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Daniel Rourke (M, 38)
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All things would be visibly connected if one could discover at a single glance and in its totality the tracings of an Ariadne’s thread leading thought into its own labyrinth.
- Georges Bataille
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    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    This post is an appendix to The Next Great Revolution in Reality. Also, please read the first part of this post for more thoughts on the role myth has to play on forward-looking thinkers:

    Since this post was originally written I have come to realise the true significance of the two main modes of thought expressed therein. The mythos of religious belief has, over the past few centuries, become prey to the savage logos of scientific rationalism.

    I come to the words of Karen Armstrong, in her epic, pocket-sized title 'A Short History of Myth' to elaborate this point further:

    Scientific logos and myth were becoming incompatible. Hitherto science had been conducted within a comprehensive mythology that explained its significance. The French mathematician Blaise Pascal (1623-62), a deeply religious man, was filled with horror when he contemplated the 'eternal silence' of the infinite universe opened up by modern science.

    When I see the blind and wretched state of men, when I survey the whole universe in its deadness, and man left to himself with no light, as thought lost in this corner of the universe without knowing who put him there, what he has to do, now what will become of him when he dies, incapable of knowing anything, I am moved to terror, like a man transported in his sleep to some terrifying desert island, who wakes up quite lost, with no means of escape. Then I marvel that so wretched a state does no drive people to despair.

    This type of alienation has also been part of the modern experience...

    ...Mythical thinking and practice had helped people to face the prospect of extinction and nothingness, and to come through it with a degree of acceptance. Without this discipline, it has been difficult for many to avoid despair. The Twentieth Century presented us with one nihilistic icon after another, and many of the extravagant hopes of modernity and the Enlightenment were shown to be false...

    ...Logos has in many ways transformed our lives for the better, but this has not been an unmitigated triumph. Our demythologised world is very comfortable for many of us who are fortunate enough to live in first-world countries, but it is not the earthly paradise predicted by Bacon and Locke. When we contemplate the dark epiphanies of the twentieth century, we see that modern anxiety is not simply the result of self-indulgent neurosis. We are facing something unprecedented. Our societies saw death as a transition to other modes of being. They did not nurture simplistic and vulgar ideas of an afterlife, but devised rites and myths that helped people to face the unspeakable. In no other culture would anybody settle down in the middle of a rite of passage or an initiation, with the horror unresolved. But this is what we have to do in the absence of a viable mythology. There is a moving and even heroic asceticism in the current rejection of myth. But purely linear, logical and historical modes of thought have debarred many of us from therapies and devices that have enabled men and women to draw on the full resources of their humanity in order to live the unacceptable.

    We must disabuse ourselves of the nineteenth century fallacy that myth is false or that it represents an inferior mode of thought. We cannot completely recreate ourselves, cancel out the rational bias of our education, and return to pre-modern sensibility. But we can acquire a more educated attitude to mythology. We are myth-making creatures and, during the twentieth century, we saw some very destructive modern myths... We cannot counter these bad myths with reason alone, because undiluted logos cannot deal with such deep-rooted, unexercised fears, desires and neuroses. That is the role of an ethically and spiritually informed mythology.

    Uniting these two modes of thought is akin to solving the mind/body problem, combining modernism with postmodernism and making the Newtonian and Quantum universes compatiable all at once! Yet, who can deny that there is something fundamental missing from a completely rational understanding of reality?

    Of course the obvious answers that surface are usually:

    "A scientific view of the world is my spirituality."

    or

    "Buddhist meditation is compatiable with science."

    But these responses kind of miss the point. The role of myth is as a mode of thinking. Mythos and Logos represent the two ways we interact with the universe. At the moment many of us seem to be missing half the picture, and even those who do aspire to having a spiritual aspect to their thought end up viewing their 'myth' with Logos tinted spectacles. For example, being convinced that Jesus actually rose to heaven misses the mythological component of his story - again, in the words of Karen Armstrong:

    A myth was an event which in some sense had happened once, but which also happened all the time.

