Mark Stahlman (via RadioMail) on Sat, 29 Mar 1997 23:06:28 +0100 (MET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Castration and Power

Eric (et al):

Thanks for taking the time to reply to my "How Do We Get Out of This Mess?"
post.  I had hoped that you would (knowing that your book is on related
topics) and I'm encouraged that you aren't too "exhausted" to take up where
we left off.  

>From our first meeting on the plane to Budapest, I have felt much affection
for you and I'm sorry if it appeared that I viewed you as an "enemy" or our
conversation as an "attack."  Such has never occured to me -- except in
rhetorical terms, perhaps. <g>  On the otherhand, we could discuss Mark
Dery . . . nah, let's not.

So, let us reason together.

"We are stardust
 We are Golden
 Billion year old carbon
 Caught in the devil's bargain
 And we got to get ourselves
 Back to the garden"

   -- Joni Mitchell, refrain from "Woodstock", 1969

What was Joni Mitchell singing about?  Which garden?  Which devil?  Which
bargain?  And, how will we get ourselves back to it?

The garden was the Garden of Eden.  The devil is Satan.  The bargain is
that we will became "as Gods" by eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of
Good and Evil.  It's all there in Genesis.  And, the only way to return to
the garden only by "forgetting" that knowledge and, therefore, renouncing
our own humanity.

But, is this Gnostic?  Or, is it pagan?  Or, is it both?

In as much as this exchange is the continuation of the "English Ideology"
effort, I should re-emphasize the central focus of the discussion.  What we
are trying to do here is to identify essential differences and essential
congruencies.  This is otherwise what has been refered to as the Yin/Yang
principle.  In other contexts it has been called the "unity of opposites." 
Or, call it the love/hate relationship, if you wish.

Neo-gnosticism and neo-paganism are *essentially* the same as each other
because they are built on the same premises, despite their apparent
opposition -- or, as Eric has stressed *diametric opposition*.  Both are
attempts to annihilate humanity -- where humanity is precisely as it is
described in Genesis.  By coming to know the difference between good and
evil, we became human with all that this entails.  By trying to forget this
knowledge -- or by elevating ourselves above it -- we become inhuman.  By
attempting to become pre-conscious (pagan) or super-conscious (gnostic), we
accomplish the same end of denying our humanity.

Nature worship (the motive behind Lanier's "Stewards" and the principle
synthetic religion of our post-modern times) and Nature "hatred" as
expressed in the complete insanity of the "Extropians" are essentially the
same -- as Lanier understood.  They are the Yin/Yang of a techno-utopian
New Dark Age.

Willfully forgetting our knowledge of good and evil is simply what is known
theologically as Original Sin. It doesn't matter whether the expression is
"Level Above Human" from Heaven's Gate or "to be as Gods" in the original
formulation for the Whole Earth or "Knowledge is Power" from Francis Bacon.

In all cases it is the denial of our humanity -- the condition of the
knowledge of good and evil, or moral order -- which is congruent.  These
all express the same essential condition despite the particular (even
apparently dichotomous) manifestations.   And, yes, rejection of the notion
of Original Sin was the *only* dogmatic requirement for H.G. Wells' first
fictional representation of the Open Conspiracy -- the New Samurai in "A
Modern Utopia".  The principles which I'm describing have been codified
long before we were born.

I am an unabashed authoritarian.  By this I simply mean that I recognise
the crucial existence of authority which supercedes my will.  Moral order
is that authority.  Just because "authoritarian" was redefined by the
Frankfurt School in 1949 (i.e. "The Authoritarian Personality") to connote
anti-Semite and proto-Nazi in order to lay the foundation for Social
Psychology doesn't phase me except to identify this entire effort as highly
problematic.  And, it shouldn't phase you, either.  There is no honest,
human alternative but to be an authoritarian.  Liberation from authority
means slavery to ignorance.  Freedom only exists as a result of its
relationship to lawfulness or neccessity.

"In intellectual life there are only two fundamental transactions.  One can
subordinate desire to the truth or subordinate the truth to desire."

    -- Micheal Jones, "Degenerate Moderns" (page 256)

Either one attempts to impose their own will on Nature or one accepts the
truth as demonstrated by Nature and lives by that truth in practice.  This
is the essential difference in all we have been discussing and, I firmly
believe that, understanding this distinction is crucial to solving the
dilemma that was originally posed (i.e. how do we get out of this mess?).

Forget trying to figure out how tightly I construe "causality and control."
 It's not there in any of my essays.  I am not a conspiracy theorist any
more that I am a chaos theorist.  These are the Yin/Yang of post-modern
attitudes about history and human affairs. I reject their common ground and
I reject the powerlessness which they both resolve into.  I will not allow
myself to be castrated by the post-modern drugs coursing through our

Eight of the eighteen males at the Heaven's Gate mass suicide were
surgically castrated.  They no doubt believed that this gave them enormous
power over their bodies.  Is a barbell through one's clitoris any
different?  (Okay, I'm sure it does feel different.)  What Re-Search called
the "New Primitive" is merely another attempt to deny one's humanity and to
return to the "garden."  Mass suicide is its only definitive outcome of
philosophical castration.

As C.S. Lewis detailed in his brilliant 1947 essay, "The Abolition of Man",
the attempt to conquer Nature through the development of genetic and
psychological tools to "perfect" humanity -- when pursued under the
condition of rejection of what he called the "Tao" (again synonomous with
moral order) -- can only lead to the complete conquering of humanity by
Nature.  The result of social engineering (the motive social force in
post-modernity) will be to engineer away humanity -- just as Joni Mitchell
apparently wished.

The knowledge of good and evil is *not* Manichean at all.  This knowledge
*is* human consciousness.  It is what likely occured to our species around
1000 BC as the earlier (and much less differentiated) "bicameral mentality"
collapsed worldwide (as hypothesised by Julian Jaynes).  All attempts to
deny human  consciousness by equating humans with machines or with beasts
(or with angels or with aliens) are rejections of our humanity.  

This is fundamental.  And, it is anything but "black and white" since it is
the knowledge of good and evil which leaves us with all the choices of
human existence.  The result of this capacity to choose is at least as
marvelous and complex as you have intimated.  None of us even approach
perfection.  All of us have the opportunity and challenge to recognize
perfection, however.  That recognition is, IMNSHO, the only way out of this

Castration is not power.  It is death.  Let's not make that mistake.

(I expressly forbid Bruce Sterling or anyone else from forwarding this
message to the WELL, Electric Minds or any related system.  All others
should feel free to re-post this as they see fit.)

Mark Stahlman
New Media Associates
New York City

#  distributed via nettime-l : no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a closed moderated mailinglist for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime" in the msg body
#  URL:  contact: