From The Clockwork Universe to The Global Brain

When, today, we speak of “paradigm shift”, or of “post-modernity”, or of “future shock” and such matters as make for what we are calling “chaotic transition”, much of what is implicated in that is the shift from the idea of the “Clockwork Universe” (or the Newtonian-Cartesian worldview) to Howard Bloom’s “The Global Brain”. A great deal is implicated in this shift, or restructuration, from Clockwork Universe to Global Brain, but this might be the easiest way to represent the meanings of “modernity” and “post-modernity”.

The Modern Theme was the idea that we lived inside a clockwork universe (generally described as “system”) and that clockwork theme was the basis for the re-ordering of society accordingly. At the heart of the Mechanical Philosophy is the persistent idea, whether made explicit or not, of the cosmos as a clockwork, and of God even as the Grand Clockmaker. Consciousness, too, was restructured and modeled in the image of the clockwork, and much of what we call “rational” is the idea of thinking like clockwork. The Great Cosmic Clockwork was that in which we lived, moved, and had our being. The ruling myth of modernity, then, was that thinking and social organisation should conform to the Clockwork.

This notion of the cosmos as Clockwork takes nothing away from Jean Gebser’s interpretation of the influence of Renaissance “perspectivism” on the restructuration of consciousness into the “mental-rational consciousness structure”. The Clockwork Universe metaphor is an essential adjunct to perspectivisation — the rationalisation and systematisation — of spatial relations. Needless to say, peoples who do not know a clockwork have very, very different understandings of time and space, revealing that a structure of consciousness is very also an interpretation of, and a structure of, times and spaces. So, in effect, when we speak of a “restructuration of consciousness” there is also a corresponding and related restructuration of the social understanding and organisation of space and time.

This is not the place to go into the manifold ways in which the metaphor of the Clockwork Universe became the blueprint for the modern consciousness and its organisation of society. Many commentaries and social histories have been published lately exploring how this “meme” of the Clockwork Universe came to dominate consciousness and thinking and became the “common sense” view of reality and the very understanding of what was “rational”. These histories are very worthwhile to study because they demonstrate how the modern mind, with its particular sensibility, originated. And to a very great extent, the post-modern “End of the Grand Narrative” is related to the displacement of modernity’s Clockwork Universe theme and the onset of “the Global Brain”. The Clockwork metaphor no longer works effectively, and this is resulting in a lot of mayhem for the mental-rational consciousness structure, because the times, literally, are achangin’. The “common sense” view of reality is no longer so “common sense”.

The Global Brain is, indeed, the new metaphor — the thick and dense global network or web of information, data, and trade flows. We no longer live, move, and have our being inside the Clockwork, but now inside this “Global Brain”, and that brings with it huge challenges for our received logic, common sense, and, indeed our structure of consciousness along with questions about what is “real”, what is “reason”, what is “truth”, and even of the nature of human nature. And this shift from Clockwork to Global Brain is very much implicated in the fuller understanding of the meaning of “the Anthropocene”.

This Global Brain is our new “within”, and for that reason it is resulting in tremendous confusion about what is “real”, what is subjective or objective, or what is dream or reality, and so on. It’s not surprising that you have these two parallel and related aforementioned develops, then, in Rolf Jensen’s “The Dream Society” and Howard Bloom’s The Global Brain. And it’s in this sense, too, that the post-modern “loss of self” (and identity crisis, therefore) is also connected with the Anthropocene as the twin developments of Global Brain and Dream Society, and the displacement of the Clockwork Universe (ergo, the Mechanical Philosophy also). In fact, what is called “zombie logic” is the self-defeating failure to let go of already obsolete paradigms or “truths”.

This shift from Clockwork Universe (Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill” in one sense) to the Global Brain /Dream Society should be of tremendous interest to students of Jean Gebser and his cultural philosophy of mutations of consciousness structures. It also accounts, I believe, for the resurgence of interest in the works of William Blake who correctly foresaw the consequences of the objectification of the human brain in terms of the final conflict of the “four Zoas” of the divided brain. Blake was considered a lunatic as long as the Clockwork Universe prevailed (which Blake knew to be false logic). Many people now are realising that Blake provides a map — his “Golden thread” — for how to navigate in the era of the Global Brain and the inevitable conflict he foresaw of the “four Zoas” of the divided human brain.

I want to suggest here, by way of facilitating understanding of the Anthropocene, that there are three aspects to this: The Global Brain (which might be compared to the hardware), the Dream Society (which might be compared to the software or interface) and the “code” that mediates between the two — “marketing 3.0” as I discussed that in earlier posts, and otherwise called “spiritual branding”, “holistic branding”, “spiritual marketing”, “archetypal branding” and so on. This tertium or tripartite dynamic of Global Brain – — Spiritual Branding — Dream Society comprises, I believe, the fuller meaning of the “Anthropocene” as the new “within”. Of course, what it omits and excludes is “Nature”.

