Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Parsons & Freedom

Some astute observers of my last posting noted the influence of Jack Parsons, who died in a laboratory accident in 1952. Parsons managed to capture a particularly American libertarian revolt against the authoritarian mind-set, one that looks prescient today not for its expected fulfilment but as a necessity in resisting the sirens of a revived obscurantism.

Given an American propensity to see everything in sub-religious terms, Parsons embedded himself in the world of the charlatan-genius Aleister Crowley and his simple insights have got somewhat lost in his character of Belarion and in the equally unhelpful obfuscations of Thelema.

The point is that, just as Marxism is a Christian heresy, so Thelema is dependent on its history of revolt against tradition. Just as Marxism is an intellectual half-way house to ease the transition of slaves to liberty within left-wing politics, so is Thelema within the counter-culture.

But both Marxism and Thelema, if not transcended, reproduce so much of their traditional background (including Crowley's now-ridiculous sub-Swinburnian rhetoric) that, in their mature form, far from liberating, they are in danger of become intensifications of the very authority from which they seek to rebel. Marxism came to prove the point in bureaucratic and brutal spades.

I have decided to be more heretical still and to regard a text as no longer a revelation unless it is transformed for each person and generation into something that could not possibly be understood by its original writers because 'things change'. A great deal of our contemporary problems arise from texts that survive long after their original purpose has been superceded - the Bible, the American Constitution, the Communist Manifesto.

Such texts must be gutted, reinvented, used as tools, even deliberately buried as no longer useful but never worshipped. Intellectuals who parse and refer to texts become the enemies of a humanity that grows in its moment of action and learns only from its own actions, and not from analysing past words from the dead as if they were anything but tools.

What I have done here is interpret Parson's 1950 Preface to his 1946 Libertarian Manifesto, Freedom is Two-Edged Sword. The document is naturally about conditions that applied at the time of writing but surprisingly little has changed since then - indeed, the situation may have much worsened. He writes of McCarthyism as we observe the shenanigans surrounding control of the internet and ourselves by a different form of the same bureaucratic mechanism.

He writes of the American State acting in an arbitrary way, using the 'excuse of emergency'': we have seen, over the first decade of this century, the 9/11 assault being used to justify executive powers of tyrannical potential, with gross injustices perpetrated against persons.

Science is 'scared', he notes, locked into a 'security' agenda. To his credit, he sees the US' deals against communism with corrupt dictatorships to be as malign as the Communist seizure of Eastern Europe.

Perhaps the only area of improvement since his day is that 'burlesque' State intervention in private morals seems to have ended - but we should not be complacent. Even today, in East London, a malign alliance of post-marxist progressives and faith-based groups seek to dictate the private pleasures of some to meet their ideological ends.

Authoritarian loons are still lurking in the undergrowth as they did in the 1950s when communists and parsons combined to censor comics. Since the progressive 'radical centre' has left us with a society that is unmanageable through the loss of 'auctoritas', the instinct of progressives seems to be to rediscover 'morality', especially sexual morality.

This is where Parsons has something to say because he, perhaps acting as a vector for the German revolution in psycho-sexuality that got crushed at home by that most evil of radical progressivisms, national socialism, is aware of the link between sexual and political freedom.

The free person who is open in his or her desires without harming another poses a threat to the structures of convention, conformity and control that are necessary for authoritarian cultures to thrive. Freedom in private life has a tendency to leach out into social, cultural, political and economic freedom ... and we can't have that, can we?

The Vatican's manipulations until very recently to control information concerning child abuse by its own members and the cover up in 2010 of security consultants offering young children to Afghan cops (as exposed by the incomparable Wikileaks) represent the very closest link possible between the banality of corporatist evil, war and sexuality.

Parsons writes of 'inertia and acquiescence'. We are less surprised by this today because scientific experiment around and since his time has shown us some grim truths about our species. We are obedient by default, we are frightened by our condition, we are exhausted by the inputs hurtled into our minds by a complex social reality.

We are also prey to manipulation so that certain social wolves have learned how to make a science of this manipulation to drive us to consume ourselves, to vote like zombies (though that tutelage is ending in cynicism), to feed on others souls like vampires ... we are, more than we think, the undead.

Raising awareness is thus not about more drugs to deaden the pain but about education and criticism of what is presented before us as 'normal', 'right', 'appropriate' ... we learn through bitter struggle. Above all, consciousness is Socratic, a questioning of everything, including our questioning.

The attempt of 'progressives' to take away much of that struggle and then replace it with infantilising control, exercised coldly and 'professionally' without compassion, removes our chances of becoming truly human at source. Thus, again, the sheer banality of evil.

Parsons writes: "The little that is worthwhile in our civilization and culture is made possible by the few who are capable of creative thinking and independent action, grudgingly assisted by the rest."

This strikes the contemporary mind as elitist in the worst sense but he is right because he is merely describing current conditions in which the few who 'think' have to rely on chance effects for the success of their contributions to the human condition.

They have to be lucky in where they are born, what happens to their families, what school they go to, who they know who can help them on their way and who their emotions direct them to as life partners. The winners believe in their own talent, of course, but the matter is likely to be one of chance.

No wonder the vast mass of humanity, most of which is too hungry and frightened to think of anything else than their next meal or, in the West, not losing their position, are brow-beaten into sheep-like states by those who have been born in the right place, to the right people, in order to manage and control to their own profit.

