The Infinite Infant: The Singularity & the Resurrection of the Body (Prisoner of Infinity V)

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Artwork (except last piece) for this post by Lucinda Horan

“To rise above the body is to equate the body with excrement.”
—Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death

When I started out this written exploration, it was meant as a knock-off response to Kripal’s thought-provoking article, “The Traumatic Secret.” Several days and 8,000 words later, the end seemed to be receding ever further into the distance. I hardly expected to be recounting a history of the Finders, for example, much less delving into satanic ritual abuse conspiracy lore. Now I am embarked on a much larger project, my aim becomes to report the facts as well as I can, to follow the connections wherever they lead me, and to present a reasonably coherent picture of the leviathan-like morass which we call “civilization.” Jimmy Savile, the BBC, MI5, the CIA, the British Monarchy, the Catholic Church, SRI, MK-ULTRA, the Finders, Strieber’s “visitors”—all of these strands appear to be inextricably interwoven; so, they must surely all belong here?[1]

One connection I made (in my own mind at least) early on was to the transhumanist movement, something I’d been researching while looking into autism (a project that got steamrollered by this one). I had looked briefly into Ray Kurzweil and “the Singularity,” and planned to cite it in passing in the larger context of SRI and spiritual engineering. Then I rediscovered the Norman O. Brown/Freud material and that gave the material a more complex, psychological dimension. (I added the Kalsched material later still.) Most of the Brown material I used referred to the mother (tying in nicely with Jimmy Savile as the archetypal “national-institution-as-psychopath” guy). The question naturally arose: where was the father in all this? It was a question both little and large: Where was “the Father”?

To try to answer this question, I am going to look a little at Ray Kurzweil. I do this with some reluctance, because, unlike Strieber, I have zero affinity for Kurzweil. What Strieber is to the aliens, Kurzweil is to the Singularity: probably the leading spokes-prophet of his time. The word “singularity” originally meant “singleness of aim or purpose” but the mathematical sense of singularity, a “point at which a function takes an infinite value,” was coined in 1893. In the context of technology, the term was popularized by the science-fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who argued that artificial intelligence, human biological enhancement, or brain-computer interfaces could be possible causes of the singularity. The specific term “singularity”—as a description for technological acceleration causing an unpredictable outcome in society—was coined by the mathematician, John von Neumann, who in the mid-1950s spoke of “ever accelerating progress of technology and changes in the mode of human life, which gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs, as we know them, could not continue.” (Stanislaw Ulam, May 1958, referring to a conversation with John von Neumann.) The concept has also been popularized by futurists such as Kurzweil, who cited von Neumann’s use of the term in a foreword to von Neumann’s classic The Computer and the Brain.

Curiously enough, in 1997, Whitley Strieber wrote a short story called “The Open Doors” about John von Neumann—in relation to the visitors. Von Neumann’s theory is apparently the basis of Strieber’s on-again, off-again theory that the visitors need our belief in them to enter into our reality—a startling and unexpected connection between supposed alien contact and the technological “singularity” event.

John Von Neumann

Rolling Stone magazine called Kurzweil “the most radical futurist on earth.” (“When Man & Machine Merge,” by David Kushner, Feb 19, 2009.) According to the same article, he has also been called “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison” and received White House honors from three presidents, “including the highest prize in his field, the National Medal of Technology.” Kurzweil was a child prodigy who turned 18 in 1967; his interest was less in psychedelics than cybernetics, however. “LSD was a pretty imperfect technology because you couldn’t control it,” he told Rolling Stone. “That wasn’t my idea of transcendence.” He went on to design the first program that allowed computers to read text, and subsequently the first program to translate text into speech. His interest is primarily in the merging of the human organism with technology. By 2045, Kurzweil predicts, human beings and machines will belong to a single species. Apparently he’s no slouch in the prediction department either:

During the 1980s, Kurzweil correctly predicted the fall of the Soviet Union due to decentralized technologies, the rise of the Internet and the ubiquity of wireless networks. He announced that a computer would be a world chess champion by 1998—a reality that occurred in May 1992 when Deep Blue defeated Gary Kasparov. . . . “There’s something inexorable about these progressions,” Kurzweil says. “We really can predict—not exactly what’s going to happen, but the power of these technologies. . . . We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century—it will be more like 20,000 years of progress. . . . Nanobots in our physical bodies will destroy pathogens, remove debris, repair DNA and reverse aging,” Kurzweil predicts. “We will be able to redesign all the systems in our bodies and brains to be far more capable and durable.” By scanning the contents of your brain, nanobots will be able to transfer everything you know, everything you have ever experienced, into a robot or a virtual reality program. If something happens to your physical body, no problem. Your mind will live on—forever.