Now, of course, “dream” as used by marketers and branders is used in a very constrained and misleading sense — as fantasy or wish-fulfillment or instant gratification, little more than what we mean by “day dream”. But, as I’m sure you know, a lot more is involved in dreaming than fantasy, and you very seldom have conscious control over your real dreaming which follows a logic of its own. These more unconscious, or even repressed, factors — which have the character of the archaic, the magical, and the mythical — are also implicit in the Global Brain and are just as likely to manifest as its “dreaming” as mere conscious wish or will, and these latent or unconscious factors are implicated in the things like unintended consequence, perverse outcome, revenge effect, ironic reversal, reversal of fortune, and so on. They are implicated when we say, for example, “be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it”, or “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. You know from your own experience, and your own dreaming, that there is a logic that overrules your waking ego’s logic and rationality and will. And these factors are just as likely to be objectified along with the “global brain”. And, in fact, they are being objectified as the uncontrollable and irrational aspects of the Global Brain, in the “deficient” forms of the magical and mythical, as anticipated by Gebser. And all this is very much implicated, also, in what was perhaps the main theme of the twentieth century — the “return of the repressed”.

So, what Algis Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism” in his essay on “Magic and Technological Culture” — and which describes also “archetypal branding” or “marketing 3.0” — is the attempt to manage this return of the repressed. This is the hubris also involved in Rolf Jensen’s “post-rational” “Dream Society”. It requires a latter-day priesthood of “crisis managers”, “perception managers”, or technocrats versed in the expert manipulation of mass psychology and human consciousness who sort of function as society’s Freudian “superego”.

It is inevitable, in fact, that this deeper, older irrational and previously repressed forces will come to dominate and overwhelm the ego-consciousness and its logic. They are already doing so, or we wouldn’t be speaking today of a “new normal” of “post-rational” or “post-truth” society (or “hypernormalisation”) which are symptomatic of the breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness structure and the irruption of elements long associated with myth and magic, and which are also represented in Blake’s “Zoas” as aspects of his fourfold human.

When we say that “the genie is out of his bottle”, this is very relevant to Blake’s Zoas. The Zoas, you recall, reside “in the Human Brain” and nervous system. When that brain is objectified as “the Global Brain” and as its “Dream Society”, so are the Zoas, and there struggle with one another, set loose from their bottle to follow the same neural pathways as the presently dominant Zoa named “Urizen”. And its for this reason that “crisis management” becomes permanent posture. The struggle of the Zoas with one another will be played out in the global arena, for these Zoas do have some correspondence with Gebser’s four consciousness structures — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational, and they will wreck havoc with the global order until such time as a new integration is achieved, which is the fifth structure anticipated by Gebser (and Blake) named “integral consciousness” or Blake’s “Albion”.

That new integration is what underlies the works of Blake, Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, Jung, Aurobindo, and others. They are all working towards the same end — a recognition of the fourfold human form and its re-integration. Blake’s “four Zoas” are the same “Guardians of the Four Directions” we find, in some form or another, in every culture. They reside in the human brain, and when the human brain is objectified, so are they manifested, for ultimately they are “our energies”, as Blake notes.

It should be noted in closing today’s post that Blake makes a distinction between the Zoas in their “Eternal Forms” and in their “fallen forms” (and various “emanations” or avatars). This distinction corresponds to Gebser’s distinction between the “effective” (or healthy) forms of the consciousness structures (the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental) and their “deficient” (decadent or “fallen”) forms as well. And it’s in exactly this same sense that when my aboriginal friends speak of “healing” or “mending” the Sacred Hoop, it means restoring the harmony of the Guardians of the Four Directions. In the Hermetic Philosophy and alchemy, this was called “The Great Work”, and there is no way, especially today, to separate the inner work from the outer work.

This is also the meaning of the legend of the Buddha’s reception of the Guardians of the Four Directions and their gifts — that upon his enlightenment, the four Guardians gifted him with their own begging bowls, but which he “for the sake of his dharma” integrated with his own (and they are the same “four beasts” who surround the throne of God in Revelation),

The Buddha receiving the the Guardians of the Four Directions

The same four guardians are, in their polar or “wrathful” aspect, the Four Riders of the Apocalypse. And you don’t have to tell indigenous people about the meaning of the Four Riders. They experienced it as the breaking and the disintegration of the Sacred Hoop, which is also described by Blake in his “Vision of the Last Judgment”.

A permanent state of “crisis management” is simply a reflection of the fact that Blake’s four Zoas of the divided human form are currently on a rampage — the proverbial genies out of their bottle.



27 responses to “From The Clockwork Universe to The Global Brain”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    A lot of thinking, today — conditioned as it was by the Clockwork Universe logic — is struggling with the notion of the “Global Brain”. There was a kind of utopian presumption (might say “faith”) that the world wide web and global internet would enhance democracy and lead to a more rational order of society by facilitating the public discourse and exchange of ideas.

