Is a Post-Conscious World Possible?
Is a “post-conscious” world possible as the logical conclusion to Blake’s “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”? What if all the “post-everything” today just all adds up to “post-conscious” — the narrowing of consciousness to a nothing — the nothing otherwise known as “oblivion” or what William Blake referred to as “Non-Ens”?
That’s the question I want to put to the readership today, especially after watching Adam Curtis’s recent documentary HyperNormalisation — the follow up to his other great documentary The Century of the Self.
A post-conscious world seems a definite possibility — the possibility implied in techno-fascism and “technocratic shamanism” and represented in contemporary mythologies of the zombie or the automaton. Nietzsche also once mentioned the automaton as a distinct possibility subsequent to the “Last Man”, perhaps as extreme contrasting type to his “free spirit” and “overman”. And it is an oddity also that Francis Fukuyama, after publishing his The End of History and the Last Man, almost immediately seemed to contradiction himself by publishing afterwards Our Post-Human Future (as well as America At the Crossroads).
It is entirely conceivable that Walter Benjamin’s anticipation of human self-alienation resulting in self-annihilation may take other forms than physical destruction. Self-annihilation may also conceivably take the form of extinguishing the light of consciousness, when consciousness is felt as the ultimate burden of a world-weary age. Nietzsche’s Zarathustra does, in fact, encounter that in his parable about “the teachers of sleep” and there is much in Rolf Jensen’s The Dream Society (a nightmare, in my books) that brings to mind techno-fascism, technocratic shamanism, and Nietzsche’s “teachers of sleep” as a post-conscious society celebrated as a utopia.
The spectre of Margaret Thatcher hangs all over this. Here TINA principle (“There is No Alternative”) automatically undercut the basis for consciousness or for being conscious at all, and there is a direct connection between that and Adam Curtis’s description of “post-politics” in the documentary HyperNormalisation. Consciousness exists where choices have to be made, where alternative pathways into the future have to be evaluated. It was Thatcher who first annihilated future with her TINA principle, and it was Fukuyama who followed that up by annihilating history with his “end of history” pronouncement. With future annulled and with history annulled — and add into that “there is no such thing as society” — and consciousness becomes an irrelevancy. Consciousness exists for the purpose of discerning between past and future, and between the inner and the outer, and choosing, at every moment, between these four dimensions. That’s the meaning of the Sacred Hoop and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”. They are representations of consciousness always in the crucial or critical moment of making decisions and choices between backwards and forwards and inwards and outwards. Consciousness is sight, yes, but also hindsight, foresight, and insight. Thatcher’s TINA principle and Fukuyama’s “end of history” foreclose on any need for either foresight or hindsight, and thus for any consciousness whatsoever.
The automaton as human ideal is also, evidently, the dread of Lewis Mumford as well (judging from Mikemackd’s frequent quotes from Mumford posted on The Chrysalis). That is to say, “post-consciousness” as an ideal. Post-consciousness also seems to be the anxiety expressed in films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Equilibrium, and Dark City as well as the many zombie films around today.
One of the possible interpretations of post-rational, post-truth, and post-politics (or post-Enlightenment, and so on) is the complete extinguishment of consciousness. The other possible interpretation is somewhat the opposite — as being a concomitant restructuration of reason, truth, and politics. A “post-conscious” condition was also implied in Marshall McLuhan’s and Jacques Ellul’s interpretations and critiques of the technological society. McLuhan foresaw a “numbing” of consciousness as a result of the extension of the human nervous system into space, while Ellul’s criticism of the technocratic logic of “the one best way” also forecloses on the issues of decision and choice, and, in those terms, of the need for a discerning consciousness at all.
Blake thought politics was the chief human science for a good reason, although “politics” for Blake meant more the psychic politics of the governing relationship between his “four Zoas” — the politics of fourfold vision. That explains his horror of “single vision” as leading to Non-Ens. The Zoas, being the constituent elements of consciousness itself (they “reside in the Human Brain” and nervous system) reduction to single vision leads to “post-politics” and also post-consciousness. In those terms, “politics” for Blake is not “war by other means”, as is the presumption today, but the harmonising and dynamic equilibrium of the conflicting powers of the four Zoas, very much in the manner described by the indigenous Sacred Hoop and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”.
There’s a popular saying that points to this condition of “post-consciousness” — “the lights are on but nobody’s home”.
There are all kinds of false doctrines today teaching the desirability of “post-consciousness” — genetic determinism or the idea of “programming” or technocratic solutions to social problems — which does reach thirsty ears eager and anxious to be relieved of the burden of personal consciousness, or seeking relief from the stresses and distress of present conditions — of inner chaos, Angst, pain, or emptiness — by a “retreat” into dormancy, trance, sleep, or unconsciousness. This also is a form of self-annihilation as distinct from a self-overcoming or transformation of consciousness. If the integral consciousness has its antithesis, it is single vision, and single vision might as well be called “post-consciousness”. After all, single vision was what took the life of Narcissus in the myth of Narcissus and Echo.
