in the last half-century: the overthrow of the superego and the domination of the automaton. Either of these transformations would have been dangerous by itself: the. two together now constitute a serious threat to our whole society.

    The other designation of the “overthrow of the superego” would be the “unchaining of the id”. By an unusual coincidence, the practical effort was accompanied by a theoretic explanation; and this explanation first demands our attention, since it both interprets what has actually happened and indicates what measures we must take to overcome the forces of disintegration.
    Both the concepts of the id and of the superego, as essential components of the human personality, were the outcome of a profound analysis of the human psyche that has taken place during the last seventy-five years and very rapidly during the last fifty. The two men who did most to define this change, who added the dimensions of depth and height to the post-theological description of the personality, were two men of contrasting talents and purposes: one of them, Frederic W. H. Myers, known to his own generation as an investigator of extrasensory phenomena, has been practically forgotten in our time. The other, Dr. Sigmund Freud, stands out as one of the most courageous and original minds that has ever attempted to understand man’s nature. The result of these investigations, if I may dare to make such a swift summary, was to establish that the human self is not, to begin with, a simple unity, but a federation of selves, old and new, latent and active, buried and budding.
    At bottom, usually below the level of consciousness, is the body and its members and all the processes that go on at an organic level: the instinctual urges and reflex acts, the impulses and promptings and wishes that well up from even deeper strata and reveal themselves enigmatically to us in dreams, or more practically, in proposals and projects that lead to works of art and invention. This primitive underlayer of the self Freud called the id, which is Latin for the aboriginal “it,” that which has not yet become “I” or “you” or “we.” The id is that part of the spiritual anatomy which Christian theology habitually refers to as the Old Adam; and It is, perhaps, significant that the Old Adam was rediscovered at the end of a century when men blandly supposed that the primitive elements in life had been wiped out by the advance of science and mechanical industry, just as the primitive races were being wiped out – or what was almost the same thing, ‘civilized’ – by the spread of colonial empires. Like his contemporary, Joseph Conrad, Freud discovered the Heart of Darkness, not just in the African aborigine, but in the soul of modern man himself.

    By definition, the id is basic to every other part of the personality. So long as it is attached to the whole personality as a co-operative member of a federated constitutional government, the id is neither good nor bad. Its undifferentiated and undirected vitality, however, seems as incapable as Caliban’s of choosing goals that will even insure its own survival: as Freud pointed out, the id, being the helpless victim of the pleasure principle, has no hold on reality. Indeed, the id in its unmodified state, before it has accepted the discipline of constitutional government, shows many infantile, irrational, even criminal characteristics. We behold the id in its unmodified state in the juvenile delinquent who murders a passing stranger for the pleasure of the experience. Like a little child, it is capable of saying, “I am going to kill you!” when it only means, “Stop bothering me and go away!” Or Caliban will shout, “You are a traitor!” when all he means is that the hated creature holds a different opinion about matters whereon the id, with its feeble grip on reality, sees no possibility of difference. When it breaks loose from the whole personality the id actually carries out these imbecile threats.

    Above the id, Freud uncovered two other layers of the self, both later than the id, for they are products of nurture and culture, not just raw nature. One of these is the ego, the commonplace, conscious, daylight creature, the official presentable self, disciplined by experience to admit that fire burns and ice freezes, no longer under the infantile illusion of boundless power. The ego learns to walk warily among other egos, conforming and compromising, striving for security and status, for recognition and approval, accepting the taboos and customs and goals of the tribe, performing its appointed social roles: yet often prompted by the Five Lusts, as the Chinese call the libido, into seeking channels and expressions of its own, sometimes regressing into the id, yet sometimes transcending its limitations by creating an ideal self, masked by a different costume and cosmetic than that of the tribe. Above the ego Freud detected another aspect of the self, which he called the superego: the voice of duty and conscience, which seems to bring unity into man’s often conflicting claims and activities, and to direct them to a purpose beyond his immediate needs and satisfactions.

