A quick rundown of recent news:
Elon Musk keeps launching satellites at a rate greater than a finale at the Fourth of July fireworks.
Billionaires are racking up record profits while small businesses drop dead like dinosaurs after an asteroid hit.
5G, the safety of which has been questioned by scientists and some municipalities for a good long while, has suddenly become “essential” (how I have come to despise the word) to “the new normal” (another term worthy of contempt).
Oh, and there’s this coronavirus thing, which is apparently what Thomas Hobbes was praying for when he prophesied the war of all against all.
Because of the coronavirus thing, governments are being very governmenty about events in much the same spirit as the PATRIOT Act was about patriotism and security and their responses have a good deal to do with surveillance and another dreadful word: “tracing.”
All of this, at least for me, contributes to what I can only describe as a technocratic nightmare. As Nikolai Berdyaev wrote long ago, “The world threatens to become an organized and technicized chaos in which only the most terrible forms of idolatry and demon-worship can live.”1 To which one can only add: “Mission accomplished.”
Of course, these deadening developments are not the only things going on. Some people (though often maligned by their contemporaries) are resisting the technocratic paradigm and seeking instead a more holistic and healthy response to our moment. I see this mostly in the renewed interest in locally-produced food and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as well as in the sudden care for local businesses in a spirit that should give hope to any distributist or communitarian heretofore languishing in cultural atrophy and neglect. Likewise, some people are starting to think more about building immunity through nutrition and methods more in accord with Nature than through the administration of vaccines and other varieties of allopathic medicine that operate on fear and a military search and destroy model.
Nevertheless, I do think we are at a watershed. How we come out of this crisis is important. Unfortunately, the money and power is on the side of the technocrats—as we can see by the way they’ve been maneuvering during this “crisis” to secure and expand both their wealth and power. Most of us don’t have that kind of cultural cache, so either find ourselves enthralled by fear and the mandate of the powerful or we just try to ignore them and hope they go away. But they won’t go away.
This didn’t just happen. For decades, our relationship to Nature has been compromised by scientists, medical experts, and governmental agencies in a drive (a real Will to Power) to “make our lives better.” I’m sorry, but glyphostae, “three-parent babies,” the prescription of opioids, or waiting for a vaccine until we can open up the world, to name only a handful of examples, aren’t making anyone’s life better—not even for Bayer and The Gates Foundation. Living in disharmony with Nature and Divinity never could.
In my book Transfiguration, I talk about this at length. The problem, ultimately, is not one of human power games and control (though those are its tools); rather, the problem is metaphysical, a spiritual problem. As I write in the book,
‘This encroaching and, in the main, uninterrogated acceptance of “technological reproduction” in all of its forms delineates a movement away from Sophia and her illumination of the united natural and supernatural realms and toward Ahriman and the darkness of a natural realm subordinated to subnature. When we can no longer differentiate between the Real and the simulacra, we have already compromised our connection to the spiritual in the universe, to God by way of Sophia. And when differentiating between the Real and the simulacra invites ridicule, hostility, and ostracization, we can then be sure that we have entered the realm of the demonic, of Ahriman; that culture has been lured into subnature; and that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Ahriman’s genius is that it has convinced us that spiritual forces, of any kind, do not exist, and that science and technology hold the keys to prosperity, health, and happiness. In this, it is we who are imprisoned and isolated from the Real, as Sophia is in the gnostic mythos. It would appear that only a god can save us.’
What I propose (and have been proposing for years) is a Sophianic Resistance to this totalizing, technocratic, and Ahrimanic paradigm threatening our lives and ways of being from so many sides. Many have already capitulated to this paradigm. But humans are free, and an aspect of freedom is in the changing of one’s mind. As the Master said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). The Greek word here translated as “repent,” however, is Μετανοεῖτε (metanoite) which, in addition to repentance, refers to changing one’s way of life. This is precisely the moment at which we find ourselves.
Berdyaev, so prescient, was able to diagnose our trajectory—now nearing its apotheosis—almost a century ago:
‘The speed consequent upon the increasing mechanization of life has had a deadly effect on the human Ego, and has sapped its foundations of unity and consistence. The advent of machinery and the mechanization of life have led to an extreme objectification of human existence, to its materialization in a strange, inhuman and frigid world. And though this world is the work of man, it is essentially anti-human.’2
In order to reorder our lives, we first need to acknowledge how entrammeled we are by fear. Then comes the time of the turning. Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Michael’s latest books are an edition of The Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutzand Transfiguration: Notes toward a Radical Catholic Reimagination of Everything. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses.
1. Nikolai Berdyaev, The Fate of Man in the Modern World, trans. Donald A. Lowrie (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1935), 125.
2. Nicolas Berdyaev, Solitude and Society, trans. George Reavey (1938; repr., London: Geoffrey Bles / Centenary Press, 1947), 109.