I do sense with some people that they have given up awareness as too burdensome. “The lights are on but nobody’s home” really does characterise them — they aren’t present, and they’ve programmed themselves precisely in order to avoid being present — they think in commonplaces, respond in automatisms, cliches, or formulaic responses. “I have become comfortably numb”, as the Pink Floyd song puts it. The just “go through the motions”, as is said. Isn’t the automaton, or post-consciousness, exactly what Einstein also meant when he remarked that insanity was repeating the same actions over and over again expecting different results each time?
A post-conscious society is one that does not learn in any real sense, but is only programmed and programmable. To learn takes consciousness. To be programmed requires no consciousness. And that is, after all, the ideal of techno-fascism and technocratic shamanism, and which is the theme of much contemporary dystopian literature and film. Quite a bit of contemporary “education” resembles computer programming rather than education, and is pretty much what is described as “perception management” as mentioned in HyperNormalisation.
The word “education” means to “draw out” or call forth those slumbering and dormant potentialities that exist in the human frame. A lot of what goes by that word “education” today does the exact opposite — it’s enclosure, leading, as a result to Blake’s warning that “man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’ the narrow chinks of his cavern”. That condition is not consciousness. It’s the condition of the automaton which, we might say, is McGilchrist’s “Emissary” become completely and utterly dissociated and alienated from “the Master” and Bolte-Taylor’s “life-force power of the universe” (otherwise referred to as “ever-present origin” and “vital centre” by Jean Gebser, or as Meister Eckhardt’s “Aristocrat” or Emerson’s “Oversoul”).
The parable of the Prodigal Son could have ended differently, I suppose. Suppose the Prodigal Son never came to remembrance of himself. Suppose the Prodigal Son, instead, finding the consciousness of his situation living as a swine amongst swine utterly intolerable and chose rather self-annihilation — the path of the inhuman or subhuman — to forget rather than remember his origins and essential nature? To become, instead, unconscious — to forget he was a man and became a pig? It happened to Ulysses men, after all. They forgot they were men and became swine (with some help from the witch Circe). Circe, in that sense, might well serve as the archetype of today’s “brand manager” or of the “technocratic shaman”, turning citizens into consumers whose lives become “branded behaviours”.
Could that be the meaning of “hypernormalisation”?
For some reason, this song from way back in 1965 popped into my head straight after reading this post.
Despite being British, it was only a hit in Australia and New Zealand, and made scarcely a ripple anywhere else.
Scott’s post deserves far deeper responses than that, and I need time to digest it to find out what they are. If I can. I think they will be to do with the deer-in-the-headlights thing …our constant bombardment with news of horrible happenings on the one hand, and the media’s portrayal of super-component agents of the State resolving their like through violence on the other … There are many possible reasons for others not to want us to wake up our minds. More: to put awake minds to sleep.
Oh, hang it! All to hard! I need some retail therapy, or to curl up in beddy-byes and suck my thumby-wummy.
That’s quite the song. The irony of that song, though, is if the man knows his mind is in that situation of sleep or trance, it’s not really in that state of sleep or trance at all. But, yes, the song does suggest something akin to “post-conscious” or perhaps, better, mind on the verge of becoming mindless or post-conscious, or dozing off, etc.
Yes, and he hates his mind being there, feels rage at his/its impotence, and transfers reproach.
An article by John Harris in today’s Guardian that seems to speak to the same themes found in Curtis’s HyperNormalisation, but which is actually a commentary on Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies
The days when David Ehrenfeld’s essay on “The Coming Collapse of Technological Civilization” was something appearing on the periphery of the mainstream are now gone. “Collapse” meme has gone pretty mainstream now, almost as if it were a foregone conclusion or something self-evident.
(Ehrenfeld’s essay, for those who haven’t read it, is at https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2013/07/09/ego-consciousness-and-the-mind-forgd-manacles/#comment-2790 )
Good to see Tainter’s book getting a review in an article at the Guardian. I was thinking along similar lines after watching the Adam Curtis show. What kept coming up for me when watching this was how it kept coming back to the issue of power…which is related to the subject of energy. It’s all a great example of Howard T. Odum’s “Maximum Power Principle,” and energy transformity heirarchies, which David Holmgren outlined so well in the Anima Mundi movie. Here’s a webpage by Odum’s daughter that explains the MPP:
Also, keep an eye out for Nafeez Ahmed’s new book, “Failing States, Collapsing Systems.” There is a free sample pdf excerpt at the link below. Check out the short section on “The Energy Metabolism of Human Civilization.”
Also on that site is a description of the “Pulsing Paradigm”, which is a nice complement to Holling’s Adaptive Cycle. Applied to civilizations, it also complements Joseph Tainter’s and William Catton’s works.
Yes, I’m pretty big on the Pulse pattern. I wrote about it here:
And in my paper on energy descent here:
Collapse is also the theme of Marty Glass’s Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate, only he calls it by the ugly word “spiricide”. As I’ve read further into Yuga I’ve realised that by “spiricide” he also means something like “post-conscious” as well. Ironically, reading Yuga can give you “that sinking feeling” that is pretty much spiricide itself. But I suppose his logic is sound. He wants us to look the Devil in the face without flinching from the sight or losing our minds — much like Gebser in that respect.