    For Freud, this superego was a sort of universal Mrs. Grundy, and a male Mrs. Grundy at that, for he tended to identify its authority with that of the repressive father, who constantly stood in the way of the male child’s incestuous impulses toward his mother; and so deep was his hostility toward his own father, once his eyes had been opened, that he extended to the superego his long-buried resentments. Freud’s understanding of this part of the personality was, I regret to say, something less than perfect; for the most patent manifestations of this superego, in its creative aspects, come from the realms of art and religion; and since Freud regarded religion as. an outmoded superstition, the product of illusion, he was not in a favorable state to appraise one of its chief characteristics: the fact that, from the age of the pyramid builders onward, it sought to turn man from the limited goal of animal survival to the endless task of self-development, self-transformation, and self-perfection. Through Freud’s early disciple, Jung, presently disclosed the mechanism of this development, in his analysis of the prophetic and anticipatory function of the dream, Freud was so obsessed with the notion of the superego as a censor that he actually announced that the object of psychoanalysis was to “strengthen the ego, to make it more independent of the superego.” That injunction was dangerous for it both broke down the unity of the self and challenged the authority of the higher functions.

    The reason for Freud’s failure of insight here should by now be plain: in his analysis of the development of the self, he left out of account the positive influence of the other member of the family, the mother. Overemphasizing, if anything, the rule of the father, the Jovean, power-seeking, repressive, organizing element in the personality, he played down the function of the mother, with her life-bestowing gifts, her relaxing and yielding attitudes, her life-transmitting and life-nurturing functions: the mother’s sympathy and responsiveness, her giving of the breast to her infant, her special effort to establish an I-and-thou intimacy through language, her endless ways of expressing love. If one necessary part of the superego is inhibitive and withholding, the other is persuasive and affirmative, expressive and life-enhancing.

    Alone either agent, maternal or paternal, may be harmful to the normal development of the personality; for too much mothering, if it lead to over-attachment and over-protection, may produce weakness, and that may be as fatal as the harsh demands of an overauthoritarian father. The principle of dynamic balance, so important in all organic functions, holds with particular force here. The superego, to be effective, must draw constantly on the energies of the id at the very moment that, through art, philosophy, and religion, it gave them a creative outlet and a superpersonal goal. If, as Freud thought, art is a mere mechanism of escape, philosophy a rationalization, morality an oppression, religion an outright fraud, the only fragment of the superego left to counterbalance the id, is scientific truth. How little that leaves us will come out presently.

    Now apart from Freud’s brilliant theory of dreams and the resulting diagnosis and. therapy there was nothing essentially new in this analysis of the self: nothing that was not in large part already familiar to Plato, down the description of the irrational and potentially antisocial elements that Freud found latent in the id. Did not Zeno the phrenologist discover in Socrates’ bumps the evidence of criminal tendencies, and was not Socrates sufficiently well acquainted with ·himself to admit that there were indeed traits against which he had found it necessary to struggle? But Freud’s fresh insight came at a moment when, among the European middle classes, sexuality had been unduly restricted, .and in treating neuroses, particularly hysterias, Freud found that the. symptoms would often disappear if the patient could be made to confront his or her sexuality and ease avoidable pressures. By lightening the burden of repression, Freud helped to restore order and health in cases where a purely censorious superego had clamped down too hard.

    But if sexual repression were the cause of illness, might not the unlimited expression of sexuality be a preventive? That was a tempting thought. Freud himself did not succumb to it; for his own life, as a loving husband and the father of six children, seems a model of domestic felicity, and he turned his own unconscious drive to seek a more sterile goal into occasion to uncover hitherto hidden areas of the psyche: so that he sublimated his homosexual impulses in science as Whitman did in poetry. But ironically, the popular result of Freud’s teaching was to undo the exemplary lesson of his life. The relief of sexual tension widened into a letdown in all tensions: “Be yourself” now came only to mean “Be your lower self.” Once the lid was off sex, less attractive components of the id emerged: cruelty had already found its apologist in Nietzsche, and violence presently found its philosopher in Georges Sorel. In short, the influence of Freud’s teaching, as it was vulgarized, was to favor the id: one of his favorite disciples, Georg Groddeck, even wrote an apologia for the id. With the apparent blessing of science, man’s primitive self now rose to the top: it was no longer the body and its members that were despised,· but every aspect of the superego, the discipline of morality, the ideal fantasies of art, and above all love. What Ian Suttie eventually called “the taboo on tenderness” came to characterize both the ideology and the actions of a great part of Western society.

