Wholeness and the Overview Effect

A “Renaissance” is a profoundly paradoxical and ambiguous affair, and usually an apocalyptic one. It just means “rebirth”. There’s no reason to idolise a Renaissance because it could just as well be the rebirth of Yeats’ “rough beast” in his poem “The Second Coming” — the riddling sphinx-like creature slouching towards Bethlehem from the deep deserts who heralds the return of pharoahism and the god-emperor (which is one reason I remain quite uneasy about Jeremy Naydler’s The Future of the Ancient World). “New Renaissance”, as Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna have it in their book The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance, could just as well be a rebirth of the shaman-king and emperor-god, and in that sense a regression rather than a new integration.

The assumption in The Age of Discovery is that the “New Renaissance” is, basically, a resumption of the Old Renaissance rather than, as Gebser would have it, a “consciousness mutation” itself. The Age of Discovery proposes a Renaissance of the Renaissance, as it were — a kind of grand restoration. While the book is quite good at describing what we call “chaotic transition” in regards to the Old Renaissance, it often reads to me like an attempt to overcome post-modern malaise by rallying the troops for the struggle of “the ignorant armies” on Matthew Arnold’s “darkling plain” (“Dover Beach“), which is a poem about this profound malaise of modernity — and even of the seeming futility of existence.  To that extent, also, Goldin’s and Kutarna’s “New Renaissance” reminds me of Fukuyama’s equally vain attempt to dispel modern malaise by his triumphalist announcement of the “end of history”.

(Both Macbeth’s famous speech about the “petty pace” of time and Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” exemplify this malaise perfectly, as the sense of life’s futility, absurdity, and emptiness).

Neither are a return to “perspective” nor the resurrection of Renaissance “virtu in the forecast. The “New Renaissance” is not going to be a Renaissance of the Renaissance. Both perspective consciousness (after Einstein and Picasso) and Renaissance “virtu” (after Nietzsche) are clearly disintegrating, having been run to ground by fundamentalism and reductionism — the final stages of Reformation and Renaissance. And I am afraid that Goldin’s and Kutarna’s book is misleading in that respect. Nonetheless, they are right about “chaotic transition” and about the co-incident deconstruction and reconstruction of truth (and of human nature) that is characteristic of ages in transition. But they would have learned a great deal more had they read Gebser’s own account of this as the disintegration and re-integration of a consciousness structure as he described it in his masterpiece The Ever-Present Origin.

There is not, in The Age of Discovery, any mention of what is probably the chief theme of our time — the “return of the repressed”, which is the Renaissance of the mythical and the magical and such things as are implicated presently in “post-rational” or “post-truth” society. In that sense, Naydler is right about “the future of the ancient world”, and it’s reflected in all those current concerns with “technology as magic” or “technocratic shamanism” or in Romanyshyn’s Technology as Symptom & Dream. It is probably also reflected in the contemporary fear of “the mummy” or the “zombie” or the return of the undead which, in some respects, represent the repressed or unintegrated aspects of the human psyche.

Any “New Renaissance”, in the positive sense of this term, will have to come about as a result of what Gebser calls a “plus mutation” of the consciousness structure, and not by a negative regression or “minus mutation”. And that means, in the present context, a turn to the “overview” rather than a re-establishment of already deficient perspectivising or “point-of-view” consciousness.

The possibility of a renewal that is not a regression is foreshadowed in many areas of human endeavour, today, but most especially in what is called “The Overview Effect”, which is the real topic of today’s post, and which is connected with Duane Elgin’s “The Awakening Earth“, for there is indeed a reciprocity between what is called “overview effect” and “awakening Earth” in terms of the return of Gaia or the Renaissance of the Anima Mundi (once eulogised by John Donne in his poem “The Anatomy of the World“).  The theme is wholeness, and in those terms it is not a regression (which would be a minus-mutation) but a retrieval (a plus-mutation). A “minus mutation” is what is represented by Yeats’ “rough beast”.

The Overview Effect is the effect on consciousness of the Earth perceived as a whole and as a holon in its own right, and is a common experience with astronauts, and which is very disruptive of the “point-of-view” consciousness. One could just as well call it “the Gaia Effect” . The Earth is witnessed as an integral being in itself, foundational, before its partitioning or segregagtion into continents, hemispheres, territories, tribes, nationalities, states, provinces, races, and so on, which are now seen as being inessential and secondary abstractions away from the self-evident integrality of the Earth itself. “Butterfly Effect” is not some hypothetical abstraction, but something they perceive with their own eyes in how everything is connected with everything else in a fine network of inter-dependence. The Earth becomes real in a way not seen before — it is alive. It is the life-world. What they experience of the Earth is the truth of David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order both as a visible and as an intuitive percept. Earth is not just the “third rock from the sun”, but is also a living world and in that conversion or deeply transformative disruption they become the self-consciousness of that living world.

