God, Golem and the Megamachine

Norbert Wiener’s God and Golem, Inc (available also online) certainly speaks to the same issues as Lewis Mumford and his critique of “the Megamachine”, as well as Jacques Ellul’s sociology of the technological system. Wiener is known as “the father of cybernetics” and his more philosophical and sociological reflections on the “golem” (which is Mumford’s Megamachine equally) are as pertinent today as when he wrote them. In fact, I don’t think “the Matrix” is anything other than Wiener’s “golem”, Mumford’s “Megamachine”, or Ellul’s “technological system” (or, for that matter, Neal Gabler’s Life: The Movie) They are all attempts to give answer to the question that obsessed the character Neo in the movie: “What is the Matrix?”

So, what is the Matrix?

I’ve not been entirely satisfied with how others have interpreted the meaning of “the Matrix”, which is basically the invisible environment in which we live, move and have our being, as it were. It’s not the propaganda system alone, as some presume. As Ellul and others have demonstrated, the propaganda system is an adjunct and servant to the Megamachine whose primary purpose is to adjust human beings to itself, or what Ellul refers to as “the ensemble of techniques” and not just physical machines. The “Ensemble” might be another term for the “Complex”.

What is not made so explicit in all these critiques of the Megamachine, but which I believe is the concern that underlies all of them, is the fact that human beings are now diverting and investing all of their own evolutionary potentials and energies into the elaboration of the Megamachine — into this “ensemble of techniques” — leaving none over for their own spiritual evolution. This is, in fact, frankly acknowledged by those “post-humanists” (or mistakenly called “transhumanists”) who look forward to the ascent of the machine – the automaton — and the decline of Man or, more generally, “flesh”, ie, organic life.

A lot of observers of the Modern Age have lamented then that despite all this “progress” in techniques and systems, there has been no corresponding “moral progress”, but even, rather, a regression. But that is not the issue, and not the right question. Moral progress and spiritual progress are not the same thing at all. Most people, I suspect, believe that “moral” and “spiritual” are the same thing, but this also is an error rooted in a falsehood — that the Totality and the Whole are synonymous. Mores and ethos are quite distinct issues, just as “the facts of the matter” and “the truth that sets free” are also quite distinctive issues. And if “the Matrix” (or Megamachine, or Golem now called “Anthropocene”) remains invisible environment to most people, it is because they have utterly confused these issues in the mind — the universal and the integral, the totality and the whole, the “facts of the matter” and “the truth that sets free” or “symbolic belief” with actual knowledge, or the mediate with the immediate, (which is really Gabler’s issue in Life the Movie: or “How Entertainment Conquered Reality”).

This is really the meaning of Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”. This applies especially to issues of morality or spirituality, where the latter is often reduced to the former, and this was, essentially, Nietzsche’s objection to moralists and moralism against which he contrasted a life ethos of the “free spirit”.  Nietzsche, in fact, saw moralism and spirituality as diametrically opposed principles precisely because he saw the Totality and the Whole as being distinct, or at least “the same but different”.

This distinction between moralism and spirituality, or mores and ethos (and therefore the confusion of the Totality and the Whole) is what also informs Blake’s saying: “One law for the Lion & the Ox is oppression”. And it does not mean what some so-called “libertarians” or Social Darwinists have made of it — an issue of predator and prey.

There is a lot more truth in the movie The Matrix than meets the eye, in fact. I recall reading one essay by two philosophers who insisted that the “Matrix” wasn’t real because it was impossible, as depicted in the movie, for machines to harvest energy from the human body. That kind of myopia and literalism is dumbfounding, because that’s not the real issue. The issue represented in that was the diversion of the potentialities for human spiritual evolution into elaborating the power of the Megamachine. That is the real issue, and the real spiritual crisis of Modern Man. It is this diversion of the evolutionary potential into the Megamachine that underscores Walter Benjamin’s remarks in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”,

Mankind, which in Homer’s time was an object of contemplation for the Olympian gods, now is one for itself. Its self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order

That is also pretty much the whole gist of Gabler’s Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, too. That is pretty much even the ideal of Rolf Jensen’s  Brave New World of The Dream Society, which seems very close to being completely realised today — a return to the Sleep of Reason.

Technics, which should serve as an aid to mankind’s spiritual evolution, has come instead to usurp it completely. That “usurpation” is pretty much what informs Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary.

The crisis of the Modern Age is really a spiritual crisis of the Earth and its humanity as whole. And I’m almost reluctant to put it that way because of the woeful misunderstandings about what “spirituality” is, because Nietzsche and William Blake, among others, insist, rightly, that it has nothing to do whatsoever with the religion, moralism, or the Law of the Ten Commandments. And to think one can simply programme these into an artificial intelligence and therefore make “spiritual machines” is the height of folly and imbecility.

It is true, as Clive Hamilton recently argued in The Guardian, (and as the cultural philosopher Jean Gebser also argued in The Ever-Present Origin) that the Earth and its mankind are on the brink of the abyss and the abysmal — the “abomination of desolation”. The root reason, as I see it though, is that humanity is largely diverting energies meant for its own spiritual evolution into enhancing and elaborating the power of the Golem or “Megamachine”.

So, everybody today now talks of regaining “control” of their fates and national destinies from “globalisation” without the least understanding of what lies behind this sense of “loss of control”. It’s all illogic, unreason, incoherence, and frenzy (or haven’t you noticed?). “Loss of control”, “loss of identity”, “loss of self” and so on and so forth. This has come about as a consequence of man’s having diverted too much of his own energies into technologies and empowering the Megamachine, the Golem, the Anthropocene. And this is, essentially, the spiritual crisis of Late Modern Man — self-alienation.



92 responses to “God, Golem and the Megamachine”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    Happy to see you back. yes it is one energy but has different uses and as you astutely said it has been diverted toward the wrong usage away from the principle path that of spiritual evolution. Rumi said , the whole purpose of the human life is the spiritual journey and the whole purpose of the journey is to be human away from all the labels of over-human, super-human or transhuman etc. Of course it is the destination and not the journey. The goal of the spiritual journey is to be in the presence of the origin and be mindful as not to let oneself fall in the material aspect of life, the source of all the imbalances we are facing. No wonder the mystics emphasizes the process of self-teaching of calm and equanimity. We are in a unique incarnation mode where consciousness is embodied in the physical form only not to forget its formless consciousness when the bond is concluded. Intellectual journey is often time is helpful, as Al-Gazalli said in enhancing the spiritual path of the honest seeker. All our faculties are programmed to reach him, once we become aware as how to move from the language of the head to the language of the heart., where the boundary of the divine will and the human will, disssolves and the transparency door is openned.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes. I had a resumption of my medical issues to attend to, as well as needing to take some time away to assess what I’ve been reading lately, to try to determine how it all fits together. It can be perplexing. There are many approaches taken to the crisis/crises. Yet I believe they are all describing the same “elephant in the room” when it comes right down to it — regardless of whether it’s called “narcissism”, “human condition”, “objectification” or “self-alienation” or “loss of self”. The diversion of human evolutionary energies/potentials into technology is also a divestment of those energies, exactly in the same way Nietzsche complaied about our “flowing out into a God” only now we flow out into the Megamachine/Golem.

      Of course, once Nietzsche himself ceased to “flow out into a God” he discovered that “God” — or the life force power of the universe, if you will; the creative forces — was within him. Matters little whether this is called “Dionysus” or by some other name, such as Rumi’s “The Friend”, or Castaneda’s “vast sea of awareness”, or Blake’s “Divine Imagination”.

      “Vast sea of awareness” I particularly like because it accords with my own experience in a way that the name “God” doesn’t. “Divine Imagination” also fits.

      • Steve Lavendusky says :

        A Klee painting named Angelus Novus shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.

