Reality Tunnels, by Iona Miller
Obsolete Reality Tunnels
Crumbling truths were simulacra all along. Meaning has imploded into digital binaries of electronic society. Reality has imploded into hyperreality. For example, digital art can be a copy of photorealism that is tweeked into a reflection of the imaginal theater of the mind; a copy of a copy of a copy of the original, bearing only a surface resemblance. Multiplied stylized images take on a life of their own, shattering the grid of repreentation (Deleuze, Guattari).
Metaphysical beauty hides the rotting corpse of new age thought, the eclectic pastiche of rotting and ruined abstractions. Seeking a root in today’s creatively evolving culture, many look backward, recursively adopting an outdated philosophy. R.A. Wilson and Tim Leary called them “reality tunnels” while McKenna dubbed it an archaic revival. Tunnelling make us “see” in a certain way; create our often myopic beliefs about self, others and world at any time. They are belief wormholes that take us to potential universes that don’t necessarily match up with Reality. They are a way of sticking our metaphysical head in the sand.
Physics and art face similar problems with imaginary universes that do not match up with this existant one. Even Renaissance art was trying to re-capture some values from the past, technologically. It’s good to ask yourself just where you think you are going? Where do you go from here?
You are already living a Hyperreality. Debord calls it the Spectacle; Baudrillard calls it the Similacrum. Beliefs are false promises to restore a mythical truth underlying the simulation. Belief maps create the fabled territory that claims to be salvation but is a well-disguised trap, mentally and spiritually. Do you opt for magical concepts that are tricks of the mind or the charm of the so-called real? Imaginal representations are metaphysical simulations, virtual realities.
Metaphysics is a dead end; all points of reference are liquidated by the universal solvent: chaos. Likewise the preferred terrain of popular religions. There is a short-circuit in our psychological position. There is no touchstone of reality or truth, beyond the simulation of the sacred, the content of sacred technologies. We have mass murdered our own models, creating a power vacuum. Only the simulation of power masks the political fiction.
Baudrillard concludes, "It is no longer a question of imitation, nor of reduplication, nor even of parody. It is rather a question of substituting signs of the real for the real itself; that is, an operation to deter every real process by its operational double, a metastable, programmatic, perfect descriptive machine which provides all the signs of the real and short-circuits all its vicissitudes. Never again will the real have to be produced: this is the vital function of the model in a system of death, or rather of anticipated resurrection which no longer leaves any chance even in the event of death. A hyperreal henceforth sheltered from the imaginary, and from any distinction between the real and the imaginary, leaving room only for the orbital recurrence of models and the simulated generation of difference."
CLICHES AND ARCHETYPES: Are you creating a unique reality tunnel reflecting your aesthetic like an artist, or a haphazard victim of dogmatic programming and conditioning? There are no ideals and no ultimate negation. Those choices just buffer us in archaic perceptual cocoons, rather than drawing us into the vortex of developing future. McLuhan pointed this out long ago, saying, "Utopians and anti-utopians are always obsessed with a period preceding their own. Orwell's 1984 happened in 1930." - MM, Take Today, p.75.
Most of New Age culture is either Theosophical or Utopian, sometimes in a very saccharin kind of way, sickly sweet if not toxic and phony; full of New Age “guilt”, parroting, parody, self-sell and put ons. Of course, it is good to root in tradition, but we can get caught in the web of living metaphors. But reality tunnels create tunnel vision, a subconscious filter of belief-congruent experience, confirmation bias. In the womb we recapitulate the phylogeny of species, and after birth our beliefs evolve following the historical arc. Yet, we never stop in our arc to live like a reptile, for example.
The human mind is a competitive memescape. Its 'normal' to have our desires shaped by the social grid and social codification (groupthink), but it makes us neurotic. The effect of pop culture is conformity; even our subcultures are homogenizing and recur in an infinity of fractal forms. Pop art is an oxymoron since it cannot fulfill the promise of art to deliver us from the conformity of market forces. The 'original' becomes a fiction; nothing is original since it is all derivative. But it may reflect the zeitgeist of the moment.
Everyone is a fundamental slave to the system because virtually no one can ever fulfill their desires. There is the saying those who forget or do not know the past are condemned to repeat it. But, in the post-postmodern world, what hasn’t been done? And done to death probably as good or better than it can be redone? Where is the unexplored territory?
BEYOND BELIEFS: Neurotheology has shown that spirituality is a natural phenomenon, hardwired into humans as a biosocial survival strategy that bonds groups with common beliefs and goals, personal and collective. This current runs so deep that for the majority of people, nothing is more important. It infuses all life passages with Presence and meaning in animism, shamanism, polytheism, and monotheism, even science-ism. We believe in belief even over uniformity of belief. But there is a deeper causal vector than beliefs, rituals, customs, commitments, and sacrifices: evolutionary value or fitness. It is the source of mythmaking, morality, sociality, and redemptive values.
Belief systems and paradigms provide rigid structures, the matrix of belief, we can use as our medium for self-expression. They allow us to investigate existence in conventional or unconventional ways. Research methods include setting aside received wisdom, burrowing deep inside your subject and learning to think like your material.
A meme is a self-propagating idea, a unit of cultural imitation that, much like a biological or computer virus, effectively programs its own retransmission. They spread through motivating their "host population," novel configurations of old ideas, and by proselytizers. Popular beliefs spread like contagions, cognitive viruses. Memes are informational viruses that influence our thinking, feelings, even our physical regulation.
