Long time since I’ve posted anything here.
For those that don’t know, I’ve moved my writing over to https://www.venturewithreality.net/
“People are machines. Machines have to be blind and unconscious, they cannot be otherwise, and all their actions have to correspond to their nature. Everything happens. No one does anything. ‘Progress’ and ‘civilization,’ in the real meaning of these words, can appear only as the result of conscious efforts. They cannot appear as the result of unconscious mechanical actions. And what conscious effort can there be in machines? And if one machine is unconscious, then a hundred machines are unconscious, and so are a thousand machines, or a hundred thousand, or a million. And the unconscious activity of a million machines must necessarily result in destruction and extermination. It is precisely in unconscious involuntary manifestations that all evil lies. You do not yet understand and cannot imagine all the results of this evil. But the time will come when you will understand.” – In Search of the Miraculous – P.D. Ouspensky (quoting George Gurdjieff), p52
Here Gurdjieff is discussing why the destruction of war must be to P.D. Ouspensky, his reasoning, in short, is that Everything happens. No one does anything. Now, there are a number of specifically ‘Gurdjieffian’ reasons as to why this is, but very roughly it is because everyone is asleep. Everyone exists in a waking sleep. Of course, when you mention this to people they push back against such an idea – “How can I be asleep!? I’m conscious of all my actions!” They are lulled into a false-sense of security by their knowledge of what certain words apparently mean. To be conscious, for men of the Western world, is to supposedly have will, or to have willed the actions which happen to them. This is their average belief, so average in fact, that one can consider it the default position of the Western mind. We are in control, what we do, we do. This is a predominantly Western belief. Here’s an exercise for those of you who doubt this, those who still believe that they are truly the master of their ‘own’ mind, of their self. If one is walking from point A to B, or driving from A to B, I would ask one to try and focus their attention solely on the task at hand. If one is walking, then one should focus their attention on the process of walking itself, and primarily the feeling in their feet. If one is driving, one should focus on the position of the car and their control of the car. Now, what one will find, is that very quickly their mind wanders off. It begins to consider things, identify with things, and indulge in various fantasies. All of a sudden you will try refocus your attention to the task at hand, but you may have been ‘away’ in your fantasies and considerations for minutes at a time…where have you been? Why, you have been asleep! This is what Gurdjieff understood as ‘sleep’, a waking sleep in which one is pulled around by various unconscious mechanical actions which are driven by external events and happenings.
“There is no progress whatever. Everything is just the same as it was thousands, and tens of thousands, of years ago. The outward form changes. The essence does not change. Man remains just the same. ‘Civilized’ and ‘cultured’ people live with exactly the same interests as the most ignorant savages. Modern civilization is based on violence and slavery and fine words. But all these fine words about ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’ are merely words.” – p51
As a teacher working within the Perennial tradition, Gurdjieff’s quote here can be taken under the saying ‘Nothing new under the sun, the world repeats itself, time is a flat circle. Have it as you will, it has been noticed time and time again, that time itself is always again. And as the ‘outward form’ changes, so too does the language used to define it, language which can largely be considered synonymous with the form itself. The definition many of us have landed on with respect to what is the external catalyst of contemporary sleep is ‘modernity’. And so I hate to state it, but modernity is nothing new. As there has always been happiness, contentment and strife, there too, has always been modernity and/or sleep alongside consciousness and/or true civilization. So I would make it clear before I go further, those devices which I utilize as clarification of my piece here are nothing new in essence, but in attempting to peel away their outward form and reveal the Seed of Sleep beneath, one can begin to Work at modernity.
Let me take the contemporary cliché of criticism, social media. Many will begin to already think – ‘Yes, we know, social media bad, dopamine rush, depression…we know, we know…’ – and I can sympathize with these statements for the fact they are repeated over and over. Yet, we rarely ask why they are repeated so often. Of course the answer is because nothing has been done about the problem. Modern man does not fix his problems, he simply finds more sophisticated ways to articulate them, without ever attempting to dig to their root. The very fact such criticisms are repeated is proof in-itself that man is a mechanical being; are we not told, and do we not have knowledge in abundance of that which is bad for us? And yet we still partake without thought or action, this is mechanical insanity. We all believe to understand what social media is, but in truth we only have knowledge of it, for if one understood, truly, they would cease. We believe to get its malicious mechanics, its abusive feedback loops, the fact it promotes narcissism and solipsism, that it begets division and hatred, forms camps and borders, and at its ruthless heart, beats an artificially intelligent addiction which latches to one’s worst attributes and characteristics. In short, social media is built to use the worst of you as a means for productive-consumptive output.
Yet what are any of these traits but indulgence? We like to believe we are in control, and yet can see we are not. We indulge in the continual debasement of our attention and energy, get emotionally giddy as its squandered to the ignorant masses. We indulge in its narcistic promotion, revel in slowly becoming a greater center of attention; a center that becomes defined by various artificially created boundaries. The social media user does not post for enjoyment, they enjoy the indulgent masochism of its dopamine exhaustion, they indulge in it as they do a deep autumn depression, with an unconsciously mechanical action which draws them from their potential as a Being. Stripped to the core there is nothing new here, what is found once more is man’s lust for sleep. Behind everything modernity has to offer is the machinations which beget sleep, they are neither more intense or more complex from previous generations, for the motor of sleep evolves with its socio-cultural context. One cannot escape the possibility of sleep, only be aware of it.
