Science and Civilisation and Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s speech about “saving our civilization” delivered in Warsaw the other day just about sent me over the deep end, since Trump himself is a vector for its immanent self-annihilation and suicide. Trump’s rhetoric belongs to the phenomenon of “symbolic belief”. Whatever Trump merely thinks he’s doing, and despite whatever he merely tells himself and others all that he thinks he’s doing, his already muddled and incoherent rhetoric is contradicted by what he actually does in reality. Trump is the perfect avatar of “post-historic man” and of the “post-truth era”, the distillation and precipitate of this civilisation’s malaise and nihilism as the real meaning of its “end of history”. The Toronto Star even keeps a running scoreboard of how many lies Trump has uttered since becoming the Troll-in-Chief and King of the Trolls (last count, 358). Cynical rhetoric about “saving our civilization” is probably about the biggest lie of them all.

“Duplicity is the currency of the day”, says Pope Francis. The “crooked timber of humanity” has its day in the ascendancy of “the forked-tongue”.  I have said, through the earlier Dark Age Blog and through the present Chrysalis as well, that the onset of our Dark Age, however long that might last, is due to our own “four riders of the apocalypse” who I have named: “Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind”.

That’s what “post-truth society” means. Lip-service and “symbolic belief” are just other forms of duplicity, for it means there is a dissociation of image from reality, of self-image from identity, and fact from truth. This is the form of modern man’s intensifying self-alienation and “distantiation” from the “vital centre” (as per Jean Gebser), and attests to the fragmentation and disintegration of the personality and consciousness structure of Modern Man precisely as described by W.B. Yeats in his ominous poem “The Second Coming”. (It is not difficult to see in Yeats’ “Falcon” and “Falconer” metaphor the Emissary and Master aspects of Iain McGilchrist’s “divided brain” and the complete dissociation of the mode of attention of the “Emissary” from the mode of attention of the “Master”. This is what is also reflected in the phenomenon of “symbolic belief”).

This loss of integrity of the personality manifests as the dissociation of thought and reality — words and acts contradict one another. “Cognitive dissonance” is even too sanitary a phrase for this decay and disintegration of the personality and consciousness structure, which is experienced as “identity crisis”. In post-truth society, the triple process of Truth, Truce (peace), and Trust (faith and credit) also begins to disintegrate and fall apart, eventually leading into social collapse.

Yes, indeed, all this appears as insanity and madness, because it is. This amounts to what Jean Gebser calls “a maelstrom of blind anxiety”.

Now, if Trump and his acolytes and hangers-on were really interested in “saving our civilisation” (Steven Bannon represents Trump’s self-contradiction to this), then they would be doing everything they could to conserve, respect, and honour the consciousness structure that gave birth to, and continues to inform, that civilisation. That consciousness structure is the “mental-rational” or “perspectival” and it is dialectical in nature. The formal order of the many societies of the modern instantiation (ie “our civilisation”) is a reflection of dialectical consciousness with its three terms (“dimensions”) of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

Dialectical consciousness (as the meaning of the perspectival or mental-rational) is what is illustrated in the Great Seal of the United States

annuit coeptis

Here, thesis and antithesis form the two basal points, while the synthesis is represented as the “all-seeing eye”. This is the shape of consciousness attuned to a cosmic reality envisioned as three-dimensional — the spaces organised as length, width, and depth. This is reflected in the political organisation of society in the form of the liberal democratic order as the separation of powers — legislative, executive, and judicial. It is reflected in the judiciary as Prosecutor (Thesis), Defender (Antithesis or Dissenter) and Judge or Jury (Synthesis). It is reflected in the political organisation as Ruling Party (thesis), Loyal Opposition (antithesis) and the Federation or Confederation (constitutionality or principle of federation). It is also reflected in the three fundamental freedoms of a liberal democracy — freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of assembly.

This dialectical or trinitarian arrangement of values originates with the invention of perspective in the Renaissance and the disclosure of the “third dimension”. It is quite clearly a representation of Da Vinci’s illustration of the perspective eye


da Vinci: The Pyramid of Vision

And it is this triangulating, perspectivising mode of perception that forms the basis for Rene Descartes “wondrous strange” method — the cogito or res cogitans as he himself illustrated.

