Links 8/27/2023

Setting aside the fact that lots of people firmly believing in a thing beyond the world still are busy planning a future absolutely horrific and heinous in it’s own right for all of us, a couple thoughts, admittedly more of stream of consciousness:

Worshipping a thing beyond the world is still worshipping what is presumably the strongest thing, worshipping power and pure authority.

Perhaps that is more problem than solution.

Many say that our societies are turning to shit because lack of believe in some supreme authority, but even if that were part of the reason, it very well might still be only because our current societies made themselves more vulnerable artificially by growing dependent of the worship of power and authority (including and especially “beyond the world”) for so long.

Earlier cultures, from hunter-gatherers whose art show no sign of a figure comparable to the ruling gods that should only later arise in tandem with earthly despots, that seem to have believed and still tend to believe where they exist today and haven’t been assimilated by one cult of power and authority or other, in a much more egalitarian world of spirits, as well as early, sophisticated Mesopotamien and Indus Valley cultures that appear to have done well for quite a time without apparent temples, palaces and city walls, point towards the possibility that bowing before power and authority no matter where it is located, in or beyond the world, real or quite possibly fictional, is not the beginning of wisdom and maybe not humanity’s unavoidable fate.

The supposed power and authority beyond the world (and nobody in antiquity had any of those pseudo science fictional notions in mind that are today evoked by these words in most people’s heads (well, except some people in India, perhaps), the God of ancient Jews was not at all transcendent in the extremely vague sense in which modern Christians claim their deity to be, nor was he imagined as being pure mind or consciousness) has always justified every act of oppression and exploitation.

Even if somehow for the first time we hit a sort of wall, where for some reason some particular set of further acts of oppression and exploitation suddenly can’t be justified with/by the supposed power beyond anymore, too much has been allowed and justified already for far too long for those beliefs to now be peddled as a supposedly wholesome and innocent cure to a sickness that we are to view a utterly unconnected to the medicine.

After all, when capitalism became a thing it seemed to conflict in all sorts of ways with christian teachings up to that point, but instead of stopping capitalism’s rise Christianity miraculously transformed itself to adjust to the new reality (aka elite preferences) and the two only ever grew more cozy with each other over the next couple centuries.

Just because currently there is conflict that doesn’t mean that a form of Christianity (and other established religions) won’t arise that will be/see itself as perfectly compatible with transhumanism and indeed help selling the former elite project to the masses (again, it successfully did so with capitalism and other isms).

I for one have little trust in any kind of permanent rift between elites and their preferences on one side and organised religion on the other.

Believers in the Thing Beyond found ways to rationalize and support even the reign of their arc persecutor Stalin.

There already are more than a few christian transhumanists, plenty of anti woke transhumanists, libertarian pseudo populist transhumanists, pseudo socialist/communist transhumanists, the number of flavors increasing.

Sooner or later they might well come up with a truly successful one or more than one, including a flavor that can be sold to today’s mostly conservative critics or their children.

Even if a combination of transhumanism with traditional religion weren’t to become a killer app initially, it’s far from unlikely that traditional religions would jump on the bandwaggon if it ever were to become truly popular with the masses.

We would soon hear all the brilliant insights as to how belief in a thing beyond the world is actually perfectly compatible with transhumanism after all (and honestly, I don’t see why it necessarily wouldn’t be if there was a Thing).

Then there is the fact that transhumanism originated in and is most popular by far in and definitely strongly shaped by nominally christian societiesp.

Basically all prominent and influential peddlers of the ideology and their yesmen are at least cultural christians.

And boy do they yearn for some thing beyond the world.

Poor world.

In it we live and have our being, it sustains and feeds us, gives us sunshine and rain, regardless of how good or bad, perfect or imperfect we, gives us endless opportunity for joy without demanding obedience or worship, and yet so many us denigrate and hate it, blame it for their vices or for the fact that it doesn’t contain enough unambigious hints at the existence of a thing beyond it,

for stubornly refusing to take sides in our petty conflicts or to give us ego gratifying magic and superpowers, for being only very difficult but not impossible to shape by our will and even then only to a VERY limited degree.

So many of us don’t want to accept IT as it is, want to “transcend” and “escape” it, transform it beyond recognition, destroy it, etc.

If they want to use magic or technology, to do it themselves or desperately hope to see a magical thing from beyond to destroy it for them (but somehow, for some reason not THEM), it matters little.

In any case poor, lil old world is judged and condemned for it’s imperfections and needs to go or be violently forced it a shape more perfect.

So, perhaps the dependence on SOME sort of power and authority, regardless of where it is to be found, that might be very real but could still more learned than truly hardwired, the tendency to worship, especially power and strength, plus this desire for an unrealizable perfection, are all more part of the sickness than the cure.

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Lambert Strether