When one finds themselves wishing to scream to the wind ‘Why oh why must men be this way! Why do they not pay attention!’ what one is likely beginning see is the propensity for sleep. As for the reason for war, for wearing a mask, for taking a knee, for watching TV, for that which one find themselves doing, for that which happens, sleep is the culprit. Waking-sleep, the motor of eternal modernity. When one looks around and believes nothing happens anymore. That time has somehow been lost to the wind, and that the supposed feelings and experiences they had as a child have since left, this belief is not in vain, but it is misplaced. Such a belief only makes sense if one believes in progress, if they believe that the time they are in is somehow different to other times. It is not. Nothing happens anymore because we have always been asleep, as soon as man was conscious he wished for sleep, and so sleep arrived. You are not in the belly of some whale, you are not part of some actual operation to lobotomize you.
For there are two sides to reality. One’s internal life of which you have control, and the external world of events. The weather is an external event, the way in which one reacts to and considers the weather is an internal event, if one is angry or upset at the rain, this is an action of which they are solely responsible. The same applies to all that ‘modernity’ puts on one’s plate. You might feel yourself to be drowning in a cacophonously schizophrenic clutter of noise, media and signals, but is this largely because you truly wish only to indulge in it further? As one indulges in their negative emotions, modern man indulges in his apparent plight as an alienated atomized being.
The average being of modernity is a human knee-deep in quicksand, scrambling lower and lower. Listen as you pass by to their cries, whines and complaints, watch as they roll around in the very filth they criticize, feel the energy that rises in them as they describe they fate within the – supposedly – bleak existence of consumer culture. My friends, analyze their actions as they state their hatred of the sand, as with your very own senses you witness them partaking further and further in its engulfing flux!
“Because to tell the truth, nothing happens anymore. Nothing any longer has the time to happen. There is no duration left for anything to unfold in. Nothing can anchor itself in the world long enough to make sense. While the present still has a duration, the hyperpresent no longer does.” – After Death, Francois J Bonnet
It’s a feeling I imagine many of the listeners of my podcast feel on an almost daily basis, myself included. In fact, I think it’s an age-old feeling which once only used to appear in momentary life-events, but which now appears almost constantly throughout the passage of everyday existence. The feeling that everything is passing you by, and yet, you can’t really discern what ‘everything’ is. There was never time to work with it, to homogenize it in some form, to play around with it, to mess about, to truly feel or think about it. At most one seems only to get the chance to have a tertiary glance at a single iota of existence before it trails off into a confusion.
Bonnet’s ‘hyperpresent’ is much alike the ‘nanopresent’ I wrote of in an earlier piece. The increasing slicing up of time into smaller and smaller pieces, until all one is left with is a nano-second of time, not enough to ever feel informed. The situation seems helpless, how can one battle the ensuing mass of accelerated time and come out the other side still sane? Unfortunately, it’s once again a question of definitions. Those who are willingly entering into this carousel of time – which can only be defined as schizophrenic – are those who we should deem insane, for with sanity comes a stability, with insanity a constant turbulence. This is why I define the time we live in as schizophrenic. For if we take just 3 common symptoms of schizophrenia: multiple (often conflicting) identifications, inability to articulate meaning due to excess signification, and an accelerated pace towards the supposedly new – we can see that the time of modernity is completely schized.
In an instant nothing can grow. We exist in a paradoxical phenomenological time which seeks to destroy its own essence as a temporality. Modernity wishes for time to be space. As Beings with the apparent functions to interpret data we believe ourselves to always have one-over modernity, as if because we push the buttons, this truly means we are in charge. I would ask you of course to look around, to…look our your windows! Is the man who sits in a daily traffic jam, raging at his predicament, is he in charge? Is the woman slumped in-front of a PC screen 8 hours a day doing accounts ‘in charge’? Are the collective sleeping mass who scroll through addictive apps all day ‘in charge’? The answer is of course obvious, and I mean this not as some neo-Luddite screed against technology.
Each days presents us with a mass of conflicting information and paradoxes which we seek to untangle, and yet, the only means to untangle this web is the means which we’re given by the said paradoxes. In modernity one is entering into loops of identity at all times. Modernity wishes for you to lose your self. Each day also presents us with such an overwhelming quantity of signifiers and symbols, that we quite literally lack the ability to ever correlate anything given to us within a single instant. We are always left with a decision between ignorance or the labyrinth. And yet, this inability to correlate anything and everything given to us is also accelerating. When we look to the past we find something already changed, when we look to the future we see only static, and when we look to the present it has already disappeared from beneath us. Our ontology is floating dangerously, allowing itself to be pulled back and forth by the wills and whims of techonomic demiurge. And yet, I still believe, it can be beaten.
I think all can be incorporated, and I also believe that any idea or ideology which makes you emotionally hostile – as opposed to intellectually inquisitive – towards your surroundings is one which is both skewed and dangerous. I write often of ‘Exiting Modernity’, yet, this is not synonymous with hating modernity, or revolting against modernity. If one revolts in the manner of aggression against an addiction they find themselves being drawn in by its power. If one is exerting excess energy towards/against the modern world it has already won! It is – generally speaking – best to become informed of your enemy’s tactics and put your energy towards shielding yourself, as opposed to using your energies in an offensive. A good defense is a great offence. Let modernity try and take you, let it squander its precious resources on someone who is ready for it.
How does one begin the ‘Battle Against the Hyperpresent’ then? What are the aims, objectives and strategies of the enemy? Hell, who is the enemy? The enemy is clever in that it foremost wishes to avoid definition. Some of us have locked onto the word ‘modernity’ as an encapsulation of that feeling, ‘something is wrong and I can’t put my finger on it’. There are other names found within other traditions. But for me, modernity works well because it doesn’t attempt to remove what’s happening from what’s happening. It’s all very well saying that what’s going on right now is part of some much larger plan or goal, but what can we do with what we have right now? This is where any practical battle can begin. We have little in the way of material, for that has largely been co-opted by modernity as a means to satisfying artificially created desire. But we do have something, we have ourselves, we have our attention.
