The Anthropocene is The Matrix

We are trying to approach and investigate the meaning of the Anthropocene like explorers who have discovered a strange world inhabited by strange creatures, some of which may be quite dangerous, for it is, in some sense, the “New World”.

It also strikes me that the Anthropocene may be taken as the meaning of the movie The Matrix. That would account for its ambiguous character as being both “hyperobject” and yet also “hypersubject”. For me, in any event, The Matrix is quite a remarkable movie, since it parallels many of the themes found in William Blake — the Matrix as Blake’s “Ulro”, the Architect as Blake’s “Urizen”, and even Neo shares some characteristics with Blake’s “New Adam”, Albion.

In fact, what is Rolf Jensen’s “post-rational” “Dream Society” but the Matrix? Or Blake’s “Book of Urizen”? One of the most interesting things to note is that it is often people with literary backgrounds or training in the humanities who tend to have the most insightful things to say about our new Umwelt — Marshall McLuhan, Iain McGilchrist, Timothy Morton, Jacob Bronowski, and so on. They are “reading the Anthropocene” as if it were a work of literature, full of metaphors, similes, symbolic forms, signifiers, etc.

As mentioned in a previous post, this approach does recall the Medievals’ approach to Nature as “The Book of Nature” which, of course, they would have thought of in terms of the Illuminated Manuscript. In the Book of Nature, things were not just “things” but signs, symbols, signfiers and meanings that reflected God’s presence in the world that needed to be interpreted. Rocks were not just rocks, trees not just trees, salt not just salt, but creatures who bore a meaning, as if they were part of the divine alphabet. The cosmos was, in a sense, poetry in motion, and the human task was to learn to read the poem. Something of this same mood has been brought to bear on The Anthropocene by these aforementioned investigators.

If Nature and the Anima Mundi was God’s poem, the Anthropos is that for the new explorers. What is this mysterious thing called “the Anthropos” or “the Anthropic Principle” that it has managed to displace and supplant “Nature” that we now even think of it as our real milieu and the matrix of our existence – our “new within”? “A mighty fortress is our God”, but this God is now the Anthropos, and the Anthropos looks very much akin to Blake’s demented and deranged demiurgos “Urizen”.

Nietzsche concurred in that judgment, even if he didn’t know a thing about William Blake.

One of the interesting aspects of the new hermeneutics of culture is that scholars like McLuhan, McGilchrist, Bronowski all have a background in Blake studies, too. Although he is most often remembered as a physicist, Bronowski was also a Blake scholar and even wrote a book William Blake and the Age of Revolution. What these “Blakeans” share with the Jungians is a common root in the old Hermetic Philosophy, which is undergoing a bit of a revival and renaissance these days along with the “return of the repressed”, but not always in a healthy and enlightened way. “Chaos Magick” of the kind described by Gary Lachman in his Dark Star Rising, is an example of the aberrant and perverse expression of the Hermetic, or to put that in a current metaphor — not Gandalf but Saruman or Klingsor, both of which correspond to the meaning of Algis Mikunas’s “technocratic shamanism”.

Nonetheless, this current revival of interest in Hermeticism and in hermeneutics (or “cultural studies”) is a very significant event, coincident, too, with the advent of the Anthropocene, for it is an attempt to come to terms with the Anthropocene and to potentially transform the Urizenic manifestation of the “Anthropos” into Blake’s potential “Albion” — the Anthropos as integral consciousness. This is the meaning of the Hermetic impulse of the metamorphosis or transmutation — lead into gold, or the Anthropos into Albion. Albion might be considered the true husband to Gaia, while Urizen is the false husband and the abuser, corresponding to what we presently call “toxic masculinity”. It is also what lies behind Nietzsche’s appeal to “Be true to the Earth!”

Now, I am saying that the Anthropos of the Anthropocene is Urizen, and that Urizen is the false husbandman, and the false steward. The Anthropos therefore also corresponds to McGilchrist’s “Emissary” — the Usurper, and in those terms, to Jean Gebser’s “mental-rational” or “perspectival” consciousness now functioning in “deficient mode”. That is to say, its decadent or corrupt mode.

This decadent, or corrupt, or deranged aspect of the Anthropocene is what we tend to notice foremost about it — it’s manifestation as the Jungian “Shadow”. In fact, numerous people have compared to Anthropos of the Anthropocene to the Shadow. That corresponds to Blake’s fallen form of “Urizen” and “Ulro” — the realm of shadow. The singular feature of Blake’s Urizen in his fallen form is that he is opaque — even to himself. He has no memory of his divine origin. The task of bringing Urizen back from his darkness is ascribed to the Zoa Blake calls “Los” or “the Eternal Prophet”, who is the only one of the four Zoas who remembers their original unity or harmony. (More on Los later).

