Marty Glass and the Kali Yuga

I’m about half-way through Marty Glass’s book Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate. It is, I have to say, even bleaker about our current situation in the Kali Yuga than my former Dark Age Blog, or Carolyn Baker’s Dark Gold: The Human Shadow and the Alchemy of Global Crisis. Bleaker even than Jane Jacobs’ Dark Age Ahead.

I’m sure that if Jane Jacobs were still alive she would see contemporary events as confirmation of her prognosis that we are in a Dark Age. William Irwin Thompson has it that we have been in a Dark Age for some time already.

In Dark Age Ahead, Jacobs gives five symptoms (or pillars) of our Dark Age, as quoted from the Wikipedia entry on her book:

Community and Family : People are increasingly choosing consumerism over family welfare, that is: consumption over fertility; debt over family budget discipline; fiscal advantage to oneself at the expense of community welfare.
Higher Education:  Universities are more interested in credentials than providing high quality education.
Bad Science: Elevation of economics as the main “science” to consider in making major political decisions.
Bad Government: Governments are more interested in deep-pocket interest groups than the welfare of the population.
Bad Culture: A culture that prevents people from understanding/realising the deterioration of fundamental physical resources on which the entire community depends.

Marty Glass also has five characteristics of the Kali Yuga (or spiritual Dark Age): a) The Fall Into Time, b) The Reign of Quantity, c) The Mutation into Machinery, d) The End of Nature, and e) The Prison of Unreality.

Of course, these all intersect and are related to one another as aspects of Urizenic consciousness — that is, Blake’s “single vision” (or McGilchrist’s “Emissary”) which can barely be described as consciousness at all. As noted before, they are symptoms of the Prodigal Son’s state of extremity at the outer limits of his journey or exile from the vital centre. All in all, these five add up to a condition of “post-consciousness”. But then again, so was the Prodigal Son. It was only in his extremity, living as a swine amongst swine, that he came to remembrance of himself and his original home.

Blake would certainly take all this as his Urizen in his madness, while Gebser would call it “the mental-rational consciousness structure” — or perspectivising consciousness — now functioning in “deficient” mode. And, indeed, each of the five features of Glass’s Kali Yuga are the hot topics of the day in one form or another, being the identified features of the crisis of Late or Post-Modernity.

There are evident correlations between Jane Jacobs’ five characteristics of Dark Age and Glass’s five features of the Kali Yuga, although Jacobs’ only scratches the surface that Glass penetrates more deeply into — as being the total eclipse of the spiritual.

For each of these five features of the Kali Yuga, one can identity a notable contemporary champion who struggled with them: Blake struggled against The Fall Into Time; Robert Pirsig in his Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, struggled against the Reign of Quantity; Lewis Mumford and Jacques Ellul struggled with The Mutation into Machinery; Rachel Carson or Bill McKibben struggle against The End of Nature; Noam Chomsky or Neil Postman struggled with The Prison of Unreality. They all picked some special aspect of the “rough beast” for particular attention. But perhaps only Blake saw the rough beast as a whole, and called it “Urizen”, and otherwise today known by Mr. Tweedy as The God of the Left Hemisphere.

For what it’s worth, Glass’s five characteristics of the Kali Yuga also provide a useful schema for interpreting much contemporary dissident literature — what particular aspect of the rough beast or Dark Age with which they have taken up the “mental fight”. All-in-all, the five features of Dark Age or Kali Yuga are characteristic of what Pitrim Sorokin also described as “sensate consciousness”.

The Fall Into Time; The Reign of Quantity; the Mutation into Machinery; the End of Nature; and The Prison of Unreality all describe contemporary nihilism, the manner in which, as Nietzsche put it, “all higher values devalue themselves” through the millstone of the “nothing but” — fundamentalism and reductionism.

I suppose it’s safe to say that for Blake, the Fall into Time is the reason for all the other features of the Kali Yuga, and the chief reason why he was anxious to open the “doors of perception” to the perception of the eternal and the infinite hid within all things, and why Jean Gebser emphasised “time-freedom” as the theme of the new consciousness “mutation”, which is his conviction that, in our time also, the Prodigal Son is coming to remembrance of himself and his true home (and either does or falls off the deep end and into Oblivion, fulfilling Walter Benjamin’s anticipation of self-alienation passing over into eventual self-annihilation).

27 responses to “Marty Glass and the Kali Yuga”

  1. donsalmon says :

    Great post as usual, Scott.

    I have what will probably appear to be a very naive – possibly overly left hemisphere! – question.

    Just referring to political orientation in the US, is there any way that one could see conservatives as more left brain dominant than liberals/progressives?