Memes function like evolving cultural viruses taking on a fractal life of their own as the trances we live. They engineer our cultures and subcultures; what we will, won’t and can’t do, and believe. In short, self-replicating memes condition our lifestyles as “True Believers”. Each meme is an existential trance state. Memetic structures compel our attention; we propel and persuade one another toward them socially; sociocultural programming.
VIRTUAL REALITY CHECK: Korzybski pointed out that there are two ways to slice easily through life; to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking. So, from time to time you have to give yourself a Virtual Reality Check. The hallmark of postmodern philosophy has been disbelief or skepticism of all "metanarratives," or translations of reality. Postmodernism has even turned its profound skepticism on such important humanist concepts as "objective truth" and reason.
Yet, for a deconstructionist postmodern society, individually we are still riddled with superstition and gullibility, and open to manipulation through our belief systems as any politician, philosopher, clergy, or salesperson will attest. Further, most people are painfully naive when it comes to even the simplest scientific understanding. Most of us don't have a clue about the fundamental nature of physical reality or our own psychological nature, and our ability to be fooled by our senses and mind, or methods of social and technological persuasion. We may think we know, but the penetration is deeper than we dare imagine.
Nature rejects the naivete that seeks absolute truth. We are beginning to realize, individually and culturally, that "realities" are all human constructions. The task becomes one of "catching ourselves in the act" of creating our own "reality" from the flow of events. Human truth is always an engagement of mind with experience. The challenge of the therapist in these times of chaotic change is to validate the concept that we don't have to fear the collapse of what we think we are.
We can embrace this disruptive chaos, trusting that it is an emergent self-organizing process. We don't need to fear the collapse of our personalistic belief system (the "box" we live in), nor our belief in absolute truth. A strong desire to engage in the "quest for uncertainty" complements our anxiety that perhaps there is no absolute, objective ground to reality. The warrant of Truth is ever elusive when we deconstruct the foundational justifications of our convenient notions about the way the world works.
It is easy to confuse what is actually the creation of beliefs with the "discovery of Truth," a common goal of science and theology. Science offers no ontological Scientific Picture of the World but substitutes a number of applied theories as meta-theory. It’s close, powerful and useful: it ‘works’ and allows use to do work. But the still mysterious “true” metatheory may reveal the basis of consciousness. But who knows when we will lift that veil?
Permeating the living reality of our culture are certain contagious notions, fads and trends that have the ability to influence the way we think about the nature of Reality and ourselves. Some of them are toxic and can consume you; others are just whims of pop culture infectious and benign as the common cold. Jung described the concept of psychic contagion by certain archetypal forces inherent in the human psyche, which manifest in our spiritual lives and belief systems. He spoke of both conscious and unconscious contamination. Notions like this range from simple superstitions to scientific concepts, to urban myths.
Notions sweep through our culture and insinuate themselves within its fabric, as fads, whether they are "real" or not, they can be influential. They mood alter us, make us feel we belong. An analysis of these notions is useful in distinguishing a common human phenomenon from any potential "alien influence" which may or may not be exerted on us from an unknown source.
BREAKING THE SPELL: Skeptic, Daniel Dennett takes a hard look at beliefs and attendant phenomena in his new book of this name, and asks: Where does our devotion to God come from and what purpose does it serve? Is religion a blind evolutionary compulsion or a rational choice? In a spirited investigation that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. He contends that the “belief in belief” has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need.
Ask yourself how adaptive it is to remain spiritually, mentally, or emotionally stuck in the past, for whatever reason. In my written archive you can catch me at virtually every phase, yet never stuck in one. Most forms of ‘worship’ are either archetypes or clichés, perhaps both. Personal revelatory experiences are no measure; they are often fraught with strong emotional content, but faulty thinking built on a grain of Truth. Often it is a compensatory mechanism to help us maintain specialness, a trick of the mind and self-image. If you recycle a retrievalist reality tunnel you are blinded to other options. It’s like being a scientific or artistic specialist; you know more and more about less and less.
What organic robotoid, parroting perennial philosophy is truly spiritual? Future-resistance stops the process of maturation, as well. What we procrastinate about can take on overwhelming dimensions. It is a way of not “letting go” of outmoded forms that stunt developmental potential. Be careful what models you let colonize your imagination. Are the terms you define yourself with irrelevant? Those whose cherished beliefs are challenged in the context of traumatic life events are likely to experience severe spiritual disequilibrium; manifesting chaos instead of self-organization.
Spiritual disequilibrium can be a blessing, heralding rebirth: emergence from the destructuring of emergency, breakthrough from breakdown. The future draws us forward like a handshake reaching back from somewhere between our fate and destiny, the strange attractor of our own futurity. It does not squeeze us into a recycled mold, and send us down a dusty rabbit hole of myopic vision. That is not focus, but self-deception, disinformation. You are probably not the “reincarnated alien-hybrid messiah of world peace and environmental restoration”. But you do make your own global contribution to the commonweal, especially through self-awareness, practice, service, and compassion.
The Cloud of Unknowing, a medieval mystic text, describes the human soul as embodied in one's memory, reason, will, imagination, and senses. Yet, all these faculties are falsifiable or easily subject to distortion. Unless USED artistically, rather than passively, media is an interruption of our internal narrative, our self-talk; a detour in content and focal point. Is your phone more important than your movie, or your loved one?
Interruption enables incoming messages by lending them shape and hijacking our attention, or they enter subliminally. Particularity is content and momentary truth. The goal is not to pick the right reality tunnel or be psychically tunneled by obsolete beliefs but to live freestyle on the tunnelless edge of dissolving boundaries, the anticipatory/participatory fusion of NOW.