        Walter Benjamin

          • Steve Lavendusky says :

            Enclosed within his artificial creation, man finds that there is “no exit”; that he cannot pierce the shell of technology again to find the ancient milieu to which he was adapted for hundreds of thousands of years. . . . In our cities there is no more day or night or heat or cold. But there is overpopulation, thralldom to press and television, total absence of purpose. All men are constrained by means external to them to ends equally external. The further the technical mechanism develops that allows us to escape natural necessity, the more we are subjected to artificial technical necessities.”
            ― Jacques Ellul

  2. Scott Preston says :

    This is, I would suggest, a near perfect example of the peculiar “bubble” many people live in, but especially (in this case) in finance.


  3. abdulmonem says :

    All human maladies are connected, however priority in addressing them is a must. Yes Scott the link you have provided captures the ethos of the malady of our time, the money machine that has driven the god morality out of our social circulation, the code that no society across history has discarded without bringing on itself fatal destruction. Yes we are living in a civilization where institutionalization of wrong doing is rampant, no it is the motto of our modernity. In one of my previous comment I said that banks are the institutions that are erected for money abuse, only to find in Andrew Anthony article on the barometer of fear ample evidences to prove that. It is an intentional movement to death as Postman put it in the context of the entertainment institutions and as its reflected by the insisting wrong behavour of the rogue traders and rogue bankers to pursue the same wrong path until death. I think the megamachine is nothing but an extension of the money machine. The Commander of our cosmic ships is unhappy with the performance of the humans that are running the earth ship and all these disturbances are signs of his unhappiness with that, perhaps the humans wake up to their blunders. Sorry Scott but the universal sea of awareness is devastatingly polluted, so is the imagination behind the machines that are killing our adamness.

  4. InfiniteWarrior says :

    You know what I’ve noticed? Some (but far from all of us) are so fixated on what’s going wrong they can’t see what’s going right; so focused on the negative, they can’t see the positive; so focused on the dark, they can’t see the light; so enamored with only one aspect of the “double-movement of our times” — and despite all talk of “Presence”, further myopically focused on the past or future — that they can’t see (or refuse to acknowledge) the other aspect.

    There is an up-side and down-side to everything, including technology. Just as important, however, are those rarely seen, shared and acknowledged moments — everyday conversations, everyday observations, everyday encounters, everyday endeavors, everyday relationships, everyday communities — never reported in “the news” — (which far outnumber those that are) — to which none of us are privy — unless, of course, we happen to be involved in them.

    Despite everything else — including pharmaceutical industry retailers attempting to reposition themselves as caring, concerned members of the “healthcare community” (remind me to tell you all about it sometime), to name just one abomination — I further notice a trend among the general populace toward more healthy ways of life — in every respect, which will likely avert them from the chemical-cocktail (“food” and medicine) “maintenance” route generations past have traversed. (Speaking of a “slavish maintenance,” even a less-than-minor character in Skyrim had something to say about that. So much for “marginal” and “fringe.”)

    The hurdles before us pose quite a challenge, but I have to agree with W. I. Thompson: All the garbage is pulling up the rear. The seemingly insignificant occurrences (of all kinds) of daily life far outstrip the din and spectacle our “propagandists” and ideologues are throwing at us.

    • mikemackd says :

      Oho! A monological gaze! Not guilty, your honour.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Three questions underly Gebser’s cultural philosophy: “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” Until anyone bothers to ask those questions, Gebser won’t make any sense to them. The artist Paul Gauguin’s most highly regarded work, too, is entitled “Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?”. If you google up Gebser’s three questions, there’s a surprising number of people seemingly asking the same thing (and presuming to have a ready-made answer to all three, too).

      The old adage applies here: “If you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going”, let alone who and what we are implicitly — lost as we are in the make-believe and pretense we assume to be “reality”. That’s what ties together John Michael Greer’s “The Age of Pretense”, Gabler’s “How Entertainment Conquered Reality”, Jensen’s “The Dream Society”, Durkheim’s “anomie”, Benjamin’s “self-alienation”, Mumford’s “megatechnics” and so on.

      You’ve mentioned, frequently, the emergent “alternatives” to the Megamachine. Do I think they are adequate responses to perils and crises of the present? No, I don’t. Not at all. In the case of Wilber, at least — and perhaps especially — I’ve made my objections pretty clear. And the reason why they aren’t adequate responses is because they don’t know what it is they are responding to — that is, where they’ve come from, which is the problem of Seidenberg’s and Mumford’s “post-historic man”, which is a problem also connected with the issues raised by Greer, Gabler, Thompson, etc, etc.

      Without insight into the meaning of the Megamachine (and that means, into history as well) — and that insight means “transparency” — there is no going forward at all — just an endless series of co-optations, adaptations, and commodifications that the cynics sometimes refer to as “rebel chic”.

      Some people do a great job of analysing the deficiencies and inefficiencies of the Megamachine, but then the meaning of it escapes them. Their critical stance does not in the least free them from its logic. For that, they would need a poet’s soul. It’s not coincidental that W.I. Thompson and Jean Gebser were primarily poets first, philosophers second (and the same might be said for Nietzsche, but quite obviously for Blake).

      All those emergent alternatives are going to come to nothing because they don’t understand the Megamachine. They know it from its effects (and defects) only, but not its meaning as the old god “Moloch” (in fact, Mumford does trace the origins of the Megamachine to Sumer, which is pretty much the give-away). There is no freeing the mind from the spell of the Megamachine until its meaning is penetrated by insight, because it is as much a spirit as a machine, and it can’t be “converted” or transformed until it is understood as such in addition to its purely mechanistic aspects.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Without insight into the meaning of the Megamachine (and that means, into history as well) — and that insight means “transparency” — there is…just an endless series of co-optations, adaptations, and commodifications….

        :/ Do you mean, on the part of “the Megamachine?” Did someone dispute that?

        You’ve mentioned, frequently, the emergent “alternatives” to the Megamachine.

        I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned alternatives to the Megamachine. No one has, really. Humanity would seem pretty stumped on that score, although families and communities of all kinds — those that don’t have their heads on backwards, at least — are still doing a fine job of “instructing” and “raising” whole, healthy people, not to mention doing the work, at least, of providing possible alternatives some breathing room. Some truly great minds are on the case, of course, but none have offered up any clear “alternatives,” though we all seem to agree that anyone who says there aren’t any are forgetting the agency of possibility (at best) or being presumptuous asses (at worst).

        there is no going forward at all

        I know what you mean (and there’s probably not a better word for it, especially in the English language), but “forward” (as it’s currently understood) isn’t “across” in the “trans-” sense. What I’m getting at is that “the Megamachine” is not some-thing to be transformed, which we obviously agree upon. It is, rather, transforming before our very…”third eye.” This is ever the case, and I wonder if we aren’t taking Rosenstock’s “mortality is the only guarantee of human progress” just a tad more literally than intended.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    What is worship but a strong inclination to something that captures the attention and beholds the respect. So when the real god does not capture the attention moloch will. This is the story of our humanity reenacted by the different sections on new stages of time and space. It is what captures the attention and not that what sporadically pop ups here and there. It is the gadget worship as the author of god and golem put it, is the trend of the time. For the moslems that have started to read the cosmos in all its manifestations in line with the divine call to read and ponder, to contemplate and wonder have no problem with the types of the questions raised by Gebser or Guigan because they know that they have started from Him and will return to Him and also know the tasks they have to perform between the two points, the first and the last, between what is seen and what is not seen. Of course this is not a privilege of the moslems but the imperative of all mystics of the world. It seems we are living in a time where routine rituals and inattentive schooling is not enough. Honest involvement and attentive presence in the presence in order to invoke the process of drawing down the divine knowledge that helps us to navigate in these murky seas. Of course I am not speaking about the out of order moslems that fill the islamic deprived space and non-eventual time , nor I am speaking about the worshipers of moloch but about those who have become aware about the severity of our time and the impossibility of its continuation in the same path. By the way Wilber has a new book in which he claims that he knows for sure the religion of tomorrow.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Now Wilber wants to be the founder of a religion? Maybe that’s what he always wanted to be. But it just doesn’t happen like that.

