I started listening to Jordan B Peterson recently and it caused a lot of ideas to crystallise in my mind. In my previous Beyond Certainty post I discussed the reality of God as an interpretation of a living cosmos, an argument I have been defending online very successfully. In defending the idea of a living cosmos I went down the rabbit hole of exploring the question “What counts as being alive?”, which turns out not to have a scientific answer.
The lack of a scientific answer in a scientific age is fascinating and ultimately the question is handed over to philosophy. As a side effect of exploring the unsuccessful attempts to define life scientifically I came across the difficulty of categorising viruses, which in turn show parallels with ideas. So, just to fill you in briefly on defining life there are a number of arbitrary criteria that varies from six upwards and the whole system gets very gnarly indeed under close scrutiny. If you start at a human being and work your way down through simpler and simpler forms of life there isn’t a clear boundary between living and non-living that is satisfactory in any rigorous way. Ultimately molecules and even atoms show signs of life in their behaviour.
Likewise it was possible to go larger than human beings and question if the Earth itself should qualify for the status of a superorganism. The matter of “yes” or “no” in this regard is a philosophical one and depends on your subjective interpretation. Do you regard the Earth as simply a mechanistic system that is non-living ball of matter behaving according to the Laws of Nature, and if so how is that any different from a sack of walking meat doing the same thing? A human being is also a bunch of matter acting under the Laws of Nature too, and what tends to make us describe something as living is an eerie sense that something possess a spirit, which I’m sure is as unscientific and mumbo jumbo as it’s possible to get.
The trouble with spirits is that they are not physical things that we can touch or measure, but rather we comprehend them in our minds. We have a sense of our own spirit, and through empathy we can feel the presence of other spirits. That’s the easiest to do with other human beings and other animal life forms that we have the greatest ease to empathise with, but it gets harder to do for less familiar forms of life such as plants and dare I say planets and indeed the cosmos itself. It is an ancient insight indeed that the cosmos is the ultimate super-being, a life form that hosts all other life forms within itself much as we host gut bacteria and other symbiotic organisms within our own bodies. It makes much more sense in a way for life to arise on Earth if the whole of the cosmos is a living super system.
The challenge with interpreting the cosmos as a living being and “seeing God” is the great difficulty in empathising with something so blinding and vast, something that is so alien to a human being and with a spirit that is impossible to fathom. So it is that the question of “What counts as being alive?” is an incredibly complex and subjective philosophical matter to deal with. Nobody has managed to crack this question in thousands of years of effort, and believe me there have been blisteringly fantastic minds far greater than ours trying to find an answer. One other potential form of life that has been bothering me for some time, and this comes out of the hidden wisdom contained in mythology and allegory and these sorts of things, is the true nature of ideas.
Viruses and Memes
In ancient times they told stories of angels and demons, gods, heroes and fantastical beings that don’t literally exist, but rather are storytelling devices used to represent something complex in a simple way. I could cite Uncle Sam as the embodiment of the United States for example, and when he has adventures that’s a way of communicating a collective national experience. One way of interpreting the appearance of a demon in a story is to say that this being embodies an idea that is bad. Ideas motivate people and cause them to do things, and so people in the past might have said things like “He was possessed by a demon!” to describe evil actions caused by a person possessing bad ideas and acting out on them.
Bad ideas and indeed all ideas for that matter are communicable between human beings and are even able to exist outside of living minds in the form of books or indeed on the page you are reading now. Right now I am communicating memetic information directly into your mind and potentially infecting it with my ideas. Don’t be too unsettled by that by the way, I have to highlight this process in order to bring it forward in your mind and have you compare it with the action of viruses.
A virus is a (non)living thing that regardless has ancestry and the ability to replicate by injecting its genetic information into a host vessel and infecting it. Likewise, an idea is a (non)living thing that regardless has ancestry and the ability to replicate by injecting its memetic information into a host vessel and infecting it.
I pose to you the idea that ideas infect minds the way viruses infect cells. Not literally of course but figuratively. An idea in the mind can evolve and inherits ancestry, and it can go on to infect the minds of those other people exposed to it. If ancestry, evolution and replication are characteristics of life then by that token an idea is a life form that distributes itself over a body of infected host minds. A concept I’ve heard attributed to Carl Jung is that “Ideas have people.”, which is clearly the switch around of saying that people have ideas but the implication is profound if you consider that ideas motivate people and they possess people and they make people behave a certain way, just as a virus programs an infected host to behave a certain way.
If you think about your morality and culture, all of that is a body of ideas that has been transmitted to you through learning. It’s all memetic information, determining your behaviour just like how your genetic information is dictating to your body how to appear and function. What’s curious about a society is that their shared memetic information is a living, evolving thing that possesses a form of immortality by being shared over millions of individual minds. In a way this is analogous to how your personal consciousness is sustained by the billions of individual cells that make up your body, each one of which is in fact a living being in its own right, working collectively to manifest you. Likewise we individual human beings collectively clump together to host an even greater consciousness, a shared mind distributed across us all. This may be known as a collective consciousness, among many other names.
Much like a human mind, the collective mind of humanity has many facets. Attempting to conceive the total mind of humanity is probably beyond any of us, especially given that we are almost always strangers to ourselves and don’t even know who we really are. People can and have spent their entire life just trying to understand themselves and failed, so of course expecting any of us to grasp the total collective unconsciousness of all of humanity is going to be a stretch.
