Amerika

Posts Tagged ‘futurism’

Escaping Our Fascination With Nazism

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Hitler will always fascinate the West because his Reich was the last vestige of what most of us think of as the old order, where society had structure, there was a right and wrong, and a nation was defined by one ethnic group instead of being a nation-state of whoever showed up and paid taxes. His fall was the announcement that the West had given up.

At the same time, we should remember that in bad times, even good things are tainted with doubt, and so what Hitler thought was right was divergent from what was. His regime was not particularly traditional, not fully nationalist, and modern to the degree that it corrupted whatever message or principle he was hoping to establish.

Future historians may summarize the Nazis as dualistic; they both attempted to re-create an older social order, and chose to do so by using the modern method of finding a message that would motivate the masses toward a singular purpose. If Nazism had a thesis, it would be that we can use mass culture as a means of undoing mass culture, and not surprisingly, this paradoxical attempt failed.

The Left says Hitler was a Right-winger and in fact as far Right as we should dare imagine; the Right says that he was a Leftist. The Right is more correct: Hitler, while he incorporated some goals of the Right in his plan, chose to implement it through Leftist methods and a desire to create an egalitarian society, just one based on race and not citizenship.

In particular, he borrowed a great deal from the Communists:

Adolf Hitler, who admired Stalin for his ruthlessness and called him a “genius,” was also heavily influenced by Marx. “I have learned a great deal from Marxism,” Hitler said, “as I do not hesitate to admit.” Throughout his youth, Hitler “never shunned the company of Marxists” and believed that while the “petit bourgeois Social Democrat … will never make a National Socialist … the Communist always will.”

Hitler’s “differences with the communists”, argued Watson, “were less ideological than tactical”. Hitler embraced German nationalism so as not to “compete with Marxism on its own ground”, but explicitly acknowledged that “‘the whole of national socialism’ was based on Marx”. It is, therefore, unsurprising that Nazi Germany, with its concentration camps and omnipresent secret police, came so closely to resemble the Soviet Union.

How much did the Nazis learn from the Soviets?

In his 1947 memoir Commandant of Auschwitz: The Autobiography of Rudolf Hoess, Hoess recalled that the Germans knew of the Soviet program of extermination of the enemies of the state through forced labour as early as 1939. “If, for example, in building a canal, the inmates of a [Soviet] camp were used up, thousands of fresh kulaks or other unreliable elements were called in who, in their turn, would be used up.” The Nazis would use the same tactic on the Jewish slave laborers in, for example, munition factories.

Following their invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, wrote Watson, the Germans collected information on the immense scale of the Soviet camp system and were impressed by the “Soviet readiness to destroy whole categories of people through forced labor”.

As some have noted, the tactics of the French Revolution were applied in Nazi Germany, just more efficiently than neurotic French Leftists could imagine. Where the French marched whole families to the guillotine, the Nazis attempted to deport them, then used them as slave labor, and finally when that failed, began to liquidate them.

National Socialism, as an idea, combined the need for nationalism — rising in Europe as nation-states became unstable and fragmented — with the dominant strain of European government at the time, which was increasingly socialist, and incorporated some aspects of the capitalist-driven fascist corporate State.

It did not swing to the far Right, which has always been those who hope to conserve l’ancien régime which is a society with caste, aristocracy, elite culture, hierarchy, customs, and a code of honor motivated by virtue. No modern government can emulate that because the basic idea of modernity, mass motivation, requires an equal herd clamoring for some trend or another.

The Nazis chose to make their message one that would motivate a group and, in doing so, reduced its meaning to what fit the expectations of the crowd, instead of what was needed. Having done that, the Nazis could no longer control public expectation, and got carried away with their rhetoric, making them both arrogant and cruel.

People imagine that Hitler was a successful totalitarian, but in fact, he was ruled by his people as much as he ruled them. They rebuked him on his attempt to ban smoking, and enjoyed a more comfortable standard of living even during the war than people did in the rest of the West. The Crowd shared in the dictatorship.

Not surprisingly, the Nazis showed signs of crowd infiltration even in their political statements, as we can see with these excerpts from The 25 Points of The Programme of the NSDAP:

7. We demand that the State shall make it its primary duty to provide a livelihood for its citizens. If it should prove impossible to feed the entire population, foreign nationals (non-citizens) must be deported from the Reich.

9. All citizens shall have equal rights and duties.

10. It must be the first duty of every citizen to perform physical or mental work. The activities of the individual must not clash with the general interest, but must proceed within the framework of the community and be for the general good.

13. We demand the nationalization of all businesses which have been formed into corporations (trusts).

14. We demand profit-sharing in large industrial enterprises.

15. We demand the extensive development of insurance for old age.

16. We demand the creation and maintenance of a healthy middle class, the immediate communalizing of big department stores, and their lease at a cheap rate to small traders, and that the utmost consideration shall be shown to all small traders in the placing of State and municipal orders.

17. We demand a land reform suitable to our national requirements, the passing of a law for the expropriation of land for communal purposes without compensation; the abolition of ground rent, and the prohibition of all speculation in land.

25. To put the whole of this programme into effect, we demand the creation of a strong central state power for the Reich; the unconditional authority of the political central Parliament over the entire Reich and its organizations; and the formation of Corporations based on estate and occupation for the purpose of carrying out the general legislation passed by the Reich in the various German states.

If we look at these through the wide-angle lens of history, they do not appear that much distinct from either those of the French Revolution or the Soviet Union: in the name of equality, a State is being formed to re-distribute wealth, and it requires total power to do so. The total power is not being taken from We The People, but from its natural hierarchy (aristocracy).

The West remains obsessed by Hitler mostly because the Left has used him as a convenient symbol for all things that they fear, which means all of the things that would un-do our current time, which not coincidentally are things that many of us crave because we detest the current time. But following their lead is to assign them power over us.

Perhaps the Left fixates on Hitler in order to distract us from the actual far-Right ideas out there like Traditionalism and Futurism, because if we get our hands on those, there is no way we will ever be satisfied with the managerial nanny state ever again. From a perspective that far to the Right, Hitler would appear as a slightly less Leftist version of our present time.

Nonetheless, Hitler still seduces us, mainly because he stands for the return of leadership that actually cares about civilization instead of using civilization as its own meal ticket. Democracy stands for nothing except hollow promises about free speech, free association, and use of your own property that turn out to be lies, as it goes in search of (endless) new forms of funding.

First it was taxes, then it was immigrants, and in the future, they will probably charge you directly to be part of their society, and then tax you. Sales taxes, property taxes, state taxes, licensing fees, income taxes, tariffs which the consumer ultimately pays for, mandatory inspections, and payroll deductions: they kill you with the death of a thousand cuts and it is not about money. It is about power.

Right now, we summarize WW2 by saying that Hitler was evil and the Allies were mostly good. In the near future, we will recognize that the Allies were not mostly good, mainly because they fought a war of attrition against Europe in the name of what became fully Communist Leftism. In the distant future, people will see the Allies as the bad guys, and Hitler as an unfortunate but predictable response. Years after that, they will see the Holocaust as predictable and avoidable too.

At some point, we will dig out Theodor Herzl and realize that he was one of the first — after Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and others — anti-diversity philosophers. His point was not that the French were bad, but that the Dreyfuss Affair was predictable, because when you stand out from the rest, you will get scapegoated in times of crisis.

This originates in practical reasoning. If the group is basically in agreement, and they are all doing the same roughly right thing, then if something goes wrong either “right was wrong” or there was a sabotage, and suspicion is naturally cast on those who are not doing the right thing like everyone else because they are different. It does not matter how they are different, or who they are, but just the fact of being different alone qualifies them to be a threat or scapegoat.

Jews have been booted out of 109 nations not because Jews are bad, but because being Other is bad. Diversity never works. Jewish groups also have a history of going into nations and taking things out of context, like “work hard, get ahead.” Among a native population, this is understood as part of a social process; to an outsider, it is a singular task that eclipses all others, and is more easily undertaken, because they have no need to participate in that culture and its intricate sorting rules that choose people above others.

Jews, like Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese in the current USA, throw everything normal out the window and go for the throat of education and business. This alone makes them a target, but perceived or actual nepotism — probably a mix of both — and a tendency to lean toward politics and behaviors that emphasize their Otherness also make them a perpetually resented force. This is why the Holocaust was predictable, and in more honest times in the future, we will say that, without approving of the Holocaust at all, because mass murder of families is a Leftist thing and Leftism is a form of brain disorder.

When the future looks back on the twentieth century, it will see that we created all of our own problems through theories that focused on what the audience wanted — equality, diversity, feminism, socialism — instead of what our best people knew must be done to make civilization as an organic whole thrive. As time goes on, Hitler loses his sting, but we still see him as the only force that stood up to the perpetual encroachment of herd behavior, which always focuses on what the audience wants.

The most terrifying taboo out there now is not Nazism; it is the idea that people want to restore Western Civilization, which in turn would make the Left obsolete and forgotten. It would also bypass the intermediate stage that Hitler tried to turn into a future, and avoid the fate he encountered by his own hand.

Where did the future go?

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

back_to_the_future_2015

In 1985, the movie Back to the Future created a stir with its ingenious plot about time travel and how we could alter the future by altering the past. For many, it hit more than a passing interest, as America looked at the transition from 1955 to 1985 and wondered, “What the heck happened?”

Now thirty years later, we in Western Civilization are doubly wondering what happened, both to 1955 America and 1985 America. The same is true in Europe. During this sixty-year period, our fortunes have unraveled and we cannot imagine the positive, technology-oriented view of the future that thrilled audiences back in 1985.

Instead, we see a dystopian Brazil-meets-Blade-Runner future in which we — the descendants of the founders of this civilization and those who uphold its values, philosophy and culture — are marginalized victims. Which is correct, the happy 1985 view or the neo-apocalyptic decay view? And is there anything we can do to influence the outcome?

To understand this question, we must first separate technology from history. Technology is icing on the cupcake. The cake beneath is social order, or how the civilization is structured to motivate people toward maintaining it. In the 1950s, we had a radically different social order than that of the present, based on commonality of culture, values and heritage. 1950s society with futuristic technology would look much the same as it did then.

We also must understand the different types of social order. In the 1950s, we had a ruling elite of Western Europeans with traditional values. They were replaced in the 1960s by “cosmopolitan elites,” or those who gained that position through prominence in commerce, media and government. That group does not necessarily share values, so they default to the lowest common denominator of whatever is popular — and earns money — is best. This form of “socialized utilitarianism” rules our society to this day and took over in the 1960s, twenty years before the 1980s slightly reversed that tendency.

This takes us back to the present tense. We could reverse our tendency toward socialized utilitarianism, and instead head toward the 1950s idea of shared purpose, or we can continue down the path that has steered us wrong so far. The choice is ours; the future awaits.

Why the singularity will not happen

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

singularity

Those who want a prediction for our future as a species that is both positive and plausible often turn to the term “singularity.” This refers to a moment when our technology reaches such an advanced stage that it changes human nature and magically creates a new Utopia from our wiser, more advanced selves. Technologies commonly mentioned include human biological enhancement, artificial intelligence, brain-computer interfaces and transhumanism. But how likely is this singularity, given larger trends?

Leaving aside for a moment the question of whether growth has limits, we can see that growth is finite by looking at the available data. In the US, average annual growth in real GDP over the prior 40 quarters has gone steadily downhill since the 1950s.1 The 21st century has seen very little increase in real GDP, which is GDP adjusted for inflation. Globally a similar trend is visible. Using global real GDP data, we find a decline in the global growth rate, from 4.7% in the late 60s, to just 1.3% in the late 00s.2

The fastest growth rates are now in those places which were until now effectively completely undeveloped. Economic growth happens where there are many resources left or where violent conflict made those resources inaccessible until recently. No developed economy has escaped the trend of declining GDP growth rates. Japan went from a 7% yearly real GDP growth rate to around 0% in recent years.3 Thus the effect does not originate in the changing demographic compsition of Western nations.

A similar stabilization can be seen in global life expectancy.4 This is again most visible for those countries than perform best on this metric, like Japan.5 We find stabilization in every trend that would be indicative of continued exponential growth. Most developed countries show stabilization in IQ, as better nutrition and an improved environment can no longer increase IQ any further.6 There’s also a stabilization visible in the number of miles driven in the United States, while a decline is visible in much of Europe.7 Developed economies have seen a small decline in total energy use compared to the 70s.8

Energy use has declined with further improvements in energy efficiency. Steel production represents five percent of global energy use. Developed countries however no longer manage to book any further improvements in energy efficiency in steel production.9 Energy efficiency in air transport of passengers has effectively flatlined since the 1990s with much of the improvement coming at the cost of the comfort passengers enjoy while traveling.10 Fuel efficiency of cars is still improving in developed countries, but this comes at the cost of energy used to produce the cars as is visible in the higher up front cost of hybrid vehicles. The decline in improvements in energy efficiency and the rising cost of energy have led to peak speed, visible in the fact that since 2003 passengers can no longer fly at supersonic speeds between London and New York or any other cities for that matter. The fact that humans have not landed on the moon in decades represents a peak distance in regards to how far a human being can travel.

We can therefore conclude that if a singularity were to occur, it would not be through a continuation of the trends we have witnessed over recent history, but rather, through a break in these trends. Assuming infinite resources at current prices, the trend would seem to be one towards gradual stabilization. The fact that non-renewable resources are being depleted would suggest that the opposite, a decline in standard of living, is in fact inevitable as well as effectively permanent.

What then about the two industries that are supposed to revolutionize our world, biotech and artificial intelligence? These are the two industries that would represent the most likely candidates for a break in the trend towards less growth. There are however limits to what can be accomplished through the use of these technologies.

Understanding the limits to what can be accomplished through biotechnology requires us to understand the nature of human intelligence. It is increasingly believed that human intelligence is not so much a product of certain mutations, but rather, a product of the absence of mutations. Intelligence is a product of the healthy functioning of a wide variety of processes in our body. A state of general health and a low mutational burden would thus translate into increased intelligence in our species.

This represents the first challenge we will face in our quest to increase human intelligence. Instead of increasing intelligence by selectively endowing people with a particular mutation, we will have to screen people for a wide variety of individually very rare mutations. To prove that any particular person’s very rare mutation leads to subtly reduced intelligence will be a gargantuan task, as these mutations may be limited to certain families, which makes separating environmental effects from genetic effects very difficult. Biotechnology will thus mostly prove itself to be effective in eliminating those genetic defects with severe effects, where causation is easier to demonstrate. The step from an IQ of 85 to one of 100 will thus be much easier accomplished than the step from 100 to 115, in the same way that increasing a nation’s life expectancy from 70 to 85 years is proving easier than increasing it from 85 to 100.

