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 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.