The Machine Will Never Triumph, part fourteen
Now again and now for ever breaks the great illusion
of human oneness.
Sons of earth, sons of fire, sons of air and water
sons of the living elements, sons of the unthinking gods,
women, women the same.
And then the hordes of the spawn of the machine
the hordes of the ego-centric, the robots.
For listen! the ego-centric self is the same as the machine
The ego running in its own complex and disconnected notion
using all life only as power, as an engine uses steam or gas
power to repeat its own egocentric motions
this is the machine incarnate:
and the robot is the machine incarnate
and the slave is the machine incarnate
and the hopeless inferior, he is the machine incarnate
an engine of flesh, useless unless he is a tool
of other men.
The great industrialists know it.
Mr Ford knows it.
The brain of the machine knows the limbs and trunk of the machine.
But oh, men, men still unmechanised,
sons of the elements and the unspeaking gods
sons of the wind and rain, sons of the fire and rock
what are you going to do, entangled among all the engines?
Behold the gulf, impassable
between machine-spawn, myriads
mechanical and intellectual,
and the sons of men, with the wind and the fire of life
in their faces, and motion never mechanical in their limbs.1
Human oneness always was and always will be an illusion. The only good oneness is a oneness of individuals who are free from entrapment by their egos. But a oneness based on race, religion, ethnicity or nationality should be shunned and avoided, since such a oneness can easily degenerate into an mindless mob. Now, we have only three classes of men and women: 1) those who have a direct perception of the Gods and who are completely withdrawn from the Machine (there are only a few of these great people); 2) those who have not or cannot directly perceive reality, but ally themselves with those who do (there are slightly more people of this class); and 3) those vast hordes of mankind who make up the bulk of the human population, who have become enmeshed within the Machine. As for this last category of men, Nikiphoros the Monk states in the Philokalia: “For if you choose to be a friend of this present age you are an enemy of God. And who can help an enemy of God?”2
Only those who have freed themselves from the clutches of the ego may become free from the mechanical paradigm of the modern world. Without attaining this freedom, the ego runs on autopilot, and this automatic consciousness runs a person until death. Egocentric people created the first machines, and now the Machine fosters egocentricity in people. These egocentric people are virtually robots, enslaved by the Machine. Men and women who would be free must separate themselves from these hordes of robot-machine-people. Past ages were not perfect, but they were better. The past two-hundred years have witnessed an ever accelerating disintegration of the individual and social consciousness into machine-consciousness. Lawrence describes this as follows:
I took the steamer down to Como, and slept in a vast old stone cavern of an inn, a remarkable place, with rather nice people. In the morning I went out. The peace and the bygone beauty of the cathedral created the glow of the great past. And in the market-place they were selling chestnuts wholesale, great heaps of bright, brown chestnuts, and sacks of chestnuts, and peasants very eager selling and buying. I thought of Como, it must have been wonderful even a hundred years ago. Now it is cosmopolitan, the cathedral is like a relic, a museum object, everywhere stinks of mechanical money-pleasure.
I dared not risk walking to Milan: I took a train. And there, in Milan, sitting in the Cathedral Square, on Saturday afternoon, drinking Bitter Campari and watching the swarm of Italian city-men drink and talk vivaciously, I saw that here the life was still vivid, here the process of disintegration was vigorous, and centred in a multiplicity of mechanical activities that engage the human mind as well as the body. But always there was the same purpose stinking in it all, the mechanising, the perfect mechanising of human life.3
When individualism triumphs, the ego triumphs over the interests of the community. When each individual in a society is egotistic, the entire society becomes egotistic, and this is how states and nations can enter into seemingly unthinkable wars and atrocities. Lawrence writes:
The true crown is upon the consummation itself, not upon the triumph of one over another, neither in love nor in power. The ego is the false absolute. And the ego crowned with the crown is the monster and the tyrant, whether it represent one man, an Emperor, or a whole mass of people, a Demos. A million egos summed up under a crown are not better than one individual crowned ego. They are a million times worse.4
Gerard Manley Hopkins puts the same sentiment into verse in the following lines:
On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.
Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none’s to spill nor spend.
How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life’s pride and cared-for crown,
Have lost that cheer and charm of earth’s past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man’s last dust, drain fast towards man’s first slime.5
Or to put the same concepts into formal philosophic terminology, here is Ludwig Klages on Spirit and Self:
The history of mankind depicts in man and only in man the fight “to the finish” between life throughout the All and a power outside the spatio-temporal realm, that seeks to split the poles and seeks thereby to destroy, to de-soul the body and to disembody the soul: it is called Spirit [Geist] (Logos, Pneuma, Nus). It also makes itself known by the dual nature of our being: through discriminating consciousness (Noesis) and through purposeful will (Boulesis). The common stopping point of them both, which has become for us the eccentric centre of life, is called: I or Self. As bearers of life, we are, like all bearers of life, individuals (that is indivisible independent beings); as bearers of Spirit [Geist] we are moreover I-beings or Self-beings. “Person”, in Latin persona, in Greek πρόσωπον, originally designated the mask of a mime through which a daemon speaks. This has long since become life raped by Spirit [Geist] and life in the service of the role that is assigned to it by the mask of Spirit [Geist]! We now live solely within a compulsion to think and a compulsion to want. Only by passing through the I-feeling can we still perceive the voices of the All from which we have been separated; this mask has grown into and is a part of our flesh and with each passing century it grows further embedded in us.
After prehistorical mankind of the dominating Soul [Seele]—we are permitted to interject here—came historical mankind of the dominating Spirit [Geist]. This will however be followed by the post-historical mankind of the merely pseudo-living larva. We are currently witnessing its appearance and ascent. But whether we poison, burn, or atomise the life within us and around us: the “fury of the Erinyes” arises relentlessly from the corpse of the murdered Mother. In vengeance for the defiled and desecrated life, humanity will perish in an inconceivably horrendous way at precisely that moment when it celebrates the last, limitless triumph of the larva, the Golem[.]6
The dark age of mankind we are now witnessing is an age of the spirit/self/ego, whereas the golden ages of mankind were epochs of the soul. In Zoroastrian terminology, the ego is the embodiment of the evil destructive spirit Ahriman. Though the Gnostics were counted as heretics for their dualistic metaphysics, they were correct in positing both good and evil principles. The Machine is the ultimate metaphysical principle of evil and destruction, and the ego is its embodied tool. The soul, on the other hand, is a direct connection to the Good, the Gods, and hence to the infinite life force that flows through all of creation, namely the Heraclitean Fire.
Thinking and wanting are the work of the ego. The soul does not think or want, but simply is. This thinking and wanting destroys vital connections and ravishes the planet. We are now in a planetary transition from the era of the ego to the era of nothingness. When men create machines, they are still—debased—men, but now it is the machines that create men, and men and women are little more than maggots crawling on the dead flesh of civilization.