Epic of Gilgamesh and Apocalypse

Go, set off to Uruk, tell Gilgamesh of this Man of Might (Enkidu). He will give you the harlot Shamhat, take her with you. The woman will overcome the fellow as if she were strong. When the animals are drinking at the watering place have her take off her robe and expose her sex. When he sees her, he will draw near to her, and his animals, who grew up in his wilderness, will be alien to him…She went and disrobed in front of Enkidu and performed the primitive task of womanhood…When Enkidu finished with her, he turned his attention to his animals. The gazelles saw Enkidu and darted off, the wild animals distanced themselves from his body… Now becoming aware of himself, he became lonely and sought a friend in the city. -Epic of Gilgamesh, Tablet 1

In order to get some understanding of our current situation as a species, we must look to the past for context and reference. Ancient Sumer was not the first or only city to materialize during the earliest stages of the Neolithic revolution. They were, however, the first to record their thoughts on clay tablets that have survived time to be found and deciphered by contemporary eyes. Their thoughts took the form of a story, as most early writings not for legalistic or economic purposes tended to be expressed as narrative. The story, with its easy to understand plots and characters, was the most efficient medium for conveying cultural information for early Neolithic humans. It turned the indecipherable chaos of natural reality into a manageable series of events and decisions, into the ordered categories of cultural reality. So what does the Epic of Gilgamesh reveal about humanity’s transition from pre-civilized hunting/gathering tribes into city dwelling farmers/traders/artisans/etc.? For one thing, we see that it was not a particularly easy or unambiguously welcome change. Enkidu is no doubt devastated that his former animal friends no long want anything to do with him. He no doubt embraces woman, lusting after her beauty, but in so doing becomes all the more aware of his own ugliness. He longs for union with nature again, for return to the forest, but his new self-consciousness frightens both the animals and himself. The darkness of the forest is no longer a welcoming, motherly womb, but a dark and threatening abyss made more ominous by its contrast with the bright, walled-in city. The fact that woman seemingly caused man’s fall from nature is no surprise, though we must be cautious not to take the exoteric meaning of the story too seriously. It was most likely written by men, and therefore we should not be surprised that they would lay the blame upon woman. If we pierce the surface of the narrative, though, and see its esoteric meaning, we begin to recognize that man made woman his surrogate mother, replacing nature with its human/cultural recapitulation. Man could not survive totally removed and alienated from the natural world. He still required the nourishment and care provided by women, and indeed it is woman who is responsible for most of the development of “his” culture. Before the Neolithic revolution, in the Pleistocene, man busied himself with hunting while woman stayed home to gather food and raise the children. While her gathering made up about 90% of the tribes food supply, her even greater contribution was the babbling games she played with the babies. These games gave rise to our language, which allowed more complex cultural development and gave the human species the boost it needed to eventually organize into great settlements. Woman, therefore, is the bedrock upon which all man’s achievements are built. Being that the birth of civilization was so painful for humanity, might we assume that its death will be the same? It is possible, however we must distinguish between animal-man becoming cultured-man in the beginning, and cultured-man becoming… what? after the ending. Man has long ago lost his innocence, so he cannot simply return to nature as before. Post-civilized man is something new, but rather than ask what shape he may take, we must look at ourselves and ask what shape he has already taken. The ending of civilization is already upon us and probably has been so since the world wars of the 20th century made the failure of civilized life known once and for all. If they weren’t enough to prove this, the environmental peril and increasing decadence of the so-called “civilized people” now living in the developed world should be. The apocalyptic archetype has infected society as a whole, but the most sensitive among us experience a disproportional dose of its powers. What then, are we to make of ourselves? Who are we? Who am I? Such questions have no easy answers, and it is quite possible that they have no answers at all. It may be that they are posited in such a way that answering them conclusively is impossible. This kind of ambiguity seems to be a common theme for post-civilized humanity. We know not where we stand, nor even what it is that stands somewhere unknown. As Sir Arthur Eddington once remarked, “Something unknown is doing we don’t know what. That is the extent of our knowledge.” How then, are we to transition into a new age without knowing what form we must take? It is clear that animal-man similarly had no foreknowledge of what the transition to cultured-man held for him. It was, as it were, a blind leap of faith, though it was taken in near unconsciousness, man only realizing what he had done after the fact. For us, however, with our self-consciousness having increased to such a degree that we can barely move without second guessing ourselves, such a leap must be taken in full understanding of its possible consequences and implications. For cultured-man to become spiritual-man, he must leave the assurance and protection of city life behind and leap, not back into the depths of the forest, but into the furthest reaches of inner (or possibly outer, or possibly both) space. It will not be an easy transition, and no doubt we will experience birth pains. But nothing truly new can come about without the total destruction of the old. Apocalypse brings with it such destruction, but great opportunity follows in its wake.

Is the Internet integral?