Kurzweil’s dream is the oldest dream of all, but there’s an additional wrinkle. His first goal isn’t eternal life but, in good “Christian” spirit (though Kurzweil is anything but conventionally religious), the resurrection of the body:

Death represents the loss of knowledge and information. . . .  A person is a mind file. A person is a software program—a very profound one, and we have no backup. So when our hardware dies, our software dies with it. . . . I’ve made an issue of overcoming death. And the strongest experience I’ve had with death is as a tragedy.

Kurzweil plans to resurrect not his own body but his father’s, and he has stored boxes of his dad’s possessions, external objects onto which he projects his longing, including “his letters and music and bills and doctoral thesis.”

We can find some of his DNA around his grave site, that’s a lot of information right there . . . The AI will send down some nanobots and get some bone or teeth and extract some DNA and put it all together. Then they’ll get some information from my brain and anyone else who still remembers him. . . . Just send nanobots into my brain and reconstruct my recollections and memories. . . . If you can do it right, it’s worthwhile. . . . If you bring back life that was valuable in the past, it should be valuable in the future.

Kurzweil is an interesting case study (almost as interesting as Strieber). On the one hand, like Colonel Kurtz ruling over his savages in Apocalypse Now, he appears to be barking mad. Yet he is also well-attuned to the zeitgeist, and, at least as far as technology is concerned, he seems to know what he is talking about. So what he’s saying can’t simply be dismissed as insanity, any more than Strieber’s works can. It represents the precise point at which science and mysticism meet and the dream-nightmare of the illumineers begins to creep over into waking reality. And what is this vision? To conquer Nature and replace the absent father—God—with our own self-generated image. Lucifer’s dream is Oedipus’ nightmare. As Norman O. Brown writes:

The child has to make a choice between love of self and love of the other: according to Freud, the boy’s self-love or narcissism turns him away from his mother. But the self so loved is fraudulent: self-love replaces parental love, but . . . only at the cost of splitting the ego into parent and child. Through the institution of the super-ego the parents are internalized and man finally succeeds in becoming father of himself, but at the cost of becoming his own child and keeping his ego infantile (p. 129, emphasis added).

Kurzweil appears to be suffering from the same psychic schism as Strieber. This suggests that it may be a collective condition in the Western world (for men at least)—not to say a universal one. Perhaps the best summation of Kurzweil’s cosmic goal would be: “The universe is not conscious—yet. But it will be.” While Kurzweil means the statement as a promise, somehow it comes out sounding more like a threat.

An article at Kurzweil’s Accelerating Intelligence site quotes sociologist William Sims Bainbridge (we’ll be hearing more from him later) describing “the gradual merging of human beings with their computers over the next century.” Bainbridge provides fuel for Kurzweil’s (literally infantile) dreams when he predicts this will lead to “interstellar immortality.” The article sums up Bainbridge’s vision of employing cognitive neural science, genetic engineering, nanotechnology and information systems to found “a cosmic civilization.” This need not require transporting “living human bodies and all the necessities of life to other planets.” Instead, computer technology will allow these transhumanist hopefuls to archive personalities, “albeit at low fidelity.” Making “digital, audio/visual copies of a person’s perceptions, speech and behavior” is already possible, Bainbridge claims. Eventually, “the ability to reanimate human personalities at ever-higher fidelity is a sure bet.”

“Only a goal as valuable as eternal life can motivate investment in substantial scientific infrastructure on the Moon or Mars,” says Bainbridge, an interesting choice of words that suggests that eternal life, as the motivational factor, is a means rather than an end. The idea of eternal life is as deeply seated as any religious belief, and hence more or less guaranteed to get people’s interest. Since most people are religiously rather than scientifically oriented, and since the desire to colonize space is far less on their minds than the question of what happens to them when they die, it makes perfect sense to use the religious impulse to fuel the engine of scientific progress. Bainbridge’s grand galactic plan is to turn human beings into pure information and send them (it?) into outer space; to spread the cultural virus of traumatized, mother bonded, father-abandoned egos across the galaxy, dragging God down into the machine— Deus intra ipsos machina?—and in His absence create a brave new universe of “Mind at Large.” Possibly the transhumanist illumineers really believe this fever dream of technological transcendence, but it may be more likely they have come up with a suitably religiose narrative to inspire the masses to support their socio-political agenda and allow it to move forward unimpeded.

