Saturday, May 14, 2011

Technomysticism - Chapter 4 - Technological Devotion

This is the 4th chapter of my book "Technomysticism", published in 2009.

To read the first 3 chapters (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, chapter 3-part2)

The “Amputation” of organs is not the only toll which our technological extensions demand of us. Each new organ causes our perception of the world to become more complex and drives us further away from the basic feeling of unity. In fact, the story of evolution is the story of the ever growing distance from the from the experience of unified existence.

Psychedelic philosopher Terrence McKenna, describes evolution in one of his lectures, as the conquest of dimensionality. The evolution of more complex life forms was joined together with the evolution of ever more complex and multi-dimensional consciousness. Primitive life forms such as the protozoa (unicellular organisms) had very simple perception of the world, which does not include the senses which we observe in humans and higher animals. Because of that, one might say that the protozoa is in a state of utter unity: it fulfills its role in the world and never deviates from it. It experiences reality in amazing simplicity. The mind of protozoa, in as much as the protozoa have a mind, is focused completely on what it must focus on. Protozoa do not get confused.

In the course of evolution, as new senses and organs continuously appear and add new dimensions to our experience of the world, such as hearing, seeing, smelling, thermal sensing etc. the feeling of unity slowly disappears. New senses and organs cause our attention to flow and be diverted from the inside, to the outside world.

These senses and organs are, as we’ve earlier noted, unity’s way of coping with the world of the many. In order to exist in the world, the organism needs to develop tools to apprehend the world, to decide on the right course of action and to implement it. These are the technologies.

Seeing is a technology, hearing is a technology, smelling is a technology, a hand is a technology, a vagina and a penis are a technology, the GI tract is a technology, teeth are technology, and so on. In fact many of these technologies, which were created during the course of evolution, are only now developed, in much more primitive forms by scientists. Only now can we start to make robots that see or hear and know to react accordingly, and the development of an independent and efficient energy production system such as the human GI tract is still far from reach.

When new organs appear in the body, they necessitate evermore attention, like a demanding child or lover, taking it away from the other organs. Our consciousness, which in the days of the protozoa, could concentrate on one simple type of message, now needs to divide its attention again and again. In Understanding Media Marshall McLuhan claims that every time a new organ is added to our body the balance of the human nervous system is shaken, as it demands the body to reorganize it sense of being.

Technological organs disperse our attention even further, and take it away from basic functions such as movement, breathing, sensory feeling of our body and various other emotional, intellectual and spiritual experiences. One needs only to compare the breathing of the deer, whose breast contracts and retracts rhythmically and fully to the stressed and broken breathing pattern of modern man.

As more and more technological organs are added to the human body and experience, we also tend to become more neurotic and split-minded in nature. Man becomes a vulnerable to the development of various obsessions, mental loops and also different identities, which he spends a great deal of his time managing. Man’s ability to focus, is thus evermore impaired. That is perhaps the reason why the Hassidic school of Chabad claims that the divine sparks which exist in the animal’s soul are higher than those which exist in a man’s soul. Animals exist in a higher state of devotion than human beings – because they fulfill the wishes of their creator accurately. Animals are focused in the plain experience of the world and do not lose focus. Following the same vein of thought, one might argue that plants exist on an even higher level of devotion than animals.

Freedom is always the freedom different from the way your creator made you. It is the freedom which the father and the mother grant their children. It is the freedom which God gave to the world. As we move up the evolutionary ladder, to animals with more complex neural networks, devotion to direct unitary experience becomes ever more difficult to achieve. This is the state of man.

Freedom is not a bad thing, but a divine thing. Technology in itself is not bad. It is divinity’s way to evolve and express itself in a myriad of ways. The multitude of technologies is the multitude of life, of the potentials of being, a multitude of ways in which unity attains a fuller understanding of itself. When technology increases human potential, it is holy technology. The problem overlaying our culture’s disease is that the way we use technology tends to get out of control. Technologies have become cancerous bodies, focusing on repetitive stimulation of specific circuits of our monkey brain. Instead of developing, they limit us further.