Assuming we pass this hurdle, there are a number of different issues we subsequently face. The nature of the process of fertilization tends to select for the healthiest sperm cells, which carry very little genetic damage.12 Bypassing this process through IVF, which will be required to enhance the intellectual potential of the next generation, means increasing the mutational load of those children, thus negatively impacting their intelligence. Screening the various embryos produced to find out which ones are free from the mutation we seek to eliminate is also an invasive process that has detrimental effects on the embryo, as it involves selecting a single cell and destroying it. Comparing adult mice that underwent preimplantation genetic diagnosis with adult mice that did not undergo the procedure shows they suffer poorer memory and higher body weight.13 It’s likely that this procedure is subject to diminishing returns, with the costs outweighing the benefits when dealing with minor mutations that do not cause severe genetic disorders.

What about actual genetic enhancement then, in which we choose to produce an embryo with genetic material that does not normally occur in humans? This has been successfully accomplished in plants after all, producing traits beneficial to humans that do not naturally occur in the plant. Here it has to be noted that we have been quite successful at producing traits that originate from a single gene, like the production of a specific pesticide. A complex emergent phenomenon like intelligence is of a fundamentally different nature.

The second issue to consider is that plants are organisms that are better capable of handling a genetic disturbance than animals. Consider that polyploidy, a doubling of an the number of chromosomes in an organism, is a common method of speciation for plants. In animals, it is comparatively rare and occurs mostly in non-vertebrates, never having been demonstrated in mammals. This suggests that animals are more “fine-tuned” and vulnerable to the effect of any drastic changes to their genome. The effects of such drastic changes would be expected to first affect those processes most dependent on overall functioning of the organism, ie complex thought.

The third issue to consider is that even plants have shown very negative responses to the introduction of alien genetic material. Besides the fact that the process of introducing the genetic material is believed to damage other areas of the genome, artificially introduced genetic material is regularly rearranged. Even more interesting is the fact that plants do not pass on the introduced foreign genetic material. It is selectively removed from the genome on a systematic basis.14 The transhumanists who argue that humans will one day carry synthetic extra chromosomes that give us superhuman abilities are pushing a science-fiction narrative.

Since the biotech bubble offers no answers, the remaining alternative for a radical transformation of our civilization lies with artificial intelligence. The first problem to note here is that the fundamental nature of consciousness remains unknown. If it is produced by a quantum field, as believed by some physicists, it will be of a fundamentally different nature than intelligence produced through binary logic of the type that our computers use. Efforts to simulate a human brain by 2020, known as the Blue Brain Project, have recently been accused by prominent neuroscientists of having narrowed the scope of the project, who argue that the project no longer seeks to simulate such higher-order brain processes as thinking and decision-making.15 Like fusion energy, artificial intelligence appears as far away as ever.

The project currently uses a supercomputer with 8,000 parallel processors to simulate ten thousand neurons. Considering that the human brain has 10^12 neurons, humans would face the task of building and running 8,000,000,000 parallel processors to simulate a single human brain. Moore’s law, referring to doubling of the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit, is then suggested as a trend that will help us escape from the apparently massive costs of machine intelligence. The problem here becomes the fact that Moore’s law is slowing down and will apparently come to an end by 2022.16 Exponential growth is seen in the early stages of most technologies, but there are always physical limits we encounter which we seem to be reaching in computer science as well.

We have to consider the possibility that the blobs of fat drifting in cerebrospinal fluid that happen to emerge spontaneously if you leave a large amount of hydrogen unattended for a few billion years are really the most energy-efficient method of producing self-awareness available in our universe. Assuming that present economic trends and our decades long failure to discover methods of energy production that share the characteristics of fossil fuels persist into the future, civilization seems very unlikely to grow a lot more complex than its present incarnation.

1 – http://blogs-images.forbes.com/beltway/files/2011/06/Ten-year-growth-rates1.jpg
2 – http://unctadstat.unctad.org/wds/TableViewer/tableView.aspx
3 – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/46/Real_GDP_growth_rate_in_Japan_(1956-2008).png
4 – http://homework.uoregon.edu/pub/class/hc434/wme.gif
5 – http://www.gfmer.ch/Books/bookmp/185.ht99.jpg
6 – http://www.iapsych.com/iqmr/fe/LinkedDocuments/Sundet2004.pdf
7 – http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_pMscxxELHEg/SXiH7ajGVVI/AAAAAAAAEWI/38691ym6xms/s1600/VehicleMilesNov2008.jpg
8 – http://www.financialsense.com/sites/default/files/users/u673/images/2012/0313/per-capita-energy-consumption-countries.png
9 – http://www.worldsteel.org/steel-by-topic/sustainable-steel/environmental/efficient-use/content/0/text_files/file1/document/energyconsuption_linechart_final.jpg
10 – http://www.theprimitivethinker.com/2013/10/jevons-paradox-in-aviation.html
11 – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/human-intelligence-peaked-thousands-of-years-ago-and-weve-been-on-an-intellectual-and-emotional-decline-ever-since-8307101.html
12 – http://www.clevelandclinic.org/ReproductiveResearchCenter/docs/agradoc148.pdf
13 – http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090721122857.htm
14 – http://www.i-sis.org.uk/transgenicLinesUnstable2.php
15 – http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28193790
16 – http://www.cnet.com/news/end-of-moores-law-its-not-just-about-physics/

Futurist Traditionalism: Deep Ecology, Traditionalism, Naturalism and Paleoconservatism

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

Our civilization has fallen. It is clear that we must restart, and do so from a point before where our error began. We must find a healthy model for civilization that has existed through the ages and presented the fewest inclinations toward terminal decline. This is not a Utopian view; it does not aim for perfection, and accepts humans as they are, but seeks the best possible option.

Futurist Traditionalism is the philosophy of such a time. It consists of three parts:

  1. An aggregate view of philosophy. As detailed in my book Parallelism, we must view any philosophy through the filter of both time and transmission, which means that every idea erodes until it is the simplest possible expression of itself, even if this does not resemble the original intent. For example, “equality” was intended to mean “equal treatment,” but ultimately comes to mean “equal outcome” because otherwise it appears as if unequal treatment has occurred.
  2. A cyclic view of history. Evolution seems to be linear, starting with unicellular organisms and developing into humans, but this is an artifact of us viewing ourselves as an ultimate state, and not a recurring state or branch of an ongoing tale. In the cyclic view, civilizations move from a position of balance through times of varying degrees of conflict before hitting rock bottom, and either rebirth themselves or die out, and the cycle then happens elsewhere. This means that we do not have “progress” at all; we are either in a state of balance and harmony, or in the process of decaying, but that we can return to that state of balance by adopting its methods, principles and goals.
  3. Recognition of non-inversion. Perhaps the patron saint of conservatism, Plato wrote of the origin of decline as a spiritual shift from thinking toward-goals to thinking from-money:

    When discord arose, then the two races were drawn different ways: the iron and brass fell to acquiring money and land and houses and gold and silver; but the gold and silver races, not wanting money but having the true riches in their own nature, inclined towards virtue and the ancient order of things. There was a battle between them, and at last they agreed to distribute their land and houses among individual owners; and they enslaved their friends and maintainers, whom they had formerly protected in the condition of freemen, and made of them subjects and servants; and they themselves were engaged in war and in keeping a watch against them.

    In a Golden Age, humans strive to what is right — not through personal morality as in good/evil of the modern time, but in the sense of acting according to balance and harmony so as to maintain a state of those, in a honor/hubris division — but when a society becomes wealthy, it loses its sense of purpose and starts to think backward. Instead of acting toward purpose, it does what is convenient, and rationalizes or justifies this through arguing it as pleasing to individual humans. From this comes individualism, and from that comes collectivism as the individualists use each other to form a mob and suspend accountability, and from that comes egalitarian ideas including Leftism and consumerism.

Putting these together, Futurist Traditionalism consists of two concepts mirroring the two parts of conservatism, a radical realism and a qualitative purpose or transcendental outlook, which aim to create the conditions in which a Golden Age can emerge: a restoration of harmony and balance, coupled with a spiritual renovation so that we think in a forward manner again.

A Futurist Traditionalist society would resemble those of the past in social structure and outlook, but would retain modern technology and the impetus to use technology to fulfill the principles and goals of each society. It would be culture-driven and not government-driven, which as a prerequisite demands it be strongly nationalistic or excluding all individuals not from the founding ethnic group, but it would also have an aristocracy, a social caste hierarchy, free markets where applicable, and a union of culture and transcendental outlook to provide a philosophy and metaphysics (or “religion” if you will) that sustains, nurtures and guides that specific population.

Where Futurist Traditionalism differs from most Right-wing philosophies is that it is nihilistic, meaning that it does not recognize universal, absolute or innate truths. In fact, it views all of life as choices that are both up to us and take the measure of us, including the choice to be realistic instead of individualistic, humanistic, solipsistic or otherwise more concerned about human thoughts and feelings than their degree of accuracy in reality.

Nihilism takes the form of a naturalistic, Darwinian and transcendentalist philosophy of extremist realism coupled with a fundamental idealism, or the view that the cosmos operates in thought-like pattern orientation, similar to Platonic forms but in a less literal sense:

Among the possibilities that scare humans the most, the potentiality of no meaning — no inherent values, no innate truths, and no possibility of accurate communication — unnerves us the most. It means that we are truly alone with nothing to rely on but ourselves for understanding this vast world and what we should do in it. This belief is called nihilism.

Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. It is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence.” – Alan Pratt, “Nihilism,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/nihilism/

In the 20th century, nihilism encompassed a variety of philosophical and aesthetic stances that, in one sense or another, denied the existence of genuine moral truths or values, rejected the possibility of knowledge or communication, and asserted the ultimate meaninglessness or purposelessness of life or of the universe.” – “Nihilism,” Encyclopedia Britannica, retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/nihilism

Nihilism rejects the ideas of universalism, rationalism and empiricism which have ruled the West for centuries. These ideas arise from our social impulses, or the desire to include others as a group and motivate them with what is perceived as objective truth.

Universalism holds that all people are essentially the same, and therefore that values are a matter of respecting the choices of each person, truth is what can be verified in a way a group can understand, and communication relies on words which have immutable meaning. Rationalism supposes that the workings our minds can tell us what is true in the world without testing, and implies universalism, or that the workings of our minds are all the same. Empiricism, now linked to its cousin logical positivism, states that truth is only found in observable and testable, replicable observations.

The essence of nihilism can be found in biology. In the tendency of human minds, many identical pieces work together to form agreement, and then act as one. In biology, abundant unequal pieces serve different roles without knowledge of a centralized plan but work together because they are united by very basic principles which cannot be deconstructed further, such as the need to feed, defend oneself, find shelter, and reproduce. Nihilism follows the organic model of different pieces of a larger puzzle working together because they share principles, but not form or the translation of those principles into specific methods. It adds a layer of abstraction to our understanding of how systems — groups of parts producing an output together — function.

This biological framework reveals a “pattern language,” or index of patterns that match functions, to both human thought and human individuals. We are not all alike, nor do we think alike, and many humans have unique roles they can serve where their proficiency makes them ideal candidates. Within the mind, we can identify patterns at a level below language or even consciousness that reveal our thought and how comparable it is to the reality in the external world. This allows us to use self-discipline to become better able to understand reality.

Without universal truth, we bypass the proxy of socially-defined goals and standards, and instead must judge our potential actions by their likely results in reality. This escapes us from the ghetto of human intent, where we judge our actions as if they were communications to others designed to show our value, instead of actions toward a purpose. We lose self-consciousness, which is really an awareness of ourselves as we appear to the social group, and replace it with world-consciousness.

The most difficult part (for modern people) involved with leaving behind universalism is that we now navigate between two poles: first, the wrong idea that there should be one rule and motivation for every person, and second, the wrong idea that avoiding the first pole means that everyone should do whatever they want. Nihilism is the death of “should.” Instead, there is merely “is,” as in each person is what he is and has the wants inherent to being that person. This means that people have different roles, of both vertical (proficiency) and horizontal (specialization) measurements, like animals and plants in an ecosystem. There is no universal role, only a shared mission, and the knowledge of what actions have produced which results in the past, from which we can derive general principles that fit our roles in the civilization ecosystem.

With this, we return to the Traditionalist idea of cause and effect with the cause being informational instead of physical. Pattern and idea dictate outcome more than the particular material elements or particularities of a time period. Consider the knowledge of man trying to start a fire:

Action Result
1. Rub sticks Weak fire, takes a lot of strength.
2. Await lightning Starve (usually).
3. Strike flint Stronger fire, but flying sparks can cause forest fires.
4. Pray to Xu’ul Nothing so far.
5. Bark rope friction Good, but hard to find the right bark.

Society would insert a third column between those for moral judgments, social feelings, personal desires and other chatter from the incessantly rationalizing mind, which seeks to find a justification for its feelings in the world and remove from itself the need to make hard decisions which remind it of existential questions like death, purpose and meaning.

When Bra’agh the caveman thinks about how he should proceed, he inverts the order of the two natural columns. He knows what he wants, or quickly will have to find out, and so he chooses the outcome that will fit his circumstances, and based on that, chooses the method he will use.

If Bra’agh is strong, he may choose to rub sticks. If he has not eaten and is tired, he may take a little more time to look for bark or flint. As a practical person, he may pray to Xu’ul because it makes him feel better, but he will nonetheless seek his own method of making fire (Xu’ul helps those who help themselves). Having bad past experiences getting very hungry waiting for lightning, he will discard that.

When his circumstances change, Bra’agh makes different decisions. If a thunderstorm has just passed over, he might take an hour to wander around looking for burning trees. If he is in a valley where there is abundant flint, he might go right to that method, almost bypassing choice entirely, which can be risky as he will then be oblivious to the downside of possible forest fires. If he is standing next to a tree with the right bark, the decision also seems to complete itself.

All of us have these columns in our mind, and varying degrees of the third column comprised of social and emotional thoughts. The strongest among us can balance the third column so that it fits in with the advantages and disadvantages of methods, like the possibility of forest fires. The weakest among us will think first of the third column, and then use that to choose the method, and will then rationalize from there that their choice is the best, a process called cognitive dissonance.

Nihilism rejects the third column by recognizing the emptiness of shared experience. Some experiences unify us, like love or comradeship in war, but for the most part, we are alone. What we know cannot be communicated unless the other person is willing to analyze it and us enough to know what we are nattering on about. As far as truth, there are accurate perceptions, but these are not shared among people, not in the least because most people do not care about accuracy.

Suppose that Bra’agh becomes a member of a troupe of cavepeople. They wander the fields and forests, foraging for food and hunting what bush meat they can conquer. Then they retreat to their cave where they feel safe. Bra’agh wants to make a fire, but the others either do not or are apathetic. He cannot argue with them, objectively or subjectively, that fire is needed. After all, they have fruits, berries, roots and bush meat which they can dry in the sun and eat, and they will be just fine.

But Bra’agh, he has a dream. In this dream, there are big hunts once a week and then the food is cooked and preserved, so that they will have more free time and do not have to go foraging every day. Perhaps Bra’agh wants to write the great cave novel, or dream of gods in the sky, or otherwise discover the world. For him, time is more important than convenience. This is not so for the others, and nothing he can say will logically compel them to share his vision.