      • Risto says :

        Here Gary Lachman reviews a book from another deficient integral’s spokeperson:


        Concerning your reply above about poets being crucial to understanding the megamachine:

        A Finnish philosopher Tere Vaden has spoken for the need to know “synnyt” (it could be translated as “origin”), when one tries to understand world. He argues that modern people don’t know the “synnyt” of their way of life. He has demonstrated this by this parable: if people from any culture outside our own technocivilization would ask to show how to live accordind to natural limits, we wouldn’t have any examples to give them.

        Gebser also writes about “synnyt” . Great bard Wainamoinen from Kalewala “must find the meaning of several words before he is able to complete his boat”. (EPO p.69)

        I think what you are doing with The Chrysalis is trying to find the “synnyt” of the megamachine so you can (using the language of Kalewala) laulaa sen suohon (sing it to the swamp).

        • Risto says :

          Here’s also very interesting article by Colin Wilson, where he considers A.N. Whitehead as existentialist. It touches on poetry and other theme’s discussed lately here in The Chrysalis.


          • Scott Preston says :

            Thanks, That was an interesting essay. I’ve not read anything by Colin Wilson before. That’s certainly a good introduction to him.

          • mikemackd says :

            Hi, Risto. Thanks for raising to Colin Wilson. Like many of my generation, I read The Outsider in the 1960s or early 1970s; I don’t remember exactly when, but I took two big lessons from it; what he termed “the robot”, how we learn things and can eventually perform them automatically, and what he termed “the right man”, the kind of person Riane Eisler later referred to as a “dominator” in her works, and what we have described here as authoritarians and authoritarian followers: failed boys, pretend men. I have read Eisler’s Sacred Pleasure, but not her most famous work, The Chalice and The Blade.

            I read a few books of Wilson’s later, but none of them added much and I did not follow him along his path. This obituary more or less summarises how I feel about him: grateful, but saddened: https://aeon.co/essays/exhilarating-if-flawed-colin-wilson-helped-open-my-mind

            But, speaking of Eisler: it’s a bit of a puzzle to me why all – or almost all – those who trouble to post in reply to Scott’s posts seem to be male. If so, I hope I have not repelled potential female contributors here by all the quotes I have posted from earlier decades, when people spoke as “men must this”, and “man must that”. Back in those days, women were implicitly included in such terminology, but I for one am much happier with the current explicit inclusion.

            • Risto says :

              Hi Mike! I came to know Colin Wilson through Lachman so his views on Wilson colours heavily my relation to his work.

              Maybe we oughta start recruiting more women to read Scott’s blog. 😉

            • Scott Preston says :

              There are quite a few female subscribers to The Chrysalis. Only, few leave comments.

            • mikemackd says :

              Risto and Scott, yesterday I read a chapter of a book by a woman that I am sure you would have welcomed here, Scott.

              Unfortunately, she died over a decade ago. Her name was Kathleen Raine, and the book chapter I read was about William Blake. The chapter is entitled “The Underlying Order: Nature and the Imagination”, and it’s Chapter 11 of the book “Seeing God Everywhere: Essays on Nature and the Sacred. Essays by: Wendell Berry, Titus Burckhardt, HH the 14th Dalai Lama, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Kathleen Raine, Frithjof Schuon, Philip Sherrard and others”, published by World Wisdom and edited by Barry McDonald.

              I thought her essay stunning. Does anyone know of it?

            • Scott Preston says :

              Kathleen Raine was a well-known Blake scholar, but I’ve only read one of her books “Golgonooza: City of the Imagination”.

            • mikemackd says :

              Thanks for the tip: I just bought Raine’s Golgoonooza.

              In “The Underlying Order: Nature and the Imagination”, she said:

              “It is heartening to see that at last the long unquestioned assumptions of naive materialism that have dominated the modern Western world are beginning to seem less certain, less self-evident than they were even a few years ago …
              Is not our human kingdom in its very nature a universe of meanings and values? Within the scope of human experience there are degrees of knowledge and value, self-authenticating, of which those who have reached the farthest regions tell us, the vision of the holy, and the beatitude of that vision is the highest term. That is not poetic fancy: it is profoundest knowledge … We are made for beatitude … [it] is not an accident of being and consciousness: it is our very nature to seek, and to attain, joy; and it is for the arts to hold before us images of our eternal nature, through which we may awaken to, and grow towards, that reality which is our humanity itself” (Seeing God Everywhere, pp. 171-174).

              And in my Kindle version of Golgoonooza: City of Imagination, she said:

              “The sole object of all the labours of Golgonooza, ‘ever building, ever falling’, is to provide an earthly habitation for Jerusalem. It is ever in secrecy and obscurity, in human love, in every sense of that word, that the foundations of the city are laid; and in a passage of great beauty (where, again, Lambeth is invoked) Blake perfectly and eloquently expresses all he felt about what a human city is, in its inner essence, as a building of human souls each individually, and all collectively labouring to embody a vision whose realization will be only when all is done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’, according to the archetype of the human Imagination. Blake never presented the building of Jerusalem as the work of a few men of outstanding genius or so-called ‘originality’, but rather of all the city’s inhabitants, the ‘goldenbuilders’ (Raine, Kathleen. Golgonooza, City of Imagination (p. 107). Lindisfarne Books. Kindle Edition).

              In contradistinction to Gaberle’s chilling vision of the modern city, this vision of Blake’s as described by Raine is what Mumford looked to the city to facilitate:

              “As we have seen, the city has undergone many changes during the last five thousand years; and further changes are doubtless in store. But the innovations that beckon urgently are not in the extension and perfection of physical equipment: still less in multiplying automatic electronic devices for dispersing into formless suburban dust the remaining organs of culture. Just the contrary: significant improvements will come only through applying art and thought to the city’s central human concerns, with a fresh dedication to the cosmic and ecological processes that enfold all being. We must restore to the city the maternal, life-nurturing functions, the autonomous activities, the symbiotic associations, that have long been neglected or suppressed. For the city should be an organ of love; and the best economy of cities is the care and culture of men” … The final mission of the city is to further man’s conscious participation in the cosmic and the historic process. Through its own complex and enduring structure, the city vastly augments man’s ability to interpret these processes and take an active formative part in them, so that every phase of the drama it stages shall have, to the highest degree possible, the illumination of consciousness, the stamp of purpose, the color of love. That magnification of all the dimensions of life, through emotional communion, rational communication, technological mastery, and above all, dramatic representation, has been the supreme office of the city in history. And it remains the chief reason for the city’s continued existence. (The City in History, pp. 575-576).

              Which brings us back, not only to heterarchies as CJs as alternative modalities to hierarchies, but also to our previous differentiation of Blake’s fourfold vision from Stewart and Cohen’s simplex, complex, multiplex etc. levels of episteme.

              There is no Jerusalem in their single vision of episteme, no matter how complex it may become, but there are resources there for the co-evolution of wisdom and compassion within us all towards Blake’s fourfold vision.

            • mikemackd says :

              “He that binds to himself a joy
              Does the winged life destroy”

              In his 2005 work, “William Blake: A Literary Life” Palgrave MacMillan, John Beer describes the levels of Blake’s visions as follows:

              “Single vision was the dead vision of contemporary mathematical rationalism, whereas the vision by which he customarily worked was the twofold, which customarily sought to find inner significance within the normal everyday, but which, as he is explaining, carried its own dangers of fear of the future along with the delights of creativity. Above the fear and vision granted to artists like himself he envisaged two further realms: the ‘threefold’ vision of innocent pleasure given to those enjoying the pleasures of marriage and domesticity (termed ‘Beulah’ from his reading of Isaiah and The Pilgrim’s Progress) and the supreme ‘fourfold’ of supreme vision – at once absolute in its certainty and essentially unseizable for purposes of immediate visual representation” (p. 126).

