The Dangers of Hubris

We find ourselves, today, in a most peculiar situation, and a very dangerous one. To the “conquest of space” through the technologies of space that allow for the reshaping of space, we are now pursuing the conquest of time, through technologies of control of time and evolution — biotechnology, genetic engineering, and so on. Into this mix of technologies of space and of time, if we also add psychotechnologies — that is, technologies of psychological and social management and control — we have a very menacing correlation of developments. In effect, “we” are in the position to shape and reshape what we call “reality” at will.

We are claiming for ourselves powers over space, time, and reality that were formerly reserved only for God or the gods, and for that reason, too, I find some types of present research into neurology and consciousness quite disturbing in its motives and rationales.

So, I’ld like you to think about that for a moment — this ability to shape and reshape what we conventionally understand as “reality” at will. That is, in many respects, the ideal of Rolf Jensen’s The Dream Society. And this correlation of technologies has the potential to make every dystopian film made recently look tame.

We are increasingly confused about the meaning of “real” and of what is actually independent and autonomous from ourselves and our own activities. The “Anthropocene” is a case in point. The “Poppy meme” discussed in a few earlier posts is another. We are fast becoming completely disoriented in relation to what we mean by “reality”. And there is also a great deal of attendant psychic inflation or intoxication with this “discovery”, as it were, that we can shape and reshape reality in any which way we choose (eg Kurzweil seems to me a prime example). “Geo-engineering”, which scares a lot of sensible people itself, also looks tame in comparison.

Goethe’s tale of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice becomes quite meaningful. Or “who unhinged the Earth from its Sun”, as Nietzsche once put it.

Something to watch for in 2018 –an intensifying confusion about what is real.

Its brinksmanship. Where is this leading?

43 responses to “The Dangers of Hubris”

  1. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    And in their blindness they swim. It is really strange how humans kill themselves. The brink humans that have reached the point of no return but the continual sliding on the slope that has no halting rung. It is really time for waiting for the god. a constructive wait, avoiding with all the possessed strength the drop in the fall. Thank you Scott for the warning, one of the five basic human errands in this life.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    That was the year that was. Some of you may already have seen this — Dave Barry’s hilarious summation of 2017. Parody though it is, there’s also a lot of truth in it, which is probably what makes it hilarious too

    • Risto says :

      I especially liked the part where Barry criticized the Emoji movie. That movie must be some kind of epitome, how superficial and nihilistic culture can get. Here’ s review from Vulture, which Barry linked in the article. I think it’s the funniest movie review I’ve ever read (Guess it’s one form of coincidentia oppositorium…)

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      It might be noted that the fidget spinner was originally designed to assist children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD to focus and concentrate their attention. How it became a fad (displaced by the squishy for 2018) is anyone’s guess, but since the subject has come up….

      I don’t suppose anyone ever has stopped to consider that children are “fidgety” by nature and that the invention of Ritalin may have had something to do with ever-increasing instances of such diagnoses? (Actually, I’m sure someone has and there are a number of articles on the subject, but you get my point.)

      Just as the recent announcement that “excessive” video gaming (but only “excessive”…for the moment) is to be named a mental disorder by the WHO, such developments might give us pause to consider why it is that we (as a species) are failing to acknowledge and address the true roots of “attention deficit,” addiction and the like, rather than (usually) drugging the symptoms (supposedly) out of existence.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Occurs to me this morning to mention Siegfried Gideon’s book (1948) Mechanization Takes Command, which is a landmark book in the history of science and technology, and something I should probably return to myself. It would certainly need updating today, but it is often cited in the literature on the sociology of technics, or how mechanisation has modified our sensibilities.

    Thought I would mention this for anyone who wants to look further into this field and how technics modifies our sensibilities.

    • mikemackd says :

      Thank you for this reference, Scott. Following up on it, I noted that Mumford and he respected and influenced each other, and that Giedion wrote the following in another book of his, GIEDION, S. 1958. Architecture, You and Me: The Diary of a Development. Cambridge, MA. Harvard University Press:

      “Today’s problem is to bridge the fatal gulf between the greatly developed powers of thinking and greatly retarded powers of feeling of those in authority, no matter to what category they may belong. Once this link has been established, the search naturally follows for the most creative designers. Here, in the field of the sciences just as much as in architecture and town planning, it is only those gifted with imagination who can find solutions to the problems facing us today” (Giedion 1958, p. 6).

