Consciousness Culture, Tech, Mind and the Future

Category: Essays

First-Person Futurism with Google Glass

by Jeremy Johnson

by Taylor Hallett

Glass: On “the Verge” of What?”

On February 22nd, 2013, an article featured on The Verge exposed one of Google’s great forthcoming innovations: Google Glass. Google Glass is a multi-media device that operates on an eyeglass frame. The device works by voice command and its screen is situated on the right side of the eyeglasses. The Verge states that it is a website with the intent of exploring “the intersection of technology, science, art, and culture.” With a device like Google Glass being explored so thoroughly in this article (entitled “I used Google Glass: the future, but with monthly updates”) and its accompanying videos, it is clear that The Verge is living up to its stated mission. We as an audience should be careful, however, when taking in this information presented by The Verge.

While the videos featured here portray a boundless optimism for the potentials with Google Glass, there is a clear marketing scheme underlying the presentation and a denial of giving any consideration to some of the product’s potentially harmful effects. Some of the issues with Google Glass that this feature neglects to discuss are the epistemic divisions occurring between self and sense, and subsequently entrepreneurship of sense that this product could create, and a lack of clarity whether Google Glass is an experiment in augmented reality or simply another social networking device.

The optimistic mood carried throughout the Google Glass feature on The Verge creates an atmosphere of friendly invitation for the viewer. In the main video, it feels almost as if one is being invited into “the lab” with the personalities behind the product’s inception. The futuristic connotations of such a product are played on with relaxing electronic ambient music pumping quietly in the aural periphery. The protagonist of the exposé, Joshua Topalsky, has a relaxed yet exciting conversation about the device with product director Steve Lee and lead industrial designer Isabelle Olsson in the Google headquarters at New York City.

One of the claims that Lee and Olsson consistently reiterate in the feature is that by bringing technology closer to our senses it becomes less intrusive in our daily lives. The way this point is made in the presentation suggests a kind of confirmation bias on the part of the Google employees. Olsson and Lee do not bring up any counterpoints to this argument or offer any qualitative or quantitative studies to support their own argument—that Google Glass offers a solution to the plague of distracting technology.

“A key problem of us solving that problem was bringing technology closer to your senses,” says Lee in the main video on the page. “That was sort of a hunch we had… that if did that it would allow you to connect in a faster way,” (Topalsky, 2013)

With this, we can see an assumption being made that the problem had been “solved,” and that Glass is the “solution.”

Olsson goes on to show Topalsky one of the earlier prototypes of Google Glass. This has the effect of bringing us “in” as the audience into the “lab.” We gain insight into the long creative process that has no doubt been behind Google Glass and experienced it first-hand and as if we are part of the team. Olsson goes on to explain and reaffirm Lee’s earlier point:

“Finally, I could wrap my head around this idea that we need to remove technology but still wear it,” (Topalsky, 2013).“Doesn’t it seem weird to you that in order to get people having more human interactions… that we have to augment ourselves with Glass?” Topalsky says later in the video. “Have we done something wrong?” The use of “we” once again has the effect of bringing us into the creative process behind Google Glass and warding off suspicion of there being any negative aspects of Glass. We are eased of our concerns with the applications and uses of the product and how it could potentially hijack our daily lives and habits.

google_glass_advantageToward the end of the main video, Ollson points out the paradox underlying their proposition that Topalsky alludes to with his above questions. This is the paradox that technology has to be more efficient to be less distracting… But there isn’t anything overtly paradoxical about that statement—however by addressing the issue of distracting technology as being a paradox between convenience and mobility, Ollson is able to address the viewer’s concerns of that balance being too difficult to manage with Glass.

Epistemic Dilemmas

In the second video featured on the page we are taken through how it feels to wear and interact with Google Glass through a montage of video clips. We are shown what the product is capable of through videos done with the product itself. This complimentary video has an interesting purpose in relation to the rest of the feature. It is meant to simultaneously describe and define what kind of experience using this product can be for its user.

google-glass-mapThe applications of Glass that this video promises has the effect of both exploring the product and creating limitations for its functions. The potentials of capturing the first-person experience are relegated to typical actions of everyday common people. The examples we are given include a parent taking their daughter to a ballet class and people taking panoramic videos in hot air balloons. Although these are interesting directive applications of Glass, they are also contrived.