The cosmonaut is, in some ways, the ultimate Prodigal Son. In order to discover the life-world as Anima Mundi, he or she first had to leave it, precisely in order to find his or her way back to it. And the same may be said of the ego-nature and the soul. In order to rediscover the soul, the ego-nature, as Prodigal Son, had to depart from it only in order to return to it transformed. The parallel process between the ego-nature and the cosmonaut is a contemporary myth of the Prodigal Son both on their journey towards self-overcoming in the “overview effect” (or equivalently, what Gebser calls a “truly universal way of looking at things”). Overview is integral vision, and that means non-schismatic, non-sectarian, non-partisan, non-segregative. All such things are concepts, and secondary abstractions away from the primordial unity that the astronaut, in particular, sees and intuits immediately.

This is not to say that difference is irrelevant. It’s to say that such things as nations, states, provinces, territories, tribes are quite secondary to primordial wholeness and should be appreciated as ecologically related, intertwined and interdependent only against a background of Gaia — the integral Earth.

Therefore, my candidate for a “new Renaissance” or rebirth is the Anima Mundi, and the consciousness mutation towards the integral is just the self-conscious of the human as Anima Mundi. It’s the special significance, it seems to me, of the Buddha’s bhumisparsha mudra or “earth-touching mudra” when he called upon the Earth to bear witness to his enlightenment before Mara. It was the Anima Mundi that certified and verified the Buddha’s enlightenment before Mara.

The whole human journey has been the journey of the Prodigal Son, to distantiate itself from the primordial origins in the archaic consciousness in order to discover itself as the self-consciousness of it — as Gebser’s “diaphainon“. The cosmonaut symbolises this departure in order to rediscover and return, not as sleeper in the womb of the Earth as “archiac man”, but as the awakened, individualised consciousness of the integral Earth itself. The “first Adam” slept in beams of light, as Blake put it. The Second Adam, who is Blake’s Albion, is the awakened and aware consciousness — the integral.

That’s the tacit meaning of the “overview effect”. And it’s my candidate for anything resembling a “New Renaissance”. This is why I harp on the present confusion of the Whole and the mere Totality. The Earth is a whole first and foremost, and not a patchwork or aggregate sum or system of nations, tribes, races, states, etc, which are secondary phenomena and even abstractions away from wholeness and the implicate order, which is always primary, and is not a totality.

36 responses to “Wholeness and the Overview Effect”

  1. mpanchuk says :

    Wonderful insights, gladdens my soul!

    • Scott Preston says :

      The trick is, now, the “diffusion” of that same overview experience to the population. This might be a good and promising application for “virtual reality”.

      • mpanchuk says :

        I agree. The general populace are enslaved. There is a need to review Hegel’s Master/Slave dichotomy to get a deeper understanding of social dis-ease.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I’ll say it again. The “general populace” has experienced this and, indeed, experiences it every day. It’s intuitive. Question is: How often is this a conscious experience as opposed to a subliminal one?