              Threefold vision has rather the essential fragility of thin glass or a bubble: it cannot be seized by a grasping hand without being immediately destroyed. The lover who attempts this will find himself immediately delivered into the bleak world of single vision, (Beer p.171).

              I submit that a Greek terminology for Blake’s visions would be episteme (knowledge), axia (intrinsic values), katholiki agape (universal love) and teleios (maturity, completion, fulfillment, the best one can be), with each vision being a necessary precondition for stabilisation of the latter vision.

              From this interpretation, we can assume that threefold and fourfold visions are only accessible via McGilchrist’s right hemisphere, and any attempt to grasp them – in terms of myths being “always are” – the Emissary attempting to usurp the Master, our Lucifers becoming Satans. Hence Blake’s quote above: “He that binds to himself a joy / Does the winged life destroy”.

              If this is so, then Blake’s increasingly enfolding visions are reconcilable to Scheler’s hierarchy of values adopted by McGilchrist (I would contend that these days Scheler would consider them to be a heterarchy of values)– those for use and pleasure at the lowest end, with values of vitality above them, values of the intellect above them, and holy values at the summit (McGilchrist 2009, p. 160):

              “As things are re-presented in the left hemisphere, it is their use-value that is salient. In the world it brings into being, everything is either reduced to utility or rejected with considerable vehemence, a vehemence that appears to be born of frustration, and the affront to its ‘will to power’. The higher values of Scheler’s hierarchy, all of which require affective or moral engagement with the world, depend on the right hemisphere” (McGilchrist 2009, p. 161).

              If so, they all fit together as a fresh model. As Raine cautions: “Of course consciousness cannot be transformed by a mere change of opinion; rather it involves a change of our whole receptivity, an opening of the heart, the senses and the imagination” (The Underlying Order: Nature and the Imagination, pp. 177-178). But mental models mould, just as guns, muscle cars and cities do. For now, this one’s working for me the way Raine just described.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I submit that a Greek terminology for Blake’s visions would be episteme (knowledge), axia (intrinsic values), katholiki agape (universal love) and teleios (maturity, completion, fulfillment, the best one can be), with each vision being a necessary precondition for stabilisation of the latter vision.

              That’s an interesting arrangement, and one that would map to Rosenstock-Huessy’s Cross of Reality as well. Axia and episteme would be the poles of space (inner and outer), while katholiki agape and teleios would be the poles of the time axis (origin and destiny). In those terms, Blake’s “fourfold vision” would correspond to Gebser’s “presentiation” — the self-revelation of the dipahainon, basis (or root) of the integral consciousness.

            • mikemackd says :

              I’d like to add the word “engeni”, meaning “intrinsic” (despite its similarity to “engine”). So Blake’s two-fold vision is episteme + engeni axia. And Scott I would agree with your fitting it into Rosenstock-Huessy’s Cross of Reality if it the cross were on a vertical axis, bringing quality into the schemata, similar to, but not identical with, Pirsig’s quality.

              However, I tentatively posit – as I’ll have to research it more – that, from this framing, Blake’s concept of quality (resulting in Albion) is more like the Greek areté than Pirsig’s conception was. However, the Time magazine article that got me to read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the first place all those years ago concluded by saying:

              “What matters most is that he communicates how very much he cares about living as a whole man and how hard he has worked at it. Indeed, the special gift of the universal principle that Pirsig calls Quality is caring, even if one reaches for the heavens with grease on his hands.”

              So I could be wrong: from that quote, Pirsig’s motorcycle was taking him along the same engeni axia road towards teleios, with katholiki agape being preconditional to ever arriving at that destination.

            • mikemackd says :

              Apropos my comment above about failed boys and pretend men, this fresh from my Facebook page:

              As if he’s the only one.We all fold under too much pressure for us to handle, just as those poor soldiers dying in no-man’s- land in World War I used to scream for their mothers. What the author appears to be saying is that Trump never really grew up at all.

              That, I cannot say. One can judge in the abstract, but there’s many a slip between the abstract cup and the individual lip, in this case Trump’s lip, and I am not familiar with that particular slippery slope.

        • Scott Preston says :

          I browsed around Lachman’s website, after reading his review of Pinchbeck’s book. His website looks interesting, and I found this link to an interview with Lachman on “Reality Sandwich” in which he talks about Gebser and McGilchrist, which I found quite interesting.


          Nothing much really new in it that we haven’t also covered in The Chrysalis, but it is another take on the meeting of the minds, as it were.

          • abdulmonem says :

            As Scott browsed through Lachman website reading about Pinchbeck vision on our receding world. I read Wilson on Whitehead. I like to thank you for a very enjoyable reading that ignited my interest a new with the spiritual visions of these two important figures. Our two modes of perception that of images and that of meaning and the necessity not to leave one to dominate the human perceptual scene as the like of Hume suggested but to make them intentionally cooperate with each other in a harmonious togetherness to give the human the full picture of the seen that must not mask the unknown modes of being as was put by Wordsworth that made words worth reading. I cried when I saw the sharp perceptive growing boy, losing that sharpness after turning into man. Narrowness of consciousness is the product of losing contact with the unknown, the source of creativity and all activities. As Whitehead said the multiple human actualization over the ages is fulfilling god actuality and that is as the sufi say is the purpose of human creation. We must not let ourselves or natures or anything else be veils on Him.

  6. mikemackd says :

    Hmph again So much for my break from Mumfording on here.

    Mumford was not so much against the megamachine as such, but against dehumanisation of others it facilitates, and realised that the enormous power the megamachine provides would be too much for any of our inner Calibans to resist. That was because, by dint of being anti-life, they have no desire for aught else but power towards the exaltation of themselves, especially by the destruction of others.

    He was all for engaging the American wing of the megamachine to get into the war against Hitler. Later, when they had, he was mortified how his American wing of the megamachine did what megamachines do: carpet bombed German and Japanese civilians – culminating with the atom bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki – and afterwards engaged not only fascists but the efflorescence of their philosophies in the U.S.A. and internationally, with the lives of millions since destroyed as a result.

    Mumford described his philosophy as that of organic humanism, which involved distributing power as much as possible back to the human scale, being that of communities of around 120-150 people directly accountable to one another. But he also realised that they would be picked off like pea pods by the megamachine if they did not have their own megamachinic means of defending themselves.

    He was definitely not what Stewart and Cohen described as a simplex thinker, and thereby realised that a problem of this nature was not one for which a silver bullet could be found. Using more recent terminology, it is a wicked problem. However, he did suggest a way forward, in pp 564-566 of The City in History (In many ways his magnum opus, that book won the national book award and gained him many honours, and was on several compilations of the most influential books of the 20th century.

    There, he recommended empowerment of networks along the lines of power and communication and library lending systems. While he recognised that this new “framework of the invisible city … in all its forms, industrial, cultural, urban, lends itself to both good and bad uses” (p. 564), its major benefit was that:

    “Each unit in the organization has a certain degree of self-sufficiency and self-direction, equal to ordinary occasions. But by being linked together, the power stations form a whole system whose parts, though relatively independent, can upon demand work as a whole, and make good what is lacking in any particular area. The demand may be made at any point in the system, and the system as a whole may be drawn on the respond to it. … Large resources are no longer dependent upon topographic congestion or top-heavy centralized control. With both the electric power grid and the library loan system, the largest facilities become available, not by heaping them together, but by articulating them into a system that enables the individual user, provided he uses an organized unit in the local area, to switch on this or that resource as needed. This last provision is important to note: no such facilities could be economically handled if the individual sought by his own initiative alone to satisfy his needs by dealing at long distance with the central agency: only by diffusion and articulation can the whole system function efficiently. The further advantage of such networks is that they permit units of different size, not merely to participate, but to offer their unique advantages to the whole” (pp. 565 and 566).

