- Loss -> loss of the defining mythos of “Ascent”
- Empty Space -> this is drawing near
Activists are afraid of both the loss and the empty space.
During loss and empty space:
- Breakdown of conventions
- Our political, technological, and cognitive tools are impotent.
- Belief systems behind the tools crumble.
- Narratives and answers are collapsing on questions like “Who am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “Where did we come from and where are we going?”, “What is the purpose of life?”
Each crack in the old word reveals what is possible in the new world.
Why is there a need for a narrative?
- The mind needs an intellectually cogent explanation so it won’t despair.
- Ascent is bankrupt, Empty space is drawing near -> we need a new metanarrative of cultural evolution, new interpretive constructs upon which to build a civilization
Charles’ description of crisis is undeniable.
But are narratives really breaking down?
To what extent?
Is this breaking down of narratives happening in the Philippines? (Charles is describing science, is the Philippines ripe in its scientific progress?)
- Do we really need a meta narrative to build a new civilization?
- Isn’t a meta narrative in contradiction to localization?
- If we want to localize our economies, shouldn’t we also localize our narratives?
- Maybe total localization of narratives is impossible because we are “human” after all.
- My conclusion then is that: the Philippines needs a “local” narrative, not because it is a separate entity but because of its shared history, but this “local” narrative should strike a balance between what we know of “human” nature, what unites us with other cultures, and what we know about our “local” history.
- Filipino historian’s philosophizing on the use of narratives in Philippine society.
- Why are narratives important in local cultures in the Philippines?
- Do we really need a “national” narrative?
- In what way will the narrative you will write serve the Filipino locale?
- Culture - transmit knowledge across generations
- Technology - manipulate nature
Culture + technology = separate human realm (gift and curse)
- Culture - transmit hatred, injustice, and violence
- Technology - destroy nature
Undeniable crisis of human origin. Is it built in to our humanity?
Can the gift of technology and culture be separated from the curse?
Something is wrong here -> efforts failed -> cynicism
Despit cynicism, some moments, individual and collective, reveal the possibility of a more beautiful world -> shows us that the life-consuming program of management and control is futile
Our disbelief of what is possible
- We don’t believ it can be a foundation for life
- Heaven or Utopia
- We set it apart in this life and world
- Deny its practicality
- Deny its reality
What led us to disbelieve on the beautiful?
- Denial of human nature
- Denial based on separation to the Other and Nature
It cannot be suppressed forever
- Reconception of self
- Changes are already happening
- Changes will happen: collapse of what’s familiar
Societal and individual
- Crisis and transformation happens in both societal and individual level (spiritual dimension in the planetary crisis)
Modern lifestyle insulates us from the crisis
How disbelief to what is possible and acceptance of what is lead people to “try harder” using “the same tools”
- Be more efficient
- Achieve better security
- Get uncertainties under control
- Escape life (vacations, early retirement)
- Try harder to improve oneself
- Try harder to improve society using the tools existing
Trying harder will never work because it is built on the same “mode of being” that brought our problems. Trying harder worsens the situation.
Human beings are living in a way that is no longer natural (no harmony, balance, authenticity, beauty).
Technology creates this divide between human and nature.
Culture creates this divide between human and human nature.
- is seen as an ascent - rising above animal origins.
- “Progress” - the millenia-long accumulation of culture and technology
- What characterizes us as “humans”
- What created the global “crisis”
- Separation from God, Nature, community, the lost parts of ourselves
- Our intuition that life can be better proves that “separation” is an illusion
What is at the root of “separation”?
- The discrete, isolated self
- Self conditionally dependent but fundamentally separare from the Other (nature and people)
Results of seeing ourselves as separate
- We manipulate others to our advantage
- physical world is its object of manipulation and control (conceptual separation from the environment)
- Reinforces separation (distances us from nature, insulates us from its rhythms)
- Frees us from natural limitations -> ascent
Why reconception of the self is important
- Redefines what it means to be human
- Redefines how we relate to each other
- Redefines how we relate to the world
How can a series of incremental improvements add up to crisis?
Chapter 1 The problem of tech
- Constitutional flaw in technology
- Problem-solving worsens problem
Chapter 2 Roots of separation
- Reason behind problem described in Chapter 1
- Origins of separation (pre-history, pre-human)
- Separation is an organic inevitability leading to a new phase in human and natural development
- Science - full articulation of separation
Chapter 3 Science and religion
- Separation in scientific and rational thought
- Science will not dismantle the crisis it created
- Religion is complicit in despiritualization
Chapter 4 Economic
- Language, measure quantified the world -> science objectified it -> commodify it
- Conversion of social, cultural, natural, and spiritual into money
- Money and property system arose from and reinforces
- Selfishness is a product of our misconception of human nature
Chapter 5 Control
- Control: religion, law, education, medicine
- Failure to control -> more control -> postponing but intensifying eventual reckoning
- Crumbling of science -> new mode of technology + spirituality in matter
- Scientific foundation for a reunion of dualisms present in the Age of Separation
Chapter 7 Reunion
- Collapse and convergence of crises -> Age of Reunion
- What is life like without separation
- Systems not of control of, but of participation to Nature
- Not a return to the past
- A new human estate: A return to the harmony and wholeness of the hunter-gatherer + higher level of consciousness, higher level of organization
- Integrates, not reverse, the entire course of separation
- The cosmic purpose of ascent
- None of our efforts no matter how futile is useless
- Fulfillment not abandonment of what makes us human
The mechanistic world is not reality but a projection of our confusion
- What can a person like me do?
- A symptom of separation
- You and I are powerful
Alternative to separation
In my proposal, I will say that the beautiful virtues common in humans and the cultural virtues that these inspired should be the foundation of life in local Philippines. Shouldnt be dismissed as impossible.
The crisis is most especially felt in the Third World. This is all the more reason we should participate in the discussion about solution.
Proposal: a return to indigenous wholeness and harmony + use of consciousness about nature of humanity as a whole + higher level of organization
Q: how can we recreate the wholeness and harmony of the hunter-gatherer in modern Filipino society?
Chapter 1 - The Triumph of Technology
- Based on a story that science brought us from ignorance to understanding
- Technology has brought us from dependence on nature to mastery of it
- Someday our understanding of control will be complete
Age of Coal
- promised Age of Leisure
- people worked more, not less
- working conditions worsen
Age of Electricity
Post-World War II
- Medicine: no more disease
- Agriculture: end of pests; cornucopia
- Atomic energy: unlimited power
- 1969: Moon landing
- Promised to bring the same to the social universe
- Society engineered for maximum happiness
Goal: achieve precise control of nature (macro and micro - nanotechnology and genetic engineering)
The Ascent of Humanity
- The everascending understanding and control that has become a fundamental myth of our culture
- Culmination: complete mastery of Nature
- Technology is the answer to problems.
- Progress = increasing control of Nature
- Someday, our control of Nature will be complete -> better life, less work
- Similar to Heaven
- A story that provides a template for understanding ourselves and our world.
- A program that guides our choices and priorities
Two aspects of the Myth of Ascent
- Scientific Program - complete understanding
- Technological Program - complete control
Science -> Technology -> provides the means to improve Science further; validates Science
What Charles is really criticizing is the faith that Science is well-grounded in its principles and methods and that it will achieve what it wants to achieve in the future
Arrogance of the Technological Program
- Independent of the earth, nature, body
- Hints came even during early Industrial Rev
- But we believed probelms were temporary
- Through more technology and control, utopia will be achieved
- Not true. But we don’t stop believing
- Age of Leisure didn’t come.
- Computer did not eliminate the drudgery of work.
- Food crisis instead of conucopia
- Gap between rich and poor more pronounce
- No significant advances in space travel
Aspiration to rise above materiality
- Information Age
- Modern religion
- All are variations of the myth of ascent
- Led to the belief that it is better to be in the realm of the mind than material production in terms of career and work
- Office work has become as tedious as blue collar work
The belief that Utopia is just around the corner is used to justify the sacrifices incurred during the Tech program
- Age of Coal
- Computer Revolution
Problem: sacrifice seems perpetual. Heaven never comes.