BOUNDARY FREE CREATIVE EDGE: In part, this is the source of the generation gap. The imaginative and adaptive faculties play a big role in what century (archaic revival) we choose to live in, according to our adopted beliefs, which condition our perceptions. Popular options include eclectic adaptations of the world’s religions, neo-tribalism, psychics, and gurus; even science and art have their own historical POVs.
The so-called New Age of spiritual snake oil sales actually harbors the agenda of hijacking the Holy Grail of new paradigm thinking, as long your new vision resonates with a polyglot of poor research protocols, implausible assumptions and lack of critical thinking. Radical pointlessness is the least occupied position, having no POV the toughest to maintain. The poetic vision of Science-Art does not split the material base of Multiverse from the reflexive component of Spirit. It encourages mythopoesis but not literalization at the expense of common sense.
There is a paradoxical dissonance between old and new ways of being in the environment; things that should be preserved and those that are emerging. Things that stay the same are isomorphic constants; but metamorphosis, metaphoric change creates a sense of novelty and newness. The new excites us by emotional appeal, overwhelming our senses, shocking us, thrilling us, or otherwise modulating our systems in a way the old cannot. It reflects the future of our dreams.
Our own epistemological metaphors describe how we know what we know and what it is like. Harking back to the past for a point of reference helps us move from the known to the Unknown in our descriptions, but if we take our metaphors literally, our beliefs stay archaic. We continue to recapitulate the philosophical evolution of mankind, but not truly move forward into new territory. The same is seen in the iconography of “sofa” art, which recycles the same tired themes and styles in the same media, over and over.
ALL the creative juice of science and art is at the leading edge, the living edge. Chaos theory defines the “edge of chaos” as a special dynamical balance. Science has shown that order emerges from the critical paths of chaos. In psychology, it means sticking to the image as given in Imagination, rather than resorting to glib dream or symbol interpretations. Shamanic personalities work at the edge of chaos for healing. Talent expresses at the edge. Phase transitions occur here, state changes, quantum leaps of consciousness, complexity. Like Schrodinger’s Box, it separates the Living from the Dead.
COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS: Wyndham Lewis wrote that all "living art is the history of the future". The formula is we become what we behold. What our culture compels us to behold is the holographic ICONOSCOPE: all the new media that both virtually surround and contain, as well as permeate our lives, and comprise an intrinsic part of our environment. The mind-numbing rate of change in our society is so unprecedented it is called Future shock. It’s a technological tsunami.
Debord called it a Society of the Spectacle, emphasizing its visual nature. Everyone is a player. Spectacle as a commodity is embodied in so-called Reality TV. The War on Terror is a materialized ideology, fighting an Idea. It is unwinable since you can’t wage war on an idea. Ideology is the problem, not the solution to human survival technology. Coercive ideas foster looting of natural resources, coercive institutional power and imported orthodoxies. The same dynamic produces trends, fads and memes, which permeate thinking as well as lifestyle. All gnostic forms are based in an ideology and theology of truth and secrecy.
Baudrillard speaks of successive phases of the image: 1) It is the reflection of a basic reality. 2) It masks and perverts a basic reality. 3) It masks the absence of a basic reality.4) It bears no relation to any reality whatever: it is its own pure simulacrum. In the first case, the image is a good appearance: the representation is of the order of sacrament. In the second, it is an evil appearance: of the order of malefice. In the third, it plays at being an appearance: it is of the order of sorcery. In the fourth, it is no longer in the order of appearance at all, but of simulation.
YOU TURN ME I-ON-A: We literally have the electromagnetic capacity to broadcast our images if not ourselves to the stars. We broadcast our identities as a fusion of recombinant personae, cliches, and archetypes: infinite fractal use of finite iconography: technological self-amplification of our bodyminds. You turn me on; I turn you on in a fusion of knower and known. I call my broadcast "Radio Free Qabala". coming to you from station IONA, sponsored by the Temple of Living Light. Channels may vary in your locale, that is, by your capacity to tune in and comprehend my essential nature.
Hegel said, “Self-consciousness exists in itself and for itself only insofar as it exists in and for another self-consciousness; that is, it exists only by being recognized and acknowledged.” Likewise, only relationships between objects are observable. Arguably, language was the first real technology, and all others mere extensions of our five senses. Metamagic, the original reality medium, is a hypercharged spiritual technology, driven by ritual and belief: active attention is synonymous with “worship”. We are a fractalization of collective history. We are carried forward by the anticipation of our own lives, their emergent qualities. Infinite mirroring and anticipation is beyond synchronicity; Xenochrony is the holomovement of Xenochronicity. Only the level of resolution changes, not the content.
LIFE IS A HOLOGRAPHIC PROJECTION: The team of physicist Peter Gariaev detected DNA Phantoms in their research and concluded that we are human biocomputers. The genome is a quasi-intelligent system, but the wave level of genetic coding programs and organizes our 3-D spatial/temporal organism. Gariaev describes DNA expression as a meaningful text that is read and projected by DNA in 3-D in a bioholographic process with sound and light, much like programs of DNA movies or videotape. The digital analogy is probably even closer to the process of development and maintenance.
These movies get corrupted over time and produce aging and mutations. Wave genetics offers new healing and life extension possibilities. Morphogenic information is holographically transmitted and programmed. DNA is not 98% junk, but the formative and transmissive text.
