The Shock of the Real

I’m not sure who should be credited with the phrase “the shock of the real” (but it is, apparently, the American environmentalist Edward Abbey from his book Desert Solitaire). It’s a very good phrase. It’s basically the meaning of the word “apocalypse” and has been borrowed extensively by others too to describe the bursting of bubbles of all kinds. “Shock” has become something of a theme of Late Modernity or the post-modern condition — Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, or, indeed, “Shock and Awe”. Shock might even be said to be the essence of “the New Normal”.

The phrase “shock of the real” brings to mind the Tarot card called “The Fool”.

Tarot Card: The Fool

This Dandy called “the Fool” is about to experience “the shock of the real” as he strides over the edge and into the abyss. The yappy dog (like Echo in the myth of Narcissus and Echo) attempts to warn him, but he is lost in narcissistic self-absorption (of the kind that Emmanuel Kant once also described as his own “dogmatic slumber”). This Tarot card of The Fool contains all the elements of the same myth of Narcissus and Echo, and even of the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

“The shock of the real” is an interesting phrase to contemplate in relation to The Fool. It brings to mind one of William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: “If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise”, which is also applies to the Prodigal Son parable. But The Fool also brings to mind Christopher Lasch’s “culture of narcissism” or Seidenberg’s (and Lewis Mumford’s) “post-historic man” who is also, in some ways, “post-conscious”. The yappy dog is the prophetic voice that the fool disregards as he is about to experience “the shock of the real”.

Above all, perhaps, is what the Tarot card of The Fool says about hubris and Nemesis and the disregard of limit. It also brings to mind Nietzsche’s own “stare into the abyss”. In that respect also, the card depicts all those ironic processes we refer to as “unintended consequence”, “perverse outcome”, “reversal of fortune”, “revenge effect”, “blowback” and so on, which are just optional ways of describing the workings of the karmic law of action and reaction, and of the connection between the action and the reaction which is process called “enantiodromia” — or reversal, or mutation, of a dynamic at the extremity. There is, actually, a lot of Nietzsche’s own philosophy — the mood that drove him — compressed into the image of The Fool, for The Fool is the ego-consciousness of man, and is what Blake calls “Single Vision”.

(The karmic law of action and reaction, like the Taoist yin and yang forces, describes the polarity of all energy in terms of action and reaction, and is why the Gorgon (or Medusa) is the alter ego of Athena (or Minerva) and why Hades is the alter ego of Dionysus.)

A more contemporary representation of the same theme of the Tarot’s “Fool” is Simon Pemberton’s illustration of contemporary man at the edge of the abyss that illustrated an article on the subject of the dubious fate of democracy in The Guardian.

Illustration: Simon Pemberton

So, The Fool is a particularly appropriate representation of the times, and, of course, different people will read into it different meanings according to their own predilections or ethos, in keeping with the principle that “we don’t see things as they are, but as we are”. Everybody now talks about the need for an “awakening” including so-called “alt-right” and neo-fascist reactionaries. But the mere excitation of the nervous system is not an “awakening” in any real sense, anymore than switching on a computer “wakes up” the computer from sleep mode. This is how mechanical and machine-like the human ego-consciousness has become, that the mere excitation or stimulation of the nervous system (also called “sensationalism”) can be so easily confused with “awakening” or “enlightenment”. This is that awful state of the Kali Yuga (or “Dark Age”) called “spiritual materialism” which, for all practical purposes, corresponds to the meaning of “Anti-Christ”.

(Hence the meaning that “only a hair separates the false from the true” or the meaning of the saying that “Satan is but the ape of God”. What Blake calls “Ulro” — his word for Hell — is the Kali Yuga, and is synonymous with “spiritual materialism”).

The “shock of the real” is connected equally with what Jean Gebser calls an “irruption” of a new consciousness structure. But many people will confuse this with a mere excitation of the nervous system, which is otherwise called “psychic inflation”, which is false enlightenment or false awakening.

Different people will have different responses to “the shock of the real” (including denialism, or rationalisation, or psychic inflation). Today’s interview with Naomi Klein in The Guardian discusses a few of those responses, including what will prove to be deficient and futile attempts (but probably intensely destructive) to reconstruct the cocoon or bubble of perception. You’ll be seeing a lot of that (and I even recently read the prayer of a Wall St. trader, “Please God, just one more bubble”).

