Following up on my earlier posts here on Techno-Capitalism and Post-Human Destinies (I and II), here are my concluding reflections on the subject.
To ask ourselves the question where we are headed in these civilizational end-times, this eschatological hour of the realized hubris of techno-capitalism and to pose the question in terms of godhood – omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence – is to foreground the issue of post-human destinies. Are we to remain what we are or is something else taking shape in us, an alien life-form being born imperceptibly in the spectral interstices of our already blurred humanity? And what is the nature of this life-form – is it Heidegger’s “god (who will) save us,” Derrida’s unnamable l’avenir, Nietzsche’s superman or Sri Aurobindo’s? Or is it Kafka’s metamorphosed cockroach or William Burrough’s ventriloquist whose anal speech-trick ran uncontrollably out of hand and took over his body and brain?
Let us consider the godhood of our contemporary post-Enlightenment hour of global power and control. What kind of omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence do we have here? Techno-capitalism is a regime of international globalized flows leveling all differences into universal exchangeable measures – a flow of technology as capital and of capital as technology – the two imperceptibly intertwined like Mercurius’ caduceus or the Ida and Pingala occult streams of internal circulation. But that does not mean they are one – their sources of origin are separate and though they work as one within the universal body of the psycho-sphere, it may be possible to unbraid them if we know the why and how.
What then is our present Omniscience and Omnipresence? Our omniscience and Omnipresence are those of anonymous instrumentation and its master, anonymous Rationality, of the extension and refinement of sense organs turned upon the material world and probing it for its universal secrets, and ultimately for its intrinsic singular rationality, for this is how the Enlightenment has defined “the human” to itself – the secret possessor of the Logos of God who by collective effort of/as history will distil and release this objectified universal Logos, the Immortal Static Infinite Intelligent Word of God which is the hidden operative rationality of Matter and Life and the conscious instrumental rationality of the human. But whereas individual human beings are finite and mortal, the “human race” is potentially immortal (for such is the rationality of Nature) and its collective historical reach is infinite. This is how its effort can produce an Age of Universal Enlightenment which belongs to no single person but is made available for the use of humanity as a whole. But this statement has to be understood in its fullness – not merely in the utopic ring of its idealism. For if it cannot belong to any single person, this is not because no single person can come into control and possession of it, but because no single person can be equal to it in consciousness. This is one of the two fundamental dualities of the regime of instrumentation as technology – that it produces a globalized objectified Rationality as instrumentation, which is far beyond the capacity of any individual to equal, which therefore dwarfs and obliterates that same individuality which it produces as the subject of its own production, splitting the individual from all past and present systems of identity/belonging, producing in him the conscience of prized individuality and anonymizing him. This individual anonymous “member of the human race”, producer of the universal rationality of the age of enlightenment objectified as the regime of globalized instrumentation must then perforce become a continuing producer, user and consumer of its Omniscience and Omnipresence through the mediation of technological instrumentation. And this mediation determines through its totalitarian McLuhanesque extra-human far-from-neutral neurality the conditioned responses of human agents, responses more proper to a silicon-based life-form, which reduces the human to a ticking (pun intended) part of its machinery.
Which leads to the second duality at the heart of this Omniscience/Omnipresence – that between the essence of technology and the essence of the human. For Technology as the product of the Enlightenment remains objectified Rationality but humanity if reduced to the rational, loses its essence as an undefinable life-form in transition, seeking to create in itself its own godhood. This second duality is a realized godhood as human creation which slays the essence of the godhood of human creativity, its own sources of self-transcendence. This then is the Omniscience and Omnipresence beckoning us as the fulfilled end of Technology, an end which is largely unquestioned and avalanches towards its fulfillment, taking “the human race” to its own post-human destiny as cannibalized machinery.
