“Joseph Campbell’s Vision for the Internet Age”

Picture: Joan Halifax (CC)

Beams and Struts examines the Singularity in a Campbellian context. The results are fascinating, even if you’re of a mind that Ray Kurzweil’s vision of a Geek Rapture is more wishful thinking than likely future.

Joseph Campbell would have been the first to point out the dangers of reading such science fiction as literal truth. In Campbell’s work, mythologies are never reduced to mere prophecy, belief, or individual religious sect; instead, stories often point toward underlying psychological phenomena that have universal significance and arise from a universal source, despite manifesting in specific cultural contexts. In other words, the cast of characters may change, but the essential plot remains the same. Read in this context, The Singularity could simply be a contemporary expression of an ancient mythological motif: the quest to cheat death. This theme, central to the Sumerian Gilgamesh epic, has been around for at least 3,000 years in literature.

Campbell may have interpreted The Singularity and other techno-philosophies as traps and forms of false consciousness. His vision of a new myth for humanity is far more organic, and places technology in a subordinate role. In his PBS interview series with Bill Moyers, Campbell admits he cannot predict what form this new myth will take, but he believes it will transcend cultural boundaries and represent global consciousness:

“And this would be the philosophy for the planet, not for this group, that group, or the other group. When you see the earth from the moon, you don’t see any divisions there of nations or states. This might be the symbol, really, for the new mythology to come.”

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  • Liquidself

    I do tend to think that the ‘singularity’ is probably overstated, or at the very least expected much too soon, but I m not convinced that Campbell would necessarily regard the phenomenon as ‘false consciousness’.  It seems more likely that he would be fascinated by this genuinely new development in mythology  (as precisely a new development reflective of a new global mythology) – can the theme itself define it s relative sincerity, or does it require stories?  I also wonder if more eschatological themes for comparison are more in keeping with the ‘singularity’.

  • http://buzzcoastin.posterous.com BuzzCoastin

    it seems to me that 2012, The Singularity, The Rapture and all its ilk
    are about the coming redemption of the collective, a mass awakening or mass salvation
    Campbell was essentially highlighting what he called The Hero’s Journey
    the task of the individual to free one’s self from the collective mind
    and once free, share what you know in order to help others break free

    but if the point of this is to note that new mythologies have sprung up from the techno upheaval
    like 2012, Time Wave Zero, The Singularity, Psychedelic Psychology
    and that Campbell predicted this
    well, yeah he kinda did
     

  • Miracles

    Perhaps Ray Kurzweil is the next L. Ron Hubbard?

  • Jesus Borg

    I think Campbell is awesome. But I think that anyone who “uploads their mind” into a robot body and thinks that confers to them immortality is deluding themselves.

    I mean, just think about this for a second: What is your visceral reaction to anyone who is maimed? I am not talking about rationality here or what is polite. I am talking about what is your visceral reaction to people you see who are missing limbs, or part of their face or something?

    Shock, horror, compassion?

    I think that provides an insight into what our bodies are to us.

    I believe the duality between mind and body is an artificial split. We are a unity. Our bodies are a manifestation of our minds. Living “in your head” is a schizoid defense mechanism, not the natural state of affairs.

    • Jesus Borg

      I am saying I agree that Campbell would probably look at [transhumanism] through a singularity as a trap of a false form of consciousness, yes.

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