The wearer of Glass in each of the videos interacts with the product in a fun and playful tone, reinforcing its assumed potential for enhancing life. Social pressures associated with having access to technology like Glass from nearby persons in the videos is unfelt and presumed to be non-existent in the videos. Also, the pop-up features of glass aren’t shown as being distracting in any sense, and if they are portrayed it is clearly timed to appear at a convenient moment. Overall, this video and the rest of the presentation featured on The Verge fails to address a core issue of the product—the epistemic division occurring between one’s self and one’s sensory experience.

By creating a product that can directly capture a mock version of subjective experience we are left with a profound and infinite amount of potential applications. In the instance of Glass, Google is left in an awkward position of simultaneously having to calm its consumer base from being too overwhelmed by these applications and also needing to stimulate the curiosity of their consumer base with these same potentials that Glass offers for Google’s immediate marketing goals.

3-07-13-comic

Perhaps a subsequent consequence of Glass being introduced into contemporary social life on a mass scale is the entrepreneurship of one’s own literal vision and subjective experience. Rather than bypassing the narcissism and social malaise that distracting technology creates, Glass would actually advance it to new levels and thus theoretically ‘resolve’ it—individual perception and experience could actually become the gateways to interaction and perspective taking. If McLuhan’s assertion that “the medium is the message” still rings true, then how will that truth come to be applied to Google Glass?

The truth that seems to be implied with this presentation is that messages of raw subjectivity are transferable. To think of Glass as technology that is capable of capturing that message alone would be startling to many. But the ability to transfer that lucid data to another person in an instant implies a new dimension of subjectivity being explored, related with, and defined. Each of these aspects implies an examination of our notions of privacy as well.

Absurd, yet pertinent questions of privacy would come to the minds of persons infatuated with Glass—”is this moment of subjective experience something I feel comfortable sharing with my friends?” For our sake, we might want to ask, “How do my visual and eye-contact behaviors reflect my personality? My soul? Am I comfortable with these tendencies being shared and held in a place where they are capable of being examined or potentially scrutinized?”

03-psycho-screenIn cinematic history, first-person edits have often been symbolic undertakings which imply a direct relation to the audience. There is a tenuous breaching of the “fourth stage” in these moments, although that breach is rarely self-referenced or if so, it is directly mocking itself for doing so (Monty Python). From the standpoint of the audience, these moments carry a special significance, for they are moments when we get a glimpse at the process of production as well as an understanding of plot. They are often climactic moments, and undertakings that demand respect from the audience for the production process itself (a la Psycho, Twyker, etc.).

With these cinematic devices being the only real consistent reference point that common people have for the process of exchanging or relaying subjective data (in a videographic and literal form), the gap from this to the possibilities that Glass opens up seems like a large one that will certainly take time to be bridged.

An Ambiguous Audience

Finally, Google Glass still faces the task of clearly identifying what purpose it is offering to serve its consumers. Whether Glass is supposed to be an aid for augmented reality or simply another networking device remains somewhat unclear, as Roberto Baldwin clearly points out in his article featured on Wired. Baldwin writes: “Where is Google really going with Project Glass?” … “is the company working on two different delivery systems?” (Baldwin, 2012).

If Glass is to be applicable in people’s daily lives, than this distinction is going to be one that Google has to make, and soon—especially considering that Glass could be released by the end of this year, according to Lee, (Topalsky, 2013). Baldwin continues by featuring a technical critique of Glass from Blair MacCyntire, director of Augmented Environments Lab at Georgia Tech.

“For true augmented reality, the display would have to dynamically focus, which would require additional hardware on the glasses to read your eye.”

MacCyntire continues,

“Google has created a level of over-hype and over-expectation that their hardware cannot possibly live up to,” (Baldwin, 2012).