Attention for me is where any great battle begins. If you re-read what I just wrote about how modernity works, how it manages to infiltrate into every nook-and-cranny of daily life, one will notice that in almost all instances it is attempting to degrade out ability to pay attention. It seeks to have us believe that we can have everything at a moment’s notice, without thought for payment, patience or production. If one does not pay for something they will not value it. If one does not work at something they will not empathize with it. And if one does not produce something they will not understand it. Modernity removes each and every single one of these factors by way of credit, addictive mechanisms and consumerism.
Attention is (firstly) the means to assess your situation. What are you paying attention to? Because when one is paying attention they are paying with something of their own, be it money or time – though it’s usually the latter. Our battle against the hyperpresent begins then with an inner-battle with the Will. Once again it is a question of questioning and being attentive to that which pulls you around. Why is it that life seems to be passing you by? Well it may very well be because you simply aren’t paying attention to life. When was the last time you truly remember savoring a meal? Paying attention to the taste, texture and feel of the food, allowing it to be more than some matter which fires off random chemicals within your biology. Or what about a simple walk? When was the last time you truly paid attention to your surroundings? Truly noticing the trees and pathways you take on a daily basis.
A great practical resource for this is – and I’ll be using his work a lot in the coming months I believe – what George Gurdjieff called ‘self-remembering’. Put simply, one is to remember themselves as much as possible. A portion of your conscious action should be of being conscious of being conscious…of being. Self-remembering and being-present are not the same, though abstractly they serve the same purpose. When one becomes overly emotional, overly attached, or identified with some idea of brand to the extent of a personal automatism, they have lost their self…they have forgotten themselves. What is this which takes us away from ourselves I do not know, for Gurdjieff it was one of many Is, one of many internal personalities which seek to derail our authentic way of being. When the Hyperpresent begins to attend to your reality, begins to barrage you with the minute and incessant comings-and-goings of modernity, do not let your self be pulled by that which you never asked for in the first place. Remember to self-remember. Remember yourself, focus on being. Whether or not there is an emotion, a thought, a presence, an analysis, there is still something observing, and that which is observing (the Observer) you should turn your attention towards. Become part of yourself by becoming your own Master.
“Not one of you has noticed the most important thing that I have pointed out to you,” he said. “That is to say, not one of you has noticed that you do not remember yourselves.” (He gave particular emphasis to these words.) “You do not feel yourselves; you are not conscious of yourselves. With you, ‘it observes’ just as ‘it speaks,’ ‘it thinks,’ ‘it laughs.’ You do not feel: I observe, I notice, I see. Everything still ‘is noticed,’ ‘is seen.’ … In order really to observe oneself one must first of all remember oneself.” (He again emphasized these words.) “Try to remember yourselves when you observe yourselves and later on tell me the results. Only those results will have any value that are accompanied by selfremembering. Otherwise you yourselves do not exist in your observations. In which case what are all your observations worth?” – In Search of the Miraculous, P.D. Ouspensky
The Battle Against the Hyperpresent cannot be fought on its own battlefield, but within the inner processes of a single man. One can disallow the hyperpresent to possess them. One can hold fast against the ensuing waves by being-present and attentive, questioning and stepping-back from all that tries to attack. Slowly but surely, man bolsters himself against the wave of the uncertain, anchoring his remembrance of his self in reality. Beginning a new from a position of the authentic.
“There is a doubling, a divergence between two vital forces: the centripetal force of the progressive, unidirectional existence of finite-being (that which, even today, lasts only from birth to death), and a centrifugal force that drives the multidirectional currents of the social world-those frameworks of signs that inscribe the individual within a non-oriented time and space that reaches out beyond them.” – After Death, p8
Cryptically, After Death can be titled Before Schizophrenia. In-between progress and assembly is a transcendental decision, one which Bonnet reconfigures in relation to sacrifice and the sacred. The line of the schizophrenic is always communicating with limitation at its absolute terminus. Via its inherent hyper-nomadism, the schizophrenic’s elusive modus operandi is the avoidance of death, and thus, to become infinite. As Bonnet muses on the sacrificial element of the suicide bomber who becomes-mortal for the sake of his country, or the factory worker who sacrifices their finite energy for the increased output of a corporation far greater than they, the schizo, and the process of schiz itself, is the closest one can get to a formulation of the present. Hidden within Bonnet’s work is the admittance of temporal mutation, whereby what we are within is never itself, and as such, abides by the method of the schizophrenic. Simultaneous attendance to everything and nothing, allowing the artificial force residing in-between to seek out your own life for you.
As autism defines the inability to communicate effectively with language systems, contemporary schizophrenic bastardizations of time alter the subject’s relationship with the present in such a way that one’s passion deteriorates in the face of death-avoidance, whilst simultaneously possessing the subject with an assemblage of signification so dense they beg for the most meager scrap of correlation. Exchange overtakes all faculties; the smell of a rose cannot be inputted, the view of a tranquil horizon is not computed, and the tears of mourning are simply consumed. Society, for Bonnet, is a Beckerian hastening of death-anxiety assimilated into the motor of production. For each desire has a further desire, to be further ignorant of death, ascending to the great purity of productively nomadic immortality. That is, to wish not only to not know classical death, but to disallow it in all endeavors; each iteration of progressive existence fleeting, mutating or disappearing before even the most abstract of decays is given entry.
An infant Heraclitus appears on stage, slotted into a reality system of his own creation, mechanical tendrils shooting off in all directions. Each ligament, each sense, each emotion, each movement and each attempt preconfigured to he rhythm of an artificial river. For Bonnet, the subject can step into the same river, for both the subject and the flow forget themselves; in reverence of repetition contemporary society worships idols of structural dementia.