    That is, Mumford was flagging something the internet – which did not exist when he made this suggestion – could facilitate under several circumstances, and looking towards heterarchical forms of organization, (“heterarchical”, like “wicked problems”, not having their current meanings in his day). Heterarchies have been developing strongly over recent decades, particularly in Silicon Valley. They stand out in contrast to the hierarchical forms of the megamachine. While they do not necessarily replace the megamachine or its employees, they do challenge, and are supplanting, the megamachinic mindset.

    I met Tim Flannery the other day (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Flannery). I did so because he is advocating citizen juries (CJs) as a form of governance, as am I. The practice is being introduced in many countries, including Australia. In his case he was referring to CJs possessing the actual decision-making power, whereas up to now I have been thinking of them being employed only in an advisory capacity. He pointed me to a website – http://www.newdemocracy.com.au – directed to his view, and which has a library of research papers on the subject.

    It seems to me that fit-for-purpose combinations of Mumford’s and other heterarchical networks and CJs could provide a means of bringing governance back to the grass roots, and even more importantly dissolve the top-heavy concentration of power, including that of wealth, that currently so afflicts then planet. For, as Mumford said, this could and perhaps should be applied at all scales, thereby including all those scales over which the megamachine now has exclusive power:

    “This pattern is not purely a technological one … Here is a pattern for the new urban constellation, capable of preserving the advantages of smaller units, and enjoying the scope of the large scale metropolitan organization. In a well-ordered world, there would be no limits, physical, cultural, or political, to such a system of co-operation: it would pass through geographic obstacles and national barriers as readily as X-rays pass through solid objects. Given even the present facilities for telephotography as well as fast transportation, such a system could in time embrace the whole planet. Once technics releases itself from the costly wholesale preparations for genocide that now engross the big national states and empires, or from the fulsome production of salable goods designed for premature obsolescence and a profitable rapid turnover, there would be abundant facilities for perfecting such large scale intercultural associations; and the new regional city, visible and invisible, would be the chief instrument” (ibid, p. 566).

    • Scott Preston says :

      I actually started writing up something about this early this morning — “From Cog in the Machine to the Node in the Network”. I still might get around to finishing it and posting it. But I’m not sure that there is much in the way of a “progression” here from cog to node. And, in fact, it’s not so much being a “node” as it is a “data point” — or a collage of atomic data points that comes to define the person, and data points without any unity, coherence or integrality. This disassembly of the person into a collection or aggregation of data points is indeed happening, which is why Big Data concerns me quite a bit.

      Of course, the bizarre thing is that this assemblage of data points is believed to be sufficient to upload into a machine and create a soul from them — a “spiritual machine” as Kurzweil has it. But what’s missing in this assemblage of data points is the quality of life. It’s the “life force” that gives potential unity to these fragments of a person called “data points”.

      Again, the ultimate confusion being that of the Totality and the Whole, and, consequently, death and life. Correspondingly, the confusion of the System with Society (and, in fact, the latter has been swallowed up by the former — that’s the essential meaning of Polyani’s “Great Transformation” and of Thatcher’s “There is no such thing as society” too. The machine has subsumed society.

      This was the argument I began making in the post I drafted this morning. I may complete it later, but I think it explains much of the reason for “post-everything” — post-truth, post-rational, post-Enlightenment, post-liberal, etc etc. The System has no need for anything called “society” in any of the senses we understand that. Society is the creation of human beings speaking and listening — dialogical. Speech, however, has largely become impotent — at least that kind of speech we call “proper speech” as distinct from mere “talk”.

      • mikemackd says :

        That is correct: networks, heterarchies CJs etc. are still, like hierarchies, just machinery. However, there are at least two main differences with hierarchies: their power distributions, and their potentials for facilitating development of intrinsic value within those exercising the power.

        One of Mumford’s differences from Ellul is that Mumford differentiates between authoritarian and democratic technics. I see hierarchies as authoritarian technics in practice, even when citizens get a vote every three, four or five years and can then go back to sleep (as Tim Flannery observed the other day). I see heterarchies and CJs as having far more potential for democratic technics.

        Concerning intrinsic value: I have mentioned Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi here before. I have so familiarised myself with his work over the last 25 years that I can even spell his name without looking ;-), having read his books “Flow”, “The Evolving Self” and some other works. His core insight is that many of our best times are spent trying to achieve something we find difficult, but consider worthwhile, but if it’s too hard, we collapse into simplex solutions and do not develop further, and if it’s too easy we find it uninteresting and do not develop further. Those atop hierarchies are often at the too hard end, and those at the bottom the too boring end. To develop, we have to be “in the zone” towards trying to achieve something we find difficult and worthwhile.

        I also mentioned here before that machines affect our psyches: a gun in one’s hands may tempt one to shoot something when one did not have that motivation before; a muscle car may tempt one to drive fast when one did not have that motivation before. Latch that onto being in the zone catalysed via heterarchies, CJs and other essentials and we can look towards facilitating a culture more of democratic than authoritarian technics. Those democratic technics can be engaged towards developing individuals via a sense of responsibility as well as entitlement towards individual and community service, developing not “masses of robots with regimented minds, but rather in individuals of creative power, invention, initiative, psychological maturity, boldness of thought, and leadership”* – meaning that such emerging mature persons can then get their McGilchrist’s Masters to regain control over their now Caliban-controlled Emissaries to put the Megamachine into reverse gear.

        Or not. As we are about addressing wicked problems, that depends on context and lots of other factors. But, as Infinite Warrior has noted in other needed contexts, much is already under way. No guarantees, no silver bullets, but more hope.


        * Malvina Lindsay, “Power Grab for Children,” The Washington Post, Jan 7 1950, p. 8.

          • mikemackd says :

            Once again, Steve, you have provided a deeply relevant link.

            On a personal note, both my parents died before I was 15, and I had all those symptoms of mourning for years thereafter. I mention this here and now for two reasons: firstly, I passionately opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and this essay you linked us to has alerted me to the possibility that I am in a similar mourning for the Middle East I knew and loved before. That could go some way towards my comparative lack of objections to subsequent destructions. Secondly, I learned from my childhood bereavements that one can function again given time and activities to recover.

            Besides mourning, the other deep topic of this essay was the Anthropocene, also implemented via the megamachine. I consider both could apply to many of the millions of westerners who opposed the destructions and extinctions of the Anthropocene.

            I just found Tim Flannery’s “Here on Earth” in my library (2010, Melbourne, Text Publishing), where he refers to our massive ecocide, and our most immediate challenge being saving the global commons. The same day I met him, as described above, another guy I spoke to then was a retired professor of entomology. His talk was entitled, “where have all the insects gone?” He objected to all the focus on climate change, seeing it as just one manifestation of a vaster catastrophe.

            So, as Yeats said, while those who care fall into mourning, thereby lacking in conviction, the worst are filled with passionate intensity, and thereby many more species will become extinct while they mourn.

            Yet it is those in mourning that must get a grip on their emissaries and the controls of the megamachine.

            That’s where Csikszentmihalyi comes in: one step at a time. As Archibald MacLeish put it,

            The candles in the church are out,
            The stars have gone out in the sky,
            Blow on the embers of the heart,
            And we’ll see by and by.

          • Scott Preston says :

            That essay by Zerzan wasn’t too bad. I read his book Running on Emptiness and posted on it extensively in the old Dark Age Blog. I though it was a TERRIBLE book (and so did a lot of other people). There’s a lot of people who write premature books, before their insight has ripened matured properly. Zerzan is one of them. There are a lot of premature books being written today, too.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        at least that kind of speech we call “proper speech”

        Think the whole “PC” pit might be avoided (ntm, indicate a “coming together,” “meeting of the minds” and assorted other such contemporary phrases) were it termed something more like “formal?”