    I know it’s an absurdly simplistic question because there are so many varieties of each. There has been a meme on the right for at least 15 years that the liberals are hard hearted, technocratic, quantifiers. I think this got started with Jimmy Carter, strengthened with Mondale and Dukakis, temporarily derailed by “I feel your pain” Clinton, then the Right doubled down with Kerry. Obama seems to have thrown everyone into confusion, since he is so obviously on the one hand a deep feeling, global “thinker” but also has been characterized as detached and emotionless.

    Anyway, this is probably silly, but if you have any insights or a better way to put it, i’d appreciate it. The question came up when I looked up “The God of the Left Hemisphere” and all the descriptions from the book sounded like the current Far Right in the US.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I think of “conservative” and “liberal” as moods of the soul that have become distorted by ideology, and in some ways having to do with the economy of energy — as conserving or expending energy. We all do both, and the problem is to become over-identified with one or the other.

      The problem today, as I see it, is connected with something I read in Castaneda, when don Juan admonished him for his fumbling and carelessness in handling of power: “you rush when you should wait, and you wait when you should rush”. This is equally evidently connected with Gebser’s dictum: “to know when to let happen and to know when to make happen”. And both throw into sharp relief the issue of time and timing and rhythm, at which we are quite lousy. this is more a matter of intuition, and is, in some respects, connected with Nietzsche’s notion of thinking like music, or especially like dance.

      None of us is completely liberal or completely conservative, as ERH points out. Both end up, in the extremity, as forms of nihilism. Without the conservative aspect of us, we would have no memory; and without the liberal aspect, no future. And it is a simple fact of the matter that today’s ideological stances, as neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism especially, have become deficient in that respect — a nihilistic conservatism and an “illiberal liberalism” and in those terms, both have become self-negating processes.

      Evidently, if the essential aspect of the relation between the conserving and the liberating is waiting or rushing, then contemporary conservatism has become a drag on our need for a self-overcoming. That is to say, overcoming the conservative in us, and this is the problem of denialism and the reactionary formation. We need to change, and that means, we need to rush, and that means, we need to be energetic. We have “no time to lose”, as they say, but this is exactly the obstacle the conservative represents today and which makes conservatism a species of decadence.

      As you might guess from this, this is the problem of “dualism” addressed by Gebser.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I believe the Bible puts the issue of conservatism and liberalism in terms of “binding and loosening”, and in those terms, having to do with time and timing, or constraining and freeing.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    It is a journey back to him. religion is a behavioral science. The humans are religious beings that need a code of conduct to run their life. Scott puts his hand on the problem when he rewords it in the bible language of binding and loosening. It is a bond once we bind ourselves to it we live in empathy, love and rest and once we loosen our relation, we live in greed, distress and confusion. it is the five bads of Jacobs or the five falls of Glass. It seems that in time of the human cycle of perversion, voices are divinely pushed to warn of the coming doom in order for the humans to change and not to give excuses that they have not been warned. I always thought these labels of conservative and liberal or other similar labels are masks to divert the human attention from the real problems, keeping them busy and distance them from addressing the real problems.It is unfortunate that the people of the world with the exception of the few have been programmed in the schooling domain of there is no god ,no account, no day after and all there is, is to enjoy this life even if it is on the expense of the others suffering and deprivation. I feel we are living in a time when the divine signs are going to be manifested in such a glaring fashion that leave no time. for those who have not already retrieved themselves from the swamp of narcissism to continue in their perverted path. I do not feel at rest with the falsifiers who misled peoples in believing that they are living in a godless world and the only true thing is living this life to the full without any superego hindrances. What a poisoning fallacy.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    “Truth is the austerity of the Kali Age” — Sri Ramakrishna. The quote appears near the start of Glass’s book. Austerity. And what it brings to mind is the phrase “economical with the truth”

    or, in Mr. Trump’s case “truthful hyperbole”

    • Scott Preston says :

      Tony Schwartz delivered a lecture at the Oxford Union about a week before the US election. It is available on YouTube, but oddly enough has received very few views for someone who has intimate knowledge of Trump’s character and what might be expected from his presidency. It’s a pretty good talk,

  4. Charles Leiden says :

    Scott, When I read YUGA, I came to understand why Glass thought our present situation was hopeless in many ways.

    I became aware of the basic problem in the early seventies when I realized that there are limits to growth. A society that has as its organizing principle “economic growth” is obviously not sustainable. Andre Gorz calls it barbaric.

