Terrorism And Globalism

“America First!” “Britain First!” “France First!” “Poland First!” “Hungary First!” and on it goes. Or is it “Earth First!“?

Is it not strange that all these ethno-nationalist movements that claim to be against the “special interests” or “vested interests” nonetheless rationalise and justify themselves as a special interest group and claim that national (or religious) self-interest supersedes that of the Earth as a whole? Aren’t we, here, touching upon the essential Double-Think it much current discourse and illogic? The claim to be against “identity politics” while espousing the primacy of their own identity politics. They claim to be against “political correctness” while espousing their own ethno-nationalist dogmas. They claim to be against the “special interests” while espousing the primacy of their own self-interest. It’s no wonder that the contemporary public discourse is riddled with self-contradiction: what I have called our “four riders of the apocalypse” as Double-Think, Double-Talk, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind.

All forms of terrorism presently are reactionary ultra-conservative, whether of the neo-fascist or the Islamicist variety. The fine distinctions made between right-wing terrorism and Islamicist terrorism (where the former is allowed “root causes” while the latter is not permitted “root causes”) are just the extreme expressions of reductionism and fundamentalism, respectively, and are, in those terms, scarcely distinguishable from one another. Altogether contemporary terrorism is a single phenomenon with the same goal — an attack on globalism and on “the Global Soul”.

Globalism is the target of all forms of terrorism, and is what is being repudiated in the ethno-nationalist surge — the prospects of an authentic planetary civilisation. The Norwegian neo-fascist terrorist, Anders Behring Breivik, even extended an invitation to Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda to work together to prevent this and to bring about chaos. They now have friends in Trump and Bannon and the  cabinet. Why do you think ISIS loves Donald Trump?

All the national supremacists and exceptionalists — the Me or We Firsters — are eventually going to come into conflict with each other over their self-interest without strong multilateralism, just as a century ago a terrorist incident in Sarajevo in the absence of strong internationalism or multilateralism sparked a World War. Note this well: “the sins of the fathers will be visited down to the third and fourth generations”, and it is the fourth generation since the Great War of 1914 -1918. Our present situation is, in some ways, very similar. It resembles the opening sentence of Jennifer Welsch’s new book The Return of History:

“History repeats itself  because no one was listening the first time“.

This is true. Rosenstock-Huessy has even made it the foundation of his social philosophy and method — audi ne moriamur! or “Listen, lest we die!”

Pardon my language, but we have been so fucking obsessed with our “Free Speech” rights to the point of narcissistic obsession that we’ve completely forgotten about listening. The failure to actually and really listen might even be a synonym for narcissism (in fact, it is a symptom of narcissism. Jesus made a pointed distinction between merely hearing and listening: “those with ears to hear let them hear”). There is a certain degree of self-forgetting that is involved in the art of listening, of truly paying attention. And if anything, in this era of punditry and of “talking heads” and of the culture of narcissism, it is this real failure and breakdown of listening that makes for a “post-conscious” condition and for “post-historical man”.

The cure is not more effective perspectivity. There’s a deficit of listening moreso than of perspective. In fact, you might say that the whole culture has an “attention deficit disorder”. But that’s just another way of saying “post-conscious”.

Real listening — really paying attention — involves a certain degree of selflessness as well as empathy, which is exactly what “identity politics” of all kinds refuses to do, ie, enter into a state of selflessness. Speaking AND listening are the alternating current that forms “the life-blood of society”, as Rosenstock-Huessy put it. Both have broken down and this portends a social and global catastrophe in the making.

Gebser’s anticipated “aperspectival-arational” consciousness is very much about a shift from the eye to the ear as the chief organ of perception and understanding. And this is very much implicated also in Rosenstock-Huessy’s formula for new science — audi, ne moriamur — “listen, and we will survive” or “listen, lest we die”.

We know we have a problem with speaking and listening today — “the echo chamber” effect that is very much implicated in today’s social chaos and that points to that condition of “isolation” of which Gebser wrote, and so of fracture, fragmentation, and disintegration.

In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

It’s not so much “speech” that needs liberating, then. It’s listening that needs liberating from “the mind-forg’d manacles”.

 

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34 responses to “Terrorism And Globalism”

  1. davidm58 says :

    “What began with Petrarch as a wonder and an unanticipated enrichment of human perspectives has become Gebser’s ‘deficiency’ and degeneration. Space became more and more empty. The world became more and more empty. We all became more and more empty. The mystery vanished from space. The world lost its magic.

    “…For centuries we have only employed he ear as a ‘subsidiary organ’ utilized by the eye. Hearing is none the less the most spiritual of our senses – even physically as will become clear later…

    “He who has ears to hear sees! When we have learnt to hear we will also be able to correct our eyes’ hypertrophy…The word ‘enlightenment’ signifies an expanded form of perception dependent on neither ear nor eye, a form of perception that penetrates the deceptive filter our senses impose between ourselves and reality…

    “As we have seen, Homer, the blind singer, was a man who listened. that is the reason why he was one of ‘the most seeing’ of men and could describe Odysseus, the eye man, as if he, Homer, could see with his hero’s eyes.”