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Chasing old ideas is indeed regression and has nothing to do with the new integration that is not only human willed but it is divinely driven. A new integration whose potentialities are already available in the divine wide web of our lively cosmos, the improvisation of a lively creative god that never stops innovating in his creation.Nothing old in our cosmos even this day is not the yester day despite the deceiving resemblance. Futility of existence is a fallacy that must be exposed. There is no pettiness in creation,space,time or otherwise. This is the delusion and disillusion of a false self in its ignorant outbursts of seeing life as an idiot tale voiced in loud fury signifying nothing, The same false self that sees in the ebb and the flow of the vital sea the human misery and in the beautiful land, a landscape deprived of light, love,joy or peace. It is the projection of dooms by those who have been enslaved by the lower self that sees nothing beautiful in the artistic creation of the divine, The self-imprisonment in the darkness of the illusive shadows of the self that has lost faith in the beautiful and the good. All the story of Adam is nothing but the story of departure from the one and the return to the one, in a better informed status with a holistic vision after a journey of separation, disconnection and division. My candidate is your candidate of a lively cosmos that has been emanated and still emanating from a lively creative god that possesses all the attributes that our creation demands. If only we know who made us speak. Ai the end I like to translate some verses from chapter 56 of the quran called the happening that say
    Oh people only if you trust that I have created you
    Do not you see the sperms you eject
    Have you created it or we are the creator
    We have imposed on you death and no one overpasses us
    and can put in your place others and create you in new forms
    oh! you have known the first creation, if only you keep remembering
    Do you see what you plough
    do you made it grow or we are the grower
    and if we want made it dead and then you will be in a state of despair
    do you see the water you drink
    have you brought it from the clouds or we are the bestower
    and if we want we can make it salty undrinkable and yet you thank not
    and do not you see the fire you use
    did you makes it or we made its sources available to your use
    they are reminders and enjoyment to those appreciative
    of what they use and feel thankful to the giver.
    It is the problems associated with misplacement of names and concepts,misplacement of respect and esteem.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    After listening to the video sent by David, I like to make the following points
    Confining the human knowledge to what we get from family and society ,forgetting the first basic avenue of knowledge,that is the revelatory intuitive knowledge of the original source of everything, runs contrary to the overview the video is seeking out of the enclosure of the mechanical swirl.
    The emphasis on growth and survival remains the same but with different energy tools.
    The cycle of life and death is completely ignored as if there is nothing behind this life in contrast to the logic of history that showed the destruction of all previous civilizations
    The question of value as another basic factor in the rise and fall of civilizations is also ignored as if the western world going to perpetuate for ever
    Physical forms as manifestations of mind left without through address emphasi
    zing the physical performance of the human on the expense of the meaning of life and the establishment of value as the foundational cornerstone of the physical erection that can not stay long without the foundation of value as we are witnessing through the collapse of the infrastructure in pursuance of the value collapse.

  4. InfiniteWarrior says :

    In 2016 a lot of those ’90s words like transformation and chaos became a way to look at the string of political events that had crashed the world views of the privileged. The shadow had reeled into the open. Nigredo is the first stage of alchemy, bringing to light the dark materia that needs to be transformed. The nigredo is a scary moment. You have to know how to negotiate it. When the hidden rage of millions is unleashed – generations of people humiliated, derided, told they are worthless and have no future – you have to hold fast to your humanity. Here be dragons. You can’t be righteous and float above this scary territory, because that fury is in you and me. No-one in the system escapes its hostility. You can refuse to carry the shadow of your culture, only if you have dealt with it yourself, only if you are not still blaming mummy and daddy and your first boyfriend and that prick in HR who doesn’t recognise your true value. Only the system wins in the system….

    This alchemical moment has nothing to do with social justice, or environmentalism or any of the grassrootsy stuff I have found myself advocating during last decade. There are initiatives and networks around the world focusing on these worthy things, but none of this transforms anything if we are the same people inside, if we haven’t dealt with our stuff – as we used to say in the ’90s – if we haven’t uncivilised ourselves, made contact with the layers of dead under our feet, in the sky, in the rivers. If we haven’t stood with the Lakota, or with the yew trees, with the rainbow serpent, with the glacier, with the tawny owl. If we haven’t found a way to dismantle the belief systems that keep us trapped in the cycles of history, if we haven’t dealt with our insatiable desire for power and attention and found ways to live more lightly on the planet, we are not going to make it through this stage. And it is a ‘we’ because, in England at least, we are on a very crowded island and no matter how much we say we don’t like our neighbours, they live next door….

    We don’t need a grand vision, another story right now, we need to get through the nigredo, the seismic shaking of the jar, and allow the seeds we hold inside us to break open their coats.

    Afterwards will come the albedo, the deep memory of water, and the rubedo, the solarising forces, the warmth and light of the sun. We will unfurl ourselves then. All is good, all is return, all is regeneration in alchemy. We just have to have the stomach for the work. We have to trust that whatever happens in our small lives, whatever move we make to undo the unkindness of centuries will affect the whole picture, that we are not on our own. Everything matters. The ancestors are behind us: all good comedies end in a dance, they say. ~ 2016: THE REVEAL

    • davidm58 says :

      Excellent, thanks for sharing.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That reminded me of a essay I read this morning by the Rev. William Barber on a website called ThinkProgress


      The Nigredo is the “Black Sun”. Some would call the days of the Nigredo or Black Sun the “dark night of the soul”. The Black Sun is not just a metaphor, either. I lived it and saw it myself many years ago. Albrecht Duerer’s “Melancolia” etching is a depiction of the Nigredo


      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I’ve read a few articles by Barber, but disagree with him on exactly the same points I disagree with Hedges, et al. (Not all of them covered here.)

        it was the expanded electorate that broke through

        Wrong. It also wasn’t a “sign of an idea whose time has come.” (That “idea” has been around all along and it’s time, of course, is ever-present.) In addition to changing demographics and shifting visions — generational and otherwise — what won over North Carolinians in 2008 was the fact that appeals to the true and innate nature of human beings (“their better angels” in Obama’s terms) resonate whereas presumptions, assumptions, accusations and insults to everything from ethical sensibilities to intelligence do not.

        I’m afraid a “third reconstruction” in the South would be no more successful than the first or second, and feeding genuine people into the machine (even from the local level up) always has and always will result in nothing but more of the same. Aside from a few temporary and incremental improvements here and there, all it’s done to date is continually “set [Alduin] adrift on the currents of time.”

        At the same time, I disagree with Rosenstock’s assessment that “mortality is the only guarantee of human progress.” I do agree with many of the sentiments expressed in Anima Mundi as well as the article linked above.

        Monbiot has taken exception to the Dark Mountain Project in the past, by the way. What he reads as “despair,” however, I read as the “Artist’s Way,” which is a far cry from “[sitting] back and [waiting] for…civilisation’s imminent collapse.”

        • Scott Preston says :

          What is interesting about Barber’s article is not so much the specific notion of a “Third Reconstruction” underway, but that he also sees a re-organisation within the turbulence and chaos. Perhaps “Third Reconstruction” just serves as a metaphor for that re-organisation.

          It could be abortive, however. Even Gebser acknowledged that the consciousness “mutation” towards the integral could be abortive, in which case it might not be realised for another 1,000 years or so.

          But I doubt that we have another thousand years if it isn’t realised.It’s kind of odd that Gebser thought we had another millennium in any event, because he already decided early in EPO that unless the integral was realised, it would mean the end of humankind and the planet.

          • abdulmonem says :

            I think the main message of Barber is the moral message ,the moral message behind Moral mondays. Any system that departs from the foundations of morality is doomed.The tragedy of our time is the lose of moral values. Through honesty and truth I protect you and you protect me. All religions are moral messages,because the domain of knowledge is so vast and dispersed ,the only thing that protect me from the different specializations is their honesty, if their honesty is lost the social fabric collapse and this is what we are suffering from the lies of politicians and the corporations and banksters behind them. God is the code value of our cosmos and throught that code the cosmos is maintained even perversion is allowed with limits once the limits are reached the reversal cycles start to be mobilized, as the signs of our time are abundantly revealing the mess we are in. Knowledge is given to humanity to be used in the service of building a humane society and not to use it for the destruction of humanity as our present civilization is doing. As the quotation sent by IW said, it is time to hold fast to our true humanity and work on our inside., knowing that building our inside can not be accomplished without the activation of the original will that endowed me with a will that helps me to navigate in this life. It is the collaboration of the two wills the higher and the lower if we read the story of Adam well.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            he also sees a re-organisation within the turbulence and chaos

            A re-organization? Really?

            the South is no longer solid

            As Barber writes in the same piece, it never has been. He then goes on to write:

            if you just register 30 percent of the unregistered black voters in the South and you get them to vote along with progressive whites and Latinos…

            Barber seems to have forgotten that Obama won the White House in 2008 with votes cast by both self-identified conservatives and self-identified progressives of every conceivable stripe among the 61.6% of Americans that voted. One would have to ask each and every one of them why they did that to get a true and accurate picture of the phenomenon, but a couple of factors stand out in my mind: that Obama didn’t divide us from the outset played a significant role and that his speech is both inspired and inspiring. Too bad he was born into the same global system with “no alternative” that has us all enslaved.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Well, you’ll have to convince some conservatives of that because I’ve heard plenty say “there was no racism in America until Obama”, until a black president, that is. Strange, pretzel logic it is. “I didn’t have racist feelings until Obama. Obama caused me to have racist feelings. Therefore Obama is a racist, not me”.. Clear case of projection which points to extreme self-alienation of the “symbolic belief” kind.

              Do such people even know they are being devious? Or completely dishonest and deluded about themselves?

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I’d say their perception has been altogether and successfully managed. While Obama didn’t divide us from the outset, the liberal (or progressive) vs conservative, Dem vs Pub press-by-rote certainly did, as per usual. Some were able to see beyond that; some were not.