Our mobile means of communication, for example, link us to a network girdling the planet, but they also short-circuit our communication and transform it into an SMS culture of low resolution messages which make it difficult for us to decipher the other side’s intention and force us to use only very brief modes of communication. Technology connects and short-circuits at the same time. It has linked us in a faster but also more precarious way. As technology makes the distance smaller, it also makes us smaller: it shrinks our attention span, and our range of expression and impression.

Technology must be used with devotion: creatively, with joy, honestly, with clear consciousness. The punishment for the unaware, numb use of technology is giving up freedom. Humanity’s problem is not an over development of our technologies. Technologies in themselves are sacred. They are God’s way to transform itself into more developed forms and achieve a more integrated perception of reality and of itself. This is why creation – god’s way of knowing itself – is the ultimate technological act. An act where unity teaches itself to become many.

Thus, the problem is not in the development of technology in itself, but in the unholy relation with it. The human race, in the midst of technological acceleration, can not keep its relation to unity.

Kabbalah tells us that the sin performed by the first the first man, Adam Harishon, was that he concentrated on one aspect of the godhead, and one aspect only (The sephira of Malkhut, one of the ten sephirot of the kabbalistic sephirot tree, which represents this world, among other things) and because he separated it from the tree of the sephirot, and saw it is as God, he has failed to see the relations which connect the whole of his being and distorted the image of God.

The technological sin is a reincarnation of that primal sin which has become an archetype for the failure to see the unity hidden in the many. The link to unity has been lost, and technological development has overridden the evolution of consciousness. Technology has become idolized and made into the only significant factor. It has become an addictive, cancerous element of our culture.

To the many who say: “The mobile phone turns you into an information addict, causes you to waste your time on senseless communication, disrupts your focus, will turn you into a sociopath, to a porn addict, and more…” – I say, yes, this is all possible, however we can not run away from the mobile challenge. Our new technological organs do not grow accidentally, but according to the God’s will, a primordial plan, or however you might call it.

We have eaten from the fruit of the tree of knowledge and we will eat it whole. Only then will we be able to say a blessing or vomit it out – we have the choice. There is no use in dreaming about deserting technology. We can not desert it, if at all, then technology will be the one to leave us. We as a species are only a vehicle which technology is riding, one moment before it leaves our biological semblance and evolves into new forms. However, to treat it that way might also be overly simplistic. Technology is us, and we are it. The image of man is the image of technology. Kurzweil, as we’ve mentioned, defines man as the one who constantly wishes to be that which he is not. Technology is that primal urge within us which keeps driving us to evolve. It was us whot were floating there in the primordial soup of life, it was us who turned to fish, to reptiles, to mammals. And every time we have learned to see the world anew, as a new metamorphosis of our being. We have turned into that which we today call “Man”. But man must always become something new, and since a million years ago, especially since the past 10,00 years of evolution, human evolution occurs mostly not on a biological level, but in a much more efficient and aggressive domain.

Technology is the scattering of the mind, and in that sense those who speak against it were right. However, technology can also become a force in the service of unity. We need a brain to perform meditation or to know God. Without technologies such as speech we wouldn’t be able to exchange ideas about God, without reading and writing, cultures such as Judaism or Islam could not have been created.

One could say that technology complicates our relation to God, but at the same time, it also makes it fuller and more challenging. God is there, where perfect multiplicity and perfect unity coexist. He already knows the one, and, according to Lurianic kabbalah, in order to know the many, he has created this world, the world of the many. The godly will to fuse with this multiplicity, with the other, to surprise itself – is the kabbalistic will to bring the Shekinah, the feminine side of the godhead to a divine relation with Kudsha Brich Hoo, the masculine side of the godhead. God is to be found in the fusing of perfect multiplicity with perfect unity, which is why we need to retain mindfulness, while working divinely through all our technological organs, and through all channels.

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