    – “The Third Ear: On Listening to the World,” by Joachim-Ernst Berendt (1985, with English translation by Tim Nevell, 1988)

    • Scott Preston says :

      Goodness. Gebser pops up in some places previously unknown to me. This sounds like just the kind of book that I’m looking to read. Thanks. You’ve been keeping it a secret?

      • davidm58 says :

        Yes, top secret. It took me a long time to find a used copy that was reasonably priced. I still haven’t read it all the way through. His other book is a classic (and dedicated to Gebser): “The World is Sound: Nada Brahma – Music and the Landscape of Consciousness” (1983, translated into English 1987). “The World is Sound” was dedicated to the memory of John Coltrane, Jean Gebser, Hermann Hesse, Hazrat Inayat Khan, and Hans Kayser.

        Berendt was a well regarded German jazz music critic (author of the definitive “The Jazz Book” in 1952). He lived from 1922-2000.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim-Ernst_Berendt

      • davidm58 says :

        Beautiful! A very nice antidote to having just watched Lady Gaga for the first time ever, lured by a faceboo post of her Super Bowl halftime performance.
        Translation of Ich Bin Der Welt (I am Lost to the World) is here:
        http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=14001

        • mikemackd says :

          I am glad you liked it, David. I first heard that about 50 years ago. I put it in this context of Scott’s because I think it instilled in me a capacity for intense listening that I had not possessed before, and which has remained with me ever since.

          Steve very kindly gave us an excellent bio of Gebser. I had not realised that he was a confidante of Mircea Eliade and Henry Corbin before reading of it in that bio. I first read some works of theirs about 40 years ago, and also those of Danielou, most memorable for me right now being his “Shiva and Dionysus”.But it took me until I read Wilber for the first time, about 36 years ago, before I learnt of Gebser.

          Speaking of Wilber, I think these debates about evolution could be facilitated by a more articulated attention to scale. Of course there is telos for an individual creature – at least as far as it is concerned! It wants to stay alive, and sometimes even procreate. The fact some mechanist mindset, which completely ignores intrinsic valuation, deigns evolution non-teleological is “nothing but”, to use their favourite phrase, scale-dependent perceptual bias.

          Machine thinking ignores telos because it is a quality of complex creatures, and their monologicality can only see simple to complicated. Without Eros in telos, living creatures would quickly because someone else’s lunch, and vanish from the gene pool.

          That may not be visible, or even relevant, from the Olympian heights of statistical abstraction, any more than life on other planets would be visible without technological aid, but that hardly changes the reality at the scale of the single organism. It’s just that mechanistic thinkers, Darwin’s audience, were wont to draw a polite veil over such inconvenient truths getting in the way of their mechanistic mythmaking.

          Mumford considered Darwin to be better than that. I quote from The Pentagon of Power, p. 389:

          “Before Darwin, the concept of organic evolution had floated through many minds. What made his contribution so convincing was not his specific theories about the formation and modification of species, but his singular ability to assemble a great mass of observations about particular events of the most varied nature. Despite the insufficiency of any one set of observations to account for the evolution of life, the total mass, when Darwin put it together, revealed a concrete pattern of utmost complexity, in which every aspect of the whole in space and time was theoretically necessary to account for the smallest part or the most fleeting event. For the first time nature could be rationally contemplated, not as a fortuitous concourse of atoms, but as a self-organizing system from which man himself had finally emerged through a singular neural development that provided images and symbols for his conscious understanding.

          In classic scientific thinking, the whole must be interpreted in terms of the part, deliberately isolated, carefully observed, precisely measured. But in Darwin’s complementary ecological approach, it is the whole that reveals the nature and function and purpose of the part. Though threads in the pattern may need to be replaced, and parts of the pattern modified or completely redrawn as new evidence accumulates, it is important to take in the whole, even at some cost of sharp definition, and to carry that whole through time.

          The feat of putting together the outlines of this intricate ecological pattern was Darwin’s magnificent contribution. And because he was ready to take account of every fresh thread or color that further investigation might reveal, he himself in later editions of ‘The Origin of Species’ on occasion was driven to adopt the Lamarckian explanation he had at first rejected – much to the scandal of more orthodox Darwinists. Thus the very absence of a rigidly systematic, geometrizing mind permitted Darwin to entertain evidence that contradicted or at least modified his original notion about the creative role of elimination, or natural selection.”

          You may well ask, “Is that on topic? What has that to do with terrorism and globalism?” According to Mishra, everything.

          • Ed Levin says :

            “Steve very kindly gave us an excellent bio of Gebser.”

            I missed that. Can somebody tell me what this comment refers to, and how to find the excellent bio?