If he demonstrates his idea by slaughtering a caribou, making a fire and roasting the meat and handing it out to others, they may partake. They might not, however, see the utility in this approach, because it is harder and riskier than gathering roots and killing squirrels with rocks. There is no universal standard for all of them.

Suppose that Bra’agh is a burly caveman who instead of arguing for his idea, simply forces others to do it by beating senseless the dissenters. Soon the troupe of cavepeople are hunting and following his path, and he heaves rocks into the skulls of those who thwart the activity. Over time, the survivors are those who share his vision, and the genes for those who are otherwise inclined have passed into history.

In ten thousand years, a civilization may arise in the place where Bra’agh bashed skulls. It will be based on the idea that some risk and effort that achieves a better result (second column) is worth enduring the harder activity (first column). Applying that principle, the cavepeople will start domesticating caribou and planting crops, giving them even more free time. They will invent language, writing and early technology.

After another ten thousand years, the civilization will encounter its first troubles. The people will take for granted that they will always have civilization and stop bashing in the heads of those who cannot direct themselves toward that purpose. Those, who by nature are less focused, will devote their time to the pleasures of the flesh, and become fruitful and multiplicative. Over time, they will outnumber the others.

The civilization will now take a dark turn. It will abandon the original nihilistic principle, which is that some are of the caliber of Bra’agh and must lead by bashing skulls, and instead turn to the principle of universalism. Everyone is welcome and all are celebrated; in fact, they like to say that they are all one. Quantity replaces quality. Realistic vision is lost. The civilization begins to die.

A strange thing will have happened to the people in this civilization. They will live almost exclusively in the third column, thinking about what others think of them, with the world beyond the ego and the human social circle unknown to them. If someone explains nihilism to them, using the language which sprung up as if out of the ground once it was needed, they will retreat in fear, like monkeys flinging faeces at a feared totem. To them, there can only be one rule for everyone — the rule of the third column — or life has become bad and evil.

Nihilism remains controversial for this reason. It connects us to the nothingness in life, and the necessity of sacrifice in order to achieve quality-enhancing results, which naturally brings up the question of mortality that almost all people (except pasty Goths in black) would rather not discuss. People would rather decrease quality and increase quantity, meaning that all actions would be seen as equal, because this is more emotionally convenient for them. Nihilism erases any importance granted to this emotional state.

The modern West finds itself at a crossroads. The path we are on leads to eventual death and a form of entropy that returns us to the state of the cavepeople before Bra’agh and his vision of fire. A new path beckons which will take us higher than the greatness of the past, continuing the idea that seized Bra’agh as he was wandering the veldt. For us to accept the possibility of the new path, we must first strip away the human-only mental prison in which we exist because of social influences and “peer pressure.”

Nihilism leads to idealism for this reason. When we remove the over-dominance of the methods we use to interact with the world, we see the importance of pattern and arranging ourselves and material according to the idea we seek. This connects to a primal idea, which is that existence itself is biological, and that life extends past the physical into the metaphysical. In short, idea is all; material — including the third column — is a false goal that causes us to rationalize and become confused.

In this sense, nihilism shows us the value of transcendental thought. By facing the darkness of life directly and allowing the cold wind of the abyss to lick our faces, nihilism creates acceptance of the world as it is, and then embarks on a search for meaning that is not “social meaning” because it is interpreted according to the individual based on the capacity of that individual. Nihilism is esoteric in that it rejects the idea of a truth that can be communicated to everyone, but by freeing us from the idea that whatever truths we encounter must include everyone, allows for lone explorers to delve deeper and climb higher, if they have the biological requirements for the mental ability involved.

For this reason, nihilism is transformative. We go into it as equal members of the modern zombie automaton cult, convinced that there is objective truth and we have subjective preferences. We come out realizing that our preferences are entirely a function of our abilities and biology, and that “objective” truth is as much an idol as the Golden Calf of Moses’ time: a fiction and consensual reality created to keep a troupe of slightly smarter than average monkeys working together. Nihilism transforms us from human into beast, and from that, to something which can reach for the stars.

***

In Nihilism: A Philosophy Based In Nothingness and Eternity, your author explores the possibilities of leaving behind the path to death and choosing the new path instead. This cannot be approached directly, because the path is an effect of a cause, which is our willingness to abandon the solipsistic tendencies of our minds and strive for something greater. It appeals to the Bra’aghs of the world, and not those whose skulls were smitten by his rocks.

Through the course of essays composed in the wilderness over the course of two decades, Nihilism unearths the first steps toward the wisdom of the past. It shows a path to clearing the mental confusion of this time from the mind, and seeing the value of nihilism as a gateway to re-understanding the world in a new light. While it is not for all, if humanity has a future, it is through a thought process like the journey on which it takes its readers.

In contrast to accepted doctrine, this book shows that the lack of meaning in modern society came not from the fall of gods and heroes, but from the insatiable human ego and its collectivized counterpart, “peer pressure” or social control. What remains of the old religion is only the idea of universal truth, and that has been reconfigured into an assumption that all that is human is good, and that nature and metaphysics are irrelevant.

Nihilism remains a terrifying topic because it removes the illusions on which our current worldview is based, but that outlook is rapidly failing. In this alternate view, the tripartite illusion — universal truth among humans, equality-based values, and exoteric communication based on universal tokens — has broken and died, and those who wish to rebuild civilization can use nihilism to detach from it and form the groundwork of a new era.

Touching on ideas from both the occult and mainstream religion as well as philosophies ranging from Germanic idealism to perennialism, Nihilism: A Philosophy Based In Nothingness and Eternity explores nihilism as a fully-developed philosophy instead of the melange of anarchy and self-centeredness by which it is portrayed in most literature. In doing so, it discovers a way out of our landlocked modern thought, uniting both wisdom of the past and possibilities for the future into a single vision.

Futurist Traditionalism takes its influences from several existing genres of thought and philosophies:

  • Traditionalism

    At the core of the Perennial Philosophy we find four fundamental doctrines.

    First: the phenomenal world of matter and of individualized consciousness–the world of things and animals and men and even gods–is the manifestation of a Divine Ground within which all partial realities have their being, and apart from which they would be non-existent.

    Second: human beings are capable not merely of knowing about the Divine Ground by inference; they can also realize its existence by a direct intuition, superior to discursive reasoning. This immediate knowledge unites the knower with that which is known.

    Third: man possesses a double nature, a phenomenal ego and an eternal Self, which is the inner man, the spirit, the spark of divinity within the soul. It is possible for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit.

    Fourth: man’s life on earth has only one end and purpose: to identify himself with his eternal Self and so to come to unitive knowledge of the Divine Ground.

    Aldous Huxley, “The Perennial Philosophy”

  • Naturalism

    What constitutes knowledge: Naturalism as a worldview is based on the premise that knowledge about what exists and about how things work is best achieved through the sciences, not personal revelation or religious tradition. The knowledge we have of ourselves and our place in nature is the achievement of a collective effort to construct a consistent view of the world that permits prediction and control. This effort proceeds by experiment and rational inquiry, and the knowledge gained is always subject to further testing as understanding matures. Wanting something to be true, or having the intense personal conviction that something is true, are never grounds for supposing that it is true. Scientific empiricism has the necessary consequence of unifying our knowledge of the world, of placing all objects of understanding within an overarching causal context. Under naturalism, there is a single, natural world in which phenomena arise.

    The causal view: From a naturalistic perspective, there are no causally privileged agents, nothing that causes without being caused in turn. Human beings act the way they do because of the various influences that shape them, whether these be biological or social, genetic or environmental. We do not have the capacity to act outside the causal connections that link us in every respect to the rest of the world. This means we do not have what many people think of as free will, being able to cause our behavior without our being fully caused in turn.

    The self: As strictly physical beings, we don’t exist as immaterial selves, either mental or spiritual, that control behavior. Thought, desires, intentions, feelings, and actions all arise on their own without the benefit of a supervisory self, and they are all the products of a physical system, the brain and the body. The self is constituted by more or less consistent sets of personal characteristics, beliefs, and actions; it doesn’t exist apart from those complex physical processes that make up the individual. It may strongly seem as if there is a self sitting behind experience, witnessing it, and behind behavior, controlling it, but this impression is strongly disconfirmed by a scientific understanding of human behavior.

    Responsibility and morality: From a naturalistic perspective, behavior arises out of the interaction between individuals and their environment, not from a freely willing self that produces behavior independently of causal connections (see above). Therefore individuals don’t bear ultimate originative responsibility for their actions, in the sense of being their first cause. Given the circumstances both inside and outside the body, they couldn’t have done other than what they did. Nevertheless, we must still hold individuals responsible, in the sense of applying rewards and sanctions, so that their behavior stays more or less within the range of what we deem acceptable. This is, partially, how people learn to act ethically. Naturalism doesn’t undermine the need or possibility of responsibility and morality, but it places them within the world as understood by science. However, naturalism does call into question the basis for retributive attitudes, namely the idea that individuals could have done otherwise in the situation in which their behavior arose and so deeply deserve punishment.

    The source of value: Because naturalism doubts the existence of ultimate purposes either inherent in nature or imposed by a creator, values derive from human needs and desires, not supernatural absolutes. Basic human values are widely shared by virtue of being rooted in our common evolved nature. We need not appeal to a supernatural standard of ethical conduct to know that in general it’s wrong to lie, cheat, steal, rape, murder, torture, or otherwise treat people in ways we’d rather not be treated. Our naturally endowed empathetic concern for others and our hard-wired penchant for cooperation and reciprocity get us what we most want as social creatures: to flourish as individuals within a community. Naturalism may show the ultimate contingency of some values, in that human nature might have evolved differently and human societies and political arrangements might have turned out otherwise. But, given who and what we are as natural creatures, we necessarily find ourselves with shared basic values which serve as the criteria for assessing moral dilemmas, even if these assessments are sometimes fiercely contested and in some cases never quite resolved.

    Naturalism.org

  • Deep Ecology

    We believe that true ecological sustainability may require a rethinking of our values as a society. Present assumptions about economics, development, and the place of human beings in the natural order must be reevaluated. If we are to achieve ecological sustainability, Nature can no longer be viewed only as a commodity; it must be seen as a partner and model in all human enterprise.

    We begin with the premise that life on Earth has entered its most precarious phase in history. We speak of threats not only to human life, but to the lives of all species of plants and animals, as well as the health and continued viability of the biosphere. It is the awareness of the present condition that primarily motivates our activities.

    We believe that current problems are largely rooted in the following circumstances:

    • The loss of traditional knowledge, values, and ethics of behavior that celebrate the intrinsic value and sacredness of the natural world and that give the preservation of Nature prime importance. Correspondingly, the assumption of human superiority to other life forms, as if we were granted royalty status over Nature; the idea that Nature is mainly here to serve human will and purpose.
    • The prevailing economic and development paradigms of the modern world, which place primary importance on the values of the market, not on Nature. The conversion of nature to commodity form, the emphasis upon economic growth as a panacea, the industrialization of all activity, from forestry to farming to fishing, even to education and culture; the drive to economic globalization, cultural homogenization, commodity accumulation, urbanization, and human alienation. All of these are fundamentally incompatible with ecological or biological sustainability on a finite Earth.
    • Technology worship and an unlimited faith in the virtues of science; the modern paradigm that technological development is inevitable, invariably good, and to be equated with progress and human destiny. From this, we are left dangerously uncritical, blind to profound problems that technology and science have wrought, and in a state of passivity that confounds democracy.
    • Overpopulation, in both the overdeveloped and the underdeveloped worlds, placing unsustainable burdens upon biodiversity and the human condition.

    Foundation for Deep Ecology

  • Hierarchicalism

    The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

    As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

    1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

    2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

    Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited

    Garrett Hardin

  • Independence from Groupthink

    In order to make ourselves more powerful, we act so we appear altruistic, but we also act to appear independent and unique so we attract others to our personalities. This causes us to act entirely through social thinking.

    Through this method, individualism creates a “social reality” or a conspiracy between people to manage reality with social factors. Since we need others, thanks to specialization of labor, we use this more than reality itself.

    This has two effects: first, we become neurotic because we see reality in the details but are encouraged to ignore it; second, since social reality ignores secondary effects, disorder spreads and the cost is passed on to us.

    This in turn encourages us to try to break away from social obligation, since we feel it is parasitic to us, and so we break away using more individualism. This does not work, so we turn to our leaders and ask for more control.

    Control is the external imposition of what some people agree is true. Unlike an organic order, or one arriving from agreement and cooperation among people, it requires force and small rewards to function.

    In this way, we can see how individualism leads to disorder which requires more control, in a process and cycle that gains intensity over time, causing civilization to collapse.

    Vijay Prozak, Parallelism

  • Nonduality

    Imagine human beings living in an underground den which is open towards the light; they have been there from childhood, having their necks and legs chained, and can only see into the den. At a distance there is a fire, and between the fire and the prisoners a raised way, and a low wall is built along the way, like the screen over which marionette players show their puppets. Behind the wall appear moving figures, who hold in their hands various works of art, and among them images of men and animals, wood and stone, and some of the passers-by are talking and others silent. ‘A strange parable,’ he said, ‘and strange captives.’ They are ourselves, I replied; and they see only the shadows of the images which the fire throws on the wall of the den; to these they give names, and if we add an echo which returns from the wall, the voices of the passengers will seem to proceed from the shadows. Suppose now that you suddenly turn them round and make them look with pain and grief to themselves at the real images; will they believe them to be real? Will not their eyes be dazzled, and will they not try to get away from the light to something which they are able to behold without blinking? And suppose further, that they are dragged up a steep and rugged ascent into the presence of the sun himself, will not their sight be darkened with the excess of light? Some time will pass before they get the habit of perceiving at all; and at first they will be able to perceive only shadows and reflections in the water; then they will recognize the moon and the stars, and will at length behold the sun in his own proper place as he is. Last of all they will conclude:— This is he who gives us the year and the seasons, and is the author of all that we see. How will they rejoice in passing from darkness to light! How worthless to them will seem the honours and glories of the den! But now imagine further, that they descend into their old habitations;— in that underground dwelling they will not see as well as their fellows, and will not be able to compete with them in the measurement of the shadows on the wall; there will be many jokes about the man who went on a visit to the sun and lost his eyes, and if they find anybody trying to set free and enlighten one of their number, they will put him to death, if they can catch him. Now the cave or den is the world of sight, the fire is the sun, the way upwards is the way to knowledge, and in the world of knowledge the idea of good is last seen and with difficulty, but when seen is inferred to be the author of good and right — parent of the lord of light in this world, and of truth and understanding in the other. He who attains to the beatific vision is always going upwards; he is unwilling to descend into political assemblies and courts of law; for his eyes are apt to blink at the images or shadows of images which they behold in them — he cannot enter into the ideas of those who have never in their lives understood the relation of the shadow to the substance.