        “Formal” writing. “Formal” speech. “Formal” this and that. You might agree (in fact, I seem to remember it having come up at some point long ago) that “formal” is a word that appears to have lost its “original” meaning over time, especially considering the kinds of endeavors to which we’ve most often applied it.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          At least, I think that’s more akin to what you have in mind.

          Now, that you mention it, I’m concerned about all the talk of dialogue alone. Moving from “dialectics” to “dialogics” and all that jazz, which is hardly “formal” or “integral” or, in any way, a rose by any other name. One wonders: are we supposed to get by on dialogue alone? Isn’t “dialogue”, alone, more or less just bandying “logics’ about? Are we to ditch dialectics altogether? That would hardly be “integral” of us.

          I’m with Katsumoto (in a manner of speaking) on this one:

          I’d rather have a good conversation.

          People can have their “arguments” and “discussions.”

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            (“Life, the Movie” — or unreality, in a manner of speaking — being part of the subject, a reference for that is probably in order.)

            • Scott Preston says :

              Are you saying that Donald Trump is America’s General Custer?

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Pfft. Hardly. The relevant bit is this:

              In spring, the snows will melt and the passes will open. Until that time, [we] are here.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I think I prefer the General Custer allusion.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              It would certainly seem to apply. Both preferences are valid. Trump was just the furthest thing from my mind.

              Now that you mention it, though…he does appear to have “fallen in love with his own legend,” whatever that is. It would seem he’s playing the same “reality TV” role I’m given to understand he played on The Apprentice, which I’ve never seen. “You’re fired” is all he ever says that has any real impact.

    • Scott Preston says :

      You may find this urban photography by David Gaberle (“The Street is a Stage”) and his comments about it, very interesting in relation to Mumford’s thoughts on the City. It appeared in today’s Guardian also


      It brought to mind your own remarks on Mumford’s City in History.

      • mikemackd says :

        Thanks, Scott. He mentioned his book’s about “what the city moulds us into and how we try to remain authentic to ourselves at the same time”. Plenty of the former, like how other machines like the gun and the muscle car mould us, but not so much in those photos about “how we try to remain authentic to ourselves at the same time”.

        “Gaberle says he was struck by how people move through city spaces together, but remain alienated from each other at the same time” … “The sterile and sharp-angled architecture makes human interaction seem out of place. Emotions in these spaces are seen as a disruption to the smooth functioning of the city” … “This almost clinically sterile environment in large cities fascinates me.”


  7. Scott Preston says :

    An article appeared in toay’s Guardian on “Accelerationism” that is most appropriate in relation to the post here on “God, Golem and the Megamachine”


    A strange cult-like thing it is. But I’m left wondering if these “accelerationists” aren’t confusing Gebser’s “intensification” with “acceleration”? Another example, perhaps, of how “only a hair separates the false from the true”. “Acceleration” might be only the shadow of the “intensification of consciousness”. Even calling accelerationism “The Dark Enlightenment” seems to suggest Plato’s Cave or Blake’s Ulro.

    It’s something that’s intriguing to muse on, since if “accelerationism” is a distorted or perverted interpretation of intensification, it really does highlight McGilchrist’s neurodynamics of the Master and the Emissary.

    • mikemackd says :

      There was a satirical quote I can’t attribute or accurately remember, but it was along the lines of “we know we are going in the wrong direction, but we are compensating for this deficiency by going faster.” I tried to recover it via Googling the bits I remember, but most of what came up was description of sexual acts. It seems there are affinities between sex and accelerationism. Where’s Freud when you need him? 😉

  8. Charles says :

    Good discussion as usual.

    Scott wrote:

    needing to take some time away to assess what I’ve been reading lately, to try to determine how it all fits together. It can be perplexing. There are many approaches taken to the crisis/crises. Yet I believe they are all describing the same “elephant in the room” when it comes right down to it — regardless of whether it’s called “narcissism”, “human condition”, “objectification” or “self-alienation” or “loss of self”

    I agree and it is perplexing. It is challenging to respond. First I could say that language is the first challenge. All these words: God, morality, ethics, religion, science, good, evil, community, collectives…. What do these words symbolize or mean? Those words take on a particular meaning in whatever culture one is nurtured. That is the root of intolerance.

    Jean Houston writes about a modern Dromenon (Life Force) It is a ritual of a dying of the old order and a birth of newness. She wrote this book years ago so the theme is even more pronounced. The old formulas don’t work anymore. I like this line. “there is a lag between the end of an age and the discovery of that end”

  9. Scott Preston says :

    I had a laugh the other day when a friend of mine turned to me and said: ‘you know, it’s all completely incoherent, isn’t it?’. (You’ld probably have to know my friend — a former university professor much given to discovering “rationales” in everything — to understand why I found this so funny — a man who has spent his whole life trying to discover the rationales in the events of the day only to suddenly realise there’s no rationalising any of it, and that no rationales make any sense at all. He’s discovered the meaning of “chaos” and “chaotic transition”).

  10. Scott Preston says :

    Pretty good article also in today’s Guardian by Ben Tarnoff on how neo-liberal capitalism has become self-devouring (which was one of the main themes of the old Dark Age Blog, too).


  11. Charles says :

    Scott, “coherence” is an interesting word. One is reminded of the line by John donne “tis all in peeces, all cohaerence gone; from An Anatomy of the World

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, ’tis one of my favourite lines from Donne (and his poem). I used it quite frequently as a quote in the old Dark Age Blog, and cited it as the precursor to Nietzsche’s “death of God”.

      • Charles says :

        Scott, I just want to mention a book that relates to this discussion and really helped me with questions I was asking. Out of Weakness – Healing the Wounds That Drive US to War – Andrew Bard Schmookler He also wrote the Parable of the Tribes- The problem of Power in Social Evolution, which I feel is insightful and connects with Mumford and Ellul about power. One of his centrals idea is “the ceaseless struggle for power has structured the living energies of civilization into a form of fear. ” I’ll write more.

  12. abdulmonem says :

    In the mythical lore they say do not look at the places but look at the placers and not only on the apparent placers but the placers behind the scene, thus you will be enabled to know the reality in all its majestic benevolence and artistic significance, the whole and the part . This is all the story of religion that keeps alerting us to the unseen in order not to be besieged by the seen. This onrushing alienation is the product of separation and of dissipating our only energy in the many-sided superficial interests that render our existence a meaningless journey as Scott friend puts the label incoherent on life. No wonder it is disturbing. It is a question of personal experience and our experience colors our views. My experience with the real real enabled me to compose the cosmos around as a beautiful symphony that I work daily to tone my frequency to be in line with the vibrations of that symphony with all the passion that I have, which also colors my relations with all the bad and the good, an experience that is not un-shared by millions across the globe past and present. One feels sorry for the billioners who refuse to give and the bankers who thrive on the debts that burden others and wish them well before it is too late.. How long are we going to stay on this earth, I think it is worth it to bear witness to Him as He asked me to do. Who is He but the beautiful names that give to life its aroma. There a verse in the quran which says that the humans are programmed in such a fashion, that any harmful infliction that befalls them, is of their own making and any good they gain is from Him. Worship is a journey in faithful knowledge, that is true knowledge.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Hedges seems to be getting angrier and angrier. His Idiot Kings are the old “Lords of Misrule”.

      • mikemackd says :

        In his online essay, The Visionary Materialism of William Blake, Dr Peter Critchley refers to idiots in the following context:

        “Personally, I’ve always strove to be understood, to invite individuals out of the idiocy of private concerns (the Greek idiotes refers to those who are interested only in private affairs). I address people as polites, thinking, rational, social beings. But Blake knew what he was doing. He saw his great task as “to open the immortal Eyes of Man inwards, into the Worlds of Thought” (J 5:18). Blake was trying to get human beings to see with their mind’s eye, penetrate the world of the senses and see the ultimate reality. And such work is not for the idiotes.

