AOH :: THOMPSON.TXT|
Four pieces by William Irwin Thompson
Four pieces by William Irwin Thompson (and one by David Spangler)
i) a passage from "Reimagination of the World" on the
planetization of the esoteric and psychism as cyberpunk romanticism
...I do not think that the elevation of kundalini is enlightenment; it is
etheric empowerment... Although my prctice and training and third-eye zapping
blasts were with the yogis, I agree with the Buddhists that enlightenment is
beyond all that. The elvation of kundalini is illumination, but not
enlightenment. Because these Eastern things are new to us, we lump them all
Some gurus are really little mroe than magicians or martial arts masters.
They project out of their physical bodies to vsiit their disciples when they
are falling asleep and say, "Hi there, I am your guru Shakti Pat, so come fly
my wide body to the Islands of Bliss." The disciple says, "Wow! My philosophy
teacher at Harvard can't do that! This guy has really got to be enlightened."
So off they go into the wild blue yonder, flying high into the sky, zooming
away in their karmic generators that leave such terrible pollution in the
astral plane. Later the ashram blows apart, and everybody wonders where it all
As Jesus said, "By their fruits shall ye know them." What were the fruits of
all those psychic cults? The guru would talk about ego elimination, and
everybody's ego got eliminated except his, which got bigger and bigger from
feeding on everybody else's. The emphasis on *agape* or *karuna* has always
been a way of trying to avoid the fanaticism of the psychic weightlifters.
Another form of protection was to keep the esoteric *esoteric*, so these
things would never be spoken about except to those whose condition of practice
had brought them to that point. But all that changed in the planetization of
the esoteric in the sixties, when yoga was broadcast into youth culture and
we ended up with the adolescent patterns of religious experience that we saw
then - a pattern of light and shadow.
The planetization of the esoteric was necessary, and we can't go back to
some secret society. Anyway, it's all available in paperback now. Why all this
psychic stuff in the New Age? I think it's because psychism is the romanticism
of our cyberpunk, A.I. technological culture, just as nineteenth-century,
woodsy romanticism was the linked opposite to smoke-stack industrialization.
ii) David Spangler in "Reimagination of the World"
The imaginary landscape of the New Age generally is divided into two
regions. One focuses upon events, opportunities, challenges, and processes
within the world at large, while the other focuses upon inner changes and
esoteric issues. So, for example, the former sees the New Age as representing
the cutting edge of scientific, technological, spiritual, and social
development. I include within this region of the New Age landscape such things
as space travel, computers, chaos theory, the new physics, the convergence of
cultures and emergence of a planetary sensibility, the idea of Gaia and the
deepening of our concern for the Earth, alternative energy technologies,
changes in political theory and practice such as experiments in
decentralization and nonadversarial politics, changes in how business
institutions are structured and operated, and transformations in medical and
therapeutic techniques and modalities.
The second region of the New Age landscape includes psychic investigations
and studies; the quest for new religious experiences, including investigations
into postmortem and past-life memories; the resurgence of interest in
occultism and esotericism; transpersonal psychologies; and the whole slew of
workshops and seminars about channeling, UFOs, crystals, and the like. At a
deeper level, this region may also include research into and work with the
planetary formative forces that I spoke of earlier, though such work is open
to distortion and glamour when improperly approached.
iii) [two poems by William Irwin Thompson, from the end of Imaginary Landscape]
VII. THE END OF WORLDS (For Jim)
Pollution is truly economic,
a new medium of exchange,
in which conflicted worlds arise
like deadly excreted coral reefs.
Hiroshima, Bikini Atoll,
Seveso, Bhopal, Chernobyl,
L.A., Osaka, and Detroit:
the dulling air grows unintelligible
to the brains of damaged children
and the brittle tendrils of conifers,
but the machines are not disturbed.
As robots replace workers,
the punks decorate the streets
and sign off with agonic displays
left over from the older animal world.
