Last evening I began reading in Hans Christian von Baeyer’s book Information: The New Language of Science, which had been sitting unread on my bookshelf since it’s publication in 2003. (It was also reviewed at that time in The Guardian). Given the crisis of information/disinformation today, it seemed especially timely to delve into it. (And I might recommend in connection with that, Paul Watzlawick’s How Real is Real?: Confusion, Disinformation, Communication (1977) as a prescient, and today extremely relevant, text in information science).
Since this is the “Information Age” (which is, ironically, turning out to be the Disinformation Age as well) it’s worth taking a look at what people are thinking about this. So, along with von Baeyer’s and Watzlwick’s books, I would also include Theodore Roszak’s “neo-luddite” book The Cult of Information. Each has its strengths, and each has its weaknesses.
“One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star…” Nietzsche“If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again” — William Blake, “There is NO Natural Religion“
There’s a certain irony in the fact that not enough critical thinking is applied to phrase “critical thinking” (one of my complaints against Steven Pinker’s views). Likewise the term “moderate”, let alone the term “radical”. It’s all blind mechanism and automaticity inasmuch as such terms have become merely “hot button” or “trigger words”. It’s a measure of the mind’s sickness and loss of balance that these values have been so badly mauled and distorted. There’s either too much or too little.
So, I will execute here a kind of “revaluation of values” (or “transvaluation of values” perhaps). It is a measure of the decay and decadence of the mental-rational structure of consciousness that these terms have been emptied of real meaning, or have been expropriated and deformed by partisan propagandas. Let’s try and free our minds from these false meanings and narratives.
“Hades and Dionysus are one and the same….” – Heraclitus
The mythical imagination (or Gebser’s mythical structure of consciousness) still abides within us and has its way with us. In a vague sort of way we even acknowledge its meaningfulness in naming powerful technologies after the gods of antiquity. And the same may be said for the magical structure of consciousness, which occasionally irrupts in what we call mass “magical thinking” or what Algis Mikunas describes as “technocratic shamanism”.
Heraclitus has pointed out that Dionysus (god of life) and Hades (god of death) are conjoined. Understanding why Hades and Dionysus are “one and the same” is pretty much the key to understanding Heraclitus and his paradoxes more generally, and to understanding Nietzsche and Dionysus too. It may also be the key to understanding our present “chaotic transition”.
(Or, how fair the four freedoms?)
In January 1941, American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the annual State of the Union address in which he famously declared for “the four freedoms“. The four freedoms were: 1) Freedom of speech and expression, 2) freedom of worship, 3) freedom from want, and 4) freedom from fear.
In some respects, this is a restatement of classical liberal values — freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association (and implied in these also, freedom of choice of profession and freedom of choice of life partner). But FDR’s particular arrangement of the four freedoms is intriguing because of its close affinity with social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” model (discussed here and elsewhere in The Chyrsalis), for the additional intriguing fact that Eleanor Roosevelt did know Rosenstock-Huessy, and was involved with him in setting up the original Civilian Conservation Corps at FDR’s behest. Moreover, FDR commissioned another intriguing personality and polymath, Walter Russell, to design a monument to the four freedoms.
I keep trying to come up with new ways of describing Jean Gebser’s insights into consciousness structures as civilisational types — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational, the prospective integral — and why this matters. Some people do, I think, have difficulty with the idea of consciousness having a “structure” — which we might also call a “grammar” or an “architecture” or a “matrix” or a “logic”. Or, you might describe it in terms of a distinctive way of focussing consciousness as perception in relation to physical reality. In those terms, Gebser describes that focus in terms of “unperspectival”, “pre-perspectival”, “perspectival” and “aperspectival”.
Since I am, professionally, involved in the agriculture industry (and also farmed myself for a few years), it seems appropriate to correlate such consciousness structures with the history of agricultural practices. This is something that, I don’t think, I’ve attempted before, but it can be quite revealing.