            • donsalmon says :

              This is very interesting: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/08/welcome-age-anger-brexit-trump

              Mishra, in his “The Age of Anger,” basically identifies a rather simplistic conflict, between the “modernist” (neo-liberal, cosmopolitan, globalist, capitalist) and “traditionalist” (xenophobic, nationalistic, angry, resentful, envious).

              Paul Ray came up with the same categories but added 2 more.

              1. Traditionalists: The David Brooks type conservative who values institutions, family, traditional culture, and sees it as an ‘organic” bulwark against the rootless, disconnected even alienated urbanism of the modern liberal intellectual.
              2. Modernists: these are the neo-liberals, the right wing libertarians, who celebrate the virtues of capitalism, and with Steven Pinker, believe the world is getting better due primarily to science, technology and capitalism – the more religious among them claiming that Christianity laid down the foundation for the virtues of strength, endeavor, honesty, etc by which modernity can thrive and flourish.
              3. The non-religious cultural creatives. This is roughly the “Green” of spiral dynamics though far more complex and, I think, accurate. They have spearheaded many of the progressive, social justice movements (now denigrated by the angry alt-right as SJWs).
              4. The spiritual cultural creatives. Much of this remains superficially new age, but here we find glimmers of Gebser’s (not spiral dynamics OR Sri Aurobindo’s integral) integral consciousness.

          • mikemackd says :

            Well, I’ll be darned! Thanks, Steve.

            Mumford again, this time from pp. 75-84 of the Pentagon of Power:

            Though the full personality is a necessary basis for creative activity in science as elsewhere, nothing except a radical transformation in the method and purpose of the scientist can overcome the persistent limitations that spring from its absence from the original mechanical world picture itself. Man cannot, even in theory, eviscerate his necessary organs and reduce the whole field of his activities to that which is observable and controllable without presenting a defective picture of both his own nature and the world he lives in.

            To dismiss the most central fact of man’s being because it is inner and subjective is to make the hugest subjective falsification possible – one that leaves out the really critical half of man’s nature. For without that underlying subjective flux, as experienced in floating imagery, dreams, bodily impulses, formative ideas, projections and symbols, the world that is open to human experience can be neither described nor rationally understood. When our age learns that lesson, it will have made the first move toward redeeming for though the full personality is a necessary basis for creative activity in science as elsewhere, nothing except a radical transformation in the method and purpose of the scientist can overcome the persistent limitations that spring from its absence from the original mechanical world picture itself. Man cannot, even in theory, eviscerate his necessary organs and reduce the whole field of his activities to that which is observable and controllable without presenting a defective picture of both his own nature and the world he lives in.

            To dismiss the most central fact of man’s being because it is inner and subjective is to make the hugest subjective falsification possible – one that leaves out the really critical half of man’s nature. For without that underlying subjective flux, as experienced in floating imagery, dreams, bodily impulses, formative ideas, projections and symbols, the world that is open to human experience can be neither described nor rationally understood. When our age learns that lesson, it will have made the first move toward redeeming for human use the mechanized and electrified wasteland that is now being bulldozed at man’s expense and to his permanent loss, for the benefit of the megamachine

            a meaningful world is one that holds a future that extends beyond the incomplete personal life of the individual

            But in addition more egoistic ambitions and utilitarian lures played a part from the beginning of the development of science, as earlier with magic; and these concerns come out even in the austere statements of Descartes. “I have perceived it to be possible,” he observed, “to arrive at knowledge highly useful in life; and instead of the speculative philosophy usually taught in the schools, to discover a practical [method] by means of which, knowing the force and action of fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us, as distinctly as we know the various crafts of our artisans, we might also apply them in the same way to all the uses to which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the lords and possessors of nature.

            The language of this last sentence is obviously not the language of the disinterested speculative scientist: it was attached rather to the social motives that from the sixteenth century on had begun to play an ever more active part in the whole development of Western civilization: in exploration and colonization, in military conquest and mechanical industry. To become “lords and possessors of nature” was the ambition that secretly united the conquistador, the merchant adventurer and banker, the industrialist, and the scientist, radically different though their vocations and their purposes might seem.

            Even at the beginning, science and technics played a part in furthering these extravagant ambitions and arrogant claims. Without the magnetic compass, astronomical observations, and cartography, the circumnavigation of the globe would have been long delayed, if not impossible. But from the nineteenth century on, science’s preoccupation with man’s one-sided mastery over nature took another turn: that of seeking artificial substitutes for every natural process, replacing organic products with manufactured ones, and eventually turning man himself into an obedient creature of the forces he had discovered or created. Ironically, the duplication of urea, an animal waste product, was the first great triumph of such research! But many other substitutes – fibers, plastics, pharmaceuticals – followed; some excellent in their own right, some merely producing larger profits for bigger organizations.

            Descartes favoured the kind of external control that could be achieved by a single mind [a baroque prince] detached from precedent, breaking with popular customs, all-powerful, acting alone, commanding unqualified obedience: in short, laying down the law.

            This destruction of organic complexity was the prime condition for effecting mechanization and total control in every department …. [the object was] to reduce to a whirlwind of decomposed atomic particles all the constituent elements of society and to leave a single polarizing element, the King or the State, the function of giving some sort of order and direction to the alienated and fragmented individuals that were left. The stripping away of the constituent groups that compose any real community — the family, the village, the farm, the workshop, the guild, the church — cleared the way for the uniformities and standardizations imposed by the machine. We can witness this process most clearly in the analysis of reality for which Descartes long was famous.

            Seeking to clear out of his mind all knowledge, true or false … Descartes forgot that before he uttered these words ‘I think’ … he needed the cooperation of countless fellow-beings, extending back to his own knowledge as far as the thousands of years that Biblical history recorded. Beyond that, we know now he needed the aid of an even remoter past that mankind too long remained ignorant of: the millions of years required to transform his dumb animal ancestors into conscious human beings.

            “I think, therefore I am” had meaning only because of this immense mass of buried history. Without that past, his momentary experience of thought would have been undescribable; indeed, inexpressible. Perhaps the greatest defect of all world pictures up to now is that the transformation of history, except in the cloudy form of myth, has played so little part in their conception of reality. In Jewish tradition almost alone is history regarded us a necessary and meaningful revelation of universal forces, or as theology would put it, God’s will.

            Descartes’ contemporary Gassendi saw the weaknesss of his position. “You will say,” he wrote Descartes, “I am mind alone. . . . But let us talk in earnest, and tell me frankly, do you not derive from the very sound you utter in so saying from the society in which you have lived? And, since the sounds you utter are derived from intercourse with other men, are not the meanings of sounds derived from the same source?”

            Beneath Descartes’ equation of thought with existence another idea was implicit which derived from the social style of the baroque period. Under a rational system of ideas, all minds would be forced to submit to scientific ‘laws’ as the subject of an absolute ruler to his edicts. Law in both instances, as William Ostwald was later to point out, established the realm of predictable behavior: this simplified choices and economized effort. Thus the ultimate aim of science, the proof of both its truth and its efficacy, would be to make all behavior as predictable as the movements of the heavenly bodies.

            To many scientists, even today, this is not only an unchallengeable axiom but a moral imperative. If scientific determinism operated everywhere, then human lives, too, might ultimately be brought under perfect control. This of course assumed, as in any absolute system of government, that there were no unruly elements that were not known to the police, or could not be rounded up and imprisoned indefinitely without further investigation.

            In rejecting the cumulative contributions of history, Descartes lost sight, then, of both the significance of nature and the nature of significance, and failed to understand their interdependence, since the mind that explores nature is itself a part of nature and exhibits otherwise hidden or inaccessible characteristics. Without this larger time-span to sustain it, life would shrink and shrivel into nothingness; and the ego would lack the very words needed to deny the mind’s existence or to curse its own impotence. It is in such a state, incidentally, that many of our contemporaries actually find themselves today, since they accept the momentary reports of their senses as final revelations — however hideous — of truth.

            What Descartes necessarily lacked the perspective to see was that his own interpretation of life as a purely mechanical phenomenon, comparable to the strictly regulated motions of an automaton, was not as transparently rational as it seemed to him and to many of his successors.

            Note, finally, the implications of Descartes’ mechanistic absolutism. For the sake of clarity and predictable order, Descartes was ready to set aside the most characteristic function of all organisms: the capacity to enregister and hoard experience and continuously to reinterpret present experience in relation to both remembered and prospective or imagined events: above all, to act for themselves without outside instruction or control in pursuance of their individual purposes or those of their species or group. For the same reason, Descartes was oblivious of all those complex symbiotic interactions that demand empathy, mutual aid, and sensitive accommodations, of which Aristotle could at least have given him homely illustrations.

            True to the principles of absolutism, Descartes preferred a predetermined design, laid down by a single mind, to fulfill a single end at a single point in time; and he thought that in matters of mind, as well as in government, the best communities “followed the appointments of some wise legislator.” He characterized as “restless and busy meddlers” reformers who sought to alter these appointments. No active organism, no historic group, no living community could without protest be successfully imprisoned in that Cartesian framework: Descartes was in fact writing out the specifications for a successful machine.

            In his conception of science’s method and role, then, Descartes openly followed the style of the Renascence despot; he preferred absolute government, with its Procrustean simplifications, to democratic government, with its divided powers, its tenacious traditions, its embarrassing historic contradictions, its confusion and compromises and obscurities. But the acceptance of the latter is in fact the necessary price for a method capable of embracing the complexities of life without leaving any function or purpose unrecognized, uncounted, or uncared for. By his penchant for political absolutism Descartes paved the way for the eventual militarization of both science and technics.

            Descartes did not perceive that the complex processes and singular events of history are no less important manifestations of nature than mass phenomena that are open to observation, experiment, and statistical description. As a result, mechanical order, with its clarity and predictability, became, in the mind of Descartes’ followers, the main criterion of reality and the source of all values except those that Descartes preferred to leave entirely in the care of the Church.

            • mikemackd says :

              Sorry for the lack of continuity and duplication in my pasting of the quotation above. It’s because the internet crashed halfway and I had to do it again and got it mixed up. But I think the main point survived.

            • Scott Preston says :

              That’s excellent, Steve. Very suggestive. Lots to follow up on in that conversation on Green Hermeticism, as well as suggestions for further reading.

            • mikemackd says :

              “The primacy of the in-between.” Love it, Steve.

            • mikemackd says :

              O.K., the time is right. As an apology for my Mumford-mangle, I have extended the quotes from my notes a little in both directions:

              QUOTE:

              p 74
              [O]ne axis extends horizontally through the world open to external observation, the so-called objective world, and the other axis, at right angles, passes vertically through the depths and heights of the subjective world; while reality itself can only be represented by a figure composed of an indefinite number of lines drawn through both planes and intersecting at the center, in the mind of the living person …

              … In denying the importance of subjective factors, that is, human propulsions, projections, and autonomous responses, the followers of Galileo unfortunately fended off any inquiry into their own subjectivity; and in rejecting values, purposes, and non-scientific meanings, fantasies, dreams, as irrelevant to their positivist methodology, they failed to recognize the part such subjectivity had played in creating their own system. What they had actually done was to eliminate every value and every purpose but one, the one they regarded as supreme: the pursuit of scientific truth. In this pursuit of truth, the scientist sanctified his own discipline and what was more dangerous placed it above any other obligations of morality. The consequences of this dedication have only begun to appear in our own age. Scientific truth achieved the status of an absolute, and the incessant pursuit and expansion of knowledge became the only recognized categorical imperative.

              p 75
              If the new science had begun with the observer himself, as an essential component in its own scheme, the insufficiency of his mechanical model and his de-natured and de-humanized universe would have been apparent – indeed, inescapable.

              pp 75-6
              Though the full personality is a necessary basis for creative activity in science as elsewhere, nothing except a radical transformation in the method and purpose of the scientist can overcome the persistent limitations that spring from its absence from the original mechanical world picture itself. Man cannot, even in theory, eviscerate his necessary organs and reduce the whole field of his activities to that which is observable and controllable without presenting a defective picture of both his own nature and the world he lives in.
              To dismiss the most central fact of man’s being because it is inner and subjective is to make the hugest subjective falsification possible – one that leaves out the really critical half of man’s nature. For without that underlying subjective flux, as experienced in floating imagery, dreams, bodily impulses, formative ideas, projections and symbols, the world that is open to human experience can be neither described nor rationally understood. When our age learns that lesson, it will have made the first move toward redeeming for human use the mechanized and electrified wasteland that is now being bulldozed at man’s expense and to his permanent loss, for the benefit of the megamachine …

              p 76
              a meaningful world is one that holds a future that extends beyond the incomplete personal life of the individual…

              p 78
              But in addition more egoistic ambitions and utilitarian lures played a part from the beginning of the development of science, as earlier with magic; and these concerns come out even in the austere statements of Descartes. “I have perceived it to be possible,” he observed, “to arrive at knowledge highly useful in life; and instead of the speculative philosophy usually taught in the schools, to discover a practical [method] by means of which, knowing the force and action of fire, water, air, the stars, the heavens, and all the other bodies that surround us, as distinctly as we know the various crafts of our artisans, we might also apply them in the same way to all the uses to which they are adapted, and thus render ourselves the lords and possessors of nature.”

              The language of this last sentence is obviously not the language of the disinterested speculative scientist: it was attached rather to the social motives that from the sixteenth century on had begun to play an ever more active part in the whole development of Western civilization: in exploration and colonization, in military conquest and mechanical industry. To become “lords and possessors of nature” was the ambition that secretly united the conquistador, the merchant adventurer and banker, the industrialist, and the scientist, radically different though their vocations and their purposes might seem.

              Even at the beginning, science and technics played a part in furthering these extravagant ambitions and arrogant claims. Without the magnetic compass, astronomical observations, and cartography, the circumnavigation of the globe would have been long delayed, if not impossible. But from the nineteenth century on, science’s preoccupation with man’s one-sided mastery over nature took another turn: that of seeking artificial substitutes for every natural process, replacing organic products with manufactured ones, and eventually turning man himself into an obedient creature of the forces he had discovered or created. Ironically, the duplication of urea, an animal waste product, was the first great triumph of such research! But many other substitutes – fibers, plastics, pharmaceuticals – followed; some excellent in their own right, some merely producing larger profits for bigger organizations.

              p 80
              Descartes favoured the kind of external control that could be achieved by a single mind [a baroque prince] detached from precedent, breaking with popular customs, all-powerful, acting alone, commanding unqualified obedience: in short, laying down the law.

