The Waning of the Fossil Fuel Era

Renewable energy has reached something of a milestone lately. In some jurisdictions, it has become competitive with, or even cheaper than, fossil fuels. It is anticipated that in a short couple of years, renewable energy will become even cheaper.

With the decline of the centrality of fossil fuels will go certain ways of life that depended upon fossil fuel consumption — those ways of life being collectively covered by the term “culture”. In fact, a lot of people, explicitly or implicitly, even seem to treat the term “civilisation” as being synonymous with a fossil fuel dependent culture, so the waning of that fossil fuel dependent culture and its associated ways of life becomes a cause for high anxiety. Even their “identity” as such is bound up with that fossil fuel culture, and their sense of “power”, as such, connected with a sense of having control of those resources.

Quite a lot of the so-called “dark money” and its role in sabotaging democracy and funding disinformation campaigns is directly traceable to fossil fuel interests, or to those having become dependent upon those interests. Russia’s chief export, too, is petroleum which may account for this strange convergence of interests between Russian oligarchs and American plutocrats (or other nation’s tycoons). It may also explain the peculiar relationship, recently exposed in The Guardian/Observer and elsewhere, between the propaganda outfit Cambridge Analytica and Russia’s Lukoil company. You can bet that, if Russia sees petroleum as a strategic resource, that the Kremlin is implicated in that somewhere. I would suggest that preserving the fossil fuel regime is the tie that connects Mr. Putin with Mr. Trump, and Russian oligarchs with American plutocrats (or fossil fuel interests everywhere), but also which harvests wide swaths of public opinion who are equally fearful and anxious about their ways of life with the passing of the fossil fuel era.

But the passing of the fossil fuel era is only a symptom, not a cause. I’m not entirely such a “technological determinist” to fully agree with Marx that “the hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalists”, although there is clearly some truth in that dependency of “superstructure” upon the technical “infrastructure”. While there is indeed some truth in that, I’m more persuaded by thinkers like Marshall McLuhan or Jean Gebser that technologies (of all descriptions) are artefacts of a particular structure of consciousness — the “extensions of man” as McLuhan described them. That implies the role of imagination — of how we imagine the world to be, or could be. So, if we are re-imagining the world differently, it means that something is changing in the structure of consciousness. Culture and consciousness are reciprocal and mutual processes which, in effect, constitute a “field” or a matrix.

Disruptions in that field (disruptions reflected in the term “culture war”), which we generally call “crisis”, may therefore actually reflect changes or “mutations” (Gebser’s term) in the consciousness structure. Technologies don’t change and evolve themselves. There is human agency, including the creative imagination, which is why Blake (along with Einstein) gave pride of place to the “divine Imagination” over intellect, and which even overrules his Zoa “Urizen”.

So, I would amend Marx’s formula in that respect. The imagination of the world as living process gives you one type of society; the imagination of the world as dead machinery gives you another type of society — what Lewis Mumford calls “the Megamachine”.

Imagination isn’t fantasy. What Phenomenologists call “intentionality” as a latent formative process in consciousness and in the act of perception is very much connected with “imagination” in this sense. It is what gives structure, order and coherence to our perceptions or to information, and is implicated in what we call “Gestalts” or pattern determination. It is often associated with magic, and is more often than not completely unconscious process, too. Intentionality is, for example, implicated in the wave-particle paradox (or observer effects) in quantum physics (the so-called “Measurement Problem”), or how we detect “signal” amidst “noise”. Intentionality is how we arrange our sensory inputs into some kind of perception of an orderly or coherent world (which Nietzsche referred to as “selectivity”). How we select and arrange and pattern the elements of our sensory experience involves intentionality, and those arrangements and patternings are called “consciousness structures” by Gebser — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational.

Increasingly, more and more people are ceasing to think in the “classical” terms that life, the universe, and everything is purely mechanical process, but more like a living process. They aren’t necessarily deciding to do this consciously. It’s implicated in the “return of the repressed”. This also includes many scientists. And they are all feeling a bit estranged from the machine universe described by classical physics and modeled as “modern society”. On the other, there are those who fret about it, and look to strongmen to once again put everyone back in their place and “make the trains run on time” (as was said of Hitler and Mussolini).