      Apropos that, and before I found it, my bedtime reading last night was from a book of poems from my family’s lawyer of long ago, the late Robert Clark. Another client of his was an ambitious young editor you may have encountered with your interest in propaganda, Rupert Murdoch, who appointed Clark to the board of News Ltd.

      If Murdoch had encountered and deeply understood this poem of Clark’s, the world may have been a much better place:

      Robert Clark

      We drain off time and strength and wealth each year
      to force our education on the sus-
      urrating young, but are they ever told
      what they might wish, or need, to hear?

      Item: that ego is the poison we
      are given for survival in the jungle, love is the unguent for living with each other.
      They mix like oil and water. The jungle still
      is with us. Slowly, earth-worm slow, the paddocks
      push back the wild. Tigerishly fast
      the jungle can return. The danger comes
      where paddock and the jungle meet. Clear head
      and cool warm heart are needed there to grasp
      which of our love or ego is the weapon
      we should use. With each mistake the cause
      or user is knocked down or quite destroyed.
      Ponder the neophyte, the Emperor Ashoka.

      Item: that we do not possess the earth
      but are the ones possessed. Earth gives suffic-
      iently to those who nurture her and honour
      all living things. One generation may
      grow rich on greed: their children’s children are
      deprived of what they need. Ego or love again … ?
      Ponder the deserts of Sahara, and the spirit.

      Item: no matter how much sex pretends
      it is not love, though sex can lift one kind
      of love beyond the stars. Sex seeks its own
      delight. Love yearns to find the loved one’s good.
      Ponder what Paul wrote in Corinthians.

      Item: extreme indulgence of a sense
      destroys the very pleasure it provokes.
      Can the exquisite sensualist be
      any but a person of animal
      self-discipline? Remember the downward slide.

      Item: that when the young believe they know
      what they would do with life, let them be care-
      ful then to visualise it through, for what
      they formulate and follow, passionate
      in strong desire and assiduity,
      they will get. So ponder on Tithonus.

      Item: that greatness is not what the me-
      dia think, achievement over men and things:
      rather, achievement is over self, the ego
      spurned. Controlled – to live at peace within,
      to know the harmony the ecosystem
      of the spirit has whose ego is no more
      than robe. Not many great are ever heard of.
      Consider Patrick White and his confession.

      Item: and Item: and Item:

      Uncountable millions of turtles hatch each year,
      They have no training or protection. Enough,
      they say, survive. How many die does not appear.

      CLARK, R. 1986. Walking to Bethongabel. Adelaide. Wakefield Press, p. 37.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Speaking of Murdoch (yet again) and Trump, what a tight little coterie that is (sort of)

        • mikemackd says :

          When Murdoch called Trump an idiot in that context, it clearly was not cognate with the word’s origin of idiotes, but the more general meaning of being stupid. In turn, “stupid” to them seems to generally mean that he has a low IQ, as Trump said in his contesting with his Secretary of State, who called Trump a moron.

          But all IQ measures is how quick you are on the uptake in the contexts placed before you. Even then it is problematic (Gould, S. J. 1996. The mismeasure of man. New York: Norton). In itself it says nothing about what you choose to uptake, nothing about your values, nothing about your character, and nothing about greatness as defined in the above poem of Robert Clark’s.

          This focus on cleverness over character is endemic, particularly in the West and, I suspect, goes well into pathological imbalance levels in Washington. One of its hazards is being made captive inside what Blake termed the Satanic state of mind: dominating, accusing, deceiving … the father of lies.

          Blake called another hazard the “error of Ulro”: conflating a state of mind, including the Satanic one, with the whole person. A person can be quite slow on the uptake and yet manifest far better states of mind than the Satanic far more frequently and effectively than those clever people appearing to be totally in its thrall. Jesus said by their works we shall know them, not by their cleverness.

          Once again, if Murdoch had deeply understood Clark the poet, not just Clark his lawyer, the world may have been a better place. I couch that in terms of butterfly effects, which can never be predicted but maybe can be retrospectively traced (For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail).

          If he had deeply understood Clark’s poem, his deep understanding of why Jesus rejected Clark’s robe in his temptation in the desert; “Get the behind me, Satanic state of ego / emissary” would have followed. Only Murdoch can say whether or not it is too late for him to do so, and only some can see the dangers of hubris. But we can all see Murdoch’s works.