(Marty Glass is the brother of the composer Phillip Glass).
Glass, however, does seem to flinch himself in the face of the Devil. As a result I think he over-values traditionalism or even primitivism, even though he has incorporated Marx into his analysis of capitalism and the Kali-Yuga, as if the computer were the actual face of the Devil (he does, in fact, capitalise “Computer” throughout as if it were a name). That flinching can become reactionary rather than transformative. The computer’s not the problem. It’s our unconsciousness about it’s meaning (and of technology more generally) that is the problem. The real problem is “single vision”.
Otherwise power is a good. But it is only a good in relation to the fourfold and not a good-in-itself. That’s why Rosenstock (and the Sacred Hoop) incorporate power as one term of the fourfold only, but balanced by other values like respect, unanimity, and faith.
As Gebser rightly notes, “power” is related to magic and to making — to making happen. And so technology (and thinking) begin to take on features of magic, as is rightly being noted in current books on technology — rationality is being usurped by the magical structure of consciousness where authentic “rationality” is fourfold vision — the true “ratio” or proportionality that makes for dynamic equilibrium or “homeostasis”. Even the Yugas or World Ages, are four and they are four because they hyper-exaggerate one particular aspect of the fourfold human and call that “All”. Gebser’s civilisations as structures of consciousness are, in effect, the Yugas in their effective beginnings and breakdown in their “deficient” phases. In that sense, we are in the terminal phase of the Kali Yuga. That’s what Glass is describing in his book — the terminal phase of the Kali Yuga as “spiricide” which corresponds to the “deficient mode of the mental-rational” as described by Gebser. And this terminal phase of the Kali Yuga is called, by Glass, “fate”.
Reflecting on this further, I think we have to concede that the antithesis of the integral consciousness is what I’ve here called “post-conscious” — the human as automaton, and that current trends are indeed pressuring the human form in that direction and to conform with that ideal, And with Peter Thiel in the White House, I’m sure that pressure is going to step up — technocratic voodooism.
For reasons best known to them, I get a newsletter about domestic American politics. I don’t know why; after all, as a non-American I have no more right to intrude into their politics than they do in anyone else’s. And, as we all know, they never do.
Anyway, it advised this:
“How bad is Trump’s nominee for treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin?
“This is a guy who once foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman over a 27 cent-payment error.1
“Another woman was negotiating a payment plan with Mnuchin’s bank only to find the locks changed at her house … in the middle of a Minnesota blizzard.2
“And these are hardly isolated incidents—Mnuchin’s bank, OneWest, foreclosed on 36,000 homes using tactics a federal judge called “harsh, repugnant, shocking and repulsive.”
A Cabinet of rapacious billionaires, crazy generals, and anal-retentive bean counters. The American people have so much to look forward to.
And so does the rest of the world. Why, this lot might even interfere in the internal affairs of other countries!
Post-consciousness analgesics, anyone?
Yes, and I often wonder what people are now thinking who supported Trump. Are they thinking “my God, what have I done?” or are they rolling over and playing dead, not even noticing that Trump has pulled a bait-and-switch on them. No body likes to admit they were conned or played for chumps (they’ld rather be champs than chumps) so more likely than not, they’ll roll over and play dead.
Note that the other theme that Adam Curtis returns to again and again is the continuation of the message from The Century of the Self – that the “me generation” and beyond has continued to turn away from collective action toward a continuing large focus on the individual ego and it’s needs.
This is another example of getting the cross of reality out of balance. A couple of years ago the Wilber integral community was talking a lot about “the new we.” But as you’ve pointed out, the “we” of Wilber’s 4 quadrants is a little deficient itself by not clearly naming the difference between we as a mere plural of you and me, and the we as something qualitatively different – another wholistic entity of itself. This is perhaps vital to recover.
Incidently, if I remember correctly, Wilber himself may touch on some of these themes in his piece on “The Many Ways We Touch,” but I’d have to go back and reread to recall the details. I don’t think he goes far enough.
Click to access ExcerptB_KOSMOS_2003.pdf
I also recall a somewhat interesting discussion between Terry Patten and Ken Wilber. What I remember most is the topic of the lack of a “dominant monad” which indicates a possible unity in the midst of a maintained diversity.
On the Evolution of an Integral We Space:
Thanks. I’ll have a look later this aft at your links.
Glass mentions a book by George Morgan, from 1968, called The Human Predicament: Dissolution and Wholeness. Apparently it didn’t get a lot of attention then. Does anyone know this book?
Reading Wilber gives me nightmares. I’m not just saying that. He actually gives me nightmares. My dreaming self tries to translate his discourse into recognisable images. The usual one begins as a house. The floor plan of this house is a veritable labyrinth. It’s the AQAL model. Hallways take strange turns for no reason. Staircases lead to nowhere. Rooms of this house are all ajumble, and do not interconnect with one another. And I find myself wandering through this house as labyrinth not knowing where I am in relation to the floorplan. That’s how my inner self reads Wilber, who speaks in tongues as far as I’m concerned.
I don;t think I’ll ever find any use for Wilber or his AQAL model.
