Monday 12 February 2024

Why the development of consciousness, or its denial, makes a Big Difference

The conviction upon which much of my thinking has been based over the past decade, has included that human consciousness has developed, or evolved (to a plan), or transformed - and I mean actively developed, from inner (and ultimately divine) causes - through the modern era. 

This is a metaphysical assumption; and so is the usual and opposite mainstream idea that human consciousness now in the West is the same consciousness as human beings everywhere else in the world, and at all points through history. 

(Another fairly mainstream metaphysical assumption - of totalitarian modernity - is that there is no such thing as human consciousness, that it is some kind of misunderstanding, or maybe a temporary accident; or that the human can and should be "transcended" by something "better" - by adding or replacing-with computers, genetic manipulations, AI &c.)  

Both the development of human consciousness and the universality of human consciousness are assumptions: metaphysical in nature. 

Neither assumption is provable by any kind of evidence (because evidence depends on assumptions: the empirical depends on the metaphysical) - we can just point-out observations that are easily compatible, or not, with these assumptions.  

But if one believes that consciousness has changed, one important consequence is that modern Western Man cannot go back, he/we cannot revert to an earlier stage or phase of civilization; since earlier stages were manifestations of a different consciousness. 

For example to fit Modern Man (with his different consciousness) into a medieval European type of society, would be like hammering a square peg into a round hole. 

Modern Man would need to be "made to fit" medieval structures and systems - they would not ever come naturally to him. In other words the need for hammering, represents some extremely different kind of social control and enforcement - which would mean that the resulting society was Not the same as in medieval Europe. 

This would be because - at a fundamental level - Modern Man experiences the world differently, "processes" his perceptions differently, has a different and greater self-consciousness... And therefore responds differently to incentives and sanctions. 

So, it is important to consider the validity of the - often unconscious and unexamined - assumption that "Men are functionally and essentially the same always and forever"; because if that is Not true but you believe it; then you will find yourself assuming possibilities that are actually impossible; and perhaps in trying to attain the impossible, you will be doing significant harm. 

Furthermore; if God has indeed made things such that Men are different in different places and times, then it is reasonable to infer that God has a different destiny for different times and places

...What is valid for one time and place may then be evil for another. 

This is not proposing any kind of "relativism" - quite the opposite! 

What I am advocating is to believe that there really is a divine destiny for places and times, for nations and eras; as well as for individual persons - and that it is our job to discover and live-by the divine destiny that applies to us, personally. 

(And, insofar as it is relevant; to be aware that our divine destiny may not be identical with everybody else's!)



Stephen Macdonald said...

I've worked extensively in AI for a considerable period.

AI -- regardless of how sophisticated it becomes -- remains always in the same ontological category as a hammer.

The other "horizontal religion" that is almost universal among Silicon Valley types (who have an outsized influence of culture) involves aliens. Whether it's AI or aliens or whatever comes next, the unarticulated axiom is reductionist materialism.

These people cannot even articulate the theological position at all. I've tried conversing with them -- it's quite unnerving to encounter an intellectual nullity or scotoma in this way -- like dealing with a psychopath when it comes to empathy. How did they get this way?

It seems to me that centuries are required to recover from this, just as it took several centuries to get into it. I concur with Dr. Charlton that we cannot simply put history into reverse. A new consciousness based on Romantic Christianity seems to me the only path forward (though others I know would instead suggest e.g., a renewed Roman church).

Jeffrey Cantrell said...

I have read interesting "hard core" catholic writers (primarily exorcists) who posit that not only do angels exist, but that they exist at many different levels. For example, there are the personal guardian angels over individuals; there are also angels over cities, nations, and even civilizations. (It is well to remember that if there are angels over these, there are also demons as well exerting. influences. Which prevails is the eternal tale of good v. evil.)

I agree that individuals' consciousness evolves over time, and that indicates that so do civilizational mores. I. believe that CS lewis hints at this in his "That Hideous Strength" when he discusses the characteristics of modern man as compared to the characteristics of Merlin and his time.

Inquisitor Benedictus said...

Modern Man would need to be "made to fit" medieval structures and systems - they would not ever come naturally to him. In other words the need for hammering, represents some extremely different kind of social control and enforcement - which would mean that the resulting society was Not the same as in medieval Europe.

Indeed, and I think Fascism as a spiritual phenomenon is a kind of yearning to return to the middle ages, but by highly modern & artificial means. There's no way to return to a society where people view the whole of nature as an ontological hierarchy, a "great chain of being"; the attempt to re-enact a medieval model of kingship or empire would be an, inevitably brutal, parody of the same. A friend of mine once expressed to me genuine disbelief that the ancient Egyptians, for example, could submit to a monarch like the Pharaoh — he genuinely couldn't imagine why anyone would want to, or even be able to, submit in that way to another man — not understanding of course that, for the ancients, the monarch and his princes were as factually part of the order of the universe as the sun & the stars. We can never go back to that vision naively; our returning to it would be too cynical and self-conscious, too post-Machiavellian.

@Stephen Macdonald, I think the deeper reason such people "got that way" is this:— there is a deep yearning in the modern mind for facticity, for a fact-based or factoidal description of the world, free of any theoretical or metaphysical burden. This yearning then becomes an ingrained habit which leaves people unable to think theoretically beyond the simple mode of the estimate or conjecture. The important thing is that, I think, this yearning for facticity is not in itself a bad or harmful desire. There is a very real sense in which ancient mythologies & medieval metaphysics, while nonetheless containing profound reflections on the nature of the cosmos & humanity, were in fact mere intellectual idols and cobwebs which prevented Man from having a direct perception of the world and himself. I think therefore this factitious-consciousness is a stage in the evolution of human consciousness which, after overcoming its tendencies towards superficiality & nihilism, will eventually allow for an even more profound reflection than the ancients or medievals themselves could muster.

Bruce Charlton said...

@IB - I take your point about "fascism" but on the whole I don't think fascism is a definable thing (Italy, Germany, Spain were called fascist, but had significantly different systems - Spain being a kind of hybrid: a secular military dictatorship in an expedient partnership with the Roman Church) except that fascism's spirit is secular - or, at least, not primarily religious - while it is fundamentally a reaction against communism.

In other words, the religious reaction against communism would be a theocratic society based on religious traditionalism; the secular reaction could perhaps be called fascism - but since fascism is atheistic, it ends up as being, like communism, just a type of leftism.

Maybe fascism is secular nationalism, communism is secular internationalism - and therefore a communist nation will tend towards fascism when it works alone, while a fascist multi-national empire will tend towards communism?

Probably all such labels are distorted simplifications and have by now lost whatever use they once possessed. Communism now seems merely a quaint accusation, and fascism a meaningless boo-word. Global Totalitarianism has swallowed (almost) all.

"A friend of mine once expressed to me genuine disbelief that the ancient Egyptians, for example, could submit to a monarch like the Pharaoh"

That is a good example of the problem of assuming men are now as they always have been; because to me the ancient Egyptian seems to have been about the happiest and best-adjusted society in history - which is one reason why it lasted for 3000 years - they must have been doing *something* basically-right (in context of time and place) else Egypt would have collapsed or been overwhelmed!

(Certainly Ancient Egypt seems to me a *far* "better" society than the utterly appalling Ancient Hebrews depicted in the Old Testament!")

But (by my understanding) people changed, and such a society has never since been possible - nor desirable.