    This change did not, of course, take place overnight: still less was it the work of a single thinker. Though Freud was trained in the exacting disciplines of the scientific laboratory, the tendency of his work was to continue the romantic assault on civilization that had been opened in the eighteenth century by Jean Jacques Rousseau. The idealization of the primitive and the spontaneous, the natural and the effortless, was in origin a salutary revolt against life-denying systems of order. The adventurous exploration and settlement of the planet provided a counterpoise to the mechanical routine introduced by capitalism. Vitalities too long held in check by archaic institutions had reason to crave a fresh outlet, if only on a desert island with Robinson Crusoe: hence romanticism had for a time, an activating and regenerative effect. And this was true, above all, in the political community where nationalism and democracy served as correctives to outworn institutions, molded to protect a single class.

    But in overthrowing the artificial hierarchies of property and privilege, the twin forces Romanticism and Revolution also tended to turn their back on natural hierarchies: including those that give authority to knowledge over· ignorance, to goodness over malice and evil, to the rational over the irrational, to the universal and enduring over the time-serving and particular. The .revolt against the superego, which has taken so many forms during the last century, has had the effect of reversing the true order of human development: Primitive and unconscious processes take precedence over rational and conscious ones: hardness and sadism trample on tenderness and love. In short, elements that every high religion has devoted thousands of years to restraining, canalizing, damming, or diverting into distant fields, have now overflowed every embankment. Yes: the id and the superego have reversed roles. By now it is the primitive urges that give commands, and it is the superego, art and religion, morality and law, that timidly carry out the id’s orders.

    Do not misunderstand the purport of this analysis. I would not for a moment have you suppose that either Rousseau or Freud, or yet the Romantic poets and novelists, by themselves brought about the conditions we now face. To hold that view would in itself be to descend to the primitive level of so much current thinking. What is grasp is that the result of our increased knowledge of unconscious and primitive urges – the realm of the not-yet-human-has been to besmirch our specifically qualities, and to lower our faith in human potentialities that challenge our past achievements and have still to find. their form in new works of art and their incarnation living persons. The upsurge of the id, in thought and imagination, has given extra energy to a downward movement in world civilization: the forces that should be commanding Caliban are either his helpless victims, or, as so often in modern art and politics, his not unwilling accomplices.

    In seeking to understand our primal urges, we have lost sight of our peculiarly human traits and our potential human destinations, not given in nature but fabricated and projected by man. How commonplace it is to reduce every higher human development to a lower term, the pages of the Kinsey reports reveal with almost disarming – or should I say alarming? – naivete. Dr. Kinsey and his associates would regard it as a ludicrous form of moralism – as it surely would be! – if we chose to reprove a monkey or a cat for not respecting the conventions and sentiments of human marriage. But these seemingly neutral scientists do not apparently see that it is equally absurd to turn reproof into justification, in the opposite direction. If animal behavior justifies sodomy, why not also the murder of rival males in courtship? If murder, why not cannibalism and incest? Is it not characteristic of this devaluation of the human, that in this whole study of the sexual life of American men and women, seemingly so exhaustive, the word love does not appear in the index of either volume? This is the science of Mickey Spillanes. By now its one-sided methodology has been transferred to every human activity: careful of quantities, ignorant about qualities, knowing much about causes and probabilities but indifferent to purposes.

    Had this change in ideas come about during some long sleepy summer afternoon of Western man’s existence, one might not have noted any general transformation, corresponding to it, in human society. But the traditional manifestations of the superego were theoretically undermined just at the moment when the irrational forces that had been gathering for more than a century had begun to break loose. During this climactic period, the struggle between economic classes had sharpened, and the tension between nations had increased. The resulting conflicts, the strikes, lockouts, assaults, aggressive demonstrations, wars, genocides, broke down long-established inhibitions against violence and spread anger and fear, brutality and terror: presently otherwise normal people were prepared to perform acts against human beings that only a little while earlier they would have hesitated to perform upon live rats. Under wartime conditions, hate and fear and violence are natural responses, indeed psychological accessories to survival. Such conditions pamper and inflate the id, and starve all of man’s higher functions.

    Need I remind you that it is under these negative conditions that mankind has lived for the last forty years: years of hot and cold wars of ruthless domestic repressions and vengeful revolutions, of widespread municipal gangsterism and fascist sadism, of systematic torture and random extermination. The only self that has been acceptable, under such conditions, is the lower self, hardened to any violence, heavily insulated against reason and love.