And what of Omnipotence, the secret urge behind every seeking for Omniscience, the human dream of making a better world than that which God has made, a world more suited to its needs and desires? Here is where Technology and Capitalism become separable, for if global Technology anonymyzes and dwarfs us as individuals and splices us into the nano-genetics of its non-dual world reality as Instrument, this same inequality between the finite mortal individual and the Infinite Immortal objectified Reason as Knowledge spawns a different valence for Power – one of the huge individual hunger to become the possessor of such a Dream Machine – a possessor not in/for consciousness but as property for enjoyment. This is the urge of global capitalism, which produces the regime of Technology as an increasingly accelerating desiring machine, machine of the production and consumption of human beings as desiring subject/objects and of universal capital as impersonal exchange property of property exchange driving the hunger and thirst of infinite possession known as the world market.
The operating logic of such a regime is that of the ecology of speed and the mythology of rupture. A mythos of perpetual progress flattens Time towards pure spatiality, where the Here is the Now, distancing itself ever more radically from “the past” through the production of History and projecting itself ever more thoroughly into “the future” through its ceaseless reinvention, a double fetish of willed obsolescence assimilated ever more rapidly into the world museum of ruins and a compulsive turnover of fleeting novelty as its “other,” two specifically modern forms of sensational pleasure. But is this mythos of “rupture” from the past the same as the discontinuity of the messianic Return, is this pure spatiality of Time the diaphaneity of the fourth dimension, is this eschatological moment the inauguration of a new time-structure of perpetual rebirth, the Aurobindonian condition for the physical immortality of one kind of post-human future?
Hardly so. This spurious supermanhood at the end of Hegelian/Enlightenment History does not yield the phenomenology of the diaphanous fourth dimension but the commodification of Subjectivity which amounts to the oblivion of memory and the erasure of Being. Its Omnipresence is not an omnitemporality which redeems or fulfills the past but betrays it by tearing from it the historicity of its presence and packaging it as alienated product of consumption or collection. Its Omnipotence does not grasp the plenitude of infinite Being as a non-dual self-possession, but marks its object with the unfulfillment, dis-ease and boredom of its own wanting finitude. Its Omniscience is not a penetration of or identification with the Intelligence of God in all things but a voluntary abdication of creative consciousness in favor of a conditioned instrumentality yielding a piecemeal fragmentary knowledge at best simulating the integral. What it is most useful for is not the global reproduction of democratic godhood but the global surveillance of the Unitary Panopticon, invisibly and anonymously mapping every point in space and moment in time for the control of whatever power or principle may manage to lay hold of its machinery. But effective though this may be in subjecting human bodies to its disciplinary regime, human consciousness persists in its incalculable presentation of something beyond instrumentation and discreteness, something which no calculus of limits or nano-resolution of binarity can capture, something which is reality itself as integral Idea, Real-Idea, escaping its hold, though deferred or pre-empted from its own post-humanity. The Godhead we have collectively produced, by forced conscription of all the energisms of the human race over 500 years of labor, toil and blood-sacrifice in the yajna of the Enlightenment is simply the hugely magnified and universalized double Ego of Mental-Vital Man, objectified as global machinery and desiring Will, Technology and the World-Market.
And today, it is not a matter of choice, not the lure of the god of the Enlightenment which attracts the adherence of our will but the avalanche of its momentum which sweeps inexorably towards the end of its projected temporality, its time-structure as world history. Does Heidegger’s alternate god, the “god that can save us” hide its footsteps behind the mask of this mental-vital fraud? We cannot say. For Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the answer is “yes,” though what is uncertain there is if we will have any part of it. The Aurobindonian superman does not need our assistance or midwifery to make its appearance. For Heidegger or Derrida, the answer is unimportant, our propriety as beings at the end of “human history” one of knowing how to awaken the sleep of unsuspecting travelers, how to indicate the margins of human possibility and how to wait. Is that all? And what are the margins of human possibility? What post-human forms loom in those margins? And what futures await us at the culmination of Enlightenment history? And is there a history beyond?