    So, it’s come as a bit of a shock, it seems, to see that it has done much the opposite than what was expected for it, for it has also empowered unexpected irrational forces and even nihilistic ones (as well as major social disruptions) that no one knows quite what to do about. The “Global Brain” involves a lot more than the logical and rational functions of the left-hemisphere.

    That’s pretty much the “horseless carriage” syndrome (as originally used to describe automobiles) — the tendency to interpret the future in terms of what is known from the past (and we still speak of “horsepower” in relation to a car’s engine, or “candlepower” in relation to electric light). McLuhan called that “the rearview mirror” view.

    The same goes for the issue of the Global Brain and the Dream Society, I believe.

    • mikemackd says :

      Scott, reading your post this morning spurred me to further examine what I had grabbed for my bedtime reading last night, when I dived back once more into Mumford’s Pentagon of Power. I found had underlined on p. 187:


      “the central problem of technics … is that of creating human beings capable of understanding their own nature sufficiently to control, and when necessary to suppress, the forces and mechanisms that they have brought into existence. No automatic warning system can solve it for us.

      But first we must dig deeper into our innermost being to discover the basis for these coercive promptings. We must ask ourselves: Why does every permission turn into a compulsion? Why is the secret motto of our power-oriented society not just “You can, therefore you may,” but “You may, therefore you must? Is that the freedom science once promised? What one discovers beneath the surface of this scientific determinism is an even more sinister trait: a primitive fatalism, subjectively conditioned.

      During the last generation scientist after scientist has anxiously pointed out [or else boastfully proclaimed] that scientific discoveries and their technical applications were proceeding faster than our ability to assimilate them and direct them to valuable ends. Yet so great is the professional compulsion to apply raw insufficiently tested knowledge immediately, that permanent damage is still being done to both the environment and all its organisms, not least to man himself. By now it should be obvious that this methodology which professed to eliminate subjectivity from its world picture provided no way of recognizing its own subjective inflations distortions, and perversions.

      … Big Brother did not wait for 1984 to establish his ascendancy: a host of Little Brothers, wearing the same badge, have crept into every department. With these ultimate modes of imprisonment I shall deal with more fully later.
      Here I would ask only one question: If man’s own life is inherently so worthless, by what magic is it improved by being fed into a collective machine? And if the world we have put together with the aid of science is by its own definition, a world that excludes values, by what logic can we assign values to either science or automation? When one empties out the proper life of man, all that is left, humanly speaking, is emptiness. To find a rational answer to the problem of relating mechanization and automation to the needs of man, we must fill up all the blank subjective spaces that were left vacant in the mechanical world picture.


      The next chapter, starting on page 188, is called. “Final Stage: the Big Brain”. Here are some excerpts:


      With the collective consequences – many of them socially disruptive – of extending the operation of the computer into areas hitherto under the direct control of man, I shall deal with when we come to examine the new megamachine: but here I wish to consider only its immediate effect in bringing to a conclusion the process that began with the mechanical clock. What it is important to realize is that automation, in this final form, is an attempt to exercise control, not only of the mechanical process itself, but of the human being who once directed it: turning him from an active to a passive agent, and finally eliminating him altogether

      the peculiar fascination automated systems would have for autocratic minds, eager to confine human reactions to those that conform to the limited data they are capable of programming. Technicians who themselves lack other purposes and values, memories and feelings, see no human deficiency in their seemingly superhuman machine, or the kind of demands that they themselves make on it

      The most disastrous result of automation, then is that its final product is Automated or Organization Man: he who takes all his orders from the system, and who, as scientist, engineer, expert, administrator, or, finally, as consumer and subject, cannot conceive of any departure from the system, even in the interest of efficiency, still less for the sake of creating a more intelligent, vivid, purposeful, humanly rewarding mode of life.

      The process of automation has produced imprisoned minds that have no capacity for appraising the results of their process, except by the archaic criteria of power and prestige, property, productivity and profit, segregated from any more vital human goals. The Pentagon of Power. By its own logic automation is dedicated to the installation of a system of total control over every natural process, and ultimately over every organic function and human purpose. Not strangely, the one part of this civilization that escapes the principle of total control is – automation itself! The country in which this mode of collective servitude has been carried furthest has been taught by its information manipulators (public relations specialists) to call this system ’Free Enterprise’

      But at this terminal point, where the automatic process is on the verge of creating a whole race of acquiescent and obedient human automatons, the forces of life have begun, sometimes stealthily, sometimes ostentatiously, to re-assert themselves in the only form that is left them: an explosive affirmation of the primal energies of the organism. Already we are faced with a reaction from civilization more desperate than any hitherto visible on the historic record – partly a wishful withdrawal, to some more bucolic simplicity, but often in utter desperation to a state anterior to the most primitive human institutions – that which Shakespeare characterized as Caliban, and Freud as the primal under-layer of the human personality, the Id.