          • Scott Preston says :

            What is intriguing about this coterie is that they all loathe each other (perhaps because they are all so much alike?) And yet they remain bound together by something like a shared lust — For the Cause? What is that really? What is it that makes them put up with one another despite their mutual loathing? Powerlust, perhaps? Or, something else? A shared hatred?

            Yet, how ironic — that mutual loathing.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :


            • Scott Preston says :

              I’m really quite amazed at what Michael Wolff was able to get for his book, and the only reason he was able to get all that was because everyone in the Trump circle loathes everyone else, and everyone was out to backstab everyone else — like a circle stabbing.

              Quite phenomenal. I’m trying to think of a precedent in history for that.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Hollywood’s version of corporate hierarchy? (“I’d like to thank all the ‘little people’ I stepped on to get where I am today.” Wall Street’s “Greed is good.” The kind of thing we really see only in movies whereas they tend to play out quite differently in real life, as in the case of Enron, precisely because they are self-delusional.)

              My previous comment is unfair to Radovid, however. The character, Radovid, is mad as a hatter, but an intelligent, cunning and dangerous hatter. This bunch is…something else.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              The Redanian king (Radovid) was a dangerous madman trapped in his own world of disturbing visions. This did not make him one jot less intelligent or cunning, however. Despite his mental afflictions, the young king was manipulating his opponents like an adroit puppet master. –>

              Trump apparently lacks that particular “skill.”

            • Scott Preston says :

              It’s Michael Wolff, not Richard Wolffe. I had to amend my comment about that to correct the name, because moments ago, a real article about “Michael Wolff’s” book by Guardian columnist “Richard Wolff” really did do a pretty good job of describing that circle of mutual loathing and contempt that seems so well hidden behind Trump’s Iron Curtain.


            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Not so well-hidden. It’s headline news every day in the States. And, isn’t that the point? Smoke and mirrors? Distraction? Meanwhile, some rather nasty policies are being rammed through that aren’t being covered in mainstream media.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Well, that’s not quite fair, either. Some of them are; most of them aren’t.

            • mikemackd says :

              Re Powerlust.

              And a point about power lust/hunger/thirst is that there may be no satiety: not from power, not from richness in things. Unlike those for sex, food and water, power hunger feeds on itself without natural limits, a kind of psychological homology to diabetes: gluttony on crystal meth.

              This regard hunger is referred to in Stephen Lubar and David W. Kingery’s “History from Things: Essays on Material Culture, Smithsonian. Kindle Edition. As Csikszentmihalyi put it at

              “Contrary to what we ordinarily believe, consciousness is not a stable, self-regulating entity. When left to itself, deprived of organized sensory input, the mind begins to wander and is soon prey to unbridled hallucinations. Most people require an external order to keep randomness from invading their mind. It is very difficult to keep ideas straight without the assistance of a sensory template that gives them boundaries and direction …

              The addiction to objects is of course best cured by learning to discipline consciousness. If one develops control over the processes of the mind, the need to keep thoughts and feelings in shape by leaning on things decreases. This is the main advantage of a genuinely rich symbolic culture: It gives people poetry, songs, crafts, prayers, and rituals that keep psychic entropy at bay. A Brahmin can afford to live in an empty home, because he does not need objects to keep his mind on course. In our culture mathematicians, musicians, and others adept at the use of symbols are also partially freed from reliance on an objectified consciousness. We very much need to learn more about how this inner control can be achieved. Then objects can again be used primarily as instruments rather than as projections of our selves, which, like the servants created by the sorcerer’s apprentice, threaten to drown their masters with relentless zeal.”

              In other words:

              that greatness is not what the me-
              dia think, achievement over men and things:
              rather, achievement is over self, the ego
              spurned, controlled – to live at peace within,
              to know the harmony the ecosystem
              of the spirit has whose ego is no more
              than robe.

            • mikemackd says :

              Speaking of maths, I discovered an approximation to pi a few hours ago that was new to me: 49257/15679 = 3.1415906; accurate to 5 decimal places (pi is 3.1415926).

              It may be new to everyone, as it’s not mentioned at:

              Whereas far more elaborate and less accurate ones are.

              However, that is just cleverness again: wrong tree to bark up.

            • Scott Preston says :

              It is very difficult to keep ideas straight without the assistance of a sensory template that gives them boundaries and direction …

              In other words, a “consciousness structure”, in Gebser’s sense.

              That’s a pretty good quote overall. Thanks for the reference.