Bonnet theorizes on the relationship between zero and the hyperpresent, the positive-oriented homogenization of chronic time as simply smaller and smaller increments of ‘the present’. Bonnet’s zero gets no time. Zero folds into zero at an increasing rate, a series of sensible and emotional detachments apprehending reality as a matter of miniature context. Unfortunately for humans, outside of the artificial apparatus of Dharma-based thought systems, to notice the ever-present presentness of reality is merely a tyranny of existence. For as you notice, you cease to notice, have noticed that which is already gone, and, thus, noticed nothing at all.
Attending to our offices we see nothing, hear nothing, feel nothing, want nothing and apprehend nothing. And yet, it is not nothing which communes with her, but, in the words of Bonnet, the shadow of the present. What has been never was, there was not time enough for even space to outline the reality of our realities. For space used to be the plaything of time, that which all tortures and pleasures were drawn from. Space in the time of the hyperpresent exists as an afterthought of existence, the objects which are found, the representations we face and the relations of matter are all symptoms of cosmically apathetic acceleration of allotted existences. As one’s attention is pulled back and forth between various empty expanses of abstraction, all affect is scattered to the abyss; we no longer apprehend, but are apprehended by all which can be considered to ‘external’, long before we have a chance to reason with it.
After Death seeks not to answer the classic question of death-anxiety, for it understands that it can never be answered without elucidation of post-death itself. Yet, it does seek to rip open the horizon of contemporaneous apathy, self-neglect, avoidance, ignorance, attention-deficit, amnesia and anesthesia, revealing an abstraction tethered to cyclic-zero, touching upon tighter recursions of somnambulant consumptive possession evermore. If one is seeking extrapolation as to why nothing in modernity adheres, then Bonnet’s text is a dark-antidote, a caustic liqueur which makes the non-feeling of contemporary existence more apparent; to read Bonnet is to enter into the intensification of paradox.
Existing upon a tightrope of schizophrenia and autism, man is consistently torn apart by his inability to attend to reality in any meaningful sense. On one end he enters into a confusion of untranslatable strings of data, erupting chaos and causing defeat via over-stimulation; on the other he is drawn down into the depressive attitude of an archaic forgetfulness, withering at the edges of ever-innovating time as a being alienated a priori.
I finally got around to reading some Ivan Illich, specifically his text Deschooling Society. Now, it’s a book I almost entirely agree with, I mean, it’s really not that difficult to agree with it unless your brain has been well and truly fried by progressivism. Illich both criticizes the modern Western mode of schooling, whilst putting forth some form of a replacement. The point where I have some disagreements with Illich is with the replacement, but I won’t get into that here, because they’re still half-baked ideas. What I will dig into however is some of the blind spots in Illich’s work, which it seems to me he would have left out either due to slight cultural/material differences or he would have considered them so obvious as to not bother writing them down at all.
The overarching argument of Illich’s book is that schools have confused process and substance. That is to say that the education system has confused the merit of working through the system with the actual understanding itself, or; the very fact that one has gone through/utilized/been seen to go through this system means they have acquired the knowledge the system supposedly set out to teach, which of course, is entirely incorrect. The system which does the teaching and the knowledge itself can never be made synonymous, it’s an error of institutional vindication.
Illich makes it clear that this alteration of logic creates a whole system of assumptions which change the way one both learns and understands what learning is. If it is understood that a greater understanding is synonymous with a greater treatment and prolonging of one’s time within the educational system, then it comes to be collectively understood that those who have remained within education and the academy the longest are the most learned; escalation of one’s educational treatment equates to a greater knowing. Of course, when put like this, it begins to become clear that this might not be all that true.
Illich continues this logic and states that “The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.” These are of course many of the requirements of schooling, especially the idea that saying something new is the equivalent of being knowledgeable. The entire point of a PhD is to extend the knowledge of a particular field of research, usually this entails stretching the field so thin that one exists within a space which is an inch wide and 40 miles deep, a space which very quickly becomes useless and forgotten. It could be deemed a tragedy that so many thesis’ and papers are only read by their writers and their editors, it could be considered tragedy, but in reality, it isn’t, because the large majority of papers and journals are written not out of passion, or love of knowledge, but as proof of being educated, and proof of accreditation.
Here’s where Illich continues his critique in one direction – how do we save schooling? – and I continue it in another. Namely, what happens to our understanding of the world once the idea of schooling as synonymous with knowledge is deeply imbedded within us? Firstly, any and all forms of autodidactic and self-study are thrown away. Once you understand that you can only learn via a tutor or accredited system, you teach yourself that you have no right to teach yourself. Except, who was it who taught your tutor? And their tutor? Eventually, you go far enough back and you realize there has always been someone was simply interested in the study of knowledge for its own sake, and not for the sake of social proof or academic vindication. Secondly, self-study becomes increasingly suspicious. If we equate knowledge with accreditation, then why should be trust those who teach who do not have accreditation? Of course, this is really, really dumb. If 2 people follow the exact same course of study, but the only difference is one of those people ‘hand-in’ their work to an accredited body, what is the difference in knowledge? There isn’t any.
Once this general logic of knowledge, accreditation and education/schooling is understood, it disrupts your entire autonomy. As Illich makes clear “Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work.” What are all these things at a foundational level? They are knowledge and common sense lost within the abstraction of accreditation and bureaucratic ladders. No one questions if someone is being healed within a hospital because that what it’s for, no one questions whether police are protecting us because that’s what they’re for, no one questions whether or not our work is productive because that’s simply what you do etc. This is a material example of free-floating power, in which we once again hand over responsibility to a symbolic abstraction standing in for the substance of our needs. We need protection, health and knowledge etc. but it’s far easier to get these pre-made.