In its fullest sense, “the shock of the real” is the same as Gebser’s “transparency of the world”, and both are apocalyptic in the sense of the lifting of “the veil of Maya” or “the camouflage universe” (as Seth calls what Blake also meant by “Ulro”). The phrases “shock of the real” and “transparency of the world” always brings to mind Carlos Castaneda’s experience of suddenly seeing, directly, “energy as it flows in the universe” as the reality behind the appearances and realising that some part of him always saw it this way. Jill Bolte-Taylor’s own experience of “the shock of the real” was not different from Castaneda’s.

We see from this that “the shock of the real” is actually connected with the awakening to the “true self” — that in us (which Gebser calls “the Itself”) — to which the “camouflage universe” is already and always transparent or “diaphanous”.

I often wonder about the meaning of The Fool, and whether he takes that fatal final step. Perhaps the Fool is fated to take that step into the abyss as a precondition for transforming a fall into a leap? Those of you who have read Castaneda’s writings will recall his own “leap into the abyss” as the culminating act of his apprenticeship to don Juan. Castaneda, too, had to marshal all his inner resources to transform that fatal fall from the cliff into a leap by “unfolding the wings of perception”. That same kind of “leap” (perhaps less dramatic than Castaneda’s) was formative in Gebser’s own experience in his youth.

And that’s the question for us, too, isn’t it? Can we marshal our own spiritual resources sufficiently to transform a fall into a leap by unfolding our own “wings of perception”?



49 responses to “The Shock of the Real”

  1. Steve Lavendusky says :

    Let no one deceive himself. If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly before God.
    (I Corinthians iii, 18-19)
    Folly is a condition which prevents that which is true from being grasped.
    (Plato, Definitions)*
    . . .consciousness succumbs all too easily to unconscious influences, and these are often truer and wiser than our conscious thinking. . . Personality need not imply
    consciousness. It can just as easily be dormant or sleeping.
    (C. G. Jung,
    Conscious, UnconsciousandIndividuation)**

  2. davidm58 says :

    “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; it shall yield no flour; if it were to yield, strangers would devour it.”
    (Hosea 8:7)

    “The one who sows to please his flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; but the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
    (Galatians 6:8)

    “There are still unsuspected, although probably merely one-sided technological and dehumanizing ‘progressive’ developments within the realm of possibility. If the destructive might of such ‘progress’ is not weakened, these developments, according to their degree of autonomy, will automatically fulfill the law of the earth. If the law of the earth is not yet to be fulfilled, the process of outgrowing and mutation from the old and deficient mental structure will extract or sublimate sufficient energy, strength, substance – or whatever we may call it – so that the structure that is overcome will have no greater destructive effect than, say, the deficient mythical or deficient magic residues in us or in the world.

    …only a completely new attitude will guarantee the continuation of the earth and mankind, not some sectored partial reforms…then the consequences…will necessarily assume forms that will make the previous events of our time look like mere child’s play.”
    (Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, p. 96)

    “…Evolution right now is proving to be very disappointing. We are experiencing right now the collapseability (I don’t know if it’s THE collapse of the balance of powers that make our democracy work as well as it has worked). There’s something that might be unprecedented that’s going on in the United States that other political analysts are much more equipped to pin down than I am. But we’re facing in to a threat to democracy itself, and it’s all the more worrisome since it’s apparently part of an international tendency…

    We already didn’t have time. We already were on the brink of a kind of terminal emergency for human civilization. An emergency that can, that is, trying to provoke the emergence of the Ecozoic [Thomas Berry’s term to describe the geologic era when humans live in a mutually enhancing relationship with Earth and the Earth community]… and we’re being badly delayed by this new round of emergency… The point is not to get caught up in a kind of degraded apocalypticism of mere doom. I’m with you increasingly in honoring the apocalypse. I was a little too bitchy toward John of Patmos in my [1996 book] “Apocalypse Now and Then” – that ’90s feminism. I’m respecting him more now. It is precisely NOT a prediction of the end of the world. He doesn’t do that; I’m not doing that.

    But it is a crisis that seems to demand our attention in fresh ways, and requires our gifts. Which requires that we recognize that we have gifts we didn’t even know we had.”
    (Catherine Keller, Taylor Lecture Series on “The Political Theology of the Earth,” Feb. 7, 2017)

    “…who are those who will not feel threatened or affected by the destruction of earth and humankind? I can only think it will be those who have “soberly prepared” and humbled their hopes and who are able to live day to day experiencing the reality of their ever-present origin.”
    (David MacLeod, comment on The Chrysalis, “The Path Ahead Humbles All Hopes,” June 5, 2016)

    • Scott Preston says :

      To transform every fall into a leap — that’s only for the very strongest. But there is in the parable of the seed, also, something of that “unless a seed falls to the ground and die, it cannot bear fruit”. It’s another of Nietzsche’s ironies that his “two centuries of nihilism” as overture to the birth of the transhuman follows the parable of the seed. So, from the seed’s view, it isn’t falling, it’s leaping, but every leap is also a risky manoeuvre.