Is all this blogging and vlogging, all this artificial symbol exchanging, really changing the world? I think the answer to that question depends on us. This whole activity itself (trying to save the world by networking) is the evolutionary zenith of the human conscience. It is our most self-consciously social undertaking in history. We are “self-consciously social,” which means we are so aware of our own alienation that we direct all our attention to the other in a desperate attempt to save ourselves. Is it working? Again, I think it depends on you and me. It depends why we share ourselves with the global mind… with eachother. Why do we pour so much time into this… are we just lonely? Are we naive idealists who think mere words and videos can change the world? I think we are lonely, and I also think we are idealistic… but that doesn’t mean the world isn’t already changing because of this. I think words and videos change minds. And minds change the world. We are the ones who read/write the blogs and watch/record the videos. We are the ones who are trying to create, and who I think have largely suceeded in creating, the first genuinely global human community in history. The sucess isn’t complete, obviously. But it’s growing every day. People are in-touch with people again… We are beginning to understand eachother… We are narrowing the gap between public and private life, becoming planetary citizens who realize the full potential (and responsibility) of the human being. The most important thing, the thing I keep trying to remind myself of, is that the movement is nothing unless I am honest with myself. No one else is going to make this work… no ONE. We’ve all got to commit to living for eachother… only then can we save ourselves. Only then will these words and movies make minds change the world.

What does it mean to be integral?

As of right now, I have no idea what I could end up saying about the essence of integral spirituality. You must of course trust that I have not edited the text and interfered with its temporal flow. I’ll admit I had to stop and reflect to gather my thoughts before I wrote each of the prior sentences. But that is also how we speak– at least how I speak. I’ll come clean now, though… I did have some idea what I wanted to say before I started this blog: I wanted to say that this all has everything to do with intersubjectivity.

The cosmos evolves. That means nothing is separate and everything is connected. No one force, no single holon, can act but in concert with all other holons. Higher holons may have more intentional weight, more creative and expressive capability, but the lower holons still pay the bills. To evolve, then, is to grow more complex and more connected. Life suceeds in this process of self-creation only when the higher complexities don’t become so unhinged that they snap off and send the whole system tumbling back to the bottom rung of the latter. I’m thinking here in terms of the mind, its relationship with the body; and through the body, the world. The mind is straining so hard to see the world that the body itself is dissolving. Might this be the root of our ecological crisis?

To get back to intersubjectivity… This strenuous relationship between the mind (the I) and the world (the It) has had a covert but deeply influential role to play in our understanding of what it means to communicate. If we leave the body behind in an attempt to get a clear and objective view of the world, we find that we can no longer even recognize ourselves. The mind no longer exists so long as I have perfect knowledge of the observable world. Well, it may exist (the scientists have to think their theories into existence, after all)… but it is not significant. Only material symbols are significant. Everything else is a misunderstanding. But if we remain within the body, words become gestures. A disembodied mind’s feelings become hidden because the body is repressed as the mind retreats inward. Communication becomes disinterested and vague. Words seem to have no stable meaning. Gesture, though, is a direct conveyance of emotion… it ejects the hidden inerds of human expression out into the world via an immediate tactile contact with the Other. To intersubject we must first embody. This embodiment then gives us the ability to enact our meanings while conversing with others. This intersubjectivity bridges the gap between the I and It perspectives and gives life its meaning. Logical calculations of an objective world are no longer the core motivation behind every attempt at relationship with the Other. Instead, the simple play of thoughts exchanged between beings becomes an end in itself… and out of this spontaneous interaction arises new higher forms of evolution… more complex and more connected forms.

So we should expect that an integral society would be geographically tribal (more complex), yet consciously planetary (more connected). How can this be pulled off effectively? The internet seems to be playing a HUGE role. Blogs, and I think especially Vlogs, are starting to open up streams of communication that have never been available before. I am currently in the middle of a somewhat intense philosophical discussion on youtube with someone who lives in Australia (I’m in Orlando, Fl). The medium certainly is the message, as Mcluhan said. The internet is a very spiritual format… we are forced to embrace the Other and face up to ourselves with every word we write and speak.

Enlightenment is a group phenomenon. Separately, as individuals, we cannot evolve. The next step requires a more subtle awareness of one another. We need eachother to do this right, otherwise we’re just masturbating and wasting our creative power. The next step in the evolution of consciousness can take place only when we engage one another openly, rationally, and spiritually. We’ve got to communicate, put our heads together, and learn to experience the cosmos integrally.

Am I my Words?

Learning to speak is learning to act. Verbal communication is reading the lines and putting them into character. That is, taking a text and giving it context: putting it with something else, making a connection (to something others will understand). The face, the gestures of the body: these are the instruments of meaning. It is the body that conveys our metaphors. Writing is a silent art. I type and these letters appear before me. Are they my letters, or are they God’s letters? What’s the difference? My letters are my ego’s letters; the story I tell to identify myself (both to others and to my own self-consciousness). I own them, I create them, and I speak them freely. God’s letters are the voice of a prophet. They are the words written for all time, the eternal scripts, the sacred scrolls. They are the foundational texts supporting our understanding of the value we attribute to life. They move us not because they describe a reality, but because they create a possibility. They manifest the impossible in our lives, keeping it alive even amidst the powerful surge of secularism. After nature was exposed to rational investigation, disenchanted by inductive reasoning, and sickened with industrial revolution, human beings began to demand their rights. Their rights included life, liberty, and happiness. They also included freedom of speech and property. “I am the blacksmith who bends these lines into shape and sends them to battle in the field. I own what I say!” But does this imply that one is what one says? Am I, at my very roots, nothing but a complex assortment of words? It cannot be so. Words are the world. I am the reader of the words… the liver in the world… the my in mystery. I cannot say what I am because I am a who. Who am I? I cannot say. I can only be who I am. I cannot say… I cannot become who I am. Who I become is not me. Who I am is me—who I am eternally. The who is what we see. The what is what we say. The how is what we draw. The where is where we are. The when is when we are. The why is that we are.