Related collections and offers
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
OM C. Parkin
The Digital Age from the Viewpoint of the Wisdom Teachings
Question: We are undergoing the so-called "Digital Revolution," which was triggered by the invention of the computer, and there is a term that is associated with this, namely the "Second Modernity." The "First Modernity" was about muscle power being replaced by steam engines, and now in the "Second Modernity," it is important that the brain power of the people is replaced by artificial intelligence.
Where are we?
OM: I do not know. From the point of view of the eternal wisdom teachings, the "Digital Age" is not a revolution, it is not even a point of reference. The digital revolution will change the external world very much, in a good way, but also in a bad way, that is for sure. And it also marks a step in human evolution. But the eternal wisdom teachings and their laws will remain entirely unimpressed. This revolution is led by idealistic self-proclaimed benefactors of humanity from the Silicon Valley in California, who share a big misunderstanding. They are all subject to a serious internal/external levels confusion.
This is a rather unwieldy term that you have used frequently. Does it mean that they become unable to distinguish between the internal and the external world?
In the minds of these digital conquistadores, there is the belief in a doctrine of salvation for the whole human race through technological progress, which is supposed to substitute for religion. In other words: They confuse the seemingly infinite creative possibilities of the digital revolution and the life-enhancing conditions for many people in the world that they may be able to create with an awakening path for humanity. An awakening path is an inner path, and the leading heads of this revolution will probably not even know what an inner path is. Do you know why I find Apple© so unsympathetic?
Why do you find Apple so unsympathetic?
Not that their products are bad. On the contrary. It is the spirit. Apple is a good example for what I called "the descent of the sacred into the dullness of the material world" in the book Intelligence of Awakening. They consciously drive a mystification, a quasi-religious excitement about a product that ultimately nobody needs. A good example was their advertising for their iPhone: "If you don't have an iPhone, well, you don't have an iPhone." This is pure megalomania. Following that, an artist arranged an installation at the Altona train station in Hamburg, with a giant iPhone showing a different advertising message: "If you don't have a soul, at least you have an iPhone." From the viewpoint of reality it is completely immaterial whether there is an iPhone, or not. I could not care less about it. It is a testimony to the poverty of the soul and extreme naivety, when people, who are eager to purchase the next device, spend the entire night in front of the Apple Store, just to be the first ones who are able to walk out of the store with the device in their hands. The consequence of this mystification is that many owners of an Apple product, who suffer from a lack of self-worth, believe they hold a precious totem in their hands, which is charged with a force that is able to increase the value and meaning of their ego-mind.
This descent of the sacred, commercially exploited by many companies (all of them manufacturing something that ultimately nobody needs) is a purely blasphemous act, initiated by people who in their own spiritual world suffer this descent of the sacred into a world which is more or less devoid of significance and depth itself. This descent inevitably leads to a confusion of the internal with the external.
The replacement of the thinking capacity by artificial intelligence in the "second modernity," as you suggest in your question, has quite a lot of advantages. It means, for example, that we no longer need to save each and every known fact in our minds (a brain researcher would say "in our brains.") A few mouse clicks are sufficient to reel it in from the Internet. Artificial intelligence can be seen as the exposure of the thinking mind as a machine with inadequate properties. We could therefore focus on essential knowledge, which is never to be found on the Internet: The knowledge of the Self.
You also called the digital age a sublimation of the technocratic age. Does this, from the point of view of the wisdom teachings, imply also a collective developmental step, an evolutionary ascent? The introduction of the digital age has the potential to be the external reflection of a collective overcoming of the limitations of a purely rational intelligence. The limits of linear thinking will be blown out of the water and the next stage in the development of consciousness, the integral a perspective level is approaching. This term was coined by the consciousness researcher Jean Gebser. In his main work The Ever-Present Origin (first part), he writes about this level of awareness: "We understand this as ... the completion of wholeness, i.e. the recovery of an intact, original state in an enriching inclusion of all previous performance. ... The restoration of the 'dimension' of the human." What Gebser describes here is the integration of the Spirit in the human artifact. So how can the digital revolution contribute to leaving behind the developmental stage of a purely rational intelligence?