Horses for courses, I guess. In my case, I found plenty of uses for Wilber, and will remain forever grateful to him. I’d go so far as to say (oversimplifying like crazy), that the first 25 years of my life were about Jesus (mainly through the prism of the RC Church), the next 10 about Krishnamurti (yet enfolding a study of all world religions), the next 20 about Wilber and those he pointed to, and the next 15 about multitudes, most lately Mumford.
In that 20-year period, I studied practically every published word he wrote, and Ken Wilber twice invited me from Africa to his home in Boulder, Colorado, at his cost, to attend meetings there that were to seed the integral institute. It felt like coming home to a place I’d never been before, to quote from another rocky mountain high acquaintance of his, John Denver.
On the second occasion, though, I went up to him and his then friend Don Beck, and asked them if their stages weren’t more like gears in a car driving in the nearby Rockies, to be engaged according to life conditions? They did not reply any better than Krishnamurti did when I asked him another question, so I mulled over that question for years, eventually completing a PhD around it (including McGilchrist), but only later discovering Mumford’s Myth of the Machine.
Wilber and I communicated for a few years after our last meeting in that time, but then came his pride in the interest of Clinton, Bush, Cheney et al in his work, and his support for the Iraq invasion on the basis of it being an Orange spanking of Red, for heaven’s sake!
I sent an email indicating I would be of no more use to him, and that was that. Until 2014, when I met him again. I asked him what to do when you know someone is going down a wrong path, and warn and warn, but they do not listen. He paused and replied, “I do not know”.
He is now a long way down what I consider to have been a very wrong path, but I have neither the motivation nor the capacity to condemn him. It appears to me that, in his case, a great deal happens between the stimulus and response. I can confidently pass this judgement on him, though: he is no zombie.
I heard a rumour about Wilber’s support for the Iraq War and (and apparently neo-liberalism and liberal imperialism) — but Orange’s giving Reds a spanking is really over the deep end.
I gave Wilber a spanking once here on The Chrysalis, which was reposted at Integral World.
It didn’t make me any friends in the Wilber community. Wilber went down the wrong path for a very simple reason, it seems to me. He left time out of his AQAL model and ended up with not an integral, but a modified Cartesianism (which I suppose explains his apparent support for neo-liberal utopian and social engineering projects like the Iraq War). Subjects and intersubjecitivity, objects and interobjectivity. are his “floor plan” — the thing my dreaming self can’t get it’s head around try as it might to translate his discourse into a visual image. Time is an irrelevancy in Wilber’s model, and so is dialogue. I and It or We and Its. You can’t have a dialogue with an “It”. This is exactly what Rosenstock-Huessy critiqued in his essay “Farewell to Descartes”
Click to access I-am-an-Impure-Thinker.pdf
In fact, I’ld go so far to say that discourse rather than dialogue is Wilber’s only option with his AQAL model — for dialogue is precluded. And that’s what makes Wilber’s essay, that David linked to above, unintelligible to me (and apparently to my dreaming soul as well). The reason why the AQAL is a floorplan for a house with staircases leading nowhere and rooms that don’t interconnect and hallways into nothing is because it isn’t dialogical.
For that reason, I far prefer rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and the Sacred Hoop. Half of Wilber’s world is an “it” or an “its”. And one can’t have a dialogue with an “it”, only with a “thou”.
Many thanks for those links, Scott.
I had not seen your cogent critique of AQAL before, but I wish that I had. Fortunately, my own model addressed the points you raised anyway.
As I mentioned elsewhere to davidm, a happy new year to you and all your readers.
Now, I’m off to a New Year’s Eve dinner with my wife.
Yes, and I’ll take the time to thank you and the other subscribes to The Chrysalis for their contributions to the blog over the last year, and very much look forward to that collaboration continuing in 2017.
I note Rosenstock-Huessy’s comment on p. 137 of the link you gave above: “Polybius described it in detail, telling how every form of government degenerated and thereby failed, not because of its wrong measures but because it fell into the hands of the wrong men.”
I take it that’s ERH’s essay on Polybius and the Reproduction of Government? The four forms of government he recognises leaves out one that the Greeks never tried — isocracy, although they knew it as a possibiity. It’s what literally translates as “self-rule”, and when we speak of “individuality” in the higher sense (not it’s decayed sense today) the proper form of government was isocracy (or what is called “anarchy” today).
It’s my belief that “isocracy” would be possible as genuine “self-rule” only with a fully enlightened ego consciousness, and if things like the Sacred Hoop or the Cross of Reality were really understood.
There is something of that in the Christian mystic (and hermeticist) Angelus Silesius, who was an interesting fellow
The Cross on Golgotha
Thou lookest to in vain,
Unless within thine heart
It be set up again
Some of his other quotes are quite insightful
That also has to do with stopping the wheel of space and time — stopping the rotation of governments as ERH described in his essay.
