The Planetary Mind and the Global Soul

“Global Brain” or “Planetary Mind”. There is a precedent for the World Wide Web — the network of Roman roads that enabled Rome to extend its empire. Rome and its network of world straddling roads were the “global brain” of its day. As was said then and now, “all roads lead to Rome” for that network of roads was the global nervous system of its day.

Along the Roman roads and channels marched not just Rome’s armies of conquest, but traders and dealers in goods (and bads) and ideas. These same roads built to extend empire were followed by the Northern barbarian tribes — the Vandals, the Goths, and Visigoths — to invade and sack Rome. And these same Roman roads were followed by Christian missionaries to spread the gospel and to convert the northern tribes to Christianity (a process that wasn’t actually accomplished until around the 14th century, ironically at the same time “Christendom” then began to fall apart. The last pagans to be converted were in the area now referred to as the Baltic states of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. This coincidence of success and failure — a Cadmean Victory of sorts — is highly significant, being somewhat the “end of history” in its day).

What traversed this network was then not just physical things but also information in the form of genes, ideas, and stories, or what we might today call “memes”. The roads themselves were rather indifferent to what traversed their length — genes and memes, information, misinformation, disinformation, facts or fictions, or new diseases. The Roman roads were the information “superhighway” of their day.

There was a pattern to it, though. As a result of the network of Roman roads, what penetrated the more mythopoeic consciousness of the Northern European tribes was Roman ideas of politics, law, administration and engineering, Greek philosophy, and Judeo-Christian religion. The political, the philosophical, and the prophetic intersected with the tribal mythopoetic. So, what we call “the Dark Ages” (and they were quite dark) can also be seen as an incubation period (or chrysalis stage) that prepared the foundations for modern consciousness, which, as Rosenstock-Huessy pointed out, is the result of these four influences or influxes — four representative types: The Poet, the Philosopher, the Politician, and the Prophet. And from this convergence arose the familiar institutions of the modern age — the Arts and Sciences, and State and Church.

These four were, in effect, modernity’s “Guardians of the Four Directions” and are the objective forms and representations of William Blake’s “four Zoas”, which is implicated, essentially, in the conclusion to his manifesto “There  is No Natural Religion

If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.
As previously noted, and as explored by Rosenstock-Huessy in his book Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man, the four revolutions of the modern age — the German or Lutheran, the English Glorious Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution — were specialisations in one of these four orientations or representatives of the four directions. Luther and the Prophetic, Cromwell and the Poetic (Milton, not Cromwell, is the voice of the Glorious Revolution), Robespierre and the Philosophic, and Lenin and the Scientific (ie “scientific socialism”).
We have in these three instances — Roman Empire, Christendom, and Age of Reason — a peculiar pattern. At the very height of their success — the pax romana, the Christianisation of Europe, the “universal civilisation of commerce” in the “global brain” — enantiodromia takes over, or “reversal at the extremity”. Each believed it had reached “the end of history” in its time, and at the very height of its success it began to decay and disintegrate.
What inherited “the keys to the kingdom” in each instance, as it were, in the wake was not the opposition party, but a hitherto marginalised group. The adversaries pretty much exhausted each other, and the opposition party was tightly bound to the fate of its enemy because they defined themselves and their identity through the enemy. So, it was not the Northern European tribes that inherited the pax romana, it was the Christians. And it wasn’t the Protestant heretics who actually inherited the keys to Christendom, it was the Renaissance humanists and secular “Free Thinkers”. One may take from this, also, that it will not be the authoritarian nationalists — our contemporary barbarians — who will inherit the keys to the kingdom from the disintegration of the “universal civilisation of commerce” or globalisation. In all likelihood — and this seems inevitable — it will be “ecologists” of all sorts, holistic thinkers, who are not “Main Street”. By “ecological” or “holistic” thinking I mean those who can handle multiplicity, pluralism, complexity, the seemingly chaotic and paradoxical with relative confidence and ease. A human being is such an ecology in his or her own right, and the only question is whether that ecology has integrity or no integrity.
Pax Romana, Pax Christi and the “Universal Church”, and now the “peace” of globalism as “the universal civilization of commerce” all failed at the very time they thought of themselves as “the final form of society”. Each left a legacy foundation, however, that later generations built upon, clearly transformed to serve other purposes, and likewise the “Global Brain” that makes for the “universal civilisation of commerce” will be transformed into the integral consciousness and a true planetary civilisation. Rome and its peace of “Universal Empire”, Christendom and its peace of the “Universal Church”, and Modernity and its peace of “Universal Reason” as a largely technocratic “universal civilisation of commerce” will be superseded by “Universal Humanity”.
What Gebser said about individualism and collectivism — that neither could prevail in the long or short term — is equally true of nationalism and globalisation, or the particularistic and the general. Their fates are bound to one another, and it’s a case of caught together, hanged together, and both will end up as dead branches on the tree of life. The “Global Brain” of “Universal Reason” will eventually be transformed into “the Global Soul” of “Universal Humanity” — and that’s the real meaning of “globalism”.
There is, then, a progression through Universal Empire, Universal Church, Universal Reason, and now Universal History or Universal Humanity. They are the same, since the Universal Humanity is all that has gone “before” with the present — in Gebser’s terms, those things that constitute us as our autobiography in terms of the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental structures of consciousness, restored as an ecology of mind, as it were, called “integral consciousness”.

