It’s not unfair to say that modern man has an obsession with machines. This fixation is many times both celebrated as the “progress” of humanity forward and sometimes lampooned as the “instagram generation.” There are plenty of individuals who praise the connectivity of social media while there are those who decry how dehumanizing and reductive it can be. Indeed, it is this new, intimate connection between “society” and “technology” that has given rise to these emergent properties as “social media” and “technocracy” just to name a few.
On the surface, one can notice that there is a kind of hesitation and wariness on the part of some people vis-à-vis these developments. The allure of technological ease has, as its spectre constantly in the background, the fear that we have entered some kind of Faustian exchange. That, perhaps, unbeknownst to most users, something of greater value was given away for this massive boost in social power. But is this true? And even if it is; is some kind of Luddite foolishness the solution?
I mentioned in my previous post that the gun is a weapon of “cunning” in the same vein as that of the cunning of the serpent. It is not a coincidence that the mass-produced gun, which is a product of man’s technological advancement, shares the same parentage with social media and computers which are also siblings in the family of “progress.” If this is true, should we not be able to see the ancestral, “spiritual” DNA of the serpent—his “cunning”—in these new forms of technology as well?
Again, as I pointed out in my previous post, the root of the “cunning” of the serpent is that he promised not that those who ate of the forbidden fruit would be gods, but that they would be like gods. In essence, that they would not be transubstantiated into the divine, but that they would be imitations of the divine. As a wise man once put it, “to be cunning is to mime wisdom, after having eliminated the essential—its light—and then to make use of it for one’s own ends.”i Is this not happening on a societal level vis-à-vis “social media”? The examples of this are legion, but let us focus on one in particular.
“Conversation” has often been identified by even modern people as a “lost art” in the burgeoning world of the “digital age.”ii But what is this “art of conversation”? In my own experience, it seems as if most modern people, when thinking of conversation, refer only to the kind of entertainment that they receive from various “points of interest” with other individuals. People talk about their “favourite” things whether it’s the latest episode of Game of Thrones or which politician of the day is “cucked.”iii In essence, the predominant modality of modern conversation is superficiality—shallowness. There is no real “depth.” People are speaking, but they are not having “conversations.” When people speak about the “art of conversation”, it’s as if they mistake the entertainment of The Avengers for the art of Kanon D-dur.
This is most obvious in the world of social media which is involved in various “causes” and “ideals.” It is a world where people can be “seen” to be idealistic (how many French-filtered Facebook profile pictures are we going to see in light of Nice now?) without ever having to undergo an interior change or achieving external action. Social media is definitely a facet of the “world of the serpent”iv where sheer mass and digital sentimentality is treated, unsurprisingly, like the fiat currency of the modern world. “It has meaning because we all believe it does.”v Again, this is the “cunning” of the serpent which deals in artificiality.
Furthermore, most of the time, neither individual in a dialogue is changed from conversations aided by technology. One can see how entrenched most individuals on forums or imageboards are in their own world views.vi Nothing new ever comes from their conversations with others. The conversations are barren and sterile. There are even times when I have had talks with individuals who merely leave ten minutes later thinking that they have achieved a “conversation.”
There is a real connection between superficiality and sterility. The arcanum of the sexual act, for example, demonstrates this reality by homology. In order to achieve conception, “depth” in physical terms, must be accomplished through the marriage of man and wife. It is only then that a new life takes hold and the human organism perpetuates. However, in the mode of modern conversation, there is a refusal to achieve any kind of spiritual or emotional depth.
Conversation, in the modern context, is only meant to satisfy what we already know—our own essence. We ejaculate our own incomplete (read: haploid) essence without achieving any depth and we do so with the aid of other individuals who merely stroke our egos. This sterility, mutual pleasuring, and lack of any new change in the person—or elevation of their consciousness—is the hallmark of modern conversations as masturbatory. It is no wonder, then, that the usage of the internet for pornography as an enabling factor for this habit is also the preferred mode by which the conversational orgy is perpetuated on social media. It is also no wonder that the modern world, which so woefully misunderstands and misuses the art of the sexual act, treats conversation with such selfish objectivisation.
This promiscuity of modern technological “connection” is also indicative of the other current of modernity which was inherited from the “world of the serpent”: the confusing of quantity for quality. The worth of endeavors and individuals is often tied with how many views a YouTube video gets, how many friends one has, how many votes one receives in an election, how much money one is paid, how many points someone scores in a football match etc. Similarly, in conversations, it is often a litany of how many “celebrities” one has encountered, or how many “interesting” people one knows. The number and weight is given priority and it is this world of quantity that the techno-economic machine is obsessed with. It is this “paradise” of bourgeois life that is so often sought after through the use of the “technological miracle.” Thus, social media—the online society—is like a real society, but it can never be one. The modern technologically miraculous bourgeois society achieves something like peace and justice, but it has neither in reality.