It may take 3,000 years for the most prosperous quintile of humanity to become men and women rather than ruminants and 30,000 for the 6-8bn persons who can inhabit our planet to attain the same position as a matter of course, but the work starts now as a revolutionary process of destroying the structures of authority held by the few over the many.

The release of talent held down in small American and English towns today could transform our culture and our economy. It is no accident that public school boys in England have kicked away the ladder from the clever poor and middling sort and forced them into a situation where they can only progress by becoming indebted to their masters. Tuition fees are a crime for which the Liberal Democrats have been justly hammered.

This is the instinctive strategy of wolves - to build a class of dependent scribes to manage and manipulate their own families and towns, to instil rule through an internalised fear of consequences. And what should have been an out-and-out class war to stop our best and brightest children becoming kapos never materialises because our minds have long since been enslaved. There is no energy or understanding left in our minds for the liberation of our bodies.

Parson writes: "When the majority of men surrender their freedom, barbarism is near but when the creative minority surrender it, the Dark Age has arrived." And this is where things are getting worse. The soi-disant intellectuals, academics, the journalists, the 'writers' - these are the ones who have become so integrated into the 'progressive' model of social engineering from above, so beholden to the idea that liberal values can be imposed on populations here and worldwide, that they have given up the ghost on raw liberty entirely.

Or at least they have negotiated sufficient liberty for themselves at the cost of liberty for others - rather like the priest who sits at the lord's table, below his chamberlain but above his peasants. Why? Because these classes think of us, the people, as a mob, they despise us, we are there to be 'informed' and manipulated, our taxes removed for a 'greater cause' (their own employment usually).

These activists and intellectuals are complicit in our enslavement. They are embedded in our State, our media, our political parties and, most tragically of all, in the 'progressive' wing of the economic structure, where they replace wealth creation through innovation with wealth preservation through regulation.

The only criticism I would have of Parsons in this introduction is that he writes that: "The golden voice of social security, of socialized "this" and socialized "that", with its attendant confiscatory taxation and intrusion on individual liberty, is everywhere raised and everywhere heeded" as if this was necessarily negative.

This is a common American blind spot that cannot see that no man is free while he is hungry or without shelter or fearful of the future. The redistributive nature of taxation (in a world of growing wealth for the few as the majority are quietly pauperised) and a measured approach to restrain the excesses of the psychopath strike me as necessary. There is no liberty without redistribution.

The issue here is 'how' to do so without creating a cure worse than the disease - the bureaucratic progressive state, controlled by corporate, NGO and activist lobbies who intensify their interference in our lives in proportion to their frustration at their own failures. There is no redistribution - the cash goes from us to them in what must be one of the most fraudulent money-laundering operations in history.

Parsons is thus right to be suspicious but he is wrong that absolute liberty can govern society - such absolute libertarianism is a mere charter for wolves to prey on the sheep. It is bureaucratism and corporatism, not redistribution, welfare and care for the vulnerable, that need to be fought. The problem is that the people's state is too weak, not too strong ... too weak to counter fascist, federalist and Bolshevik bureaucratism from within.

He is blunt and he is truthful in his conclusion: " ... I was never so naive as to believe that freedom in any full sense of the word is possible for more than a few. But I have believed and do still hold that these few, by self-sacrifice, wisdom, courage and continuous effort, can achieve and maintain a free world."

What he is suggesting is something akin to an old value of 'service' - that the free should struggle to remain free in order to struggle for the freedom of others directly and without the intermediation of bureaucrats and intellectuals. I, on the other hand, still believe that all men could be free in the full sense of the world even if it might take that 30,000 years of effort.

This is not the spurious business of trying to free middle class intellectuals in developing countries (which is simply a sop to the kapo class in our own midst) but of freeing our own people and showing other countries that freedom works and that peoples can free themselves through a struggle that is appropriate for their own condition, on an effective economic base that leaves no man, woman or child behind.

We highlight elite politicians in one country and democracy dissidents in another simply to destabilise barriers to free market ideology (which is little more than opening up new lands to their new corporatism). A collusive intelligentsia skulks, negatively accepting every possible lie and misrepresentation that allows them to take the taxpayers' ignorant shilling. It is necessary for them to believe that they are the good guys but they are merely the rotting flesh on a decaying corpse.

Parsons' message was not just to America (though that is his focus). It is to the world. He is prescient, almost socialist in the libertarian democratic sense rather than the sickly progressive sense:

" The soul of the slums looks out of the eyes of Wall Street and the fate of a Chinese coolie determines the destiny of America. We cannot suppress our brother's liberty without suppressing our own and we cannot murder our brothers without murdering ourselves. We stand together as men for human freedom and human dignity or we will fall together, as animals, back into the jungle."

He concludes his Preface: "I need not add that freedom is dangerous -- but it is hardly possible that we are all cowards."

Friday, 23 May 2014

A Simple, Brutal Manifesto for the End Times

Manifestos are a curious literary tool, directed at the politics of art and the art of politics. They are usually over-simplistic, posturing and, from individuals, narcissistic and yet the brute assertion of values is sometimes a good corrective to the simple acceptance of given ideas.

Four years ago, I tried the experiment of putting my core values into a 'Manifesto', an assertive claim for attention and then watched the reaction. The support was instant though that says something about my friends - it seems I had a potential social movement! The tool seemed to work!

