The Image of Man | Specter of Earth

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(a) Immanence or Earth?

What way went vigor?

Subsumed by vice.

Struggle lost to paradise.

Elimination of a concept is only a reduction of literal spatiality insofar as no parvenu concepts are there fabricated in its place. Fabrication should not come to be confused here with falsity, such as an illusion (true presentation, false content) but rather should be associated with methodological or normative effect (a presentation which may not be “true” but which contains true content – ie. a bracketing concept).

(a.1) The Image of Man | Specter of Earth

In his Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man1, Wilfrid Sellars posits two competing conceptions of the human subject, that of the “manifest image” and the “scientific image.” The manifest image, as defined by Sellars, constitutes the folk-psychological schema by which man describes himself, to himself, and relates to his fellows (I am, she is, she talks to him because she likes him, etc), what Sellars referred to in his more casual moments as “knowing one’s way around” the map of the world. To quote Sellars: “The ‘manifest’ image of man-in-the-world can be characterized in two ways, which are supplementary rather than alternative. It is, first, the framework in terms of which man came to be aware of himself as man-in-the-world. It is the framework in terms of which, to use an existentialist turn of phrase, man first encountered himself—which is, of course, when he came to be man. For it is no merely incidental feature of man that he has a conception of himself as man-in-the-world, just as it is obvious, on reflection, that ‘if man had a radically different conception of himself he would be a radically different kind of man.’”2

In contrast, the scientific image is that set of things which also constitutes man but which cannot be detected by the manifest image (or rather, which cannot be discerned by simply “feeling one’s way around”). He describes the scientific image thusly,

The scientific image of man-in-the-world is, of course, as much an idealization as the manifest image—even more so, as it is still in the process of coming to be. It will be remembered that the contrast I have in mind is not that between an unscientific conception of man-in-the-world and a scientific one, but between that conception which limits itself to what correlational techniques can tell us about perceptible and introspectible events and that which postulates imperceptible objects and events for the purpose of explaining correlations among perceptibles.”3

Sellar’s takes special care to note that by utilizing the word “image” he is not thereby positing that either the manifest, scientific, or both – as conception of being-in-the-world – are in anywise not of ‘the real.’ Rather, he ‘brackets’4 the “images,” thus transmogrifying them into philosophical objects of navigation. The tension between these images is starkly exemplified by such permutations in the humanities as posthumanism and its attendant sub-categories – transhumanism, non-humanism, anti-humanism and so on – as well as in the popularization of the displacement of the holocene by the anthropocene, patterned after the noosphere5 of the Russian geochemist, Vladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky; further refined by de Chardin and Le Roy. The anthropocene was utilized as early as the 1960s but was popularized in the early 2000s by Dutch chemist, Paul J. Crutzen. The anthropocene, broadly described, is the geo-era birthed out of post-industrial human civilization; generally, a human-dominated geological epoch; a time where man has obtained unprecendent power which has, through his ignorance, caused irreparably damaging climate change and ecological devastation. In other words, the anthropocene places man as geological force. This is a transmogrification of the manifest image; a taking of man from his place as the center of concern and placing him within a system with it’s own concerns (the planet, earth, Gaia, etc). Such a transformation is the summation of a existential quandary. The end of the world, or, more minimally, the end of the world of man. If you should find this talk of “the end of the world” to be an incredibly over-the-top pronouncement know that it is not our pronouncement but rather, a sentiment which is increasingly accepted by academia at large. Consider this excerpt from a 2014 speech given by the urban geographer, Stephanie Wakefield, “The end of the world then is not this or that disaster coming in the future – a flood, a hurricane, the collapse of mid-western agriculture – the end of the world is not a potential extinction of homosapiens. The end of the world is what we are living through right now.”6 Now, clearly, this is manifestly false if “end of the world” is to be taken as a literal and immediate eventuality (as her usage of “now” could connote). The world, either as nature-as-such, or, the-earth-as-such, in totality, is not literally at an end; it was not “ending” back in 2014 when such statements were made nor is it “ending” now (anymore than it has always been ending). Rather, it is Sellar’s manifest image that is slipping away – this a failure of synthesis – behind computer screens and into the ever-burgeoning smart-phone matrix, slipping through the cracks in the facade of a world torn open in the new reality birthed by empiricism and modern science, slithering through the fissures of the harmonic concordance which has been shattered by the might of human industry and will.

Man is no longer merely a clever beast, he has become something else entirely. We are all cyborgs, after all. All the more reason for synthesis! The crucial question to answer then is whether he has become more or less his constituent parts. Obviously more. We now add on the collective armature of the whole of our species to increasingly powerful frames through mass communication and speculative theoretical exploration; no longer captive to the landlocked and resource scarce existence of our ancestors, oft trapped upon infertile planes or swampy marshes, nor are we so easily dispatched by meteorites, those great foes from the sky, nor the devastation of hurricanes, mudslides, deluges of the rain-cloud, nor the ague or the fangs of chittering beasts. Hence, the only truly meaningful question left in regard to man in relation to the earth is: “Should he continue the process of reifying his immanence, thus synthesizing the manifest and scientific images or doing away with one or the other or should he cease and desist altogether?”