    Plato, The Republic, Book VII

To most people, the word “traditionalism” conjures up ideas of reverting society to a previous time; in the cyclic view of history, it is in fact acting out the society of a future time, which is why it pairs well with futurism. This invokes other philosophical doctrines as expressed above.

Futurist Traditionalism

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Futurist Traditionalism begins in Guillaume Faye’s concept of metapolitics, or the notion that cultural change is spurred on by ideas, and this leads political change.

None of the parties available in politics today represent anything other than established demographics with their voting standards already set and defined by social forces; for example, most people vote liberal in an attempt to appear educated, intelligent and gregarious.

What remains is to analyze the ideas behind political orientations, and choose which one could form the basis of a culture which is not moribund as year 2011 “the West” is.

Conservatism is about learning from the past, and from nature; it is the natural law and natural selection viewpoint, and because it embraces those sometimes scary things, it is the outlook of transcendental wisdom or finding reasons why bad and good are both needed to produce the “meta-good” that is life itself.

Liberalism is a rebellion against natural law and a desire to supplant it with humanism, or the idea that human moral choices — preferences that respect the equality of all human beings — before the literal world of cause/effect logic. In other words, exercise choice, not study of reality.

As conservatives note, however, the order of reality is within. It is within us, and it is within the world around us. The mathematics of it pervade our thinking. Trying to outwit it is a short-term game, because even as we crow in victory, we find that what we thought were details conspire to defeat us.

Traditionalism is a form of conservatism that acknowledges that our one world succumbs to study, and successful strategies are those time-honored and eternal methods that adapt successfully to this world. In addition, traditionalism points to a parent state to the transcendental state, where mind and matter are joined by patterns and organization.

In other words, beyond time and space, energy and matter, there is a precursor state which encloses all we know; we can derive this knowledge through relativity (time and space create each other, and matter and energy create each other — energy is change in matter, matter is storage of energy — which suggests that a larger enclosing state exists).

As such, Traditionalism is a philosophical concept which dovetails with conservatism, transcendental and monistic mysticism, and the doctrine of realism which suggests the external world is “mind correlative” or works like a thinking process.

This returns us to the oldest value and voice for conservatism, Plato:

Plato’s view is also sometimes called the “Theory of Forms,” and “form” rather than “idea” better conveys what he meant.

Take the example of a triangle, which has a form that distinguishes it from a square or a circle. In Plato’s usage, this “form” includes not only its shape, but all the properties that make it the thing it is: the length of its sides, its area, the fact that its angles add up to 180 degrees, and so forth. Now any particular material triangle (such as the ones drawn in geometry textbooks) is going to have certain properties that are not part of “triangularity” as such, and will also lack certain properties that are part of triangularity as such.

For example, it will have a specific color — green, say — and lack perfectly straight sides, even though greenness is not part of triangularity and having straight sides is part of it. So in Plato’s view, when the intellect grasps the form of triangularity, it is not grasping something material, since nothing material manifests triangularity in the strictest sense. But neither is it grasping something mental. For there are certain facts about triangles — the Pythagorean theorem, for example — that are entirely objective, and discovered by the human mind rather than invented by it. Moreover, these facts are necessary and unchanging rather than contingent and alterable: the Pythagorean theorem is true eternally, whether or not any human mind thinks otherwise or would like it to be otherwise. “Triangularity” is therefore something that exists apart from either mind or matter, in a third realm of its own: the realm of Forms. And the same thing is true, according to Plato, of the Forms of everything else — squares and circles, plants and animals, human beings, beauty, truth, and goodness.

It is important to understand that talk about the Forms existing “in” a “realm,” and so forth, is purely metaphorical. Literally they don’t exist “in” anything, since “in” is a spatial term and the Forms, being immaterial, are outside time and space.

{…}

“Realist Conservatism,” as we might call it, affirms the existence of an objective order of forms or universals that define the natures of things, including human nature, and what it seeks to conserve are just those institutions reflecting a recognition and respect for this objective order. Since human nature is, on this view, objective and universal, long-standing moral and cultural traditions are bound to reflect it and thus have a presumption in their favor. – Ideas in Action

Realism is the study of reality, which does not limit itself to the study of material.

In mind, matter and energy, we find similar patterns. These patterns arise from the interaction of objects over time. However, their consistency makes them inherent to the nature of existence itself, which is why we call them natural law. Like rules of gravity, or even the shape of water droplets, this order pervades all invisibly and does not “exist” in time and space; it either exists objectively, even if only as an emergent order, or it exists solely in the minds of human beings.

It is from the latter that liberalism is born. If our thought-impressions of the world are the only place that patterns exist, we think, we can change those thought-impressions arbitrarily because they are arbitrary.

However, it is the repeated instantiation of form that suggests its existence is more pervasive, more like a boundary to reality itself, than mere human thought:

Shunyata is a key concept in Buddhist philosophy, more specifically in the ontology of Mahayana Buddhism: ”Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.” This is the paradox of the concept .

Emptiness is not to be confused with nothingness. Emptiness is non-existence but not nothingness. Also, it is not non-reality. Emptiness means that an object, animate or inanimate, does not have its own existence independently. It has its meaning and existence only when all the elements or components it is made of come into play and we can understand and impute its existence clearly.

{…}

Plato held the view that there is an ideal essence in everything that we have around us, whether animate or inanimate. After all, ”the essence of the cup ultimately exists in the realm of the mind.” The Dalai Lama says that Shunyata is the absence of an absolute essence or independent existence. If a thing exists, it is because of several other factors. – Times of India

Plato’s argument does not campaign for the idea that forms exist in and of themselves, but that they are emergent patterns based on the interaction of objects and events, which means that they exist in some form although not perhaps their final form. A triangle, as used as example in the article above, exists because of the logical concept of a three-sided two dimensional figure.

The point of Plato’s argument is that our reality is consistent, over the years, and that we adapt to consistent phenomena. Whether they exist in a independent of time and space (in an enclosing space, not a dualistic fantasy world) or merely emerge from the coincidence of events, natural laws and objects, the fact is that they “exist” in that they repeat over time and similar circumstance.

In turn, that knowledge implies two vital things: first, their consistency means we can design optimal responses to them that will be as eternally successful as coping strategies as the patterns/forms themselves are eternally re-appearing; second, that as we study cause->effect logic, we should start with the pattern and not the material form it takes.

From this awareness, we derive a passage of consciousness: if there is a single reality that all must face, and a single set of natural laws that determine which actions succeed or fail, and this consistency in turn brings us life and choice, we must be reverent toward it; this means, in turn, that we become consequentialists or those who are concerned with end results, causes and goals more than whether their methods are moral, appear compassionate, are socially popular or fiscally rewarded.

While most people think of conservatism as backward-looking, what this affirms is that conservatism is forward-looking, but unlike the mental health cases out there, conservatives choose their forward direction based on their knowledge of the consistent laws of the universe. Conservatives think from cause->effect, and replicating that in their own thought process, from method->goal; liberals think from effect->self.

The reversed logic of the modern time relies on this sleight-of-hand: instead of looking at reality as something we must adapt to, we look at ourselves and figure we will act as we feel or desire, and we ignore the consequences in reality. We make a model of the world in our minds and we manipulate those thought-objects instead of changing reality so that causes lead to effects.

Since we started the chain of logic with ourselves, we have cut out any notion of cause->effect logic; we assume we and others in our social group are the cause of all things, and try to manipulate words, symbols and social events to make that happen.

Naturally, this is a path to entropy. The context and details we cut out of the picture by creating isolated thought-objects in our minds, because they are integral to understanding how events will transpire, come back to strike us with “unexpected” consequences. Over time, these build a foundation of instability under all that we do, and we become schizoid shuttling between our mental image and dealing with the reality we cannot anticipate.

The furthest manifestation of this mental error is ideology and dogma. These are political concepts which supplant the study of reality; instead of trying to figure out how nature works, and then formulate a plan to fit in with that process, we project a moral or social “truth” and force others to obey it, thus making it “real” at least temporarily.

Eventually, it leads to a state of total neurosis, in which the person decides reality is optional, values are pointless, there is no culture, religion or cause worth supporting. This state is mis-identified as nihilism (a rejection of human-imposed meaning) but is more correctly called fatalism: a belief that no activity has efficacy, so why not act for oneself? The ultimate extreme of individualism, narcissism, results:

If narcissists were just jerks, they would be easy to avoid. The fact that they are entertaining and exciting as well as aggressive and manipulative makes them compelling in the real world and as subjects of psychological scrutiny.

A cross section of the narcissist’s ego will reveal high levels of self-esteem, grandiosity, self-focus, and self-importance. They think they are more physically attractive and intelligent than just about everyone, and would rather be admired than liked. They are enraged when told they aren’t beautiful or brilliant but aren’t affected much if told they are jerks.

{…}

Narcissists thrive in big, anonymous cities, entertainment-related fields (think reality TV), and leadership situations where they can dazzle and dominate others without having to cooperate or suffer the consequences of a bad reputation.

{…}

Narcissists’ language and demeanor is often geared toward one objective: to maintain power in an interaction.

{…}

In the sexual realm, promiscuity is a key strategy that allows narcissists to maintain control. Think the “principle of least interest,” in which the partner with the least interest in a relationship has the greatest power.

{…}

It appears that narcissists seek out people who maintain their high positive self-image, at the same time intentionally avoiding and putting down people who may give them a harsh dose of realism. “Seeking admiration is like a drug for narcissists,” notes Back. – Psychology Today

The furthest extreme of liberalism is this type of obsessive individualism.

People of this nature tend to form groups around themselves in which people reinforce each other’s elevated self-esteem, which is in itself a compensation for a lack of purpose in life.

When those groups are challenged, or break down, vindictive and insane behavior results.

Mr. Rea is suffering from what one might call Too Much Positive Reinforcement: The belief, against all available evidence, that one is meant for Special Things.

TMPR has now officially reached epidemic proportions. How else to explain the legions of the talent-free who wait in line for days for a chance to show their stuff to Mr. Cowell and company-then are stunned to be told they don’t make the grade? After decades of upper-middle-class parenting designed to shield Junior from all possible failure, and from any honest judgement of his talents, it’s no wonder we need television shows like American Idol and its fellow showcase for TMPR victims, The Apprentice . These shows are delivering the spanking-sorry, the time-out -that our culture of bloated self-evaluation is subconsciously craving. Their success signals that we may be reaching the end of a long national delusion. There is simply not room enough at the top these days for everyone raised to believe they belong there-and, deep down, we all know it. – New York Observer

The end result of reversed logic is that individual humans believe they are more important than anything else, and that everything else should be a means to an end.

This is the phenomenon underlying modern society, liberalism and consumerism. We call it Crowdism around here, because it is a paradoxical condition by which narcissistic individuals form Crowds out of cognitive dissonance, and then force their dogma of equality and self-importance upon the rest of us.

Crowdism is inherently unstable because it is a false reality, and whenever a collision with the “real” reality occurs, the individual doubts the Crowd. For this reason, Crowds tend to compel their members to constantly seek out false enemies and crush them.

The Solution: Futurist Traditionalism

Futurist Traditionalism reverses reversed logic:

  • Eternalism. We live in one world, pervaded by a mathematical order which is intangible, and understanding that order is how we succeed. While we can use force to create a temporary alternative to that order, and use social pressures to make many people agree and do its bidding, ultimately that clashes with reality and causes problems. Instead we choose an abstract consensus of values that helps us adapt to the challenges of life for time immemorial, and let this guide us past the trends, desires, feelings, impulses and flights of fancy of the passing years. The eternal trumps the contemporary.
  • Goal/Cause. If we find an effect in life, we can with effort trace it back to its cause. We can then match our goals to possible causes, and use those causes to make our goals appear on earth in a self-renewing form, or process. A philosophical goal will unify culture, religion and society; all of these must be in accord, and society must lead not follow by stating its goal, and using all else as a means to the end that is that goal. Individuals are understood as important by their roles and responsibilities in this quest, which allows them to be praised, accepted and adored for their ability to make this shared values system happen.
  • Leadership. Where democratic leaders read polls and then adjust their opinions to match, and marketers look at what people are buying and make products to match, and even in social circumstances we see what is popular and then chase the trend, Futurist Traditionalism operates from finding a clear purpose and acting toward that end. It does not chase its own tail. For this reason, it is stable and also fosters growth, because every citizen knows what behaviors will be rewarded, which will be censured, and which will be ignored.

These traits fix the reversed logic which grips our modern world.

Futurist Traditionalism arises from paleoconservatism, or pre-1945 conservatism, as hybridized with modern movements like deep ecology:

We believe that true ecological sustainability may require a rethinking of our values as a society. Present assumptions about economics, development, and the place of human beings in the natural order must be reevaluated. If we are to achieve ecological sustainability, Nature can no longer be viewed only as a commodity; it must be seen as a partner and model in all human enterprise.

We begin with the premise that life on Earth has entered its most precarious phase in history. We speak of threats not only to human life, but to the lives of all species of plants and animals, as well as the health and continued viability of the biosphere. It is the awareness of the present condition that primarily motivates our activities.

We believe that current problems are largely rooted in the following circumstances:

  • The loss of traditional knowledge, values, and ethics of behavior that celebrate the intrinsic value and sacredness of the natural world and that give the preservation of Nature prime importance. Correspondingly, the assumption of human superiority to other life forms, as if we were granted royalty status over Nature; the idea that Nature is mainly here to serve human will and purpose.
  • The prevailing economic and development paradigms of the modern world, which place primary importance on the values of the market, not on Nature. The conversion of nature to commodity form, the emphasis upon economic growth as a panacea, the industrialization of all activity, from forestry to farming to fishing, even to education and culture; the drive to economic globalization, cultural homogenization, commodity accumulation, urbanization, and human alienation. All of these are fundamentally incompatible with ecological or biological sustainability on a finite Earth.
  • Technology worship and an unlimited faith in the virtues of science; the modern paradigm that technological development is inevitable, invariably good, and to be equated with progress and human destiny. From this, we are left dangerously uncritical, blind to profound problems that technology and science have wrought, and in a state of passivity that confounds democracy.
  • Overpopulation, in both the overdeveloped and the underdeveloped worlds, placing unsustainable burdens upon biodiversity and the human condition.

Foundation for Deep Ecology

What separates deep ecologists from environmentalists is that (a) deep ecologists are conservationists, or people who believe we should set aside nature rather than try to limit our own impact through products, and (b) deep ecologists recognize that for conservation to become a priority in our society, our civilization must re-orient its values and imagination toward reverence for nature, tradition, culture and the eternal.

Unlike modern politics, which is based in ideology, Futurist Traditionalism recognizes that the human problem is eternal — selfishness, oblivion, deception and criminality based in narcissism — and that the solution is to sort the good people from the bad, and avoid situations where the individual chooses what is convenient for them and then forces that result onto society and nature.

The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, “What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?” This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1) The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly +1.