I had other matters to attend to today, and no inspiration came to me re this post of Scott’s. So after my work was done I settled back to continue reading Mumford’s “The Human Prospect” – the 1956 one I am so grateful to Waterstones of Bloomsbury for – and read this:
“It was important that he should not identify himself with the senseless acts of imperialist conquest, or with the senseless mechanical negation of life. When I use the word senseless I mean it in both its usual meanings – first, foolish and stupid; and on the other hand, without benefit of the senses, shut off from the experiences that come through the eye, the hand, the ear, the nose, the touch of the body. For the weakness of the mechanical ideology that had put itself at the service of capitalism – and that coloured even the minds that rejected it – was that it had limited the province of the senses, and confined its operations to a blind world of matter and motion.
It was necessary to open up once more to the avenues of human experience; to sharpen the eye, quicken the touch, refine the senses of smell and taste, as a preliminary to restoring to wholeness the dwarfed and amputated personalities that had been produced … In a world where practical success cancelled every other aspiration, this meant a redoubled interest in the goods and methods that challenged the canons of pecuniary success – contemplation and idle reverie, high craftsmanship and patient manipulation, a willing acceptance of the emotions and an enlargement of the erotic ritual, a shift from the specialized masculine interests leading to an exploitation of power to the more generalized, more centrally biological interests symbolised in love: an emphasis on the ecstasy of being rather than a concentration on the pragmatic strain of “getting there.”
For mark this: only those who have lived first and keep alive have earned the right to use the machine. Those who use machinery because they are incapable of facing the stream of life and directing it, those who seek order in automatons because they lack the discipline and courage to achieve order in themselves, become the victims of the instruments and end by becoming mere attachments to a mechanical device” (pp. 163-164).
I then recalled the passage from Robert Ardrey’s 1972 “The Territorial Imperative: A Personal Inquiry into the Animal Origins of Property and Nations, London, Collins: The Fontana Library”, on p. 34:
“Only in the wild does [an animal] face those pressures and opportunities which give expression to his total nature … Captivity has subtracted fear from his life, and substituted boredom. And it is for this reason that we should feel sorry for him.”
Then I thought of those of us who spend their lives before screens – television screens, computer screens, smartphone screens, movie screens … – and have, thereby to that degree a faux life, and faux relationships with those on the other side of the screens. Cumulatively, decades of faux life, without any real adventures in them at all.
So then I thought, does a world of faux consciousness qualify as one of post-consciousness?
Lewis Mumford comes in for quite a bit of discussion in Glass’s Yuga as well (and I really must get around to reading Mumford). But I do think the ultimate aim of what Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism”, which is actually more a kind of voodoo, is the creation of the zombie, the golem. It’s exactly what Norbert Wiener warned against in his book God and Golem Inc and in The Human Use of Human Beings.
A post-conscious world would be one where nothing goes on — nothing happens — between the “stimulus” and the “response”. That’s probably the simplest way to put it. In some respects, “instant gratification” points to that nothing going on between the stimulus and the response, for nothing need go on between the stimulus and the response.
Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos claims to have a lucrative contract from Simon & Schuster for his autobiography.
I suggest the subtitle it “Portrait of a Brain Fueled by Intestinal Gas”.
I was doing some research into Peter Thiel’s company when your comment arrived. Seems appropriate maybe. The name of Thiel’s company is “Palantir” — the name of the Seeing Stones in The Lord of the Rings that were controlled by Saruman and Sauron. Odd that Thiel should choose that name, although Palantir, being a data mining company that did work for Trump and for the CIA, would have also served that “magical” purpose of being “Seeing Stones”.
I would suggest that Thiel has simply picked up the DARPA Total Information Awareness project as his own, and simply dubbed it “Palantir”. This association with magic and power objects is, in my view, quite revealing of “technocratic shamanism”.
A good illustration of “nothing going on between the stimulus and the response,” methinks. Hearkens back to the days of TDAB and the differentiation between reaction and response.
Whilereading Glass’s Yuga I’m imagining myself as a alien vistor to Earth, many years hence, who discovers a lifeless world but comes across this document, carefully translated into alienese by skilled alien linguists, which documents the final tragic days of the human race and its world — the last testimony of a dying race and a dying world.
I think that’s the only way to read Yuga.
It just occurred to me that John Ralston Saul’s The Unconscious Civilisation may well speak to this issue of “post-conscious” society. It was originally delivered, in 1995, as the CBC Massey Lectures before being published as a book.
I have the book and read it years ago, but right now it’s two continents away. Its reference is Saul, J. R. 1997. The Unconscious Civilization, London, Penguin.
I have quoted him in the context of the importance of scale, and in observing that that Adam Smith’s invisible hand was only empirically established at the small scale, yet there “can be no pendulum swinging, then settling into place, without a centre and fixed outer limits” (ibid, p. 145).
There are 19 quotes from it at https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/410549-the-unconscious-civilization
It’s available on Kindle, but not at my Australian Amazon page, only the Canadian one. But the Amazon.ca review says:
“Our society, John Ralston Saul argues in his 1995 CBC Massey Lectures, is only superficially based on the individual and democracy. Increasingly it is conformist and corporatist, a society in which legitimacy lies with specialist or interest groups and decisions are made through constant negotiations between these groups.