      How about a new saying — “Not Falling, Leaping”? I think Gebser would like that. It’s appropriately paradoxical and ambiguous. What looks like a fall, could be a leap. But what looks like a leap, could be a fall.

      • davidm58 says :

        What is it that combines leaping and falling? “Parachuting.”

        Speaking of “falling,” I’m reminded of Vanessa Fischer in a comment at Beams and Struts:

        “I love Gebser because his notion of the Integral “stage” is not a linear development. He actually never used the word evolution because he thought it was too bound into rational thinking and linear views of time and progress. Gebser argued that time radically changed at the integral level, and past and present all became transparent and available in the now.

        This is why the constant emphasis on transcendence and needing to push people to integral never really resonated with me. Energetically, I feel much more of a falling quality~ falling into transparency and beauty with all that is and being able to access multiple-streams of intelligence and knowing all at once.”

  3. TeenyTinyTarot says :

    Quoting our anonymous author:

    “Now, the Arcanum ‘The Fool’ has a double meaning. Indeed, it can be understood in two different ways: as a model and as a warning at the same time. For on the one hand it teaches the freedom of transcendental consciousness elevated above the things of this world, and on the other hand it clearly presents a very impressive warning of the peril that this elevation comprises — lack of concern, inadequacy, irresponsibility and ridicule. . . in a word, madness. The Arcanum “The Fool” has in fact these two meanings. It teaches transcendental consciousness and it warns of its peril (Meditations on the Tarot”, Letter XXI, “The Fool”, page 603).

    See also a very delightful YouTube video:
    “The Essence of Tarot’s Fool”

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Nice. “As you walk, you create your road.” Enjoyed that. Thanks.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      PS Particularly like the description of what The Fool carries in his sack, which he’s forgotten he carries.

    • Scott Preston says :

      The Fool is, I think, the Prodigal Son of the parable, and is represented by Parsifal (or “Percival”) in the Arthurian cycle. As I once wrote in the former Dark Age Blog about the High and Low Middle Ages — the Middle Ages were bookended by a) Parsifal — the fool who becomes a knight and b) don Quixote — the knight who becomes a fool once more. And we see this same pattern in the relationship between Prometheus and his “brother” (or perhaps alter ego) Epimetheus. But the Fool key basically represents Parsifal, and Parsifal the Prodigal Son.

      One can also look at The Fool and see Socrates (at least Nietzsche did in a sense) and there’s the curious and uncanny connection with Diogenes the Cynic, who mocked the Socratics. The word “cynic” means “Dog”, and it is Diogenes who dogged the Socratics (including Plato) by carrying around a lantern in the daylight, basically his way of saying that Greece was suffering a “dark age”. Nietzsche became Diogenes when he took Diogenes as the model for his “Madman in the Marketplace” who also carries a lantern in the daylight and announces the death (actually “murder”) of God.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Socrates, by the way, cuts a hugely ironic figure in intellectual history. He was basically the “post-modernist” of his own time, a time that Diogenes rightly saw as the dark age of Greek civilisation. Socrates arose in that context. He never actually concluded anything, but was masterful at deconstructing the arguments and beliefs of others. He was Greece’s deconstructionist in that sense. And yet the Delphic Oracle called him the wisest man in the Athens of his day because he knew nothing and knew he knew nothing. He actually looked forward to dying because he believed truth would be revealed only in death and afterlife.

        Perhaps the Oracle picked the wrong man? Perhaps it was Diogenes.

      • TeenyTinyTarot says :

        The prodigal son motif fits works very well in the context of your article, but have you considered “The Hymn of the Pearl”? (BTW, I tried to search the blog to see if I had mentioned it before, but got back a 404 “page not found” error… It searches for a single word OK, but not a phrase).