By offering the stars to people living today, the second wave of the spaceflight movement would be spurred into being . . . The future demands a powerful, motivational force to create interplanetary and interstellar civilizations [Bainbridge said], and a new spaceflight social movement can get us moving again.[vi]

Moving towards what?

*

whitley-child

“The implant also enables me to travel almost anywhere in space and time, or even outside of space time. It acts as a sort of accellerator [sic] of being, intensifying my ability to move out of my body and into many remarkable realms.”
—Whitley Strieber, 2005[2]

Kurzweil and Strieber share a common preoccupation with extending their existence beyond the physical, even to the point of completely detaching themselves (their ego-minds) from their bodies. There may be a psychological explanation for this preoccupation, besides simply fear of death.

During the first years of the infant’s life, there is a fundamental need to fully separate from the mother’s body, to “disenmesh” from her psyche and develop an autonomous, authentic sense of self. For this to happen a strong paternal presence is required to “fish” the child out of the mother’s psyche and provide an environment for the child to gradually shift its focus, away from the mother and onto the world at large. The father’s task is to preside over this transition from mother-dependency to autonomy, to help the child to develop its awareness as a separate body and a correspondingly healthy ego. When—as is so often the case in the Western world—the father is absent and/or indifferent (or, possibly worse, abusive), there is no way for this process to happen. As a result, the child remains hopelessly lost in what Margaret Mahler called “symbiotic psychosis,” a “delirious state of undifferentiation between the ego and the object.”[3]

The mother-bonded adult experiences himself as somehow trapped, confined, restricted. He feels prevented (often by some hidden, sinister force) from experiencing reality and himself as they truly are. Without awareness of the underlying cause of this “bondage,” there is a natural tendency to place the focus outside of the self, onto the universe at large. At the same time, the feeling of imprisonment is projected onto the body itself. A very real, deeply felt need to complete the separation from the mother’s body is experienced as a need to escape from the body. Such a “complex” could give rise to a preoccupation with “exteriorization” from the body, whether by converting consciousness into digital data and sending it across spacetime, or (as in alleged “remote viewing” programs of the US military) accessing a “subtle,” “astral,” or energy body and projecting it outward, through space and time, to become, like Strieber with his implant, a “major Mental Traveler.”

The creation of a “mental body”—an image of the body which can be used as a vehicle for self-consciousness to leave the body—is a common feature of occult writing about psychism and “sorcery,” and something I’ve been familiar with at least since my early twenties, when I first read Carlos Castaneda—including this passage from The Eagle’s Gift:

[T]he dreaming body is sometimes called the “double” or the “other,” because it is a perfect replica of the dreamer’s body. It is inherently the energy of a luminous being, a whitish, phantomlike emanation, which is projected by the fixation of the second attention into a three-dimensional image of the body [emphasis added]. [T]he dreaming body is not a ghost, but as real as anything we deal with in the world. [T]he second attention is unavoidably drawn to focus on our total being as a field of energy, and transforms that energy into anything suitable. The easiest thing is of course the image of the physical body, with which we are already thoroughly familiar from our daily lives and the use of our first attention (p. 23).

In The Ego and the Id, written in 1923, Freud describes the ego as being “ultimately derived from bodily sensations, chiefly from those springing from the surface of the body. It may thus be regarded as a mental projection of the surface of the body.”[4] The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan developed this idea further in his critical reinterpretation of the work of Freud in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. He called it “the mirror stage” of infant development. Lacan drew on work in physiology and animal psychology and noticed how the human infant passes through a stage in which “an external image of the body” produces a “psychic response” that gives rise to “the mental representation of an ‘I.’” This external image can be its body reflected in a mirror, or it can be represented to the infant through the mother or primary caregiver—i.e., the infant as it sees itself through the mother’s eyes. Either way, the infant identifies with the image, which “serves as a gestalt of the infant’s emerging perceptions of selfhood.” Since the image of a unified body does not correspond with the underdeveloped infant’s physical vulnerability and weakness, however, this “imago” is established as an “Ideal-I” toward which “the subject will perpetually strive throughout his or her life.” [ref]

freud&son

A perpetual striving towards an “Ideal-I,” a perfected mental image of the body. This sounds like a fairly universal condition, in the West at least, where we seem to be struck in the “mirror stage” of infant development. It may also be the condition that sorcerers, transhumanists, and alien-abducted mystics have all picked up and run with, i.e., magnified to cosmic proportions.