Descartes dualism

The Cartesian “cogito” illustrated by Descartes

This is the meaning of the “mental-rational” or “perspectival” or “dialectical”. A “dialectician” is someone who thinks in perspectivist terms, and that means in terms of thesis, antithesis and synthesis, as illustrated here,


Dialectics Illustrated

Thus what is meant by “rationality” is the dialectic, and this is rooted in a “ratio” of spaces perspectivally organised and ordered as length, width, and depth become thesis, antithesis, and synthesis.

In those terms, liberal democracy and the dream of a “scientific civilisation” are two sides of the same coin, developments from out of dialectical consciousness. The three  fundamental values or freedoms of the liberal democratic order were originally conceived to facilitate science and the development of a “scientific civilisation”.

All talk about “saving our civilisation” such as we hear from so-called “conservatives” or alt-right reactionaries is fraudulent and the essential duplicity as long as they devalue, debase, and desecrate the consciousness structure that underpins it. The reason they don’t do that is because their real interest is not in “saving our civilisation” but in annihilating the liberal democratic order completely and its mode of consciousness — dialectic or perspectival. Disinformation is a main strategy for this. This is not “saving our civilisation” at all. This is nihilism.

I’m not particularly interested in some reactionary project of “saving our civilisation” in any event. I’m interested in transformation because I recognise the limitations of the dialectical mind and consciousness structure. It was only ever a partial revelation of our full reality, and has become especially apparent to thoughtful people since the addition of the fourth-dimension — time — and Einstein’s unification of space and time.

Gebser’s “aperspectival consciousness” (or Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s “quadrilateral logic”), which I have called “fourfold vision” after William Blake, is not anti-perspectival. You couldn’t even drive or park a car without some understanding of perspective. It is a restructuration of consciousness appropriate for four-dimensional reality as dialectics was appropriate for a three-dimensional cosmos, but which is no longer adequate. Gebser’s “plus mutation” means moving from the threefold to the fourfold — an enrichment of consciousness by the addition of a new direction and dimension. This is exactly contrary to the intentions of the reactionaries.

And this, I hold, is why we also have to look to matters like the indigenous “Sacred Hoop”, which preserves this fourfoldness in its very structure. And, in fact, as you can see clearly, the dialectical pyramid or triangle forms the quadrants of the cross and hoop structure.

Sacred Hoop 2

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

By comparing these different structures, you may come to appreciate the meaning of “perspectival” and “aperspectival” as Gebser uses the term, and the difference between Blake’s “Single Vision” and his “fourfold vision”, and perhaps, too, why the Whole and the Totality can never be identical. You can’t come to the meaning of the Sacred Hoop or cross of reality by merely adding up the four “perspective” quadrants into a totality. The whole is not the sum of its parts.

After all this, I forgot even to mention the article by David Runicman that was the initial stimulus for this post, published as The Long Read in today’s Guardian as “How Climate Scepticism Turned Into Something More Dangerous“. I have simply taken it further than Runciman has, although it’s a good article to ponder.





10 responses to “Science and Civilisation and Donald Trump”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Good article by Phil McDuff also in today’s Guardian on the zombie idea that will not die — neo-liberalism

  2. InfiniteWarrior says :

    I must admit I’m a bit uncomfortable with the term “post-truth society.” “Post-truth era?” No problem.

    I wonder if Thatcher’s projections of the notion that “there is no such thing as society” hasn’t led us to ‘believe,’ in a sense, that there actually isn’t when, obviously, there is.

