Certain givens of nature are crucial for any individual’s orientation in the world: gravity, solidity, the spectrum of electro-magnetic radiation, chemical transfers of energy. The givens of nature are modelled and measured by science. Culture is just as important for orientation: language, technology, economic infrastructure, and institutions. If you approach everything as culture (emerging from biology in some way) then probably you are an anthropologist or sociologist, working to perfect an account of the scientific determinism of human behaviour. You might also be philosophically postmodern, approaching everything as “text”. With some exceptions such as that, to think philosophically is to recognize that personal or subjective non-actualities are also crucial in any individual’s orientation, and that culture and the brute actuality of nature are constructed within a creative orientation which is interior to individual intelligences. Human life is played out by individuals in an encounter between the non-actualities of personal subjectivity and the brute actualities of objective nature. That we are also sponges of culture reveals how much enlargement of intelligence or enrichment of orientation we experience from interconnection with others and their orientations. Culture also constitutes a crucial problem for individuals because it has been tainted by longstanding efforts to legitimize and even sanctify human-on-human macro-parasitism.
The Supernatural in Systems of Reality
In claiming that official systems of reality consist of conceptual constructs of nature, community, and individual subjectivity (in posting 79, January 15, 2015, Two Lessons from History: Mutable Reality), it was not helpful that the supernatural went unmentioned. The supernatural is normally given far more emphasis and cultural elaboration than nature, and both nature and culture are often approached as encrypted messages from and about the supernatural. What is crucial, however, is that there is always a special connection between what is supernatural and individual subjectivity, often jointly conceptualized as “spirit”. That special connection is present because the whole idea of the supernatural originates in the experience of ordinary subjectivity: personal intelligence and the intelligences of other ordinary people. Caring, for example, is always and only interior to intelligences. Ethics and ethical judgements, identifications of justice and injustice, are always and only acts of intelligence. It is the same with ideas, abstractions, generalities, and categories. Teleological time, plans for the future, hopes or fears of a certain future, aspirations and intentions to create a certain future and to play among alternative plausible futures, are always and only interior to individual intelligences. Each individual constructs a pluralistic teleology, temporal bearings out of a past and toward an array of increasingly improbable futures, all non-actualities, which is to say, separate from the brute actuality of nature. Time is the miracle of intelligence because it is the matrix of freedom in its non-actuality. Caring, judgments of ethics or justice, and teleological time are all interior to ordinary intelligences. In spite of the fact that everyone’s direct and original acquaintance with those features of experience is in ordinary people, such features still have a supernatural quality. They express novelty and initiative (being alive) instead of merely inertia. Ordinary intelligence, then, is the primary supernatural, and that is why all ideas of the supernatural are ideas about intelligences or features of intelligence.
Whenever these interior features of intelligences are ascribed to the world at large, to nature, or to disembodied entities of any sort, they are inappropriate projections of what can only be interior to an ordinary person’s intelligence. As such, they are distortions of reality, fables, and deceptions that have disabling effects since they falsely personalize or personify nature, transforming nature into a super-person and infusing the whole arrangement with an overriding and centralized moral purpose and caring that cannot be there. Personalizing nature in that way subordinates individual subjectivity within a top-down structure, and trivializes individual subjectivity catastrophically in comparison with some fabulous (false) super-person. It is crucial for intelligence to be present in any model of fundamental reality, but it is just as important that the force of intelligence be correctly located in ordinary individuals.
Intelligence, and so what is supernatural, has generally been erroneously located and attributed. The main error has been in imagining that the intelligence or spirit that is experienced in ordinary people was placed there somehow by a vaster and ‘higher’ intelligence, some grander version of, or entity of, intelligence. Jumping to that conclusion plausibly follows from all the experiences we have of ‘things’ descending from the sky into our local situation. For example, rain arrives from the sky and washes the countryside and streets of the city. It waters thirsty grass, trees, and crops. Later the sun comes out from the clouds and warms the entire face of the earth with its powerful light, and the plants reach up to it. Our immediate survival depends on our eating, drinking, and breathing local bits of that vast environment which is vivified from above. Such experiences arrive in the context of the overwhelming and awesome vista of the starry night sky as seen from our position as embodied individuals, effectively rooted or tethered to solid ground, emphatically located, local, limited, and small compared with the world around us which is apparently endless; and also in the context of our childhood conditioning to having and depending on parental seniority presenting us gifts from the accumulated aids to orientation of a mysterious ambient culture. We are persuaded to imagine top-down models of cosmic reality by this whole awesome vista in which we can seem to be passive receivers.