    Kirkpatrick Sale wrote a book – Human Scale (1980) that offers many examples of the importance of a proper size

    THE SIMPLE CONCLUSION: size matters, in human institutions as well as human forms, and it has its limits. We may formulate this more precisely as a principle- let’s call it the Beanstalk Principle in honor of the medium that after all brought Jack and the Giant to the point of comparison- that holds:

    For every animal, object, institution, or system there is an optimal limit beyond which it ought not to grow. He adds the the Beanstalk Corollary:
    Beyond this optimal size, all other elements of an animal, objects, institution, or system will be affected adversely. He offers solutions for a human scale.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, I read Kirkpatrick Sale’s book a couple of decades ago, but I found it a bit weakly argued, because what is “human scale” is quite relative to the scope and scale of what we mean by “human”.

      The Earth is human scale, but only if our souls expand to the Earth’s dimensions, so to speak, so what Sale means by “human scale” very much depends on what we understand by “human” and what we understand by “global soul”. Nietzsche’s “transhuman” isn’t “human scale”, and neither is Gebser’s integral consciousness or diaphainon.

      There’s an anecdote from Castaneda’s writings that I find illustrative: where Castaneda saw a hundred foot drooling monster, his teacher, don Juan, saw only a gnat.

      The human scale is not a fixed. It expands or contracts. When it expands, monstrous problems appear as petty irritants or nothing at all, but when it shrinks, petty irritations become monstrous problems — the proverbial molehills become mountains…. or the mountains can become molehills. And I would say that the difference lies in the distinction between “point-of-view” and “overview”.

      To the “point-of-view” complexity looks monstrous. But when we grow into complexity ourselves (and the integral consciousness in a growth in complexity) the monstrous problems suddenly don’t look so monstrous at all in themselves. So, it’s really our responses which are decisive, and in the present circumstances we are being challenged to outgrow and exceed “the human scale” and a lot of current events are there to apply pressure on human beings to transcend themselves — a life or death pressure.

      • abdulmonem says :

        I do not think a physical scale is a constraint on the spiritual scale. I wonder about the diminution of the physical scale of the lower creation as time moves forward and the expansion of the cosmos and human consciousness in term of leaving the point of view to the overview realm to face as Scott said the challenge of the coming expansion of consciousness is line with the expanding universe.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        It seems Mr. Tull also has published a book (of essays):

        Positive Thinking in a Dark Age is a collection of fourteen essays written over the past fifteen years. In a contentious world where social action usually means either direct aid or some form of political response, these essays together promote a ‘third way’ that is rooted in systems thinking, cultural transformation and the rebuilding of small-scale communities. Evidence of cultural and systemic unraveling is exposed throughout the essays, but emphasis is placed more on guiding and inspiring change. There is scarcely a sentence in this collection that does not directly serve the vision uniting all fourteen essays.

      • Scott Preston says :

        :”What We Think is What We Get” is the original title of the essay, I see. That reflects Heraclitus also “character is fate”. Also Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”. It is what allows Gebser to read cultural artifacts as structures of consciousness, or McLudan technologies as “extensions of man” or Rosenstock-Huessy the “tones of the spirit” in grammatical forms.

        What we think is indeed what we get. “Storms to the stormy” as Seth also put it. Hence Nietzsche’s remark that “it’s not the courage of one’s convictions that count, but the courage to attack one’s convictions that count”. We might as well read by “convictions” a “structure of consciousness” in Gebser’s sense.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Loaded word, “attack.”

          • Scott Preston says :

            The InfiniteWarrior, shying away from a word like “attack”?

            • InfiniteWarrior says :


            • mikemackd says :

              Rather than “attack”, I would have said “accurately value”. Where did I get that conviction? How and why did I become convinced? Is that really robust evidence? What’s it worth?

              There are some convictions that are valuable, and others that are not. Not all “convicts make convicts” as someone once said, but most do because we inhale them as unthinkingly as we breathe. Result: post-historic man.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Is ‘evaluate’ the word you have in mind? Perhaps corresponds to Nietzsche’s “revaluation of values.”

            • mikemackd says :

              The saying is “convictions make convicts”. Although my pre-morning coffee mistake of “convicts make convicts” has some truth to it as well.

            • Scott Preston says :

              A related aphorism from Nietzsche in that respect is “In times of peace a warrior goes to war against himself”. But, more generally, Nietzsche’s attack on convictions is what is now called “deconstruction”. But what Nietzsche might have had in mind is a saying of Goethe’s, to the effect that “only what lasts in us longer than a year is true and real”. In those terms, if you submit your convictions to attack and they don’t hold up to the scrutiny, then they probably aren’t true or real.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              The Goethe quote is reminiscent of Rumi’s “be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.” (Still not sure how a statement about a word comes to mean “shying away from” it, but that’s interpretation for you.)

