Students achieving Oneness will move on to Twoness
It often feels like many people today are coming around from chloroform, as if waking up from some drugged sleep wherein post-modernity was invented as an in-joke and then left lying around like a left-over alien jigsaw puzzle. Our new cultures are re-forming after their post-modernity heyday of scrambled identities and loss of meta-narratives. Things fall apart in order to come back together. William Irwin Thompson may remark that ‘Our new culture is not so much postmodern as postcivilized…an electronic meltdown of civilization in which barbarism and savagery boil up to the surface once again’1 yet what is boiling up is a different kind of savagery. Sure, there are the usual shenanigans going on over the world thanks largely to our fossilized political institutions, yet an altogether diverse dynamic is boiling up through our ‘electronic’ melting pot. The media theorist Marshall McLuhan noted that we are passing through an era that will require a need to gather up the broken fragments of a re-tribalized humanity. And that is the sense that hits us, as if the emerging global spaces are re-tribalizing us ‘out of the trees and into history,’ 2 and re-forming the species as a global tribe – all neon-lit for a new technologically assisted reality-set. As a species we have changed dramatically over the preceding epochs. As Terence McKenna notes,
We are no longer bipedal monkeys. We are instead a kind of cybernetic coral reef of organic components and inorganic technological components. We have become a force that takes unorganized raw material and excretes technical objects; we have transcended the normal definitions of humans. We are like an enormous collective organism with our data banks, our forecasting agencies, and our computer networks, and the many levels at which we are connected into the universe. Our self-image is changing; the monkey has been all but left behind and, shortly, will be left behind. 3
The new tribal cult is now morphing into the early birth pangs of a planetary civilization. The monkey mind is fading into obsolescence, although it’s aged adherents cling on desperately for their final gasps of solid air. This is the bifurcation point where we leap into the fiery cultural furnace to forge a new species consciousness, or wrangle with the old like an asphyxiated puppy. In the words of Thompson, we ‘either shift upward to a new culture of a higher spirituality to turn our electronic technologies into cathedrals of light, or we slide downward to darkness and entropy in a war of each against all.’4 This is the current medley we are at dance with, and yet I cannot personally see this sliding downward into an entropic darkness. The possibility is there for sure – has always been there – and yet the energy is perhaps too dynamic now to allow for a downbeat or dead rhythm. And so I see the ‘cathedrals of light’ being the more likely option, yet it won’t be an overnight construction. The great cathedral builders of old did not accomplish their masonic texts so easily. We are still attempting to bebop alongside the ‘droning Muzak inside an electropop mediocracy.’5 The neon tribes of the digital age are seeking alternative spiritual streams, and yet the search for ecstatic highs within the inner landscape are fraught with frauds and superficial vendors. The marketplace has never been as full as it is now, nor as diverse and tantalizing.
The sacred landscape has its counterparts and copycats; its true gold is mixed in with the false gold. A spiritual marketplace has arisen to satisfy, or con, the needs of the hungry awakeners. Gurus have cropped up – both indigenous and imported – to sprinkle the fairy dust of magical inducements and Samadhic temptations. And not just for the inner world either – people are now grooming themselves as ‘social media gurus,’ ready to offer guidance for the digital byways. Life coaching is also a relatively new term and profession, offering assistance for those people seeking clarity in their oh-so fuzzy lives. And did you know that life coaches claim you can earn ‘high 5 to 6 figures’ salary from life coaching? Some ways and means are clearly lucrative. As with anything, when a new idea, form, or energy emerges into the physical world, it soon gives birth to a range of appropriated offspring. Some of these forms become crystallized, such as in dogmatic belief systems, whilst others get commercialized, such as in the sweatbox of New Age swagger. The range and diversity of popular culture (especially westernized cultural forms) include the eclectic, consumerist, and commercial that offer exorbitant choice in the belief that more is good. This encourages some people to experiment, taste, and dabble with a rag-bag bunch of spiritual goodies in the hope that the resulting fusion will ‘do some good.’ Sometimes it is the case that people wish to receive in accordance to what they imagine spirituality to be. The following anecdote serves as an example of this. A visitor to a spiritual order, upon being received by the revered ‘spiritual Sheikh,’ suggested that the practices he was advocating belonged to a time in the past and were limited for a specific, targeted audience. Since such conditions no longer existed, the visitor pointed out, then what remained was merely an outer core – a spectacle. The old Sheikh, who was the head of the order, replied that
I have been here so long, and so have my ancestors, that we cannot change…we may well be wanted, and believed to be the possessors of secrets…we are here, after seven hundred years, not because of our value or viciousness, but because people want us. They want magic…many can follow a harmless path and feel better, elevated. That, in any case, is what they imagine spirituality to be.6
Popular culture has a great way of taking various forms and practices and utilizing them to reinforce mental, emotional, and physical conditioning and patterns of behaviour. It’s all part of what we may call the ‘One hundred aspirin effect’ whereby we miscalculate the dosage of something merely because we believe that more of a good thing will only bring us more good. If one has a headache we may take an aspirin, yet to take a hundred aspirins may do much more than just making the headache go away!