There are many ways in which Western education systems eradicate common sense and replace it with conformity, but immanentizing one’s understanding into the logic of accreditation and social/cultural vindication is the main one. Alongside this school also teaches you to put up with various absurdities one wouldn’t commit to outside of its institutions. Not being allowed to go to the bathroom for example, or sitting for hours upon hours within dingy, beige walls under fluorescent lighting is another. School is the test phase for adult life. Can you conform? No, well guess what, we have ways to make you. Practically all forms of education-based punishment mirror the form of societal aftereffect you’d receive if you behaved that way as an adult, the problem is the education system assumes all autodidactic study and action contrary to its system to be bad.
If you vandalize something you get a detention (jail sentence), if you hurt someone you get expelled (removed from society and imprisoned), these are relatively good examples of helping one understand that their actions within a society have consequences. But what about the more nuanced forms of covert-punishment/control which are deemed bad by the education system by their very reality as antagonistic to the system’s aims? You don’t want to work/study because it’s not something you’re interested in? Social isolation and alienation for you. Not a massively social person and prefer to be on your own? Too bad, time for you to work in a group. Prefer silence, quiet and a good book over extroverted displays of status? Sorry to say, that’s not allowed. Do you have a preference for the finer things in life and are generally creative? Well, sorry, life’s a bit rugged and that’s stupid anyway. Not into X, Y and Z even though they’re popular? Well, something must be wrong with you, weirdo!
The problem here isn’t with people having differing opinions, the problem is that the education system exacerbates notions of normalcy via its internal logic. An internal logic which states that everything popular is accredited, and everything accredited is correct and learned, and everything correct is, well…correct. So, you’re taught to understand from a very young age that your differing interests in life and the world, your preference for self-study and silence and your alternative perspective on life is incorrect because it isn’t accredited, is weird because it isn’t normal and is suspicious due to it being both weird and wrong. You are taught not that your passions and interests are different, but you’re entirely incorrect and incompatible for having them.
I will still be blogging at this site, but for more content which is weekly, please support me on Patreon:
Within semiotics there is the concept of the ‘floating signifier’ or ‘free floating signifier’. The concept designates a signifier which doesn’t have a referent, or, in simple terms, in designates a word which doesn’t point towards any clear object, structure or form. It’s a little tricky to explain exactly how they come across in day-to-day life, but it’s my belief that we use them more and more, both as a way to quickly explain something, but more importantly as a way to abstain from understanding and responsibility.
Postmodernism is a clear one, we’re not entirely sure what the ‘hell’ postmodernism means anymore and it seems pretty clear that no one actually wants to go read the postmodernists to find out, hell, who even are the postmodernists anymore. The meaning of that word, ‘postmodernism’, has such a floating meaning that it can – and has – been used to explain and describe the most drifting symptoms of culture and society. Usually used in a derogatory manner, postmodernism means everything from the death of idealism to the reason there’s TikTok, and yet, such a vision is so vast and fleeting that it deems the signifier itself almost useless. Yet, it does retain a use; it becomes a word of pure power.
We hear these floating signifiers almost daily without ever questioning them, the recent Coronavirus pandemic has been rife with them, and yet, no one pays a moment’s notice to what it is they’re agreeing or disagreeing with. An empty, floating signifier takes over their potential for authentic opinion. ‘Scientist’ or ‘science’ is the clearest one being thrown around at the moment. “The scientists have said X” or “The scientists have agreed upon Y.” We hear these sentences almost daily on the news, in the papers and on social media, and people trust them just because of their inclusion of a certain signifier, and yet no one ever takes a moment to think if there’s anything behind the signifier.
What are we buying into when we accept these terms without ever thinking about them? Let’s take ‘scientist’ as a clear example. Someone states that “The scientists agree on X”. What we’re accepting here is a free-floating signifier deciding what is correct or incorrect with regards to our health and our lives. No one asks which scientists, or what these scientists’ aims are, or whether or not we actually asked them in the first place, everyone simply agrees, subconsciously, that a decision has been made.
What we’re looking at then is a complete abstraction, we’re looking at people handing over all possible agencies and responsibility to a floating abstraction which can mean anything anyone wants. For some ‘scientist’ might mean security, others authority and others it might mean intelligence, either way, we’re handing over our own decision and opinion to an empty signifier. Simple steps can be made by news outlets and mainstream media to rectify this semiotic atrocity, by adding in where the scientists work and who they work for would direct the signifier towards something more solid, and yet they don’t, why is this?
These floating signifiers are useful for when wants to insert their opinion about something without having to own up to any consequences, or even explain why they have that opinion. Blaming everything on X is an age-old human trait and this is its latest form. What if the ‘scientists’ are wrong? It doesn’t matter because we never knew who they were anyway. The signifier was free-floating, it never latched onto anything stable, so there’s nothing there to agree or disagree with, only a nothingness to soak up resentment, bitterness and an irresponsible nature. My direction here is once again towards personal responsibility. I don’t care about mainstream media abstaining from responsibility; in fact, I don’t massively care about mainstream media at all. But one’s own thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are something to be consistently kept in check – ‘Do I actually believe that?’, ‘Do I actually agree with that?’ or – in the case of the news – ‘Has this person actually said anything at all, anything worthy of my attention?’
Because when you really think about the sentence ‘The scientists have agreed on X’, you realize that it actually means very little without any stable signifiers to connect to. For me, it’s simple; people accept these empty statements as a way to avoid thinking. It is – once again – a way for men and women to hand over their responsibility to the masses, the herd, the ‘they’. ‘Well, looks like they’ve got it sorted!’, ‘We can always rely on them scientists!’ or my personal favorite ‘Ah, they’ll think of something…’ Is there any clearer sentence showing how easily man hands over his agency to the collective?