    During the last forty years few of us have escaped the taint of Caliban: by our passivity, if not by our active connivance, we have contributed to the overthrow of Prospero; indeed, those who should have been most concerned to forestall this debasement have in fact all too often abetted the final betrayal: the real trahison des clercs. Because of the set taken by our institutions, we have reached a dead end in human development; and if the infernal instruments supplied by modern science are ever put to extensive use, that may prove a dead end in the most final sense. In descending to the level of the id, we have thrown away every guide and chart wisdom produced in the past to avert this catastrophic conclusion. Our leaders and guides seem as much the victim of their obsessive fantasies of power and retaliation as was Captain Ahab in ‘Moby-Dick’: that mad captain who, when the moment drew near for coming to grips with his mortal enemy, turned a deaf ear to the call of love, uttered by Pip, and cast aside sextant, compass, and chart, only to bring his ship and all but one of its crew to utter destruction. How close to home that symbol now comes! With almost one voice our obsessed and driven leaders in science and government say that there can be no turning back: indeed, no halt or pause for reflection. In the name of security they go on piling up the weapons that not merely increase our own vulnerability, but that, if used at fullest strength might wipe out the larger part of mankind and perhaps make the whole planet permanently unfit for life. Unlike the physical destructions of World War II, already so largely repaired, we know those of the atomic age will be irretrievable. Yet the only meaning of such a war, if it broke out, would be to relieve the fears produced by the infernal weapons that prompted it: the very process would cancel out every human purpose.

    In short, what began as a contempt for the higher functions of life now threatens to end with a contempt for all life; for once men defile their own humanity, life, even if they survive, becomes meaningless, valueless, directionless, death-seeking. By renouncing those emergent qualities that, being attached to the superego, are specifically human, man becomes a monster, finally, even, to himself, and an enemy to his own species. Under the irrational and criminal pressures of the id, we have come dangerously near losing even the animal’s saving instinct of self-preservation.

    But now I come to the final bitter paradox. This revolt of Caliban would hardly have proved so threatening, at least on the scale we now witness, had it not been abetted by another phenomenon: the mechanization of life and the transformation of man, the creator and inventor, into a mere agent of the automaton he has created. Modern man, in revolt against earlier systems of thought, sought to emancipate himself by controlling the forces of nature: by inventing new instruments of power, water mills, gunpowder, coal-burning engines; dynamos, he finally found himself in· possession of the cosmic forces locked within the atom itself.

    This transformation, which met so fully the id’s infantile wish for unrestrained power, was the product of an entirely different sector of the human personality: the detached intellect, freed from all other biological promptings or moral and social claims, pursuing truth with the aid of a new methodology, that of experimental science applied to the piecemeal analysis of the external world. In all matters that lent themselves to quantitative measurement or mathematical proof, this new method produced immense results: above all, a framework of order, and with it an ability to understand, to predict, and in increasing measure to control all phenomena. Knowledge, as Bacon had confidently said, was power; and power became the main object of knowledge.

    As a result, science became increasingly the only part of the superego that seemed to have objective existence and so was capable of exercising authority. Art and religion became supernumeraries, who danced attendance on their new master in his leisure hours. Unfortunately, this concentration on power, order, knowledge was achieved, both in technics and in science, at the expense of the human personality as a whole. To practice science successfully, its adepts voluntarily submitted to a severe system of restraints and inhibitions: within their own province, they renounced every passion or sentiment or feeling that would interfere with their single end, exact knowledge. The ideal of scientific thought was to be as free from personal bias as if it were the product of. a machine. This systematic self-restraint moralized a vast department of. thought more effectively than any earlier code of morality: within its own domain it fortified patience, deposed vanity, elevated humility, eliminated selfish bias, enthroned reason. But the personal and social penalty for that achievement was heavy. Causal insight widened, but purposeful direction and creative audacity, in every other department of life, weakened.

    With a few· admirable exceptions in every period, from Pascal to Clerk Maxwell, the practitioners of science divorced themselves from social responsibility and prophetic anxiety: indeed, they prided themselves on this indifference. The words cold, detached, rigorous, unemotional, in a word, objective, are all considered laudatory words by the scientist when applied to him. What does this mean but that science, by its method, disengaged the scientists from life, from the real world and the real self in which emotion, imagination, and dreams are as real as instruments of measurement? – that in order to concentrate effectively on his own limited object, the scientist has deliberately fabricated for himself a defective personality? There is much biographical evidence to suggest that this very suppression may itself be the outcome of anxiety, an inability to face life as a whole, particularly that part of it related to the scientist’s emotional or sexual nature.