            • mikemackd says :

              Yes, InfiniteWarrior: evaluate is a good word, but still not quite right. I’ve just been reading Hofstede, G. Geert; Hofstede, G.J. Minkov, M. 2010. Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind, Third Edition. McGraw-Hill Education, where they talk of
              the processes of internalising our cultures’ symbols, heroes, rituals and values in that order, the deepest being our values, which “were acquired early in our lives, and they have become so natural as to be unconscious. They form the basis of our conscious and more superficial manifestations of culture” (Hofstede et al. p. 384). So it’s awareness of that ongoing process in oneself and others we engage with, whereby we implement our revaluation of values. An organic process, not a thing.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              a good word, but still not quite right

              Might that be because many of us tend not to think of such organic processes not as eternal but fixed, i.e. at some point in space and time? Creation, evolution, evaluation…pick your term. People speak of them as if they stopped and started somewhere along the line. And isn’t that an interesting phrase? “Along the line,” i.e. the “arrow of time.”

              Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind sounds interesting. Thanks for the mention.

            • mikemackd says :

              Yep, you’ve nailed it, InfiniteWarrior – fixed it at a point in space and time ;-). That’s what I referred to a while ago as our Gorgonic gaze. We need it, but we need to qualify it.

              The process 12CharBar referred to below as the cultural ego is as natural to us as eating and drinking. Like the latter two, it involves some absorption and some evacuation, and if we don’t qualitatively assess that absorption in our living processes and evacuate the dross, we end up full of it, and, again as CharBar put it, lose the name of action. (Or was that Hamlet? Ah well, it’s 0500 here and I am yet to kickstart with a coffee).

              So skillful evaluations and evacuations are preconditional to skillful means, as both are processual, not static, but both need some enfolding of grasping too. Hence McGilchrist’s Master and Emissary.

              PS Gregory Bateson was onto this: he warned about what he called “thinging”.

  5. 12CharBar says :

    I agree that the image of the human is paramount. Sale was suggesting that there is a scale that is conducive to a more harmonious relationship in our “life-world.”

  6. 12CharBar says :

    Positive Thinking in a Dark Age looks interesting from the introduction. Tull writes about the essays,

    “reflect neither optimism nor hope for humanity’s future. Thinking positively and making an active commitment to create a just and sustainable future requires neither of these.”

    I agree. Optimism and pessimism are similar in that they both preclude action.

    mikemackd, you write,

    where they talk of
    the processes of internalising our cultures’ symbols, heroes, rituals and values in that order, the deepest being our values, which “were acquired early in our lives, and they have become so natural as to be unconscious. They form the basis of our conscious and more superficial manifestations of culture”

    I agree and those ideas are important in my studies. One can say that all cultural values are relative in the sense that we become who we are in a cultural context The “cultural ego” some call it. That is the challenge of being a human. One needs to adopt a critical attitude towards both culture and ego in order to transcend them. Every culture creates an image of its ideal human as its own end.

    If one entertains the idea that there are different levels of consciousness, one could say that the conformist level makes up the largest group in a culture. as you quotes above

    this group,

    have become so natural as to be unconscious. They form the basis of our conscious and more superficial manifestations of culture”

  7. Scott Preston says :

    Yesterday I was weighing the various approaches to bios, or life, represented in the words abiosis, anti-biosis, pro-biosis, and symbiosis.I think that runs the gamut? I don’t know of any other related terms. Symbiotic seems to come closest to the integral, pro-biotic to the organic, anti-biotic to the nihilistic, and abiotic to the already lifeless.

    Abiotic and anti-biotic seem to fall on one hemisphere, while pro-biotic and symbiotic on another. They even seem to be reflected in the four yugas or the Greek “four ages” as well.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Free speech was originally conceived as a way of protecting truth from power. It’s now being exploited for other purposes — purposes of spreading untruth and disinformation, (as for example here)

    There’s an example, I think, of what Nietzsche anticipated — that the triumph of liberal institutions would be simultaneously their downfall. This was also true of the liberal German Weimar Republic — the Nazis exploited its liberalism to effect its downfall. Another dilemma for the late modern mind. But sites like Breitbart, despite their antipathy to liberalism, always insist on, and exploit, those liberal values precisely in order to abuse, undermine, and destroy them.

    In thrall to the power of social media, everything else doesn’t matter — it’s a clear case of what Gebser noted about technological feasibility become disproportionate to man’s sense of responsibility. Power is God and will to power the only truth and the only good. Magical thinking is implied in that, and word magic especially — the deficient magical as Gebser put’s it. You see that already in the confusion of opinion and fact. “It’s true because I say so” is magic — my opinion makes it so.

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