Tag: apocalypse

changing the world

Paul Kingsnorth, Prophets and Doomers everywhere and for all time:

It’s a phrase I used to use all the time, but now I’m almost embarrassed even to look at it. Changing the world. Changing the world. Changing the world. It’s such an astonishing concept: that we have, or could ever have, the agency, ability or knowledge to change the nature of a vast, complex planet we barely understand, when most of us can’t even change ourselves. And that we imagine the results would be good if we did. What could be more superstitious?

And yet, changing the world is exactly destiny of both the world and man; inaugurated by Christ, ratified by His Church. It’s Ellul (of all people) who makes this point somewhere: the Progress now in our hearts is historically contingent, and historically contingent on the Incarnation and it’s cosmic repercussions. If the New Testament makes anything plain it is that we indeed have “the agency, ability and knowledge” to change the nature of “a vast, complex planet we barely understand etc.” and much else besides.

‘Changing the world’ is of course a modern notion.

Is it? (see above).

For another, more everyday reason: the world is getting worse.

Is it? And I’m serious. Kingsnorth is convinced, every good prophet is, and convinced for good reasons. But such a stark claim, without any qualifiers, how can it do justice to the “nature of a vast, complex” world (a bigger thing than a plant, a *much* bigger thing in fact)? But surely it has to be admitted that if that claim, “the world is getting worse”, is true (in the very sense Kingsnorth means it) it is in an importantly narrow sense. And deference to the things Kingsnorth himself most values and loves and reveres and stands-in-awe of—in a word: worships—is what makes must make it so.

I fear—more, I feel convicted—in light perhaps of the surety and (helpful) curtness with which Kingsnorth here makes these claims, that they themselves partake in the totalising surety of the systems they purport to have seen through and resist.

Which of us can lay limits on His ways being far above ours?

And should not those tremble who dare?




[dispatch] mumford, caesar, augustine

A: The Magnificent Bribe — Real Life

‘The Good Life’ vs ‘the Goods Life’ – 8/10

“the need to assimilate the machine to human values and needs, lest the machine’s values and needs be prioritized”

Q: can the machine be assimilated to human values? if not, was it ever possible? if yes, when did it stop being possible?

a split between “authoritarian” and “democratic” types of technologies – 9/10

Whereas rulers had long fantasized about observing every act of the populace, the computer actually made this possible; whereas rulers had dreamt of harnessing the destructive power of the deities, nuclear bombs now gave them this might.

Caesar the god

Kafka has a lot to say of use here on how rulers work. The desires of the will to power don’t change, the capacity to fulfil them does.
Technology has made Caesar into a god. He has “harnessed the destructive powers of the deities”—that connection was never lucid until I read this simple articulation. The all-seeing-eye-as-computer is in 1984, the atomic-bomb-as-Sodom is not. It’s like the ideological dreams of Caesarism have went from myth to fact in the 20th century. Which makes knowing what those dreams always were pertinent (see Kafka and Cochrane).

But there’s also something here in the delay; myth has definitively become fact already, we live in the fall out of that metaphysical detonation. Myth became fact, God became man and killed leviathan, and proceeded to eat imperial paganism from the inside out, but it took centuries to see the political reconfiguration. Leviathan became a god in the 20th century, but the Apocalypse didn’t arrive straight away, in fact a stagnation did. So technology has made Caesar into a god in a world where God has already made man into a god for millennia. This century; god games.

Walter M. Miller Jr.:

Always culminates in the colossus of the State, somehow, drawing about itself the mantle of godhood, being struck down by wrath of Heaven. Why? We shouted it loudly enough-God’s to be obeyed by nations as by men. Caesar’s to be God’s policeman, not His plenipotentiary successor, not His heir. To all ages, all peoples-“Whoever exalts a race or a State or a particular form of State or the depositories of power… whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God…”… But when Caesar got the means to destroy the world, wasn’t he already divinized? Only by the consent of the people-same rabble that shouted: “Non habemus regem nisi caesarem,” when confronted by Him-God Incarnate, mocked and spat upon…“Caesar’s divinity is showing again.”

“Non habemus regem nisi caesarem”

“Only by the consent of the people”, is the point DeBoer makes “every aspect of this is a product of human choice”, and I’m not sure where that fits. Some maxim like, “idols can only be upheld by the the people”, the human will is always a necessary ingredient in idolatry. “Non habemus regem nisi caesarem” then becomes some kind of human/state universal; the creed of idolatry.