All this is equally reflected in the contemporary intellectual struggles between the Mechanical Philosophy and what we might call “the Hermetic Philosophy”, between classical physics and contemporary quantum mechanics. And one of the central notions in more recent quantum mechanics is the convergence of energy and information, and therewith also the disappearance of a “solid world” along with the slowly emerging realisation that the energetic processes that make up what we call “reality” more resemble living processes than purely mechanical processes.

(Brings to mind a Pink Floyd song called “Coming Back to Life“).

You see this divergence in the field — or “disturbance in the force”, if you will — in how the words “sustainable” and “resilience” are used. Same words, but with diametrically opposed meanings for those from the machine party and those from the life party, as it were.  It looks like one language being spoken, but it’s actually two. This is how a mutation in a consciousness structure is reflected in language, something described in Rosenstock-Huessy’s writings, but also in Jean Gebser’s as yet untranslated short book Der grammatische Spiegel (or “The Grammatical Mirror“). To diagnose the meaning of the present social malaise, watch what is happening with language and grammatical forms.

Confusion and perplexity abounds largely because there are actually two languages being spoken under the veneer of being one.

The realisation that energy and information are two aspects of one and the same process is going to have profound consequences, not all of them benign. It also comes with significant risk. The re-imagination of reality as being an energy and informational process also gives rise to the “technocratic shaman” — those who seek to regulate or shape that imagination or intentionality of consciousness (“perception management” in other words) in order to shape the kind of social reality they want. That is already the aim, for example, of “spiritual branding” or of Rolf Jensen’s notions of The Dream Society.

The “Web of Life” is a metaphor that is coming largely to overtake the machine metaphor that originated in The Clockwork Universe. The web of life is constituted by those energy relations and dynamics largely described in ecology. But that is also an information web. When you walk through a forest, and smell its smells, you are also, in a sense, eavesdropping on a constant chemical conversation that goes on between plants and between plants and insects or animals, (but which your senses also convert into odours or colours). And thanks to your specifically human consciousness, you are privileged to be both a participant in that web and an eavesdropper into the wondrous world of energy and information exchanges that is life.

Disinformation is, in a sense, the destruction of that web.


23 responses to “The Waning of the Fossil Fuel Era”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Now, this is fascinating, given the reality of what Aglis Mikunas described as “technocratic shamanism”…

    Carleton University is hiring a “resident magician” to explain the dark arts of perception and deception, and the rationale for that is pretty clear — the present crisis of disinformation and perception management that Mikunas calls “technocratic shamanism”.

    A few days ago I penned a comment about getting familiar again with the “dark arts”, and so it was quite a surprise to me to see a Canadian university taking this equally seriously.

  2. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    I like first to thank god for endowing me with consciousness to enable me to appreciate his conscious web that runs everything. ( there is ample dwelling and dueling on that by Paul Chek in the link John sent on the inner senses post) . In the Koran there are many references to the emptying of the earth from her inside treasures without reference to the human as the tool behind that action as if humans are tools like other tools to perform the divine plan, here where I agonize to understand the present trajectory of our history where the perverted Jews ride the Zionist Christians train to do what they are doing in the world that is raising all these sighs and pain but as they say, to every show there is an end. There is, also the reference to the human travel in space and the scattering of
    the stars and seas going on fire and many other reminders, striking among them the curtailment of the earth from its extremities. calling the human attention that they are not sitting in an insensitive vacuum. Our cosmos and what are in it are in a continual dialogue to perform their assigned functions. Nothing is idle and all recite his names the names that make us communicate, through his consciousness, the starter of everything. Ibn arabi talks a lot of the imaginal realm behind the world of forms . Ibn arabi proves his contact with the source saying, all his books are written through god intuition and he has never used the modality of the calculating logical tool of the head away from the pure heart where god find his abode. He said letters are energy like the angels, ordained to carry information in a process of joining other letters or angels to accomplish the messages divinely decreed. Yes it is a leap in god presence. It is where we place our intentionality that determine the structure of our consciousness either toward the higher self or the lower self. It is the never ending struggle of humanity until they reach the end of their journey .individually or collectively.