Certainly, there are many possibilities that we can look forward to with Google Glass. In the future, however, Google should be aware of the impressions they are making with similar exposé  features and how they could affect consumer’s perceptions of their products. With Glass, Google is asking for a lot from all parties involved—we will just have to step back and see how they manage it.

Concluding Thoughtsgoogle-glass-top

Putting an innovation like Glass in the context of the current infrastructural technological malaise reveals many subjects for consideration. A recent satire by The Onion captures a convincing portrait of current dispositions towards technological innovations comically entitled: “Nation Starting to Realize New Era of American Innovation Never Gonna Happen.” What The Onion does here brilliantly is point out that despite the fact that innovative personal devices such as Glass continue to be introduced to the American public, there is still a common sense that infrastructural and societal innovations are still far on the horizon from being introduced into our everyday lives.

Unfortunately, what devices like Glass do is reinforce this same sense of lethargy and ambivalence that is already widely prevalent. Once again, the individual is made the locus of our technological innovations rather than there being a broader focus on the space of our collective and societal needs. With products such as Glass, the individual is continually idealized as the cyborg: an adaptive and ostensibly ‘connected’ demigod which external reality is revolving around. We should give notice to how this removes responsibility from the individual to be connected somatically to their environment. Meanwhile, our shared inhabited spaces are neglected a sense of importance and consequently crumble under the wreckage of this same indifference and complacency that is further compounded by devices such as Glass.

How can Google and other proponents of Glass reconcile the fact that these innovations reinforce these common themes of narcissism and indifference to our common and shared conditions? Meanwhile, infrastructural advances in Asia and Europe continue to put the United States to shame. Is Google veering the discourse of technology itself and its utility in society towards the individual simply by creating this product?

The combined effects of products like Glass create and help to further the myth of the sovereign individual detached from the circumstances of the broader societal ecosystem. This “myth of the sovereign” will continue to be perpetuated as long as products such as Glass are prioritized and fetishized over our societal infrastructural needs.

Of course we can always cross our fingers for Google high-speed rail…

Bio:

meTaylor Hallett is currently a student at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, with a focus in English Studies, Sociology & Anthropology, and Film. He hopes to apply these skill sets in future endeavors through mixed-media journalism, ethnographic writing, and documentary film production. Taylor is from Philadelphia, PA.

Works Cited:

Topalsky, Joshua. “I used Google Glass: the future, but with monthly updates.” The Verge. 22 Feb. 2013. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/22/4013406/i-used-google-glass-its-the-future-with-monthly-updates?fb_action_ids=616923891666857&gt;.
Baldwin, Roberto. “Google Glasses Face Serious Hurdles, Augmented-Reality Experts Say.”Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 03 Apr. 2012. Web. 07 Mar. 2012. http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/04/augmented-reality-experts-say-google-glasses-face-serious-hurdles/

“Nation Starting To Realize New Era Of American Innovation Never Gonna Happen.” The Onion. April 22, 2013. Issue 49-17.

What does it mean to be “spiritual”?

by Johnny Stork

We often hear people claim “I am not religious, I am ‘spiritual'”, so what exactly does it mean to be a “spiritual person?” A few nights ago during my drive home to Squamish along the beautiful Sea to Sky Highway, I turned off the radio to give this question some thought and came up with a couple of realizations. First, I really don’t like the term “spiritual” and could write at length as to the reasons why as there are more than a few. Suffice it to say that I believe the word “spiritual” turns many people away (particularly the materialists) from pursuing something they may actually agree with and find great value in. The second realization I had was that being a “spiritual person” is really nothing more than being a “responsible person”, and here is why.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Creative Artist, Eccentricity, Resilience, and Mental Disturbance: The Journal of a Struggling Actor for Three Months—my Actor/Writer Son

by Jeremy Johnson

 by Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D. March, 2013

Introduction to Article [1]