        Quoting P.D. Ouspensky: “If we imagine twenty-one [numbered Tarot Trumps] disposed in the shape of a triangle, seven cards on each side, a point in the centre of the triangle represented by the zero card, and a square round the triangle (the square consisting of fifty-six cards, fourteen on each side), we shall have a representation of the relation between God, Man and the Universe, or the relation between the world of ideas, the consciousness of man and the physical world. The triangle is God (the Trinity) or the world of ideas, or the noumenal world. The point is man’s soul. The square is the visible, physical or phenomenal world. Potentially, the point is equal to the square, which means that all the visible world is contained in man’s consciousness, is created in man’s soul. And the soul itself is a point having no dimension in the world of the spirit, symbolized by the triangle. It is clear that such an idea could not have originated with ignorant people and clear also that the Tarot is something more than a pack of playing or fortune-telling cards.” ~ P.D. Ouspensky, “THE SYMBOLISM OF THE TAROT”

  4. Scott Preston says :

    “A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on”. There seems to be no agreement about who first said that (Mark Twain, Winston Churchill (not), or someone named “Terry Pratchett”). It seems manifestly true about “post-truth society”.

    It can be frustrating, but it makes you wonder why the lie has such an unfair advantage over the truth. But then, the race of the rabbit and the tortoise didn’t conclude as expected either. The rabbit got cocky, fell asleep, and lost the race.

    There may be a use for Xeno’s paradoxes after all, bizarre as they may seem. My money’s ultimately on the tortoise. Of course, the Devil will accuse me of believing in fairy tales and lacking in “common sense”, since it’s obvious the rabbit lie will always win out over the tortoise truth. Only a fool would bet on the tortoise.

    History seems to demonstrate, though, that the tortoise eventually overtakes the rabbit. Fairy tale though it may be, it addresses a serious issue of patience and rashness or impetuousness.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on.

      Yes, “but like me Aunt Rosalie always said, ‘Lies got but wee legs and don’t run far.'” (Rustan Muggs, The Dwarven Document Dilemma, The Witcher 3) Hmm. Maybe that’s why a lie can only make it half-way around the world.
      : ) Yes, indeed. The tortoise is the best bet.


      As long as we’re indulging our inner fool-sages: Anyone have an idea why it is that “sight” and spectrums of “light” have some privileged place in our universe and vocabularies? Being sound-oriented, it seems to me we’re treating “sound” and “vibration” like some kind of red-headed stepchild. What of the “primordial AUM?”

      Yes, I know. “In space,” supposedly, “no one can hear you scream.” But is it possible that our technical instruments are just not sophisticated enough to “hear” it? Is it so strange or spooky that Eastern and Western (e.g. Gregorian) chant, music and perhaps especially singing ourselves, have such a profound effect on our well-being?

      That’s why I’m not so quick to dismiss the ‘tuning frequency’ theories making the rounds. (The creeping conspiracy theories? Well…. “Conspiracies” are generally un- or sub-conscious, aren’t they?)

      • Scott Preston says :

        Odd that you should mention “chant” as I had drafted a post titled Enchantment and Disenchantment, following upon Yunkaporta’s article in The Guardian on Van Gogh, which I found quite revealing in those terms.

        “Chant”, of course, is the core of words, and that means a type of speech, or song, particularly associated with the magical consciousness structure. Nature envoiced and as a being with whom one can conduct a dialogue of sorts, or who responds to song, prayer, chant, is the “enchanted” world (think of the indigenous “songlines” of Australia). The “disenchantment of the world”, as sociologist Max Weber called it (and subsequently the “iron cage” of rationalisation) grew along with perspectivising consciousness and its “distantiation” from Nature. Nature became mute — a deaf, dumb, and blind machine.

        And yet, the subtitle of Ilya Prigogine’s book Order Out of Chaos is “Man’s New Dialogue with Nature”. Actually, it’s not so much “new” as a renaissance of sorts — the “field” beginning to displace the “point-of-view” or perspectivist consciousness structure. Nature is someone or something that one can have “dialogue” with, even in the form of “chant”.

        So, the re-enchantment of the world is connected with this notion of Nature being a partner in a dialogical (NOT an abstract dialectical) relationship. And that’s where Prigogine and Rosenstock-Huessy converge — Nature is not only an addressee (a “Thou”) but is also envoiced, and has its own way of speaking.

        I don’t know if I’ll post “Enchantment and Disenchantment” after all.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          You’ve no notion how much that (along with the most unsavory aspects of our present predicament) sounds like The Conjunction of the Spheres in the Witcher universe. (Don’t bother looking up The Conjunction of the Spheres online. No game wiki entry does it justice.)

