5/6/97 5:55PM

 

06/05/97: from NATURE to NOW

The idea is:

(1) The history of the evolution of the human species is the history of the species' separation from the rest of the natural world.

(2) Throughout this process, the tensions and the complexity of this separation have been reflected through the Mind/Body duality. Of course this is not the only way that the increasing separation has been reflected, but it is one of the main ways.

(3) The final stage of this process is the separation of Mind from Body proposed and implicit in many of the schools of thought growing out of the dramatic technological leaps of the end of the 20th century. This technology is, above all, mind-enhancing and mind-liberating technology. The Body, on the other hand, remains the last concrete link with Nature. Nature is programmed and coded in the body. The body is both the gene-machine (a construction for the assurance of the survival of the genes we carry), and the anchor in that memorial collective Past of Life-and-the-planet Earth. The question of "leaving our bodies" is the same as "going beyond genetics," or "passing beyond necessity," or perhaps "leaving Planet Earth."

(4) The question of whether Mind as Human Mind or as an individual's mind/consciousness, My Mind, can be separated from Body (from a specific body-machine) by ANY IMAGINAL PROCEDURE, is a remarkably complicated question. It invokes everything speculated about the Mind/Body duality. It is a philosophical question, especially because there would never really be a way to know or verify what the difference of Mind was if/when a separation (downloading) was actually achieved. On the other hand it is surely an empirical matter, turning around such questions as those raised by Erich Harth (THE CREATIVE LOOP: HOW THE BRAIN MAKES A MIND) and Richard Restak (neurologist and "biochauvinist":THE BRAIN HAS A MIND OF ITS OWN: INSIGHTS FROM A PRACTISING NEUROLOGIST): two anti-downloading positions:

Harth:"The information we try to transfer is specific to the brain on which it grew in the first place. It cannot just be lifted from one brain and downloaded onto another. To run the stored software of a lifetime of experiences and thoughts, we need a system that--unlike the general purpose computer--is matched to the stored information, a brain equivalent that not only is genetically identical to the original brain, but contains all the myriad random modifications of its circuitry that occur between conception and maturity. The amount of information necessary to specify this system is astronomical. That even a small portion of it could be extracted from a living brain without destroying it is doubtful."
Restak: neurotransmitters and regulatory hormones are not confined to the brain, but scattered throughout the body, in the intestines, lungs, sex organs, "This ubiquity has stimulated a startling question that is currently haunting neuroscientists around the world: Is it possible that our definition of the brain is too narrow? That the regulatory processes that we now localize within our heads are much more widely distributed?"

 

"Evolutionary inseparability from Nature. One package, one process. Slow and inevitable separation through capacities of manipulation & control, consciousness, language. NEOLITHIC: matriarchy/agriculture, last remains of harmonious relationship? a certain "paradise" in relation to what happens after.

(Myth of "The Fall," the expulsion from the garden, the separation, must echo from here somewhere.)

"Civilization"--organization, centralization, stratification, war/conquest/slavery, territories and boundaries, kingship (all "Reg" meanings from the Indo-European wave): brings increasing separation Human from the Rest.

In Modern History this alienation does nothing but progress. (Perhaps put this differently: it is the satisfaction of DOMINATION, MASTERY, CONTROL OVER, which little by little sours into SEPARATION, ALIENATION, MALAISE.)

The great discoveries (metal, wheel, planting, stirrup, gunpowder, machines, electricity, atomic energy, etc.) only mark the progressive steps of the separation, and the aggravation of its symptoms into alienation. (Something here about sadness of separation converting into the rage of domination and the contempt for the passive (Nature) source of the pain, which moreorless mirrors Patriarchy's rage of impossible revenge-domination over women.)

Something about the Period of Discovery and the face-a-face with native-natural man that is like humans seeing themselves in the mirror, recognizing the separation, and trying to exterminate the signs of the crime: "exterminate all the savages!" Immense wealth of material here, and of how "conscious" the observation was.

The culture reflects this pain everywhere by the mid-19th century.

An aspect of the obsessive ("mythic") quality of Nazism in the modern imagination has to do with the way that so many truly "modern" themes were announced: racial purification (genetic engineering), extermination of un-wanted elements, radical acceptance of inequalities, wide acceptance of "superman" idea, body-beautiful cults, will-spirit-uniqueness. (Significant that the corresponding manipulation of the same material by the Stalin period of the Revolution have none of the same "mythic" appeal.)