              Interestingly, a great many of the same conservatives who voted for Obama voted for Trump. I imagine that phenomenon will be a topic of speculation for some time to come.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Sounds like my father, too. Yet my father is freaked out by Trump, it seems, even though many of his beliefs are aligned with Trump’s. Trump, it seems, holds up a mirror to my father’s beliefs, and he didn’t like what he saw there. But that doesn’t mean that my father has gained insight into himself. Not at all. It’s very odd. It’s like there’s this firewall set up around the self to protect identity from any kind of contradiction that might lead to real self-knowledge — protecting the self-image which is, of course, very much connected with the denial of death.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I visited the Dark Mountain site, and read that blog on how “Trump ushers in the anti-future age”


      But, as you know, I already credit Thatcher and Fukuyama with that. I’m not so sure that Trump is ushering it in as ushering it out — the final step of that logic that declared “there is no alternative” and “the end of history”.

      That’s what the documentary HyperNormalisation means also by a “post-truth” and “post-politics”. It’s the zeitgeist, as it were. And it it is all these things, the logical consequence is some kind of techno-fascism as theoria, and “techno-shamanism” as the praxis of techno-fascism. It resembles, in some respects, what Nietzsche called “Russian fatalism” — when the exhausted soldier lies down in the snow to die (but actually, to try to preserve the last spark of life by non-exertion).

      You could argue that it all begins with Blake’s denunciation of “single vision & Newtons sleep” (which is what I do argue in the Chrysalis and in the former TDAB), and that from there it leads through Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach”, through Nietzsche’s “death of God”, through Thatcher’s death of society, through Fukuyama’s death of history, to Trump and the “death of the future”. In that sense, also, an “idea whose time has come” — meaning, it’s fulfilling its final destiny and its terminal logic. As you recall, when I read Krugman’s The Great Unraveling I interpreted that “unraveling” in a way Krugman didn’t — as “anti-future” as well.

      Blake understood nihilism just as well, if not better, than Nietzsche — as the consequence of this “single vision & Newtons sleep”. And yet, Blake was also the prophet of the “New Age”, so the “double-movement” identified by Gebser was already foreshadowed in Blake and then by Nietzsche as well. Both saw nihilism as paradoxical.

      So, is Trump the final link in the chain that reaches from Single Vision? I don’t know if he represents the endgame of Single Vision. I’m reading Marty Glass’s Yuga to try and decide if Trump et alia is the last card in the deck, as it were — the modern mind finally run to ground by the daily grind — our own “definitive journey”. What Glass means by Yuga is the point of extremity of the Prodigal Son’s journey as well — into the swine-pit. And at that point, you either come to remembrance of yourself, or you are lost forever in the state called “Oblivion” or “Non-Ens” as Blake called it.

      Both probabilities are clearly on the table in the form of Gebser’s “double-movement”, and whether we come to align ourselves with the life-force or the death-force, this is the question also posed by McGilchrist in terms of the “Master” and the Emissary modes of consciousness. Simple as that.

  5. andrewmarkmusic says :

    I think one needs to watch Anima Mundi along with this: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2016/dec/10/the-50-best-tv-shows-of-2016-no-10-hypernormalisation

    I found it to be artistic info more than knowledge and certainly not wisdom! It definitely filled in some of the gaps of info that I was missing. I believe he does put out an inarguable hypothesis that the 1% is literally mad! Certifiable…….

    • Scott Preston says :

      The Guardian article links only to the trailer. The full documentary of HyperNormalisation, though, is available on YouTube

      After watching Adam Curtis’s Century of the Self (a four hour series also available on YouTube) I’m very much looking forward to watching his newest film. Thanks for the reference.

      • andrewmarkmusic says :

        You’re welcome:)
        FWIW: your site is one of the best resources for the ‘how’ on the Century of the Self …
        I promise not to spam your very good blog but you might get a kick out of my newest blog-post–Big Spatulas and Pooh Pooh:


      • Scott Preston says :

        I have to say I’m not entirely sure what we are supposed to understand by the term “hypernormalisation”. The normalisation of hype? The normalisation of cyberspace as hyper-space or “Third Space”? The prefix “hyper-” means “over” (hypo-, its contrary, meaning “under”) — and over in the sense of “excess” as well or “too much”.

        Evidently “hypernormalisation” means the same as “New Normal” as is used frequently in the media. But do we really understand what this “New Normal” is? It goes by all sorts of names (including, here, “chaotic transition”) but also as “post-[your preferred term here]”.

        As far as I know, no one has used the phrase “post-conscious” yet except as “zombie” or “automaton” and so on. Nietzsche thought “post-conscious” was also a possible result of “two-centuries of nihilism” – which seems to be exactly what Blake called “Non-Ens” or Oblivion.

        But a “post-conscious” possibility also seems to be what Mumford dreads.