  3. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    As you always quote the illusive line that separates the true from the false, it is the same line that separates the black magic from the white magic. The internet is filled with blogs that speak about magic, the druid ,the voodoo, the wiccan and Greer in his ecosophia blog covers a lot in the way of magic practice. Once I mentioned Franz Bardon and his boob initiation into hermetics which you dismissed at that time, as black magic. I think the best place to familiarize your self with magic is to read Bardon book or visit Greer blog. It is an exercise in the will, the tool that helps us in all our life activities specially in the spiritual development. Meditation is an exercise of the will.

    • Scott Preston says :

      The manipulation of energy as information is very probably the very definition of magic, and it is just part of the structure of things. So, no, I’m not antagonistic to magic in that sense, but I am to abuses of that.

      • MacThule says :

        I believe the word magu roots back to something associated with ‘wisdom,’ in the same way the term wizard is a way of saying “wise guy.” Considering that the concept of wisdom or intelligence refer to the capability of one discreet entity to parse information or data into meaningful orders that yield insight into the operations of the universe, I must concur with that as one, inescapable definition.

        Note that my inclusion of intelligence above is not accidental or an assumption that wisdom is synonymous with intelligence, but it is my belief that all the antique magical societies either initially were intelligence agencies of various empires, monarchies, and cults, or coalesced about the remnants of these after the principals which the agencies had originated to serve had been dissolved.

        I believe that not only does the language support this conclusion, but the patterns of activity and traditional representations and roles played by these individuals and agencies matches up near perfectly. No king worth his salt would not have a wizard to advise him, and no executive today would proceed without consulting his intelligences.

        I believe the Greek term “daemon” also refers to intelligence, which may be worth noting only in consideration of roughly consistent antique references to individuals rising to positions of power and influence through consortation and consultation with daemons.

        • Scott Preston says :

          It probably does, because it looks like “sage” may actually be later than mage. Still, the sage and the mage are different types. The sage is seeing, the mage is making. The word “magic” is related to “make” and would pertain to what we call “know-how” (magic also associated with words like Macht (power) or machine, or majesty, etc). Sage seems more associated with wisdom as seeing or visionary.

          There is definitely a distinction in Jungian archetypal psychology between the sage and the mage archetypes, and that seems to correspond to the distinction between wisdom (or know-why) and knowledge (or know-how). Both are needful, of course. And in some respects those two represent Gebser’s statement that everything hinges upon knowing when to let happen, and knowing when to make happen.

          The Greek “daemon” is “fate”, but in the sense of a guiding spirit. Socrates’ daemon only told him what not to do, but never what to do. Also Heraclitus uses it in the same sense as fate in his statement “ethos anthropos daemon” (or “character is fate”). A man’s true character is his “daemon”. And there is something of this same sense of the Self as daemon in Nietzsche’s “The Despisers of the Body” in his *Zarathustra*.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Wow. What a bombshell is this expose of Strategic Communications Laboratories and Cambridge Analytica. They used all of the dirtiest tricks (must have learned them from Roger Stone).

    As a long-time student of propaganda, though, I’m in seventh heaven following this story, because it’s all there in one tidy package.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s a very strange world. The last name of the head of Cambridge Analytica, Alexander Nix, means “night” or “nil” or “nothing”. It could be a comic book name for a Lex Luthor-type villain. Very appropriate name for a chaos agent.

      Maybe we are living in someone’s comic.

      • Scott Preston says :

        And how about the whistle-blower’s name? Christopher “Wylie”, who designed the data-mining app. This is getting to be too much. It really is a comic book.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Here is an article I just read in Quartz that I’ld like to bring to your attention, although I think it’s a bit pedestrian. It does touch upon some interesting themes connected with Gebser studies. This is about learning to “think like da Vinci”.