Once that agency is handed over, people no longer have to think, worry or partake in something which is affecting their lives. Once they’ve accepted the floating signifier everything is ok again, everything is back to normal. But you must think, you must ponder and criticize these empty assessments and analyses of things which are affecting you. Don’t let another sculpt what it is you believe, do or say simply by assuming that normalcy and general agreement is correct. Usually within the agreement of the ‘they’ there is actually little agreement, the only thing they agree on is that change is bad, and what is now should and shall be forever and any who think otherwise are silly.
When one thinks back over what a figure of authority told them there is almost always a reliance on a floating signifier, some presumed meaning smeared onto nothingness which vindicates the rest of their rhetoric. Once you question that first step, the rest of the stairway quickly crumbles under the weight of ignorance, apathy and confusion.
“See, there’s X then Y then Z! That’s simply how it is!”
“But I’m not sure about X? What does X even mean?”
You won’t make any friends this way; people don’t like anything to be questioned, especially the foundations. But what’s more important, gaining popularity through agreement with empty falsehoods, or thinking for oneself?
I will still be blogging at this site, but for more content which is weekly, please support me on Patreon:
“Knowing many stories is wisdom. Knowing no stories is ignorance. Knowing only one story is death.” – Knowing Only One Story, John Michael Greer.
When I started Hermitix one the major things I wanted to achieve was to have such an eclectic array of guests that as many stories as possible were heard. I’d seen multiple left-wing podcasts, a few right-wing ones and a lot of ‘hot-take’ podcasts. These all bored me, why you ask? The answer is simple; they all only knew one story. Their entire world view could be filtered through a single lens. Often these lenses take odd and unexpected forms. Some people funnel their entire existence through Marxism, others Kant, but then again, some people will find the meaning of everything to be in the study of UFOs or microbiology. Sometimes it’s always chemicals, other times it’s always spirits or outside forces. The point being – as Greer states quite clearly – that viewing life this way is death. Not a literal death, but an intellectual one.
We all have that one friend who can find a way to fit whatever it is you’re talking about into their latest interest or phase, what they don’t realize however is that we live in a world of communication, production and consumption. Everything communicates, whether parasitically as an invader, as amicably as a gesture. Certain things are antagonizing others and certain things are helping others. Sometimes X will produce Y, sometimes Y will consume Z, and on and on it goes.
The problem with a single story is that it is always going to be utopian, it’s a false limitation applied over various growing and decaying structures, which unfortunately for Hegel, can’t be constrained in such a manner. Once again there are constraints, but this time, instead of constraining your general freedom, they’re constraining your freedom of common sense, they are making you believe that everything makes sense within a single framework. Whereas the only framework which can intuit the whole is one which is ever-changing, dynamic and fluid. So then we have this singular representation of reality which we abide by and try to form all things to fit, such a way of thinking is purely identification.
Identification and consciousness (pure awareness) are opposites of each other, you can’t identify and continue to be conscious of yourself, it’s simply not possible. When you believe you desire a certain food you’re identifying with something, possibly with some advert which has ahold of your will. When you identify with a character from a TV show, you’re identifying with a box-of-tropes made for your consumption; someone else’s idea of what it is you should be. Your experience of these singular stories isn’t meant to include your consciousness of your engaging with them, they are the master and you are the slave. But it’s not the story itself which acts as master, but the authority you allow it.
Think of identification as a form of fascination or subtle hypnosis, the more you identify with something, be it a story of personality, the more it takes you away and takes away from you. You even identify with emotions, especially negative ones. The problem with identification is that it’s often apathetic, like watching TV, it doesn’t actually take any effort to identify. It’s just something that happens. One moment you’re consciously sitting down, the next you’re believing in the creation of ego.
You wake up and identify with a certain kind of Western life, filled with comforts, enjoyments and entertainment. You get in your car and identify with a form of normalcy and work, believing it’s the thing that good, normal people do. You identify with the need to promote excess chatter and fill the workplace with random opinions on things you didn’t really pay attention to. You identify with lunch-breaks even though you’re not hungry, productivity reports even though nothing of merit has been produced and most of all, you subconsciously identify with the idea that this is how it is, and this is how a person is formed, slowly, with no shocks.
Step back. What stories, narratives and structures are you identifying with? You wake up at a certain because… And that life you identify with, the 2-up-2-down 5-day working week life, the one you were taught in school, did you ever step back to see how much of your identity had been formed around this thing you never had any say in? What about work, commuting, eating certain things, chatting, opinions, productivity and complacency, did you ever stop to question whether or not ‘you’ (your ‘I’) had been built upon false building blocks, on foundations which aren’t supporting your authentic self, but simply dragging it under?
And that’s the story of the average Western person isn’t it? Identification with presupposed normalcy. 8 hours work, 8 hours at home, 8 hours asleep, 3 meals a day, suburban housing, 1 hour commutes, unquestioned-enjoyment, no striving. That’s the problem with identity and identification, it builds an idea of what you supposedly are without the actual you ever interjecting. Fortunately, it only builds externally, but these external barriers can be quite tough to break. But guess what? They can’t be broken externally, an internal flame is needed, a deep-seated desire to be prepared to suffer and undertake training and exercises, finding yourself takes discipline and work, especially in a world which means and wishes for you to become lost.