  6. andrewmarkmusic says :

    This is admittedly idiosyncratic. I would see it as being concomitant with hyper-rationalization which peaked in the 70’s. This is Wilber’s flatland.
    It was at this point big finance conspired and implemented protocols which enabled then to completely co-opt civilization; that is to say, they decided amongst themselves to make sure the earth and its peoples were bent to their will and primarily for their benefit. In effect, this is a coup d’eta against any way of living on this planet that opposes their interests; or as i say, a coup d’eta triumphing over basic human decency–especially as it pertains to predatory behaviour by this group .
    It’s the media that’s been their tool of complicity who as the doc. elucidates–are willing to sell any lie for personal profit–the means of hypernormalization of this worldview.

  7. andrewmarkmusic says :

    I also think their worldview is closely linked to technological progress and prowess: https://youtu.be/zBWddXUCBsY
    also this: https://youtu.be/5RnuIiaLxCs
    I watched the whole doc. on its construction and it’s truly amazing what they’ve done and the tech involved in how they did it .
    So this tech does seem to be a serious aspect of why they decided to hyper-monetize the earth…..because they can…….

  8. andrewmarkmusic says :

    From the horses mouth:

    Their is an equivalency in N.A. post 911 with the fake-ness of 15 years of lies and the situation that happened in late USSR….I haven’t met anyone in my flesh and blood life that believes any of the official media narratives surrounding 911 and unending warfare based on events of that day.

    On the entertainment complex: they were simply homogenized into product culture. That’s the main reason I would never move past playing music for love; I spotted it immediately, but I concede to ingesting enough entheogens to make herds of Buffalo dance:) In an ironic reversal the entertainment complex became the main mouthpiece of the Plutocracy….

    • Scott Preston says :

      Excellent interview. Thanks for linking.

      When I started the old Dark Age Blog, it was in shocked reaction to Fukuyama’s “end of history” and then Cheney’s declaration of the “New Normal”. I knew that, with the collapse of the USSR, it was simply a matter of time before the same thing happened in the West, and that neo-liberal triumphalism was going to face its own day of reckoning, and I saw “New Normal” as the beginnings of that day of reckoning.

      So it was fascinating to see that Curtis took his theme of HyperNormalisation from a Russian to describe the state of affairs that existed in the USSR before the collapse in 1989, for clearly that Hypernormalisation is now become, in the West, “the New Normal” also. And I think this is also why Putin and Trump are such kindred spirits — symptoms of the ironic reversal that is underway. I think we’ll look back on the market meltdown of 2007-8 as very equivalent to the breakdown of the USSR in 1989. The global economy hasn’t recovered from that, despite the boosterism and cheerleading and the desperate efforts to shore things up with more and more free trade agreements which are, apparently, not having the benefits anticipated for them.

      That Russia and the West are much on the same historical trajectory is pretty evident. The Oligarchy in Russia mirrors the Plutocracy in the West — already suggesting that governments have thrown in the towel and have handed political control and the fate of society to others, while keeping up the appearance of being “in control” when they obviously aren’t.

      • davidm58 says :

        Which reminds me of Dimitry Orlov’s book “Reinventing Collapse.”

        “Orlov’s book Reinventing Collapse:The Soviet Example and American Prospects, published in 2008, further details his views.[9] Discussing the book in 2009, in a piece in The New Yorker, Ben McGrath wrote that Orlov describes “superpower collapse soup” common to both the U.S. and the Soviet Union: “a severe shortfall in the production of crude oil, a worsening foreign-trade deficit, an oversized military budget, and crippling foreign debt.” Orlov told interviewer McGrath that in recent months financial professionals had begun to make up more of his audience, joining “back-to-the-land types,” “peak oilers,” and those sometimes derisively called “doomers”.[7]

        In his review of the book, commentator Thom Hartmann writes that Orlov holds that the Soviet Union hit a “soft crash” because of centralized planning in: housing, agriculture, and transportation left an infrastructure private citizens could co-opt so that no one had to pay rent or go homeless and people showed up for work, even when they were not paid. He writes that Orlov believes the U.S. will have a hard crash, more like Germany’s Weimar Republic of the 1920s.[10]”

    • Scott Preston says :

      John Parry Barlow’s rather naive view of cyberspace as a “humane” empire of the mind forgets that the mind is subject to disease and pathology as much as the body, as much as society. Whatever pathologies the mind is susceptible to will simply be amplfied by the internet. Cyberspace could become a very insane place to be and the “global brain” reproduce the same pathologies, much like that anticipated in that old sci-fi movie Colossus.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      That brings back memories. These seem fitting:

  9. 12CharBar says :

    Good writing. This book and chapter is related to all these ideas.