But it was also educative. Manifestos - whether surrealist or socialist - rarely come out of one mind alone. They emerge from a dialogue that amends and adds and removes ... while always retaining the core impulse (in my case, broadly libertarian and 'socialist' without the bad bits).

I have tried similar experiments with more specifically political intentions and noted that purity of intent soon comes up against brute political realities. Try suggesting that land be held in common amongst the English, even cautiously - my advice, forget it!.

After a while, the Manifesto becomes a metaphor for the management of the real, the mind seeks to assert power over matter, it is an instrument designed to inspire change in other minds but it must also be pragmatic about what those minds (or at least sufficiently receptive minds) will take.

So, to close, here is that 2010 Manifesto now changed to cover four years of further thought (surprisingly little change in fact) and the thoughts of those who commented at the time which I found I could share, my own Secret Committee. Vorwarts! Excelsior! Onward and Upward!

The 30,000 Year Manifesto  [1]

Do what you want is moral law enough but always mindful of the wants of others. Never complain when the brute force of the social decides to contain your desires to protect others. Kindness and compassion are not weaknesses but kneeling down to psychic vampires and bullies is death to the soul. If society is with you on this, be social. If it is not be proudly anti-social.

An end to the authority of organised religion and the State. Authority comes from oneself first, those one loves second, one's chosen tribe third and the universal last of all. If authority works for you by providing necessary order, accept it - but be prepared to overthrow it on the day the servant seeks to become master. 

Always choose your tribe - never let others impose your tribe from history.

An end to servility of all types, to the claims to superiority of all authorities, especially those based on a text of times past. All abstract ideas are servants. We are their masters.

An end to the slave morality that authority dictates to us out of habit and history where what is good is trampled under the feet of men who are bad. We may need managers and bureaucrats to manage our own complexity but they are not gods and must not get in the way of us becoming gods.

An end to prudery and shame of one's body and one's desires but also to sexual narcissism, the definition of all life by possession of the other. All sexualities are private negotiations of consent in which the social has little to say. You are not your sexuality or your ethnicity, they are mere attributes of you.

An end to the belief that all must be equal in intellect, beauty and talent but without falling into the trap of worshipping any of these mere attributes. None of them matter except as tools or pleasures, they just are. The accidental has its purpose. Let it be. Use it. The stupid, the ugly and the unskilled are precisely equal to the well endowed in their right to regard and respect as persons and their own potential. But the intelligent, the beautiful and the supremely skilled are still there - regardless.

An equality of direction for will and being. The vulnerable and different need the brute strength of the strong to protect them against the average, the cowardly,  the conformist and the mediocre. Above all, against the bureaucrat, the politician, the journalist and the intellectual, the abstractor of policies from ideas. 

The condition of the weakest is always evaded and the claimed advocates of the weakest have turned into an industry of liars. The greedy centre ground has been allowed to leach off both the best and the poorest for far too long ... oligarchical management of popular prejudice may be democracy but it is not what we could be. Beware the God of Fake Democracy.

An end to conscription, compulsion, regimentation, conformity, the worship of the conventional and the normal and to the theft of labour value. Beware the God of False Socialism, the bureaucratic control of the many by the few.

Treasure the children and the young against the claims of the dessicated, the wizened, the corrupted, the past ... eternal life is not the goal but a good life that hands over the property to the sons and daughters improved when it is time to do so. Then, the honour of a good death.

An end to the moulding and training of the young and, instead, a commitment to education through dialogue and struggle, errors, risk and honour. Get out of their way, expect them to try and depose you and glory in their lust for life.

Libera nos!

[1] The Manifesto postulated that we were a species caught between the animal (which we deny) and our potential (which we evade) and that the next stage of our evolution would not be a matter of machines and singularities or the fantasies of the New Age but a dogged business of genetic adaptation of our consciousness to material realities and to each other. And so the task was to create a frame of mind that would change ourselves but also direct our choice of mates and assist in the raising of our children to become strong and, so, to mate with the strong and create an intelligent, free, kind and creative species on a time-scale of 30,000 years. An imaginative tree-planting by a planter who knew that not all trees would survive but that the ones that did would be strong. It was a plantation designed to defeat, if only for a time, the very waste and cruelty of evolution ... and so any cruel intelligent designer that might be behind it. Naturally, I did not really believe it was possible but the act of pretending may still make it possible despite my belief. Such is the paradox of being human.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Philosophy and the World Wide Mind

The author of this blog is a strong critic of the universal consciousness ideology - the final stage of the absurdity that is 'spirituality' - but there is a pragmatic truth in this statement which we should not ignore.

"The boundary of the skin is, in some sense, an illusion. We are constantly exchanging information and energy among ourselves through language, pheromones, heat, electricity, smell, and touch. These exchanges constitute a virtual corpus callosum connecting all human beings together. It’s nonmaterial, and it’s more diffuse than the one in our heads, but it’s none the less real for all that." - Michael Chorost, World Wide Mind

The individual may be an autonomous evolved mind made less autonomous by the social but that mind is embodied in something that is embedded in the physical world with networks of connections that 'anchor' it.

Just as the social and the autonomous mind leach into each other so the movable thing that holds the mind leaches into the material world and the material world leaches into it. Working out what this may mean and clearing out the spiritual hogwash may be the philosophical mission of our time. one that ensures that imaginative science does not try to usurp the reasoning process and guards us against new irrationalities that will continue to block our progress as a species.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Against 'Progressivism' ...