I have spoken of two dualities dividing the human individual from the God of the Enlightenment. One of these is the division between the finitude of the individual and the infinity of God. The other is the division between the essence of the human and the essence of Technology. It is both these dualities that Arthur Kroker is invoking when he refers to the lack in McLuhan’s (following Chardin’s) theological metaphysics to bring into awareness or overcome the irreducible alienation of an Enlightenment godhood. Western metaphysics as western theology (displacements of each other) and the two together as onto-theology are premised on these dualities. The essence of the human individual there is a finitude faced with an infinite God or Universe and a struggling irrationality faced with a rational God or Universe. This is the human structure or onto-theology from which it knows no escape.
The only apotheosis of the human individual here at the end of the cycle of objectified and universalized Rationality is its disappearance into Machinery. This is a post-human future which looms large as a possibility at the nearing margins of the impending end of human history – maybe first the surreptitious disappearance of man in the Machine, an embodied instrument in the world wide web of impersonal Techno-Capitalism, then an increasing nano-bionic mutation of physical substance going hand in hand with an increasing miniaturization and de-materialization of machinery and ending with the extinction of the human – the consciousness of universal human history and experience ceding its temporality and mortality to the continuance of a memory bank in astral cyberspace pulsing out its permutated algorithms of post-human desire in cyber-sensory worlds without limit.
Or may we dare to question the lack at the heart of Christian/western onto-theological duality and posit a radical post-structuralism on the one hand as the essence of the human – not a finitude but an ever creative infinity, and on the other, as the essence of God or Universe – not a rationality but a post-rational integrality? May the universalization and objectification of Rationality and Instrumentation as the end of Enlightenment history be an intermediate invitation to a non-duality where a supra-rational subjective power of consciousness in the individual measures, equates and overpasses itself? The practical phenomenology of Vedanta would seem to indicate such a possibility, not as an astrologism, but as a necessarily participative process, a process termed yoga. It is this possibility that Sri Aurobindo holds out as the post-human future of choice which can activate an evolutionary transcendence. Can the objectification of universal Rationality as non-local Instrumentation be mirrorred in identical structures of subjective consciousness? May, indeed, such an objectification facilitate such a realized equivalence of subjective consciousness, make it easier for the individual to realize its operational non-locality and universality in consciousness, so even as to eventually make the objectified machinery unnecessary and obsolete? And if such a possibility may be imagined, under what individual and social conditions could it be realized?
Sri Aurobindo has a provocative statement about the Enlightenment drive for Godhood and the end of Machinery ending the chapter on “The Materialist Denial” in The Life Divine. He says:
Science itself begins to dream of the physical conquest of death, expresses an insatiable thirst for knowledge, is working out something like a terrestrial omnipotence for humanity. Space and Time are contracting to the vanishing-point in its works, and it strives in a hundred ways to make man the master of circumstance and so lighten the fetters of causality. The idea of limit, of the impossible begins to grow a little shadowy and it appears instead that whatever man constantly wills, he must in the end be able to do; for the consciousness in the race eventually finds the means. It is not in the individual that this omnipotence expresses itself, but the collective Will of mankind that works out with the individual as a means. And yet when we look more deeply, it is not any conscious Will of the collectivity, but a superconscious Might that uses the individual as a centre and means, the collectivity as a condition and field. What is this but the God in man, the infinite Identity, the multitudinous Unity, the Omniscient, the Omnipotent, who having made man in His own image, with the ego as a centre of working, with the race, the collective Narayana, the visvamanava as the mould and circumscription, seeks to express in them some image of the unity, omniscience, omnipotence which are the self-conception of the Divine? “That which is immortal in mortals is a God and established inwardly as an energy working out in our divine powers.” It is this vast cosmic impulse which the modern world, without quite knowing its own aim, yet serves in all its activities and labours subconsciously to fulfil.