Where does one draw the line between the creative artist and mental disturbance? Perhaps “eccentricity” and “resilience” are terms that we may use to bridge this gap in certain ways, where I am using the definitions of eccentricity as “deviating from usual or recognized form” and resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or misfortune.” In a 2006 Integral World article and a 2008 Journal of Humanistic Psychology article (Benjamin, 2006, 2008), I discussed what I referred to as an “artistic view of mental disturbance.” I used the term “creative artist” in a very inclusive sense to incorporate multiple kinds of creativity—visual arts, music, writing, theatre, dance, mathematical creativity, social creativity, etc., and I defined a “successful creative artist” as a person who has been able to express his/her creativity constructively in his/her society and has received a favorable response, and who also has been able to make a “satisfactory adjustment” to living day-to-day life in her/his society. I utilized various perspectives and theories from psychology to put this idea of “satisfactory adjustment” into what seemed to me to be a reasonable working perspective, and I then developed what I referred to as the “Artistic Theory of Psychology,” which I summarized as follows, using Abraham Maslow’s (1962) hierarchy of human needs and potential. Read the rest of this entry »

Towards a Mystic Understanding of Erotic Knowing and Gender Identity

by laylarevery

In his show “Gender Mystic,” performer Didik Nini Thowok explores transgender themes and their relationship to mysticism within various Asian traditions.

Have you ever wondered about the intersections of erotic and spiritual life? I know I have, quite frequently, as most of my late-twenties life has shown a pattern of learned separation between the two, a pattern that still persists across multiple cultures I survived and interacted with. Yet, there is an abundance of arenas in life, from centuries-old mystic traditions to mytho-poetic and artistic perspectives, that reveal the contrary. They can show us how the erotic dimension of being human, the way of intuitive knowing that comes from a particular, irresistible pull towards that special someone or intense life calling, are inseparable from one’s spiritual actualization and fulfillment within their lifetime. Not only that, but there are also recent engagements between the spiritual and the sexual that can be of immense transformative potential for a society, and that I found have a lot of insight to offer to social movements organized around sexual liberation and gendered identity politics. Read the rest of this entry »

Evolving Contemplative Practice, part 5: A New Planetary Sadhana

by Jeremy Johnson

By M. Alan Kazlev

The evolution of contemplative spirituality is a very interesting topic. What place sadhana (contemplative practice and discipline) in the modern, globally networked, technologically advanced, world, and how does it evolve in response to these circumstances? Here are my thoughts on this.

First, to understand where contemplative practice is going, we have to look at how the modern world came to be how it is now.

Galileo

During the 17th and 18th century, there was a great revolution in the educated socio-collective consciousness in Europe and the newly settled (by the white man) America. This has been called the Age of Reason (17th century) and Age of Enlightenment (18th Century). The effect of the Age of Reason and Age of Enlightenment was to overthrow political, monarchist, and theocratic totalitarianism, religious fundamentalism and literalism and lower magical-astral superstition. Instead there emerged a new world, ruled by reason, with ideals of democracy, freedom of speech and liberty, and non-sectarian universal or objective truth. Without this change from premodern to modern, secular Western civilisation, with all the liberties we take for granted, would have been impossible, and we would instead be living in a Christian equivalent to modern Islamism(1) or seventeenth century Salem, complete with witch trials and charges of heresy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Evolving Contemplative Practice: Part 4, the Rise of Mystic Fellowship

by Jeremy Johnson

by Jeremy Johnson

Rhizome

“The rhizomatic approach is the way forward.” – The Scarlet Imprint

This is the fourth addition of EL’s Evolving Contemplative Practice series, a convergence of various authors, rogue scholars and bloggers who are exploring the emerging contemplative traditions and schools of thought in the 21st century. The central theme has been: how is digital technology and globalization affecting the world’s wisdom traditions? In what ways are they mingling and interacting with mainstream academia and our modern, materialistic and often secular culture?