Back in late 2010, the UK's Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg announced that he wished to be seen as a 'progressive'. The New Labour Party displaced its old commitment to democratic socialism with the claim that it was 'progressive'. There have been 'progressive' mutterings in the Tory Party.

But what is this thing called 'progressivism' and why should we be wary of taking it at face value? Are we not being conned once again by simplistic rhetoric?

Progressivism is an ideology with a history and a tradition that is as distinct as, say, neo- conservatism with which it converges in practice at the highest state levels in liberal internationalist practice.

The Communists has perhaps the best description of it - bourgeois liberalism at the point of transition between laissez-faire and fascism, a response to threats from below to property and to 'culture'.

Progressivism was initially a creation of the federalisation process in late nineteenth century America when the 'moral' bourgeois, having not quite lost God and Church, sought to reform capitalism in direct opposition to the self-organisation from below of competing radicals.

In fact, effective self-organisation was under way through early trades union, socialist and anarchist movements and even through 'welfarist organised crime' such as Capone's (analogous to Hamas or Hezbollah but built around services to migrants rather than to besieged faith groups).

Capone ensured soup kitchens for the poor and was the major figure in dealing with adulterated milk supplies in Chicago in the 1920s. On the other side, the democratic Socialist Eugene Debs achieved a million votes in the 1918 Election before Edgar Hoover destroyed the movement in the 'Red Terror'.

The period from the 1860s to 1890s and later had been a period of 'settlement chaos' in the West and of migration chaos in the East of the United States. Political dissent was expressed as banditry and racism in the country and mobsters and strikes in the cities.

Progressives were simply high caste East Coast and Mid-Western liberals terrified of the potential threat to property from disorder and of the rise of anarchism and socialism. The American Left tradition had to be appropriated before recalcitrant bosses brought chaos to the country.

Instead of permitting organisation from below to redistribute power and resources as in the European Labour or Social Democratic Parties, the progressives intervened both to reform but also to control.  A classic progressive imposition would be the prohibition of alcohol ... rule by matriarch.

For them, the masses could not be trusted. Because the bankers and trusts were behaving provocatively towards the masses, the Federal State had to be brought in to play in order to restore order. Government authority was the solution to chaos ... for progressives as much as Bismarck

Just as neo-conservatism has its base in the German conservative philosophical tradition, the progressive mentality has its base in American philosophical pragmatism, reaching its epitome in John Dewey, interestingly mildly seduced by the Trotskyist camp in his later years.

The high point of American progressivism was perhaps the New Deal but this attempt to create a corporatist partnership with trades unions has to be seen in the context of Woodrow Wilson's earlier consciously progressive admiration for the early Mussolini.

Progressivism had its English analogue in Fabianism in the UK which played gadfly and junior partner alongside Social Liberal thinkers such as Beveridge to the post-26 organised labour movement. In both traditions, the flirtation with Mussolini was a shared interest in corporatism.

Unions were certainly not regarded as positive forces until they had been 'reformed' into partners of the corporatist State. Progressives were Statist, media-driven and 'top-down' - which brings us to our modern day British examples.

Forms of welfare-warfare state emerged when economic dislocation and war permitted an alliance between 'progressives' (aka social stabilisers through concession) and union movements to impose a social liberal (US) or social democratic (Europe) consensus.

But, as New Democrats, New Labour and now Liberal Democrats have quietly dismantled what remained of this consensus in the UK after the depredations of Reagan and Thatcher, we can see that the alliance between progressives and trades unions has shifted to the detriment of the latter.

British organised labour is no longer in a position to assert itself in the street and has not been so since Orgreave. The intellectual approach that dominated the American Left has now come to dominate the British Left, its current leader being the quintessential scion of Hampstead revisionism.

Each imposition of progressive policy by the intellectuals has been a revolutionary act that created regimes that controlled society from the top and provided service delivery without democratic consultation or engagement. It is a political culture that imposes 'oughts' on the population.

The welfare state, for example, was merely the adjunct to the warfare state of total social mobilisation - mobilisation by the state for order and not mobilisation of the state for the people. This perhaps over-simplifies the story but social services only ever appeared as a reward for engagement in war.

War is, in fact, central to progressivism. Hard power is there to be used to impose its idealism and the 'sacrifices' required of the people need to be rewarded as payment for services rendered in sustaining a cohesive polity that protects property and culture.

Progressivism is the theory that the professor knows best and ill-fits liberal values even if it accords with the actual values of its high caste intellectual gentry. It is an ideology of psychological manipulation and of negotiations between the educated (not to be confused with the intelligent).

The pragmatic commitment to the masses soon drifted with the acquisition of power. Once power was attained and the progressive state in command, then a bastardised form of pragmatic populism allying political intellectuals, techno-bureaucrats and media was all that was required.

We must stop here and remind ourselves that the progressives 'cared' about the population but through the prism of social order. The theory was that social order required 'care' but when it became clear that social order no longer required 'care', the incentive to 'care' began to dissipate.

Instead of the ideological comitment to care found amongst socialists, progressives became interested instead in responses to sufficient wants and needs that would ensure power was retained in a democracy. If that meant the lumpenproletariat could now be ignored, so be it. 