      I have quoted the conclusion of that chapter here before: it follows immediately upon the one quoted above, but repeat it here for its relevance in the election of Donald Trump:


      For mark this: the automaton was not born alone. the automaton has been accompanied, we can see now, by a twin, a dark shadow-self: defiant, not docile: disorderly, not organized or controlled: above all, aggressively destructive, even homicidal, reasserting the dammed-up forces of life in crazy or criminal acts. In the emerging figure of man, the sub-ego or id threatens to function as the superego in a reversed hierarchy that lowers the authority of the brain and puts the reflexes and blind instincts in command. The aim of this subversive superego is to destroy those higher attributes of man whose gifts of love, mutuality, rationality, imagination, and constructive aptitude have enlarged all the possibilities of life. It is in the light of these impending negations and destructions that the whole concept of subjugating nature and replacing man’s own functions with collectively fabricated, automatically operated, completely depersonalized equivalents must at last be reappraised.


      Given that we are all, to some degree or another, imprisoned minds that have no capacity for appraising the results of their process, except by archaic segregated from any more vital human goals, who are the reappraisers to be?

      Where are Mumford’s “human beings capable of understanding their own nature sufficiently to control, and when necessary to suppress, the forces and mechanisms that they have brought into existence”?

      I would suggest, not just by their works, not just by their words, but by their being we shall know them. “For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern … If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite … God only acts and is through existing beings and men”.

      That is, aren’t we all to nurture, develop and, when sufficiently developed engage, our own arete? Will that not include the emergence of an intuitive recognition and a unitive harmonising with the arete of others?

      Not a global brain, but a global ubuntu, namaste, shalom, salaam …? Whitman’s “vast elemental sympathy”, accessible to all of us with the souls to know it and the wisdom to apply it?

      • Scott Preston says :

        Mumford’s prophetic reflections on automation are always appropriate. Unfortunately, they will avert nothing. I have a few of his books that I should get around to reading, though.

        • mikemackd says :

          > “Unfortunately, they will avert nothing.”

          That is true. The greatest amongst the dead have gifted us with pointers towards insights, but we the living must gain them ourselves.

          That is why Blake said that “God only acts and is through existing – existing – beings and men”: The Lord of the Dance, of the living butterfly, leaving the pinning of the butterfly and its display in a glass box to the Lord of Death.

          Such myths never were but always are and, according to Jung at least, are heuristics hardwired into us. When Blake created “his” mythology, its currency depends on its expression of Jung’s mythic resonances, just as Jill Bolte-Taylor’s Ted talk required resonances within the listener to be effectively communicated: to the atrophied soul of Organization Man, her talk would just seem like pabulum.

          Myths spellbind. Therefore, they are not to be fought, but accurately valued and, thereby, their spells may be transcended. Hence Taoism’s Ziran, Krishnamurti’s “drop it”, and so many other pointers from our ancestors.

          Hence, too, Mumford’s closing paragraphs to The Pentagon of Power:

          “The whirligig of time has gone round; and what James applied to science applies equally to our compulsive, depersonalized, power-driven technology. We now have sufficient historic perspective to realize that this seemingly self-automated mechanism has, like the old ‘automatic’ chess player, a man concealed in the works; and we know that the system is not directly derived from nature as we find it on earth or in the sky, but has features that at every point bear the stamp of the human mind, partly rational, partly cretinous, partly demonic. No outward tinkering will improve this overpowered civilization, now plainly in the final and fossilized stage of its materialization: nothing will produce an effective change but the fresh transformation that has already begun in the human mind.

          “Those who are unable to accept William James’ perception that the human person has always been the ‘starting point of new effects’ and that the most solid-seeming structures and institutions must collapse as soon as the formative ideas that have brought them into existence begin to dissolve, are the real prophets of doom. On the terms imposed by technocratic society, there is no hope for mankind except by ‘going with’ its plans for accelerated technological progress, even though man’s vital organs will all be cannibalized in order to prolong the megamachine’s meaningless existence. But for those of us who have thrown off the myth of the machine, the next move is ours: for the gates of the technocratic prison will open automatically, despite their rusty ancient hinges, as soon as we choose to walk out.”

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            Myths spellbind.

            Not necessarily. Myths, in their proper contexts, are merely metaphors — metaphors that represent story-telling at some of its finest. Thing is, they must be recognized as metaphors and correlated with personal experience for the kernels of truth embedded within them to be both perceived and experienced.

            Truth be told, I grow impatient with the insistence in some quarters that the different modes of consciousness (other than “integral”) Gebser speaks of are somehow perverted in and of themselves. They’re not. As (I thought) Gebser made clear, they all “work” in their “efficient” modes and within their proper contexts.

            “Integral” (with a capital “I”), I take to mean (in Scott’s terms, for example) the “subsumation” of all the modes of consciousness (in their “effective” or “higher” forms, at least) into a “whole” that recognizes and “integrates” all of them on a personal, “societal” and, even, “species” level.