The paradox of our situation is that knowledge has not made us conscious. Instead, we have sought refuge in a world of illusion where language is cut off from reality. Reconnecting language to reality, clarifying what we mean by individualism and democracy, making these realities central to the citizen’s life, identifying ideologies in order to control them, these are among the first elements of equilibrium which Saul proposes in these lectures,”
To me, Saul’s corporation in a manifestation of Mumford’s machine. Other reviews there indicate homologies with Mumford’s earlier concerns. Saul talks of language in the way I spoke of screens.
I guess I was unconsciously influenced. 🙂
Just as the enclosures movement stole the English peasants’ land from them, shooing them off to the cities to the dark Satanic mills of the industrial revolution, So this machine world of illusion is now enclosing our consciousness. In part, we like that for the comfort it brings us, but in whole, we really, really, don’t like it at all, but can do nothing about it.
Hence the rage: impotent rage.
Good writing. Scott – about the book by George Morgan, from 1968, called The Human Predicament: Dissolution and Wholeness. As you know, Glass quoted Morgan’s description of “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.”
The book seems worthwhile and received a good review. There are many good books of cultural criticism, as you know. I recommend books by Erich Kahler. Tower and the Abyss or The Meaning of History.
Kahler was very influenced by Gebser. I’ve read two of his books, both of which are excellent (and I should re-read them) The Tower and the Abyss, and Man The Measure, both of which show the influence of Gebser on his thinking. I haven’t read The Meaning of History, but I’m sure it too would be insightful as well.
Your post-conscious world is here I will mention one more – Roderick Seidenberg’s Post-Historic Man
…when the organization of society will have proceeded
to its final crystallization, when, “in a period devoid
of change, we may truly say that man will enter upon
a posthistoric age in which, perhaps, he will remain
encased in an endless routine and sequence of events,
not unlike that of the ants, the bees, the termites. . . .
Well, that’s interesting. Seidenberg’s book is from 1957 — a few decades before Fukuyama and his “End of History”. I wonder if Fukuyama was aware of it before he wrote The End of History and the Last Man?
Anyway, I found an inexpensive copy through the internet and ordered it. We’ll see what Mr Seidenberg has to say about it.
Mumford on post-historic man, as summarised by Raymond H. Geselbracht in his online study, “Recovering the New World Dream: Organic Evolution
in the Work of Lewis Mumford”:
“His greatest fears, however, were for the future, for his reading of history warned him of the possible emergence of what he called “post-historic man,” the ultimate demon, the totally inhuman, Faustian man.
“The chaos and creativity of nature would be forced, by this post-historic man, into identical units more easily assimilated by the mechanistic world view. Useless grasslands, fenlands, woodlands, deserts and lakes would be eradicated to make way for more “useful,” uniform environments. Mountains would be leveled for their useful ores, or simply for the pleasure of bulldozing and grinding them down. The climate would be stripped of its seasons and variations and made uniform from pole to pole.
“Into this environment, post-historic man would insert himself, a no longer human being, no longer wayward and unpredictable, made uniformly bland by hypnotics, sedatives, surgical operations, and genetic tampering. This post-historic man, as Mumford puts it, is “a creature under constant mechanical pressure from incubator to incinerator.” With nature totally dominated and man completely dehumanized, history comes to a necessary end, and man thus becomes ‘post-historic.'”
Mumford credited Seiderberg with the phrase “post-historic man”, and adopted the description, and says he wished that Seiderberg’s book was read more widely, around page 5 of his book Art and Technics.
Scott, while hunting the above down, I came across another paper by another Seiderberg, called “The Ritual Origin of the Circle and Square”, at:
It relates to my Star Key and your references to the Sacred Hoop.
Thanks for the reference. It’s going to take me a while to get through that paper, but scanning it just now, it seems to be worthwhile to take in.
Well, kinda sorta. He’s more on the diffusionist vs Indigenous schtick, which is a bit off topic, but he does unearth some interesting stuff along the way.
Interesting. It may be that writers from those days were more well-rounded and understood the bias of technology and science.
Pretty much describes my own shocked initial reaction to Fukuyama and his “end of history”.
It sounds like Mumford was quite on target with the trajectory of post-historic man. This seems to be the dystopic version of what techno-optimists call The Singularity.
If it’s any consolation, let’s remember the dictum that “nature bats last.” The earth and it’s limited resources are even now providing the feedback that is beginning to reverse the Expansion side of the polarity to it’s opposite Contraction emphasis. There are not the resources to fully achieve the “incubator to incinerator” post-historic.
Something else must eventually emerge. Jim Tull’s “Positive Thinking for a Dark Age” might help us hang in there and support what the Chrysalis wants to birth.
Yes, “something else must eventually emerge”, and my concern is that it might be “mutation into machinery”, which is what we intend to be understood by “post-historic” or “post-conscious”.
Seth did indeed warn about that — that the ego consciousness could evolve into something else — as I noted in my earlier post “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature”
(basically, that’s just another re-statement of the parable of the Prodigal Son).
If I were to summarise the meaning of The Chrysalis it would be to suggest that, to speak somewhat anthropomorphically, events are conspiring to force human consciousness to transcend itself — Gebser’s “maelstrom” or Brian Stewart’s “vortex of crises” — so that we are, in that sense, in the apocalyptic dynamic already, and it’s our responses to this that are the real test of our metal. Some are responding well but most are not responding well at all, or what’s a “chaotic transition” besides that failure of appropriate responsiveness?