              The paragraph that addresses the “addiction to objects” explains my concern about “marketing 3.0” or “spiritual branding”. That quote is of use to me.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            Perhaps of interest in the dumb vs stupid vs insane vs clever debates is an observation by Robert Reich:

            [H]old on. It would be dangerous to underestimate this man.

            Even if Trump doesn’t read, can’t follow a logical argument, and has the attention span of a fruit fly, it still doesn’t follow that he’s stupid….

            Trump is an extraordinarily talented conman.

            That he goes unrecognized by his base as an extraordinarily talented (narcissistic and self-serving) conman could have a great deal to do those very debates.

            • Scott Preston says :

              <blockquote.Trump is an extraordinarily talented conman.

              hmmm. I’ld say an extraordinarily talented conman is one you never suspect or expect of being one. Someone you know to be an ‘extraordinarily talented conman’ is too transparently so to be one!

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Well, as I see it, we can allow ourselves to get hung up on Reich’s overly generous adjectives or pay attention to the dimension of the phenomenon he’s pointing out: the dimension of emotional intelligence.

              Can we get out of our heads for a moment? Narcissists are not only mentally, spiritually and, often, physically abusive, but emotionally absusive as well (note: that constitutes four dimensions) and, anyone who thinks that Trump is not pulling at heartstrings with much of his rhetoric either isn’t paying attention or doesn’t have a heart themselves. Identity is the least of our worries with this one not only because he’s not playing solely to the extremely marginal “identities” of “the alt-right,” “white supremacists,” etc. the mainstream media is constantly harping on and which he has repudiated now that he’s in office. If he were, he never would have won the election. He’s playing on love for country, love for family, love of our men and women in uniform, and – yep – even love for community of one kind or another. In fact, he plays those cards every chance he gets and we would be making a grave mistake if we believed that these are merely plays on “sentimentality.”

              I don’t underestimate it for a moment because most Trump supporters are nothing remotely like Trump himself: “an empty vessel into which anything can be pored.”

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      His other works include Space, Time, and Architecture and The Eternal Present.

      May also be of interest to some.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Here’s Chris Kutarna’s recent TEDx talk given in Berlin.

    I’ll be meeting again with Chris soon, so if you watch and have some questions, pass them on and I’ll raise them with Chris. Otherwise, I’m I think Chris could respond to comments in the YouTube presentation.

    • mikemackd says :

      Scott, you mentioned that you would put him and me in touch when he came to Australia. Has that happened yet?

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Happy to note he sees a new “Renaissance” underway. This particular presentation is sketchy (at best) on the details of his vision, but I suspect he’s addressed many of them in his book…which I’m unable to avail myself of, atm. : (

      You know…while most everyone is hitting each other over the heads (or, in the face) with those hammers, I’m thinking there must be some way to intervene (disrupt, call it what you will) that publisher-public library phenomenon of which Ursula K. Le Guin briefly spoke in her National Book Award acceptance speech.


  5. Dwig says :

    A comment on “conquest” (which appears in the second sentence of the article): this is a truly hubristic expression of the confusion between “control” and “influence”; the belief that because we can influence certain events, we can control their outcomes. (Probably as good an Exhibit A as any is the neocons’ confidence, in the early Bush Jr. administration, in their ability to create a “New American Century”.)

    • Scott Preston says :

      I wrote something about that earlier, about how having command gives the illusion of mastery. But they are quite different. That’s the nature of hubris. That’s the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    Trump. Lord of Chaos. This is really bad shit. Moments ago, the Guardian published a piece lifting the curtain a bit on what goes on inside the White House, including some insights into Bannon.

    Maybe Trump (or Bannon) read the business book Thriving on Chaos and decided to go with it?

  7. Scott Preston says :

    “Winter storm scatters sleet, ice and misery around US South”.

    Well…. sorry about that. Gives Trump a good reason to build a wall along the 49th parallel, eh? Really would look like Game of Thrones.