    Jesus as mythos is a constant affirmation of the cycles of death and rebirth which occur in each one of us every day of our lives. Surely a much more significant truth than any historically understood figure who got crucified for saying nice things about people.

    How can we reclaim our mythos?
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    This post was originally composed for my blog and published many moons ago. Since its conception my position on the three movements of thought outlined below has evolved considerably. To reflect this I have also posted an appendix here. Please do not overlook the original post for the wonderful insights of its commenters.

    I hope you enjoy this experiment in thought:

    —————————————————————-

    According to Freud there have been three great scientific revolutions that completely re-drew the boundaries which border human reality:

    • Copernican: Where our geocentric perspective of the cosmos was revolutionised by the concept of the human world, the Earth, as being one mere weave within the infinite cosmic tapestry of creation.
    • Darwinian: Where our view of man as the pinnacle of God's reality was overthrown by the idea that life evolved from nothing. The revolution in which our egocentric universe was crushed under the image of mankind as 'mere' hairless, ape descendants.
    • Freudian/Psychological: Where the self which governs all action within our minds was displaced by the notion of the unconscious. The control we perceive as consciousness is nothing but waves lapping on the shores of the innumerable archipelagos of reality the brain rules over.

    Each of these revolutions was to displace mankind as centre of our world and thus humiliate our egocentric position. Yet, parodoxical as it may seem, these scientific upheavals have increased our intimacy with reality, adding meaning to our existence without invoking religion.

    We are but one species amongst millions of mutation-governed organisms, ruled over by the nature of brains we have little understanding of and cast on our single planet afloat an infinite cosmological sea. Each shift exposing a deeper purpose, without God; each individual note when composed together dictates the flowing melody that is our existence.

    I believe it is only a matter of time before the next great revolution in science; in reality arrives on our doorsteps. A shift in perspective that attains equal scientific, social and theological significance as the ones outlined above. Once again, this revolution will alter the nature of reality, as perceived by us, at the most fundamental level. So I ask you...

    What will it be? Has it already begun? And finally, will religion still be able to find a foothold on the human psyche once it has happened?

    Let your Earth-bound, ape-evolved, unconscious imaginations go wild on this one...

    (The appendix for this post, and a question in its own right, can be viewed here...)

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    A couple of days ago I laid out a handful of perspectives in Part I of a Manifesto for the Forthcoming.

    Here is the follow-up to my philosophical manifesto for Space Collective:

    Part II

    Mythologies are More Powerful Than 'Truths':

    The human brain is a narrative machine. We compose our story of selfhood from the insistent, subjective tirade of experience; we order the activities and moralities of our tribe, our nation, our creed within grand narratives we call Religions. We do not just tell stories, we are stories, myths of perception strung out by narrative arcs which dip and peak as the events of our lives dip and peak.

    The ability to find meaning in that which is abstract tends from a similar inherent capacity. For millennia humans projected the universe as one domineered by unseen agents, whether the ancestors who played tricks on the townsfolk, or the God Thor who cast thunder from the heavens. These myths came into existence because they were explanatory, and they persisted for so long because we used them to realise the world around us. At the base of every myth is a natural or moral agency, dictated by physical laws and evolutionary processes we were inherently incapable of understanding. Because myths are explanatory in the form of a story, a narrative, then we remember them, we use language to pass them on and distort them over time, our brains run the codes of myth like an ancient computer algorithm which helps a coherent universe pop up on the surface of our conscious minds.

    Science is new. It explains things by reason, by experiment and by trial and error (often subjectively governed) judgement. The enlightenment may very well have brought into being a manner of thought which comes closer to 'truth' than any before it, but the scientific rationalism which emerged does not come naturally to our intellects. To see the world rationally is to overcome the innate narrative drive of the human brain. It is not difficult to find examples of our egocentric, innate understanding of the world:

    • Newtonian physics sees all things as in motion until otherwise acted upon: human caprice sees stationary objects that need acting upon in order to achieve motion.


