Dreamed this morning of a parallel reality that lay behind this one, in the sense of being superior to it. In writing that I am struck by an idea of Heraclitus that Philip K Dick found centrally important. I forget the exact Greek, but the idea is that hidden form rules manifest form. This same idea, I think, is expressed in the way we say that someone or something is “behind” someone or something else, in the sense of causing or being in control of.
For anyone struggling with the idea (and I don’t really suppose anyone is), just think of Vladimir Putin. He’s ‘behind’ it all.
Well, shit, before going into this dream, this gets at something I’ve been considering for a long time. That being, indulging in “conspiracy theories” is like being a bigot, insofar as both of these types of thought are deprecated and considered shameful within polite society.
I think it helps to understand ‘deprecated’ if you consider what it means relative to writing computer code. Deprecated code still works, it’s just no longer considered as a best practice, given subsequent development of the coding language.
As in coding, there are forms of thought and speech that still work but aren’t considered best practice. “Conspiracy theory” and bigotry are, in general social terms, deprecated.
What I find interesting, though, is not simply that people still use deprecated forms, but the fact that license to use deprecated forms is a function of power. This gets more generally to what power in social terms generally is:
Power is the ability, and the license, to perform some forbidden act.
Think of the monopoly of force. Think how the first thing Moses did when he came down from Sinai with a tablet inscribed with the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” was to organize the mass murder of everyone who had been worshipping a golden calf. To have power is to have the ability and the justification to perform some forbidden act.
Use of conspiracy theory and bigotry are just examples of this more general principle. It’s not that most anyone is beyond these forms of thought, but that their usage (and justification) is a function of effective social power.
Anyway, so I had this dream about a parallel world behind this one, and I was an actor in both of these worlds. The event in question was a murder at a school, which I had performed while wearing an ornate mask that participated me in the other world behind this one. It was unclear what the actual event was, though, and this lack of certainty constituted the bulk of the dream.
My killing – and possible eating – of the other student may have only happened in the world behind the world.
The interesting thing, though, was that the other world consisted of a conversation through a series of archetypal beings, who shifted between being figures inscribed on walls, when they were silent, to being animate entities, when they spoke.
When I woke up, I immediately had the thought that these entities were in effect the personalities of semi-discrete parts of my own cognitive system… and this thought led me to remember the title of one of Carl Sagan’s books: The Demon-Haunted World.
After getting up, I opened a notebook and wrote: The house under whose floorboards the telltale heart beats is the same house Jesus referred to when he said to Peter, “I can see your house from here.”
And this gets at one of the deep problems of human existence: as what we know is always a function of our own cognition, the world behind the world is the world that is ourselves. We are the world behind the world. But, this seems to open the door to solipsism, by rendering the objective world as subject to the cognitive.
The religion of Science, naive scientism, counters this problem by in effect denying the objective reality of the observer, presupposing an “objective reality” which is really just consensual reality rendered absolute by naive faith and, where necessary, shaming.
This naive faith is well-expressed in the name of a tv show I’ve seen recently: Because, Science! I think the aesthetic of this perfectly captures the tragic insolence of our age.
Anyway, as it won’t be possible for me to tie this all up neatly, I’ll end with what seems to me the way out of this dark forest of ideas:
“To successfully comprehend and deal with changes, it is best to know the times; to know the times, it is best to understand principles; to understand principles, it is best to be open and tranquil.”
– Book of Balance and Harmony