    There’s a fine line between the polymath and the polymorph (this latter belongs to the magical structure of consciousness), and that is suggested here in the idea of “re-inventing oneself”. But to do that, your awareness and identity must be very very fluid, and that is the secret of both the polymath and the polymorph, and ultimately of what Gebser means by “integral consciousness” and “aperspectivity”.

    This author, though, doesn’t know Gebser, or he might have described this differently — maybe even less thinking like da Vinci and more thinking like Blake. But the idea is the same.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    How to inoculate ourselves against the kinds of mental vulnerabilities — mind viruses, mind exploits, and mind-hacking — as now exposed by the Cambridge Analytica investigations? The shape of modern propaganda.

    Interesting question. Since the propagandists specifically targeted our subconscious “demons” (or the lizard brain or “the Shadow”) it would seem that only deep self-knowledge provides the kinds of shields against those exploits.

    About the only thing Cambridge Analytica didn’t confess to doing for a fee was assassination (but who knows?).

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      This kind of abuse of personal information has been going on from the beginning of New Media and, in many ways, long before. It’s called Data Mining and Analytics in Web-speak (for those who don’t know); is otherwise known as “Statistics;” and usually used for commercial purposes. Why it took a Trump presidency for legislators to get upset about it is not difficult to guess, considering political parties have been availing themselves of the work of “mercenary companies” such as Cambridge Analytica since the inception of the Internet to target their own “advertising platforms.”

      It’s the same principle that has guided commercial advertisers for decades to air or print different advertisements in different regional markets, but only now is the practice being called “data breach?”

      only deep self-knowledge provides the kinds of shields against those exploits.

      Sounds like a plan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t prevent the practice itself, which begins with the requirement of a Social Security Number (here in the States) or, perhaps even a name. A conscience is required for that.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Not quite the same. The difference is called “personalisation” and “micro-targeting”. As it turns out — perhaps no surprise — Facebook is in the business of data mining the personal details of “dumb fucks” (Zuckerberg’s words, apparently) in order to construct psychographic profiles for the purposes of micro-targeting or “personalising” propaganda — the very thing that Cambridge Analytica is in the business of doing. (So, not surprised that there was collusion between them).

        So, it turns out that “personalsing” your computer or internet “experience” was just bait. Very clever, because before your psychographic profile applied onto the cohort or group you were deemed to belong. Now you can be surveilled individually and targeted individually. People were recipients of different messaging during the campaigns.– a little like in that movie *Minority Report* — depending upon their “inner demons”.

        This is something novel in the history of propaganda, which before now had to address itself to the “man-in-the-mass” because of the limitations of the mass media. Social media introduces something new for the practice of propaganda.

      • Scott Preston says :

        there was also an article I read this morning in Wired, and the author was also quite convinced that there was “nothing new here, folks… just move along.. move along”. And he doubted whether psychographics even worked.

        But he’s wrong. It’s an example of what Marshall McLuhan would call “rearview mirror” effect. Social media isn’t the same kettle of fish as mass media in terms of its capacity to allow the “personalisation” of propaganda messages.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          That may have been his message, but it’s not mine. My message is intended to broaden the scope of inquiry into how human beings have been and are “manipulated” by the supposed “powers that be” since time immemorial. That’s the “heart of the matter” and where our “shields” come in.

          I recall a pastor detailing his education in Divinity School and summing it up with the sentence, “Fortunately, it hasn’t sifted down into my heart yet.” : )

  7. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    As you said in other comment that we live in a very strange times. It seems the more we move forward and learn the more strange it becomes. There is a repetitive call in the Koran for self-protection as if to warn us from the negative impacts of what is coming. There is another warning which says that we have decreed the exposure of the criminal path in order for humanity to get convinced that no one will escape receiving the light burden or the heavy burden of their deeds. Plutocrats and oligarchs dance no more. The righting process is manifesting its corrective mission across our skeptical globe where fears herald the intensification of that process in the coming speeding days. Reread the prophetic and the poetic of our visionaries that no land is absent from their warning voices..