A major dimension of my studies at Goddard has been exploring the “rise of digital technologies,” as John Ebert puts it, and how they are impacting our world. This semester in particular has been focused on the social dimension: how is the internet affecting social organization? The overall thrust of this subject can be summed up, perhaps, as decentralization. The internet has enabled networks, which have always existed, to vastly expand and even thrive competitively with centralized academies, bureaucracies, and the status quo. The ability for anyone to self-publish has created a lot more information to sift through, but a single voice of a blogger can become enhanced to the point of challenging, and rivaling corporations and mainstream media. This newfound ability, perhaps for the first time in a long time in the history of human societies, favors the network over the centralized bureaucratic, or pyramidic structure of power. This has, as the cultural critic John Ebert suggests, catastrophic implications for the old systems of world order.

The result of this newfound enhancement of underground networks has seen the proliferation of movements and new ways for people to self-organize. Of particular interest to me is how the once-fringe subjects of consciousness studies, altered states, psychedelics, and mysticism are all emerging in a newfound voice of collective confidence, pushing for credibility in academies with events such as the Daimonic Imagination, or Breaking Convention, at the University of Kent, Canterbury. At my own school, Goddard College, the Consciousness Studies program is a recent addition that was created to facilitate the rising interest in the study of consciousness. What was once obscure is now being overturned in this transitional age, where one system of order is turned on its head as another emerges. From roots below to branches above.

In this “esoteric renaissance,” universities and scholars are working up the courage to blur the lines between science and mysticism, myth and history in an attempt to imagine a multidisciplinary, and even multi-faceted consciousness present in mainstream culture. This more holistic appreciation for the human experience is something that can’t be neglected in the present, because our world is in dire need of a greater integration of all forms of knowledge and experience in order to make it through the most challenging century our species has faced.

Fellow contributor David Metcalfe raises a good point: that whether or not these newfound interests in consciousness and mysticism become established in academia and more mainstream outlets for discourse, there now exists a thriving, rag-tag network of scholars, artists and social movements that will only continue to expand, producing their own work and research regardless. It may even be the case that such rhizomatic networks will be the life-pulse of whatever does creep up into mainstream institutions. If there is one major trend here, it is that the underbelly of all that modern society has either ignored or dismissed is now growing through the cracks of monolithic institutions and revealing the sheer diversity of ideas, perspectives, and indeed consciousness that has always permeated the human experience.

With all of this in mind, the digital community of Buddhist Geeks has organized their first conference in LA to discuss the emerging and evolving tradition of Buddhism. In a recent interview, Vincent Horn discusses the power of “informal learning communities,” that provide once isolated practitioners with a vibrant and non-local digital community. A recent addition to this explorative idea is #OPENPRACTICE, a twitter hash-tag for practitioners to share their daily reflection, advice and overall experiences in meditation. The idea is to create a vibrant and social community of practitioners who support each other on their contemplative path.

In what ways are such communities better, or worse, than their physical counterparts? One idea that seems to be emerging is that the virtual and the physical need not be separated. That kind of dichotomy is misrepresentative of the emerging digital-physical landscape where mind and matter seem to intertwine. Virtual communties pour over into physical ones, organizing events, publications and influencing mainstream awareness.

If we pause for a moment and look at this in a larger perspective, the shift from what Deleuze described as “arborescent” power to “rhizomatic” might be analogized in the transition from single-celled to multicellular life. The ability for cells to cooperate with one another and form an emergent whole did not erase, or destroy, the individual cell but place it in a vastly larger and more complex environment. It’s no wonder that in science, we’ve begun to see a shift of emphasis away from competition and towards the often-neglected dimension of cooperation in books like Empathic Civilization and in the work of scientists like James Lovelock and the biologist Lynn Margulis.

The Emerging Face of Post-Religious Spirituality

Cloud

A major concern in these discussions has often been: what role does religion have to play in the 21st century? In our secular, Western culture it is not a popular subject, save to be trashed by authors like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins. Religion is mainly considered to be something superstitious and based on un-founded beliefs in deities and other supernatural forces. An evidence based spirituality, some have come to say, is required for a scientific age.