  8. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    Why do we have two eyes and two ears and only one mouth but only to see
    more and listen more and talk less. This is the whole purpose of religious contemplation in silence. A one eyed person is deficient, no wonder Chris Scott friend emphasized the two eyes vision to see the truth of the entanglement and to leave the blind alley of the single vision to let ourselves enter a new reawakening time that surpasses all the previous renaissance of human history where the awakening is confined to the few. It is a new time where the look has to be harmonious and inclusive away from the fragmentation mode that is killing our misled humanity. The greatest achievement is not controlling others but to control one own ego to open the door for the soul to wander in appreciation of the cosmic divine beauty both numbers and letters as the Mike quote is stipulating. Yes it is very difficult to keep ideas straight without a spiritual template not a sensory template that give them boundaries and direction. Yes it is the integral consciousness Gebser speaks about. It is a fight which I wonder why our infinite warrior is shying from despite the heralded name. It is the inner which is the combating field where, know thyself, is the motto that has been raised across the ages. Any imagination that does not recognizes the intelligent presence all around it and inside it , is coffining itself prior to its final lapse in the coffin or the burning fire that some have chosen for themselves. It is a call to ponder the water, the air, the soil ,the fire and the combinations out of them flowers and fruits are sprung up and seasonally renewed all around, without forgetting the treasures hidden in the self that need our digging and appreciation. It is unfortunate that most people are entranced in believing that there is no purpose in life and self interest is the real motive in our existence. Ibn Arabi spoke about the ten entrances to the house of knowledge namely the what , the why, the how in both its qualitative and quantitative modes, the time , the space, the cause , the effect, the appearance and the essence,emphasizing the worthlessness of such gained knowledge if they are not solidified by honesty ,truth ,justice, compassion and beauty, the inner resources of the real self. I do thank you all for keeping us busy pondering the wonder of the cosmos and the self. The cosmos and the self that represent the actual scriptures of our existence and the written scripture are nothing more than reminder to the humans to be present in the cosmos and the self, in a mode of reverence and respectful appreciation and not in the ugly mode of conquest exploitation and greed.

    • mikemackd says :

      Thank you for these insights, Abdulmunem Othman. Do you have any source references whereby I can follow up on the ten entrances that Ibn Arabi spoke about?

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      It is a fight which I wonder why our infinite warrior is shying from despite the heralded name.

      Huh? {sigh} There’s that projection again. Knocked me right out of the flow of your comment. I hope you don’t mind that I find it reads (and works) much better without it.

      Is there some reason “the great work” should be thought of exclusively as a “fight” or is that, perhaps, a male energy predilection?

      Two souls, alas, are dwelling in my breast,
      And one is striving to forsake its brother.
      Unto the world in grossly loving zest,
      With clinging tendrils, one adheres;
      The other rises forcibly in quest
      Of rarefied ancestral spheres.
      If there be spirits in the air
      That hold their sway between the earth and sky,
      Descend out of the golden vapors there
      And sweep me into iridescent life. ~ Goethe

      For some reason, that doesn’t sound like a “fight” to me. As our host has characterized it, the “warrior spirit” is a spirit of resilience. How that’s come to be associated with resistance (and fighting) — pretty much everywhere — is quite beyond me.

      • Dwig says :

        This story might be relevant here:

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Peace Is Every Step.

          Despite it’s questionable origins (and conclusions), that just reinforces my resolve to hang out in those venues where congruity is most often the norm. Undying gratitude to you.

      • Abdulmunem Othman says :

        Resilience is subtle resistance,it is a web of complementarity not every one can do it , Ebel knowing the requirement of the environment did it in his fight with his brother. It is a situational stand,many factors are involved and the expression of the fight is left to the demand of the situation and the persons involved. Of course those who sow seeds of flower will reap flower but we we are talking about the planters of the poison seeds. The finite hosts are often time are occasion of flashes of divine awareness when the heart is prepared to receive the flashes. What are our cosmos and our selves but flashes of guiding light and He called himself the light of heaven and earth in which we swim and thrives in which we die and born again. The spirit of the warrior has the option to choice its appropriate expression,once the rules are clear, in light of the heart purity. It is Him the fountain of the epistemological flashes that need to be colored by the empathetic wisdom of the one if they want to be effective. Hope the world of the divine meanings become apparent to us all. We are His expressions, like everything else around in a dynamic process of accomplishments save the humans that need their mindful involvement for their accomplishments.

  9. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    I think you will find a lot on the Ibn Arabi society at oxford. Hope you enjoy the spiritual spaciousness of the man.

  10. Jo Jo Be says :

    Reshaping what is “ perceived “ to be reality has always been driven by human endeavors. Consciousness evolves and in the grasping at this “ reality “ we tear at the veils of illusion.
    Exciting times, search as I may
    There is no there there and again everything is there. 🙃

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