The Self-Immolation of the Modern Mind

“The point of modern propaganda isn’t only to misinform or push an agenda. It is to exhaust your critical thinking, to annihilate truth.”Gary Kasparov

I cribbed that quote by Gary Kasparov from Xraymike’s blog The Collapse of Industrial Civilization, from a recent post entitled “The Trumpocene: Darkness Gathers”. It is true that this short-circuiting of reason is the aim of propaganda. But in broader terms, what we are witnessing in the absurdities of the present period of history, which we find so “surreal” with its self-negating and self-devouring logic we call “chaos”, is better described as the self-immolation of the Modern Mind.

I know we all feel a certain sense of anguish about this. We would like to intercede and intervene in this process of self-immolation and attenuate that process before it completes its logic in total self-annihilation, which seems to be where we are headed presently. Spaceship Earth appears to be falling apart at the seams, which is the echo in physical terms of the disintegration of modern man’s consciousness structure.

The self-immolation of the Modern Mind is, I’ve decided, the best summary phrase to describe what’s happening. There is a biological counterpart to this thanatic process, as mentioned in earlier posts, and that is the phenomenon of cellular apoptosis. The process relates also to the chrysalis stage of the caterpillar as it transitions into the butterfly — appropriately, the ancient symbol of the psyche or soul.

It is, of course, the contention of this blog that this same process recurs in the history of the rise and fall of civilisations as structures of consciousness, as the meaning of what we call “chaotic transition”. What we call “nihilism” has its correspondence in the phenomenon of cellular apoptosis, or “programmed cell death”, which also, paradoxically, ultimately serves the purposes of life. It is in this process of the cellular apoptosis of the caterpillar, and the emergence of “imaginal cells” that will ultimately produce the butterfly (or moth) that we find the most appropriate metaphor for today’s nihilism and mental meltdown as chaotic transition. As ghoulish and gruesome as it might seem — like something from Invasion of the Body Snatchers — nothing can be done, for it would be unwise to intervene to try to attenuate this process, for it belongs to Shiva’s eternal dance of “creative destruction”.

We appear to be in the grip of forces of life and death over which we have no control whatsoever — a coincidence of erotic (eros or life) and thanatic (thanatos or death) forces. That brings with it a sense of anxiety, even paranoia, with the thanatic power in the evident ascendancy, which we call “nihilism” or “chaos”. The only thing we can do in this condition is become aware of what is happening to us, for in this awareness itself we assume the role of the “imaginal cells” that prefigure the butterfly. If the imaginal cells fail to develop properly — no butterfly. That’s the high-stakes risk of the present self-immolation of the Modern Mind that is being described as the “new normal” of “post-rational”, “post-truth” or even “post-human” society. This “new normal” (or Adam Curtis’s description of “hypernormalisation”) corresponds to that stage in the chrysalis where the caterpillar’s cells turn to “goop” — the primal soup.

And what is this process of cellular apoptosis but the saying from John 12:24: “Truly, truly, I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a seed; but if it dies, it bears much fruit”. It’s also the parable of the “faith of a grain of mustard seed”. That chrysalis stage and transfiguration is also the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection, the same process undergone by Jill Bolte-Taylor in her description of her “stroke of insight”. Her’s was the same process that the caterpillar undergoes in the chrysalis stage, you may note.

There is, then, in this present self-immolation of the modern mind the potential for the rebirth of the “soul”, and that these horrid things we describe as “post-rational”, “post-truth” and even “post-human” simply represent also an incipient restructuration of what we understand by reason, truth, and even “human nature”, with attendant new understanding, and reorganisation, of matters like “society” and “history” as well.

What the chrysalis stage teaches is that life is present and active even in death, and that the death of the caterpillar is also a necessary preparation for new life. “What is now prov’d was once only imagined” is how Blake describes the creative work of the “imaginal cells”. This is also the process that the cultural philosopher Jean Gebser calls “the double-movement” of our times.

And, as the great Sufi Rumi put it, “the cure for the disease is in the disease”, and that describes the chrysalis stage very well, doesn’t it? So, as horrific and terrible this self-immolation of the Modern Mind strikes us at present, the chrysalis stage offers us a very good parallel to understanding — that the death and dissolution of the caterpillar is the fateful and necessary precondition for the life of the imaginal cells that build the bridge to the butterfly. And what is that, also, but the pattern of Nietzsche-Zarathustra’s “Last Man” and those who build bridges to the transhuman, or to Aurobindo’s “supramental consciousness” or Gebser’s “integral consciousness”?