The digital age is also the age of information, since one of its characteristics is the increasingly complex networking, the provision and dissemination of information. Information is the content of the mental world. This means that the essence of the digital age is of a mental nature. In the inner order of the theory of evolution of human consciousness, this constitutes the final ascent to the third brain and the potential advancement of human consciousness into the realm of the subtle.
Sublimation is the evolutionary advancement in the direction of a spiritualization of the human being liberated from the entanglements of the gross material world. Spiritualization is therefore the expansion and increasing subtleness of human consciousness, a goal of the realization of the human evolution, taught by mystics of all times. However, this should be described in a subjunctive clause, because for the general population the digital revolution shows no signs of a spiritualization at all. This can only take place on an inner path. The digital revolution is more of a mentalization. Mentalization is the rotten fruit of an unhinged, disintegrated developmental path of a person lost in the labyrinth of a virtual mental world, because all the stages of development, which are the foundation of a culminating spiritualization, are truncated, or only partially accessible. In any case, they are not integrated in a healthy way. Mentalization is also a description of the state in which the main faculty of discernment on the inner path is lost; the real can no longer be discerned from the unreal. The mentalization itself is an artificial, non-real state, which is only imitating true spiritualization. The digital revolution, which will not be satisfied with artificial intelligence alone, but is obsessed with the creation of artificial consciousness, is doomed to exponentially escalate the collective mentalization. Certain parts of the nerd culture already show the tendency to become the archetype of the detached mental being, disembodied, emotionally crippled, socially challenged to a pathological degree, anemic. A type that is as virtual as the world in which he is lost.
Are you saying that the digital revolution is actually the sign of an ascent of human consciousness, in which the physical level for the purpose of self-preservation is becoming less and less important, also in working life? Is the nerd just an extreme, or is it a figure, an archetype as you say, who, in an extreme form, shows what also applies for the general population?
The nerd will no longer be the exception but is becoming more and more the rule. An addictive personality under the spell of the virtual world, completely lacking any rootedness in his heart center. A healthy and harmonious growth of human consciousness demands an integral way. Integral evolution is not a linear ascent, as the ladder model suggests, but an ascent which allows for a counterbalancing descent, also described as the involutive arc. Evolution needs involution in order to be integral. The spiritualization of the human as the fruit of an evolutionary advancement can only mature if the ascent is rooted in a descent. The higher needs to be rooted in the lower. Wings need roots. The expansive forces of the evolutionary arc need to balance the reductive forces of the involutive arc.
You can substantiate this anchoring? In your textbook on the inner path, The Intelligence of Awakening, you use the metaphysical concept of the "three brains of the human being," which divides the evolution of human consciousness roughly into three stages, in accordance with the "law of the three." I assume that by "anchoring" you mean the evolutionary anchoring in the lower levels of development, the lower brains? The three brains are a description of a simplified sequence of stages of development of the human person. The first brain, the gut center, is the physical anchoring. This is also the anchoring in the realm of sensory perception. The second brain, the heart center, is the anchoring in the feeling nature of man, and the third brain is the anchoring in the spiritual world. Few people continue to develop into the transcendent, transpersonal condition of the fourth brain. Any form of a higher, evolutionary level of human consciousness holds within itself the potential for dissociations, so that the lower level is not completely and soundly integrated with the next higher level.
In the first millennium, something extraordinary happened in the evolution of human consciousness, a process which can be seen as the original sin. An unprecedented spirit began to emerge from its unconscious origins and — for the first time ever — consciously said: "I." The thinking mind stepped into the light of the world and henceforth called it "My World."
This means that before the first millennium B.C. there was no thinking mind in man?
No. What we today call the thinking mind, that mentally operating I from which we quite naturally seem to operate in our practice of the inner path, did not exist before. The same incarnation impulse, the same demasking, we can observe on the individual level in each small child. The mind reveals itself only after it is emerging from its physical, tamas-like fusion. But this was not the spiritualization of which you spoke? The spiritualization for the common people? The collective ascent?
No, to the contrary, because the mind separated from its roots, i.e. it lost its anchoring. It was an ascent, yes, and it was necessary but for the common people it was not an integrated ascent, and the painful consequences are lasting until today. In fact, we have not even reached the high point of the visible consequences.