        We all have that inner vision. Blake is challenging us to use it. It follows that Blake is not altogether impenetrable. He is addressing us at the level of an innate mental capacity, something we all have. Further, for all of his alleged mysticism, Blake is not an obscurantist. And he repays the effort. Blake’s message is timely. But then again, given Blake’s belief in an eternal realm, it is bound to be.”

  13. abdulmonem says :

    Your mention of the dark age blog make me think of the possibility of going back to read the posts of that blog and the possibility of having an index for both blogs as an easy helper for those who want to go back.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Alas, there is no more Dark Age Blog, therefore most of the posts have vanished (although I have many of them on my old computer still). An index would have been a good idea, though.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        A zip file in cloud storage would do the trick. The download link doesn’t have to be publicly available.

  14. mikemackd says :

    Scott, both you and I have Yanis Varoufakis’s book, The Global Minotaur. I’ve just been listening to him being interviewed about his new book, called Adults in the Room (2017, The Bodley Head, London).

    That caused me to Google the book, and this review was the first I found. Its relevance to this topic is plain:


    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks, An interesting review. I’ve yet to get through “The Weak Suffer What They Must?” before I can get to “Adults in the Room” though.

      • abdulmonem says :

        I like to join Scott in thanking you for this word of truth in this dark world of ours. It is no wonder that god wanted the human to work in the open where there is no inside or outside and to bear witness for truth, the truth that Jesus said as the only path that sets us free. We are all carriers of Yanis spirit, once we wake up in this dark world, the spirit in actuality of all prophets that have been sent to set the record of truth anew, the truth as the only force that shatters this darkness. Honesty never works in darkness. No wonder there is all this secrecy and fear being mobilized to silence the carriers of truth. This is exactly the program of god in correcting the perversion that sets in the world. It is only under the divine watch any correction can be effected. The calamity resides in the belief that there is no force running this wide expansive cosmos and the human is the only power in the game. The fallacy that has been carried over time from perverted generation to another only to be exposed and to be shown the falsity of their claim. The paradoxical cycles that correct each other, that is why the prophets are called upon to be patient and to say, wait,we are like you are waiting.

        • mikemackd says :

          And my thanks to you, abdulmonem, for this comment. I have now bought this book, and will read it concurrently with Scott’s reading “The Weak Suffer What They Must”. I have that too, but haven’t read it yet: can’t seem to get into Kindle like a can a paper book: it’s probably only a matter of habituating myself to it, but that seems to be taking its time.

    • Scott Preston says :

      There’s a review of Varoufakis’s Adults in the Room in today’s Guardian


      Sounds like it could be an interesting read for its potential insights into the technocratic “deep state” behind the present “politainment” (as Gabler calls contemporary public politics).

      • mikemackd says :

        I nearly choked on my breakfast when the review began by saying “Maybe Barack Obama isn’t such a saint after all.”

        Given the dubious provenance of both saints and the canonisers in the history of catholicism, I suppose it’s possible that there may be a few saints in the same league of killing innocent women and children as Obama did with his drone strikes and tens of thousands of bombs. But I doubt it.

        We are told, collateral damage is sad, but unavoidable, and the end justifies the means: “move on, nothing to see here: Oh, look! there’s a celebrity, right over there!!”

        This morning on the radio, they were speaking of the horror with which people first regarded the bombing of people from the air. Picasso’s Guernica was painted from such a reaction. For many, all that changed in World War II. We did it, so it’s O.K.

        ? ? ?

  15. abdulmonem says :

    We are all bestowed with two perceptual eyes, one oriented to the seen physical world and the other is oriented toward the unseen non-physical world. All mystics emphasis the function of the non-physical eye and alerted the humans not to be caught in the supply of the physical eye in order to know and appreciate the divine reality. Blake talked about the mind eye and emphasises the necessity of moving through the sensual eye in order to know the real. The eye of the emissary and the eye of the master etc. Mumford in one of the many quotations Mike gracefully supplied Said, the final mission of the city ( the human imagination that built cities and destroy them) is to further human consciousness participation in the cosmic and historical processes. No wonder the Greek called those who are caught in the realm of self-interest,idiots. We are all fountains of knowledge if only we know the one who supplies our fountains with water.

  16. Leo says :

    Elon Musk now wants to create a brain-machine interface – neuralink – in order to create a world where, according to him “everyone who wants to have this AI extension of themselves could have one, so there would be billions of individual human-AI symbiotes who, collectively, make decisions about the future.”


    • Leo says :

      …which feels to me like symbiosis in the wrong direction, i.e. with the megamachine, rather than the living planet. Unless of course there could be some kind of three way rapprochement between the machine, the human and the organic?

      • Scott Preston says :

        It’s the cyborg ideal — human machine hybrid. The question is, what is the meaning of the “hybrid”? What is the meaning of the cyborg?

        The ancient comparison was the Greek satyr — a hybrid of goat and human or horse and human. The cyborg is, in the technical milieux, the mythical equivalent of the satyr in the milieux of nature.

        Have you seen the movie Lawnmower Man? In some respects, the central character there, also a man-machine hybrid, resembles Pan.

        I think Musk’s notion that the human-machine interface or integration will save us from being dominated by AI is wistful thinking. It will be the chief means by which the Megamachine will assimilate and appropriate the human element to itself. I’m sure, if there ever was a history of “the Borg” in Star Trek, it would reveal that they also probably started out believing that they could preserve human sovereignty through hybridising themselves with the megamachine. But, it didn’t end that way.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I might add that all the old gods, demons, spirits, sprites, djinn and so on are returning, only in this peculiar cybernetic and technological form. The “return of the repressed” is taking some very peculiar forms in fact — evidence of Gebser’s new irruption of the old magical and mythical within the context of the mental-rational.

        But, the word “hybrid” is connected in meaning to the word “hybris” — as transgression or violation, or overstepping a limit or boundary. Usually, Nemesis follows. While we may think we’ve outsmarted and outwitted dumb Nature and the Karmic Law, many people are beginning to think otherwise — meaning of the phrase “too clever by half”.

      • Leo says :

        Personally, I tend not to worry too much about this kind of AI as I think that climate change and energy descent pose far more immediate and serious existential challenges for humanity. Also, because so many of the unexamined assumptions about what mind is in the theories of AI researchers are just plain wrong, i.e. mind as symbolic processing computer etc. Researchers of Embodiment and Dynamic Systems Theory are already doing a fine job of uprooting these assumptions. So, personally speaking, I believe that those who dream of uploading their consciousness to a digital utopia are going to be disappointed.

        However, there’s a certain irony to the fact that the mega-machine, as it exists in our current social forms, is likely to destroy the biological foundations of life necessary to build a global AI before it ever happens. Smart parasites keep the host alive until such time as they no longer need it. In that sense perhaps The Matrix was once again more prescient than we might have originally realised, i.e. in a world without fossil fuels to power a global internet, where would it get its energy from?

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        What could possibly go wrong?

        Okay. So that’s a worst case scenario. Let’s not jump to conclusions.

        Is this not humanity’s “collective unconscious” hard at work, overthinking the circular reasoning that is the “modern era’s” logical dead-end; attempting to find a “final solution” to a “problem” which has no “final solution.” (Brace yourself. This one is utter nonsense. I think that’s the chief reason why there was such an outcry over the “grand finale” of the ME series. The supposedly “good ending,” Synthesis, is representative of cyborgism, btw, but not just in the sense of human-machine hybridization. That wouldn’t be nearly ambitious enough. It’s not just the planet this logic is determined to “transform” into a “new framework; a new DNA.” In our collective dreaming (or nightmaring), it’s every lifeform in the galaxy.)

        How is it that the same team of writers responsible for an incredibly well-received, peaceful resolution of the Geth-Quarian conflict in the ME series can then go on to flub resolving the same (internal) conflict in the series’ grand finale?

        We’ve covered the confusion between “transhumanism” and “cyborgism” in the past. Only a hair….