    But the mischievous results long remained hidden for the reason that science approaches infallibility in every department where mathematical analysis, quantitative measurement, and experimental verification can be applied: thus, in compensation, it gives the devotees a quiet sense of god-like power. By identifying themselves with the infallibility and omniscience of science they escape any sense of their own all-too-human limitations. Power, order, and knowledge under these· circumstances become absolutes not human instruments under human control. Though the belief in these absolutes is itself the most dangerous kind of subjectivism, it escapes the otherwise self-corrective methodology of science. So the automatic increase of scientific knowledge, technical invention, and physical power, has taken on in our time the character of a dangerous neurosis. We have now ruefully to acknowledge that a highly rationalized, scientifically disembodied superego is just as incapable of dealing with reality as the primitive id.

    The scientist’s detachment from life as a whole, his indifference as scientist to any other human values and purposes but his own, explains an otherwise strange phenomenon: the fact that the physical sciences have flourished the last thirty years, under tyrannous systems of government. Given the scientific freedom to pursue his method, let him preserve his vocational integrity, and he will pursue his researches under social conditions that would be crippling to an artist or a poet or a philosopher. The artist usually. cannot work at all under insistent restraint, because he must be a whole man to command his creative processes; if he remains creative it is by heroically pitting all his forces against the regime that thwarts him. But the scientist, who, as a matter of method and principle, turns his back upon the whole man, does not labor under such a handicap: his isolated superego, so highly moralized within its special province, has no need to rebel against less benign forms of repression. If he enjoys the freedom to follow up his researches, the scientist is all too easily lured into serving tyranny, no matter for what base ends his discoveries may be used. Superbly moralized and responsible in his own sphere, he refuses as scientist to acknowledge moral responsibilities outside it.

    By our overvaluation of physical power and scientific truth, aloof from other human needs, we have paid the same price Faust had to pay when he made his compact with Mephistopheles: we have lost our souls, or to speak in more psychological terms, we have depersonalized ourselves and have turned our conscious, thinking selves into automatons. Is it any wonder that our whole civilization goes on repeating processes it has once started, even when they have lost both their original meaning and any valuable humane end? Behold the way in which we continue to produce butter and wheat we neither eat nor share, goods that we do not have the social providence to distribute, knowledge we do not have the intellectual capacity to assimilate, instruments of mass extermination whose use might put an end to the human race.

    The scientific superego, so far from helping us to control this relentless automatism, is itself a part of the same process and has no internal means of resisting it. Even the atomic scientists who have been most aware of the dangers issuing from their own discoveries, have never had the insight to question the rationale of their own vocation: rather, with antlike persistence, they have gone on with their researches, consoling their uneasy consciences, perhaps, with the thought that their duty to scientific truth is higher than any other duty to humanity. In repressing the mothering and nurturing impulses in the personality, the scientist has also lost the normal parental concern for the future of the life it cherishes. One hardly knows whether to characterize this attitude as innocence or infantilism: it certainly indicates a failure to reach maturity.

    This abdication of responsibility, this failure of forethought, this detachment from all other needs and values than those of knowledge and power, has been one of the contributing factors in the resurgence of barbarism. The only part of the superego to which Freud and his contemporaries unreservedly paid homage – the passion for exact truth – has by· its very divorce from the whole personality played back into the hands of Caliban. Detached from the rest of life, the scientific ego becomes automatic; and automatons cannot give provident directions to other automatons. This perhaps explains why, though one part of our culture, that dominated by science and technics, has reached the highest point ever attained in human history, the rest of our existence is falling into planless confusion, directed toward life-negating and irrational goals. These conditions stem from our failure to nurture every part of the human personality, and to match every paternal increase of power with a maternal increase of love, and with a common parental increase of moral control.