Before we can even begin to answer such a series of questions it is of great importance to critically examine the conceptions of the earth which have been constructed by the manifest image, what we shall here collectively refer to as the specter of earth. What then is this specter which shrouds our clarity? The answer is: not earth as-is but rather, the idea of earth which has been collectively crafted from centuries of our relationship with it, imbued with agency by our own, misattributed and implicitly carried. Whether the concept takes the form of earth-as-hyperorganism or earth-as-deity; what is fundamental to the foundation of the concept of the specter is the idea that the planet is something which acts. Additionally, the specter is a being which also has specific interests which its proponents contend broader humanity (or in rarer instances, all human action) is actively working against, for in the philosophy of the spectral shamans, Man is nothing more than a virus, crawling out upon the whole of the world, siphoning it’s lifeforce with vile machinic efficiency for some unstated, hideous and invariably cataclysmic end. The decline of anthropocentric thinking via the rise of new and destabilizing schools of thought have acted as catalysts to this thought-process which has, in turn, allowed the mental ecological niches necessary for anti-human envirocracy7 to grow. But is this mindset justified? Is it true? We would affirm that even if such statements were true, that should not mean that man should cease philosophical and technological innovation and simply set himself down into the muck and the mud, scratching about with sticks to carve out a hovel in the hardening clay of some noisome landslide. All of nature wars with us and it is only right and just that man should the wage battle with equal fury. Now as ever. But before we lay out our positive position (what is correct and should be done) we must first finish our negatory enterprise (what is wrong and what should not be done).

What is wrong, principally, with the various notions which we here collectively describe as the specter of earth is that it is just that, a specter; a construct of the mind with no verifiable external reality. This is not to say that mental constructions are not themselves true or that they are not immensely important; they are. Rather, it is to say that there is a profound distinction to be drawn between the conception itself and the way that conception maps onto any given externalities (if any at all). As pertains to usefulness it is crucial to understand that every mental construction is only as useful or useless as its applications within the mind to the individual who contemplates it and the ability of the individual who conceives of it to then utilize that concept to effect “the world” in some way that is conducive to some end. In the case of humanity, that end is, typically, a anthropocentric one. The problem with the concept of the specter is that, though it is obviously false (or, in more rare and sophisticated iterations, unfalsifiable), it is not useless; in fact, it is highly useful for a variety of human pursuits. To illustrate this fact and better conceptualize the actual effects of the specter, consider the cult of femininity which sprung up around the archaeological discoveries of Çatalhöyük, Turkey. In 1958 the archaeologist James Mellaart unearthed the remains of a proto-city in southern Anatolia, Konya Province, Turkey. It came to be known as Çatalhöyük8. Among the ruins of the neolithic settlement were various female figurines which Mellaart believed to be evidence of a cult of some Mother Goddess that was “the basis of our civilization.”9 Other similar claims had been, for instance, the American occult writer, Rosemary Ellen Guiley wrote that goddess worship extends as far back in time as the neolithic and might possibly be even older10 and the mythologist Joseph Cambell once cited a discovery that was dated to 6500 BC11 which he believed to be indicative of mother goddess worship. The validity of Mellaart’s theory, however, was somewhat complicated by the fact that not only was the archaeologist possessed of black market connections, he was also a proven forger. Regardless of these facts, Mellaart’s theories garnered a following and in short order a new, tentative religion had sprung up around his findings (both real and counterfeit). A similar fixation surrounds the ancient Bronze Age city-site of Knossos in Crete wherein many figurines and frescos were discovered which hinted at nature worship conducted under the auspices of powerful priestesses. Despite widespread denouncement of the idea that either Knossos or Çatalhöyük were, in their time, hotbeds of mother goddess worship, the idea persisted; indeed, both locations are still quite popular tourist designations for dedication worshipers of “the mother goddess” which has formed into various different internet communities. The “the” here is significant as members of the Knossos and Çatalhöyük mother goddess community believe in a monotheistic conception of the divine; a great and all powerful woman-creator who stands separate from man. It is pertinent to note that many modern devotees of the Mother Goddess believe that during neolithic times (or other proximal ages) womankind lived in tranquility until they were invaded by men who brought chaos into the world through the creation of technology. In it’s modern iterations, mother goddess worship tends to arise in, or affix itself to, circles wherein radical feminism, Jungian Psychoanalysis, New Age pantheism and extreme forms of evironmentalism are present. Whilst Mellaart’s discovery was a important locus in the reknewal of the specter goddess, it was but a portion of the multifarious iterations of modern earth and goddess worship, which re-surged in the 1960s in tandem with reinvigorated feminist movements, the popularization of ecology and neo-paganism and various non-asatru associated witchcraft and occult movements.