Of course, our “post-human future” may turn out to be quite inhuman, rather than suprahuman. Any “new renaissance” to be worthy of the name must be a rebirth of the soul — Gebser’s “the Itself”, the holistic “self”, and not a “genuine imitation” that is usually presented as an ideal by the notion of the “post-human” or “transhuman”. Too many so-called “Nietzscheans” seem to have overlooked the fact that the Nietzschean “self” is not the ego-nature but the “soul” — the “Dionysian soul” that is fully the same as Bolte-Taylor’s “Life Force Power of the Universe”, and that Nietzsche’s “overman”, as the “meaning of the Earth,” is the resuscitation of the soul, as a kind of Phoenix rising from the ashes of his “two centuries of nihilism”.

(By the way — although this isn’t the place to go into it too much — Nietzsche was somewhat in error about that which he called “soul” as that in us which “does ‘I am'” rather than that in us which merely “says ‘I am'”. That which “does I am” — as the Nietzschean “self” — is the psyche or psychic body (or libido), or called “inner ego” as contrasted with the “outer ego” (corresponding to the Jungian “Self” and “Ego” distinction). This “inner ego” also makes an appearance in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s experience of her own meltdown as a transitional stage to her awakening to “soul” proper. If you pay attention, you’ll observe it as that “inner voice” she experienced which attempted to regulate her body movements, and it’s the “blueprint” for the physical body for that reason. The “soul” itself — Gebser’s “Itself” — encompasses both the inner and outer portions. It’s this vaster awareness that is meant in the Buddhist doctrine of anatman — No-Self or No-Mind or No-Soul and which Bolte-Taylor discovered as the “Life Force Power of the Universe” with which she was identical.  Harold Percival, in his book Thinking and Destiny, describes this tripartite character of the soul in terms of three “portions” — the Thinker portion, the Doer portion, and the Knower portion.  The middle term — the Doer portion — is the “inner ego”, and is the Nietzschean “self” or “soul”, but which is really the psychic body — that which “does “I am”” rather than that which “says “I am””. So, Nietzsche’s distinction between Dionysian consciousness and Apollonian consciousness, while true as far as it goes, is a somewhat incomplete realisation. This tripartite structure is what is reflected in the Christian Trinity, in the Vedic Trimurti (of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva), and in the name Hermes Trismegistus (the “Thrice-Great”) — the mythical founder of Hermeticism. The “priest, philosopher, and king” that are usually taken to mean the “thrice great” are just symbolic representations of the tripartite aspects of the soul. The inner ego, or psychic body, is what Harold Saxton Burr attempted to map and describe in his experiments as recorded in his book The Fields of Life).



6 responses to “The Self-Immolation of the Modern Mind”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    It seems self-sacrifice is an innate quality of the human psyche, both in its physical or non-physical aspects, either, it is sacrificed for moloch the false god like our modern humans who are sacrificing their selves fof moloch the money god or they do it for the true god which is a rare events in human history but it did happen which summits the human accomplishment in its glorified content. I sometime wonder why he is keeping it for the few. In the physical realm it happens to preserve the species, that is why there are so many seeds some die and some grow. Spiritual lag is a dangerous phenomenon that pushes the mental monkey to jump sometime widely and blindly dislocating the proper path of the human movement. We have always to remember as Jane Roberts keeps saying that there are other ways to receive knowledge than those we conventionally employ like the knowledge of Jill Bolte Taylor whch you always keep referring to. Spiritual joy lives with creativity and it dies with the ritualism of constant un-creative repetition.Life is a process of continual change but alas some people ideas never change. It is time to seek new formulation of the one the energy behind all negative and positive energies including the humans , the onlly creatures whose destiny is not determined and it is left to him/her to formulate it, either with the true god or the false god. Of course it is a wide difference between heart touching and hand touching, let us make our kiss a real kiss to the only one that deserves it and do not let moloch worshipers bother the beauty of our world which the moloch worshipers have mocked,only to receive the world mockery in return.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I know I harp on this issue quite a bit. But that’s because I’m still working out for myself the dynamics of all this. There always seems to be some new aspect or feature to the whole thing that keeps me coming back to it. Not many people in history are privileged — if that’s the right term here — to be alive to witness the disintegration of a consciousness structure.

  3. mikemackd says :

    And the valuer of values?