The ‘post-something’ stage we are currently riding – whether it be post-modernity or post-historic, and the rest – is bound to reify desires and urges into cultural totems for consumption. It’s all part of the flux, flotsam, and flow that goes with cultural trends. What’s significant about the present cultural candy store is that it has increasingly come to be dominated by spiritual and transformative memes. Quotations and phrases for inner transformation and well-being – once the tropes of Delphic maxims and prophetic pronouncements – are now slapped around as social media sound bites and Facebook photos. Anyone with a computer and free photo editing software can now mix and match their feel good totems in the transcendental marketplace. The counterfeit exists because the Real is out there, and the superficial pronouncements only strengthen the fact that the sacred, the transformational science, is now emerging through the common cultural sphere. What was once the purview, the secret domain, of the mystery schools is now seeping into mass circulation. This denotes that a particular stage of mass consciousness is coming into effect. The impulse to transcend – the Neoplatonist ascent, the gnostic awakening through the illusion, the rejection of monkish cave-dwelling activity – all point towards an internal longing now being played out in the tribal fields of a new spiritual smorgasbord.
Selling the supernatural has never been so lucrative. The Wal-Marts of America are now offering a well-stocked ‘gateway to a strange world of supernatural living and suburban sorcery’ which form ‘a full scale assault on the American mindscape.’7 A paranormal pop culture is now the norm, as esoteric streams seep into mass consciousness through spandex-clad mutants or cleverly woven sci-fi stories. The occult is no longer hidden but openly gallops through our living rooms through the new expansive digital byways that entrain our minds through the guise of entertainment. The new neon tribes of a digitally-enhanced world are responding to an altered sensorial reality-set. For the young generations especially, a new experience is being sought and longed for because they have been born into a different sensory environment. As media theorist Marshall McLuhan identified as far back as the nineteen-sixties, new cultural technologies ‘inevitably creates new environments that act incessantly on the sensorium.’ 8 We will experience new sensations as we try to adjust to the emerging sensory environments created by the global-digital technologies that McLuhan rightly identified as being extensions of our own nervous system.
Furthermore, as our current civilization shifts and gets re-made under the digitalizing revolution ‘we discover a tribal, integral awareness that manifests itself in a complete shift in our sensory lives’ as ‘a resonating world akin to the old tribal echo chamber where magic will live again.’ 9 As the digital-physical merger increasingly unfolds through our reality there may be forms of re-tribalization emerging through a range of mediums. Various forms of the participatory mystique and group identification have exploded through online networks, forums, chat groups, video conferencing, etc. The chaos magicians have even appropriated the digital realms for the simulation of the online ritual environment as they perform together through video streaming. And yet these re-formations are not only digital or anti-physical but are also re-sacralizing the energy of meetingness. As a rebellious affront to the hierarchical corporate world of modernity, the neopagan neon tribes of sacralized individuals are conjuring up their own carnivals and field gatherings. Within this ‘horizontal zone of becoming…The center is always decentered…the carnival fragments and distributes the power that the ladder concentrated into one supreme point. Nature speaks again, in a thousand networked tongues.’10
In recent years carnivals and art or music festivals have been springing up all over the globe. Some of these festivals of play and enactment are like a medieval mirror to the Rabelaisian world of ribaldry and protest. The continuation of this medieval outburst can be witnessed in southern Spain’s Andalusia province. The Andalusian capital, Cadiz, continues to host the lengthy carnivals of a folk culture filled with outrage, political-social angst, and ecstatic partying filled with songs and merry indulgence. These carnivals are mirrored in various towns dotted throughout the Andalusian landscape. Yet now these localized tribal merriments have gone global as the digitally-infused neon tribes of today are delving into trance, techno, burning art, and muddy fields.
Tribal Meetingness & Techno-Trance