              This destruction of organic complexity was the prime condition for effecting mechanization and total control in every department …. [the object was] … to reduce to a whirlwind of decomposed atomic particles all the constituent elements of society and to leave a single polarizing element, the King or the State, the function of giving some sort of order and direction to the alienated and fragmented individuals that were left. The stripping away of the constituent groups that compose any real community — the family, the village, the farm, the workshop, the guild, the church — cleared the way for the uniformities and standardizations imposed by the machine. We can witness this process most clearly in the analysis of reality for which Descartes long was famous.

              Seeking to clear out of his mind all knowledge, true or false … Descartes forgot that before he uttered these words ‘I think’ … he needed the cooperation of countless fellow-beings, extending back to his own knowledge as far as the thousands of years that Biblical history recorded. Beyond that, we know now he needed the aid of an even remoter past that mankind too long remained ignorant of: the millions of years required to transform his dumb animal ancestors into conscious human beings.

              “I think, therefore I am” had meaning only because of this immense mass of buried history. Without that past, his momentary experience of thought would have been undescribable; indeed, inexpressible. Perhaps the greatest defect of all world pictures up to now is that the transformation of history, except in the cloudy form of myth, has played so little part in their conception of reality. In Jewish tradition almost alone is history regarded us a necessary and meaningful revelation of universal forces, or as theology would put it, God’s will.

              p 82
              Descartes’ contemporary Gassendi saw the weakness of his position. “You will say,” he wrote Descartes, “I am mind alone. . . . But let us talk in earnest, and tell me frankly, do you not derive from the very sound you utter in so saying from the society in which you have lived? And, since the sounds you utter are derived from intercourse with other men, are not the meanings of sounds derived from the same source?”

              Beneath Descartes’ equation of thought with existence another idea was implicit which derived from the social style of the baroque period. Under a rational system of ideas, all minds would be forced to submit to scientific ‘laws’ as the subject of an absolute ruler to his edicts. Law in both instances, as William Ostwald was later to point out, established the realm of predictable behavior: this simplified choices and economized effort. Thus the ultimate aim of science, the proof of both its truth and its efficacy, would be to make all behavior as predictable as the movements of the heavenly bodies.

              To many scientists, even today, this is not only an unchallengeable axiom but a moral imperative. If scientific determinism operated everywhere, then human lives, too, might ultimately be brought under perfect control. This of course assumed, as in any absolute system of government, that there were no unruly elements that were not known to the police, or could not be rounded up and imprisoned indefinitely without further investigation.

              In rejecting the cumulative contributions of history, Descartes lost sight, then, of both the significance of nature and the nature of significance, and failed to understand their interdependence, since the mind that explores nature is itself a part of nature and exhibits otherwise hidden or inaccessible characteristics. Without this larger time-span to sustain it, life would shrink and shrivel into nothingness; and the ego would lack the very words needed to deny the mind’s existence or to curse its own impotence. It is in such a state, incidentally, that many of our contemporaries actually find themselves today, since they accept the momentary reports of their senses as final revelations — however hideous — of truth.

              p 83
              What Descartes necessarily lacked the perspective to see was that his own interpretation of life as a purely mechanical phenomenon, comparable to the strictly regulated motions of an automaton, was not as transparently rational as it seemed to him and to many of his successors.

              Note, finally, the implications of Descartes’ mechanistic absolutism. For the sake of clarity and predictable order, Descartes was ready to set aside the most characteristic function of all organisms: the capacity to enregister and hoard experience and continuously to reinterpret present experience in relation to both remembered and prospective or imagined events: above all, to act for themselves without outside instruction or control in pursuance of their individual purposes or those of their species or group. For the same reason, Descartes was oblivious of all those complex symbiotic interactions that demand empathy, mutual aid, and sensitive accommodations, of which Aristotle could at least have given him homely illustrations.

              True to the principles of absolutism, Descartes preferred a predeterminded design, laid down by a single mind, to fulfill a single end at a single point in time; and he thought that in matters of mind, as well as in government, the best communities “followed the appointments of some wise legislator.” He characterized as “restless and busy meddlers” reformers who sought to alter these appointments. No active organism, no historic group, no living community could without protest be successfully imprisoned in that Cartesian framework: Descartes was in fact writing out the specifications for a successful machine.

