27 July 2013
The Weaver in the Web That He Made: preliminary notes towards a workable model
1. Stephen Hawking's model of the universe as "infinite but bounded" (i.e. spherical) in 4-dimensional space-time sounds good to me, forgetting the pesky little curled-up dimensions required by string theory for a moment. It is always-already complete. "Time" as we know it is an artifact of travelling through this area. The Time Lords in Doctor Who fiction are said to create "4-dimensional statues", i.e. things which have decay and change-through-time built into them. Some Muslims say that the Qu'ran is like this. But in any case, if Hawking is correct everything is like this. Every physical "thing" is a 4-dimension tunnel through space-time, and they intersect with each other.
2. Buddha, Heraclitus and Karl Marx all came to the same conclusion. The mental 3-dimensional "snapshots" we take of this reality and call it "the Real World" are illusory. πάντα ρει: everything is always slipping down its own 4D tunnel. Nothing is solid. Materialist dialectics is the philosophy of how things journey down the tunnel, conceived as a process of the resolution of internal contradictions.
3. The argument among Marxists of whether there is a "dialectics of nature" is therefore a complete waste of time. "Nature" as we perceived it and describe it in laws is a 3D snapshot (or, at best, a limited 4D "videoclip") of... okay, we will refer to the Universe as it really is under all that crap, the "emic reality" as R. A. Wilson and anthropologists put it, by the Arabic term al-Haqq. Yeah. Therefore anything that we can understand and put into words is an artifact of our viewpoint and understanding; therefore it is a creation of consciousness; therefore, what the hell, we can say it follows a dialectic process if it helps us. The "dialectics of nature" is thus a heuristic rather than an ontological truth, and much like Charlie Brown, I'm always certain when it comes to matters of opinion.
4. Anything we can actually conceptualise and put into words is a map, not the territory. Some maps are more useful than others. "Etic reality" is the world that we actually experience based on our interactions as primates blessed with rational minds on an M-class planet. We interact with thought-forms in our brains which provide a workable model for dealing with everyday reality. By interaction with the others around us who are already totally plugged into the existing system by which humans create the necessities of life and of meaning, we create a Ego (called the Little Self or the nafs by Sufis) as our "counter" on the playing-board of life. We can refer to this as the Matrix, to use a Gnostic/Buddhist metaphor which everyone gets now.
5. So the Matrix is being continually and collectively constructed - a game of existence worked out by its players over the course of millennia. And as Marx correctly noted, its fundament is the struggle for material existence - keep these primate bodies alive, reproducing, and happy. But past that we go up Maslow's hierarchy of needs - safety, love/belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. And all of these are things which are drives as Freud would have recognized them - real physical needs, filtered through the logic-making systems of the Ego.
6. So: the basis for the evolution of human society (and therefore class society) is the production and reproduction of the hierarchically-organised needs of the Ego. And of course modern consumer capitalism has busied itself, in the era of possible abundance, of creating artificial scarcity and implanted needs so as to keep the system running. The Matrix is self-perpetuating - it has no 4D perspective, it sees no end to itself, although its continuous efforts to keep the status quo dialectically mean it continually changes and progresses.
7. The Matrix is holographic in the sense that "as above, so below" - all of the "tokens" or "counters" in its system depend upon and bear the imprint of the whole system, just as in the structuralist view of language. Your Ego (what you almost always think of as "you") means absolutely nothing outside the context of your particular socio-economic Matrix. In fact, what you've come to think of as "you" evolved specifically to aid your survival and success within that particular system or game. Fish have no word for water. The ideas of the ruling class are generally the ideas of society.
8. The existence of a crappy watch proves the existence of a Blind Watchmaker. A system which evolves in response to a particular need will continue on that evolutionary trajectory (4D tunnel) even if that need no longer exist, because all systems become self-perpetuating once the Egos which partake in them become dependent on the system. Systems only become obsolete when the Egos making them up no longer find their needs met by the system. The main reason why capitalism (the human System based on generalised wage-labour and commodity production) has endured long-past its use-by date is that they've used the advanced sciences of Psychology over the last 100 years or so to perfect the art of consciously reprogramming Egos to become more useful to, and thus more dependent on, the System. They call that "neoliberal self-fashioning".
9. All subsidiary systems are holographic representations of the overarching System. That's right. There is no "outside" to capitalist domination. There is no "counter-culture", except in the sense that you have to have a Devil if you have a God - any Ego and any organisation of Egos in the world of capitalism will follow the rules of capitalism. In fact, the sick and sad thing is that the more an organisation which seeks to change the System actually adapts to the rules of the system - that is, the extent to which it "sells out" its own ideas and reproduces the oppression, repression, commodification, reification and concepts of its environment - the better of a chance it has of surviving. Revolutionary socialists understand this extremely well when it comes to worker-cooperative firms; until recently, they didn't seem to "get it" about their own groups (except for those French libertarian communists who wrote "Militancy: The Highest Form of Alienation").
10. The Ego - in the absence of some "fixed point" of reference already outside the System - cannot get outside the System for the same reason a fish cannot get outside water. All attempts at magick (the art of changing consciousness at will, i.e. the Ego editing its own programming) can only make the individual more successful in (and thus less dangerous to) the System - thus, the "occultism of small businessmen". At worst, it might lead to a collapse of the Ego, i.e. psychosis. Rational analysis can show where the exit doors are in the system - as Marx and Freud did - but they can't go through them.
11. Mysticism is about attempting to give the individual Ego exactly that kind of "fixed point" outside the system - in the form of al-Haqq, the absolute. The fundamental practice of mysticism is meditation - a kind of mental "neutral gear" in which the mind disconnects from the body and allows the automatic thoughts of the Ego to flood past without any sequelae in the physical world. Eventually, the discipline develops of forming a subset of the Ego which not only observes the ego but is capable of making decisions contrary to the Ego's likes, dislikes and preferences - we can call this the Will.
12. But the fundamental principle of mysticism is love - defined as the Ego's willing submission of its own needs and desires to another's, or at least, for the Other's needs and desires to be put on a higher plane. That is, love is a voluntary surrender of the Ego's usually rock-firm boundaries between I and You and It. It is therefore a way out of the System to which the Ego owes its very existence. Love is a key out of the Matrix and into al-Haqq. And it takes all the forms the Greeks recognized - eros, philos, agape. Marxists might add solidarity - because the proletariat can only see reality collectively, as a class acting for itself in struggle, rather than the isolated Egos produced by capitalism.
13. The Ego lives in the world. The rational intellect explains the world. Will changes the world. Love creates the world.
The Weaver in the Web That He Made: preliminary notes towards a workable model