  4. davidm58 says :

    Very interesting post in a number of ways. At the moment, I’m particularly stuck by the last paragraph, and Nietzche’s concept of the inner ego as “that which does I am.” I would guess this also relates to his concept of “will to power.”

    One of the reasons this is interesting to me is that over the last 3 weeks John Michael Greer has begun a series on philosophy. In the first post he discussed Kant, and in the 2nd week he wrote about Schopenhauer as the only satisfactory answer to Kant’s critiques, with the concept of Representation and Will. This week’s post is more on Schopenhauer, attempting to demonstrate that the Will/Representation framework is a more satisfying way to deal with dualisms, such as the mind/body problem.

    Schopenhauer was a big influence on Nietzche, and there may be a connection here. “That which does I am” might be somewhat equivalent to Schopenhauer’s concept of “will.” Add what Gebser has said about will and power in relation to the magic structure of consciousness (more below), and we can see the foundational importance of this “will.”

    I’m not yet ready to impute to Schopenhauer the level of importance that Greer is giving him, but it is an interesting discussion, and it relates as well to how we conceive of psyche, soul, spirit, etc., which Greer also discusses. It may be that Greer’s worldview connects dots between Schopenhauer, Druidism, and the Magic structure of consciousness.

    Gebser’s discussion about humankind’s “tragic drive for power” discloses another double-movement at work. On page 51 of EPO he states that this will-power drive is what allowed consciousness to emerge and to mutate, as an escape from the “binding force of his merger with nature.” Gebser writes:

    “…this urge to freedom and the constant need to be against something resulting from it (because only this ‘being against’ creates separation, and with it, possibilities of consciousness) may be the answering reaction of man, set adrift on earth, to the power of the earth. It may be curse, blessing, or mission. In any case, it may mean : whoever wishes to prevail over the earth must liberate himself from its power…

    “In the final analysis, our machines and technology, even our present-day power politics, arise from these magic roots: Nature, the surrounding world, other human beings must be ruled so that man is not ruled by them. This fear that man is compelled to rule the outside world – so as not to be ruled by it – is symptomatic of our times. Every individual who fails to realize that he must rule himself falls victim to that drive.”

    John Michael Greer’s last three posts:
    1. The World as Representation

    2. The World as Will

    3. A Muddle of Mind and Matter

  5. abdulmonem says :

    What I found missing in mr Greer analysis of the thing in it self and its representation scenario is the absence of other two basic existences that is of language in both its spoken existence and written existence which are the basic bridges between thing in itself and its representation. Ibn Arabi more than 800 years talked about the four existence of things, except, the one behind the scene, that of the mental existence,the in it self existence the spoken existence and the written existence. Let us take the example of the cup in its four different existences ,,the words cup in its sound existence and it written existence then its symbolic mental existence which covers all type of cups material wise color wise and shape wise and the specific in-it-self outside. Who made this arrangement to make it possible for the human to comprehend and communicate his comprehension to others and gave him the tool of language to express what fall n his consciousness. who gave him consciousness and the will to choice. Life is built on the paradoxical principle of attachment and detachment the move to source the ever present origin or move away from the source and this is the story of humanity ever since the beginning however we are lucky to live in a time of wider knowledge and larger exposure but alas with less wisdom and far greater inclination to denial and falsification and harsher future. They say truth unites and lies divides and our humanity fragmentation and division and the spread of refusing each other is indicative of the lies and falsification our humanity is living under. Al-Gazalli said we searched for knowledge away from god only to find ourselves returning back to god. What I see is that the statement of Al-Gazalli is being reenacted in the march of all different types of studies basically among them the interdisciplinay studies. I remember Dave your patterndynamic meditation and your search for expansion of consciousness to climb the ladder to the source of consciousness. Every one has his unique path to the source and how far can go up will depend on his preparation and devotion and the knowing source who also has a say in where to meet the seeker.

    • davidm58 says :

      Thank you for the reply Abdulmonem. I like that you brought in written and spoken language as the bridge between the thing in itself and the representation. I agree with the emphasis on this important role of language. What Bernard Meland referred to as “Fallible Forms and Symbols,” and what C.S. Peirce called Semiotics.

      Thanks also for remembering my PatternDynamics meditation. I will keep this thought in mind: “Every one has his unique path to the source and how far can go up will depend on his preparation and devotion and the knowing source who also has a say in where to meet the seeker.”

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