              In his conception of science’s method and role, then, Descartes openly followed the style of the Renascence despot; he preferred absolute govern-

              p 84
              ment, with its Procrustean simplifications, to democratic government, with its divided powers, its tenacious traditions, its embarrassing historic contradictions, its confusion and compromises and obscurities. But the acceptance of the latter is in fact the necessary price for a method capable of embracing the complexities of life without leaving any function or purpose unrecognized, uncounted, or uncared for. By his penchant for political absolutism Descartes paved the way for the eventual militarization of both science and technics.
              Descartes did not perceive that the complex processes and singular events of history are no less important manifestations of nature than mass phenomena that are open to observation, experiment, and statistical description. As a result, mechanical order, with its clarity and predictability, became, in the mind of Descartes’ followers, the main criterion of reality and the source of all values except those that Descartes preferred to leave entirely in the care of the Church.

              p 85
              the immense gulf between man-made machines, composed of separate mechanical parts, and organisms, in which no cell, tissue, or organ has any existence or continuity except as a dynamic member of a unified self-renewing whole, most of whose essential characteristics vanish as soon as life ceases.

              p 86
              [Descartes] still does not do justice to capacities that even many lower organisms possess…

              What Descartes did by equating organisms with machines was to make it possible to apply to organic behavior the quantitative method that was to serve so efficiently in describing ‘physical’ events. To know more about the behavior of a physical system one must isolate it, disorganize it, and separate out its measurable elements, down to the minutest particle – a necessary feat for understanding its operation. But to pass beyond the limits of a physical system into the realm of life, one must do just the opposite: assemble more and more parts into a pattern of organization that, as it approaches more closely to living phenomena reacting within a living environment, becomes so complex that it can only be reproduced and apprehended intuitively in the act of living, since, at least in man, it includes mind and the infra- and ultra-corporeal aspects of mind.

              p 87
              This was a pseudo-explanation for it undermines the very point he was trying to make.

              p 95
              From Descartes’ time on until the present century, to all but the most penetrating minds of science, a ‘mechanistic’ explanation of organic behavior was accepted as a sufficient one. And as machines became more lifelike, Western man taught himself to become in his daily behavior more machine-like.

              p 98
              On Descartes’ assumptions, the work of science, if not the destiny of life, was to widen the empire of the machine. Lesser minds seized on this error, enlarged it, and made it fashionable. And as so often happened before in the history of slavery, the obedient slave first made himself indispensable to his master, then defied him and dominated him, and finally supplanted him. But now it is the master, not the slave, who must, if he is to survive, devise a scheme to recover his freedom.

              UNQUOTE

              This last point was also made by McGilchrist about the Master and His Emissary. While McGilchrist refers to the Emissary as the brain’s left hemisphere, Mumford refers to the Emissary’s coup d’etat over the Master being born together with the Machine which, as Tweedy says Blake recognised, is when Lucifer became Satan, in the denying of any intrinsic values to any organisms other than the one in the mirror.

  2. donsalmon says :

    Having kept a careful eye out for every book on music that touches on the esoteric or sacred, I remember (back when I was still a full time musician) when Berendt’s “The World is Sound” came out, and I recall the surprise I felt seeing the Gebser reference. Good stuff!

    I haven’t seen anything as insightful on music in years. I wonder if anyone is writing such stuff.

    • donsalmon says :

      Forgot to mention – you’re getting more poetic, Scott. You should consider writing some comments for the New York Times. You may have to register, but it’s free. There are some VERY good commenters, particularly some of the regulars (drop by the op-ed page – Socrates and Gemli often have very fine postings; Richard Luettgen is a conservative Trump supporter who seems to derive an almost sadistic satisfaction from driving the liberal Times commenters crazy – he also is a wonderful illustration of so many of the points about the deficient mode of mental consciousness that you talk about so much. Matthew Carmicelli is one of the few who openly brings up spiritual views; he would love to hear some of your comments. With 3 million subscribers and some 60 million readers around the world, it’s a place for quite a few folk to hear you, and it would be ENORMOUSLY beneficial for them to hear such a different (non)perspective!

      • davidm58 says :

        Gosh, I can’t imagine trying to keep up with and participating in any of those comment communities that have hundreds or thousands of comments and commenters. Tough enough to find the time to participate here.

        Regarding music, I was turned on last year to the book ‘Music and the Power of Sound: The Influence of Tuning and Interval on Consciousness” (1943, revised 1995) by Alain Danielou, who was more famous for his translation of the Karma Sutra. This book is a little more technical than Berendt’s.

        W.A. Mathieu has a nice, easy to read, and very practical book called “The Listening Book.”

      • Scott Preston says :

        Bin dere, dun dat. Well, not the NYT specifically, but I was once very active in the Guardian’s “Comment is Free” (CIF) forum. That was enough for me! Although I was honoured to be nominated as best commenter on CIF by a few folks, it was a pit bull pen. After a while, I just couldn’t be bothered with it.

        My most memorable adventure on CiF was taking on the English professor A.C. Grayling (I don’t know if it had anything to do with me but he doesn’t publish there any more). He often published militant atheist stuff along with Hitchens and Dawkins, and I’m sure they worked together on that. Anyway, he considered me a bugbear. But I have to give him credit for actually reading “below the line” — the comments on his writing, even if I annoyed him by exposing the flaws in his assumptions.

        Ah, those were the days! (And I’m glad they are over with too).