All the cells of our organism combine to form a unified informational space which functions as a DNA wave biocomputer regulating morphogenesis and metabolic information, activated by transduced coherent light and modulated sound. This is more fundamental than genetics or molecular biology. Disturbances in the field that presage disease can be treated.
Healing information can be transmitted in waveform by resonance, sound and light, correcting error patterns or missing information. Video morphogenic information is regenerative, patterning a healing matrix. The bio-computer reads or scans the data and adapts according to the DNA-movie of healthy form and function. A weak field produces a powerful result. We are mutually linked material and nonlocal energy-informational substances that dynamically exchange energy and information. Soon we’ll be able to “change the movie” physically with quantum bioholography as the medium. This is another aspect of the Acoustic Environment: structural cymatics.
TECHNOTOPIA: Evolving technology resonates like feedback in our phenomenology. Buckminster Fuller did not view technology as separate from nature and our nature, biological intelligence and technological evolution, including speech. Our separateness has created the pursuit of infinite individual "reality wormholes" which reconnect us with collective unconscious, collective identity through "voluntary ESP".
We no longer live as point-particles but in our waveforms, often spread simultaneously over several time zones. We can read the entire holographic time log of the Akashic Records at our local theater or on DVD. In Dobb’s vernacular, “past times have become our passtimes”, including interests in deep nature as the province of science and art, and obsolete gnostic and spiritual technologies.
According to Baudrillard, when the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning. There is a proliferation of myths of origin and signs of reality; of second-hand truth, objectivity and authenticity. There is an escalation of the true, of the lived experience; a resurrection of the figurative where the object and substance have disappeared. And there is a panic-stricken production of the real and the referential, above and parallel to the panic of material production. This is how simulation appears in the phase that concerns us: a strategy of the real, neo-real and hyperreal, whose universal double is a strategy of deterrence.
KINETIC FIELD OF DREAMS: The Digital Revolution is here and it IS being televised in a myriad of fractal incarnations, but not on your Grandmother's screen. For artists, the 21st Century is a Digital Universe. In the perceptual-space we now occupy, the gender of presence is neither male nor female, but discarnate! It is the era of the metamorph. Even conventional artists can manipulate their images into a myriad of morphs. Because of insurance problems, fine art has moved toward the giclee print where originals are printed onto canvas and overpainted with a topcoat of paint. But why even bother with the smelly stuff? High end galleries are installing projectors. Popular art is being displayed as virtual paintings on plasma screens in private homes.
NEW MEDIA: Media guru Mark Stahlman defines this term he coined as the media, which replace the ‘cinesthesia’ of TELEVISION as the dominant environment in our lives and culture. Surround sound is already the medium that replaced television. Home theaters now dominate the consumer electronics business. They are simply big television sets with multi-channel sound added, replicating the experience of multi-channel sound in movie theaters. Acoustic space as surround sound replaced the "tactility" of television.
Media analyst/cultural theorist, Marshall McLuhan stressed that ALL media are ultimately a matter of sensory balances and sensory biases. He believed that artists need to integrate, analyze and utilize rapid changes in technology, in order to truly have a mass impact on people in the modern age. But the electronic environment isn't limited to artists but is available to virtually everyone. No one escapes its influence. Rapid evolution of communication devices enables and future-shocks us at the same time.
On the other hand, some new media are in the hands of individual artists, who have the capacity to produce desktop films, find innovative new means of distribution, or create art that helps us meet our future. It doesn't take a multimedia studio to create meaningful work. But cultural and political factors are still limiting factors in the global arena of spiritless totalitarianism.
The era of revolutionary democracies is over, replaced by corporate feudalism which holds our attention in a vice grip of technological self-absorption and self-interest that infiltrates the thinking of both left and right with media propaganda. The Fear-Media Machine fights democracy and liberty with fear and racism, creating a mass culture of disembodied cyborg mutants.
The alluring promise of full-immersion Virtual Reality is the ersatz embodiment of this disembodiment, naturalized technological alienation. Still, the so-called New Age is still focused on 19th and 20th century out-of-body experiences, apparently ignoring they are rarely in-habiting their physical bodies. By subverting new media, the artist introduces a new way of being: Homo Lumen, who recognizes our essential nature is nothing but light. It is the old shamanic function of art and artist in 21st century form, artists and scientists who make the electrons dance.
In Simulacra and Simulation, French social theorist Jean Baudrillard argues that our "postmodern" culture is a world of signs that have made a fundamental break from referring to "reality." Reality is simulation of the simulation of reality. The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth--it is the truth, which conceals that there is none. The simulacrum is true.
For Baudrillard all the media of information and communication neutralize meaning and involve the audience in a flat, one-dimensional media experience which he defines in terms of a passive absorption of images, or a resistance of meaning, rather than the active processing or production of meaning. The electronic media therefore on this account have nothing to do with myth, image, history, or the construction of meaning (or ideology).
Television is interpreted instead as a media "which suggests nothing, which magnetizes, which is only a screen, or is rather a miniaturized terminal which in fact is found immediately in your head -- you are the screen and the television is watching you. Television transistorizes all neurons and operates as a magnetic tape -- a tape not an image"” (from Baudrillard: A New McLuhan?)
Welcome to The Media Matrix, the 'machine war'. Are you the One; a Neo trying to figure it all out in a world where nothing makes sense but Ones and Zeros? New Media paradoxically sucks us into the vortex of disembodiment and is simultaneously the anodyne that assuages the resulting pain of alienation. We have fused our nervous systems with the information environment, fusing and morphing both art and nature. Biomedia, genetics and wave genetics are not human survival technologies, but just the opposite, by making us transhuman.