Life gathers the species to itself,
like kneaded dough punched down
to let out the distending gas
and rise half-baked again.
From cell to plant to animal
to human, and now to God knows what.
Lynn says a planet of machines.
Jim says another age of ice,
and I believe him.
I think only those Taoist mystics,
transformed by a future Chinese science,
will be able in smaller numbers
to survive the Artificial Intelligence
of their American machines
in which viruses replace silicon and men
become little organelles.
As mitochondria once
moved into the cell, so now men
will turn to noetic circuitry
on Earth and extended Space.
Time's pure intelligible beings,
Angels as of old again on high
will encircle the electronic Earth
and take light body in the softest ware,
in those untaught lines
of topology and chaotic grace
that you can see arising now
in the dragon fractaled clouds
or on the playful, Peano curving,
surface of the swiftest river Aare.
There will be,
for those not taken up
into the rest of understanding
in the mathematical world,
far fewer of us required
in those warm equatorial belts
of easy Gaian Ice Age Life,
fewer to serve the vessels
in which mankind survived.
Once anaerobes abounded,
now they sulk in our guts,
and so it will be
with what is left of us.
Once animals roamed at will,
now they are contained
as evolutionary artifacts
on the Serengeti Plain.
From Australian aborigine
to New York arbitrage broker,
nothing seems ever lost;
each stage is held organelle
within the planetary noetic Cell.
The posthuman world
is probably unimaginable
and likely not all that bad.
Of that which we cannot speak,
Wittgenstein said we should be silent,
but perhaps we are allowed to sing
in the sharp consolation of art,
quaintly out of tune,
alone, alien in Bern,
staring out the rear window
to the glaciers of the Jungfraujoch,
and imagining in the Alpine night
the growing immortal ice
taking its own good time
to still our lovely, swift, jade green Aare.
VIII. THE LESSONS OF HISTORY (For Ralph)
When hunters and gatherers roamed
in their seasonal rounds,
for those windowless nomads,
it was Evil to settle down,
to stop time or try to take count
of what one person had.
It was indeed woman
that brought man fruits and grains,
the things that needed to be
contained in breast-shaped pots,
or ground on heavy stones.
So the man settled for less
of the streams and wandering sky
by accepting the offer of more
in turning the earth to dirt.
Then things began to count.
We call this History,
or the First Mentality
of lunar enumeration.
The spotless women kept track
of moons as they had before,
but the men grew uneasy
and found their own new cults
of blood in raids and war
more fascinating than
the wound that monthly heals
itself and gives new life.
Death began to matter
when people took on names
and acquired property.
As cities began to shape,
so did the lines of numbers
corner to geometry.
From Egypt to ancient Greece,
things began to shapen up
in the perfect state of rest.
For the ancients, motion
was imperfect, hence Evil,
the Fall into matter and time.
Thus they wrote it down
in the Second Mentality.
But Galileo, Newton,
Leibniz and Descartes
looked on falling bodies
and found them surprisingly good.
Plato's eternal circles,
saving their appearances,
had only one point to make,
but Kepler's elliptical laws
of planetary motion
required a second point
that dynamically began
to make more sense to us.
So this is how we moderns
began to form in lines
of linear equations
in the Third Mentality.
We now of this set of mind
find noise and chaos almost
vampiric in its Evil.
But our children don't.
Watch them do their homework
with their Sony headphones on.
They ghettoblast the streets
and break dance circles
round square geometry.
They make huge fun with numbers
in hard rock festivals,
and the louder it can get
the better it sounds to them.
Our children look upon Evil
and the loss of their hearing
in discotheques and clubs
and find it unnaturally good.
So now in higher math,
chaos is termed attractor,
the basin that sucks us in.
So here we go again
to the Fourth Mentality.
But this is the Big One
that can jive all the rest:
that dynamically dance apart
in chaotic topologies.
The unholy philosophers
who tore our minds apart
themselves were sacrificed
in the clearing of the void:
hack Nazi Heidegger,
and even AIDS-stricken
Michel Foucault, were right.