So what is metahumanity? Well, if metadata is “data about data” and a metanarrative is “a narrative of the narrative”, then metahumanity is “a story about the stories of humanity”. An idea I’m going to pose to you is that humanity has narratives coursing through its collective mind and manifesting as grand personas that a political theorist would describe as “movements”. These grand personas are analogous to personas contained in individual minds, which is going to take me some more explanation so hold tight.
A normal persona is a personality fragment contained within an individual human being. Each of us possesses many personas, otherwise knows as masks, faces, frames of being, or whatever term you prefer. We wear the most suitable persona we possess to deal with the situation at hand, each one granting us particular strengths and weaknesses. Now, not everyone has the self-awareness to be familiar with their own personal facets but anyone should be able to take a moment to reflect upon their own personal behaviour in various circumstances and take note of big behavioural changes from situation to situation. Sometimes it’s as if we’re very different people and this is our mind switching from persona to persona, to persona. The process is natural, unconscious and automatic, unless you have dedicated a part of your life to studying the self as I have, in which case it’s a combination of the unconscious process with the tacit approval of the conscious mind on top.
One might say that “You have to be aware of your demons to wrestle with them.”, or in other words you have to be aware of what the hell your mind is doing to have any chance of stopping it from making you do something really bad. And if you really want a taste of darkness, consciously acknowledging a bad idea and running with it is how people embrace being evil, because then it’s a choice. The horrors in the darkest places of our souls are important to confront and master in order to be truly in control of ourselves. Yet the darkness is also manifest collectively in grand personas, or manifestations of group will. This phenomenon of group will expresses itself through a body of individuals pooling their consciousness and acting in unison, the scale of which is elastic and can be sensed by a self-aware individual among a group of friends acting in unison all the way up to large political movements composed of tens of millions of people.
Sensing the competition between grand personas across a large body of people is like witnessing the clash of titans in the landscape of a vast consciousness. In the West, the two most critical grand personas are the manifestations of the political movements of Postmodernism versus Western Tradition. A sideshow character to that clash is Islamofascism, which acts in concert with Postmodernism to destroy Western Tradition, although the real story of Islamofascism is within the metanarrative of Islam’s identity crisis. The Islamic identity crisis witnessed the collapse of the Ottoman Empire around a hundred years ago and it still hasn’t been resolved, although as I said this is more of a sideshow for us in the West.
The real story that we in the West must focus our attention on is the fight against the horrors of Postmodernism, which is what is responsible for the creeping tyranny undermining liberty, freedom of speech and national cohesion. It is a desperately evil and destructive force that must be opposed by the absolute might of our collective will, and the first step to defeating it is to name it. The name of our nemesis is Postmodernism. Remember it well and fear it, because then you respect it. That is the first step to defeat it and the second step is equally clear.
Unveiling the Western Cancer
In the words of Sun Tzu the famous Chinese strategist, to win any battle one must first know the enemy and then know oneself, which means that as well as knowing that our nemesis is Postmodernism it’s equally important to know that our collective consciousness is Western Tradition. One of the weapons of Postmodernism is deconstructing our identity and dashing it to pieces, so now I must remind westerners that their birthright identity is indeed within the umbrella of Western Tradition. This concept of a unified identity is vital for us to have a proper sense of belonging and a meaningful existence.
Our proper relationship with the body collective is symbiotic, where in return for civilisation shielding us from the ravages of cold, hunger and enemies we devote ourselves to nourishing it with our full care and attention. Postmodernism converts people into ungrateful parasites that behave like a cancer in the flesh of civilisation. These people need redemption from the brainwashing they’ve been exposed to by being taught properly. I strongly believe that a combination of wisdom and memetics is the answer here. Some brats need teaching gratitude and humility in a way that’s fun and creative.
The rightful health of our civilisation in the mental sense then, is maintained by the well being of the grand persona of Western Tradition. This persona is how our civilisation should manifest itself as a force of good, struggling with ourselves, burdened by pain and the effort to survive. This is what gives rise to our creativity and civility, and everything else worth standing and fighting for against each and every foe. Postmodernism is an even worse manifestation of Marxism, which itself is a terrible idea that Postmodernism has made even worse. It’s responsible for the current trend of Identity Politics, Social Justice Warriors and Toxic 3rd Wave Feminism, all of which sow the seeds of bigotry, jealousy, hate and everything else that is evil. It is tyranny and slavery in an exciting new flavour, a spiritual form of cancer that rots the heart of anyone unlucky enough to be infected. It’s pushed by terrible and brilliant minds for whatever twisted reasons may have occurred to them.
If you want to learn a lot more about this topic then I’d urge you to listen to a brilliant talk by Jordan B Peterson, which inspired this rant. Also thank you for reading this far, because this is the most important topic of our age and the fate of Western Civilisation is in our hands. Our kids rely on us to win this one.
Anyway, over to Peterson’s incredible 50 minutes:
This is Part 2 of a 3-part posting from The Speakers Action Group (http://www.speakersaction.com/), who hosted Dr. Norman Doidge, author of the bestselling The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing (www.normandoidge.com/) and Dr. Jordan B Peterson Sunday, January 22, 2017 to speak on freedom of speech and political correctness.
Hope you find some enlightenment, and thanks for reading.