    Modem man, therefore, now approaches the last act of his tragedy, and I could not, even if I would, conceal its finality or its horror. We have lived to witness the joining, in intimate partnership, of the automaton and the id,. the id rising from the lower depths of’ the unconscious, and the automaton, the machine-like thinker and the man-like machine, wholly detached from other life-maintaining functions and ·human reactions, descending from the heights of conscious thought. The first force has proved more brutal, when released from the whole personality, than the most savage of beasts; the other force, so impervious to human emotions, human anxieties, human purposes, so committed to answering only the limited range of questions for which its apparatus was originally loaded, that it lacks the saving intelligence to tum off its own compulsive mechanism, even though it is pushing science as well as civilization to its own doom.

    It is this last act that we are now beholding in our own time. Those of us who have strong stomachs know the evidential proofs of that union in the records of the Nazi doctors, correctly called Doctors of Infamy, who added a final horror to the Nazi extermination camps. These were men trained in the rigorous impersonal methods of science, who obediently carried through the orders of their superiors in the German government, to perform revolting tortures upon human victims under conditions that counterfeited and hideously caricatured scientific experiments. The detachment of these doctors was admirably ‘scientific’: their observations were coldly objective: their indifference to social results was in the best tradition of science – yet their total behavior was depraved. Though that was a classic juncture, revealing depths of evil deeper than any Dante could imagine in his candidates for the Inferno, it is by now a commonplace. But already this partnership has spread far beyond Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Is the final purpose of the Nazi crematories in essence different, by any other facts than distance in space and swiftness of operation, from the meaningless extermination of life that would take place in what we now politely call ABC war – a large-scale effort to liquidate the enemy population? Except for omitting the sadistic pleasures of torture, the end that is sought, complete annihilation of the hated object, is precisely the same.

    As things are going now, unless a strong countermovement restores our humanity and our sanity, the union of the automaton and the id will probably bring about the catastrophic destruction of our civilization. The godlike powers that scientific thought has opened up to man are now at the service of progressively diabolical means, which have automatically sanctioned equally diabolical purposes. Once set in motion, there is no halting point in that downward descent. The only destination of such a union is the final victory of the irrational: collective genocide and suicide, on a scale that would reduce to meaninglessness the whole process of life’s evolution and man’s own ascent from brutishness to civilization: leaving that ultimate nothingness out of which only nothing can come.

    If I thought that this last act of the tragedy was inevitable, I would not; you may be sure, have consented to give this paper. When a ship is doomed, it is wiser to strike up the band and speak cheerfully to one’s fellow passengers than to hold an inquiry over the villains who sabotaged the machinery and planted a time bomb in the hold. But while there is life there is, proverbially, hope. The cries of anger and anxiety that have at last broken through the wall of silence, prompted by the hideous devastations of the hydrogen bomb, were not confined solely to our European and Asiatic friends: the instinct for self-preservation, which could be quieted among us at home when we thought that it was only the Russians who might be endangered by our lethal devices, has at last asserted itself, now that we realize that ourselves and the rest of mankind would be equally stricken, if not completely wiped out, in another large-scale war. What once mistakenly seemed a prudent method of offsetting Russian manpower with American atomic power has patently become a gross mockery, now that we ourselves are in even greater jeopardy. This deep anxiety, so much more realistic than the childish assurances with which our leaders have attempted to cover over their radical miscalculations and errors, gives ground for hope: we may yet overcome this coupling of the unrestrained id and the automaton, and redress the balance in favor of life.

    Admittedly, the mischief that has already been done will not easily be undone: the genii we have unloosed, as in the Arabian Nights’ fable, cannot so easily be put back into their bottle. Generations and even centuries may pass before the nightmare that now hangs over man will be finally dissipated; for there remains the possibility that even the peacetime exploitation of atomic energy may bring grave dangers to organic life, before we exercise sufficient restraint. To go forward, we must partly retrace. our steps: to overcome the misapplications of power we may be forced, as Christianity was once forced, to give up many desirable applications of technics, in order to have sufficient vitality to nourish other parts of the human personality. Fortunately those in whom the streams of life continue to run freely have still to be heard from. Prospero may yet arise and take command.

  19. Scott Preston says :

    Caliban is, quite evidently, Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde as well, and inasmuch as Caliban corresponds to the Freudian “id”, this is equally Seth’s “ancient force”.

    And in reading through this piece by Mumford, I was definitely reminded of that quote I gave from Seth many moons ago, and posted in The Chrysalis, “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature”, and that same ominous sense of being haunted (and hunted) returned with reading Mumford’s piece.