- Of the present for the future
- Utopia is forever distant
Rise of tech
Belief on a tech utopia
Negative effects of tech
Justification: temporary sacrifices
Acceptance that this is tech’s fundamental character
Thinkers that foretold the ruination of tech
- William Blake
- Lord Byron
- Henry David Thoraeu
- Mary Shelly
industrialization + science -> warfare (1914) -> atomic bomb -> Hitler and Stalin
Tech should have been used to give man nobility, material comfort, health, security
Technology is neutral, up to us to use for good or for evil -> flawed
- Something basic to the very mindset of tech brought the environmental and social crises.
- “Can do” spirit
- Disbelief on tech spread beyond thinking class into the public
We need intensifying doses of tech merely to keep the world from falling apart
Diminishing marginal returns in material and social tech
Tech -> creates problem -> attempts to solve problem -> worsens problem (built in to the very attempt to control) -> attempts more solutions -> worsens again
Dependency on tech = drug addiction
Huge doses needed just to feel “normal”
Why is the tech fix attractive?
- It really works in the short-term!
- The trap of the fix is invisible
The development of the crisis
- Local, rich go somewhere else to escape
- Today, global, nowhere to go, invaded even the mental fortress
- Rich may feel it is distant but effects are systemic
Feeling of insulation from the crisis arises from the idea that one is separate from the Other
Let go of the program of insulation and control and the conception of the separate self
Metanarratives still exist, still influential in a postmodern society.
The science metanarrative: how was it brought to the Philippines by colonizers?
Note that Charles is criticizinf Western thought and culture. In a way most of our global culture which is of course heavily influenced by former colonizers
One question: how did indigenous peoples respond to science, technology progress?
Part of the narrative should be a critic of science and technology brought to the islands thanks to colonialism
In your critic, include a critic of the information age which relegated physical labor and material production to marginalized societies.
Were there early critics of tech among illustrados? Or were all of them thinking about progress? Seeing tech as the future of nation-building?
My narrative can simply be
- Then my interpretation (based on theories that reflect my values)
Expensive Spiritual Practices
Expensive spiritual practices imply that spirituality or enlightenment is only for the material rich. The material rich are usually those who are not involved in physical labor in material production.
Some would argue, through an entrepreneurial mindset, that expensive spiritual practices would limit entry so that experiences are limited to a few people, thus more intimate and successful. But I wonder why we need to use money as a barrier. Limiting participants can easily be done without using money. For example, organizers could create a list of everyone who expressed interest. Perhaps based on a first come first served basis, or better through an application process which could determine who really needs the spiritual practice the most, the organizers can come up with a list of the first participants. Those who wont make it for the first run will be invited next time.
Removing money while still limiting participants would mean that everyone could try the practice in the future, when the few participants are done, not when they are finally materially capable of doing so.
An expensive spiritual practice also assumes that poor people are so busy living pay day to pay day anyways that they wont bother being spiritual people. They havent transcended their material needs in a Maslow Heorarchical fashion if you will so they are “lesser” beings.
This attitude is connected to Charles Eisenstein’s analysis of mankind’s ascent - his belief that he can transcend materiality (read nature). This aspiration is reflected in mankind’s pursuit of technological utopia but also of his pursuit to achieve full spiritual actualization, where the material world is completely forsaken.
But why do we always have to treat the material world as evil? And give primacy to spiritual longings? When our ancestors never created this distinction. For them, gods and therefore the sacred resided in the trees, in the animals, in the food they ate and in the process of producing those food.
By using money as a barrier of entry to spirituality, we reinforce this flawed dichotomy, this illusion of the separation of spirit and matter, of rich and poor, of spirituality and survival. We give primacy to those who can easily make money and accumulate, able to save 65,000 to attend a 10 day retreat or 100,000 to become a yoga teacher. Most of the time, these people take on jobs that are out of touch from material production.
The best spiritual practices are pure and sacred because they are transmitted in a pure and sacred way, through a spirit of giving.
When something is given freely even if it doest have the looks of being spiritual, it automatically takes on a more sacred aura