2) The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision-making herdsman is only a fraction of -1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another; and another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit–in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all. – Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of the Commons”

In other words, where modern society is about individual rights to individual behavior, Futurist Traditionalism is about the right of the individual to choose a social standard, and thus have a more stable and less delusional experience in which, unlike in modern society, they are rewarded for doing good deeds and shunned for doing bad.

A rough outline of Futurist Traditionalism beliefs:

  • Futurism. We should devote our time and energy to pushing barriers in technology and exploration. We need to explore the stars, develop faster computers, make even more discoveries in science. We must push back against the forces, both religious and humanistic, that want to limit science. We need smart, moral and far-thinking people in charge of our science.
  • Conservation. We should stop development of new land and return as much land as possible to its previous natural state, undivided by fences and roads. Instead, we should re-develop our inner cities and instead of relegating criminals to bad neighborhoods, simply eject them from our society. They are parasites. We also can cut down on the number of random stores we have through the use of shopping districts.
  • Nationalism. Throughout history, diversity has been a failure; in the longer view, nationalism or the unity of a civilization based on shared ethnic heritage, language, values, customs and culture has been a success. We switched from nationalism in 1789, with the French Revolution, and turned to the “nation-state,” or an ideological state unified by political and economic system. This has brought an unending series of large-scale wars, in contrast to the limited wars of nationalists.
  • Monarchism. The point of a meritocracy is to pick the best people, and then over time, to encourage them to produce offspring with each other, because most (80%) of our abilities are derived from our genetics, not our education or upbringing. In short, we should treat ourselves like the plants and animals we domesticate, and breed ourselves upward for greater intelligence, beauty and moral character. As a wise man says:

    Schopenhauer believed that a person inherits one’s level of intellect through one’s mother, and personal character through one’s father.[37] Schopenhauer quotes Horace’s saying, “From the brave and good are the brave descended” (Odes, iv, 4, 29) and Shakespeare’s line from Cymbeline, “Cowards father cowards, and base things sire base” (IV, 2) to reinforce his hereditarian argument.[38] On the question of eugenics, Schopenhauer wrote:

    With our knowledge of the complete unalterability both of character and of mental faculties, we are led to the view that a real and thorough improvement of the human race might be reached not so much from outside as from within, not so much by theory and instruction as rather by the path of generation. Plato had something of the kind in mind when, in the fifth book of his Republic, he explained his plan for increasing and improving his warrior caste. If we could castrate all scoundrels and stick all stupid geese in a convent, and give men of noble character a whole harem, and procure men, and indeed thorough men, for all girls of intellect and understanding, then a generation would soon arise which would produce a better age than that of Pericles.[39]

    Or more kindly – “The final aim of all love intrigues, be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance than all other ends in human life. What it all turns upon is nothing less than the composition of the next generation.… It is not the weal or woe of any one individual, but that of the human race to come, which is here at stake.”

    In another context, Schopenhauer reiterated his antidemocratic-eugenic thesis: “If you want Utopian plans, I would say: the only solution to the problem is the despotism of the wise and noble members of a genuine aristocracy, a genuine nobility, achieved by mating the most magnanimous men with the cleverest and most gifted women. This proposal constitutes my Utopia and my Platonic Republic”. – Wikipedia

  • Libertarianism. Wherever possible, free markets should be allowed to regulate themselves instead of letting government do it. While the market may need to be restrained from destructive behaviors, and kept it check from its excesses, for day-to-day processes it is a more efficient model than having bureaucrats try to command it.
  • Paleoconservatism. If we are to adapt to nature, and do it with grace, the oldest school of conservatism is important. We need to be family-oriented, meaning supportive of chastity, different gender roles, and helping parents pass wealth on to their children. We need a public standard of behavior that encourages us to rise above the venal mediocrity of the lowest common denominator. We need to emphasize solid principles like hard work, analytical and critical thinking, love for nature, chivalry and aggressive attention to problems both future and present. Finally, we need shame and ostracization for those who violate community standards.
  • Elitism. The point of our civilization is that we constantly get better, not that “I’m OK, you’re OK” without having proven ourselves. We subsidize no one. We encourage people to rise by achievement, and then reward them, but not before. At all times, we keep competition at a lazy pace, where most can get by doing a little better than the norm, but to shoot ahead, one must be exceptional. Whether we like it or not, Darwinism or Social Darwinism is in effect at all times, so we might as well make it work to make us smarter instead of dumber, as leveling-subsidy systems like Socialism do.

Futurist Traditionalism offers a better future than modernity.

Modernity offers a union of leftist beliefs and commerce, a type of anarcho-totalitarianism where the reckless pursuit of individualism incurs huge socialized costs, which then require a massive Nanny State to enforce laws and keep self-destruction away. It is soft tyranny, enforced as much by status-climbing individuals who want the “right” opinions as by big media broadcasting constant propaganda, and commerce offering further degrees of venality to increase the anarchic component. Modernity ends in slow decay, and third world status for those formerly rich first world nations, while commerce goes international and finds new hosts to parasitize. In the name of individualism and personal choice, we empower the marketers, merchants and demagogues. The worst part is that the individual has to guess at what will be rewarded behavior; they know what is accepted, and that money is seen as success, but beyond that they must pander to the Crowd opinion and yet, find it hard to distinguish themselves by truly good deeds as so much false image-making exists.

Futurist Traditionalism offers a clear sense of order because it is goal-oriented. It establishes values held in common, and uses those to emphasize role, responsibility, reverence, virtue and purpose. As such it is in any age the right way for us as a species to adapt to our environment, and not only survive, but thrive by choosing more elegant and graceful behaviors over the lowest common denominator. Where modernity values inclusiveness, Futurist Traditionalism values transcending ourselves and becoming better people. As a result it offers a rising social order, a greater stability, and a chance to be rewarded for what we do right, instead of being subsidized for being human. In addition, by granting society purpose, it streamlines our activities and removes our most destructive tendencies.

The Machine Stops (E.M. Forster)

Tuesday, November 24th, 1970

THE MACHINE STOPS

by E.M. Forster (1909)

I. THE AIR-SHIP

Imagine, if you can, a small room, hexagonal in shape, like the cell of a bee. It is lighted neither by window nor by lamp, yet it is filled with a soft radiance. There are no apertures for ventilation, yet the air is fresh. There are no musical instruments, and yet, at the moment that my meditation opens, this room is throbbing with melodious sounds. An armchair is in the centre, by its side a reading-desk-that is all the furniture. And in the armchair there sits a swaddled lump of flesh-a woman, about five feet high, with a face as white as a fungus. It is to her that the little room belongs.

An electric bell rang.

The woman touched a switch and the music was silent.

“I suppose I must see who it is”, she thought, and set her chair in motion. The chair, like the music, was worked by machinery and it rolled her to the other side of the room where the bell still rang importunately.

“Who is it?” she called. Her voice was irritable, for she had been interrupted often since the music began. She knew several thousand people, in certain directions human intercourse had advanced enormously.

But when she listened into the receiver, her white face wrinkled into smiles, and she said:

“Very well. Let us talk, I will isolate myself. I do not expect anything important will happen for the next five minutes – for I can give you fully five minutes, Kuno. Then I must deliver my lecture on ‘Music during the Australian Period’.”

She touched the isolation knob, so that no one else could speak to her. Then she touched the lighting apparatus, and the little room was plunged into darkness.

“Be quick!” She called, her irritation returning. “Be quick, Kuno; here I am in the dark wasting my time.”

But it was fully fifteen seconds before the round plate that she held in her hands began to glow. A faint blue light shot across it, darkening to purple, and presently she could see the image of her son, who lived on the other side of the earth, and he could see her.

“Kuno, how slow you are.”

He smiled gravely.

“I really believe you enjoy dawdling.”

“I have called you before, mother, but you were always busy or isolated. I have something particular to say.”

“What is it, dearest boy? Be quick. Why could you not send it by pneumatic post?”

“Because I prefer saying such a thing. I want—-“

“Well?”

“I want you to come and see me.”

Vashti watched his face in the blue plate.

“But I can see you!” she exclaimed. “What more do you want?”

“I want to see you not through the Machine,” said Kuno. “I want to speak to you not through the wearisome Machine.”

“Oh, hush!” said his mother, vaguely shocked. “You mustn”t say anything against the Machine.”

“Why not?”

“One mustn”t.”

“You talk as if a god had made the Machine,” cried the other.

“I believe that you pray to it when you are unhappy. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hopes that are in my mind.”

She replied that she could scarcely spare the time for a visit.

“The air-ship barely takes two days to fly between me and you.”

“I dislike air-ships.”

“Why?”

“I dislike seeing the horrible brown earth, and the sea, and the stars when it is dark. I get no ideas in an air- ship.”

“I do not get them anywhere else.”

“What kind of ideas can the air give you?”

He paused for an instant.

“Do you not know four big stars that form an oblong, and three stars close together in the middle of the oblong, and hanging from these stars, three other stars?”

“No, I do not. I dislike the stars. But did they give you an idea? How interesting; tell me.”

“I had an idea that they were like a man.”

“I do not understand.”

“The four big stars are the man’s shoulders and his knees.

The three stars in the middle are like the belts that men wore once, and the three stars hanging are like a sword.”

“A sword?;”

“Men carried swords about with them, to kill animals and other men.”

“It does not strike me as a very good idea, but it is certainly original. When did it come to you first?”

“In the air-ship—–” He broke off, and she fancied that he looked sad. She could not be sure, for the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression. It only gave a general idea of people – an idea that was good enough for all practical purposes, Vashti thought. The imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse, was rightly ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of artificial fruit. Something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race.

“The truth is,” he continued, “that I want to see these stars again. They are curious stars. I want to see them not from the air-ship, but from the surface of the earth, as our ancestors did, thousands of years ago. I want to visit the surface of the earth.”

She was shocked again.

“Mother, you must come, if only to explain to me what is the harm of visiting the surface of the earth.”

“No harm,” she replied, controlling herself. “But no advantage. The surface of the earth is only dust and mud, no advantage. The surface of the earth is only dust and mud, no life remains on it, and you would need a respirator, or the cold of the outer air would kill you. One dies immediately in the outer air.”

“I know; of course I shall take all precautions.”

“And besides—-“

“Well?”

She considered, and chose her words with care. Her son had a queer temper, and she wished to dissuade him from the expedition.

“It is contrary to the spirit of the age,” she asserted.

“Do you mean by that, contrary to the Machine?”

“In a sense, but—-“

His image is the blue plate faded.

“Kuno!”

He had isolated himself.

For a moment Vashti felt lonely.

Then she generated the light, and the sight of her room, flooded with radiance and studded with electric buttons, revived her. There were buttons and switches everywhere – buttons to call for food for music, for clothing. There was the hot-bath button, by pressure of which a basin of (imitation) marble rose out of the floor, filled to the brim with a warm deodorized liquid. There was the cold-bath button. There was the button that produced literature. and there were of course the buttons by which she communicated with her friends. The room, though it contained nothing, was in touch with all that she cared for in the world.

Vashanti’s next move was to turn off the isolation switch, and all the accumulations of the last three minutes burst upon her. The room was filled with the noise of bells, and speaking-tubes. What was the new food like? Could she recommend it? Has she had any ideas lately? Might one tell her one’s own ideas? Would she make an engagement to visit the public nurseries at an early date? – say this day month.

To most of these questions she replied with irritation – a growing quality in that accelerated age. She said that the new food was horrible. That she could not visit the public nurseries through press of engagements. That she had no ideas of her own but had just been told one-that four stars and three in the middle were like a man: she doubted there was much in it. Then she switched off her correspondents, for it was time to deliver her lecture on Australian music.

The clumsy system of public gatherings had been long since abandoned; neither Vashti nor her audience stirred from their rooms. Seated in her armchair she spoke, while they in their armchairs heard her, fairly well, and saw her, fairly well. She opened with a humorous account of music in the pre Mongolian epoch, and went on to describe the great outburst of song that followed the Chinese conquest. Remote and primæval as were the methods of I-San-So and the Brisbane school, she yet felt (she said) that study of them might repay the musicians of today: they had freshness; they had, above all, ideas. Her lecture, which lasted ten minutes, was well received, and at its conclusion she and many of her audience listened to a lecture on the sea; there were ideas to be got from the sea; the speaker had donned a respirator and visited it lately. Then she fed, talked to many friends, had a bath, talked again, and summoned her bed.

The bed was not to her liking. It was too large, and she had a feeling for a small bed. Complaint was useless, for beds were of the same dimension all over the world, and to have had an alternative size would have involved vast alterations in the Machine. Vashti isolated herself-it was necessary, for neither day nor night existed under the ground-and reviewed all that had happened since she had summoned the bed last. Ideas? Scarcely any. Events-was Kuno’s invitation an event?

By her side, on the little reading-desk, was a survival from the ages of litter-one book. This was the Book of the Machine. In it were instructions against every possible contingency. If she was hot or cold or dyspeptic or at a loss for a word, she went to the book, and it told her which button to press. The Central Committee published it. In accordance with a growing habit, it was richly bound.

Sitting up in the bed, she took it reverently in her hands. She glanced round the glowing room as if some one might be watching her. Then, half ashamed, half joyful, she murmured “O Machine!” and raised the volume to her lips. Thrice she kissed it, thrice inclined her head, thrice she felt the delirium of acquiescence. Her ritual performed, she turned to page 1367, which gave the times of the departure of the air-ships from the island in the southern hemisphere, under whose soil she lived, to the island in the northern hemisphere, whereunder lived her son.

She thought, “I have not the time.”

She made the room dark and slept; she awoke and made the room light; she ate and exchanged ideas with her friends, and listened to music and attended lectures; she make the room dark and slept. Above her, beneath her, and around her, the Machine hummed eternally; she did not notice the noise, for she had been born with it in her ears. The earth, carrying her, hummed as it sped through silence, turning her now to the invisible sun, now to the invisible stars. She awoke and made the room light.

“Kuno!”

“I will not talk to you.” he answered, “until you come.”

“Have you been on the surface of the earth since we spoke last?”

His image faded.

Again she consulted the book. She became very nervous and lay back in her chair palpitating. Think of her as without teeth or hair. Presently she directed the chair to the wall, and pressed an unfamiliar button. The wall swung apart slowly. Through the opening she saw a tunnel that curved slightly, so that its goal was not visible. Should she go to see her son, here was the beginning of the journey.

Of course she knew all about the communication-system. There was nothing mysterious in it. She would summon a car and it would fly with her down the tunnel until it reached the lift that communicated with the air-ship station: the system had been in use for many, many years, long before the universal establishment of the Machine. And of course she had studied the civilization that had immediately preceded her own – the civilization that had mistaken the functions of the system, and had used it for bringing people to things, instead of for bringing things to people. Those funny old days, when men went for change of air instead of changing the air in their rooms! And yet-she was frightened of the tunnel: she had not seen it since her last child was born. It curved-but not quite as she remembered; it was brilliant-but not quite as brilliant as a lecturer had suggested. Vashti was seized with the terrors of direct experience. She shrank back into the room, and the wall closed up again.