Now, a consciousness structure functioning in deficient mode becomes toxic, and we can’t today separate the toxicity of the Anthropocene from the toxicity of the consciousness structure. That also belongs to the “subjectification” of reality or the doctrine of the affinities, (or coincidence of the opposites) as it is known in Hermeticism. It should become apparent today with the Anthropocene that there is an inseparable connection between what we call “toxic masculinity” and the toxicity of the Umwelt as a whole. This corresponds to the “madness” of Urizen in Blake’s Prophetic Books, which we now presently refer to as “chaotic transition” or in terms of the manifestations of “chaotic emotion”, and yet Blake saw in this, too, the redemption of Urizen from his fallen state and the consequent awakening of Albion. Albion is Jean Gebser’s “diaphainon“.

And that is also the latent potentiality of the Anthropos in the Anthropocene and why the subjectification of reality is such of momentous significance, presently Urizenic, potentially Albion which alone would fulfill the Hermetic “Sacred Marriage” or “hieros gamos“. This is why the Anthropocene is such an ambiguous and paradoxical event. At present, the Anthropocene appears as little more than corruption and crisis and a narcisistic construct and, in fact, poisonous and like a toxic cloud. It is, indeed, all that. But some have seen within this haze of toxicity also the latent potentiality that Blake called “Albion”, who is, in effect, “the truth that sets free” — the hitherto hidden fourfold human form.

Global Brain and Anthropocene are pretty much synonymous in meaning, and the cosmic drama (and tragedy) already foreseen by Blake is playing itself out within this “matrix”. The Four Zoas who “reside in the Human Brain” will inevitably manifest within the Global Brain as well — the descent of Urizen into madness and chaos, the interventions of Los, and the ensuing struggle of Albion (the “New Age”) to be born in the midst of all this tragedy and drama. But the Sacred Marriage of Albion and Gaia cannot be realised until Urizen is overthrown and Albion arises in his place.

14 responses to “The Anthropocene is The Matrix”

  1. K. says :

    On the theme of the World as a book to be read or Nature as Literature, I cannot recommend enough two stories by Nabokov:

    Symbols and Signs:

    The Vane Sisters:

    Sorry I couldn’t find a more readable format online for the latter…look for the “trick” ending.

    • K. says :

      Nabokov in the role of God the Author…

      As for the “trick,” here’s some background. I’ll admit I didn’t catch it. But I’m not that clever.

      DON’T read this until after you’ve read the story:

      • Scott Preston says :

        I don’t think anybody but Nabokov would have caught it.

        Have to admit, I didn’t get the “Is Charlie there?” story or why that event happened to intrude at the time he’s going over his little jars of fruit candy.

        • K. says :

          Well, all the worry about their son infected them with his right-hemispheric Referential Mania. The sick bird fluttering in the puddle, the misdialed Zero, the CRAB APPLE jelly (not one of the nice, sweet ones) on the THIRD ring, etc. get imbued with malignancy. ….Except those signs and symbols were put there by Nabokov-as-God-the-Author who, as it turns out, has also infected the reader with the same Referential Mania (assuming we read the story the way he – God – wants us to). But in a mechanistic universe, that’s a disease of the mind (very Szasz-ian). On the other hand, in a mechanistic universe, inherently devoid of meaning, everything seems, as the narrator of The Vane Sisters says, “yellowly blurred, illusive, lost.”

          I don’t think I got Symbols and Signs when I first read it either. But I now think about it all the time.

          • K. says :

            The point I left out about the wrong number at end… If we read the signs and symbols, reading the world through the eyes of his parents, we assume that third ring when his eyes land on crab apple – just moments after ominously dropping “the knave of hearts, the nine of spades, the ace of spades, the maid Elsa and her bestial beau” – is not the guy looking for Charlie, but the phone call informing them that they’re too late, the son’s gone through with it and offed himself. We don’t really know; that would be our Referential Mania speaking.

            But that’s how Nature was meant to be read. We’ve built a world where the mechanism we would use to read Nature has become mostly useless.

            • K. says :

              …the meaning-making mechanism became mostly useless in the name of efficiency and comfort. But I think that’s becoming less and less the case as things become more and more interconnected. I have a feeling a sense of synchronicity will continue to accelerate and increase until there’s an IRRUPTION of MEANING. At the crucial climax, of course.

            • Scott Preston says :

              Yes. That’s an interesting way of putting it, “irruption of meaning”. Brings to mind many things, but mostly the Dance of Shiva.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    My friend, Chris Kutarna, has just published a piece on his website on the corrupting potency of the market — really the marketisation or monetisation of everything, which is a theme I covered in my review of Jensen’s “Dream Society”. It is, of course, relevant here to the interpretation of the Anthropocene, since one of the names of the Anthropocene is also “universal market” or “universal civilisation of commerce”.

    • mikemackd says :

      As I’ve mentioned here before (when discussing authors like Phillip Bobbitt – Shield of Achilles – and Walter Russell Mead), my thing is, markets don’t have to be versus morals; it depends upon what value sets frame market behaviour.

      Which brings me back to the discussion I.W. and I have been having way back at The Anthropocene and Market Mysticism post; more particularly, the distinction I make there between conscious identity construction, which involves moral discernments, and identity absorption, a wholesale internalisation of social norms.