    • Einsteinian physics sees time and dimension as being relative to the position and motion of an object: human caprice sees time and space as precisely identical from all perspectives.


    • Darwinian biology sees all organic entities as emergent from a process of blind chance, overseen by NO agent and dependant on nothing more than the most basic laws of physics and chemistry: human caprice sees humanity as a domineering force which can control its universe - from the same reasoning it also posits a higher agency than itself to explain its own existence.

    One of the main problems facing the scientific community of today is that the general populous finds no 'meaning' in its enterprise. There is, and never has been, a drive from the rational community to order their percepts in terms of narratives or myths. In fact, according to what I have just said, it may very well be impossible to do such a thing - science is about truth, not about meaning and most especially not about narrative meaning. It might very well be against rational enterprise to compose myth and/or narrative from reason.

    The current stand-off in America between the religiously inclined and the scientifically enabled is a result of this contradiction. If science, rationalism and 'Utopian Singularity Thinking' is ever to make a mark on the masses it MUST reorder itself into narrative forms which innate human capacities can find palatable. The Grand Narratives of Religion, in all their dangerous naivety (see here for more on this), have hold over the populace because they work with the human faculties of narrative and mythology. Ironically it is because of our evolution that the Theory of Evolution is unacceptable to so many minds.

    This MUST change if rational science is to persist.

    In short, any Forthcoming movement to which Space Collective ascribes, needs to develop a new kind of forward-looking narrative shaped mythology.

    Language Enfolds All:

    (Please read Wildcat's thoughtful post on Language as a prelude to this section)

    The reality we live in is one of meaning and perception. Metaphor is the ever shrinking event horizon within which lies the blackness of human comprehension.

    The language you speak can greatly affect the kind of world you perceive. For instance...

    Words in French, German and Spanish have a gender, that is they have either a male of female suffix. In English this seems peculiar, as all words appear to us neutral, but in words having a gender acute variations in the perceptions of native speakers of different languages emerge, thus:

    To test how this affects the way people think, she presented Spanish and German-speaking volunteers with nouns that happened to have opposite genders in their native tongues. "Key", for instance, is feminine in Spanish and masculine in German, and "bridge" is masculine in Spanish and feminine in German. Boroditsky asked the volunteers to come up with adjectives - in English - to describe these items. German speakers described keys as "awkward", "worn", "jagged" and "serrated", while Spanish speakers saw them as "little", "lovely", "magic" and "intricate". To Germans, bridges were "awesome", "beautiful", "fragile" and "elegant", whereas Spanish speakers considered them "big", "dangerous", "solid", "strong" and "sturdy"." - link

    Further still, the kind of language you speak can alter the very causality you perceive in the world around you, thus:

    ...the Algonquian family of languages.... have a wide variety of verb forms, while they lack the notion of dividing the world into categories of objects, such as "fish", "trees" or "birds".

    Take, for example, the phrase in the Montagnais language, Hipiskapigoka iagusit. In a 1729 dictionary, this was translated as "the magician/sorceror sings a sick man". According to Alan Ford, an expert in the Algonquian languages at the University of Montreal, Canada, this deeply distorts the nature of the thinking processes of the Montagnais people, for the translator had tried to transform a verb-based concept into a European language dominated by nouns and object categories. Rather than there being a medicine person who is doing something to a sick patient, there is an activity of singing, a process. In this world view, songs are alive, singing is going on, and within the process is a medicine person and a sick man.

    The world view of Algonquian speakers is of flux and change, of objects emerging and folding back into the flux of the world. There is not the same sense of fixed identity - even a person's name will change during their life. They believe that objects will vanish into this flux unless renewed by periodic rituals or the pipe smoked at sunrise in the sun dance ceremony of the Lakota and Blackfoot. - link

    It is as if different languages emerged from, or manifest, completely different realities. Could it be the case that in order to comprehend the universe better we must learn to accept all the realities these languages convey? Perhaps the ultimate language would be a conglomeration of all currently spoken (and even extinct) world languages - perspective is above perception...