“Kuno,” she said, “I cannot come to see you. I am not well.”

Immediately an enormous apparatus fell on to her out of the ceiling, a thermometer was automatically laid upon her heart. She lay powerless. Cool pads soothed her forehead. Kuno had telegraphed to her doctor.

So the human passions still blundered up and down in the Machine. Vashti drank the medicine that the doctor projected into her mouth, and the machinery retired into the ceiling. The voice of Kuno was heard asking how she felt.

“Better.” Then with irritation: “But why do you not come to me instead?”

“Because I cannot leave this place.”

“Why?”

“Because, any moment, something tremendous many happen.”

“Have you been on the surface of the earth yet?”

“Not yet.”

“Then what is it?”

“I will not tell you through the Machine.”

She resumed her life.

But she thought of Kuno as a baby, his birth, his removal to the public nurseries, her own visit to him there, his visits to her-visits which stopped when the Machine had assigned him a room on the other side of the earth. “Parents, duties of,” said the book of the Machine,” cease at the moment of birth. P.422327483.” True, but there was something special about Kuno – indeed there had been something special about all her children – and, after all, she must brave the journey if he desired it. And “something tremendous might happen”. What did that mean? The nonsense of a youthful man, no doubt, but she must go. Again she pressed the unfamiliar button, again the wall swung back, and she saw the tunnel that curves out of sight. Clasping the Book, she rose, tottered on to the platform, and summoned the car. Her room closed behind her: the journey to the northern hemisphere had begun.

Of course it was perfectly easy. The car approached and in it she found armchairs exactly like her own. When she signaled, it stopped, and she tottered into the lift. One other passenger was in the lift, the first fellow creature she had seen face to face for months. Few travelled in these days, for, thanks to the advance of science, the earth was exactly alike all over. Rapid intercourse, from which the previous civilization had hoped so much, had ended by defeating itself. What was the good of going to Peking when it was just like Shrewsbury? Why return to Shrewsbury when it would all be like Peking? Men seldom moved their bodies; all unrest was concentrated in the soul.

The air-ship service was a relic form the former age. It was kept up, because it was easier to keep it up than to stop it or to diminish it, but it now far exceeded the wants of the population. Vessel after vessel would rise form the vomitories of Rye or of Christchurch (I use the antique names), would sail into the crowded sky, and would draw up at the wharves of the south – empty. so nicely adjusted was the system, so independent of meteorology, that the sky, whether calm or cloudy, resembled a vast kaleidoscope whereon the same patterns periodically recurred. The ship on which Vashti sailed started now at sunset, now at dawn. But always, as it passed above Rheas, it would neighbour the ship that served between Helsingfors and the Brazils, and, every third time it surmounted the Alps, the fleet of Palermo would cross its track behind. Night and day, wind and storm, tide and earthquake, impeded man no longer. He had harnessed Leviathan. All the old literature, with its praise of Nature, and its fear of Nature, rang false as the prattle of a child.

Yet as Vashti saw the vast flank of the ship, stained with exposure to the outer air, her horror of direct experience returned. It was not quite like the air-ship in the cinematophote. For one thing it smelt – not strongly or unpleasantly, but it did smell, and with her eyes shut she should have known that a new thing was close to her. Then she had to walk to it from the lift, had to submit to glances form the other passengers. The man in front dropped his Book – no great matter, but it disquieted them all. In the rooms, if the Book was dropped, the floor raised it mechanically, but the gangway to the air-ship was not so prepared, and the sacred volume lay motionless. They stopped – the thing was unforeseen – and the man, instead of picking up his property, felt the muscles of his arm to see how they had failed him. Then some one actually said with direct utterance: “We shall be late” – and they trooped on board, Vashti treading on the pages as she did so.

Inside, her anxiety increased. The arrangements were old-fashioned and rough. There was even a female attendant, to whom she would have to announce her wants during the voyage. Of course a revolving platform ran the length of the boat, but she was expected to walk from it to her cabin. Some cabins were better than others, and she did not get the best. She thought the attendant had been unfair, and spasms of rage shook her. The glass valves had closed, she could not go back. She saw, at the end of the vestibule, the lift in which she had ascended going quietly up and down, empty. Beneath those corridors of shining tiles were rooms, tier below tier, reaching far into the earth, and in each room there sat a human being, eating, or sleeping, or producing ideas. And buried deep in the hive was her own room. Vashti was afraid.

“O Machine!” she murmured, and caressed her Book, and was comforted.

Then the sides of the vestibule seemed to melt together, as do the passages that we see in dreams, the lift vanished , the Book that had been dropped slid to the left and vanished, polished tiles rushed by like a stream of water, there was a slight jar, and the air-ship, issuing from its tunnel, soared above the waters of a tropical ocean.

It was night. For a moment she saw the coast of Sumatra edged by the phosphorescence of waves, and crowned by lighthouses, still sending forth their disregarded beams. These also vanished, and only the stars distracted her. They were not motionless, but swayed to and fro above her head, thronging out of one sky-light into another, as if the universe and not the air-ship was careening. And, as often happens on clear nights, they seemed now to be in perspective, now on a plane; now piled tier beyond tier into the infinite heavens, now concealing infinity, a roof limiting for ever the visions of men. In either case they seemed intolerable. “Are we to travel in the dark?” called the passengers angrily, and the attendant, who had been careless, generated the light, and pulled down the blinds of pliable metal. When the air-ships had been built, the desire to look direct at things still lingered in the world. Hence the extraordinary number of skylights and windows, and the proportionate discomfort to those who were civilized and refined. Even in Vashti’s cabin one star peeped through a flaw in the blind, and after a few hours’ uneasy slumber, she was disturbed by an unfamiliar glow, which was the dawn.

Quick as the ship had sped westwards, the earth had rolled eastwards quicker still, and had dragged back Vashti and her companions towards the sun. Science could prolong the night, but only for a little, and those high hopes of neutralizing the earth’s diurnal revolution had passed, together with hopes that were possibly higher. To “keep pace with the sun,” or even to outstrip it, had been the aim of the civilization preceding this. Racing aeroplanes had been built for the purpose, capable of enormous speed, and steered by the greatest intellects of the epoch. Round the globe they went, round and round, westward, westward, round and round, amidst humanity’s applause. In vain. The globe went eastward quicker still, horrible accidents occurred, and the Committee of the Machine, at the time rising into prominence, declared the pursuit illegal, unmechanical, and punishable by Homelessness.

Of Homelessness more will be said later.

Doubtless the Committee was right. Yet the attempt to “defeat the sun” aroused the last common interest that our race experienced about the heavenly bodies, or indeed about anything. It was the last time that men were compacted by thinking of a power outside the world. The sun had conquered, yet it was the end of his spiritual dominion. Dawn, midday, twilight, the zodiacal path, touched neither men’s lives not their hearts, and science retreated into the ground, to concentrate herself upon problems that she was certain of solving.

So when Vashti found her cabin invaded by a rosy finger of light, she was annoyed, and tried to adjust the blind. But the blind flew up altogether, and she saw through the skylight small pink clouds, swaying against a background of blue, and as the sun crept higher, its radiance entered direct, brimming down the wall, like a golden sea. It rose and fell with the air-ship’s motion, just as waves rise and fall, but it advanced steadily, as a tide advances. Unless she was careful, it would strike her face. A spasm of horror shook her and she rang for the attendant. The attendant too was horrified, but she could do nothing; it was not her place to mend the blind. She could only suggest that the lady should change her cabin, which she accordingly prepared to do.

People were almost exactly alike all over the world, but the attendant of the air-ship, perhaps owing to her exceptional duties, had grown a little out of the common. She had often to address passengers with direct speech, and this had given her a certain roughness and originality of manner. When Vashti served away form the sunbeams with a cry, she behaved barbarically – she put out her hand to steady her.

“How dare you!” exclaimed the passenger. “You forget yourself!”

The woman was confused, and apologized for not having let her fall. People never touched one another. The custom had become obsolete, owing to the Machine.

“Where are we now?” asked Vashti haughtily.

“We are over Asia,” said the attendant, anxious to be polite.

“Asia?”

“You must excuse my common way of speaking. I have got into the habit of calling places over which I pass by their unmechanical names.”

“Oh, I remember Asia. The Mongols came from it.”

“Beneath us, in the open air, stood a city that was once called Simla.”

“Have you ever heard of the Mongols and of the Brisbane school?”

“No.”

“Brisbane also stood in the open air.”

“Those mountains to the right – let me show you them.” She pushed back a metal blind. The main chain of the Himalayas was revealed. “They were once called the Roof of the World, those mountains.”

“You must remember that, before the dawn of civilization, they seemed to be an impenetrable wall that touched the stars. It was supposed that no one but the gods could exist above their summits. How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine!”

“How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine!” said Vashti.

“How we have advanced, thanks to the Machine!” echoed the passenger who had dropped his Book the night before, and who was standing in the passage.

“And that white stuff in the cracks? – what is it?”

“I have forgotten its name.”

“Cover the window, please. These mountains give me no ideas.”

The northern aspect of the Himalayas was in deep shadow: on the Indian slope the sun had just prevailed. The forests had been destroyed during the literature epoch for the purpose of making newspaper-pulp, but the snows were awakening to their morning glory, and clouds still hung on the breasts of Kinchinjunga. In the plain were seen the ruins of cities, with diminished rivers creeping by their walls, and by the sides of these were sometimes the signs of vomitories, marking the cities of to day. Over the whole prospect air-ships rushed, crossing the inter-crossing with incredible aplomb, and rising nonchalantly when they desired to escape the perturbations of the lower atmosphere and to traverse the Roof of the World.

“We have indeed advance, thanks to the Machine,” repeated the attendant, and hid the Himalayas behind a metal blind.

The day dragged wearily forward. The passengers sat each in his cabin, avoiding one another with an almost physical repulsion and longing to be once more under the surface of the earth. There were eight or ten of them, mostly young males, sent out from the public nurseries to inhabit the rooms of those who had died in various parts of the earth. The man who had dropped his Book was on the homeward journey. He had been sent to Sumatra for the purpose of propagating the race. Vashti alone was travelling by her private will.

At midday she took a second glance at the earth. The air- ship was crossing another range of mountains, but she could see little, owing to clouds. Masses of black rock hovered below her, and merged indistinctly into grey. Their shapes were fantastic; one of them resembled a prostrate man.

“No ideas here,” murmured Vashti, and hid the Caucasus behind a metal blind.

In the evening she looked again. They were crossing a golden sea, in which lay many small islands and one peninsula. She repeated, “No ideas here,” and hid Greece behind a metal blind.

II. THE MENDING APPARATUS

By a vestibule, by a lift, by a tubular railway, by a platform, by a sliding door – by reversing all the steps of her departure did Vashti arrive at her son’s room, which exactly resembled her own. She might well declare that the visit was superfluous. The buttons, the knobs, the reading-desk with the Book, the temperature, the atmosphere, the illumination – all were exactly the same. And if Kuno himself, flesh of her flesh, stood close beside her at last, what profit was there in that? She was too well-bred to shake him by the hand.

Averting her eyes, she spoke as follows:

“Here I am. I have had the most terrible journey and greatly retarded the development of my soul. It is not worth it, Kuno, it is not worth it. My time is too precious. The sunlight almost touched me, and I have met with the rudest people. I can only stop a few minutes. Say what you want to say, and then I must return.”

“I have been threatened with Homelessness,” said Kuno.

She looked at him now.

“I have been threatened with Homelessness, and I could not tell you such a thing through the Machine.”

Homelessness means death. The victim is exposed to the air, which kills him.

“I have been outside since I spoke to you last. The tremendous thing has happened, and they have discovered me.”

“But why shouldn”t you go outside?” she exclaimed, “It is perfectly legal, perfectly mechanical, to visit the surface of the earth. I have lately been to a lecture on the sea; there is no objection to that; one simply summons a respirator and gets an Egression-permit. It is not the kind of thing that spiritually minded people do, and I begged you not to do it, but there is no legal objection to it.”

“I did not get an Egression-permit.”

“Then how did you get out?”

“I found out a way of my own.”

The phrase conveyed no meaning to her, and he had to repeat it.

“A way of your own?” she whispered. “But that would be wrong.”

“Why?”

The question shocked her beyond measure.

“You are beginning to worship the Machine,” he said coldly.

“You think it irreligious of me to have found out a way of my own. It was just what the Committee thought, when they threatened me with Homelessness.”

At this she grew angry. “I worship nothing!” she cried. “I am most advanced. I don’t think you irreligious, for there is no such thing as religion left. All the fear and the superstition that existed once have been destroyed by the Machine. I only meant that to find out a way of your own was—-Besides, there is no new way out.”

“So it is always supposed.”

“Except through the vomitories, for which one must have an Egression-permit, it is impossible to get out. The Book says so.”

“Well, the Book’s wrong, for I have been out on my feet.”

For Kuno was possessed of a certain physical strength.

By these days it was a demerit to be muscular. Each infant was examined at birth, and all who promised undue strength were destroyed. Humanitarians may protest, but it would have been no true kindness to let an athlete live; he would never have been happy in that state of life to which the Machine had called him; he would have yearned for trees to climb, rivers to bathe in, meadows and hills against which he might measure his body. Man must be adapted to his surroundings, must he not? In the dawn of the world our weakly must be exposed on Mount Taygetus, in its twilight our strong will suffer euthanasia, that the Machine may progress, that the Machine may progress, that the Machine may progress eternally.

“You know that we have lost the sense of space. We say ‘space is annihilated’, but we have annihilated not space, but the sense thereof. We have lost a part of ourselves. I determined to recover it, and I began by walking up and down the platform of the railway outside my room. Up and down, until I was tired, and so did recapture the meaning of ‘Near’ and ‘Far’. ‘Near’ is a place to which I can get quickly on my feet, not a place to which the train or the air-ship will take me quickly. ‘Far’ is a place to which I cannot get quickly on my feet; the vomitory is ‘far’, though I could be there in thirty-eight seconds by summoning the train. Man is the measure. That was my first lesson. Man’s feet are the measure for distance, his hands are the measure for ownership, his body is the measure for all that is lovable and desirable and strong. Then I went further: it was then that I called to you for the first time, and you would not come.

“This city, as you know, is built deep beneath the surface of the earth, with only the vomitories protruding. Having paced the platform outside my own room, I took the lift to the next platform and paced that also, and so with each in turn, until I came to the topmost, above which begins the earth. All the platforms were exactly alike, and all that I gained by visiting them was to develop my sense of space and my muscles. I think I should have been content with this – it is not a little thing, – but as I walked and brooded, it occurred to me that our cities had been built in the days when men still breathed the outer air, and that there had been ventilation shafts for the workmen. I could think of nothing but these ventilation shafts. Had they been destroyed by all the food-tubes and medicine-tubes and music- tubes that the Machine has evolved lately? Or did traces of them remain? One thing was certain. If I came upon them anywhere, it would be in the railway-tunnels of the topmost storey. Everywhere else, all space was accounted for.