Another important node in the reification of the specter of earth was the work of the independent British scientist, James Ephraim Lovelock. During a joint venture with NASA to discover life on Mars, Lovelock conceived of what he called the Gaia12 Hypothesis, which postulated that a planet which contained life could be thought of as one, cohesive and self-regulating organism. First put forth in the 1960s, Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis was elaborated upon in his 1974 paper, Atmospheric homeostasis by and for the biosphere13 and various, subsequent scientific and polemical papers and books. The Gaia Hypothesis, originally conceived of as a new way of modeling the planetary ecosystems, Lovelock took the concept well outside the bounds of the hard sciences when, in his paper, Science and Christian Belief, Vol. 4, No. 1, 29, he wrote, “Gaia is Mother Earth. Gaia is immortal. She is the source of life. She is certainly the mother of us all, including Jesus.” Therefore it is starkly evident that Lovelock, whatever his initial conceptions, had come to believe the earth to be a literal feminine deity, possessed of vast intelligence, power and agency; sensitive to the workings of man and all the other organisms which take up residence beside, below and above him. Thus, in Lovelock’s schema, man is subsumed in the telos of “the world” and must readjust his workings in alignment with it or face The Revenge of Gaia14. Two decades after Lovelock’s hypothesis took hold, numerous other earth-centric thinkers and movements began to percolate throughout the increasingly global zeitgeist. We must pause he to take the measure of the thing, the strange convergence of scientific modeling and neolithic mythology, which, we would postulate, might have emerged out of the isolating and uncommunal nature of scientific research; for instance, both Mellaart and Lovelock were academics, given over to isolation in pursuit of furthering their personal knowledge of their particular field of study. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that such habituations occasioned considerable loneliness given the obvious social dimension of the human animal.

New “green” forces, less mystical and considerably more political, began to arise seldom a decade after Lovelock’s magnum opus. In the 1970s, the international NGO, Greenpeace, rose to prominence amidst the hippie furor of the 1960s, having no single founder or founders, the group organically coaleseced around environmental concerns, gradually becoming both more influential and more radical in their beliefs and tactics. 1987 saw the publication of the book, The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, wherein Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor declared of the masculine,

Perhaps the greatest harm patriarchy has done to us is to stifle, coopt, and deform our powers of imagination. Moralism, dualistic dogmas, repressive prohibitions block our imagination. Patriarchal religions keep this fusion from happening, imagination dies, and is replaced by mechanical-linear thought patterns, i.e. indoctrination.”15

and in another section,

The world’s definition of God is the self-definition of humanity. The Gods who rule us “from above” are simply mirrors in the sky, faithfully reflecting our own faces. The Gods who rule us ‘from within’ might represent deep truths of the mind and heart, or they might reflect the profound self-distortions of four millennia of ontological misperception. We do not know if a ‘God’ is a true God or a false God until we see what kind of world is created in that God’s image. When we look around today at the world generated by the male Gods of patriarchal rule, we see warfare, degradation, suffering, and sadism on a scale such as earth has never seen, nor will ever see again—for of course if we don’t end it, it will surely end us.”

and later,

This is all very rudimentary, but once it has been set into motion as world machinery, every living thing on earth is entangled in its gears, all our functions become definitively embodied in its functions—and it’s very hard for those living inside the machinery to stop the machine, because our lives and all their ontological terms have come to depend on the ongoing machinery in all its terms.”16

Thus, we can see, from the mists of prehistory to the present, a consistent familiarity of association; earth to mother, woman as creator and thus God(dess), feminine magicks stultified and routed by vile patriarchal will and the persistent disdain for the horrid masculinity of the machine. If we define spirit as that portion of the human mind which motivates, and if we define the machine as the concretization of masculine will, we can accurately define opposition to the machine as indicative of a feminine spirit.

1‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man’ was a lecture given by Sellars in 1960. It was later transcribed and published in the journal, Frontiers of Science and Philosophy.

2Sellars, ‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man,’ p. 3

3Sellars, ‘Philosophy and the Scientific Image of Man’, p. 10

4‘Bracketing’ was a phenomenological term deployed by the philosopher Edmund Husserl, meaning: to suspend direct engagement with the world in partiality to better focus on some form of analysis of experience therefrom gained.

5The noosphere was conceived of as a biosphere of human thought. Nous = mind, sphaira = sphere.

6Notes on the Anthropocene: “What Must I Do?” At the End of the World, 2014.

7Those who place lack of human impact upon the environment at the forefront of all political & philosophical thinking.

8The name Catalhoyuk is a combination of the Turkish catal (fork) and hoyuk (mound).

9Evaluation Claims of a Mother Goddess Cult on Prehistoric Malta, Margaret Creech, 2015.

10Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experiences, (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991), 239.

11The Masks of God, vii.

12Gaia, or, Gaea, is a important primordial Greek deity who is the living embodiment of the earth.

13Lovelock wrote the paper in co-authorship with the microbiologist Lynn Margulis. The paper was first published in Tellus XXVI, 1974.

14The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth is Fighting Back, is a book published in 2006 that was written by Lovelock.

15Sjoo, Mor, The Great Cosmic Mother, p. 427

16Sjoo, Mor, Great Cosmic Mother, p. 217 [PDF ver.]

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