By Alex Blum
If the universe is in fact infinite, then every point within it could be considered the center. Accordingly, the Earth, and the human species, could literally qualify as the center of an infinite universe. However, so could any empty patch of space, or any pile of dust on any forsaken star. This is the problem of relativism in a nutshell – that in a world without absolute truths, everything is NOT objectively better than nothing. A world filled with life is not better than a barren molten wasteland. A world of creative human beings is not more worthwhile than a world of pure instinct and animality. The ultimate conclusion of this kind of thinking is nihilism, or at least, a tacit acceptance that what we do, in the end, truly does not matter. It is the same value-wise for humanity to wipe itself out as it is for us to conquer the stars. Why muster any will at all?
Academia, in my experience, instills within individuals the infinite deluge of relativism. In a world without abstract Truth we turn to tangible, smaller truths, and we seek to make our politics our religion. The curse of the age is the replacement of spiritual truth with political truth. What is a lie in a world without Truth? Only a narrow thing. We can only know narrow things. This is academia. We have so much, so many ideas, so many books, so many films, so many texts, that in the end the sum total is nothing. Everything is in fact nothing and this is the funnel of nihilism and despair. The whole of the sea sloshes around in our minds and Kant and Hegel and Faulker and Derrida all swirl together into a thing that is unspeakable and has no conclusion. Those who dwell on this, who can’t get over relativism, find themselves with two reactions: to escape the world or to ignore most of it. To run away from it all or to become a careerist philistine and cling to a narrow Truth.
Most people have their narrow Truths. A Christian, even in the sea of relativism, even when nothing is so, can see the resurrected Christ and know that is ground to stand in. The same is true of every religion. A young progressive, in the end, knows wholeheartedly that feminism and anti-racism are the Truths they must represent in the world. Even if all is dust, that reality in their mind will still remain. And to Richard Dawkins, there is scientific atheist materialism, the Truth that we are meat and there is no afterlife and no soul. Marxists have obviously placed Marx and often intersectionality as their Truths, and modern conservatives uphold the radiant light of free markets and prosperity. The person who is truly screwed is the thinking person without an ideology masquerading as Truth. The one who sees the sea of relativism, and chooses to brave it without absolutes, a ‘maybe logic’ (as Robert Anton Wilson would put it) without giving into relativism or giving up and accepting a half-Truth. These are brave thinkers, the kind of thinkers we all aspire to be – the great synthesizers who see all sides and yet plainly see that there are decisive angles to take. It is not ‘all a wash’.
Modern academia, of course, is focused on turning these kinds of thinkers into academics. All sources of power perpetuate themselves. Creativity is less important than following the theme, and today the theme of relativism seems deeply entrenched in the postmodern. Postmodernism and deconstructionism are about taking things apart, not putting them together. The deconstructionist is often incapable of creative genesis, as he has been taught how to take stories apart. He has been trained to look for ideology and unweave the narrative, replacing an epic with an academic analysis. To my mind epics matter far more than the literary theory that rises in their wake, but to academe, deconstruction supersedes creation. It is more important to disassemble ideas than to assemble or synthesize ideas that strike the heart as novel and true.
The postmodern liberal arts academy is actually quite sinister to the creative mind. It fills us with the deluge of all great stories, all great texts, ideas, authors, poets, theorists and philosophers, and expects us to assert and market our own place within it. How? When there is no truth, when every idea is countered by another idea and the relativist sea swishes around inside our skulls, how are we to simply add another piece of ideology to the pile? We become demoralized. We do not create, we only deconstruct. This is the curse of academia.
How are we to muster the will to create when we are utterly overwhelmed with equally potent ideas coming from all sides? We can’t synthesize the whole sea, at best we can bite off a piece of it, which is what much of fiction is – literary novels often focus on being fractured or portraying one time in a characters’ life vividly. The age of Milton, Dante, Homer is long behind. The Gods and the muses and the spirit world are too much to face without an ideological lens – instead we turn to neurosis, or the smaller things. We are the prodigious children too paralyzed to act, too paralyzed to take true risks. Especially for those majoring in art, finding one’s own voice while studying literature or art or music must be nearly impossible. At a certain level, one must internalize certain truths without being dogmatic, and then simply have faith in themselves. But which ideas to pick? Perhaps small political ideas, like being in favor of diversity. These are valuable but they are easy truths that ultimately place the stakes far lower than the epics of years past. We deserve epics, I feel, if we truly are at the center of the infinite deluge of relativism.