    More on this Manifesto to come very soon....
    In the meantime, please click embedded links for more reading
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    [UPDATE: Part II has now been posted.]

    I have some ideas in need of coalescence, in need of the collective attendance of a multitude of minds. Here are some points of philosophical reference I believe are crucial to attaining a true manifesto for Space Collective.

    This is my Manifesto for the Forthcoming:

    Utopia is a Process:

    Utopian beliefs are single-minded and dangerous. Progress is a process, a collective attendance to that which is forthcoming. As Oscar Wilde noted:
    "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing." - link

    Humanity is more than a referent for a species, humanity is a process of which the individual, and even the similarly focussed collective, is irrelevant.

    This may seem a negative, even hopeless comment, but do please bear with me. 'We' are an idea, a taxonomic conglomerate decided upon via linguistic trickery. The universe does not recognise humanity, nor will it aid us in our quest for transcendence. The creatures that henceforth benefit most from our present collective ideals will resemble us as little as we resemble the bacteria which deliberates in our small intestines. To attend to the future is to admit defeat for the self, for the very reality one persists from within. Utopia is not for us, it is for all living organisms that have amassed to become us and most importantly, it is for all the beings, conscious or otherwise, who will look back upon us as the Neanderthals of their present.

    Utopia as a final destination is mere grandeur and delusion. Utopia is the manifest whole. It is the process. 'We' are Utopia.

    Technological Reliance ≠ Technological Resilience:

    Human culture is technologically founded. In many ways nothing we understand could exist without technology. Technology defines our universe. Language can be thought of as a technology, it is a set of tools which can be manipulated to aid (or hinder) communication between minds. Thankfully, humans had evolved long enough for our capacity for language to become innate by the time we got around to writing down symbols to perform the same task atemporally*.If writing were to disappear tomorrow civilisation would no doubt cope quite well, all be it with a few obvious hiccups along the way.

    Unlike language though, most technologies are not innate. The great thing about technology is also its greatest detriment. Once we come to rely on the superior qualities of life new technologies give us, we lose our connections with the old. This process is exponential. Take for instance the technology of electricity. If global electrical systems were to shut down tomorrow a great majority of Western infrastructure would go down with it. Project this problem to enormous scale and humanity may very well be placing all of its proverbial eggs in one mutherfucka of a proverbial basket.

    To keep moving forward society should not forget its past. Basic survival techniques should be standard in all education; all human knowledge should be stored in multiple formats (carving things in stone really does have its advantages). Society MUST steady itself for the worst if progress is ever to occur.

    * Written language acts as a cultural memory, separated from the temporally located utterance of the spoken word. Whereas speech was/is the ever evolving consciousness of society, writing is the synthetic memory of society i.e. if kept in its original form it does not change over time.

    History Does Repeat Itself:

    Forgive the cliche for this header, but I mean to expand the metaphor therein.

    The universe is a fractal system. Throughout its history reality has managed to convert the simple into the complex on an infinity of levels. To understand where 'we' are heading we need to understand the manner in which our achievements, both culturally and practically, re-form over time and space into macrocosms of their previous selves.

    Here's a very culturally based example which I feel sheds light on much we tend to forget:

    Second Life has grown at an astounding rate. Its user base is in exponential surge, not least because the communities of Second Life have become the journalist's favourite exemplar of the modern Internet-savvy masses. For me though all the Second Life inspired articles and rants on the future of society and communication miss a crucial point: Second Life is very much the same as every culture that has come before. In a digital free-for-all where 'everything is permitted' how do people manifest their surroundings? Why, they build city streets with pavements and town squares: they build apartments and decorate them with wall hangings they buy from a digital designer. Nothing has changed since the first cities in the Fertile Crescent were given their foundations.

    Human culture is destined in more ways than we care to admit. Accepting this is a strength we ought not to dismiss. What came before WILL reoccur.

    The second part of this Manifesto can be read here:
    Part II
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