Yes, but I was trying to point out that available resource will not support the completion of this mutational trajectory from man to machinery. My perception is that we’ve already hit the peak of this fossil fueled Pulse, and now we’re starting to come down the other side. The machine is energy and resource intensive – it is no longer supportable. The problem now is that resources that could be used to soften the landing are still being diverted in an attempt to keep the growth of the machine going – but that battle for the machine will ultimately be lost. Nature bats last. The only question is how soon does the culture wake up and stop trying to support an ultimately losing cause.
This post from my blog might be relevant, discussing David Holmgren’s “Crash on Demand” essay.
Yes, but then we have this disturbing development in robotics where some AI engineers are basically designing machinery to derive their energy from consuming and digesting living organisms.
Is this feasible? I don’t know whether machinery can derive sufficient energy from consuming living things to animate themselves and as a source of energy. That some would even think in that way is diabolical in itself, let alone whether they actually succeed in this.
I chased up that quote of Mumford’s; it’s from his “Transformation of Man” 1956, which I don’t have. The expanded quote taken from online reads:
“If the goal of human history is a uniform type of man, reproducing at a uniform rate, in a uniform environment, kept at a constant temperature, pressure, and humidity, living a uniformly lifeless existence, with his uniform physical needs satisfied by uniform goods, all inner waywardness brought into conformity by hypnotics and sedatives, or by surgical extirpations, a creature under constant mechanical pressure from incubator to incinerator, most of the problems of human development would disappear. Only one problem would remain: Why should anyone, even a machine, bother to keep this kind of creature alive?”
Well, the answer is now plain: they are needed as producers and consumers by The Machine. If they are no longer useful in that context, they become “useless eaters”, just like dairy cows whose milk has dried up.
Apart from that, if I were restricted to merely extrinsic, utilitarian, Emissary valuations, I would have not a clue about the Master’s intrinsic valuations, and thereby no other reason to keep such creatures alive, as Mumford enquires.
Nor, for that matter, would I have reason to keep alive any other creatures who neither acknowledge nor contribute to my Masterly magnificence, altogether so much more valuable than anything or anyone else …
Would I not, in fact, rather relish killing them? Like a photo someone showed me of an American sniper from posing beside his human victim like a nineteenth century big game trophy hunter?
Hence McGilchrist’s praise of Milton.
Good writing from everyone. Scott, Talking about consciousness, you wrote
“the narrowing of consciousness to a nothing”
Orthodox science has narrowed consciousness to the brain. Regaining Conscious -Francis Broucek is a thoughtful book. (Scott wrote about it) Broucek In a chapter The Brain as Idol (another idol) Broucek’s is articulate about why the orthodox view mistaken. Here is one quote.
As part of the legacy of the 18th-century Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant, we are aware of the constructive function of our minds. Our experience is not simply the result of a passive reception of outside stimulation; we actively contribute to shaping that experience from the subjective and intersubjective side by imposing conceptual organization on the perceptual field. When it comes to the brain, however, we act as though we have arrived at some kind of bedrock reality where our subjective and intersubjective contributions to the way we think about the brain as well as our philosophical commitments can be conveniently forgotten. We forget that we are looking at the brain through a collective scientific consciousness with all its taken for granted assumptions about the objective nature of reality and the acceptable means of investigating that reality, as we discussed in the last chapter. Materialists in their efforts to establish that consciousness and cognition are produced by the brain ignore to what extent their models of the brain, are more accurately the product of conscious cognition embedded in a collective philosophical commitment to physicalism, which, as we have seen, is a fluid commitment to an ultimately unknown theory•.
To be a human one must be conscious and be the agent of one’s live. He makes the cozy connection between brain idolatry and the big pharmaceutical companies and the universities. There are many reasons for the present crisis.
Yesterday, one of the CBC’s most senior correspondents, Brian Stewart, wrote and interesting piece in which he spoke of a “vortex of crises” in the offing for 2017. That phrase struck a chord. Gebser used the term “maelstrom” which has pretty much the same meaning.
I meant to say “the agent of one’s life.
Here’s another voice joining the chorus: ‘We’re teaching university students lies’ – An interview with Dr Jordan Peterson.
Made my eyes water reading that small print. I’ld say Dr. Peterson is very sensitive to other people’s bubble (and he’s quite right about that) but also very blind to his own bubble. I’m skeptical that he’s quite as “objective” as he protests, since he seems to relate being “objective” to being “conservative” (which is pretty self-serving ideology in itself). I’ld say… bubbles all around.
Otherwise, I don’t know anything about this issue, and nothing about Bill C-16, which I take it is an Ontario thing. I’m not sure whether this article accurately represents it or not.
“Made my eyes water reading that small print…” Firefox, the browser I use most often, will enlarge or reduce the print size by using Ctrl-plus and Ctrl-minus; others probably have a similar capability. Sorry for your eyestrain.