Is this truly all of what religion is, was, and can be? I’m inclined to agree with the scholar and theologian, Karen Armstrong, that the purpose of religion was not for it to be a dogmatic belief system, but a way of life and practice–a spiritual participation that yielded its fruits through compassion and good works. Myth was not a belief, but an early form of psychology in which the intention was to learn embodied, spiritual exercises for daily life. We have since lost that understanding of myth.

“Today we’ve rather reversed this. First you have to believe in a whole set of doctrines, then you start putting it into practice. Not much point living a religious life if God doesn’t exist. But that would be, for people like the Buddha or even Jesus, this would be putting the cart before the horse. First you practice, then you begin to understand what it’s all about. The word belief used to mean “belove”—it meant connotations of loyalty, engagement, involvement, trust. When Jesus is asking his disciples for belief, he’s asking for commitment…to live compassionate lives… He is not asking for doctrinal assent.” -Karen Armstrong

Religion was considered to be a cultural vehicle for the practitioner to move from the outer manifestation, to the inner origin. This “inner” practice, which is often called mysticism, is the study of the perennialist scholars and is often called the Tradition, for despite the myriad outer forms, there is a universal and all-embracing source, Buddha-nature, or Godhead. It is the many and the one. Much of modern religion has unfortunately degraded and entered into a “deficient” phase, where only the outer manifestation is present and the inner unity is lost, creating an amalgamation of literalist interpretations and dogma instead of direct knowledge (gnosis).

To view the Church or religion as a unity in its physical manifestation is to miss that the only Unity that exists is in G-d, thus Muhammed can speak in praise of the “People of the Book” and Buddhism can speak of “hidden buddhas” and “buddhas of all times and places,” and Prophets in Judaism can say that the people of G-d will be taught by a stranger.

Islam means “submission” and Muslim “one who submits,” Catholic means “universal,” it’s only when we start taking secular authority and secular organizations for the truth that divisions arise due to sectarian beliefs that are inconsequential to the teachings of an Tradition.” -David Metcalfe, The Crown of Glory & the Decadence of Contemporary Conflict.

It is also a mistake to consider, as some scholars and theorists are saying, religion strictly as linear development. In a recent talk between the artist Alex Grey, his wife Allyson and the philosopher Ken Wilber, Wilber suggests that religions have failed to evolve beyond their “mythical” formulation, and because of this they will continue to quarrel with one another, unable to understand the hidden unity behind the various outer garments and masks of God. Rather than seeing it simplistically, I believe it would be more appropriate to consider that “mythic” religions, in their truer form, were quite capable of understanding the unity behind all appearances and articulated it with both sophisticated logic and transcendent wisdom. Consider the medieval Sufi philosopher, Ibn Arabi:

“There are those among us who see God but are ignorant of Him… Though no-one loves any but his own Creator, he is veiled from Him by the love for Zaynab, Su’ad, Hind, Layla, this world, money, position, and everything loved in the world. Poets exhaust their words writing about all these existent things without knowing, but the gnostics never hear a verse, a riddle, a panegyric, or a love poem that is not Him, hidden beyond the veil of forms.”

Ibnarabi

Ibn Arabi

While browsing Reddit the other week, someone posted the question: can you be an atheist and be a Buddhist? The first thing that came to mind was, well, you can come to the contemplative practice “being” whatever. The robes come off in silent attention, secular or not. After contemplation, we return to the world, we use our words according to the culture to describe the infinite. Buddha did this, Christians did this, and secular “geeks” also do this. But the center of the temple asks you to surrender those labels. Surrendering your heart, your mind, your being to silence requires no particular, creative way to label yourself beforehand, and that sacredness can be discovered by all–despite their culture. 

The embrace of quietude is what the anonymous medieval contemplative called “the Cloud of Unknowing.” The center of the practice requires nothing to be carried with you but a silent mind and opened heart. It is a profound emptying out, leaving our thoughts on the altar of contemplative quietude so we might enter a more direct way of knowing. This is a knowing of the heart.