“I am telling my story quickly, but don”t think that I was not a coward or that your answers never depressed me. It is not the proper thing, it is not mechanical, it is not decent to walk along a railway-tunnel. I did not fear that I might tread upon a live rail and be killed. I feared something far more intangible-doing what was not contemplated by the Machine. Then I said to myself, ‘Man is the measure’, and I went, and after many visits I found an opening.

“The tunnels, of course, were lighted. Everything is light, artificial light; darkness is the exception. So when I saw a black gap in the tiles, I knew that it was an exception, and rejoiced. I put in my arm – I could put in no more at first – and waved it round and round in ecstasy. I loosened another tile, and put in my head, and shouted into the darkness: ‘I am coming, I shall do it yet,’ and my voice reverberated down endless passages. I seemed to hear the spirits of those dead workmen who had returned each evening to the starlight and to their wives, and all the generations who had lived in the open air called back to me, ‘You will do it yet, you are coming,'”

He paused, and, absurd as he was, his last words moved her.

For Kuno had lately asked to be a father, and his request had been refused by the Committee. His was not a type that the Machine desired to hand on.

“Then a train passed. It brushed by me, but I thrust my head and arms into the hole. I had done enough for one day, so I crawled back to the platform, went down in the lift, and summoned my bed. Ah what dreams! And again I called you, and again you refused.”

She shook her head and said:

“Don”t. Don”t talk of these terrible things. You make me miserable. You are throwing civilization away.”

“But I had got back the sense of space and a man cannot rest then. I determined to get in at the hole and climb the shaft. And so I exercised my arms. Day after day I went through ridiculous movements, until my flesh ached, and I could hang by my hands and hold the pillow of my bed outstretched for many minutes. Then I summoned a respirator, and started.

“It was easy at first. The mortar had somehow rotted, and I soon pushed some more tiles in, and clambered after them into the darkness, and the spirits of the dead comforted me. I don”t know what I mean by that. I just say what I felt. I felt, for the first time, that a protest had been lodged against corruption, and that even as the dead were comforting me, so I was comforting the unborn. I felt that humanity existed, and that it existed without clothes. How can I possibly explain this? It was naked, humanity seemed naked, and all these tubes and buttons and machineries neither came into the world with us, nor will they follow us out, nor do they matter supremely while we are here. Had I been strong, I would have torn off every garment I had, and gone out into the outer air unswaddled. But this is not for me, nor perhaps for my generation. I climbed with my respirator and my hygienic clothes and my dietetic tabloids! Better thus than not at all.

“There was a ladder, made of some primæval metal. The light from the railway fell upon its lowest rungs, and I saw that it led straight upwards out of the rubble at the bottom of the shaft. Perhaps our ancestors ran up and down it a dozen times daily, in their building. As I climbed, the rough edges cut through my gloves so that my hands bled. The light helped me for a little, and then came darkness and, worse still, silence which pierced my ears like a sword. The Machine hums! Did you know that? Its hum penetrates our blood, and may even guide our thoughts. Who knows! I was getting beyond its power. Then I thought: ‘This silence means that I am doing wrong.’ But I heard voices in the silence, and again they strengthened me.” He laughed. “I had need of them. The next moment I cracked my head against something.”

She sighed.

“I had reached one of those pneumatic stoppers that defend us from the outer air. You may have noticed them no the air- ship. Pitch dark, my feet on the rungs of an invisible ladder, my hands cut; I cannot explain how I lived through this part, but the voices till comforted me, and I felt for fastenings. The stopper, I suppose, was about eight feet across. I passed my hand over it as far as I could reach. It was perfectly smooth. I felt it almost to the centre. Not quite to the centre, for my arm was too short. Then the voice said: ‘Jump. It is worth it. There may be a handle in the centre, and you may catch hold of it and so come to us your own way. And if there is no handle, so that you may fall and are dashed to pieces – it is till worth it: you will still come to us your own way.’ So I jumped. There was a handle, and —-“

He paused. Tears gathered in his mother’s eyes. She knew that he was fated. If he did not die today he would die tomorrow. There was not room for such a person in the world. And with her pity disgust mingled. She was ashamed at having borne such a son, she who had always been so respectable and so full of ideas. Was he really the little boy to whom she had taught the use of his stops and buttons, and to whom she had given his first lessons in the Book? The very hair that disfigured his lip showed that he was reverting to some savage type. On atavism the Machine can have no mercy.

“There was a handle, and I did catch it. I hung tranced over the darkness and heard the hum of these workings as the last whisper in a dying dream. All the things I had cared about and all the people I had spoken to through tubes appeared infinitely little. Meanwhile the handle revolved. My weight had set something in motion and I span slowly, and then—-

“I cannot describe it. I was lying with my face to the sunshine. Blood poured from my nose and ears and I heard a tremendous roaring. The stopper, with me clinging to it, had simply been blown out of the earth, and the air that we make down here was escaping through the vent into the air above. It burst up like a fountain. I crawled back to it – for the upper air hurts – and, as it were, I took great sips from the edge. My respirator had flown goodness knows here, my clothes were torn. I just lay with my lips close to the hole, and I sipped until the bleeding stopped. You can imagine nothing so curious. This hollow in the grass – I will speak of it in a minute, – the sun shining into it, not brilliantly but through marbled clouds, – the peace, the nonchalance, the sense of space, and, brushing my cheek, the roaring fountain of our artificial air! Soon I spied my respirator, bobbing up and down in the current high above my head, and higher still were many air-ships. But no one ever looks out of air-ships, and in any case they could not have picked me up. There I was, stranded. The sun shone a little way down the shaft, and revealed the topmost rung of the ladder, but it was hopeless trying to reach it. I should either have been tossed up again by the escape, or else have fallen in, and died. I could only lie on the grass, sipping and sipping, and from time to time glancing around me.

“I knew that I was in Wessex, for I had taken care to go to a lecture on the subject before starting. Wessex lies above the room in which we are talking now. It was once an important state. Its kings held all the southern coast form the Andredswald to Cornwall, while the Wansdyke protected them on the north, running over the high ground. The lecturer was only concerned with the rise of Wessex, so I do not know how long it remained an international power, nor would the knowledge have assisted me. To tell the truth I could do nothing but laugh, during this part. There was I, with a pneumatic stopper by my side and a respirator bobbing over my head, imprisoned, all three of us, in a grass-grown hollow that was edged with fern.”

Then he grew grave again.

“Lucky for me that it was a hollow. For the air began to fall back into it and to fill it as water fills a bowl. I could crawl about. Presently I stood. I breathed a mixture, in which the air that hurts predominated whenever I tried to climb the sides. This was not so bad. I had not lost my tabloids and remained ridiculously cheerful, and as for the Machine, I forgot about it altogether. My one aim now was to get to the top, where the ferns were, and to view whatever objects lay beyond.

“I rushed the slope. The new air was still too bitter for me and I came rolling back, after a momentary vision of something grey. The sun grew very feeble, and I remembered that he was in Scorpio – I had been to a lecture on that too. If the sun is in Scorpio, and you are in Wessex, it means that you must be as quick as you can, or it will get too dark. (This is the first bit of useful information I have ever got from a lecture, and I expect it will be the last.) It made me try frantically to breathe the new air, and to advance as far as I dared out of my pond. The hollow filled so slowly. At times I thought that the fountain played with less vigour. My respirator seemed to dance nearer the earth; the roar was decreasing.”

He broke off.

“I don’t think this is interesting you. The rest will interest you even less. There are no ideas in it, and I wish that I had not troubled you to come. We are too different, mother.”

She told him to continue.

“It was evening before I climbed the bank. The sun had very nearly slipped out of the sky by this time, and I could not get a good view. You, who have just crossed the Roof of the World, will not want to hear an account of the little hills that I saw – low colourless hills. But to me they were living and the turf that covered them was a skin, under which their muscles rippled, and I felt that those hills had called with incalculable force to men in the past, and that men had loved them. Now they sleep – perhaps for ever. They commune with humanity in dreams. Happy the man, happy the woman, who awakes the hills of Wessex. For though they sleep, they will never die.”

His voice rose passionately.

“Cannot you see, cannot all you lecturers see, that it is we that are dying, and that down here the only thing that really lives in the Machine? We created the Machine, to do our will, but we cannot make it do our will now. It was robbed us of the sense of space and of the sense of touch, it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, it has paralysed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine develops – but not on our lies. The Machine proceeds – but not to our goal. We only exist as the blood corpuscles that course through its arteries, and if it could work without us, it would let us die. Oh, I have no remedy – or, at least, only one – to tell men again and again that I have seen the hills of Wessex as Ælfrid saw them when he overthrew the Danes.

“So the sun set. I forgot to mention that a belt of mist lay between my hill and other hills, and that it was the colour of pearl.”

He broke off for the second time.

“Go on,” said his mother wearily.

He shook his head.

“Go on. Nothing that you say can distress me now. I am hardened.”

“I had meant to tell you the rest, but I cannot: I know that I cannot: good-bye.”

Vashti stood irresolute. All her nerves were tingling with his blasphemies. But she was also inquisitive.

“This is unfair,” she complained. “You have called me across the world to hear your story, and hear it I will. Tell me – as briefly as possible, for this is a disastrous waste of time – tell me how you returned to civilization.”

“Oh – that!” he said, starting. “You would like to hear about civilization. Certainly. Had I got to where my respirator fell down?”

“No – but I understand everything now. You put on your respirator, and managed to walk along the surface of the earth to a vomitory, and there your conduct was reported to the Central Committee.”

“By no means.”

He passed his hand over his forehead, as if dispelling some strong impression. Then, resuming his narrative, he warmed to it again.

“My respirator fell about sunset. I had mentioned that the fountain seemed feebler, had I not?”

“Yes.”

“About sunset, it let the respirator fall. As I said, I had entirely forgotten about the Machine, and I paid no great attention at the time, being occupied with other things. I had my pool of air, into which I could dip when the outer keenness became intolerable, and which would possibly remain for days, provided that no wind sprang up to disperse it. Not until it was too late did I realize what the stoppage of the escape implied. You see – the gap in the tunnel had been mended; the Mending Apparatus; the Mending Apparatus, was after me.

“One other warning I had, but I neglected it. The sky at night was clearer than it had been in the day, and the moon, which was about half the sky behind the sun, shone into the dell at moments quite brightly. I was in my usual place – on the boundary between the two atmospheres – when I thought I saw something dark move across the bottom of the dell, and vanish into the shaft. In my folly, I ran down. I bent over and listened, and I thought I heard a faint scraping noise in the depths.

“At this – but it was too late – I took alarm. I determined to put on my respirator and to walk right out of the dell. But my respirator had gone. I knew exactly where it had fallen – between the stopper and the aperture – and I could even feel the mark that it had made in the turf. It had gone, and I realized that something evil was at work, and I had better escape to the other air, and, if I must die, die running towards the cloud that had been the colour of a pearl. I never started. Out of the shaft – it is too horrible. A worm, a long white worm, had crawled out of the shaft and gliding over the moonlit grass.

“I screamed. I did everything that I should not have done, I stamped upon the creature instead of flying from it, and it at once curled round the ankle. Then we fought. The worm let me run all over the dell, but edged up my leg as I ran. ‘Help!’ I cried. (That part is too awful. It belongs to the part that you will never know.) ‘Help!’ I cried. (Why cannot we suffer in silence?) ‘Help!’ I cried. When my feet were wound together, I fell, I was dragged away from the dear ferns and the living hills, and past the great metal stopper (I can tell you this part), and I thought it might save me again if I caught hold of the handle. It also was enwrapped, it also. Oh, the whole dell was full of the things. They were searching it in all directions, they were denuding it, and the white snouts of others peeped out of the hole, ready if needed. Everything that could be moved they brought – brushwood, bundles of fern, everything, and down we all went intertwined into hell. The last things that I saw, ere the stopper closed after us, were certain stars, and I felt that a man of my sort lived in the sky. For I did fight, I fought till the very end, and it was only my head hitting against the ladder that quieted me. I woke up in this room. The worms had vanished. I was surrounded by artificial air, artificial light, artificial peace, and my friends were calling to me down speaking-tubes to know whether I had come across any new ideas lately.”

Here his story ended. Discussion of it was impossible, and Vashti turned to go.

“It will end in Homelessness,” she said quietly.

“I wish it would,” retorted Kuno.

“The Machine has been most merciful.”

“I prefer the mercy of God.”

“By that superstitious phrase, do you mean that you could live in the outer air?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever seen, round the vomitories, the bones of those who were extruded after the Great Rebellion?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever seen, round the vomitories, the bones of those who were extruded after the Great Rebellion?”

“Yes.”

“They were left where they perished for our edification. A few crawled away, but they perished, too – who can doubt it? And so with the Homeless of our own day. The surface of the earth supports life no longer.”

“Indeed.”

“Ferns and a little grass may survive, but all higher forms have perished. Has any air-ship detected them?”

“No.”

“Has any lecturer dealt with them?”

“No.”

“Then why this obstinacy?”

“Because I have seen them,” he exploded.

“Seen what?”

“Because I have seen her in the twilight – because she came to my help when I called – because she, too, was entangled by the worms, and, luckier than I, was killed by one of them piercing her throat.”

He was mad. Vashti departed, nor, in the troubles that followed, did she ever see his face again.

III. THE HOMELESS

During the years that followed Kuno’s escapade, two important developments took place in the Machine. On the surface they were revolutionary, but in either case men’s minds had been prepared beforehand, and they did but express tendencies that were latent already.

The first of these was the abolition of respirator.

Advanced thinkers, like Vashti, had always held it foolish to visit the surface of the earth. Air-ships might be necessary, but what was the good of going out for mere curiosity and crawling along for a mile or two in a terrestrial motor? The habit was vulgar and perhaps faintly improper: it was unproductive of ideas, and had no connection with the habits that really mattered. So respirators were abolished, and with them, of course, the terrestrial motors, and except for a few lecturers, who complained that they were debarred access to their subject- matter, the development was accepted quietly. Those who still wanted to know what the earth was like had after all only to listen to some gramophone, or to look into some cinematophote. And even the lecturers acquiesced when they found that a lecture on the sea was none the less stimulating when compiled out of other lectures that had already been delivered on the same subject. “Beware of first- hand ideas!” exclaimed one of the most advanced of them. “First-hand ideas do not really exist. They are but the physical impressions produced by live and fear, and on this gross foundation who could erect a philosophy? Let your ideas be second-hand, and if possible tenth-hand, for then they will be far removed from that disturbing element – direct observation. Do not learn anything about this subject of mine – the French Revolution. Learn instead what I think that Enicharmon thought Urizen thought Gutch thought Ho-Yung thought Chi-Bo-Sing thought LafcadioHearn thought Carlyle thought Mirabeau said about the French Revolution. Through the medium of these ten great minds, the blood that was shed at Paris and the windows that were broken at Versailles will be clarified to an idea which you may employ most profitably in your daily lives. But be sure that the intermediates are many and varied, for in history one authority exists to counteract another. Urizen must counteract the scepticism of Ho-Yung and Enicharmon, I must myself counteract the impetuosity of Gutch. You who listen to me are in a better position to judge about the French Revolution than I am. Your descendants will be even in a better position than you, for they will learn what you think I think, and yet another intermediate will be added to the chain. And in time” – his voice rose – “there will come a generation that had got beyond facts, beyond impressions, a generation absolutely colourless, a generation

seraphically free

From taint of personality,

which will see the French Revolution not as it happened, nor as they would like it to have happened, but as it would have happened, had it taken place in the days of the Machine.”