    And there’s the rub. If effective avoidance of Seth’s worse-case scenario is to be avoided then what is required is an “enlightened ego consciousness” along with certain changes to human biological structure — a mutation in the Gebserian sense, since in Seth form follows consciousness, and consciousness creates form, via intentionality of consciousness. For Rumi, what lies behind this intentionality is Need. “Increase your need!” as he put it.

    Therein lies the complaint against complacency and Nietzsche’s objections to “miserable ease” (I think Mumford has misinterpreted somewhat Nietzsche’s notion of “cruelty” for the same could be said of Rumi too). And therein, too, lies my horror at Fukuyama’s pronouncement of “the end of history” and Thatcherism. I think these two things — Thatcher’s TINA principle and Fukuyama’s “end of history” set us up for what Gebser spoke of as “automatically fulfilling the law of the Earth”.

    Is Caliban himself the avatar of this “law of the Earth”? A good possibility, just as Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde seems to be the avatar of this “law of the Earth”. And in a lot of cases, it is Mr.Hyde/Caliban who is now collapsing everything civil, decent, humane, polite, generous and “liberal” into the broad category of “political correctness” as an excuse for his own barbarism and self-indulgence.

    I take, it then, that Seth’s “enlightened ego consciousness” is Mumford’s “Prospero”. I don’t know if Prospero can be said to represent “the integral consciousness”, but I’ll have a look at the Tempest. It’s been a long time since I read it.

  20. mikemackd says :

    Yes, you are right about Seth and Mr Hyde; I hadn’t made those connections.

    It’s odd about Nietzsche going insane when he saw a horse being cruelly treated. Hardly fits with Mumford’s idea of his promoting cruelty. It’s a long time since I’ve read Nietzsche though, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on that.

    Words I know off by heart from The Tempest:

    “Be cheerful, sir, our revels are ended.
    These our players, as I foretold you
    Were all spirits and
    Are melted into air, into thin air.
    And, like the baseless fabric of this vision –
    The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve,
    and like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind.
    We are such stuff as dreams are made on
    And our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.”

    Further: as the Thomas Theorem demonstrates, we are such dreams as stuff is made on.

  21. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Speaking of ‘I am, because we are; and since we are therefore I am’

    • Scott Preston says :

      A very apt description of the life-world, as I recently posted about.

      Brought back a memory of a trip along the Churchill River I made with a German fellow, once. We made night camp on the shores of Dipper Lake one evening, and in the night hundreds of wolves started up with their howling. Some of them were pretty close, and probably knew we were there. It was really something. The German fellow put on a brave face, but later told me he had been scared shitless. He was probably right to be, since some of those wolves might have been wild dogs. Wild dogs — sled dogs that have been released by the natives after winter rather than keep them over the summer — are far more dangerous than wolves.

  22. abdulmonem says :

    It is beautiful. it is the beauty of god cooperative spirit inspired in his creations different animals, birds, trees, rivers, mountains plants and the list is very long to teach the humans a lesson in cooperation and empathy for those who know that everything in this vast universe is alive and live in a supportive mode except the ugly human who have lost god path. Thank you IW for a nice illustration of the we in the I and the I in the we.Human can not accomplish his role outside the we and the we can not do away with I. This is not evolution it is a wise design, if only we retrace our steps to the original source of knowledge, value and the generous sustenance we live in and stop starting our journey from other human civilizations.

  23. abdulmonem says :

    I like to refer here to the story of Theresa May the new british mp who reconstructing the human society anew after it has been negated and destroyed by Thatcher and the like. The opposites never stop working in the reformulation of human society.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Theresa May’s government promises an “industrial strategy” that harmonises technology, education and job creation. Hold the prime minister to account.”

      I don’t see mentioned in this triad “environment” or “climate” at all. I doubt that May’s “industrial strategy” amounts to much more than the old one, and in fact sounds rather corporatist to me.

  24. Charles Leiden says :

    Mikemackd- I appreciate Mumford as you do. Glass in YUGA, based on his reading of Mumford and Ellul talks about the modern industrial mode.

    “it boasts a massive unprecedented power to do things, to change things..but no ideas of how to employ that power to human ends and means.” He then says that human ends and purposes are not attained through use of power.

    “Power cannot (cannot in italics) be used wisely.” That is what Mumford is saying and the powers that be are not listening.

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