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Yes our ears are our windows to divine knowledge, our eyes are our windows to the sensual worlds ,once we close our ears we fall in the sensual world that is narcissism. Meditation in sound is our tool to open the door to the music of the divine realm. No wonder the koran more that 14 centuries ago emphasizes the vibratory sound of aleef laam meem as the tool of our epistemological drawing of knowledge from the divine realm. Our cosmos is built on musical harmony once that harmony is violated it will open the showers of disturbances on the world. No wonder Herman Hesse said that the music of a harmonious epoch leads to social calm and moderate governance while agitated music leads to social disorder and immoderate governance Inate Khan said the dis-harmonious human music leads to the agitation of natural disturbances and social unrest. The truth of these statements can be felt from what is going in, on both the human sphere and the nature sphere. I like to say here that I reformulate the sayings of these wise humans and not quote them verbatim in order to own their sayings as part of my process of transformaton and not keep them separate from me as Iw said in one of her comment ,I say it not because you said it. This is one important way to depart from this cut and paste culture the culture of conformity that is killing the individual creative faculty. This is exactly the call of Scott to leave the narcissistic boxes in order to be able to enter the divine global opening to what is real. The humans mouth is the best tuning instrument, the source of all musical instruments the tool that is designed to improvise all different intonations. Max Planck said, matter implied a bundle of energy which is given form by intelligent spirit. Of course he is speaking of the sounds strings that move in forms in accordance with the dictate of the spiritual sound intonations. It is a question of awareness to the connection of the human intonation and bringinning them in harmony with divine harmonious sound that fill the cosmos including the human who is no more than an instrument of intelligent meaningful sounds or meaningless sound and the choice is left to the humans. It is certainly not an easy freedom that is why it is said that earth is a human battleground. Listen to the harmonious sound of the standing rock people amidst the disharmonious sound of greed and blind power.

    • mikemackd says :

      Abdulmonem, I continue to quote Mumford because Scott asked me to continue after I suggested I stop, because I like to give credit where it’s due, and because Mumford’s work requires little rephrasing. Rest assured that, unless I say to the contrary, I have fully internalised what I quote here, and recourse to it from my own understandings of the discussion, not Mumford’s.

      As for creative faculty: it is not anyone’s, it is through some. As the Green Hermeticism paper quoted by Steve below said, “Self-expression is really a form of egotism”.

      However, Scott may well consider that I have responded sufficiently to his request by now, so if you want me to, and Scott is happy, I will stop cutting and pasting Mumford.

      Just say the word, and it shall be done.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Nosiree. The quotes you’ve provided from Mumford have been fascinating. Keep them coming, because they are so appropriate and fit in so well with the Chrysalis. I love reading these quotes from Mumford, and eventually I’ll tackle his tomes myself.

        • mikemackd says :

          Thank you, Scott and Abdulmonem. I shall continue. And, when this string is no longer as active, I shall repost the mangled Mumford quote in its proper form.

          Speaking of creativity, about an hour ago I came across a Mumford essay dating from 1934 in a 2006 book called “Rethinking Technology”, which someone has put online at: http://197.14.51.10:81/pmb/ARCHITECTURE/Rethinking%20Technology.pdf

          On p. 56, Mumford writes:

          “All our really primary data are social and vital. One begins with life; and one knows life, not as a fact in the raw, but only as one is conscious of human society and uses the tools and instruments society has developed through history—words, symbols, grammar, logic, in short, the whole technique of communication and funded experience. The most abstract knowledge, the most impersonal method, is a derivative of this world of socially ordered values. And instead of accepting the Victorian myth of a struggle for existence in a blind and meaningless universe, one must, with Professor Lawrence Henderson, replace this with the picture of a partnership in mutual aid, in which the physical structure of matter itself, and the very distribution of elements on the earth’s crust, their quantity, their solubility, their specific gravity, their distribution and chemical combination, are life-furthering and life-sustaining. Even the most rigorous scientific description of the physical basis of life indicates it to be internally teleological.”

          So he pointed out the internal telos of living creatures I referred to over 70 years ago. Yet it still seems to be ignored by the custodians of the myths of the machine.

          What is also interesting about this quote is its date compared to the first articulations of Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis and the Anthropic Principle.

      • abdulmonem says :

        I am very happy with your quotations from my respected Mumford ,the cut and paste has nothing to do with any important quotations derived from such wise writer as Mumford. Please keep the good work. As Alfonso Monlunio said that creative work is the work that helps the researcher to find himself first while contributing some original work to the field of his research. I like his distinction between the authoritarian personality that its main emphasis is on conformity and the creative personality that emphasizes the independent soul. I like to thank Dave for introducing him to the group.

  4. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Finally! Beautiful. Thank you.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you Mike for remind me of Mahler, more than four decades ago, while I was a student at Usc I was sitting in a relaxing chair alone in my apartment listening to Mahler symphony no 6 which I know nothing of its background and suddenly I felt my soul to leave to its abode a moment of fear mixed with ecstasy that pushs me back to my ordinary consciousness only to find that its theme is about transcendence. Memory is our best tool to transcend once we know that there is a pulling force that is looking for our transcendence .

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