I will still be blogging at this site, but for more content which is weekly, please support me on Patreon:
George Gurdjieff, like the majority of occultists, mystics and esotericists, is someone who is extremely difficult to define. In fact, the very act of definition would be something I imagine Gurdjieff would frown upon. It is an oh-so modern trait to pick up and book and consider a subject ‘complete’; it is the modern trait to consider the possibility of completeness. It is this ambiguity and purposeful inaccessibility which draws me to Gurdjieff’s work and makes me wonder how books can be written about him. There have been quite a few books written about him or his work, though rarely both together. The works that have been written about him are usually written by students or students of students, and the texts on his work are oddly specific. This isn’t the case with Joseph Azize’s Gurdjieff.
Gurdjieff is a Gurdjieffian book. There’s very little pomposity about it, it’s to the point and yet it begs further study. Azize’s method of writing, heavy with references, makes it immediately clear that if we can say anything of our understanding of Gurdjieff it’s that it is always fragmented. One of the overarching messages I get from both this text and Gurdjieffian study is that one should be suspicious of completion, unification and universal conclusions. Gurdjieff’s system wasn’t necessarily a mismatch of other systems, but more a working through of connections, routes and pathways. He understood that it would be ignorant to assume that each system was an island, and that there was a form of circuitry connecting all things, even if this circuitry was ultimately hierarchical.
This brings me to the first two points in my title, modernity and accessibility. The latter can be subsumed into the former in abstract. I always thought one of the reasons Gurdjieff’s work never quite made its way into public light as much as Crowley’s or LaVey’s was because he made it very clear that it was work…very hard work. Arguably another reason could be because Gurdjieff’s systems lack the sexiness and danger of Crowley or LaVeys, but in balance, his systems also lack their stupidity. The idea that something is being purposefully obscure or difficult is no longer seen as a challenge, a bet or quasi-wager by society/modernity, but it is seen as a chore, or insult. If something isn’t immediately accessible in infantile terms then modernity turns its nose up at that thing and declares it useless, hucksterish, too-complex or a waste of time.
The last entry here is of note. A ‘waste of time’ implies a correct usage of time, which within modernity usually means profitable work. Many of these systems are seen by modernity as a waste of time not because of the actions themselves, but because the presumed conclusions should be able to be purchased, and the idea one has to work towards what one already has within them is an abhorrent idea. Both Gurdjieff and Azize’s Gurdjieff make it strikingly clear – The tasks, exercises and contemplative routes are here, work at them, or don’t; either you push through the inaccessibility with the force needed to break into it, or you don’t deserve what’s on the other side. Of course, once again, modernity hates the idea that something can’t be had right now via purchase, and anything that doesn’t fit into this schema is quickly named ‘stupid’.
Azize’s biographical sections on Gurdjieff are as enlightening as any other text on Gurdjieff, that is, rather vague, yet inquisitively intriguing. It often seemed to me that a keen reading of Gurdjieff’s past – what one can find of it – would be an exercise in itself, a reading between the lines of what it is one is ‘supposed’ to do. And this is the difficulty of accessibility, if I give away all that I have learnt, then what value is it? And not only this, anyone who’s undergone any type of training, whether mental or physical, understands that quickly explaining the conclusions to someone is not the same as undergoing them yourself. This is also the difficulty of writing any text on mystical or occult practice, if the conclusion/answer/enlightenment could be put into words then the practice wouldn’t be needed! Suffice to say, many initiate into many different schools often forget the ‘work’ part of any system.
Yet what can we say of mysticism now? If Azize’s book told me anything it’s that our distrust of anything immaterial or non-profit-oriented is only increasing. It’s clear to me that Azize utilizes many endnotes for need of academic referencing, but it’s also clear to me that this begets a larger picture. That is, the death of the mystic. If such a text were presented without referencing, as if the feats were all real, or at least could be considered real, then such a text falls by the wayside and is deemed unserious. The overton-window of reality is ever-tightening and as each side moves in more and more ambiguities get pushed out. All that will be left soon will be quantifiable material which can be plugged into the economic circuit.
What of the mystics, the monks, the ascetics, the druids, the wanderers, the nomads and the outsiders? The space of modernity expands into the mind and the mind follows you everywhere, even a brand new rainforest can be economized; you’re never free of modernistic thinking, unless you free yourself of patterns of thought. This is the same normalcy routine I often recite, who ever said X and Y is normal? And why do you follow that as truth.
Azize’s text is one of sincerity. There is little in the way of defense, nor discussion on whether there is even an attack. What stands is what is there, what is written. This may seem like nothingness, but almost ritualistically there are introductions and prefaces jumping to the beck-and-call of a constrained materialist history. What is needed – and what Azize achieves – is a book that takes itself seriously and doesn’t bow to an abstract etiquette authority. There are other routes, they are allowed to be taken and they don’t have to defend themselves against suffocating normalcy.
In December John Michael Greer posted “Wind is Changing!”, in which he recounts the passage from The Lord of the Rings in which:
“the cavalry of the kingdom of Rohan hurry to the rescue of their allies in the city of Minas Tirith. Hostile armies block the way and all seems lost, but in the nick of time Ghân-buri-Ghân, chief of the tribespeople of the White Mountains, comes to their aid, showing the king of Rohan a hidden route that gets them past the enemy and into striking range of the battle that matters. All the while vast clouds of volcanic smoke have blotted out the sun. As the riders of Rohan and their guides reach the edge of the battlefield, however, something shifts:
“Ghân-buri-Ghân squatted down and touched the earth with his brow in token of farewell. Then he got up as if to depart. But suddenly he stood looking up like some startled woodland animal snuffling a strange air. A light came in his eyes.
“‘Wind is changing!’ he cried, and with that, in a twinkling as it seemed, he and his fellows had vanished into the glooms, never to be seen by any Rider of Rohan again.”
As it turned out, Ghân-buri-Ghân was correct; the wind was changing, and with it a tide of events that was shaping the history of Middle-earth turned and began to flow the other way.”