The Bomb and the Computer

Symbolism here too, just how much of the best of modern American literature and art takes place in the bomb’s desert. The Mushroom (cloud and psychedelic) ties together consciousness and material divinisation, the Rocket ties together the bomb and the space frontier. Don’t have a handle on the symbolism of the computer.

time and again he emphasized that what needed to be confronted was not so much the machines themselves as the ideology that builds up around them and turns them into objects of fealty and worship.. “If you fall in love with a machine there is something wrong with your love-life. If you worship a machine there is something wrong with your religion.”

This frames the problem of technique as one of disordered loves, which is also a new insight for me and it connects with the state idolatry above. What is the Augustinian response to technocracy?
Is the defect in our love-lifes a human constant or is there something particular and pernicious that occurred in the West?  We who have the one true religion? New ways of framing old questions.

The Ghost Inside?

But further, if it’s the human penchant for idolatry and the subsequent ideology (the myth of Progress etc) that is the corrupting factor—that it is us not the machines that need confronted—where does that leave the ontological status of the machine?

Perhaps then in this framing the kind of story Kingsnorth is telling is guilty of rank anthropomorphisation? Projecting onto ‘the machine’ a volition and cunning that just simply isn’t there, there is no ghost inside. Is it possible that a pejorative picture of the machine is beginning to hold us anti-moderns captive? In all these claims about the machine its actual status, its capacity for volition and choice is never addressed head on. Its only way of getting it is to be hooked up to something sentient so far as I can see. An emergent sentience from humanity (like the internet might manifest) or from some other being (ie. a demon)

But even the existence of that question forces the question back off of that, the question at the heart of Christian demonology. So these themes are plugged in to something ancient. The ontological status of higher powers, with all its tendrils and roots in the history of (dis)enchantment. And that’s something I have no grasp on at all reallly, but Jacobs has recommendations. Like I asked in the sotu:

“What is the ontological status of the Machine and how does it relate to the Principalities and Powers? Is it one? How central is it in the history of human corruption?”


Rex, Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurtionis, 1909.

I see two cats, and kings of the devil’s game.
I see cities of the plain and oil spills BP would be in awe of.
I see factories that fill our horizon, or refineries, or both.
I see nuclear detonations as bright as stars, or are they suns at the brown brink?

I see voldemort1, and skulls, and skelling michaels.
I see eagles in the sky and ancient frogs in the waters.
I see death stars, and grand-inquisitor comets, and contorted Blakeian angels.
I see thousands who weep.

I see fountain pen nibs crowning creation; Deathly Hallows come palace spires.
A crown bristling with taut bows, I see a sniper on the ledge.
I see a beast and his prophet.
I see a phallus circumcised by power and squared by imperial architecture.

I see a shadow over every starlit thing.
I see a great eye.
I see a dark day.

I see that God will not be mocked.
I see fire on the altar.
I see fire on the earth.

in the desert: exodus and purgatory and apocalypse

Paul Kingsnorth:

In the desert, strength is needed, and prayer too. But the desert, perhaps, is not a bad place to be. Civilisations come and go, but nature keeps renewing, and God is eternal. There are things higher than our cultures; there are things higher than the Machine. If we are in the desert – if this is our Exodus – then we can work to understand how we got here and we can wonder, as we wander, about what the Promised Land might look like. As one cycle ends, another begins. The dead leaves of one culture fall to cover the seeds of another, already sown beneath. The more things fall apart – the more the centre cannot hold – the more new centres are seeded on the margins, which is the only place they can ever grow.

The Desert Fathers of the early church went into the sands and the caves and the tombs not to look for culture, but to be purged of the self. The Faustian people of the West – us – have spiralled far down into the self, all the time believing we were rising up towards liberation. We forgot what the hermits learned and taught: that liberation of the self is just another form of slavery.

But the desert is a place of purging, and of revelation; an apocalypse and a purgatory. Sometimes an Exodus is needed. It is never easy. Perhaps you come to the desert when you lose yourself. Perhaps we have been sent here to learn again what culture means – what being human means – and where it starts: in the small places, under the gaze of God and the wide sky.