FIGURE-GROUND SHIFT: Shift happens. It is the ground that is the medium, for the most part, and the figure-ground relationship that creates the message. It is the capability of the underlying medium to appear in and through fundamental changes and to sustain fundamental change in this way which is the message (mission), the sending.
It might be said that the message of (genitive?) medium/media exceeds any figure-ground relationship by ex-posing the passing of some previous ground or grounds in the past and pointing to the analogous passing of the present one in the future.
Exceeding figure/ground indicates grounds (plural), indicates medium indicates message: "changes the medium, which is the message." The medium is the message because the medium, aka the plurality and dynamics of media, is what the message is always going on about. In Take Today, McLuhan states, “Hypnotized by their rear-view mirrors, philosophers and scientists alike tried to focus the figure of man in the old ground of nineteenth-century industrial mechanism and congestion. They failed to bridge from the old figure to the new. It is man who has become both figure and ground via the electrotechnical extension of his awareness. With the extension of his nervous system as a total information environment, man bridges art and nature.” - p.11
New Media are the various implementations and the profound implications of the shift by acoustic space from the ground of our lives under the conditions of the electric media environment (i.e. television). They are becoming the figures of expression in our increasingly post-electric world -- in particular, as reflected in three-channel stereo (3CS.) When you run your own multimedia content through your home theater, it becomes your own Church of Self-Amplification.
The post-electronic environment is the ground that is the true medium which creates the message, altering our perceptions of self, others and world. The ground of consciousness itself is necessarily double. It includes the nothing part of itself and the something part of itself; and can’t see itself. Conspiracy is the ground of the shifting paradigm. Bob Dobbs points out, “I would say, the reason why the profane think (increasingly) conspiratorially, is: we have disappeared. So, we are not manipulable anymore. Therefore, the whole social engineering through the media, controlling masses as puppets (conspicuous consumers) - it’s a rearview mirror image. We can now see it aesthetically; or as an artform. So WE like to think and project that we’re being manipulated. Thus, conspiracy is the crude popular slang version of watching (Orwellian) TV and seeing the arty ego-ads manipulate you - saying: hmmm, they’re manipulating me. And I know they’re manipulating me! And they know I’m knowing that. There you have a menippean irony going on! And so, an alphabetic distillation of this process is: "We’re being controlled and it’s a conspiracy."
What's New with My Subject?
BYTE ME: Media are unconscious extensions of our sensorium. In 2006, New Media are Broadband, Wireless, High Def, and creating portable environments: the cell phone, high rez digicam, digital video recorder, gaming, podcasting, V-cast. The cell phone has become both the mini computer and TV screen with on demand self-programming of content. Portable screens represent a crucial inflection in the arc of digital media development.
McLuhan's famous dictum, "The Medium is the Message" had a second part -- "The Audience is the Content." Entertainment content must become more and more compelling or we simply make our own. We all now have the capacity to capture virtually every nuance of our lives digitally. We don't have to "download" our psyches into the computer; they are already out there in the data streams as disembodied bytes in the aethyr, each with discrete wavelengths: our images, thoughts, and emotions.
LUMONICS: High Brow art dominated the artworld before Duchamp, followed by Low Brow postmodern rejection of all metanarratives. Arguably video guru Nam June Paik ushered in Know-Brow art based in electronic media. Only light can capture the nuance of energetic processes. Special FX pushes it imaginatively over the top. The multisensory electronic moving image is now an artist's medium. It can be employed to express representational and abstract imagery through recorded and virtual technologies.
The moving image is central to our visual culture, articulating new strategies and forms of image making. The kinetic image fuses electronic and digital media into a new form of expression. We can easily alter both materiality and composition of the electronic image; we can refashion its content, visual vocabulary, and plastic forms. Desk-top cinema has made individual productions a possibility that has jumped the Theatre of the Mind, to become sensuously embodied as a "body without organs", an Android Meme. In the vernacular of paramedia ecologist Bob Dobbs, the parts of the Android Meme are the Chemical Body, the Astral Body, the TV Body, and the Chip Body. But in an era in which everyone is a filmmaker, who is the audience?
PARAMEDIA ECOLOGY: Primal man made his environment by magic rituals that were re-enactments and dramatizations of the creative process by which the world comes into being. Even Renaissance art was trying to capture the values of the past technologically, but 21st Century art is a holographic time machine. Your beliefs determine what century you are inhabiting. Technology has the power to be environmental entirely independent of art as environmental.
Even Jung had no dynamic idea of the psychic role in creating technologies or in responding and reacting to them. Yet technologies, especially electronic tech, are extensions of the body, making us all Cyborgs. The psychic and social saturation resulting from electric extension of the nerves is much swifter than effects of mere extensions to our physical being, such as clothing, or the wheel, or mirrors. The environmental role of art can be spiritual or concretely physical. The actual effects of new technologies turns old environments into art forms that help define us as modern humans.
Dobbs defines the Android Meme as the ability of human-invented technology to acquire the intimacy of speech and intuition. In other words, the Android Meme is technology that has the qualities of "being alive". McLuhan’s chief characteristic of modern media is that they're living organisms. That means they can communicate. The Android Meme wants to join with us in an unholy alliance of archetypal technology and human organism. The Android Meme is a cacophony of all media, all technology and all ideas of particular times, anthropomorphized, trying to make itself human. There is no great architect of the Meme besides our compliance to feed it. It is collective mythic thinking, in the Jungian sense, where people mime/behave cues from technology when it becomes used by a million people and becomes environment (morphic resonance).