Warfare also changed. The mass of the population became spectators again instead of participants. Having captured the machinery of hard power, the progressive ideologist could use it selectively for idealistic ends, knowing that, without direct pain to themselves, the voters would sign it off.

Social services as the price for total social mobilisation under Liberal Militarism collapsed because 'care' was no longer a central value in its own right. 'Care' strategies switched from caring for the indigenous working population to caring for people in faraway countries - as potential threats.

As the organised union component has weakened under conservative pressure and its own sclerosis, the atomised masses were left vulnerable to crisis, a crisis which appeared in 2008 but was underway for some time in the relative and growing pauperisation of significant sections of society.

Contemporary post-1992 British progressivism is thus just the latest adaptation of essentially the same phenomenon that I described above that emerged in the US: reactionary, authoritarian and statist - the precise opposite of what was intended by the Labour Representation Committee.

To be progressive is also not what is meant by the Liberal Democrat ideology of localist and individual freedom. And the adoption of the term (admittedly without enthusiasm) by left-conservatives (actually communitarians) is the last phase of our upper middle classes' decadence.

The organised mass component of the Left has now been removed by history, to be replaced by a vague form of populism. Once, progressives provided the devious shock troops for working class entry into the establishment. Now, public school liberals and conservatives compete for the label.

Clegg's claim is a demonstration of the meaningless of progressive rhetoric. New Labour was captured by a small 'progressive elite' by 1998 which ran it into the ground and the 'Orange Book' network surrounding Clegg briefly thought that they could capture the model for their own purposes.

Clegg's desperate grab at the term was an attempt to identify his Party to a gullible centre as the natural reformist wing of the propertied in a world where all see themselves, naively, as propertied and with 'something to lose' from a radical re-thinking of our declining imperium.

The lack of real progress in Clegg's vision can be summarised in one policy issue - tuition fees. In one lie to the student and middle and working class family vote, Clegg showed that he had no conception of the role of education in 'progressing' the best and brightest in a society.

Take away access to credit, reduce the value of property, remove the implicit property rights in state service delivery (including the imposition of tuition fees!) and the idea that Clegg (or indeed New Labour) represents the forward march of progress becomes a truly absurd proposition.

Indeed, there is a sign of a realisation of the vulnerability of these claims in the economically dangerous strategies of letting cheap credit continue to defer an inevitable reckoning for many households and the dangerous unsustainable boom in house prices that must crash after 2015.

Progressivism is very much at the centre of the crisis surrounding democracy and competency within Anglo-Saxon Western politics. It is not the solution to the crisis. Its strategy of order and control to preserve property is actually reaching the point where it endangers property.

The obvious danger arises from our analysis of progressivism as bridge ideology between laissez-faire liberalism and fascism. Right-wing populism already shows the troubled middle voting with its feet and the alliance of Western progressives with Ukrainian fascists is troubling.

At least the unreformed piratical propertied ideology of the truly liberal centre-right is innovative, creative and forward-thinking economically, Progressivism represents, on the other hand, sclerosis ...

... ideologically-driven war, bureaucratic federalism in Europe as well as the US, detachment of politics from the people in favour of bureaucracy, serious errors of judgement arising from grand narratives and the infantilisation of peoples who should learn from the experience of struggle.

Above all, it castrates specifically working class struggle and community self-organisation. The dead hand of the liberal intellectual activist results finally in little more than warfare-lite states poddling along on the rhetoric of freedom but terrified of giving individuals any real choices over their lives.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Consciousness Studies, Degenerate Liberalism & 'Libertarian Socialism'

The amount of work on consciousness in academic scientific and philosophical circles has probably never been more intense. Yet every participant in the debate on what it is and how it works agrees that nothing has been resolved. Some (such as Colin McGinn) plausibly claim that we will probably never know what it is.

Mind & Language

Or is that so? Maybe any introspective human knows what it is very well but simply cannot describe it. Perhaps it is description that is the problem - or rather the fact that any description of being and the experience of being are always going to be impossible to align.

There is a school of thought that says that mind is the construction of language. The implication is that consciousness does not exist without language. But if this is so, then, if language creates minds then minds should be able to be expressed in language and yet this is not so.

As we learn more from neuro-science about how perceptions are ordered and filtered in the mind, we see that our consciousness is presented with only a working approximation of reality rather than what is actually out there in all its huge complexity.

Minds exist somewhere beyond language. It might be argued that language itself is a barrier to understanding. As we realise how little our internal theatre accords with what is 'out there', it becomes more credible that language is part of that filtering process between matter and mind and, as intermediary, partakes of the character of neither.

Language unrealises reality so that it can then be pragmatically used by a mind that has been constructed emergently out of matter. So, if language cannot represent matter precisely, this emergent mind that arises out of matter operates in a way that can not only not be described in language but is the tool-user of the tool that is language.

Convergent Theories

This reflects something of a convergence in recent decades of the analytical and continental philosophical traditions. The analysts cannot, linguistically or logically, provide a credible description of the totality of consciousness but can merely present various reasonable paradigms that must be experienced to be understood.

Meanwhile, the phenomenological origins of the continental approach must bend not only to logic (rather than language) but to neuroscience and explore the experience of being conscious in relation to Existence not in terms of an abstract spirituality but in terms of a relationship to the complex matter of the brain.