It is "The End of Man".
"We came too late for the gods,
and too soon for Being."
Now slowly the forests die,
the ozone layer thins out,
while the brown seas thicken
like dusk in Tuscany.
The bright new computers
with their terminal disease
give us aborted briths,
cataracts and glaucomas.
Life dies exactly timed
to the spread of our machines.
We are indeed off when we think
the computers are not on to us.
Yeats was right, the beast
slouches to be born,
but has no need of us
to slip in our sullen flesh.
In the past, Mind found itself
gelatinously in cells,
and that got Gaia going;
now the Evil Demiurge
as Ahriman and Rock
has better things to do.
No need to harken back
out of step in cloven hoof
and batty leathern wings,
behold the microchip,
the new amorphous crystal
and superconducting clay.
Adam is remade again
in a better sort of mud.
A shudder in the lattice
engenders there the burning
rockets and the air gone dead.
Oh, we will survive all right
in our descendants as do now
crocodiles and lizards,
but once the Mind has moved
from basic carbon Life,
we will scarcely linger on
in the shadows of ourselves.
So pollution is in timing,
along with everything else,
to take us as fast away
as the lattice comes in play.
in "Rapture" are almost there;
in their white trash heaven,
they can personally see
no limit to their credit;
no the Daimonic Mind
that watches how and what
we feel when when we take life
in a body and out.
At this inhuman level
it can't be politics,
of the decent sort that thinks
it can clean up the air,
put out the poor to use,
end all wars, stop AIDS,
and even unemployment.
In their own crazy way,
the paranoid myths are not
half-bad in the good they do
as epistemological cartoons.
The end of the world is here,
and the body-snatchers too.
Nothing is much the same,
and cults are a kind of a quick take
for busy airport people
who haven't got the time
quite right; I guess that's why
we still have need of art.
Anyway, that's only half
the planetary story.
Evil and noise are merely
Just as we hit that drum
and strike string guts with blows,
so does this Evil conspire
only to serve the Fifth
Mentality of Time.
So out of computer chips
and satellited nets
the last noise about us
escapes to evolving sound.
Whatever woven bodies
they might later take,
has all been told before:
In Bach's B Minor Mass,
the Sanctus is the space
that time prepared for us.
iv) [further extracts from IMAGINARY LANDSCAPE by William Irwin Thompson]
Perhaps this cultural phenomenology is basic to the human level, and that
what we can lear from the Gaian evolutionary theory, or from Steiner's total
identification with the planetary dynamics of life, is that this human level
is itself unstable, limited, and transitional. There is no way to fix things
up culturally or politically as long as you are going to have human beings in
the solution. Robert Muller says that the United Nations has a list of world
problems of some 20,000 items needing immediate attention. If culture is
inherently limited and flawed, then it is a bit naive to think that human
cultures will eliminate automobiles to save the atmosphere, quit smoking, or
rid themselves of poverty and wars. This hominid moment is not a state that
can be perfected; it is a process, and to arrest that process is probably not
possible, even if we tried to stop time and make the planet eternally
comfortable for human life. Once we were prokaryotic bacteria, then we were
dinosaurs, and now we are humans about to become, through a catastrophic
bifurcation, subhuman and posthuman, or God only knows what else. What is
creating this something else is a complex phenomenology in which both the
human good and the human evil are tearing human culture apart. From the
greenhouse effect to the ozone hole, or from sex, drugs, and rock and roll to
fundamentalist purifications, or from genetic engineering to artificial
intelligence, everything we like to call human and home, even the planet as we
have known it, is being taken from us by our own actions, conscious and
unconscious. From this posthuman point of view, "the new planetary culture"
that I have written about in, I suppose, too optimistic a way, should be seen
more tragically as the period of disintegration of all traditional human
cultures, tribal, religious, national, and racial. Just as cyanobacteria
created a "polluted" atmosphere, or cattle overgraze to create deserts, so
humans seem intent on overdeveloping their niche so that it can explode into
the bifurcation that produces the novel and unthinkable.