            That the deficient form of the “mental-rational” has a seemingly inextricable foothold on our lives at the moment has very little, if anything, to do with it. The “mental-rational” simply must be “subsumed” on a global level to its proper place. Easier said than done, I know, all things considered. If I’m mistaken in this interpretation, I need to know now. Because — as far as I’m concerned — everyone and everything has a place at this “round table” of ours.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Yes. “Subsumation” might be a good word here. If we want to approach this in Gebser’s terms, integral consciousness doesn’t come to be by simply adding together the magical, mythical, mental, archaic in some kind of quadratic relation. Integral consciousness comes to be as a consequence of the self-revelation of “the Itself”, which is the bearer of these modes, and which is identical with “ever-present origin” (or what we call “Eternal Now”).

              By “the Itself” Gebser clearly wants to mean “God”, but “the Itself” chooses to avoid any kind of gender bias by its formulation. Otherwise, “The Itself” is William Blake’s meaning of the passage cited by Mike “God only acts and is through existing beings and men”:

              In other words, the integral consciousness unfolds like a petaled flower, like the Buddha’s Lotus, or in much the same way as Rosenstock’s “cross of reality” unfolds from the vital centre. This is how Gebser thinks also of evolution and his “pre-existing pattern”

              So, in those terms, everything is contingent upon the self-revelation or self-manifestation of the “Itself”. That’s a pretty bold thing to anticipate.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              By “the Itself” Gebser clearly wants to mean “God”, but “the Itself” chooses to avoid any kind of gender bias by its formulation.

              Interesting choice of rationalization. The rationalization in question (not all that surprisingly, as we know): GENDER. Physical/biological vs. mental/psychological “formulations” (nature vs. nurture and all that jazz) are quite the bone of contention in “political” circles at the moment. For what reason? No good one, imho, if I had to wager, I’d guess “pursuit of power.”

            • mikemackd says :

              I agree with “not necessarily”, but there’s nothing mere about metaphor. “Only the right hemisphere has the capacity to understand metaphor. … Metaphoric thinking is fundamental to our understanding of the world, because it is the only way in which understanding can reach outside the system of signs to life itself. It is what links language to life (McGilchrist, p. 115).

              Aren’t you spellbound when playing your computer games, and then, when you stop, doesn’t the spell?

              Your recognition is what I meant to explain in my post by valuation, and required for integration.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Well, no. There’s an ever-present awareness you’re playing a video game.

            • mikemackd says :

              As quoted in Sri Aurobindo’s Lila: The Nature of Divine Play According to Integral Advaita, by Matthew W. Morey (INTEGRAL REVIEW  July 2012  Vol. 8, No. 1):

              In us is the thousandfold Spirit who is one,
              An eternal thinker calm and great and wise,
              A seer whose eye is an all-regarding sun,
              A poet of the cosmic mysteries.
              A critic Witness pieces everything
              And binds the fragments in his brilliant sheaf;
              A World-adventurer borne on Destiny’s wing
              Gambles with death and triumph, joy and grief.
              A king of greatness and a slave of love,
              Host of the stars and guest in Nature’s inn,
              A high spectator spirit throned above,
              A pawn of passion in the game Divine,
              One who has made in sport the suns and seas
              Mirrors in our being his immense caprice.

              (Ghose, 2009, Vol.2, p. 611)

          • mikemackd says :

            Not sure if you led me there on purpose, Scott, but Googling “Moloch” and “Lewis Mumford” led to a development of our agreement that Mumford’s prophecies “will avert nothing”.
            It led me to Frank G. Novak Jr’s 2014 “Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes: The Correspondence”, p. .174:

            “I seriously doubt the existence of any sort of linear progression in a human society as the [Comte’s] law of three stages presupposes; it seems rather to me that all three are implicit or potential in each society and in the rhythm of history one or the other may be stressed or subordinated, as society develops, only to return again; but this may be merely my own ignorance, and perhaps with as wide an historic knowledge as Comte I would find myself in the same position. Your discussion of Comte discloses the possibility of one of n number of possible developments; but it is only after the actual historic process has taken place that one can confidently say that n is a or b or c. The reason that social predictions come to pass so frequently, or rather, one of the reasons, is that the mere laying down of a prophecy gives people the confidence to act in terms of it, and so, by accepting the truth of the hypothesis they in turn verify it. Surely not a little of the industrial development of the nineteenth century was due to the fact that the Smiles’s and the Porter’s so confidently predicted it; and no-one had the hardihood to turn his back and say no to that which everyone else was labouring to achieve, with the fine assurance that Mammon and Moloch were on his side! We may do as much by predicting eutechnic, eugenic, and eutopian developments; and so far so good; but we will win out not because truth was necessarily on our side from the beginning, but because faith was there and faith brought truth over.”

            With the wisdom of hindsight, he seems to be anticipating memetics, confirmation bias and, in particular “myside Bias”, a book about which is being published this month (Mercier and Sperber’s “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard). But perhaps that’s just my own myside bias talking.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Mumford’s “Megamachine” is evidently the old god “Moloch”. This equivalence was made explicit in Fritz Lang’s early film “Metropolis” (probably available on YouTube), but it is implictly recognised in Varoufakis’s “Global Minotaur”, for the Minotaur is most probably the old god Moloch. The equation of the Megamachine with Moloch is also made explicit in Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”.