But there is always a limit and an encumbrance,—the limit of the material field in the Knowledge, the encumbrance of the material machinery in the Power. But here also the latest trend is highly significant of a freer future. As the outposts of scientific Knowledge come more and more to be set on the borders that divide the material from the immaterial, so also the highest achievements of practical Science are those which tend to simplify and reduce to the vanishing-point the machinery by which the greatest effects are produced. Wireless telegraphy is Nature’s exterior sign and pretext for a new orientation. The sensible physical means for the intermediate transmission of the physical force is removed; it is only preserved at the points of impulsion and reception. Eventually even these must disappear; for when the laws and forces of the supraphysical are studied with the right starting-point, the means will infallibly be found for Mind directly to seize on the physical energy and speed it accurately upon its errand. There, once we bring ourselves to recognise it, lie the gates that open upon the enormous vistas of the future.
Yet even if we had full knowledge and control of the worlds immediately above Matter, there would still be a limitation and still a beyond. The last knot of our bondage is at that point where the external draws into oneness with the internal, the machinery of ego itself becomes subtilised to the vanishing-point and the law of our action is at last unity embracing and possessing multiplicity and no longer, as now, multiplicity struggling towards some figure of unity. There is the central throne of cosmic Knowledge looking out on her widest dominion; there the empire of oneself with the empire of one’s world; there the life in the eternally consummate Being and the realisation of His divine nature in our human existence.
This Neo-Vedantic appropriation and supercession of the Enlightenment furthers an alternate teleology of the Subjective which travels to a non-dual post-human future prioritizing Consciousness. It also indicates an alternate Science of the Subjective, a collective phenomenology of experience and the development of subjective technologies of consciousness. Are we up to such developments? Are we permitted the time within the hyper-temporality of Techno-Capitalism’s ecology of rupture and insistent objectification of commodified space-time? Are we permitted the choice within the totalitarian globalized regime of the ever-tightening ubiquity of the world wide web, the economic barbarism of its tinsel-town neo-liberal techno-optimism, its Panopticon of terrestrial surveillance?
Without the growth of collective awareness in the imperative of this alternative, its teleology, even if admitted, may well bypass the human. But to awaken to a more than personal responsibility does not come easy to humankind. This too is an ironical aspect of the dwarfing of human consciousness in the regime of Techno-Capitalism, where the individual is expected to be global but all this amounts to in terms of responsibility is an uniformitarian adherence to multinational consumption. Apathy is the badge of its regime, aspiration merely its lip service to an ideal for which it seeks deified substitutes for its own insufficiency. And yet, without the growing awareness in humanity of the urgent need for a change in direction, the hope in a “God who can save us” will remain an impotent and impractical faith, the prospect of the God who came and went and remained unrecognized, an eventuality far more pathetic than that of the God who earned men’s hate and martyrdom. Intentional groups which can make the collective choice to refuse the imperative of global capitalism and persist in economies and ecologies determined by the alternate imperative of developing the accumulated phenomenologies of the Subjective and technologies of Consciousness in engagement with the regime of post-Enlightenment Modernity may alone have a chance at this transition. Every attempted experiment in this direction is a possible evolutionary bifurcation, a possibility of socio-personal mutation whose success or failure or dimensions are completely unknown at this time, but which urgently demands our participation. What is primary for this initiation is individual awakening to the images of the post-human futures driving the present, the trajectories of Techno-Capitalism and their power, the urgent imperative for alternate post-human futures which lead to non-dual identities of Consciousness in being and power and a heroic aspiration and global responsibility flaming up within as a result of these contemplations. Without these understandings, these contemplations and these aspirations one is not ready for the transition, either as an individual or a collective, and social experiments even based on teachings such as those of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, are blighted from the outset. With these requirements, do we have a better chance? And can the experiments of miniscule collectives, even if lucky enough to survive, mean anything to globalized humanity? Without the attempt we will never know. A post-human future of non-dual consciousness which glorifies and transcends the human is least likely to arrive without human participation. And perhaps if we can overcome the pressure of inertia and apathy endemic to the regime of Techno-Capitalism and wake to the necessary post-human aspiration, the Mother’s message may become meaningful in a new and active way: “Blessed are those who take a leap towards the future.”