As a perpetual striver after an Ideal-I, I have had my share of “astral projection” experiences, including “transhuman” (and/or alien) states of perception and being. One thing I eventually came to notice was how often I returned from such excursions to an unusually poor state of health, so much so that it would sometimes take me an hour or more to feel strong enough to get out of bed. Eventually, a Jungian therapist I was seeing informally (the one who recommended Kalsched) suggested that all of my out of body journeys and dreams of space flight were, at base, an attempt to escape the reality of my body. She advised me to turn my focus around, to the inside of my body and the ordinary, mundane aspects of life. I have been following this advice ever since, and my astral journeys and/or visionary dreams have mostly tapered off. Do I miss them? Yes. Am I more grounded in (and accepting of) my everyday self and reality? Yes. Ironically, or perhaps not, the less I experience what I was perpetually striving to experience, the less perpetual my striving has become. I also find it a lot easier to get out of bed in the morning.

Trauma leads to dissociation; dissociation is when a part of the individual’s psyche withdraws from an intolerable situation because it is impossible to withdraw physically. Strieber, and countless others in the fields of religion, psychism, and Ufology, are arguing that dissociation and/or out of body experiences that result from trauma are ways to access realms of experience otherwise unavailable to us. While (based on my own experiences) trauma can and does lead to authentic “soul journeys,” what is not being discussed, so far as I can tell, is the assumption that, because they are genuine—or to the degree which they are genuine—these visionary states are desirable and beneficent to us.

My own position is that these non-corporeal excursions not only depend on a disconnection from the body but exacerbate it. I would even suggest (again based on direct experience) that this is the sole imagined ”benefit” of such experiences, namely, that they allow for a surrogate form of individuation and a “pseudo-enlightenment,” one which I suspect is not only no substitute for the real thing but which may severely reduce the chances of it ever happening. If we find a convincing counterfeit for what, at the very deepest level, we are striving for, we may suppress our knowing that something isn’t right, in order to settle for the more easily available substitute. Yet the substitute cannot ever satisfy. And meanwhile, there is also nothing quite as addictive as the cure that almost works.

The attempt to escape psychological bondage to the mother by leaving the body (or the planet) behind is the attempt to extend the infantile into the infinite. It’s like the star child at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey—the favorite “trip” movie of the counterculture. The floating fetus or the infinite infant is the final goal of both science and fantasy: Man creating God in his own image. But the star-child projected onto the screen, like the body in the mirror (or in our mother’s eyes), is not a real flesh and blood body; it’s only an image. Its perfection is the result of perfecting an illusion.

star-savile-baby

*****

Audio downloads: “Ray Kurtzweil’s Digital Dreams,” and “Prosthetic Gods.”

[1] There’s another that does too, the persistently recurring (in so-called “conspiracy” research) group known as the Process Church. This peculiar psycho-spiritual organization has been connected to Scientology, as well as the Manson family and the Son of Sam murders. I shouldn’t have been surprised, perhaps, to discover that Strieber was making a documentary about them, in London in 1968, at precisely the time he started to have (non-alien related) “missing time” experiences. But more on this later.

[2] From Mac Tonnies blog, Friday, July 29, 2005. One commenter (W.M. Bear) responded: “If Whitley ever starts a ‘Church of Ufology’ I have to say, after reading this latest, that I’d be strongly tempted to sign on. He has definitely become a major Mental Traveler.” http://posthumanblues.blogspot.ca/2005/07/whitley-strieber-has-written-his-most.html

[3] “In Margaret Mahler’s theory of the mother/child relationship, the symbiotic relation is a very early phase of development that . . . precedes the separation/individualization phase. The symbiotic relation is characterized by an omnipotent sense of the total enmeshing of mother and child, who thus form a ‘unity of two.’ . . . .  In her view, failure in the development of the processes of individuation makes the child regress to the stage of symbiotic relation with the mother, thus running the risk of shutting it off in a psychotic disorganization, a ‘symbiotic psychosis’ characterized by a delirious state of undifferentiation between the ego and the object. Leaving the symbiotic phase entails the risk of depression. . . . Donald Winnicott also comes close to the description of the mother-baby symbiosis with his concept of ‘primary maternal preoccupation,’ in which the state of maternal hypersensitivity leads the primitive mother-baby couple to live in a particular environment, a prolongation of the uterine environment in which communication between mother and child is immediate and not subject to the vagaries of separation.” “Symbiosis/Symbiotic Relation,” http://www.enotes.com/symbiosis-symbiotic-relation-reference/symbiosis-symbiotic-relation

[4] “That is why Freud even stated that `The ego is primarily a bodily one’, and why he used the anatomical analogy of the homunculus of the sensorimotor cortex.” BODY SCHEMA AND BODY IMAGE: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL STUDY DOUWE TIEMERSMA, by Swets & Zeitlinger, p. 83.
https://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/courses/mindsandmachines09/papers/Paillard_1999

15 thoughts on “The Infinite Infant: The Singularity & the Resurrection of the Body (Prisoner of Infinity V)

  1. I am having a great time on this journey with you Jasun. Kurzweil is a fascinating case. I fear he will, as we all do, die someday after devoting much of his life to creating the God he has simply missed in the smile of a child.