        Is Blake’s “Urizen” also Moloch? As far as I know, Blake never specifically mentions Moloch (although he calls Urizen “Ancient of Days” which is very significant). Urizen has some of the attributes of Moloch (the name means “King” or “Lord”. Baal is also Moloch). As mentioned earlier, Moloch appears as “the Bull of Heaven” — the Taurus — in “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, and Abraham was from Gilgamesh’s city, Ur.

        The chief feature of Moloch is that he demanded child sacrifice — usually the firstborn. So when Yahweh stayed Abraham’s hand from sacrificing his son, it was a major break with the cult of Moloch, although the Hebrew tribes were always tempted to confuse Yahweh with Moloch — as in the incident with Moses and “the Gold Calf”, who is Moloch as well.

        So, to understand Mumford’s concerns with the “Megamachine” (and “the myth of the machine” especially) we have to know something about Moloch and the meaning of Moloch.

        • mikemackd says :

          Other discoveries from that search was this from Theodore Roszak’s From Satori to Silicon Valley

          “Lewis Mumford, the teacher who taught me the most through my college years about the use and misuse of technology gave Moloch another name, perhaps the best choice of all. He called it “Anti-Life.” Anti-Life was the psychic distortion that Mumford believed was at work behind megatechnics, seeking to replace all things organic with mechanical substitutes. The inventions of Anti-Life might be as modern as the next Intel chip, but Mumford believed they traced back to the divine kings of the River Valley civilizations with their compulsive appetite for imperious power over man and nature. His vision of our destiny under the dominance of Anti-Life was grave in the extreme, and more deeply-studied than any cyberpunk fantasy. But he knew that the true measure of wisdom is hope, and hope is what the competence of elders brings to the dilemmas of the young.”

          Erich Fromm said this about Moloch and Mumford on p. 40 of ‘The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology’ by Erich Fromm – 1968):

          “It seems that great minds a hundred years ago saw what would happen today or tomorrow, while we to whom it is happening blind ourselves in order not to be disturbed in our daily routine. It seems that liberals and conservatives are equally blind in this respect. There are only few writers of vision who have clearly seen the monster to which we are giving birth. It’s not Hobbes’ ‘Leviathan’, but a Moloch, the all-destructive idol, to which human life is to be sacrificed. This Moloch has been described most imaginatively by Orwell and Aldous Huxley, by a number of science-fiction writers who show more perspicacity than most professional sociologists and psychologists.
          “A profound and brilliant picture of the new society has been given recently by one of the most outstanding humanists of our age, Lewis Mumford. Future historians, if there are any, will consider his work to be one of the prophetic warnings of our time. Mumford gives new depth and perspective to the future by analyzing its roots in the past. The central phenomenon which connects past and future, as he sees it, he calls the ‘megamachine’.”

          Finally, A Catholic site noted:

          “One such was Lewis Mumford, the late critic of technology. A few days after the September 11 attacks, I bought an old copy of his The Myth of the Machine: The Pentagon of Power at a used book sale. Mumford, writing in 1967, assailed the symbolism of gigantism and indifference to the human scale that he saw in a number of contemporary works of architecture. In particular, he held three examples up as special recipients of his ire, and even included photographs.
          “One was some forgettable office building shaped like a spaceship, but the other two were more familiar: the Pentagon and the World Trade Center twin towers.
          “I don’t think Osama bin Laden is a fan of Mumford’s, but both know their symbols.
          “And the rest of us had better start learning fast.”

          Karl D. Stephan San Marcos, Texas.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Yes. Interesting. I didn’t google up Mumford and Moloch before posting that comment, but I could sort of see from the quotes you posted that the Megamachine and Moloch were equivalent, and that it’s really in Moloch that “we live, move and have our being” as it were — something that was rather obvious to Nietzsche and Blake, even if they didn’t quite name the beast directly.

            Is Yeats’ “rough beast” Moloch? Not by his description of it. It’s the sphinx (head of a man, body of a lion, whereas Moloch has the body of a man and the head of a bull), but perhaps Yeats wanted by the “sphinx” to emphasise the riddling nature of “the second coming” and the rough beast.

            In all likelihood, too, Moloch is what lies behind the more Christian oriented sociology of technology of Jacques Ellul, and a lot of the critics uneasiness with the Megamachine (Postman, Roszak, Marcuse, Fromm, etc and the various writers on technology and magic we’ve examined) may have a more or less implicit recognition that the Megamachine is Moloch.

            But when it comes right down to it, understanding the Megamachine in terms of analysis isn’t sufficient. It’s necessary to understand the meaning of Moloch (“the myth of the machine”) in order to understand the meaning of the Megamachine, and why the cult of Moloch was so widespread in antiquity.