The most reasonable current models for understanding consciousness are two. These two could turn out to be two sides of the same coin, inexpressible except in dualistic terms because there is not the language for their conjoining. There are other models but these others come down to acts of faith or hypotheses that it is hard to see can be testable.

The first model is monist and sees consciousness arising or emergent out of matter as a function of the properties of matter - we have physicalist, electro-magnetic and quantum physical theories to account for this. We will surely have others derived from, say, research into dark energy.

The second is dualist and posits the reality of mind as something that might be substantially dependent or even emergent on matter (the living brain) but which has become a class in itself. By analogy, complex systems as large as the universe might, possibly, have a consciousness of sorts if consciousness is such an emergent property.

Cartesianism Crumbles

The leap within dualism into a Cartesian absolute separation of mind and matter now seems less and less credible as even the highest alleged states of consciousness appear linked to matter as substrate or necessary pre-condition. Descartes worked within a tradition that had to find a place for the soul as emergent from God - we do not.

All the remaining attempts to retain high dualism, with mind operative outside matter, draw us towards 'faith' which is territory where we cannot go. In this writer's view faith is a misperception of one's own consciousness but, by its very nature, the matter cannot be argued with those who have it.

The monist-dualist opposition to one another may be illusory in itself. Mind is experienced as a known thing different from all other forms of matter but having aspects shared with, say, animals. Unless we postulate the grant of souls from 'above', the most likely hypothesis involves evolutionary emergence.

The debate about animal souls is absurd and we do not want to go where souls only arise with intellect but that consciousness does seem to be emergent on matter operates in a way that is uncomfortable for Judaeo-Christians - we deal with this later.

Mind has not only no reasonable basis for existing outside of its dependence on matter but modern neuroscience has been whittling away many of the higher functions of the mind as biologically based, demonstrating the brain's role in developing a person's perception of reality yet leaving behind, as unexplained, its sense of itself.

Monistic Dualism?

The 21st century working model of the mind is not Cartesian but rather is contingently monist - that is, the mind is a function of matter but has emerged from matter through evolution and through its own relationship to matter has become something that we may say is both matter and mind.

Of course, we end up here by saying that mind is matter in the tautological sense that anything that exists can be termed matter but which, from the perspective of the anthropic universe, is actually very different in quality.

As any philosopher will aver, it is possible to think two impossible things before breakfast. The 'impossibility' here that is that mind is both matter and not-matter simultaneously.

Mind is dependent on matter to exist and for its origin but its emergence has created something so remarkably different from matter, even if it is constructed out of components of ultimate matter beyond our current understanding, that, in effect, it is a new substance, mind.

Dualism thus re-emerges but not in the pure Cartesian form that has sustained Western culture since the Enlightenment and certainly not in the dualist form that has generally dominated religious discourse where the mind (spirit) has descended from some force entirely outside and preceding matter.


Things are thus flipped on their head. Instead of the body being seen as mere receptacle for some sacred soul or spirit which animates or is the essence of mind, the mind is seen as whole to the degree that it is integrated with its material substrate, its body with all its complex biochemical and genetic components.

It is also a consciousness that can, to a greater or lesser degree, command and control its direct perceptions of reality (the matter beyond the body and the interpretation of other minds through matter) in order to develop a 'realistic' (meaning pragmatically useful) sense of its own self and needs.

The self does not need transcending (because there is no transcendence that is not illusory) but only transforming in real time and in accordance with its relationship to the matter it commands or which commands it (both bodily and in society). This consciousness is rational but only given its inherited bio-chemical nature and historic relation to the world.

Any sense of 'transcendence' is not in accord with some privileging of the mind against matter (which is always implicit in the religious and Cartesian mind-set) but is a process of integrating (individuation) the mind-thing and the body-stuff in order to stand against and manage the social-thing, other mind-body things and raw matter.

This brings into play the insight of Thomas Nagel's What Is It Like To Be A Bat (1974) - a text whose revolutionary social importance, coming after the work of the phenomenologists and existentialists but before the neuro-scientific revolution, has yet to be fully appreciated by the wider public.

Bats & Humans

In order to bring the thesis up to date here, we might suggest that 'being like' something is to take on the total effect of all their sensory inputs as well as the tools for ordering those inputs in the brain as the 'being like-ness' that we have to come to terms with in trying to think like or have the experience of being, say, a bat. Needless to say, we cannot.

The thesis has been of great importance in understanding a whole slew of philosophical problems surrounding consciousness, including the appreciation that an artificial intelligence will not think like a human because it does not have the same tools as a human nor the same ordering system in its hardware.

But what has not filtered through to the general public is that what Nagel is saying does not apply just to the difficulty, or rather impossibility, of humans being able to credibly imagine themselves as bats or AI as human but the impossibility of any human seeing the world in the same way as any other human.

This is more challenging than it appears because it is not simply saying that we all have different histories and upbringings and so we should all be understanding of each other or, another conclusion, struggle politically to 'reform' other persons and draw them out of their culture and history 'for their own good' or that of 'humanity'.

The implicit ideological position in such models is that there is the same perception in all humans and the same ordering mechanism, perhaps with 'intelligence' alone being allowed to differentiate between persons (in that over-privileging of reason that has also over-privileged all intellectuals in the West).