    Our “societies” didn’t create this mess, but are, in large part, unwilling participants in it if current events, e.g. the DAPL protest-protect are any indication.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Why not call it a lying society in all its layers the above the below and the in-between and we are all are willingly or unwillingly participants in this mess, with few islands of truth that are keeping our society running. Why let the like of Thatcher to deny the truth of the society, and nobody stand to tell her you are wrong. Entertaining lie and hypocrisy is the virus that eating the healthy cells of our life, No wonder one of the highest religious figure in the world complained from the perverseness of duplicity in the world. We are the victims of clever intelligence that is programmed to coin phrases that conceal the truth or throw humans in the swamps of useless discourse. We are living in a world where humans are left to themselves to find the way up. In the old ages there were prophets
    chosen by god to deliver his message ,now we are mature enough to draw down his knowledge to see our way in this darkness. Too much information is like shortage of information are dangerous that is why we need to enhance our wise intelligence through devotional meditation and purposeful toning to be able to navigate in this murky sea.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Why not call it a lying society in all its layers the above the below and the in-between

      Because we haven’t been “walking in the footsteps of society’s lies.” We’ve been sleep-walking in the “footsteps” of the Megamachine’s and its tautological “zombie-logic” for a couple of centuries now. The Megamachine is an egoic construct based upon faulty perceptions whereas “society” is a conscious and complex relationship.

      The Megamachine was established before any of us were born and its faulty logic has been bequeathed to us. In a sense, its subroutines both are and are not presently in control of current events at any given time and place, but not necessarily in control of our societies. Our societies have reached consensus on a wide variety of topics. This is, in my mind, why (for example) we see cities and states in the US ignoring our federal government’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement and continue on their merry way in honoring it regardless. This is why, in my mind, that — despite the in-fighting going on pretty much everywhere — people are nonetheless deciding to focus on the health and well-being of our communities and doing what they can to ensure it just as they are turning their attention to their own health and well-being by eliminating GMOs among other things from their diets and “going organic” despite the onerous influence of the biotech and chemical industries and their propagandists.

      Aware of these subpatterns, how can then we call our societies “lying” or “post-truth” societies. This, in my mind, ties in with Elgin’s observation (shared by Charles below) that:

      behind the apparent disarray of random events, there is a deeper harmony, a moving point of equilibrium and balance, a patterned unfolding of reality as a symbolic whole

      It’s this harmony in the chaos that I call “cosmo-logical,” whether anyone likes the term or not, and it’s this pattern to which I’ve turned my own attention and focus. As far as I’m concerned, the Megamachine’s nonsense cannot and will not stop this patterned unfolding of reality.

      Duane Elgin also published a treatise entitled The 2020 Challenge, which is unfortunately no longer available online.

      • abdulmonem says :

        Thank you IW, this one of the islands whose voice keep the ship running. As they say if it is not for these voices the ship will have sunk long time ago. The law of human interaction in order to avoid the death of conformity and the sinking of the ship.

  4. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Just a tiny oopsie?

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Former Mexican President Vincente Fox has made three videos addressed to Donald Trump. They’re available on YouTube and they are hilarious!

    Watch the first one and the next two should follow atuomatically

  6. Charles Leiden says :

    Scott, appreciate your commitment to writing what you write. Your tenacity is admirable. One essential idea that animates my being is the fundamental unity of creation. Of course, this is related to your writing about Ultimate Truth. Duane Elgin in an article years ago wrote about “the ecological flow of the universe.” Humans that explore deeper reaches of human awareness agree on an essential perception “behind the apparent disarray of random events, there is a deeper harmony, a moving point of equilibrium and balance, a patterned unfolding of reality as a symbolic whole… The Tao is a name for this pattern flow of the universe. Congruent with this, “the essence of wisdom is to act in harmony with the Tao,” and human kind bears an awesome responsibility for acting in ways that do not disrupt the flowing equilibrium of the universe…”
    Elgin writes further that modern market economics have their own “Tao of socioeconomic processes” Adam Smith “ Every endeavors to employ his capital so that its produce may be of greatest value…he intends his own security, only his own gain. And he is in this led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention…” Elgin goes on to write about the successes of this but how it is undermining everything. We mistake power for wisdom. .
    I appreciate your articulation of the “fourfold vision.” I am reading a book by Christopher M. Bache Dark Night, Early Dawn Step to a Deep Ecology of Mind that offers many fascinating ideas and speculations about the changes and transformation that are happening.
    Every word you write about Trump is right on -enough to put me over the “deep end” also. Good thought from IW and abdulmonem. Here is a site for hydrogen news.

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