Interestingly enough, the parents of the Gaia hypothesis both see our
present culture as one that is on its way out. From their perspective of
planetary dynamics, however, they see two quite different finales. Lynn
Margulis sees the inevitable evolution of new life forms, including the
replacement of human carbon-based life with a silicon-based life of machines.
James Lovelock sees Gara reasserting its prefered temperature in a new Ice
Age, one that will decimate the human population levels of the moment.
Perhaps it is going on now. Or perhaps it will not take place until we are
into that last decade of this finishing millennium of Western Civilization.
But soon, I believe, two vast empires of scientific research, fields that our
now quite separated in different schools and buildings in our universities,
will cross, and in their crossing breed a whole new culture in which "nature"
as we have known it in preindustrial and industrial society will vanish. It
will not be a culture that the cultured will recognize and accept. Indeed, it
will be so unnatural that many may wish to call it inhuman and evil. And in
their own way, they will be right, for the world it will bring forth will
certainly be posthuman. The two empires of research that I have in mind are
those of AIDS research and Artificial Intelligence.
Very soon all that we have learned about the immune system will be used in
designing the architecture of Fifth- (even Sixth-) Generation Computers,
computers that can "think" and be self-programming. When carbon-based life and
amorphous crystals are stitched together by the controlled "infection" of
genetically engineered viruses, then all that we have learned from "fighting"
AIDS will be shifted into a new context of designing loose plasmas of gnostic
cells far more sophisticated than the rigid and linear suburban American
lattices we call silicon chips. Just as Tokyo, as a gigantic protistic cell of
a city, is far more complex in its ethnic homogeneity than the multiracial but
linear grid of Los Angeles, so will these new planetary networks of living
computers be far more sophisticatd than our present binary engines with their
dyadic logic of 1 and 0. With a modal logic of multiple dimensions flowing in
a turbulence of creative noise in the chaos dynamics of a gnostic bioplasm,
the spirit will at last be freed from the split between mind and matter. Mind
will no longer be a subject *figured* against the *ground* of matter in the
visual syntax of linear perspective; and as this *ground* dissolves it will
take "nature" along with it. And when that happens, if it hasn't happened
already in some government laboratory somewhere, our romantic and moralistic
split between nature and culture will be dissolved as a Luciferic science weds
itself to an Ahrimanic technology. Curiously enough, this change of mind in
rather introverted laboratories will be occurring in synchronous emergence
with the outer transformation of humanity's adaptive niche in the biosphere as
both the ozone hole and the greenhouse effect wear out the membrane between
the atmosphere and the exhausted remains of our industrial society.
In other words, what we now experience as the plagues of AIDS and pollution
may be part of an evolutionary conversation with the human species about the
architecture of life and death, a conversation with a question as to where the
identity of the living system is to be located in the emerging planetary
bioplasm of this posthuman culture. We, with our European Enlightenment values
of the individual and private property, locate identity in a "self". We
envision this self, not as the chaotic dynamic of a nebular swirl, but as a
container that holds identity and property through a system of ownership and
rights. In our patriarchal imagination of what Laurie Anderson has called Big
Science, we see the world as a collection of discrete individuals that own
collectible things: egos contained in cars, wives, and paintings contained in
houses, and kids contained in schools. But this new evolutionary conversation
is questioning this Western way of constituting a world. The chaotic and
polluted biosphere, the viral messengers transporting genes, the planetary
bacterial bioplasms, they all seem to be suggesting to us, through the most
basic characteristic of individuality, Death itself, that this vision of life
in containers is not open enough for evolution. We are being asked to move out
of our containers to enter into the evolutionary conversation to understand
the biosphere and the emerging planetary culture as one in which Mankind (and
I use the sexist term on purpose) as a defensive collection of competing and
warring selves has come to an end.