The Uniqueness of Persons

However, minds do not appear to work like this, simply because they are embedded in bodies. Every person's perceptual apparatus and brain structure is as different as are their fingerprints. Each person, therefore, sees the world in a different way from others - in other words, we are nearly as different from each other as we are from bats.

Or rather, we have become as different from each other as we are from bats because we have evolved (thus perhaps giving a clue to the source of the emergence of mind from matter) as social animals. On our genetic and bio-chemical differences are overlain massive cultural differences that affect both perception and ordering.

A complex brain and perceptual apparatus (including the possibility of perceptual apparatus that may operate on the sub-conscious mind) has not only been under variable genetic change over millennia but the neuro-plasticity of the brain and accident create very different and unique mental maps for every living human.

Any rationalist social or political discourse based on a fixed view of what it is like to be human is doomed to failure as a practical project for the simple reason that the mind or sets of mind that think like this are as much 'sports' as any other type of mind.

Pure reasonableness will neither persuade those who simply do not see the world in the way that 'rational' people do nor have any effect on internal self-rational behaviour that conflicts with the social rationality of the rationalists.

The Failure of the Enlightenment

This is not a situation that will improve for the rationalist Left in the coming millennia. The numbers of perceptual inputs and the numbers of persons multiply massively the numbers of ways of seeing the world.

The ability of persons to conceal their thoughts in their own interest will also create a fantastic range of ways of undermining every rationalist project that is ever presented to humanity by the rationalists.

The obvious historic example is the Soviet experiment. This touted a New Man but crumbled on sclerosis with a flourishing underworld and it required massive murderous onslaughts on its own population. But the American experiment, based on the assertion of a fixed view of humanity in its Constitution, is not in much better state now.

The US is innovative and creative and we would not be discussing these matters if it was not for that quality but it is dysfunctional in other respects. Its rationalist commitment to a single 'form' of liberty derived from a fixed text means that it is poorly adapted to deal with mass inequality or the creative destruction of its own preferred economic system

There is no easy answer to the social and political problems arising out of this quality of humanity - that rationality lies within individual humans who are socially irrational, can hide thoughts and who misperceive reality (or rather can never see all reality like 'God' in order to make best judgement in their own interest let alone altruistically for others).

What Not To Do

One solution is not merely unworkable but cruel and stupid. This is to impose rational solutions from above and then try to bend the 'crooked timber' of humanity to will. This just does not work - or at least it works only for a while if the State is permitted to engage in authoritarian or brute measures.

The current Western situation is that States are attempting to deal with the problem of order and lack of force by 'invading minds' so that the subject receives the perceptual inputs that States want in order to transform minds. The intent is often benign - racism and sexism have been reduced drastically by such methods.

But, given the relative lack of force available to the State in the West, this has degenerated into soft corporatism, media management, coalition-building through various 'progressive' alliances, 'soft power' international relations, surveillance and the creation of an atmosphere and anxiety and the sort of economic populism that has created recent public debt problems.

Much of this works well enough when there is no sustained crisis but withdrawal of the bread and circuses of economic populism, combined with resentment of surveillance and social engineering and the 'truth-telling' role of the internet (noting Wikileaks and Snowden's revelations as just the top of a massive pyramid of alternative information) hole the ship below the waters.

Technological innovation and structural economic and administrative failure mean that the rational discourse of the ruling order in the last economic cycle has been displaced by a return to direct negotiation and alliances between individuals - all with their own individual rationalities. This happened first as consumers and only now as 'subjects' of politics.

Why The Elite Cannot Cope

Elite rationalists loathe 'tribalism' because they fear it and because it offends their universalism under which liberal-minded people are always superior to traditionalists, individualists or socialists and where universalists across the world are of more importance to each other than any of these other categories are at home.

But libertarian and communitarian solutions to problems from the ground-up are much more in tune with the problem of 'being like a bat' than anything that liberal universalists or other ideologues can offer.

The libertarian will work with others to defend his internal rational perspective while others, who perhaps seek order and security before liberty, will combine into families, localities, tribes, societies and so on, building not the activist-style liberal civil society but a community which owes something to both mentalities - but not to universalism.

The new consciousness studies, in this context, may prove as socially and politically revolutionary as Cartesian thinking was to prove after the seventeenth century. The creative tension between bottom up libertarianism and communitarianism or traditionalism looks to be far more dynamic than the sclerotic face-off between top-down liberalism and authoritarianism.

The mind is now no longer abstracted and made universal (except as private belief) but is re-centred in the Self as a mind-body from which it negotiates with others through struggle within, one would assume, shared rules and regulations designed to isolate and contain the harmful psychopath and monster.

The Problem of the Intellectual

The West has seen successive disasters as intellectuals who think in universalist terms have attempted to over-ride private life, community and history in order to change not the world (both material and social) for the better (which is reasonable) but persons as persons.

Enlightenment liberalism, Marxism and (bringing universalism conceptually down to the level of the nation or race) fascism and national socialism have not stopped at improving the freedoms and material conditions of the population (which is good) but have sought to impose a way of seeing the world and forms of language. Specific words are banned, appropriated or promoted!

These have been seen as oppressions against persons, against the particular and concrete and in favour of the general and abstract - and the intensification of these oppressions has generally arisen out of brute frustration that people do not obey the grand narratives of intellectuals, politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats.

Of the great questions of consciousness, the how it works is still under examination by the scientific and philosophical community. It may yet come up with some clear answer but what it is is never going to be fully describable in words or numbers.