    A book entitled, Resettling America, includes a chapter “Planning and the Paradox of Conscious Purpose,” is written by Gary J. Coates.

    It starts by talking about the origins of human cultures. “….Human culture has been developing in a direction opposite that of organic evolution. Rather than moving towards greater complexity, diversity, symbiosis and stability, human-dominated ecosystems have moved progressively toward simplicity, homogeneity, competitive exploitation, and fragility.”
    No other species has had the capability to alter the environment to fit its own needs. But we lack the wisdom to know the consequences. Duane Elgin says “we mistake power for wisdom.” The author again:
    “A civilization comes into existence through the development of new ideas, myths, and technologies and through the harnessing of energy for the exploitation of nature and the domination of other human groups. When the limit of that particular form of exploitation is reached, the civilization declines, often having consumed the material resources upon which it has come to depend, as well as its capacity for adaptive change in the face of new social, political and ecological realities. It is estimated that as many as 30 civilizations have followed this cycle of growth and decline through the loss of evolutionary potential, leaving behind a legacy of deforested hillsides, human-created deserts, and plains and river valleys denuded of topsoil where there was once fertile and abundant life.” Industrial civilization has speeded up this process. It “has managed to accelerate this anti-ecological and anti-evolutionary trend and has brought the entire planet within the orbit of its destructive influence…this thin film of industrial culture that now envelops the earth, destroying indigenous cultures and disrupting the world’s major ecosystems is entirely dependent on nonrenewable resources that are certain to be effectively exhausted with the lifetime of someone born today.”
    At this point, the author asks two questions:
    “Is homo sapiens an evolutionary dead end?” and
    “How the human species, which is itself a product of organic evolution, could have developed into such a threat to the very forces which have created it?”
    These questions lead to the “paradox of conscious purpose”. The paradox
    is this one: “in order to survive we must act purposely. Yet, to act purposely leads us to disrupt the systems upon which we depend for survival. Moreover, since purpose is intrinsic to the nature of consciousness, it is not possible to renounce its use.” To understand the paradox, let’s describe “purposive consciousness.” The author quotes Gregory Bateson here. Purposive consciousness is a “short-cut device to enable you to get quickly what you want; not to act with maximum wisdom in order to live, but to follow the shortest logical or causal path to get what you next want….” Wisdom, in this context, would be knowledge of the whole system, an understanding of the balances of mind and nature.
    The human species starts to shape reality according to its own purposes, which are out of sync with the whole. This lack of “systemic wisdom” creates a “cul-de-sac”. The more we act the more problems we create. As modern technology has given us more power to shape our narrow purposes, the more harm we create.
    A story by Gregory Bateson is told in full, his version of the Biblical myth of the fall of the human. In brief, Adam and Eve are living in the garden. There is a fruit up in a tree, too high to reach. They begin to think. To think purposively. Adam went and got an empty box and stood on it. Still wasn’t high enough. He got another box and finally could reach the apple. They were ecstatic. “This was the way to do things.” Make a plan and get a result. Specialize. Humans begin to shape the environment for their purposes. Instead of the purposes of the larger whole. As the author puts it: “Adam and Eve, no longer satisfied to accept the fruits of the garden as a gift of God, make the decision to take what they desire.” They no longer accept everything as a gift, thereby “rejecting the sacredness which they cannot understand.” This is the beginning of the desacralization of nature. This leads to an anti-ecological direction for humans as well as a narrow realm of activity.
    As the author puts it:
    “Activity is seen as a means to an end, rather than an end in itself. Any merely appreciative, contemplative and non-utilitarian encounter with the world comes to be seen as a waste of time, as useless. But what they have failed to grasp is that, if the world of leisure, play, and celebration has no value (i.e., serves no purpose), and then life is reduced to a world of total work and constant struggle. The only reward is success in achieving goals….” This might be the definition of economics, which shows what a finite game it really is. It takes scarcity as a given, which is a screwy way to look at the world.
    As the chapter unfolds, one can see that “human conscious purpose is not necessarily an evolutionary mistake, only a destructive potential which must be corrected and regulated by circuits of control which serve to direct human purposefulness towards goals and actions which coincide with the needs of the larger natural systems which sustain human life. The adaptive crisis of industrial civilization is the result of the loss of these regulatory processes.”
    The author asks, “What are these control mechanisms and how can they be recreated and sustained?”
    These values are sanctity and community. Sanctity means that the earth is a sacred place. The author contrasts two different attitudes towards hunting; that of a member of a modern “primitive” culture and the white buffalo hunters of the last century. The former makes sure they need to hunt, acting with a sense of humility. The modern “primitive” is “acting out of a pervasive awareness that nature is a community to which he belongs and upon which he depends. It is not a commodity to be used, not a resource to be exploited with maximum efficiency. While violence may be sometimes required in order to exist, it should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary and, even then, only with a deep sense of regret.” The latter, the white buffalo hunters, in turn, “slaughtered millions of those great beasts and left them to rot in the sun after removing only their tongues for a quick profit.” One is based on the sense of the sacred, the other the sense of expedient.
    Community is the other quality. The author writes:
    “largely because of cheap fossil fuels and large-scale centralized technology, we no longer live within community. We live as individuals within a mass, superficially connected to one another….” Some have argued that society has been a product of the corporate world and their advertising. Lewis Hyde writes that “advertising is the culture of a commodity civilization” and gives examples in his marvelous book, The Gift.
    These two ideas (sanctity and community) are combined in ecocommunities, associations of living entities living within the cycles of nature. The author again: The idea of ecocommunities is a symbol of wholeness, an ideal type, that in principle, is capable of restoring to consciousness and culture a sense of the circular structure of the world. This idea can be applied at every scale.
    Our modern world is suffering from hyper-coherence, an “unhealthy inter-dependence.” If there is disruption in one part of the system, it will spread to other parts. Decisions are made for whole regions and the inhabitants by distant authorities based on needs that could be across continents. Is it any wonder that it is so fragile? The modern theology of economics informs us that this is natural and healthy. What could be more insane! This one world idea is the opposite of a planetary culture. In describing the solution, the author states: “a human ecology based on the concepts of sanctity and community would be characterized by wholeness (internal coherence) at every level of organization…associations of plants, animals, microbes and people living together within the seasonal cycles of sun, wind and water that provide the energy flows and nutrient recycling necessary to maintain life.”
    At the end he asks: “How can we get from here to there?” Another paradox. At no time do we require rapid change, but on the other hand, we can’t depend on the top-down global elite that pulls strings to the detriment of the whole. Every movement creates its opposite. Everywhere we look we see humans attempting to create “processes of evolutionary experimentation guided by a ecological and evolutionary ethic and informed by an abiding faith in the goodness of life and the sacredness of creation.” We can nurture these roots.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Purposive consciousness” is another word for “intentionality”. All living organisms are purposeful, in that sense — they shape their environment. The Earth itself has been shaped, initially, by the purposive activities of micro-organisms, who are the first “terra-formers”, as it were. Their activities made more complex organisms possible.