And so it is with our contemporary plague of AIDS. The narratives that we
put forth are mythopoeic constructions. First we had a myth of hominization
and origins and saw the disease as coming from darkest Africa. Then we saw it
as a new kind of "French Pox" that we could blame on those disgustingly
sexually overactive aliens, the homosexuals, who brought it in from Africa by
having unnatural sex with boys from Haiti. Then we thought we had isolated a
causal agent in the HIV virus and began to marshall the massive funding needed
to vreate a powerful drug with which we could bomb the invading
intraterrestrial. Now we begin to suspect that AIDS isn't a single infecting
virus striking the template of the organism, but a whole ecology of diseases
springing from the ecological disruption of membranes through deforestation in
Africa, and the consequent encounter of humans and monkeys; and we are just
beginning to wonder whether AIDS could also signify an even greater "membrane"
anomaly that calls upon us to reconceptualize the "nature" of "the self". If,
from the influence of a Varelan way of thinking, we begin to suspect that the
pathogen isn't an object, but a relationship in a linguistic domain, then we
may need to change our ideas of treatment to ones in which the nervous system
is "returned" to new states of harmonic integration in which we learn to
tolerate aliens by seeing the self as a cloud in a clouded sky and not as a
lord in a walled-in fortress. Such medicine is more likely to be inexpensive
and "alternative", and, therefore, not especially welcome in the seats of
power in the Big Science world of the National Institutes of Health, the
Pasteur Institute, or Merck and Ciba-Geigy.
Gaia is a new landscape, a new way of knowing the planet and worlding our
way with it. It is as large and imaginatively provocative for our era as
Darwinian evolution was for our great-gransparents' time. And by "Gaia" I do
not mean only Jim Lovelock's interpretation of his own discoveries. I mean,
rather, a dynamic geometry of planetary behavior that is synchronically
experienced, as if one were listening to a Beethoven string quartet, by
hearing the instruments of Abraham, Lovelock, Margulis, and Varela all at the
same time in a new mental space that is larger than their books taken singly.
First, one sees the films of the microcosm of Margulis, sees the tubulins,
spirochetes, and neurons in the motile dance of life, and understands what
Buddha saw when he found "Self" empty but individuality richly full of
universal relatedness in countless dimensions. Second, one hears Lovelock's
gentle voice speaking of the fluid dynamics of the ocean, the atmosphere,
and the slowly moving tectonic plates, and accepts how the planetary bioplasm
of bacteria could give rise to this larger dance through its polluting life
and the generosity of its fecundating death. Third, one envisions these
dancing patterns of oscillating spirochetes, gaseous clouds, and floating
tectonic plates in the dynamic imagery of Abraham, and senses that it probably
does not stop with Earth, but goes on to include the solar wind and the
geometry of the behavior of the entire solar system, and on to unimaginable
galactic complexities. And as the mind boggles, one hears the entry of the
instrumental voice of Varela speaking of the mind itself, from the lowest
prebiotic molecules to the highest mathematics as "the organization of the
living", and one begins to appreciate how Varela gives us the "metadynamic"...
v) [an excerpt from "Reimagination of the World: A critique of science,
popular culture, and the New Age" by David Spangler and William Irwin Thompson]
THE WAR IN THE GULF
William Irwin Thompson - March 7, 1991
Politics has been called the art of the possible. War is the politics of the
impossible. What was not possible in peaceful compromise becomes possible
through the exhaustion of violence. Incarnation for most people is
unconscious; they do not know how they got here, and they only begin to feel
the meaning of their incarnation when the come to its edge near death.
Societies throw themselves into wars with total fascination and astonishing
organization because war is incarnation made conscious; it is, after all,
waged with the flesh.
Wars frame more than the interval of peace; they remap our cultural
territory. New lines are drawn, old lines are erased. From the enormous
investment in violence, a new longing for the impossible is created, as what
was invisible before the war becomes part of the new landscape of peace. After
World War II, the United Nations and the state of Israel became the
impossibilities that took their proper places in the sun.