    • mikemackd says :

      Again fresh from my Facebook feed, here’s a current situational analysis; I’ve never heard of this guy before, but his agenda is not the point; it’s the truth or otherwise of what he is saying.

      Tim Urban assures us, though, that (with apologies to Jimmy Durante) we “ain’t seen nothin’ yet” from the megamachine:

  17. mikemackd says :

    Wow. Quite a journey; much I knew, some I didn’t, but all wrapped in a nice box with a pretty bow.

    Except for saying that I’m very grateful to Tim Urban for that – and to you, Leo, for posting it – it’s hard to know where to start, so I’ll start with a quote from that essay similar to the one I didn’t get quite right a few days ago:

    “The reality is that we’re whizzing down a very intense road to a very intense place, and no one knows what it’ll be like when we get there”.

    There are 11 references to “value” in the 38,000 words, only one of which relates to human values. I quote:

    “Our vulnerabilities in the AI era will come from bad people in control of AI or rogue AI not aligned with human values”.

    Which values? Those that transfer reproach to “the bad guys”, when we are all the bad guys in potential, if we can’t handle power, as we have been discussing here?

    Tim Urban writes of the human colossus and the computer colossus which, as he points out, dramatically accelerates power for good or evil for their wielders. Their combination, plus a few other bits and pieces, make up the megamachine.

    Tim Urban also calls the eye a machine, the ear a machine, etc. He seems not to realize that they are nothing of the sort. They are organs, parts of an organism which is part of life. Referring to them as machines is a just a powerful metaphor, which metaphor also dramatically accelerates power for good or evil:

    McGilchrist is relevant here:

    pp. 3-4 of M&E:

    “The whole problem is that we are obsessed, because of what I argue is our affiliation to left-hemisphere modes of thought, with ‘what’ the brain does – after all, isn’t the brain a machine, and like any machine, the value of it lies in what it does? I happen to think this machine model gets us only some of the way; and like a train that drops one in the middle of the night far from one’s destination, a train of thought that gets one only some of the way is a liability. The difference, I shall argue, is not in the ‘what’, but in the ‘how’ – by which I don’t mean ‘the means by which’ (machine model again), but ‘the manner in which’, something no one ever asked of a machine. I am not interested purely in ‘functions’ but in ways of being, something only living things can have.”

    p. 438: “The body has become a thing, a thing we possess, a mechanism, even if a mechanism for fun, a bit like a sports car with a smart sound system. That mechanistic view derives from the nineteenth-century scientific world picture, which has lingered with us longer in biology and the life sciences than in physics. The body has become an object in the world like other objects, as Merleau-Ponty feared. The left hemisphere’s world is ultimately narcissistic, in the sense that it sees the world ‘out there’ as no more than a reflection of itself: the body becomes just the first thing we see out there, and we feel impelled to shape it to our sense of how it ‘should’ be.”

    And I quote a blogger commenting on M&E (http://sngthoughts.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/the-master-his-emissary-divided-brain.html):

    “Is all of this worth the effort? I think so. It’s a very valid and live issue, I believe. How we view our world, what perspectives we take, will change the course of our actions. If we do in fact give predominance to the left-brain perspective, we will reap consequences that will likely back-fire upon us. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, we have loosed its magic on the world, but there are grounds to believe that we have lost control. We need the Master, the living world of the right-brain, to come to the rescue.”

    In other words, convert the human colossus into an exclusively humane colossus.

    But given the proportion of scientific research funded by the military-industrial complex in the USA, are we to believe that they are have either the motivations or the competencies to manage that, when they still consider themselves “the good guys” when the murders of the innocents they perpetrate make King Herod seem like Mother Theresa?

    I don’t think so. But then, the ones hooked up to the “Wizard Hats” probably would in no time at all, because, as Tim Urban says, their very identities would be enfolded into the megamachine.

    Consequently, Tim Urban observes:

    “But brain interfaces can also put information in. Meaning a clever hacker might be able to change your thoughts or your vote or your identity or make you want to do something terrible you normally wouldn’t ever consider. And you wouldn’t know it ever happened. You could feel strongly about voting for a candidate and a little part of you would wonder if someone manipulated your thoughts so you’d feel that way. The darkest possible scenario would be an ISIS-type organization actually influencing millions of people to join their cause by altering their thoughts. This is definitely the scariest paragraph in this post. Let’s get out of here.”

    Let’s not, because the megamachine has done this already, is still doing it, and will continue to do it through whatever arms it can, be they ISIS or its millions of others.

    • mikemackd says :

      For instance, those at the controls of Varoufakis’s ‘deep state’ and ‘Global Minotaur’ must be slavering over the prospect of what Tim Urban fears.

      • mikemackd says :

        And lets not forget where this current megahacking technology came from.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          The latest on that. Let the blame-gaming begin. First, fingers pointed to Russia. (Strange, considering Russia was one of the countries hardest hit.) Now, they’re pointing at North Korea. (Gee. I wonder where that one came from?) My guess is that the malware’s creator is a cyberwarfare profiteer, but that’s all the flurry of initial reporting is: groundless guesswork. The attack itself could have originated anywhere.

          Microsoft has called for a “Digital Geneva Convention” requiring governments to report vulnerabilities to the creators of the software instead of stockpiling, selling or exploiting them.

          Riiiight. That’s likely to happen.

          • mikemackd says :

            Sorting that one out is a bit beyond my pay grade, I.W.! I had this at the back of my mind:


            Perhaps I can be of more use by reference to the comment by Tim Urban at the end of his 37,000-and-a-bit-word post: “Thanks to the Neuralink team for answering my 1,200 questions and explaining things to me like I’m five. Extra thanks to Ben Rapoport, Flip Sabes, and Moran Cerf for being my question-asking go-tos in my many dark moments of despair.”

            My prescription? Mumford’s The Myth of the Machine first, then McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary. Wising up first, Tim, then cheering up. The other way around simply cannot last.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              {Sigh} Paywall.

              Yes. I know what you had in mind: the origin of the modified malware now wreaking havoc in “the wild.” Humanity has released its “software” into the wild in other forms as well with absolutely no way to account for any and all variables that might arise.

              We have to wake up before we can wise up. That part, at least, seems to be going well. Cheering up? Well, that’s just a manner of attitude.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Criminal gangs and governments have become rather cozy with one another, thanks to deregulation/decriminialisation of things once considered criminal or organised crime (and thanks also to Thatcher-Reagan for that — ie, “there is no such thing as society”, and how anti-social can you get?). That coziness of organised crime and (dis)organised government can be seen reflected in Mumford’s observation that what were formerly the “seven deadly sins” have been revalued as seven virtues. The alliance of criminality and government (ostensibly behind this recent global malware attack) is also part of the “New Normal”.

              And there seems to be quite a bit of this going on today even in the province of Quebec.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I suppose it’s part of the meaning of “technocratic shamanism”, as per Trump’s “draining the swamp” of lobbyists by making the swamp the government, et voila! no more “special interests” perverting the course of government. Likewise, the way to bring an end to crime is to decriminalise the crime and the criminal and the anti-social elements. Et voila! “Law & order” is restored. Criminal and criminal activity suddenly becomes legit. Magic!

              That’s the meaning of “perception management”.

            • mikemackd says :

              > Cheering up? Well, that’s just a manner of attitude.

              I.W. Short term, yes; but long term, it’s more a matter of gut bacteria. From your other postings here, I suspect you know that as well, I.W.: organisms are complex, machines are merely simple to complicated, and the difference is just about as wide as the world and a sink plug.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I suspect you know that as well

              Actually, I don’t. “Happiness is a choice” may sound like an old cliche, but anyone spending their lives in “the pursuit of happiness” will probably never find it. Happiness is not a passing emotion and, as with most such states of being, human beings tend to look outside ourselves for it, thinking this job, this person, this house, this standard of living, this state of affairs or what have you will make us happy when, all along, happiness lies within us.

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