“Language is wiser than the one who speaks it. The living language of people always overpowers the thinking of individual man who assumes he could master it” — Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy
Popular discourse very often encodes “hidden” social and spiritual dynamics long before those dynamics become fully conscious or articulate. Take the phrase “losing the plot”. Everything we’ve discussed in The Chrysalis pertaining to the “culture of narcissism” (Christopher Lasch), the end of the Grand (or Master) Narrative (post-modernity), the crumbling metaphysical foundations of the modern mind and the corresponding breakdown of the mental-rational (or perspectival) consciousness structure (Jean Gebser), the disintegration of the personality and character structure of Modern Man (Rosenstock-Huessy), or “post-truth”, “post-rational”, “post-Enlightement”, and so on, is effectively condensed and encoded in the simple phrase “losing the plot”. All I’ve done in The Chrysalis is, in a sense, try to unwrap what is more deeply encoded by the phrase “losing the plot”.
It’s 2018. Traditionally, this is the day I should wish you all a “happy and prosperous New Year”, which I’m not going to do. Instead, I’ll borrow a theme from The Game of Thrones which I think is more appropriate: “I wish you good fortune in the wars to come”. You’ll need to develop some measure of resilience — a warrior’s spirit, if you will — if you’re not going to fold under the increasing stresses and pressures of the double-movement.
Today, I want to continue with the discussion of “Factor X” that I raised in the previous post — the mysterious “something unknown” doing we know not what, as Sir Arthur Eddington once phrased it. It’s the uneasiness about Factor X that underlies the quantum physicist’s motto “Shut up and calculate!”. Factor X is in play today, and I want to show in what way it is in play.
“Something unknown is doing we know not what” — physicist Sir Arthur Eddington
InfiniteWarrior sent me a link this morning to an article by the astrophysicist Adam Frank. The article, in Aeon, is entitled “Minding Matter” in which Frank explains why materialism ultimately cannot account for “the riddle of consciousness”. More importantly, it provides further insight into what I earlier wrote about the crumbling foundations of the Modern Era, or, put alternatively, the disintegration of the mental-rational consciousness structure, as anticipated by Jean Gebser in his Ever-Present Origin.
Now, strangely as it may seem, the challenges posed by quantum physics for conventional cosmology and our understanding of matter and consciousness, as described by Frank in the Aeon article, tie into the aspects of the pop culture Poppy meme I spoke to in the last three postings, as well as to Caroline Orr’s very interesting work on internet propaganda that I linked to yesterday. In a very peculiar way, they all provide a peek behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain. Put simply, they all, in their own way, point to the erosion of the structural foundations of modern consciousness.
OK. I lied. At the conclusion to the previous posting on “Poppy’s World” I wrote that I would say no more about the Poppy meme. Yet, I left off feeling that I had not at all gotten to the gist of the Poppy meme in a satisfactory way — that there had to be more to it. Something more had to account for the range of responses to Poppy, from seemingly mindless and cultish devotion to indignation and outrage.
So, I returned to Poppy’s YouTube channel and watched her videos all over again, and I followed the evolution of the Poppy meme over the last couple of years. Something so seemingly unserious as “Poppy” might seem a strange topic for The Chrysalis, but I since a fellow student of Gebser, Jeremy Johnson, has also found something intriguing in the Poppy meme pertinent to the issue of culture and consciousness, I don’t think it is entirely frivolous.
Poppy and Poppy’s World are, basically, a riff on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, updated for cyberspace and virtual reality. It’s surprising, then, that so many people find Poppy perplexing, since everybody probably knows the story of Alice. Poppy is Alice, and the characters that inhabit Poppy’s World of cyberspace, which appear in her YouTube videos — a talking skeleton, a talking plant, a talking mannequin, faceless men, computer boy — these are counterparts to the characters that appear in Alice’s Wonderland.
The confusion and perplexity (and sometimes indignation and hostility) about Poppy and Poppy’s World that you find in a lot of commentaries on Poppy teaches us something quite profound about changes in the way we approach story. Poppy actually reveals something also about changes in consciousness and “chaotic transition”, which is what got me interesting in the Poppy meme in the first place.
I’ve been thinking of late how to simplify and clarify the meaning of “chaotic transition” in a way that might further illuminate what cultural philosopher Jean Gebser means by the “disintegrative” dynamic of Late Modernity; what he means by the mental-rational/perspectival structure of consciousness now functioning in “deficient mode”, and the prospect, too, of civilisational collapse.
Nietzsche once observed that the foundations of the Modern Age were erected upon “running water”, invoking the idea of the Heraclitean flux, yes, but also the unstable metaphysical assumptions upon which the whole Age was erected. The whole structure has become quite wobbly because those assumptions have now proven to be questionable or, indeed, wrong. Here, I’ve attempted to identify at least four such metaphysical assumptions that have served as main pillars or foundation stones of the modern order and worldview. In this way, we can gain insight into the present havoc.