However, in the case of intelligence, that pattern of remote origination, of fertility, is inappropriate and in fact pernicious. As soon as you posit an original higher intelligence, then it follows that everything that exists is a product of the plans, judgements, intentions, and caring of that higher intelligence. Nature becomes personified as the voice or expression of the higher intelligence, and not only nature but culture as well. The social order and the distribution of power and property all become expressions of the super-intelligence, and as such, sacred and unquestionable. In that context, any imperfections, flaws, or problems have to be attributed to human nature (or flawed co-gods) as a meagre imitation of the super-intelligence, and such a claim has often been used as both a license and an excuse for heinous brutality. However, nothing other than experiences such as rain and the beauty of the Milky Way indicates a remote origin for ordinary intelligence, and such experiences are unconvincing and inapplicable for this purpose. The intelligence of ordinary individuals does not originate from some grander, vaster, version of itself, but rather, each is autonomous in every person, and there is no grander version of intelligence anywhere. And yet, intelligence is still supernatural in every instance. (The imaginative projection of intelligence onto inanimate nature is a testament to the creative power of ordinary intelligences to invent non-actualities.) Ours isn’t the sort of supernatural which magically overrides and negates certain givens of nature, and yet, where nature is restricted to brute actualities, intelligences clearly dream or fountain up multitudes of non-actualities, and then live from them with variable degrees of success.
Re-Conceptualizing Systems of Reality
The mistake of projecting intelligence into the sky, out onto the cosmos at large, has catastrophic consequences by creating a conceptual niche for macro-parasite factions of humans, and those factions have developed pervasive official cultures to exploit that top-down structure. Re-conceptualizing reality is very largely a matter of replacing that longstanding top-down structure, which depends on personifying nature, with a bottom-up structure. In this revised conception of reality, the supernatural is identical with individual subjectivity. When the moral purpose and caring have been purged from the brute actuality of nature and correctly attributed to individual persons, there are consequences for social structure, politics, and economics, since we get beyond the imaginary imprimatur of God or nature on social and political inequality. On this bottom-up perspective, all individual intelligences are supernatural and fundamentally autonomous in their encounter with the givens of nature. The human landscape now becomes more equal and non-hierarchical, not structured as a Great Chain of Being conceived as a chain of command and subordination. However, that we are sponges of culture still reveals how much enlargement of intelligence or enrichment of orientation we can experience from interconnection with others.
Thinking Off-Grid and Leaving the Matrix
Carrying on within the top-down orientation that is massively supported by the ambient culture could be described as “living on the grid”, or “thinking on the grid”. It doesn’t matter if you have a bank account and subscribe to municipal utilities and electronic service networks. Those grids do impose certain limitations and a degree of predictability on an individual’s behaviour, but in terms of a personal orientation which internalizes mechanisms by which external manipulations operate, the great chain of cosmic command is the grid to keep in mind, because it is a cultural matrix in which we project noble motives upward onto the existence of authority instead of recognizing the otherwise obvious motive of macro-parasitism. Anyone with such an orientation can be carried along by culturally crafted voices and image streams claiming authority, spinning out emotional tides through mass corporate media, for example, dramas of mythical collectives such as nation, race, religion, language tribe, class, profession, or economic niche, full of conflicts and crises, the pageantry of nobility and villainy. One of the main incentives and rewards of macro-parasitism is the feeling of (false) grandeur and superiority expressed in and supported by pervasive and elaborate cultural pageantry of inequality and hierarchy. The consumption and luxury of capitalism is all pageantry supporting the illusion of exceptionalism and superiority. Off-grid, what is supernatural is all on the same level, the level of ordinary embodied intelligences, bringing the identification of the supernatural back to its origins and rejecting the unjustifiable fables it has inspired. Off-grid, it is no longer necessary to sanitize the motives and intentions behind the very existence of power and authority. It is possible to replace all the false drama and hierarchy with the project of expressing a personal creative process and cultivating mutually supportive interconnection among equal intelligences. Off-grid the human world is flat but at the same time multiply supernatural and as such unpredictably creative, even though the culture we have inherited from our murky history and which binds us to that history still remains a massive toxic force to be managed.
For an introduction to macro-parasitism see:
Plagues and Peoples, written by William H. McNeill, Published by Anchor (1977), ISBN-10: 0385121229, ISBN-13: 978-0385121224.
Copyright © 2015 Sandy MacDonald.