      We all start out as sponges, uncritically absorbing social mores, heuristics, languages etc. into our identities, but maturity requires a revaluation of those, which can involve re-weighings of our framings, not believing everything that we think – the whole process of attaining adulthood, not being arrested or fixated at infantile levels or values, such as “we’re the good guys, you’re the bad guys” et al. As one of Australia’s finest poets, Judith Wright put it, “we are ruined by the thing we kill”: and when we don the identities of killers, including killer nation states, Bobbitt’s market states, or other artefacts from social imaginaries, they ruin us.

      A couple of times before here, I have posted about Woody Allen’s character “Zelig” in the eponymous mockumentary, who had that identity absorption characteristic to a pathological degree. The Wikipedia article on Zelig includes:

      Interviewed in one of the witness shots, Bruno Bettelheim makes the following comment:[2]
      The question of whether Zelig was a psychotic or merely extremely neurotic was a question that was endlessly discussed among his doctors. Now I myself felt his feelings were really not all that different from the normal, what one would call the well-adjusted, normal person, only carried to an extreme degree, to an extreme extent. I myself felt that one could really think of him as the ultimate conformist.

      Chris Katurna and Alex Jadad are both fascinated by the origins of words. I seriously suggest that “Zelig” should become not just a name, but a working word from that origin. To “zelig” becomes to unconsciously and uncritically absorb social norms, zeligious the adjective for one such, and so on.

      I do so because I believe we need to pay much closer attention to what in our identities has been unreflectively absorbed, what has been reflectively chosen, and the like, and what values drove those aspects, and to do this well we need a better developed vocabulary than most of us, me included, possess. And here, I mean the term “development” in the way described by Katurna: “we would understand development in richer, fuller terms: as a process of moving towards human flourishing, and away from suffering,” to that end working on the planks in our own eyes to better help remove the specks in the eyes of others.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I believe we need to pay much closer attention to what in our identities has been unreflectively absorbed, what has been reflectively chosen, and the like, and what values drove those aspects, and to do this well we need a better developed vocabulary than most of us, me included, possess.

        A better vocabulary? More (and more pertinent) questions than just ‘who am I,’ ‘where have I been,’ ‘where am I going’?

        The question of consent is mightily pertinent to this task, methinks.

        Where have my ideas about what I must consent to come from? Are they true? Do they lead to Thriving Life? If not, why would I consent? If I feel I must consent, is it consent? What does my consent actually mean in this construct that is governed by the Laws of Free Will? Can our Life here on Mother Earth be taken, be destroyed without my consent? Does one being’s consent matter more than another’s? What Power and Authority do I consent to? How do I express consent? Are there degrees of consent?

        What do I consent to… and why?

        “Consent” from Latin and archaic French: to feel together, to agree in sentiment, opinion; be in harmony. ~ Pat McCabe

  3. Mike McDermott says :

    >> The question of consent is mightily pertinent to this task, methinks.

    True, and there is one consent most pertinent; between the Master and Emissary. The Master is the asker, including of the Emissary, and asks non-verbally.

    Rumi put it thusly:

    The Spirit of the Universe

    What worlds mysterious roll
    Within the vast, all-encircling ocean of the Mind!
    Cup-like thereon
    Our forms are floating fast,
    Only to fill and sink and leave behind
    A sea of bubbles
    From the Sea, upcast.

    The Spirit thou canst not see, it comes so nigh.
    Drink of this Presence!
    Be thou not a jar
    Laden with water
    And its lip stone-dry;
    Or as a horseman blindly borne afar,
    Who never sees his horse
    beneath his thigh.

    We are not to wait for death for Theosis. The origin is ever present.

    PS For some unknown reason, I now have to jump through hoops to log on here. If the fault is not from my end, this is my last post here.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Maybe the Anthropocene likewise can only be adequately dealt with in art or poetry as well.

      Not sure why you’re having trouble logging into the comments page, except I do notice that your moniker is different from usual (mikemackd). Are you maybe logging in from a different account than usual?

      • mikemackd says :

        Apologies. The problem is at my end. New PC; the old one still works as usual.

        In the meantime, I found as apropos quote from Paul Brunton re the above:

        We do not hear the sun rise: so, too, the greatest moments in a man’s life come quietly. In that stillness alone is born wisdom.

      • mikemackd says :

        >>> Maybe the Anthropocene likewise can only be adequately dealt with in art or poetry as well

        Well, I think any adequate dealing would include them both.

        I found the above Paul Brunton quote in an old diary, next to this one, which I had transcribed from a sign at Yellowstone National Park in 1982:

        Man should not walk as a stranger on the silent land
        Nor under the wide sky move indifferent to the wind
        A tree
        A River
        A bird should be as extensions to himself
        Written in rocks
        And in the ways of wild things
        Spoken in parables of water
        Told in the gift of sunlight
        Is the code of man’s existence
        And the design for his survival
        For the Earth is home
        And the ways of nature are truth

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