In his book The Next Development in Mankind, L.L. Whyte, a Scottish scientist and evolution researcher (1972), describes a collective dissociation of the occident, which began around 500 B.C. and continues to this day as "European dissociation," a dissociation of body and mind, a missing anchoring of the mind in the body. This is a collective mental disorder of the West, which I call the "regular madness" of Westerners because it is completely mainstream. "The mind (the thinking mind) constantly has difficulties with the simpler world of instinctive impulses and therefore tends to dissociate from nature (i. e. also from the body)," writes Ken Wilber. Already, the collective "European dissociation" has lasted for over 2500 years. It is a serious matter and is critical for exploitative, disintegrated aberrations of society against nature, originating in the occident, first in the industrialization, and now in the digitization.
I will tell you about an experience to give you an example, what the lack of an anchoring in the lower brains can cause: When I was in Mumbai, India, I made a day trip to a nearby island, Elephant Island, a very special place with over a thousand years old sacred temple sites. There are caves with sixteen foot tall Shiva statues of impressive grandeur. A place to receive with all the senses, with an open heart and a quiet mind, to breathe, to witness, to realize. A place to sit in silence and to meditate. But the Indian day tourists who populated this place, seemed not to be interested in the place. They were only interested in their mobile phones in order to send messages, to make calls, or to take photographs. Not even photos of these sacred monuments, but selfies — in the foreground: the center of the universe, myself; in the background: the sacred monuments as a backdrop for the I. It was an atmosphere of ignorance, which was hard to bear: disturbed people visiting sacred places to celebrate an ego of which nobody knows who that is. This experience left a strong impression, and it shows the disastrous consequences of a lack of anchoring, both in the present world of sensations, the physical presence of the moment (first brain), as well as the feeling presence (second brain). And it also demonstrates the very practical consequences of mentalization, life in a virtual world of digitization. The actual, integral experience in the reality of the moment is sacrificed in favor of images of reality. A clear indication of the total loss of essential discernment. Who does not remember the second commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image"? But the real significance of this commandment, its entire scope and its far-reaching consequences only a few have realized. By means of the new technologies of the digital world, the madness of the thinking mind, to capture everything in images, is being reinvigorated. (Images are nothing but pre-rational thought forms.) The flow of impermanence, in which nothing can be grasped, is lost, and this is precisely what this is all about. Behind these seemingly harmless phenomena of the surface and the ordinary, the ego schemes to accomplish its sole purpose: its immortality.
You are saying that the digital revolution cannot be classified as consciousness development, nor as a false consciousness development. It can be both. Does this also apply for the counter-movement? I am thinking of impulses like "Back to Nature," "Back to community," "Slowing down," etc. Do you see that there are some healthy processes of an involutive arc? Or would you see that as a regression as well?
In regards to the counter-movement, we must make the distinction as well. Therefore I make the distinction between a conscious and unconscious arc in the downward spiral of the involutive arc in exactly the same way as in the upward spiral of the evolutionary arc. What we commonly understand under regression is a quasi-synonym for the unconscious involutive arc, which cannot be a cure for an unconscious evolutionary arc. We do not need to go "back to nature," as for example the Amish people understand that by only using horse-drawn carriages for transportation because they reject technological progress. Similarly, there is no need for us to eat like the noble wild of the Stone Age as the paleo diet gurus proclaim. That is regression. An integral evolution, which is a true progress, requires an integration of nature. That is precisely what is wrong with the collective dissociation of the occident (European dissociation) mentioned above, which is a misguided development with disastrous consequences for the planet; keywords: climate change, extinction of species, pollution of the oceans, exploitation of the rain forest and, and, and.
As a remedy for this dissociation you describe the concept of 'conscious regression.'
First and foremost, this is the reconnection to the heart center (second brain). The opening of the heart center is of great importance for Western people. If a student is taught this reconnection on the path of experience no concept of "slowing down" is necessary. The deceleration is happening completely by itself, because the heart center has by nature a slower frequency than the mental center. The deeper we descend into the depth of our being, the slower the inner frequency becomes. This is why I feel a certain degree of resistance against the frequency of both, mechanization and digitalization of the world, which is way too fast.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Digital Age"
Copyright © 2018 OM C. Parkin.
Excerpted by permission of Gateways Books and Tapes.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.