We actually download the archetype of the Android Meme into our nervous systems through television and multimedia. Bob says, “The Android Meme absorbs any response made to it. The artist's task is to understand and meditate upon the why's and wherefore's of its present techniques. This effort has nothing to do with how an artist survives economically.” So, don’t quit your dayjob.
"Media are really environments, with all the effects geographers & biologists associate with environments. We live inside our media. We are their content. TV images come to us so fast, in such profusion, they engulf us, tattoo us. We're immersed. It's like skin diving. We're surrounded & whatever surrounds, involves. TV doesn't wash over us and then go "out of mind." It goes into mind, deep into mind. The subconscious is a world in which we store everything, not something, and TV extends the subconscious....Such experiences are difficult to describe in words. Like dreams or sports, they evade verbal classification." (Edmund Carpenter; They Became What They Beheld 63)
According to anthropologist Carpenter, we are forced into new modes of communication and forced to create our own environments of declassified information when media render old patterns of perception obsolete. When we program our own psychic and sensory lives, we turn to artists who practice creating their own lives for reference. In many ways we are forced to improvise, taking what is at hand, and forming it into something that could be, into something new, but which is made from the parts of the old in a fractal reiteration.
ANTI-MYSTERY SCHOOL: SACRED AND PROFANE. We virtually 'worship' that which we give our attention; the more energy we give it the more we worship it. Our society is compulsive. Technology as the "demon of progress" is a spiritual rival, a rival to spiritual technologies, our "technical destiny". Naturally in the electric age this rivalry for the soul of man is far more intense than ever before: inner vs. outer quest. McLuhan’s thesis was revolutionary: each medium has a larger effect than its mere content, overloading, compensating and extending our physical senses, forcing individual minds and whole societies to adapt.
Today's 21st Century Media Mystery Schools retrain our perceptions even reviewing obsolete Reality Tunneling of the past: ritualized utility and understanding without boundaries or satcom interconnectedness. Technology competes for and effects human senses and perceptions. Art is inherently and seamlessly wed to media ecology. In some sense, the environment can be seen as merely a war between good and bad art. The question becomes not what do we believe and have faith in, but how can we live more artfully and heartfully, developing human survival technologies that feed our souls and spirits.
RECYCLING CONSCIOUSNESS: McLuhan taught that the environment is a programmed teaching machine. He was arguably the first feedback artist, hungry for people with new ideas, angles, insights, so he could use that material to generate more of his own. Feedback of feedback is bad feed, imitation and parody rather than the chaotic creative edge. Now, with weblife, cell phone/cameras, Blackberries and Sidekicks we all live in our nonlocal "chip bodies" and have become feedback artists, perhaps imagining we are generating our own content of infinite fractal reiterations in a vast parody of ourselves-the put on, the spectacle. Is there any CONTENT without an audience to receive it? Is there any reason to DO anything if it isn't a PhotoOp? At art shows now people are more interested in taking their own photo with the art, than in looking at it firsthand. The same is true for travel; everyone has a camera or digital video attached to his or her POV.
Between space and ground camera surveillance and GPS accountability no one is ever really ALONE; no first-person singular exists anymore. In Dobbs-speak, between voluntary ESP (net) and synthetic telepathy we no longer own our own thoughts and can't even know what they are or might have been without that perturbation. No wonder there is so much static on the Reality Channel of the Digital Universe. Also see http://www.fivebodied.com/project/
METAMAGICK; TECHNOSHAMANISM: Shamanic beliefs are based on the notions that 1) the matrix of reality can be manipulated with artistic endeavor and spiritual technologies, and 2) powerful artwork can be stimulated by a variety of consciousness altering experiences, or initiations. Technoshamanism is the process of altering consciousness through technology. It implies using the artistic, psychosexual, healing and mind altering techniques of ancient shamanism combined with modern technologies for altering consciousness, culture, and the holistic mindbody.
Technoshamanism is the interactive integration of futuristic technology with ancient pathways of the past. As an artform, it implies access to full-immersion experiences, virtual realities that have consequences in the real world. Magickal technologies evolve; belief systems are technologies. Magic means intentionally defining a state of reality through the transmission of information; the medium is the message. Ritual technology is manipulation of categories of information as data and instructions. Contemporary magic claims that the human mind can directly influence the state of reality, though old-fashioned magic attributed it to manipulation of spirits or occult forces.
This gnostic experience for the new millennium explores the final frontier: the untapped powers of the human mind: spiritual technology without the straightjacket of fixed belief. It means dancing through the doors of perception into the hyper-spatial realities of the unfettered collective imagination. The world of mage and shaman is the world of the spirits, psi powers, psychic phenomena, initiation, altered states, dreams, death, rebirth, and healing. It is the irrational realm of body, faith, trust, and belief. Shamanism reveals the uncanny world of superstition, disruption, dissolution, intuition, mysticism, transcendence, psychedelia, cosmic consciousness. It controls societies, revealing Dionysian and Apollonian spirit: sex and madness vs. conventionality, intellect, morality, and dogma.
Technoshamanism is also the world of what we can call extrasensory science. We can bridge the archaic and modern with cutting edge science and art, which dares to trespass into the forbidden realms. We can play the human sensorium with modulated electromagnetic energy. We can move shamanically through our blocks by heading directly into the fear and pain, which are the doorways to our transformation and head chaotically toward the creative Source. This is the shamanic journey. It is a restructuring process that dissolves old, outworn forms, and fosters spontaneously emergent new images and manifestations.