            For Roszak, Moloch represents “Anti-Life” (and in those terms, then, Anti-Christ) probably for two reasons: Moloch’s requirement of human (mainly child) sacrifice, and perhaps the fact that Moloch’s idol was often described as a very sophisticated machine that gave the appearance of being alive itself. Moloch may have been the first “automaton” in that sense, and that may be the key to understanding Moloch. He was, in a sense, the first clockwork mechanism (from some of the ancient descriptions of him).

            And we often see the same confusion of the living and the unliving in relation to the machine — AI and robotics particularly, ie, to behold them as “alive” in the same sense that the idols of Moloch gave the appearance of being animate.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Buffy St. Maries song “The Priests of the Golden Bull” also seems to be about Moloch, only here Moloch is equated with Windego


            The only reason I can see why Windego and Moloch are treated equivalently here is the Windego is a cannibal spirit and Moloch requires also a living sacrifice as his food and fuel. Both are the animate undead, though, and in those terms Windego is also “anti-life”.

          • Scott Preston says :

            There’s also something a little uncanny about the succession of the zodiacal signs in human history. The Age of Taurus was the Age of Moloch, “the Bull of Heaven”, which was succeeded by the Ram (Abraham sacrifices a Ram rather than his son or a bull and begins a new Era). The Age of the Ram ends with the death of the “Lamb” which is succeeded by the Piscean Age (the Fish) which is now ending with the onset of the Aquarian (the Water) — a little uncanny in relation to the revival of Heraclitus (and the flux) and ideas of Zauman’s “Liquid Modernity” too.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Just occurs to me that there is another possible interpretation of the Megamachine, and that is as “Ahriman” (although Moloch may be one of the avatars or emanations of Ahriman). Steiner believed that it was the Ahrimanic spirit that was active today, which is a destructive spirit.

            “diabolical” in the sense that Ahriman attempts to arrest or divert human evolution (to prevent the unfolding). It would correspond to “spiritual materialism” and thus to profanation of the divine and the sacred. Ahriman in that sense then resembles “Satan” but also the Buddhist “Mara”.

            One of my professors at Uni, who was quite influenced by Ellul especially (but also Steiner) thought it was actually Ahriman that was behind the “Megamachine” and spiritual materialism.

            So, that begs the question of whether there is some relation between Moloch and Ahriman, and whether Moloch might be a destraction from the real spirit behind and within the Megamachine — Ahriman — and also whether Urizen and Ahriman are the same.

            • mikemackd says :

              From Lewis Mumford’s “The Cult of Anti-Life”:

              “In this world of inverted values, evil becomes the supreme good, and the capacity to make moral discriminations and personal choices, to inhibit destructive or murderous impulses, to pursue distant ends for humane purposes, becomes an offense against the rehabilitated god of lawlessness and disorder, anciently called Satan, or The Destroyer: the God of Anti-life.”

  2. abdulmonem says :

    They say our imagination is our tool to move from our subjective consciousness to the divine objective consciousness, our soul most important faculty, the window toward larger and higher reality., once it is connected to its source.The window that has been closed by those who insisted on the seen only and denied the unseen. Those who have led our world to the gloomy state we are addressing. Our world is made of concepts,ideas which we capture through words and the words are the tool of the one that started everything. It seems we do not give the divine force its due consideration and and often time deny its effectiveness in running its cosmos and its instruction to humanity. God is the names that runs the existence in both modes of destruction and construction and we runs our affairs through these names knowingly or unknowingly and to receive the consequences in light of our responses. Human consciousness is an extension of the divine consciiousness, once it realizes its source it lives in a state of contentment and once it denies it lives in a state of discontent despite the cheating appearances. It is his force that speaks if only we pay close attention.((Aleef laam meem ra is the alphabetical vibrational formation and what you have received from the divine is the truth but most people believe that not). John Wheeler said it that this mysterious quantum action,( which for me is god), is the fundamental creative building force that motivates all the particles and forces we know. It is time to leave our state of heedlessness and enter the state of mindfulness if we want to navigate to safe shores before given to amend is expired and really search for meaning.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    The number 108 makes an appearance again in this article from today’s Guardian

  4. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you Scott for the link but the speaking god did not use numbers to communicate his message but words and that is why we have language as the basic tool of communication. No wonder Whitehead left the world of numbers to the world of words. Faith is not a number but an energetic urge in the soul of the human that pushes toward connection with the eternal living one that begets not nor he is begotten. the first and the last, the seen and the unseen and that who encompasses everything with his consciousness. One package including all his prophets without separation, either take all or leave all. Faith is the master key that opens the doors of the house of knowledge. Away from evidences the personal experiential taste is the decisive factor in the the activation of the connection through the aforementioned tools.. The goal of all new spiritual experience is to release the soul from the yoke of customs and conventions in order to enter the divine unbounded field. Away from all details including the different conveying phrases. I feel at rest with the one basic energy that is god and its three extensions that of negative energy,the positive energy and the human energy through it all other energies are at play and in there resides the dilemma of the humans critical balance. May we all find our saving balance.