  • Many of the same themes as Thomas (in his first poem), “but nature keeps renewing, and God is eternal”
  • The melding of so many different transitions from revelation; Exodus, Purgatory, Apocalypse, Exile is interesting, do they up actually saying anything though?
  • It really all does come back to Christ and Culture.
  • Every three score and ten must learn again what culture and what being human means.
    • How much does that truth paired with the Great Acceleration account for all the negative stuff that gets filed under “Apocalypse”, then once that assumption is in place we retroactively do a search and destroy on Mammon, Liberalism, Luther, Calvin, Ockham, Plato; who or whatever is ‘the cause of it all’? Essentially what Kingsnorth’s project on substack is.
  • As one cycle ends, another begins”, what is the place of cyclical histories in the world? Cristians seem to have a real love/hate relationship with em. 

sotu fall 2021

Eschatological Media Ecology

I’ve been thinking lately that if I had to summarise the themes someone would find here, “Eschatological Media Ecology” wouldn’t be a bad start. Some nexus of the History of Ideas, an absolutely serious engagement with special revelation’s dictate for history and the eschaton (with special reference to John’s Apocalypse), mixed with an uncertain but ever-growing conviction in the centrality of the Machine and the Antichrist (the metaphysical status of technocracy and institutionalised agape respectively).

The End at the Start of the 21st Century: Status Reports

Mostly how those themes cash out in the early 21st century is surveillance capitalism, system’s thinking, the status of the supposed ‘End of the West’, the Great Upheaval, the ever approaching cultural capitulation—the big something that’s supposedly just around corner and relates to all of the above—a serious questioning of the status of church critique (valid? if so how much, how far, and on what specifically?), bleeding into the felt need pervading Christendom to rehabilitate the body, just as much as our communities, the need for roots, to be sacramentally ‘plugged into’ this earth as it dies.

The current limitless insanity of economy, consumption, pollution, mobility and personhood ties the need for a New Erotics to the unfolding identity insanity (cf. Successor Ideology), mostly of the sexual kind. And is being a Christ-facist an insult or a high compliment, is being a Humanist heretical or the only defence against inhumanity? I still don’t know.

The Technological History of Modernity

A key fingerpost for all this is the technological history of modernity as articulated by Alan Jacobs, and it’s consequences for the history of ideas (or to put it in Taylorian terms: The Diachronic Question) and the stories smart Christians tell themselves about how we got here: buffered rootless gnostic techno-Mammon worshippers—you know the spiel.

The Ontological Status of the Machine

Principalities and Powers play a key role in whatever this story is, and they’re the link between a New Theology of the Antichrist (spawning from the extent to which the institutionalisation of the gospel has itself spawned modernities various idolatries/gods, Illich’s unnerving gift to the world) and the Machine, the reifying mythic name given to technology-as-god by R.S. Thomas.

How far back do the origins of the Machine reach, how implicated is language-as-technology, what does that mean for a linguistic special revelation, and chronologically for human flourishing, redemption, and Darwinian theory? ie. Is special revelation a response to the advent of the Machine? Did humans flourish best in the Upper Paleolithic1?

What is the ontological status of the Machine and how does it relate to the Principalities and Powers? Is it one? How central is it in the history of human corruption? Has something new, unique, manifest in our centuries? And what do all these themes mean for space exploration, digital humanism, the potential for transhumanism, the future of the internet, the church, the body, the Apocalypse?

And that leaves out dreams, altered states of consciousness, the status of psychedelics, the unreality of time, and ego death. Perhaps in a different post.

again and again and again

A Canticle for Leibowitz:

Listen, are we helpless? Are we doomed to do it again and again and again? Have we no choice but to play the Phoenix, in an unending sequence of rise and fall? Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Carthage, Rome, the Empires of Charlemagne and the Turk. Ground to dust and plowed with salt. Spain, France, Britain, America-burned into the oblivion of the centuries. And again and again and again.

Are we doomed to it, Lord, chained to the pendulum of our own mad clockwork, helpless to halt its swing?

This time, it will swing us clean to oblivion, he thought.

And on something missing in the garden:

a few harassed colonies of humanity that had had small help from Earth thus far; and now they might expect no help at all, there in their new non-Edens, even less like Paradise than Earth had been. Fortunately for them, perhaps. The closer men came to perfecting for themselves a paradise, the more impatient they seemed to become with it, and with themselves as well. They made a garden of pleasure, and became progressively more miserable with it as it grew in richness and power and beauty; for then, perhaps, it was easier for them to see that something was missing in the garden, some tree or shrub that would not grow. When the world was in darkness and wretchedness, it could believe in perfection and yearn for it. But when the world became bright with reason and riches, it began to sense the narrowness of the needle’s eye, and that rankled for a world no longer willing to believe or yearn. Well, they were going to destroy it again, were they?-this garden Earth, civilized and knowing, to be torn apart again that Man might hope again in wretched darkness

It never was any better, it never will be any better. It will only be richer or poorer, sadder but not wiser, until the very last day.

And yet even if the Eden were perfect, man is not.