          Nature being a partner in a dialogical … relationship.

          I think we’ve got that covered and — yes — it’s nothing new, perhaps especially to most if not all of us here. I do think there is a danger, however: the possibility of becoming so fixated upon the ecological that we forget all other “dialogical” relationships worthy of our attention, not least the cosmological, which hasn’t always displayed the “perspectival” fixation it does today. “Consciousness structures” run amok can’t be “subsumed” without first transcending them.

          It’s easy to forget that Keppler made his most important discoveries while pursuing his Harmony of the World. As noted by Christopher Bamford in one of the wonderful articles linked by Steve Lavendusky, “This all harks back to ancient times when art, science, and religion were one—a single gesture.”

          Most appropriate phrase, “a single gesture.” This implies a consonant course of action….the wisdom of which humanity appears unable to grasp at the moment.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            I thought I wouldn’t bother to edit and replace “grasp” with “grok,” as it appears in the temporary notepad file set up to compose this comment thinking everyone would know what I meant, then thought better of it considering “what people think I think.”

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Now, this is interesting! Van Gogh art appreciation as seen through indigenous (Australian) eyes…

    It’s quite fascinating to see this different perceptions — Yunkaporta’s and Van Gogh’s — of the same scenes. How the “hunter and gatherer” interprets the representative of agrarian society and the Northern European Protestant industriousness and “work ethic”. We don’t often tend to read Van Gogh’s material in quite the way Yunkaporta does.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Something I might point out in this article by Yunkaporta on Van Gogh is that in indigenous languages (at least, in my experience working with aboriginal groups in Saskatchewan) there are no words for “culture” and “nature” as antitheses. This is what informs Yunkaporta’s interpretation of Van Gogh’s art as that of someone “looking at land from the outside”. In other words, what Yunkaporta finds so strange about Van Gogh (perhaps Western art more generally) is this “objective attitude”, ie, perspectivisation.

      In that sense, it’s a really good example of Gebser’s cultural philosophy of “structures of consciousness”. It’s an encounter of the “unperspectival” with the “perspectival” that is played out in this article.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Our world is soaked in symbolism and what is a symbol? but a wall to the un-awoken and windows for the awoken, that is symbols can be a ladder for ascent or a ladder for descent. Our soul never stops interacting with its creator ( Call it god ,the sea of awareness ,the ever present origin etc ), provided we do not forget his effectiveness in running the world and in correcting the errors of the world in ways we can not be certain how or when . It is how we interpret the symbols and in light of that interpretation, we either, guide ourselves to the real one or to the false. It is a question of veil and unveil and the whole life process is to unveil the veiled and that is the meaning of revelation , to put the veil aside. The veil is a call to revelation, and our world is a veil on the creator that is why there were prophets to remind humanity to see, what the world is veiling, also to remind the humans of the soul behind the body. Once people decide that there is only the seen they prevent themselves from enjoying the never stopping creative activities of the real and would not have mired themselves in the mechanical veil. God called himself the visible and the invisible in order for humanity not to stop meandering between the two poles and thus preventing the fall in the abyss. Beautiful actions are more important than the beautiful forms and any excessive emphasis on the beauty of the forms on the expense of the beautiful actions will lead definitely to all types of diseases and illnesses, social or otherwise. It is sad to hear one of the billionaire calling on some church to stop feeding the poor. God world is an open world and he does not like to be enclosed in some few patterns or models. Selectivity in the divine world is dangerously misleading. Besieging oneself in the limited is not a sin but a self-damnation and I do not think any one would like to intentionally damn him/herself. It is needed in this life journey to be aware that humans are divinely accountable for their actions and words. It is the omission of that truth is behind global mess and the local mess. We must never forget the why of our discourses and their purpose in serving truth, that is god the carriers of all beautiful names without discounting their opposites.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    It is an excellent article to show the tragedy of falling in the limited, how what we
    call primitive has a better presence in his world than the civilized ones. It is the wonders of the unreachable who wants to show us the futility of human labelling.

  8. mikemackd says :

    How Not to be a Fool?

    Where do Mark’s quoting above of Geber’s “only a completely new attitude” and my previous quoting of Mumford’s call for “a change in direction and attitude. We must bring to every activity and every plan a new criterion of judgment: we must ask how far it seeks to further the processes of life” lead?

    Flying out of Kabul, I read on the need to distinguish between people and roles, or “role and soul” (Robertson, “Holacracy”, p. 39 and p. 42), like I.W.’s distinction between hating people such as Peters and hating what they stand for; in Peters’ case, the megachine.