Now I’m fairly sympathetic towards Greer’s philosophy and work as you all know, and I have a fair knowledge of the Occult. I don’t think Greer had Coronavirus in mind when he realized the winds were changing, but he most definitely intuited something large. The reason I use Greer’s piece as a springboard here is because it’s very much a ‘Greerean’ future we’re heading into. Well, with a few odd anomalies and peculiarities thrown in.
Recently I spoke to Greer about Coronavirus and Collapse, we ended up treading much the same avenues we always do, but doing so juxtaposed with recent Corona news. I mentioned to Greer a cartoon I’d seen a while back in which there’s an image of two people holding farming tools, tending to their veg patch. One of them is saying “We have everything we need and we’re happy with that.” and below them the caption reads ‘Capitalism’s worst enemy.’. I foresaw a few things coming from Coronavirus which seemed inevitable – at least to someone such as myself who is rightward leaning – namely, distrust of governments due to bad handling of a transparent X-risk situation or; the government aint got yo’ back! Increased fragmentation within hegemonic bureaucratic structures such as the EU and a slight increase in personal sovereignty. I am however largely a pessimist, or realist, or whatever they call someone who doesn’t bow to giddy normalcy these days. So I was surprised to find that people are…thinking once again.
So what happened to cause people to think? They were forced into isolation or quarantine. They were forced into a physical limitation that made itself clear in a multitude of ways, and this limitation began to strip back desire quite quickly.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” – Pascal, Pensées
Well what if that man or woman was forced to sit in a room? Albeit not alone and I imagine not quietly, but for once in their entertainment and vitally saturated life they were forced to stop and adhere to a form of solitude. What would happen if such an event happened? And also what would happen if the clear risks of leaving said room were possible death, suffering and/or the causation of suffering to another or loved one? What would happen is what’s currently happening. A strange, stripping back of modernity and Western life in which is revealed its predatory and malicious roots.
People are being knocked out of their unconscious slumber and being forced to think, an act which in itself causes a positive feedback loop thinking, anxiety, worry and crisis the average Joe simply wasn’t ready for. But given the time and freedom to do so many people seem to be realizing that they’re not exactly where they want to be. A large percentage of the population have begun to realize they can do their job from home and that’s a possibility which is difficult to reverse, I mean, why would you now need to come back into the office? This has a knock-on effect of making people notice that they don’t really use or even see their homes and that the 6-10 hours a day they’re at work strips them of their health and energy. The limitations put on shopping, leisure, commuting and paid activities has been much like Wendy and co meeting the real Wizard of Oz. Those activities were just gimmicks, and much like work, simply filled the time and space that I can occupy. People are noticing that what they really miss is freedom, and what they really want is freedom. Freedom to choose and not choose.
So the winds are changing, but not necessarily in the way you might think. It’s not going to be some clear-cut overnight change, much in the same way that collapse is a long process. Greer calls collapse ‘the long descent’ and Kunstler calls it ‘the long emergency’, so perhaps it would be apt to call what we’re currently going through ‘the long exit’, or ‘the long revelation’, or even ‘the long revolution’. In much the same way that Fascism, Communism or Democracy don’t just suddenly show up one day, there isn’t sudden jackboots, red flags or committees, it’s a long, slow, drawn out process where little things are altered bit-by-bit, until eventually enough bits have been changed to alter the whole. That’s the parasitic nature of ideology, on personal, national and global scale. In much the same vein, the way in which Coronavirus will change our lives will not come all at once.
Already we’re seeing a lot more people than usual begin to understand that governments are just corporations, and the corporations they happened to be born within are run very badly by incompetent ‘leaders’ (CEOs). From this grows an understanding that perhaps complexity and unification is a bad thing and thermodynamically, sociologically and culturally unsound. We’re seeing forced critiques of consumption I never thought would see the light of day, people are being made to stay home and think about what they’ve bought, they’ve been given a limit to what they can do, repair, create and build, and from that we’re seeing many people realize they don’t need all that much stuff.
The economy’s worst nightmare is a momentary halt. Not because it will cause the economy itself to fail in its numeric and abstract existence, but because the halt allows for a chasm wherein a new cultural formation can take place. I’m not stating this will kill or end capitalism, anyone who thinks this way simply doesn’t understand capitalism; more than likely this halt will only make capitalism stronger. It will now have to find a way to commodify one’s existence at home and blank space in general. But this momentary halt and stopped the cycle of cultural consumption. Sure, people can still order things on Amazon etc., but the act of doing so is now so transparently attached to boredom that many are beginning to understand the purchase wont fulfill their desire. Not only this, but the secondary factor of having/wanting to save money for security purposes at the moment is making many question why they’d purchase what they ‘want’ to in the first place. ‘If we can get by without buying that thing now, why should we buy it at all?’ A sentence which sends shivers up the spines of many a stockbroker.
I like putting my neck on the line, so I’ll make a few predictions for the coming years:
– Religion – of all kinds – will make a clear comeback. People have had to deal with death and suffering firsthand again and they’re scared.
– There will be a momentous push/promotion of gardening, veg growing and homesteading.
– People will begin to shun government advice more regularly. Common sense returns!
– Van-dwelling, nomadism and communes begin a new era. More folk living in alternative means.
– More people will begin to demand to work from home. Atomization reaches its peak in the next 2 years and then slowly peters out into increased socialization.
– Less people will to get into debt and begin to understand what credit actually is.
– An even bigger movement of alternative and holistic health care, which is no longer deemed alternative, but simply sovereign.
– Nationalism is bolstered, but largely in relation to personal freedom, the competence of everyday living and useful traditions.
– Immigration policies are tightened under the guise of care, but ultimately the reasons are still the same ones as forever.