The question is why it exists. The obvious response is to deal with this question as a scientific description of its evolutionary and adaptive role within the organism but this begs the real question. Consciousness exists because of its history in our species but we should ask now why it exists when we are aware of its existence.

Being Aware of Being Aware

This self-reflexive aspect to the why is not answered sufficiently by appeal to its functional role in the context of evolutionary history. By becoming aware of consciousness, we turn ourselves from its subject to an awareness of consciousness as a tool for its own purposes. We introduce at this point notions of will - and free will at that.

Intellectuals have got very gloomy about free will in recent decades but this is because they have swung like a pendulum from Enlightenment rationalism to an absurd nihilism. There is an argument against free will in an absolute sense but this tautologically simply extends cause and effect to a level meaningless to the human condition.

Just as the mind is both monistic in origin and substrate but dualistically defined in terms of its emergent properties and actual reflexiveness, so it is possible to accept cause and effect and then note that, in real terms as humans, the substrate is so dense and unknowable that, to all intents and purposes, will exists and is free.

The free will, again, is not granted by a deity but arises out of the human condition as an emergent property of higher consciousness. This is a big issue which should not distract us here but the logic of the situation is that moral responsibility can be returned to centre stage as can the right of resistance to universalist claims.

Consciousness becomes the thing which exists for its own sake and, in existing for its own sake, it becomes the argument for that position which formerly required the existence of god to justify it - the intrinsic worth of itself, the intrinsic worth not of some abstract humanity but of the person who reflects on himself.

The Dark Side

The only danger here is the privileging of the truly self-reflexive over the non-reflexive who might then be seen as little better than bats. This is a fascistic or elitist concept that might see the diminishing of the less educated, the less intelligent and the damaged.

Fortunately, this is easily countered by a rather neat truth for which we can be grateful insofar as it does not require us to rely on moral responsibility as an attribute of higher consciousness (which it will not bear) - this is that no mind can judge another mind because no mind can know another mind. We can see this in two thought experiments.

The most famous postulates a world of zombies able to behave as if they were sentient in a world which only you (or I) have true consciousness.

More useful is the experiment that suggests that, though I am conscious, all others are not only conscious but more intelligent but have been spending their existences pretending to be more or less ignorant, ill-educated and disabled in order to make me believe that I was more conscious than they. This paranoid fantasy makes its point.

I cannot judge the intrinsic worth of any other mind so that, far from fascistic, the new thinking in consciousness drives us to the opposite pole of the political spectrum - towards an egalitarian attitude to minds which demands that all minds have equal body and material chances and that no one should be intrinsically privileged over another.

The Logic of 'Libertarian Socialism'

Such egalitarian individualism is a form of socialism in its ideal sense, one that is neither Marxism (which is really a Judaeo-Christian heresy) nor liberalism but something more respectful of difference than most of the so-called progressive ideologues.

Egalitarian individualism or libertarian socialism does not persecute sex-workers (feminism), demand special privileges because of crimes against the dead (identity politics) or bring rights to the world through the barrel of a gun (liberal internationalism).

Libertarian socialism is thus not universalism nor is it progressivism - it is sui generis, respectful of the private reasoning powers of the individual in a society in which they are given the tools to make their own judgements without fear or lies.

But there is another aspect to the case. Modern consciousness studies are unthinkable without the insights of the phenomenologists, notably Husserl and Merleau-Ponty.

Phenomenological Perspectives

Both these philosophers understood that the process of investigating one's self required not only specific training and effort but 'the ability to adopt alternative perspectives on one's experience' [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosopy, Consciousness]

This process of adopting alternative perspectives is death to ideological grand narratives. Looking at oneself creatively from different perspectives is only one step from looking at others and their motivations from different and more empathetic perspectives. 

Doing so does not necessarily mean that you will agree with others. However, empathy does enable one to draw a distinction between what is good for you and what is good for them and not confuse either with what is necessarily good for humanity. One can have an opinion on the latter but it is contingent on the facts.

The ideologist who places humanity before themselves will soon be placing abstract humanity before you and all other really existing persons so that abstract humanity consists of no persons at all, just a projection of the mind of the neurotic originator of the fantasy. The extreme version of this is the neurotic who places the planet, the distant 'transhumanist' future or God before persons.


What we see here is a direct connection between the revolution in consciousness studies and the potential liberation of the individual in Western culture. What we also see here is a different sort of mind with a different sort of politics.

Under the old mentality, the mind was separated from the body and God was replaced with Reason. Sexuality and desire were denigrated and an abstract vision of humanity treated persons as units to be controlled for some grand narrative that had no relation to the real and complex nature of humanity.

Under the new mentality, we have a fluid and flexible community of equal and creative individuals who seek individuation through coming to terms with their own identities, their bodies and their eventual ageing and dissolution and who build communities through struggle from below.

We can refer here to another philosopher of mind, Daniel Dennett, whose multiple drafts model (by which the mind is continuously redrafting reality and itself according to its assessment of inputs) gives us a way of seeing politics as something that is fluid and contingent, based not on absurd rigid principles but on the achievable.

Not only persons but self-organising communities can reinvent themselves continuously on the basis of multiple drafts with every citizen being an input. This is a model of democracy that is greatly at odds with the actual practice of the degenerate liberalism inherited from the Enlightenment.