Tag: THM

the black death

Everyone, it seems, has their own story of modernity. And there is no better way to rile an academic, it seems, that to tell one.

Nominalism, Disenchantment, Emancipation, the Institutionalisation of Agapé, Silent Reading, Elite-driven Reform, Capitalism, Protestantism, the Printing Press, Fossil Fuels, Democracy, Liberalism. Choose your cause, choose your effect.

Jacob’s claim is a cornerstone of this blog:

“I think all of these narratives are wrong. They are wrong because they are the product of scholars in universities who overrate the historical importance and influence of other scholars in universities, and because they neglect ideas that connect more directly with the material world.

Well it is plague season, and a factor I haven’t heard spoken of (at all, its not in Taylor so far as I remember) is the Black Death.

How’s a cataclysmic plague for something with historical importance and influence; a cause that connected directly to the material world (the most intimate material world of all: our bodies)? huh?

It doesn’t seem connected with other society wide influencers. I guess other than—just like in our days—accelerating processes already in motion?

But I suspect this also connects deeply with my bigger question of the relation between Incarnation/Bodily Immanence and the need for ‘Technological Histories of Modernity’—histories which “connect more directly with the material world” which account for the way atom-events (as opposed to bit-events, or Geist-events) “press in upon” human life and steer human history.

But why the lack of Black Death coverage in the grand recits?1


[dispatch] fossil fuels and thought

Out of Your Car, Off Your Horse – The Atlantic – Wendell Berry

I. Properly speaking, global thinking is not possible.

Unless one is willing to be destructive on a very large scale, one cannot do something except locally, in a small place.

Consequences for the internet and blockchain technology?

III. …The right local questions and answers will be the right global ones.

The Amish question “What will this do to our community?” tends toward the right answer for the world.

XXI. [The question then becomes]…how do we begin to remake, or to make, local culture that will preserve our part of the world while we use it?

…The locality, by becoming partly sustainable, would produce the thought it would need to become more sustainable.

This last thought (the last line of the essay actually) interests me. The claim that place—the milieu of material things one lives among—can produce certain thoughts, and subsequently cultivating material environment may be the first step to having certain thoughts. I think Berry would also make the stronger claim that there are parts of a person’s non-material aspect which are *only* available after living in certain external(!) material situatedness. It’s a claim about Incarnation.

“If we wish to understand.. it must not be as tourists or inquirers, it must be with the loyalty of children and the great patience of poets” Chesterton1

VIII. …Rome destroyed the balance with slave labor; we have destroyed it with “cheap” fossil fuel

Fossil Fuels have always been produced at the expense of local ecosystems and of local human communities.

Both this and the previous point (about the developmental necessity of parochialism for the human spirit) are connected to “the power of science and technology to provide.. the myths we live by”. The material things we live among “press with great force upon our ideas”; incarnation works both ways.

Being embodied means physical things can (and do) work back up the chain in ways our executive functioning often seems disconcertingly blind to.2.That all applies specifically here as thinking about A Grand Unified Theory of Modernity™ Berry seems to be giving (for me) unexpected weight to the pure physical artefacts that are coal, oil and gas themselves. How much is the simple existence of fossil fuels responsible for?

The existence of (seemingly) unlimited material energy mainlined into a society for several centuries; bathing its streets, heating its homes, fuelling its war machines, touching the pages of every book, firing the horizon of every artist, stoking the dreams of every child.

striking out and running

reality bats last
nature bats last
God bats last

these are always wise responses, they are bedrock true.
do they undermine Apocalyptic thinking, by undermining the power we give to our own endeavours, our own ability to destroy the world as much as to save it.
what is the state those three forces bring man back to exactly, or are they merely negative, curbs on hubris. reality will spring back in your face, but will it take you by the hand and lead you home?

connected to the history of ideas, or ‘the diachronic question’, what is causing what in history. is technology primary? ideas and dialectic now seem naive drivers. Alan Jacobs pronouncement, as I’ve linked to before, is a bit of a credo:

All of these grands recits should be set aside, and they should not immediately be replaced with others, but with more particular, less sweeping, and more technologically-oriented stories. The technologies that Marshall McLuhan called “the extensions of Man” are infinitely more important for Man’s story, for good and for ill, than the debates of the schoolmen and interpreters of the Bible. Instead of grand narratives of the emergence of The Modern we need something far more plural: technological histories of modernity

We need a complex, multifaceted, materially-oriented account of how modernity arose and developed, starting with the later Middle Ages. The three big stories, with their overemphasis on theological and philosophical ideas and inattentiveness to economics and technology, have reigned long enough — more than long enough

The principalities and powers then, the back and forward of “spiritual powers in the heavenly realms”. That view is profoundly inspired from Leszek Kolakowski’s ‘Politics and the Devil’, and forced the open question of the link between the devil and technologies—the ontology of the Machine.

But man is also never struck out. I take that to be the thing deBoer keeps driving at, and Kolakowski too:

The only comfort we have comes from the simple fact that we are not passive observers or victims of this contest but participants as well..and therefore our destiny is decided on the field on which we run.[something which probably ends up being a matter of faith?] To say this is trivial, and, as many trivial truths, worth repeating.

That disposition, that history is a live entity, seems to be shared by this book, I’m excited to see if it sheds any new light.

chalking it up to the slogans

Freddie deBoer:

The best book ever written about totalitarianism isn’t actually 1984. It’s A Tale of Two Cities. And in that book, the most commonly repeated image, the central symbol, is of a giant eye. What Charles Dickens understood, and what the book argues, is that there is no such thing as freedom without privacy, that being truly free means being free to do things that you don’t want other people to know about. And what I insist is that all the people who are busily denying that these revelations really mean anything recognize: if we give up these rights, we are choosing to do it. Every aspect of this is a product of human choice. We might be trapped in systems. But those systems are made up of human beings, and they are choosing to erode our basic freedom. Nothing can be chalked up to slogans or “the arc of history” or technology or Just the Way Things Are Going to Be. If our rights are getting eroded, it’s because we’re choosing to let them. Tell that to the defeatists and the apathetic alike.

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.

your brain is not a computer

Your brain is not a computer.

If people would take this seriously it is just absolutely devastating.

Like finding out God’s not real. Where is Zarathustra’s madman? Here’s a reigning paradigm that needs akilling.

Granted it’s a metaphor-myth that has reigned for decades not millennia.. but it may be no less potent for all that, being symbiotic as it is with all the unprecedented and unwelcome aspects of the information age.


  • Someone needs to make a start documenting all the IP-metaphor propaganda in pop-culture, I might try and do some of that here.
  • The kenotic aspects of the epistemic black hole that lies back off the metaphors truth claims I find appealing and well.. consistent with the deepest realities.
  • The status of the body/spirit metaphor that pervades special revelation is of interest. Are all cutting-edge-technology metaphors for human mind/consciousness created equal? Or is there—as I’d instinctively suspect—a validity to that one that predates and undermines the others?