Tremendous applause greeted this lecture, which did but voice a feeling already latent in the minds of men – a feeling that terrestrial facts must be ignored, and that the abolition of respirators was a positive gain. It was even suggested that air-ships should be abolished too. This was not done, because air-ships had somehow worked themselves into the Machine’s system. But year by year they were used less, and mentioned less by thoughtful men.

The second great development was the re-establishment of religion.

This, too, had been voiced in the celebrated lecture. No one could mistake the reverent tone in which the peroration had concluded, and it awakened a responsive echo in the heart of each. Those who had long worshipped silently, now began to talk. They described the strange feeling of peace that came over them when they handled the Book of the Machine, the pleasure that it was to repeat certain numerals out of it, however little meaning those numerals conveyed to the outward ear, the ecstasy of touching a button, however unimportant, or of ringing an electric bell, however superfluously.

“The Machine,” they exclaimed, “feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. The Machine is the friend of ideas and the enemy of superstition: the Machine is omnipotent, eternal; blessed is the Machine.” And before long this allocution was printed on the first page of the Book, and in subsequent editions the ritual swelled into a complicated system of praise and prayer. The word “religion” was sedulously avoided, and in theory the Machine was still the creation and the implement of man. but in practice all, save a few retrogrades, worshipped it as divine. Nor was it worshipped in unity. One believer would be chiefly impressed by the blue optic plates, through which he saw other believers; another by the mending apparatus, which sinful Kuno had compared to worms; another by the lifts, another by the Book. And each would pray to this or to that, and ask it to intercede for him with the Machine as a whole. Persecution – that also was present. It did not break out, for reasons that will be set forward shortly. But it was latent, and all who did not accept the minimum known as “undenominational Mechanism” lived in danger of Homelessness, which means death, as we know.

To attribute these two great developments to the Central Committee, is to take a very narrow view of civilization. The Central Committee announced the developments, it is true, but they were no more the cause of them than were the kings of the imperialistic period the cause of war. Rather did they yield to some invincible pressure, which came no one knew whither, and which, when gratified, was succeeded by some new pressure equally invincible. To such a state of affairs it is convenient to give the name of progress. No one confessed the Machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence. The better a man knew his own duties upon it, the less he understood the duties of his neighbour, and in all the world there was not one who understood the monster as a whole. Those master brains had perished. They had left full directions, it is true, and their successors had each of them mastered a portion of those directions. But Humanity, in its desire for comfort, had over-reached itself. It had exploited the riches of nature too far. Quietly and complacently, it was sinking into decadence, and progress had come to mean the progress of the Machine.

As for Vashti, her life went peacefully forward until the final disaster. She made her room dark and slept; she awoke and made the room light. She lectured and attended lectures. She exchanged ideas with her innumerable friends and believed she was growing more spiritual. At times a friend was granted Euthanasia, and left his or her room for the homelessness that is beyond all human conception. Vashti did not much mind. After an unsuccessful lecture, she would sometimes ask for Euthanasia herself. But the death-rate was not permitted to exceed the birth-rate, and the Machine had hitherto refused it to her.

The troubles began quietly, long before she was conscious of them.

One day she was astonished at receiving a message from her son. They never communicated, having nothing in common, and she had only heard indirectly that he was still alive, and had been transferred from the northern hemisphere, where he had behaved so mischievously, to the southern – indeed, to a room not far from her own.

“Does he want me to visit him?” she thought. “Never again, never. And I have not the time.”

No, it was madness of another kind.

He refused to visualize his face upon the blue plate, and speaking out of the darkness with solemnity said:

“The Machine stops.”

“What do you say?”

“The Machine is stopping, I know it, I know the signs.”

She burst into a peal of laughter. He heard her and was angry, and they spoke no more.

“Can you imagine anything more absurd?” she cried to a friend. “A man who was my son believes that the Machine is stopping. It would be impious if it was not mad.”

“The Machine is stopping?” her friend replied. “What does that mean? The phrase conveys nothing to me.”

“Nor to me.”

“He does not refer, I suppose, to the trouble there has been lately with the music?”

“Oh no, of course not. Let us talk about music.”

“Have you complained to the authorities?”

“Yes, and they say it wants mending, and referred me to the Committee of the Mending Apparatus. I complained of those curious gasping sighs that disfigure the symphonies of the Brisbane school. They sound like some one in pain. The Committee of the Mending Apparatus say that it shall be remedied shortly.”

Obscurely worried, she resumed her life. For one thing, the defect in the music irritated her. For another thing, she could not forget Kuno’s speech. If he had known that the music was out of repair – he could not know it, for he detested music – if he had known that it was wrong, “the Machine stops” was exactly the venomous sort of remark he would have made. Of course he had made it at a venture, but the coincidence annoyed her, and she spoke with some petulance to the Committee of the Mending Apparatus.

They replied, as before, that the defect would be set right shortly.

“Shortly! At once!” she retorted. “Why should I be worried by imperfect music? Things are always put right at once. If you do not mend it at once, I shall complain to the Central Committee.”

“No personal complaints are received by the Central Committee,” the Committee of the Mending Apparatus replied.

“Through whom am I to make my complaint, then?”

“Through us.”

“I complain then.”

“Your complaint shall be forwarded in its turn.”

“Have others complained?”

This question was unmechanical, and the Committee of the Mending Apparatus refused to answer it.

“It is too bad!” she exclaimed to another of her friends.

“There never was such an unfortunate woman as myself. I can never be sure of my music now. It gets worse and worse each time I summon it.”

“What is it?”

“I do not know whether it is inside my head, or inside the wall.”

“Complain, in either case.”

“I have complained, and my complaint will be forwarded in its turn to the Central Committee.”

Time passed, and they resented the defects no longer. The defects had not been remedied, but the human tissues in that latter day had become so subservient, that they readily adapted themselves to every caprice of the Machine. The sigh at the crises of the Brisbane symphony no longer irritated Vashti; she accepted it as part of the melody. The jarring noise, whether in the head or in the wall, was no longer resented by her friend. And so with the mouldy artificial fruit, so with the bath water that began to stink, so with the defective rhymes that the poetry machine had taken to emit. all were bitterly complained of at first, and then acquiesced in and forgotten. Things went from bad to worse unchallenged.

It was otherwise with the failure of the sleeping apparatus. That was a more serious stoppage. There came a day when over the whole world – in Sumatra, in Wessex, in the innumerable cities of Courland and Brazil – the beds, when summoned by their tired owners, failed to appear. It may seem a ludicrous matter, but from it we may date the collapse of humanity. The Committee responsible for the failure was assailed by complainants, whom it referred, as usual, to the Committee of the Mending Apparatus, who in its turn assured them that their complaints would be forwarded to the Central Committee. But the discontent grew, for mankind was not yet sufficiently adaptable to do without sleeping.

“Some one of meddling with the Machine—” they began.

“Some one is trying to make himself king, to reintroduce the personal element.”

“Punish that man with Homelessness.”

“To the rescue! Avenge the Machine! Avenge the Machine!”

“War! Kill the man!”

But the Committee of the Mending Apparatus now came forward, and allayed the panic with well-chosen words. It confessed that the Mending Apparatus was itself in need of repair.

The effect of this frank confession was admirable.

“Of course,” said a famous lecturer – he of the French Revolution, who gilded each new decay with splendour – “of course we shall not press our complaints now. The Mending Apparatus has treated us so well in the past that we all sympathize with it, and will wait patiently for its recovery. In its own good time it will resume its duties. Meanwhile let us do without our beds, our tabloids, our other little wants. Such, I feel sure, would be the wish of the Machine.”

Thousands of miles away his audience applauded. The Machine still linked them. Under the seas, beneath the roots of the mountains, ran the wires through which they saw and heard, the enormous eyes and ears that were their heritage, and the hum of many workings clothed their thoughts in one garment of subserviency. Only the old and the sick remained ungrateful, for it was rumoured that Euthanasia, too, was out of order, and that pain had reappeared among men.

It became difficult to read. A blight entered the atmosphere and dulled its luminosity. At times Vashti could scarcely see across her room. The air, too, was foul. Loud were the complaints, impotent the remedies, heroic the tone of the lecturer as he cried: “Courage! courage! What matter so long as the Machine goes on ? To it the darkness and the light are one.” And though things improved again after a time, the old brilliancy was never recaptured, and humanity never recovered from its entrance into twilight. There was an hysterical talk of “measures,” of “provisional dictatorship,” and the inhabitants of Sumatra were asked to familiarize themselves with the workings of the central power station, the said power station being situated in France. But for the most part panic reigned, and men spent their strength praying to their Books, tangible proofs of the Machine’s omnipotence. There were gradations of terror- at times came rumours of hope-the Mending Apparatus was almost mended-the enemies of the Machine had been got under- new “nerve-centres” were evolving which would do the work even more magnificently than before. But there came a day when, without the slightest warning, without any previous hint of feebleness, the entire communication-system broke down, all over the world, and the world, as they understood it, ended.

Vashti was lecturing at the time and her earlier remarks had been punctuated with applause. As she proceeded the audience became silent, and at the conclusion there was no sound. Somewhat displeased, she called to a friend who was a specialist in sympathy. No sound: doubtless the friend was sleeping. And so with the next friend whom she tried to summon, and so with the next, until she remembered Kuno’s cryptic remark, “The Machine stops”.

The phrase still conveyed nothing. If Eternity was stopping it would of course be set going shortly.

For example, there was still a little light and air – the atmosphere had improved a few hours previously. There was still the Book, and while there was the Book there was security.

Then she broke down, for with the cessation of activity came an unexpected terror – silence.

She had never known silence, and the coming of it nearly killed her – it did kill many thousands of people outright. Ever since her birth she had been surrounded by the steady hum. It was to the ear what artificial air was to the lungs, and agonizing pains shot across her head. And scarcely knowing what she did, she stumbled forward and pressed the unfamiliar button, the one that opened the door of her cell.

Now the door of the cell worked on a simple hinge of its own. It was not connected with the central power station, dying far away in France. It opened, rousing immoderate hopes in Vashti, for she thought that the Machine had been mended. It opened, and she saw the dim tunnel that curved far away towards freedom. One look, and then she shrank back. For the tunnel was full of people – she was almost the last in that city to have taken alarm.

People at any time repelled her, and these were nightmares from her worst dreams. People were crawling about, people were screaming, whimpering, gasping for breath, touching each other, vanishing in the dark, and ever and anon being pushed off the platform on to the live rail. Some were fighting round the electric bells, trying to summon trains which could not be summoned. Others were yelling for Euthanasia or for respirators, or blaspheming the Machine. Others stood at the doors of their cells fearing, like herself, either to stop in them or to leave them. And behind all the uproar was silence – the silence which is the voice of the earth and of the generations who have gone.

No – it was worse than solitude. She closed the door again and sat down to wait for the end. The disintegration went on, accompanied by horrible cracks and rumbling. The valves that restrained the Medical Apparatus must have weakened, for it ruptured and hung hideously from the ceiling. The floor heaved and fell and flung her from the chair. A tube oozed towards her serpent fashion. And at last the final horror approached – light began to ebb, and she knew that civilization’s long day was closing.

She whirled around, praying to be saved from this, at any rate, kissing the Book, pressing button after button. The uproar outside was increasing, and even penetrated the wall. Slowly the brilliancy of her cell was dimmed, the reflections faded from the metal switches. Now she could not see the reading-stand, now not the Book, though she held it in her hand. Light followed the flight of sound, air was following light, and the original void returned to the cavern from which it has so long been excluded. Vashti continued to whirl, like the devotees of an earlier religion, screaming, praying, striking at the buttons with bleeding hands.

It was thus that she opened her prison and escaped – escaped in the spirit: at least so it seems to me, ere my meditation closes. That she escapes in the body – I cannot perceive that. She struck, by chance, the switch that released the door, and the rush of foul air on her skin, the loud throbbing whispers in her ears, told her that she was facing the tunnel again, and that tremendous platform on which she had seen men fighting. They were not fighting now. Only the whispers remained, and the little whimpering groans. They were dying by hundreds out in the dark.

She burst into tears.

Tears answered her.

They wept for humanity, those two, not for themselves. They could not bear that this should be the end. Ere silence was completed their hearts were opened, and they knew what had been important on the earth. Man, the flower of all flesh, the noblest of all creatures visible, man who had once made god in his image, and had mirrored his strength on the constellations, beautiful naked man was dying, strangled in the garments that he had woven. Century after century had he toiled, and here was his reward. Truly the garment had seemed heavenly at first, shot with colours of culture, sewn with the threads of self-denial. And heavenly it had been so long as man could shed it at will and live by the essence that is his soul, and the essence, equally divine, that is his body. The sin against the body – it was for that they wept in chief; the centuries of wrong against the muscles and the nerves, and those five portals by which we can alone apprehend – glozing it over with talk of evolution, until the body was white pap, the home of ideas as colourless, last sloshy stirrings of a spirit that had grasped the stars.

“Where are you?” she sobbed.

His voice in the darkness said, “Here.”

Is there any hope, Kuno?”

“None for us.”

“Where are you?”

She crawled over the bodies of the dead. His blood spurted over her hands.

“Quicker,” he gasped, “I am dying – but we touch, we talk, not through the Machine.”

He kissed her.

“We have come back to our own. We die, but we have recaptured life, as it was in Wessex, when Ælfrid overthrew the Danes. We know what they know outside, they who dwelt in the cloud that is the colour of a pearl.”

“But Kuno, is it true ? Are there still men on the surface of the earth ? Is this – tunnel, this poisoned darkness – really not the end?”

He replied:

“I have seen them, spoken to them, loved them. They are hiding in the midst and the ferns until our civilization stops. Today they are the Homeless – tomorrow —— “

“Oh, tomorrow – some fool will start the Machine again, tomorrow.”

“Never,” said Kuno, “never. Humanity has learnt its lesson.”

As he spoke, the whole city was broken like a honeycomb. An air-ship had sailed in through the vomitory into a ruined wharf. It crashed downwards, exploding as it went, rending gallery after gallery with its wings of steel. For a moment they saw the nations of the dead, and, before they joined them, scraps of the untainted sky.

Originally web-published at Illinois.edu.

Recommended Reading