In the 2nd half of the 20th century, the acceleration of technological development exacerbates the alienation. There are now clear indications of the (terminal?) weakening of different ecosystems of the Earth, and the possible destruction of the natural world. (Edward O. Wilson: Frank B. Baird Jr. Professorship of Science at Harvard: The earth is "finite in many resources that determine the quality of life" and that, simultaneously, "scientists theorize the existence of a virtually unlimited array of other planetary environments, almost all of which are uncongenial to human life." "Many of earth's vital resources are about to be exhausted, its atmospheric chemistry is deteriorating and human populations have already grown dangerously large. Natural ecosystems, the wellsprings of a healthful environment, are being irreversibly degraded....Earth is destined to become an impoverished planet within a century if present trends continue, Mass extinctions are being reported with increasing frequency in every part of the world." (Is Humanity Suicidal? - New York Times Magazine, 30 MAY 1993))

The separation of man and nature is virtually complete.

But the arena of alienation/separation has shifted. The mind/body duality has always haunted human thought. (St. Augustine: "born between feces and urine, yet with an immortal soul!") Partly this reflects the sense that the more Man separates from the basic rhythms of Nature, the limitations of the natural order of things (temperature, climate, available resources, natural geography, natural selection) the more the body seems an impediment, a leftover remnant of Man's origins inside Nature. The body is the bridge: the body belongs to Nature and continues to carry inside it innumerable sensitivities to the old cycle of things. (Once again, from this viewpoint, Woman is lower because more and permanently plugged in: the menstrual cycle joining with the moon is like proof of a lower order of direct connection and dependence.) Body ideologies are all about "inherent wisdom," "a return to the primitive." (D.H. Lawrence, Conrad's fear, modern feminism and the recuperation of the witches, wild/wise woman, the goddess.) They are about the pre-verbal, instinctive, magical: and they go back toward the seamless time of the Shaman and before: before The Fall, The Expulsion, which can also be read as the arrival of Patriarchy toward the end of the Neolithic. (Connection of themes of Movement/Fixity.)

In the late-20th the full range of Mind Technologies (smart-drugs, enhancements, implants, computers, automation, robotics) further exaggerate and deepen the split between Mind and Body. Body is for increasingly less: it is needed for less, it does less work: evolutionarily, it is "at risk." (Important: what IS its specie-function? It is the gene-machine [in Dawkins' sense, there, as we are here, to further the interest of the genes we carry], but we are now able to escape from that necessity [?] Aesthetic importance related to procreation? Consumption importance, economy, etc.) The body is, specifically, ill-suited to anything that has to do with leaving the planet, "exploring/conquering the Universe," etc., moving restlessly onto the Next Frontier.

Everything going to further deepen the body/mind split, and posing the serious and highly confusing question of the possibility of effectively, definitively, separating the mind/spirit from the body/nature, the animate energy from the meat. The Body, our last link and life-line with Nature, with the natural world and its rhythms of necessity, with Earth/Gaia rhythms, is to be discarded: last stage in a long actualization of spirit/mind.

(Where are the teachings in all this? If there IS this continuity of spirit/mind after death, then the hypothesis is true. It could mean: "go ahead if you want to," or rather, "this stage, the Planet Earth Stage is one necessary step in a much larger idea of evolution, and the doing and undoing there remains to be done because it is the way that the next is prepared. But the "structure of the universe" projected by the teachings are very much in keeping with the ideas of Vinge and others [see quotes in locarno file], and it seems clear that in this period, there is an odd and uneasy focusing of ideas from the scariest techno-experimentalists to new agers like Terrence McKennna, Leary, etc.)

Throughout the long Human Species evolution, each leap in conception/technology left the overwhelming majority of people behind. Since (perhaps) the matriarchal conception, there was never anything egalitarian/collective that sought to find the general and shared implications of any innovation or development: they always go in the direction of power-over, control, domination, increased stratification and separation and oppression. The best general/democratic formulation is that the "fruits of the changes will percolate down." The worst is simply the vulgar Darwinian idea that They (the others, the ones at the bottom, the ones who can't or won't adapt, the inferior ones, etc.) will disappear. (This is the domain of "there are no images of the defeated," the true Domain of Invisibility.)

The logic of progress - movement-development-evolution-advance is so powerful and deeply imbedded In our nature (training? socialization? culture? genetic logic of the gene-machine?) that it basically can will find a way to justify anything. From very beginning defeated were left behind used up land was abandoned. There are no important precedents for zero-growth strategies or ecologically-minded practices on large long-range scale. prolonged examples generosity humanscale caring environments. Humans scale refusing apply technology scientific understanding because its potential results. has been door opened people didn want step through. fact principle self-censorship self-reduction ideologies small totally alien (evolutionary/gene-machine imperialism) manner functioning. Why would we stop?

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