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Lt. Col. Ralph Peters has quit his role as “news analyst” with Fox News, dismissing it as a “Propaganda Machine”. Not surprise there, of course. But I was reminded that Ralph Peters (then Major Ralph Peters) was the author of “Constant Conflict”,which was one of the most nasty and demonic pieces of writing I had come across, but which was, presumably, also what got him invited to join Fox.

    Kind of ironic reading it now.

  9. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    This loss, anxiety and confusion remind me of the wondering Jews story who refused to follow the divine guidance and brought on themselves all the above. It is sad to find most people do not trust that there is a divine narrative for human conduct and it is non-observance will definitely lead to turmoil and confusion that will bring the corrective involvement of the one who set that narrative in operation, in operation. The one that insistently reminds us through his neglected scriptures to walk the earth and see the fate of those who have passed and how they have ended in destruction as the result of that non-observance. It seems humans have besieged themselves by a wall of arrogance that prevents them to see what is behind the wall. It seems, we think we are creating our thoughts oblivious of his pervasive consciousness that enlivens everything with life and consciousness and the rest , the divine consciousness that has been eclipsed by the bastards Saul referred to. The god of the human reason that triggered all the mayhem and fears that engulfs our no longer sensitive intellectuals to the maladies of our poor globe. They say do not blame others or the time or the devil but blame yourselves for letting yourselves be manipulated In a dialogue between the satan and the human, the satan said to the human, please do not blame me but blame yourselves which has responded easily to my temptations.

    • mikemackd says :

      I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this book before. I read it in 2014, and I don’t remember if I was posting here then:

      So we’re swimming in an ocean of full spectrum poisoning – physical, mental, and spiritual. Blake’s mental state of Satan – lusting to dominate, deceive and destroy – is not just outside: it’s in, and each of our Caliban’s cravings for full spectrum dominance, deception and destruction is insatiable and unceasing until life ceases or until we guide our hairsbreadth lives through the eye of the needle. The former is certain, the latter so rare.

      Again from China (Chuang Tzu, Tr Thomas Merton, quoted in Nonduality Highlights, #1581 at, legend has it that, thousands of years ago, an Emperor lost a pearl:

      The Yellow Emperor went wandering
      To the north of the Red Water
      To the Kwan Lun mountain. He looked around
      Over the edge of the world. On the way home
      He lost his night-colored pearl.
      He sent out Science to seek his pearl, and got nothing.
      He sent Analysis to look for his pearl, and got nothing.
      He sent out Logic to seek his pearl, and got nothing.
      Then he asked Nothingness, and
      Nothingness had it!
      The Yellow Emperor said:
      “Strange, indeed: Nothingness
      Who was not sent
      Who did no work to find it
      Had the night-colored pearl!”

  10. Scott Preston says :

    “What Cambridge Analytica has tried to sell is magic.” — Aleksandr Kogan

    Indeed. It is. But why assume magic or illusionism is ineffective? That’s what Gebser considers one of the vulnerabilities of the mental-rational consciousness — that it doesn’t understand what is effective about the magical structure of consciousness, even though we acknowledge the effectiveness of such things as placebo and nocebo effects.

    Rationalists would therefore scoff at Carleton University’s recently announced efforts to recruit a “resident magician”. but all this is certainly symptomatic of what Gebser foresaw as the return of the magical structure of consciousness, even if in its “deficient mode”.

    Of course, in his time, Gebser had the rise of fascism in mind and as an example, since the very word “fascism” is connected with old words for spell-casting or fascination. Even the word “grammar” has old associations with spell-casting or web-spinning.

    Gebser would hold that the deficient mode of the mental-rational is also a return to spell-casting or illusionism, something already evident in the phrase “perception management”.

  11. MacThule says :

    Brilliant piece; you’re selling it somewhere, I hope!

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