6 responses to “The Planetary Mind and the Global Soul”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Rudolf Steiner gets a mention in today’s Guardian, I noticed, regarding the growth of biodynamic agriculture in the US

    Still small scale by world standards. Last I read, Australia had abot 1 million acres under biodynamic cultivation. (Some people consider biodynamics to be little more than witchcraft)

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Republican Senator Ben Sasse spoke a great line in connection with the mayhem around the Trump administration: “a civilization-warping crisis of public trust”.

    Of course, “civilization-warping” is what the New Normal of Post-Everything is all about anyway, and this has been going on for some time now. It’s not being caused by Trump. But I tinink “civilisation-warping” is a great way to describe “hypernormalisation” too.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    It is really a strange synochronistic incident that I was listening last night to Bassam Jarrar a palestinian speaking about how civilization recedes to its center to die. It makes the narration of the post that the road to construction is the road to destruction very plausible and very clear, it is a move from the center to the periphery and a counter move from the periphery to the center,the first of birth and the second of death. It is the same cycle that never stopped in its operation over the ages. Who put that cycle in operation and who pushes the humans to turn back to the understanding of the cycle as we see in the call for biodynamic agriculture. It is a move of trust to the cycle encountering the warping of trust that is distrust whose tree is growing fast in our civilization. I was thinking of entanglement wondering if not, that an expression of it across all kinds of boundaries. Thank you Scott for keeping us alert to what is going around in its proper planetary context.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I was thinking of entanglement wondering if not, that an expression of it across all kinds of boundaries.

      Yes. That’s “Indra’s Net”, and I was just reading something about that in Harold Bloom’s book The Global Brain which is a kind of thought-experiment applying complex adaptive systems theory to the interpretation of history, but also considers the global brain as an “interspecies collective mind” (which, I can’t really tell is much different from Jung’s “collective unconscious”, meaning at some “level” there are no boundaries).

  4. davidm58 says :

    I like this more hopeful scenario. May it be so.

    Edgar Morin talks about planetary civilization in his book “Homeland Earth.” He says…

    “As we have seen, planetary union is the minimum rational requirement for a shrinking and interdependent world. Yet this possible union seems impossible with the necessity of so many transformations in mental, social, economic, and national structures.

    Thus the possible is impossible. We live in an impossible world where it is impossible to achieve the possible solution.

    Yet, the possible/impossible is realistic, in the sense that the word realism signifies that it corresponds to real possibilities in the economy, agriculture, technology, science, and so on. Yet it is this planetary realism that, at present, is utopian!

    …No amount of good wishes and projects will suffice. It would tak so many simultaneous and convergent reforms that it hardly seems possible, given the enormity of contrary forces.

    …It would take fantastic human progress to resolve the most elementary problems. Admit that the situation is logically hopeless: the more change becomes necessary, the more multidimensional and radical it becomes; the more multidimensional and radical, the more our mental, social, and economic systems make it impossible.

    Yet if the situation is logically hopeless, this indicates that we have arrived at a logical threshold at which the need for change and the thrust toward complexification can allow for the transformations that could bring metasystems into being. It is when a situation is logically impossible that novelty and creativity, which always transcend logic, can arise. Thus, it is when the chemical organization of groups of millions of molecules became impossible that a living auto-eco-organization first appeared.”

    – Edgar Morin, Homeland Earth, p. 106-108

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