But is it totally the fault of the machine? Just as I mentioned in my previous post that the gun is morally neutral, so is the computer. This is why Frank Herbert—the mystical Saint John of Science Fiction—once wrote through the words of Leto II Atreides: “’the target of the Jihad was a machine-attitude as much as the machines,’ Leto said. ‘Humans had set those machines to usurp our sense of beauty, our necessary serfdom out of which we make living judgments. Naturally, the machines were destroyed.’”vii
In other words, the quest for artificial intelligence—the forbidden fruit—has, as its sin, not just the acquisition of the consciousness for the machine (playing God), but humanity’s propensity to abdicate his own “necessary serfdom” to lesser things. The sin of artificial intelligence is not that it will happen through elevating machines to our consciousness, but through creating a society and individual so mechanized and materialistic that he is indistinguishable from machine. The sin is not that we are trying to teach machines how to create art and music, but that humans do stupid and inane things such as assign notes to digits of pi and pretend it is “beautiful” to listen to. The sin is not that we are trying to teach machines emotions, but that we scroll through videos of clickbait on our feeds looking for our next emotional fix.
The Turing Test for the modern age indicates, horrifically, not how far machines have advanced, but how shallow and empty humanity is becoming. The almost Lovecraftian horror of artificial intelligence is not when we have created other beings, but that we are already in a process of lowering the bar to the level of amoral unconsciousness.
The horror deepens when one realizes that it is this process of “downward” standards that is the modus operandi of modernity. Like I had pointed out in my previous post about homosexuality, the admittance of “gay marriage” as equivalent to “traditional marriage” is often argued on the basis on how debauched, materialistic, and insecure “traditional marriage” has become. Thus, the question of artificial intelligence is another signpost; a glaring signal of the way in which the mechanized world functions by demanding that ideal forms be polluted by “realities” on the ground; it demands that a third of the stars be cast down with it.
Thankfully, Artificial Intelligence, for the contemplative man, can serve like the grotesques and gargoyles that decorate medieval churches. Artificial Intelligence is the pinnacle of “cunning” since it once again represents the “miming” of wisdom, the “elimination of the essential” humanity or the “light”, and the “use of it for one’s own ends” which reminds us of the cult of utilitarianism which is often invoked when speaking of synthetic organisms.
The creation of an artificial brain is the pinnacle of the cult of evolution. After all, isn’t one way in which artificial intelligence is thought to come about is in the way “machines can make better machines”? In other words, that “progress” and “agency” is taken from the human and given to something which can achieve these functions exponentially faster? Needless to say that wiser individuals have treated the question of evolution and the brain better than I could ever put forth hereviii, but even such Christian Hermeticists had not conceived that modernity had found a way to double down on the idolatry of “progress” by elevating the “synthetic” brain of artificial, disembodied intelligence.
So where does this leave the contemplative man? He is alienated from the world of quantity and artificiality and, at the same time, if he is born in this age—unless he becomes a hermit—he is not afforded the extreme asceticism of being detached from the world. The solution, therefore, is the same in which Moses dealt with the serpents in the desert: crucifixion.ix By crucifying the worldly (and, thus, horizontal) propensity of science with the vertical orientation of the spirit, one creates the sign of the cross.x In other words, when one adds depth (verticality) to the possibilities (horizontality) of technology, one can achieve immunity for anyone bitten by the serpent; one can be immune to the sedative properties of modern technology.
Of course, to achieve such a state is a long and difficult path, but it suffices for now to be made aware of the journey and the dangers presently. This is why the Orange Catholic Bible is adamant when it says: “thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of man’s mind”xi and why the Butlerian Jihad should be internalized as our own process of refusing to abdicate or lower ourselves to the level of machines.xii It is interesting to note that the Reverend Mother Mohiam believes that the line should have been written as “thou shalt not make a machine to counterfeit a human mind,”xiii which only further indicates Herbert’s own understanding that such a thing as artificial intelligence is of “the world of the serpent”; the world of “cunning.” We ourselves should never forget that our consciousness has a greater dimension than that of quantity, materiality, and utility—and it often requires a great interior struggle—a jihad—to realize this truth.
i Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 248.
iii God help us.
iv cf. Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 246.
v Compare this, too, with my mentioning of the “egregore” in my previous post.
vi One will notice, too, the prevalence of memes and “signaling” as a way of simply reinforcing one’s own opinions commonly shared with others.
vii God Emperor of Dune, Frank Herbert, 1981.
viii cf. Meditations on the Tarot, Letter X “Wheel of Fortune.” This section extensively, and eloquently, derives the connection between the world of evolution (the world of the serpent) and the brain as an organ of “selection” along with rather decisive and instructive exercises on how to resolve this seeming contradiction of the brain as the organ of reason and its “diabolical” origins.
ix cf. Ride the Tiger, Julius Evola, and Numbers 21:9.
x Meditations on the Tarot, pp. 219
xi Dune, Frank Herbert, 1965.
xii Compare this, too, with Evola’s mentioning of the Islamic virtue of “internal Jihad.”
xiii Dune, Frank Herbert, 1965.