Technoshamanism is a voyage into the holographic matrix of experience, reflecting both our tribal heritage and global citizenship. In mythology Prometheus, staling fire from the gods, represents the archetypal technological man. Arguably, two defining characteristics of the modern age, icons of our times, are the omnipresence of the Promethean spirit and the pervasiveness of sexuality and its imagery, soft and hardcore pornography. But even more important and fundamental is the power of imagination, passion, and pathos. We can each tap the spirit of Prometheus and Promethea, grasping our share of the fire of the gods, taking a bite of the forbidden fruit.
To the extent that the shamanic personality (like any artist) has great power, he or she penetrates deeply into the basic roots of the structuralizing process, and brings that symbolic information back. In the realm of “metaphorms” our brain images reality and the universe in its own structural terms. This surreal vision attempts to portray the working of the subconscious mind. The future is being created in the imagination of the now. Herein lies the tremendous power of both art and invention. All the symbolic iconography of the ages is perpetually recycled and morphed at warp speed, and the vanguard senses that breakthrough is near. The morphology of this repertoire is embodied in Know Brow Art, neither high nor lowbrow, but cutting edge electronic media.
TRUTH VALUES: Categories of the "real" include not only the symbolic and imaginal, but also the hyperreal. Even our libidos have been hijacked and short-circuited by the therapeutic medium. Truth changes what we think and what we think is possible. All forms of psychotherapy are riddled with fads, buzzwords, and belief systems about how and when healing and transformation can and do occur, and what constitutes the valid content of the trusted process that leads to the healthy, authentic life, self-actualization. It may be an oxymoron.
Is the search for the “holy grail” of Truth the ultimate Quest, a journey rather than a goal, as so many philosophers imply? It has taken humanity through the physical rigors of horizontal exploration, and accompanied us on our trips down the rabbit hole of conceptual and spiritual exploration. But, as we know, there is ‘truth’ and ‘Truth’. Our beliefs compel us to engage in confirmatory searches, where we support, corroborate and verify to our own personal satisfaction.
It is the same drive that motivates both scientist and spiritual seeker to bite off an experiential piece of the Great Unknown. Is Truth primary or emergent? What is Truth? We may know nothing about truth but presume it knows everything about us. Our concept of truth is actually pretty flimsy. Metaphysical truth is by definition beyond observation, beyond the physically observable, yet perhaps available by deduction or inference.
The very first and foundational inner experience in Kabbalah (the art of being fully human) is the Vision of the Mechanics of the Universe, in order to foster a critical eye toward Reality and its underlying physical laws. How can you possibly comprehend yourself if you don’t know the fundamental laws of physics and psychobiology? A common existential “mistake” is viewing ourselves primarily as a solid meatbody, rather than as an electromagnetic wavefront in space that science suggests.
If you are wrong about the fundamental truth of your own existence, how distorted will your other notions be? Kabbalah is radically pragmatic, though not objective, empirical, or reductionist in its approach. It invites you to subjectively make the experiment yourself. We should take care that our protocols and resulting theories have a sound rational basis, taking the best from both ancient and modern worlds. The brain can register the same result for a simulated or real event; that is a double-edged sword that leads many to faulty conclusions. Can Truth be extracted from Cosmos; will the Truth ever come out? And if so, where is it hiding? All we know right now about the primary groundstate of human existence is that it is Pure Nothing (vacuum fluctuation; ZPE).
The physical and metaphysical roots of different kinds of Truth, relative and Absolute, include physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions; scientific and metaphysical truth. Truth relates to the Big Picture, adaptation and human survival. Even beautiful and convincing explanations can be wrong. Science often doesn’t know if it is ‘true’ and that is why ‘falsifiability’ is a keystone of the scientific process. We have various forms of truth but they are not reliable for understanding ourselves or Cosmos in the sense of a final and absolute Truth.
We try to obtain the most accurate explanation we can at the moment. Still, we cannot say there will never be an absolute Truth. Yet partial truths remain approximations. But this very lack of absoluteness keeps the future open. What most attracts our concern is often at the creative frontier of the mind.
Our understanding and definitions are refined as data are refined and our perceptions become more enlightened. It doesn’t change what is true, but it doesn’t mean we can never comprehend an Absolute Truth that is currently beyond our ability. We can’t really know. But expansion of our previous understanding doesn’t change the reality or truthfulness of existence. In black and white: what exists and true and what does not is false or a lie. Our perceptions can be wrong and sensible.
Reality can be strongly counterintuitive or contain hidden options at the point of observation. Truth fits happier with philosophy, but should not be confused with probability, as shown in the nature of paradox. Seemingly obvious truths are often not correct at all. We all harbor unwitting biases that distort the signals received by our senses and generated in our own psychophysical systems. Experiments in sensory deprivation have exposed the intense power of inner-generated imagery/feeling states. We can’t remove this distorting prejudice from our viewpoint so Truth remains elusive, if not completely partial and relative.
DISSONANCE RESOLUTION: Philosophy is about what is changing and not changing: the Absolute vs. Flux. The rate of change is higher for our culture than perhaps any in history. In all cultures, flocks of phone-users can be observed stumbling around in huge crowds through congested traffic, seemingly oblivious to every thing but what is occurring on the miniscule screen in their hand. The ubiquitous cellular device is paradoxically robbing us of our individualities and enhancing our creativity by adding the dimension of immediacy. No one is self-contained. In today’s world of instant communication our youngest appear to be losing touch with opportunities for communication with the self, for self-regulation. Children are growing up 'connected' at all times. Failure to be reached requires an explanation. We have changed our sense of a right to privacy, the sanctity of the individual: the power of one. It can be regained through focused self-care.