    However, roles affect people, and they identify with them: “I am the Boss”; “I identify with the Green Bay Packers”, and so on. This animal alignment can be both beneficial and malign. Concerning the latter, as George Orwell put it:

    So far as I can see, all political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. . . To appreciate the danger of Fascism the Left would have had to admit its own shortcomings, which was too painful; so the whole phenomenon was ignored or misinterpreted, with disastrous results.

    The most one can say is that people can be fairly good prophets when their wishes are realizable. But a truly objective approach is almost impossible, because in one form or another almost everyone is a nationalist… The most intelligent people seem capable of holding schizophrenic beliefs, or disregarding plain facts, of evading serious questions with debating-society repartees, or swallowing baseless rumours and of looking on indifferently while history is falsified. All these mental vices spring ultimately from the nationalistic habit of mind, which is itself, I suppose, the product of fear and of the ghastly emptiness of machine civilization….

    —George Orwell, London Letter in: Partisan Review (Winter, 1945).

    In turn, reading Ramana Maharishi from a McGilchristian perspective such habits of mind are the products of “the feeling that the doer is ‘I’ [, which] is itself bondage. If the feeling is got rid of by vichara, these questions do not arise. Saranagathi is not the mere act of sitting with closed eyes. If all sit like that, how are they to get on in this world?

    A consequence of this bondage into the machine is errors and distortions in logical typing (Bateson’s Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity 1979, p. 121), particularly that of personalising things and thingifying people (ibid, p. 112).

    Wikipedia defines “vichara” as “Self-enquiry, also spelled self-inquiry (Sanskrit vichara, also called jnana-vichara or ātma-vichār), is the constant attention to the inner awareness of “I” or “I am” recommended by Ramana Maharshi as the most efficient and direct way of discovering the unreality of the “I”-thought.”

    That self, though, extends beyond thought into one’s umwelt (Wikipedia again: In the semiotic theories of Jakob von Uexküll and Thomas A. Sebeok, umwelt (plural: umwelten; from the German Umwelt meaning “environment” or “surroundings”) is the “biological foundations that lie at the very epicenter of the study of both communication and signification in the human [and non-human] animal”.

    So this vichara self-inquiry includes “what is the value of what this “I’ is manifesting?” When Jesus said, “by their works ye shall know them”, by my works I shall know me, that can then be read alongside his statement that “the Kingdom of God is within you”.

    So perhaps Gebser’s and Mumford’s shifts in attitude involve vichara, not just of sitting with one’s eyes closed, but also gestatly evaluating that extended self and its dynamics in its umwelt? A valuation, as abdulmonem put it, of an act or an attitude as to its “disposition for wholeness”?

    “As you walk, you create your road.” Not just in sitting with eyes closed: but also then, to ask “What is this “I” manifesting now? The Kingdom of God within me? If not, why not? What other, and why that other?” Not to condemn and hate the selves of others, but to understand our own and each other’s selfing.

    As T’s Ai-ken T’an put it, “the stillness in stillness is not the real stillness. Only when there is stillness in movement can the spiritual rhythm appear which pervades heaven and earth”.

    • mikemackd says :

      Mumford’s main focus was cities. One of the ironies (again!) of cities is that they were often sited where there were good soils to be irrigated and tended, yet the expansion of those cities covered over those very soils.

      Similarly, as Eugene McCarraher pointed out in his essay “Ruskin was Right” (, “capitalism erodes … its own ecological foundations”. And similarly again, insofar as we define ourselves as our roles as servo-mechanisms of the megamachine, we do the same to our souls.

      Every opportunity comes with an array of opportunity costs. We can identify ourselves with machines, and apply the power of the machine ourselves, and to our selves, but machines, including nation-states, are products of our social imaginaries and while we may love them, they cannot love us in return any more than a can-opener can.

      The distinction between roles and reality is indistinct to us when we a children. St Paul said “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me”, yet that ain’t necessarily so with everyone and every process: how much are we still driven by our childish images and values? There is nothing to hate about a ten year old boy behaving like a ten year old boy, and nothing to hate about someone 60 who is still arrested or fixated at a ten year old boy’s images and values. But there is plenty to hate about their being any position to activate those puerile “cowboy and indian” mentalities by killing others.

      It’s no good blaming a machine, be it a gun or a religion or a nation-state, when you kill someone or otherwise destroy their lives. If you think that there is, check out the Tarot card above. While we can know each other’s souls by our works, a machine has no soul to know, and when we infuse the qualities of the machine into our selves, we must be careful they do not cover and smother our souls, because they can, and usually do, as inexorably as cities cover soils.

      Mumford used the term “technics” to enfold our machinic images and attitude as well as our tools and machines. Just as architects design buildings and planners cities, we work from social imaginaries through the Thomas Theorem (‘things do not have to be real to be real in their consequences”) to produce artefacts such as buildings and cities. Just so, we can build our souls.

      When we change our images and attitudes from inside technics our products will differ. Let’s see what those differences and products might be when we employ our disposition for wholeness.

      • mikemackd says :

        Re-reading that, it’s not “just so”, that we can build our souls; they are more like paradise gardens, also needing nurture, just like Firdausi’s design, as with the Taj Mahal.

    • Scott Preston says :

      What on Earth were you doing in Kabul besides tempting the Fates?

  9. abdulmonem says :

    Mike, knowing your preoccupation with the monstrosity of the machine, T do not know if you are aware of another Mumfordian called Richard Weaver who complains the misery of humanity as a result of technification of the world and how ideas and images have serious impact on human transformation. It is new gods replacing old gods. Humans can not do without worship.

    • mikemackd says :

      No, abdulmonem, I was not aware of Richard Weaver.

      Thanks for the heads up; I will search for him now.

      • mikemackd says :

        Hmm; I don’t know if I would call Richard Weaver a Mumfordian. Still, I don’t know if I would call myself a Mumfordian either.

        One of the first links I opened when Googling their names together though, made reference to Weaver that fits in this string. The post “Governance in the Long Emergency” 9of climate change) at includes the following:

        “Democracies are also vulnerable to what conservative philosopher Richard Weaver once described as the spoiled-child psychology, “a kind of irresponsibility of the mental process . . . because [people] do not have to think to survive . . . typical thinking of such people [exhibits] a sort of contempt for realities.” Psychologists Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell believe that the behavior Weaver noted in the 1940s has now exploded into a full-blown “epidemic of narcissism.” Such failures of personality, judgment, and character could multiply under the stresses likely in the long emergency.”

        In which case, the Tarot card called “The Fool” as depicted above is a perfect symbol for our age,


        Mumford gets a mention further down the article:

        Toward the end of his life, historian Lewis Mumford concluded that the only way out of this conundrum is “a steady withdrawal” from the “megamachine” of technocratic and corporate control. He did not mean community-scale isolation and autarky, but rather more equitable, decentralized, and self-reliant communities that met a significant portion of their needs for food, energy, shelter, waste cycling, and economic support. He did not propose secession from the national and global community but rather withdrawal from dependence on the forces of oligarchy, technological domination, and zombie-like consumption. Half a century later, that remains the most likely strategy for building the foundations of democracies robust enough to see us through the tribulations ahead. … Fifty years ago, Mumford’s suggestion seemed unlikely. But in the years since, local self-reliance, Transition Towns, and regional policy initiatives are leading progressive changes throughout Europe and the United States while central governments have been rendered ineffective

        • abdulmonem says :

          Mike, I have his book,ideas have consequences in mind. in it he introduced his idea of the stereopticon the wonderful machine.

  10. Dwig says :

    Here’s some foolish advice from Paul Hawken. Excerpt: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done, and check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

    When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

  11. Scott Preston says :

    Muddling toward eco-civilisation.

    Of all places this article should appear, it curiously, unexpectedly, appears in The Financial Times.

  12. Steve Lavendusky says :

    Just finished a charming little book called, “What W.H Auden Can Do For You” by Alexander McCall Smith.

  13. Steve Lavendusky says :

    He has a way of showing how rich life can be, and how precious. He’s a good guide to the inescapable task of being human. To be human against all odds.

    The More Loving One
    W. H. Auden, 1907 – 1973

    Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
    That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
    But on earth indifference is the least
    We have to dread from man or beast.

    How should we like it were stars to burn
    With a passion for us we could not return?
    If equal affection cannot be,
    Let the more loving one be me.

    Admirer as I think I am
    Of stars that do not give a damn,
    I cannot, now I see them, say
    I missed one terribly all day.

    Were all stars to disappear or die,
    I should learn to look at an empty sky
    And feel its total dark sublime,
    Though this might take me a little time.