As to Peterson, I should have added a caveat that I don’t endorse everything he said in the interview. As you put it, “bubbles all around”.
One good thing that came of it, though, was that it made me consider how I’d react if someone, such as one of the people mentioned in the article, insisted that I change my language to conform to their diktat, accusing me of a kind of aggression if I refused. I wound up thinking about a range of issues: law vs. custom, the range and limitations of “rights”, what it means to accept others, etc. Might be worth a post…
While we’re (not) on this subject, Dr. Peterson’s essay brought a few (subjective) things to mind that may or may not shed light on this.
Or male one minute and female the next. Biologically? Perhaps not. Spiritually? Psychologically? I wouldn’t be too sure.
I recall telling a label-loving friend years ago that I am a person first and a gender second. But that I identify socially as a person first doesn’t preclude my acting very male or very female when and if the occasion calls for it and, by that, I mean displaying traits society normally assigns to one or the other gender. Might I, then, be said to be “transgender”?
No mention of whether or not they may be learned. Peterson uses the term “socially-constructed” quite a bit and the term “roles” comes to mind in response.
Physical appearance and quite a few other characteristics of the sexes are biologically determined. But identity? I wouldn’t be too sure of that, either.
Ay. There’s the rub. Peterson argues that it is “patriarchal.” Well, don’t get me started on “patriarchal” and there is some truth to that, though “hierarchal” may be more to the point. At the same time, the trend I noted in my previous comment doesn’t seem to have been dictated or even influenced by anyone or any group. (At least, I’m not aware of a specific origin. Someone please point it out if you know of one.) It’s just sort of crept into everyday usage and doesn’t seem to be connected with notions of inclusion or exclusion of any social group — male, female or trans-gender.
Refer to an individual as “they” in speech or writing and you’ll likely be called out by someone somewhere for using bad grammar, but this is actually something I’ve struggled with in the past. It’s been said that it’s easy to avoid using “he” or “she” in a sentence if the sentence is simply constructed a different way, but I haven’t found that to be true, especially in conversation. So, what do you say or write? In common usage, “he” used to be the norm in the English language. Now, “she” is the norm when a pronoun is used to refer to the individual, especially in formal writing. So, we’ve essentially switched out one for the other for the time being because there is no gender-neutral pronoun in the English language for us to utilize in such a fashion.
My interest in this comment, of course, is language. As to the psychological effects, especially in children; in regard to altering one’s biological configuration at what age; and the passage of laws governing language; it’s probably a debate worth contemplating.
Yes, our languages really do make a big difference. If we don’t have a word for something, we don’t see it. The power of language needs to be better understood. Our current languages have become very good at helping us understand parts and mechanisms, but not optimized for helping us see how these parts are connected and organized as wholes.
This is where PatternDynamics comes in. By combining hte patterns of nature with the power of language, PatternDynamics creates a Sustainability Pattern Language – a language with wholistic symbols designed to help us develop the systems thinking cpacity needed to meet the complex challenges of creating a sustainable planetary civilization.
A couple of years ago we had a PD workshop where we were discussing Masculine/Feminine as a polarity, where each of us has capability to bring out or emphasize traits from either end of this polarity. A transgendered person happened to be in attendance, and proclaimed “some of us have a leg up on you there!”
Not too long ago I was forwarding an email from this transgendered aquaintance, and someone had to point out to me that I was referring to this person as a “him,” in spite of this person’s preference to be seen as a “her.” I was totally unaware that I was still thinking of this person in my mind as a male.
The issue itself is likely nationwide as it is here in America. The debate is centered around the proposition that schoolchildren not be addressed as “boys” and “girls,” but only “students” and “scholars,” and adults not as “ladies” and “gentlemen”. School policies have been altered to accommodate it before being mandated by law.
Dr. Peterson makes some good points, especially this one.
That applies to any position on any political issue as far I can tell. It’s definitely not just “social justice people” who vilify or dehumanize their “opponents.”
The gender neutrality in language question is loaded from the outset due to the way our language is structured. Under this law, even linguistic representations of the “cross of reality” would be considered inappropriate. (“He, she, it” contains no provision for transgender persons.)
Apologies. “He, she, it, they.” “They” might qualify, which is likely why its so often used in speech and writing as opposed to “he” or “she”.
Would you mind telling me exactly where he mention this, Scott? Thanks.
That’s a good question. I think I read it in his notes that Kaufman assembled into “the Will to Power”, although it might be somewhere else. Never took too much note of it at the time
Anyway, tried to google up some reference to it and came up with this from the Wikipedia entry under “Duty”
“Friedrich Nietzsche is among the fiercest critics of the concept of duty. “What destroys a man more quickly”, he asks, “than to work, think, and feel without inner necessity, without any deep personal desire, without pleasure—as a mere automaton of “duty”?” (The Antichrist, § 11)
Nietzsche claims that the task of all higher education is “to turn men into machines”. The way to turn men into machines is to teach them to tolerate boredom. This is accomplished, Nietzsche says, by means of the concept of duty. (Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes of an untimely man” § 9.29)
In the passage I have in mind, though, he spoke more to the notion of “automatons of automatic reflexes”. Ill try to locate that if I can.