Dissonance resolution meditation can be learned in a variety of virtual environments, with the goal of self-regulation, stress-reduction, and wellness. By continually focusing on something that is mildly disruptive, the human system calls into play its own balancing and centering mechanisms and “overcomes” the mild disruption. Dissonance resolution within the nervous system is easy to demonstrate neurophysiologically because coherence, resonance, and entrainment of electrical fields and currents can be detected by analyzing neural activity with EKG (heart) and EEG (brain) techniques. Neurological aspects of dissonance resolution include becoming sensitive to very subtle levels of internal disharmony through growth, learning and expertise. Learning to identify the internal disharmony is similar to learning the “passive volition” of EEG or EKG control. The result once the individual has dealt with the mildly unpleasant stimulus is greater balance, greater focus.
A person can learn to control various aspects of the mind and body in pleasant, non-painful ways. Resolving the finer degrees of dissonance is another route to mastery of stress and achievement of high-level wellness. The basic idea is to involve the viewer in focusing simultaneously on both visual and stereo sound stimulation on a regular basis to establish both mind and body discipline. This consciousness tool is very much of a scaled-down version of what happens to the viewer as a participant when he or she is focusing on a matrix of shapes and sounds that are constantly changing in real life. That is a definition of DR at one level. But as a technique that is practiced and becomes a clear habit pattern, DR is still an effective type of meditation. Combining visual stimulation with stereo auditory patterns initially evokes internal dissonance. Conscious and unconscious processes serve to resolve as the viewer-participant becomes involved and then progressively engrossed in the stimuli.
Neurological visual and auditory meditations can be learned, creating habit patterns to improve the ability to focus. In this study’s form of meditation, dissonance resolution, the student is first given a mildly distorted signal to focus on. After overcoming the mild irritation of the distorted signal, the nervous system rebalances itself in order to accommodate that signal. One function of the dissonance is to attract the subject’s attention. After practicing this rebalancing skill, we feel the effect of mental effort as a sense of mild relief and increased focus.
However, any meditative type activity can have similar benefits, whether there is dissonance or not. Because of the considerably enhanced focus derived from regular meditation, a person can learn to control various aspects of the mind and body in pleasant, non-painful ways (Gilula, 2005). Mind machines and binaural beat technology such as Hemisynch and Holosynch CDs are alternatives for self-regulation.
DIGITAL CONTEXT: In 1993 I wrote an article on the Digital Universe for CHAOSOPHY Journal based on Fredkin's theory of digital physics, that information is more fundamental than matter and energy, that atoms, electrons, and quarks consist ultimately of bits--binary units of information. Online at http://asklepia.tripod.com/
A DIGITAL UNIVERSE?
SCIENCE MIRRORS ART; ART MIRRORS SCIENCE
DIGITAL CONTENT: The interface of computer science and physics has led to the concept that information may be as fundamental as matter and energy. Some believe that information is just one of many forms of matter and energy, which is embodied in things like a computer's electrons and a brain's neural firings. Others suggest information should be part of the new scientific triad--matter/energy/information--the main ingredients of reality.
Ed Fredkin goes one step further, with his notion of "digital physics." In this, and other systems, information is more fundamental than matter and energy. He believes that atoms, electrons, and quarks are ultimately binary bits of information. These discrete bits of information may be compared to the quantization of energy in light (photons). The work of Nobel laureate, T.D. Lee suggests that time may also be discrete.
Discrete states are the essence of the digital nature of computer operation. Discreteness depends ultimately on quantum mechanics. A general state which 'spreads' is a superposition of such discrete states.
Fredkin suggests that the universe may be a vast computer which creates reality through ceaseless repetition--taking information it has just transformed and transforming it further to generate pervasive complexity. Space and time are discrete, the laws of the universe are algorithmic, and the universe works according to the same principles as a computer.
According to Fredkin, not everything is best viewed as information, but it helps us model reality and create programs to test our notions. What he is saying is that "at the most basic level of complexity an information process runs what we think of as physics. At the much higher level of complexity life, DNA--the biochemical functions--are controlled by a digital information process. Then, at another level, our thought processes are basically information processing."
"...‘our rulers’...are engaged in the manipulation of symbols. We must consider ourselves a symbolic, semantic class of life, and cannot cease from being so those who control the symbols rule us. "Bankers, priests, lawyers, politicians, [and news media] constitute one class [of our rulers] and work together. They do not produce any values but manipulate the values produced by others, and often pass signs for no value at all. Scientists and teachers also comprise a ruling class. They produce the main values mankind has, but, at present, they do not realize this. They are, in the main, ruled by the cunning methods of the first class." - Korzybski
"The fault with modern society lies in its suppression of difference and its alienation of persons from what they can do. We must overturn established identities and affirm reality, which is a flux of change and difference, and so become all that we can become -- though we cannot know what that is in advance. The pinnacle of Deleuzean practice, then, is creativity. "Herein, perhaps, lies the secret: to bring into existence and not to judge. If it is so disgusting to judge, it is not because everything is of equal value, but on the contrary because what has value can be made or distinguished only by defying judgment. What expert judgment, in art, could ever bear on the work to come?" -Deleuze