  14. Scott Preston says :

    Good heavens! we’ve been dealing with the double or polar nature of the character of The Fool and then this article appears in today’s Guardian on “the philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene”, Timothy Morton, who seems to relish the role

    Never heard of the guy. Sounds a little whacked like that other Timothy — the Leary one. But there is, nonetheless, something true at the core of his riddling muddles which even he doesn’t presume to understand.

    Well, for some people he is the embodiment of that kind of sublime or divine madness that represents one aspect of The Fool. He says some things in the context of philosophy that only a Harlequin or Joker could get away with (and sometimes doesn’t get away with).

    That highlights another aspect of the meaning of The Fool in the Tarot deck. The sun is behind him, and it illuminates his way, and, in a sense, drives him, but he is not mindful of that or is oblivious to it (he calls it, appropriately “dark ecology”). There is something of that in Morton. He’s not sure he even understands his own philosophy of “dark ecology”, and yet there’s something in it, like a pearl hidden in the oyster.

    How ironic, but perhaps approrpriate, that the “philosopher prophet of the Anthropocene” should be a Harlequin!

    • davidm58 says :

      I haven’t read the Guardian “long read” yet to understand why you’re calling Timothy Morton a harlequin. I don’t know his work really well, but he’s been the subject of a long running thread on the Integral Post-Metaphysical Spirituality forum that I frequent. The opening post on this thread has a good overview of Morton’s “Object Oriented Ontology.”

      Here’s a brief summary of his work, from a page where he’s included in a list of the 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers:
      “Timothy Morton received his doctorate in philosophy from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1993 and currently holds the title of Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University. Morton’s work is primarily focused in ontology and ecotheory, as well as literary theory and criticism. Morton has been most influential in the development of the focus of ontology in contemporary philosophy, and is most famous for his book Ecology Without Nature (2007), and his major role in the object-oriented ontology (OOO) movement. In Ecology Without Nature, Morton has argued that ecological writing typically views “nature” and “civilization” as two separate things, nature being something we emerged from, and have since become removed from. In response to this problem, Morton argues that we dissolve[Book Image]this binary opposition and begin to understand nature as a social construct that is inseparable from civilization. In his work in the OOO movement, which focuses on the ontology of objects in the world apart from human ontology (the goal being to avoid anthropocentrism), Morton has coined the term “hyperobjects” as a way of describing objects that transcend attempts to pin them to any particular locality in time and space.”

      Morton has a blog page here:

      • Scott Preston says :

        You’ll have to read the article to know what I mean by “harlequin”, although by that I don’t mean the same thing as fool or buffoon. Picasso called one of his best friends “Harlequin”, and it has much the same meaning as I use it.

  15. Scott Preston says :

    Anyone looking to move to an “green island” paradise? The tiny Greek Island of Tilos is looking for new “green” citizens. An encouraging story amidst a sea of mostly bad news

    • Scott Preston says :

      Someone should inform these “Bikers for Trump” that they aren’t consuming enough oil and gas to actually support Trump and his plan to “make America Great Again”. They need to consume more oil and gas. They should trade in their motorcycles for Humvees and Big Bully Trucks. Just a “modest proposal”.

  16. Scott Preston says :

    According to Michael Klare, Trump is literally betting the farm (and the fate of America) on a resurgence of fossil fuels, and lining up an alliance or “New World Order” of petrol states against “green states”.

    That’s likely to be a fatal decision.

  17. InfiniteWarrior says :

    In perfect alignment with my better judgment, I’m going to come full circle, in a manner of speaking, and reintroduce a work of speculative fiction (only for the interested) to which I alluded back in TDAB days before indulging in a period of word-fasting of my own. The work is “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison. (Bear in mind that the prose style fits the theme. Ergo, it shouldn’t throw anyone off the trail.)

    At the time, I believe you interpreted it, Scott, as — in the end — the Harlequin more or less exchanges places with the Ticktockman, each (in a sense) becoming what he observed and opposed. An excellent interpretation.

    Regardless of our interpretations of the ending, the Harlequin successfully disrupts the Ticktockman’s brutal logic and “sense of time,” despite that Everett C. Marm himself was destroyed in the end. Thus, the Ticktockman heading “into his office, going mrmee, mrmee, mrmee,” and we’re left to wonder how this society might eventually shape up with the Ticktockman himself having become “the Harlequin”.

    On Brooks (long version), Red and the meaning of “institutionalized”:

    I’m tellin’ ya, these walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. ‘Nough time passes, you get where you depend on ’em. That’s institutionalized.

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