    Cheers;

    Eric

  2. When I check my email one of the things I am hoping for is a notification that you’ve posted. I became aware of you through the Ann Diamond/ Leonard Cohen interview. Since Dave McGowan’s illness and death, I’m like one of your other followers who has found a home in your work. Up until now I had never noticed your humor, or maybe it wasn’t expressed. Very funny.
    P.S. Thanks for giving such a good definition of singularity, I never understood what it meant.

  3. Have you by chance run across the ideas of Steiner and Blavatsky regarding the “8th sphere”? It seems an intuitive fit with the data your herding. I hope patrick harpur sez yes!

  4. William Sims Bainbridge is the author of ‘Satan’s Power: A Deviant Psychotherapy Cult’, which is about the Process Church of the FInal Judgement. He was an external low-level member of the Process in Cambridge, Mass. (doing “participant observer” sociology research, presumably) while working on his Harvard dissertation, later to become this book.

  5. One wonders about a society that seems determined to dispense with fatherhood, given various incentives to destabilize families and punitive family court systems that increase the probability of absent fathers.

    Who or what benefits?

  6. Loving the baby pictures.

    It’s funny, this model of the brain as computer, when it was the brain that made the computer. It’s like Frankenstein, but we think our monstrous creation is our salvation. I wonder: does God believe it will be saved through its creation?

    Time plays a role here. We look to the future for absolution, rapture, singularity, answers, et al. I think the work you’re doing here is a necessary reversal.

    The realm of UFOs, aliens, come from above, from the future (i.e. – the superego). You don’t often hear of heroes/saviors coming from below the earth, from the past, the unconscious.

  7. The goal of the ego is ascent; the trajectory of the Soul is downward. The ego imagines it can somehow take the body along for the ride, or if not, that the body is just dead weight anyway. As we sink into that which we are (the Soul) that which we are emerges/arises from and through what we thought we were and replaces it. The Soul is the Body Snatcher that outs the alien implant of the ego. I’m not sure if there is anything really to the latter besides fear, and as we let go of the fear of being replaced,we become that which replaces. Like sliding into a hot tub of liquid light, so the Universe feels to the Soul that’s embodied, and so the Soul feels to the body that’s embodying. Not sure where heroes and saviors fit into this at all; maybe they (the idea of them) are what replaced simple fathers?

  8. Chinese medicine doesn’t seem “ascent” equating to ego; it has it this way: the Hun is the ascent tendency, it’s identified with trascendent “soul”–quoting thiz cuz it iz a christian concept–which travels to heaven after death and it is related to the Liver Sphere (which include a lot of functionalities: liver functions, muscle contraction, blood deposit, anger expression, etc — also I think REM state could be placed on Liver, which has interesting readings considering Griffin’s caetextia theory). Then you have Po, which is the downward tendency; it is thought to go to earth after death. It ir related with Lungs, body liquids, vagus nerve, sadness, etc.

    Heroes as heightened REM state of consciousness due to increased stress due to agricultural overpopulation & sedentarization.A flight to phantasy i wd say. Neuropsychoanalisis wiki has oedipus complex as “as the effort to integrate lust systems (testosterone-driven), romantic love (dopamine-driven), and attachment (oxytocin-driven) in relation to key persons in the environment.” This mix ends in patriarchal religions/social codes?

  9. “As a perpetual striver after an Ideal-I, I have had my share of “astral projection” experiences,…”
    and
    “My own position is that these non-corporeal excursions not only depend on a disconnection from the body but exacerbate it. I would even suggest (again based on direct experience) …”

    I won’t quote your whole blog here…that would be annoying but everything you have said resonates.

  10. So, the universe has been around for ages. Seems like we are trying to rediscover the wheel. Get our mind to live forever by capturing its source code? Sounds just like how DNA got here in the first place. Maybe after we get our minds to live forever, we will finally get bored of it. And then we will find out that the best thing about life is not to have the same one forever, but to get a new one. An indefense tiny body were our mind has to find its way to develop and shine, no matter what. It is true that we have the urge to trascend and extend our life, but it is also true that we get bored really fast. No one would like to play forever the same videogame, no matter how great it is.

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