    • mikemackd says :

      Abdulmonem, for the many years the Star Key was subsumed under advertisements, the only remaining access to it was at the “Compilation Based On A Web Review Of The Symbolic And Sacred Meaning Of The Number 108, For The 108 Tree Path For Peace Created Around The United Nations In Geneva On 26.10.2001” by Astrid Stuckelberger, PhD – 6.1.2004, which is still up at

      Srinivasa Ramanujan used to say “An equation for me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God”. Up to now, I did not consider it to be the right of one mortal to restrict how God will be allowed to communicate divinity to another mortal. However, our agreements have been so consistent for so long that I suspect I am missing something here, and would like to understand why you claim this to be so, in contrast to your many previous posts.

      For example, the Muslim rosary has 108 beads: why? The Arabic numerals 81 and 18 appear on the palms of our hands: is it wrong to consider they represent the 99 names of Allah?

      One of, if not the, greatest glories of Islamic civilization is its mathematics and geometry; was it a mistake to decorate mosques in that manner? 108 pervades it, as does its consequence, the golden ratio, in the form of the pentagon and the pentacle, the former having 108 degrees at each internal angle, and the latter the golden ratio, which is the most efficient ratio for unpacking growth in life, as demonstrated at

      Some find such insights a portal to the numinous: for example, see
      Are you asserting that this should be denied to them? If so, why?

      You may retort: “Mind of God? So what? What is a mind without heart, or values?” And you would be right to do so. But a heart without mind is just as unintegrated, as both are without skillful engagement. It is their lack of integration where the major problem lies: cutting off mathematics is no more integration that the west’s cutting off of intrinsic valuation via Descartes et al.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    I like to start with a question,Do we know the thoughts of god with surety to say that this equation represents the thought of god and this does not. The issue as I understand it is the named not the names, the numbered and not the number because the names and numbers are only pointers to what is real that requires our search and strife and faithful urge to seek. Our world is filled with mysterious pointers. Pointers that can not be understood without the help of the revealed words and the permeated light that fill our cosmos with which we see and understand and through its lively medium we communicate and influence each other. In the quran I read that aleef laam meem is the vibration through which god knowledge is drawn to the human sphere with the admonishing to the human not to doubt that. In that context the human has no choice but to experiment with that with sincere intention and devotional attention and high expectation. I have no right to deny anything all doors are open to him for all those who honestly want to come in his vicinity. It is an experimental issue. I was reading Greer on realty sandwich discussing how to activate the magic consciousness and saw his reference to the six-pointed star as an important symbol in the world of magic and mention the name of franz bardon which I have read him back in the sixty specially his book , Initiation into hermeticts which I mentioned once but Scott was not happy with him though I think he is worth to read, because as there is white magic there is black magic, one only need to read the story of Moses with the magicians of Pharaoh . All types of consciousness are valid and the best is the integral as Gebser advocated, knowing that everything has two aspect the up and the down. Finally I like to ask in light of the video you sent and the assertion of the speaker that gravity is a push not a pull, how the seeds we bury in the earth comes up to provide us with all these assortment of delicious food. How little we remember the original provider and thank him.

    • mikemackd says :

      Thank you for those clarifications, abdulmonem.

      > Do we know the thoughts of god with surety to say that this equation represents the thought of god and this does not.

      I claim no authority on the subject, but apparently, it was easy enough for Ramanujan. His mathematics was served to him by his Hindu deity!

      Others also claim as much, although some of those do not even believe in a god but are speaking metaphorically. However, many mathematicians live for the numinous they sometimes find in their calculations. The atheist G.H. Hardy, the conduit for Ramanujan’s insights into western mathematics, who wrote a book called “A Mathematician’s Apology”, said that “Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics”, their feeling of “beauty” in that context being akin to the sensing of the numinous. Moreover, he saw mathematics as being “out there”, and that we don’t invent it, but discover it.

      The central part of your kind reply has greatly reassured me. However, I share Scott’s apparent reservations about Hermeticism, seeing much Faustian power-hunger there, and seems to attract many seemingly ill-equipped to handle it, but well equipped to be handled.

      As Shelley said in Queen Mab (Book III, pp. 170-79):

      Power, like a desolating pestilence, pollutes what’er it touches; and obedience, bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth – makes slaves of men, and of the human frame a mechanised automaton.

      However, like fire both power and obedience are required at times: but, once again, McGilchrist’s insights apply: they can be great servants, but terrible masters.

      Your final point is succinctly addressed at the website “Gravity Limits on the Scale of Life” at JBS Haldane’s fine essay On Being the Right Size is linked there, and I have spent many happily fascinated hours in a much larger work also linked there, D’Arcy Thompson’s classic work “On Growth and Form”.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you Mike, dialogue is a good path to truth that is him, after all what is prayer but a dialogue with god and stillness is the human invitation to hear him talk in the silence of our soul, the left over breath of the divine that makes life and all other life extensions.

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