However, depression is a common and predictable consequence of all this. Depression and anxiety are consequences of being ‘beneath the surface’, literally buried in the waters of the sea of all ideas and unable to find anything that rings True, true enough to get us out of bed in the morning. Most liberal arts students are too smart to take easy outs like Christian fundamentalism, but incapable of a true synthesis. They settle for politics, as I’ve already stated. But political involvement is surface-level for the postmodern soul, steeped in fading and evanescent images and terribly anxious of its own future, its ultimate meaning, its own specialness in the universe. When one is submerged deep enough in the sea, they enter into a state of life without living. I have felt this condition, and it is profound in its reduction of the soul. Nothing is worth doing because there are only motions, forms, shadows, no content to stand behind, no Truth that won’t fall apart from behind. One can be struck with the experience of a truly great thought while feeling only rolling orange colors on the edges of their consciousness, unable to find anything tangible. The mind runs and runs and unfolds and blossoms in spheres and circles, and every thought within fades as quickly as it came. The soul of depression has no pride, it is ruled by fear. It yearns for the success of others, for any validation at all. It wishes it had written every book, sang every song, won every award and slept with everyone it ever wanted to. It fears most of all being thrown away like a shot deer without dignity. it fears being talentless and forgotten, its anxiety can never be quenched. The consciousness of depression sees zero and infinity, but lacks the steps to bridge the two. Swamped in overwhelming waters, the self gives in to the opposite side of everything – nothing at all.
Depression is a hyper-awareness of all the issues we cannot face, all the Truth that plays us for fools, and our subsequent paralysis. But the way out of depression, the way out of paralysis, is a radical answer. To my mind history offers two: the consciousness of Ahriman and Lucifer. Ahriman is the thesis, Lucifer the antithesis. Ahriman, the materialist devil in Zoroastrianism, proposes the path of capitalism – the philistine who pushes all the sea out of his mind and becomes a careerist, an opportunist. You live solely to get yours, to usher away your own fear by attaining wealth, which is equivalent to power. The Ahrimanic path is the go-getter, the Harvard 4.0 graduate who goes on to work at Wall Street and make a billion dollars. This is the path of self-consumption, as anyone with a leftist bent on economics and climate policy will tell you. Capitalism swallows itself, this industrious and careerist spirit is essential for launching civilization but in the end it destroys it. Marx, on this point, was spot on: capitalism eats itself from the inside out. Limitless self-promotion, self-marketing, self-propagandizing, all with the goal of personal profit, is like a pencil soaring through a tissue. At first it lifts it like a tent, and then it bursts through and leaves a crater behind.
The opposite answer is Lucifer, the consciousness of poets and the moon, those too frail and thoughtful for life. They yearn to escape from life and live inside the imagination. If Ahriman’s future includes economic collapse, climate disaster, bank failure and the collapse of empire, then Lucifer’s future is to halt all industry and flee into the woods. This is the radical progressive who sees that piecemeal reform will never make a dent in climate change, and so the only answer, essentially, is to destroy the modern world and remake it. The spirit of absolute rebellion is, however, also the spirit of absolute escape. Lucifer is depressed – he sees zero and infinity and he wants to scream his will into the void until his empty hands hold the sun. He loses against God, Ahriman, every time. Ahriman must burn himself out – he must be destroyed from within. Lucifer cannot destroy him because Lucifer feeds him – both impulses guide all of history as the interplay of idealism and materialism.
Ahriman will drive this world into the ground through relentless material exploitation at the cost of infinite spiritual regression, the deformity of human beings who have been reduced to one impulse: make money and lock the doors. Lucifer offers no tangible solutions. He will either escape to another country, a cabin in the forest, go off the grid, or become the sun and incinerate the world economy as his dying breath. This is the will of the suicide bomber. Since Ahriman will destroy himself, if Lucifer destroys him it will only continue the dialectic.
What is needed is a synthesis of Ahriman and Lucifer, because both will drive this world into the ground. But how can this be achieved? I have a kernel of an idea, but it is admittedly Luciferic in that it is unreal. However, it involves the intersection of Lucifer and Ahriman, the place where matter and dreams combine and one may finally realize the other. The idealist claims that the mind, all ideas and the landscape of the imagination, sculpts matter in its image. This is far more hopeful than materialism, which declares, as Ahriman and Dawkins do, that mind is a slave to matter, that the self is just a ghost sprung from a bundle of nuanced meat and that we are all animals.