      George Monbiot had a short documentary on “Sustainable Human” that actually addressed how wolves change shape their environment — in fact, how all participants in an ecosystem contribute to shaping an environment.

      That’s power. That’s Bolte-Taylor’s “life-force power of the universe” in action, which is, we might say, just another description of “purposiveness” or “intentionality” that is implicit in any act of consciousness. In those terms, purposiveness or intentionality are just other words for creativity.

      • 12CharBar says :

        Good movie and illustration of “intentionality”. Thanks.
        I have been familiar with the work of IONS Institute of Noetic Sciences, over the years. It was started by Edgar Mitchell who was one of those astronauts that was transformed by the Overview Effect. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement

        The Earth is a whole first and foremost, and not a patchwork or aggregate sum or system of nations, tribes, races, states, etc, which are secondary phenomena and even abstractions away from wholeness and the implicate order, which is always primary, and is not a totality.

        I suggest to friends in conversation that I can only know certain ideas. One idea is that I am conscious of being alive on this planet, so I am embedded in the earth. In that Idea, one understands that there is a unity behind the diversity.

        In the same book, Resettling America, another chapter is
        Future Images, Present Possibilities: Revisioning Nature, Self, and Society I find it insightful. Gary Coates is talking about the importance of images of the future (check out the book of that title by Fred Polak) Polak gives an exhaustive history of utopias in the last hundred years and their influence on what happens. The book was written back when Herman Kahn and Gerard ONeill were writing their images of the future. Coates calls these two visions superindustrialism and describes them and then critiques them and articulates the historical roots. He writes about super industrialism as myth

        All images of the future, especially those that attract large numbers of enthusiastic followers, are expressions of religious myths, archetypal impulses, that arise in the psyche to restore order and meaning to the experience of everyday life.

        He suggests that it is “one of the conceits of modernism that such religious and mythological tendencies are a thing of the prescientific and primitive past.

        I agree that more of the same will lead to a dark age.

        It is fascinating that Coates talks about Initiation and the crisis of industrialism.

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