Ancient and Modern

While I am mesmerized by the beauty of nature and the past, naive Luddism is not a philosophy to be espoused or admired.

A spirit seems to inhabit my world, it is true. I hear its call most clearly in the silence of quiet contemplation, far from the brashness of modernity. Far from concrete, distanced from a world in which acquisition is all, removed from a society ruled by the market and Margaret Thatcher’s hungry ghost.

Does that mean that I despise modernity? That I seek a return to the ideal of a noble savage of innate goodness, unsullied by the corrupting influences of civilization?

It does not. Of my many faults, rank ignorance and foolish daydreaming are not writ large.

I may long for a life of remote beauty untroubled by modernity and the motor car, but I am in no doubt of the need for the dentist and the doctor when dis-ease comes knocking at my door.

Does modernity and progress by necessity go hand in hand with ugliness and the destruction of all that is beautiful and sacred? Is a market economy, where only the fittest survive, the only secure route to technological advance? I think not.

My concept of god, spirit, nirvana may be more of a mindset, than a place I can reach by boat across the Styx, or through a life dedicated to the service of religion.

I hope that godhead may be our future, but not in the form of dead handed dogma from the past. But I believe that such a future may, should, encompass all that is good from our past. Our dreaming spires, our great works of art and music, our philosophy, our humanity. Modernity should encourage and preserve what we have got right, while encouraging us to leave behind what we have got so badly wrong.

That I am a mystic will not have been lost on those who have followed my pages. What may be less clear is that my mysticism espouses the future while worshiping the best in our past.

Where does modernity meet mysticism? Or rather where would I like to see the two combine. In the Omega Point of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Developed further by thinkers such as the physicists David Deutsch and Frank Tipler.

Many will consider such views to be nonsensical pseudoscience. Many will despise equally the technological singularity of futurists such as Ray Kurtzweil.

And yet if man can not dream, what chance of a better future? We must dream and we must believe we can achieve perfection. That we can elevate ourselves, levitate by pulling on our own bootstraps.

Skepticism appears to this non-scientist to be short sighted and unhelpful. Those with their noses too close to the coal face of scientific endeavor may not be in the right position to see the wider implications of the progress they are helping to achieve. Perhaps that is where philosophy must play its part.

Asked if sentience is innate to the universe, I would have to respond that I do not know. Asked if consciousness is a mere by product of materialism I would respond that I hope not. Asked if we have a soul, however that may have emerged, I would answer that I hope so.

And if we have no soul? What should we make of a world where our very awareness is some cosmic and unforeseen accident?

If we are a by-product of random algorithm, we should rejoice that such an accident has come to pass and we should seek to transcend blind chance. If an Omega Point has not been pre-ordained by a deity of old, then all the more reason to make it our goal.

To transcend the animal and the primordial soup from which we came and to seek to become gods. To create divinity, if none exists. Not Olympian gods though, not fearsome gods of wrath wielding hammers in the halls of Valhalla.

We must become gods of peace and hope, decency and good nature.

Guided by the still, small voice we hear within, we must use our gifts to eradicate the pain, poverty and misery with which uncaring evolution has burdened us. If there is a god, then perhaps, as de Chardin believed, we are destined to meet up with him on his own plane.

7 Comments

  1. The singularity vision of many transhumanists seem like they have resonance with the noosphere and Omega Point. Of course, the latter is in more of a religious context while the former is (purportedly) from more of a science and technology one. But the lines between the two seem blurrier than many are willing to admit.

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    1. Incidentally if you have never read David Deutsch you might enjoy his Fabric of Reality. I was fascinated by it. I don’t know whether he is as hopeful and positive these days, nor whether he is still a supporter of Tipler’s version of the Omega Point.

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  2. “Modernity should encourage and preserve what we have got right, while encouraging us to leave behind what we have got so badly wrong.” I absolutely agree with that.
    .
    Mysticism, however, is not about the past or the modern. It is beyond space and time, and beyond what a rational mind can understand. It is being in the infinite ‘here’ and the eternal ‘now.’

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    1. Much as he may wish otherwise, a mystic does nevertheless live within time. His brief sojourn apparently outside time is inevitably followed by his reappearance. Until his death at least!

      The concept of time itself is of course a complex one and by no means understood. The physicist might argue it is non existent or that it can run both forward and backward. And of course the Omega Point itself is without time as Frank Tipler described it. An eternity existing within the very last seconds of the universe. Just before the lights go out. A mystical theory indeed. An eternity and an eternal now existing within a fragment of time itself.

      But of course you refer to the mystical experience and not the mystic’s life spent in ordinary time. And indeed there time does not exist, nor place, nor ego. It can be dispiriting to return from. Is it an opium dream? Conjured from the natural workings of billions of synapses. Or is it a genuine “other” which the mystic is lucky enough to witness from time to time. Who knows, not I. But I shall enjoy the experience nonetheless whatever it may be and wherever or whenever it may come from.

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      1. Being in the here-now is important in everyday life too. Too often, our minds are recalling the past or anticipating the future; meanwhile the present is not attended to properly. What we do ‘right here, right now’ becomes a memory of yesterday and impacts tomorrow.

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