If there was a way for Luciferic consciousness to utilize Ahrimanic consciousness, then through matter, the mind could be fully realized. This is very abstract so what I am precisely getting at is this: the answer is in creativity, in human genius, in the material evolution and the civilization that humans have created to serve profit, not humans. But if Ahrimanic technical genius could serve the unbound freedom of the imagination, humankind would be liberated from the wall we are pressed up against, the unwaking night of relativism that the educated world is now seeped in.
Human exceptionalism has always stemmed from our ability to create new worlds. No other species is capable of creating a world. In fiction, in poems, in songs and television, in all manner of epics, worlds branch off from our own and are made in our minds. In our heads we create a story that we from our own perspectives live in. We create worlds for others too, what we imagine they are, the world we construct that they came from into ours. Science is Ahrimanic. The arc of its knowledge has moved toward materialism, toward the understanding of human beings as nothing but machines, computers housed inside biological robots who are programmed to survive. However, science can be applied to change physical reality, whereas stories and dreams can only affect internal realities. This has always been the majesty of applied science – the ability to create cities, to take a skyscraper out of the mind and make it real, just as our ancestors saw a spear in their minds and made it real.
If climate change is soon to shake the world, if capitalism is self-destructive, if relativism has claimed the minds of the educated and rendered thought immobile, then the human species has hit a brick wall. The very word ‘post-modern’ implies an indefinite length of the period, as if everything after the modern is the end of actual progression and all that is left is deconstruction and fracturing. We can’t make anything more, we can only take it all apart. This is the facile non-wisdom of postmodernism. This is the anti-human and anti-life knowledge that exists at the core of the academy. Disregard it and instead weave Lucifer through the tendrils of Ahriman, stop running horizontally along the wall and leap over it.
The leap is literally to create a new world for human beings to live in, beyond the devastation of a ruined Earth, beyond the collapse of the world economy, there are two worlds open for the most interesting stage yet in the human journey. The first is the Luciferic dream of Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, a future in space. I know nothing of this so I will leave it to be developed further.
The second is virtual reality; potentially the human destiny. How can it be any other way? We have sculpted the world outside and now we have made worlds within screens. The world within the phone, and the videogame. If apes can create cities they can create cities within cities. Virtual cities will house disembodied consciousness to live in a kind of Luciferic paradise after the decay of the material world. All that will remain on the ravaged Earth are massive hard drives housing colonies of minds living in real virtual worlds, with car keys made of code and bodies made of code. It will start with the elite and quickly incorporate everybody, like an ark as the Earth is rendered unlivable by climate change or nuclear devastation. In a virtual world the imagination is set free from matter. In this world, the landscapes of all the epics that have marked history can become literally real. Just think about 3-D modeling – the absurdity of apes being capable of modeling alternate digital worlds is just as unlikely as apes being able to live inside those worlds. What even is ‘digital’? Why should an ape be capable of creating such novel ways of expressing its own creativity? Interior worlds incarnate in matter separate from the ones that exist inside our own head? Our ability to make worlds is our final trump card against the universe.
The anxiety of the age demands a radical future. The center will not hold, and the evolution of Ahrimanic technology will not stop. It is the synthesis of Lucifer and Ahriman that will save us, the manifestation of Lucifer’s will through the knowledge and application of Ahrimanic consciousness. With both, we can create a new world. As Terence McKenna once said, we are not at the end of history, we are not headed for apocalypse, but rather, “we are a species burning its bridges and preparing to soar into the stars”. If climate change is the past world swallowing itself, if we will truly burn the world and flee in the name of our cosmic ambition, then so be it. If we will destroy the world to remake it then so be it. Now I acquiesce completely into Lucifer, because of the reality of an uninhabitable Earth being woven by Ahriman. The forces of history act in close concert. Only your individual will can make their synthesis.
Into the stars or deep into the mind, life will transcend itself. It did so the moment slimes became rodents, rodents became apes, and apes built cities and modeled fantasy worlds inside computers of their own creation. We will transcend ourselves again. The next time, it will be a cosmic event on par with the origins of all life. It will be the second coming, the revelation, the synthesis at the end of one act of history and the birth of the next. Slowly, the universe is evolving into something else. All of cosmic history is the story of this grand unfolding into the novel and the new, from the first respiratory system to the advent of 3-D modeling.