Before the war in the Persian Gulf, the elemental was invisible to the
human. The first creatures to live on this planet were displaced by the last,
and this displacement generated an invisible noosphere of hatred and rage. The
humans became possessed and taken over by this hatred were the Arabs.
Historically treated with contempt by the Ottoman, French, and English
empires, the Arabs have felt attracted to the West, while filled with rage
that it was a world closed to all but the wealthy few who could buy fleets of
German cars or even entire London department stores such as Harrod's. The red
man had been turned into a figure of shamanic wisdom and magical power by
popular culture, and the black man had been transformed into the musical hero
of the world; but the poor Arab was the real primitive of our global
electronic society, and he was reduced to attacking the airlines as once the
Plains Indians attacked the railroads.
Having no place in the scheme of things, the Arab was displaced from the
geopolitics of the visible world to the Gaian politics of the invisible
elemental world. The paranoid insanity of Saddam Hussein created an opening to
a state of elemental possession. The hundreds of burning oil wells in Kuwait
are an outward sign of an inward state: a visible transformation in which the
elemental underworld is released into the upper world through fire and smoke.
The blue sky created so long ago by the photosynthetic activity of the
cyanobacteria, the elves, is now threatened with the revenge of the
elementals, who were thrust down into the underworld to prepare the world for
the coming of humanity. To prepare the world for the coming of posthumanity,
the elemental is being released in a fury of rage and revenge. The
transformation of the atmosphere has been accelerated by decades.
In Grimm's fairy tales, such as "Rumpelstiltskin", the revenge of the first
against the last is often expressed in the form of a dwarf that demands the
sacrifice of the firstborn. Since the elementals were the firstborn of Earth
who were sacrifcied to make room for humanity, it only seems fair to them that
humans should be asked to sacrifice their firstborn. In the parable of the
vineyard in the New Testament, the workers of the first hour wonder why the
workers of the last hour should receive the same wage. They are not comforted
when Jesus says that "the last shall be first, and the first shall be last".
In the fires of the oil wells in Kuwait, the insanity of Saddam has provided
the elementals with a form of incarnation. And what these bodies are demanding
is the sacrifice of the firstborn children of the modern world economy, the
world cities of Venice, Amsterdam, London, and New York. It is precisely these
cities that will be the first to be flooded and destroyed by an atmospheric
Greenhouse Effect that can raise the water level of the oceans. In the
exoteric hatred and revenge of the poor against the rich, an older and more
esoteric hatred has been bodied forth.
Findhorn and the New Age sought to teach us about the presence of the
elemental kingdoms through gentler and more loving means - gentler and slower.
Now the world economy and its embeddedness in the world ecology will become
clearer to all. As a merchandised fad, the New Age movement came in the
interval between two wars, Vietnam and the war in the Persian Gulf. After the
burnout of Vietnam, after all the violent protests, bombings, and drug escapes
of the sixties, people in the seventies turned to less Dionysian and more
Apollonian forms of spiritual exploration. Findhorn, Auroville, Arcosanti,
Lindisfarne, and Naropa - these were the sorts of educational experiments that
expressed the zeitgeist. Of course, these were marginal experiments of a
subculture, and the dominant culture moved on into the greed of the eighties
with Reagan and Bush, Trump and Milken. Money was in, idealism was out. In
American politics as the art of the possible, things like Arcosanti and
Lindisfarne were impossible dreams.
But war is the politics of the impossible, and the war in the Gulf has
remapped our cultural territory. This time, however, it is not simply lines
in the sand that have been redrawn, but lines in the sky - lines dividing
the visible from the invisible. Now there can be no "us" or "them", whether
rich or poor, New Age or Old Age, Israeli or Arab, human or elemental - we are
all passing through this catastrophe together. What was one merely mystical
idealism has become the political reality of the United Nations of Earth.
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