This inner, contemplative tradition is at the heart and soul of every world religion. The outer forms may be entering into a “deficient” stage of literalization and decay, but it is this inner form which may at last begin to see the light of day. As mentioned earlier, the new “rhizomatic” way of social media and communication technology can amplify the voice of the mystic to contrast the broken voice of the fanatic, putting light on an often-neglected mystical understanding of spirituality that transcends any one religious order. It is this mystical core which may finally have time to shine, and certainly why I find the idea of an “esoteric renaissance” in our digital age a fascinating prospect worthy of exploration and participation.

There is certainly nothing wrong with our secular culture’s appropriating the mystical experience and studying it in a laboratory. If anything, for the mystic, this is a convergence of the world of manifestation and the inner formlessness. It is a uniting of mythos and logos. New techniques might arise that help us understand our consciousness and enable mystical states of consciousness to be more accessible, and transmittable in technique for more people. As much as this could be the beginning of an esoteric renaissance, it could also be considered the democritization of the esoteric.

In a recent essay, the historian William Irwin Thompson suggests now that religion has entered into a deficient phase (in line with Gebser’s “structures of consciousness”), the emerging post-religious spirituality is an age of fellowship:

Fellowship is the critical word here because it indicates a shift from organism, hierarchy, and reproduction to a noetic polity of entelechies–inspired minds carrying a new condition in which a more symbiotic evolution moves from the reproduction of the past to the emergence of an emanational future.”

The “reproduction of the past” is a good way to describe what religions often do, that is, reproduce a new line of hierarchical successors–this is not only true for religions but for the bureacratic imagination of today’s culture. While I am sure lineage won’t disappear, the point is that more sophisticated means of preserving knowledge are now emerging, without sacrificing the important universality of the wisdom traditions. To shift from lineage to emanation, or in other words, a kind of gnosis where direct encounter with the Unknown, the Godhead, or as Gebser describes, “origin” — would be a major shift after all, indicative of what Sri Aurobindo described as the “gnostic being.

This kind of “emanative” quality, ironically, is coming from the vast networks below, rather than the heirarchical structures above. To be more precise, it is a kind of Taoist imagination whereby all things emanate their true nature; where the center is everywhere and nowhere and all things abide in awareness of their source. It could be the decentralizing force of new communication technology that makes the democratization of the esoteric, and the emergence of spirituality as fellowship rather than hierarchy, possible. With humble beginnings such as #OPENPRACTICE and artistic movements born through the web, it seems that this rhizomatic fellowship has a chance to take root.

To me, this is truly a profound vision of spirituality to aspire to. The core of all religions has been this mystical fellowship, as Dogen Zenji, Ibn Arabi, Maimonides and many other ancient theologians and mystics exemplified in their writings. The mystical core with its vision of unity and diversity was always a threat to the established power of religious institutions, and as the world turns over, it is perhaps the anarchic mystic that is the archetype of the new age and not the priest.

Previous Articles in the Series:

Part 1: Contemplation by David Metcalfe

Part 2: Evolving Dharma by Vincent Horn

Part 3: Converging the Inner and Outer Science by c4chaos

Sources, References:

1. See video: Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

2. Sri Aurobindo, the Gnostic Being and Spiritualit Evolution, an interview EL had with the scholar Alan Kazlev.

 3. An Evening with Karen Armstrong, an excellent one hour talk where Armstrong describes some of her ideas on religion as action and God being beyond any conception. Also see her Charter for Compassion. Excerpt: “In that moment of stunning realization of the impotence of speech. We humans push our minds to a state of transcendence. Our minds segway very naturally into transcendence, it’s one of the peculiar characteristics of the human mind. And in fact the desire to live constantly in relation to this transcendence is probably the defining human characteristic.”

4. The Cloud of Unknowing, translation by William Johnston.

5. Daimonic Imagination Conference

6. Modern Mythology, The Eyeless Owl, an example of a growing network of students of myth, the esoteric and consciousness studies.

7. The Esoteric Renaissance, A Five Year Conference Series at Esalen.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,256 other followers