You’ll probably have heard 2012ish rumours that we are leaving the Age of Pisces and entering the Age of Aquarius. Astrological ages are defined by which (western) constellation is pointed at by the northern tip of the Earth’s axis. Due to the wobble in the axis, the indicated constellation changes over time, a complete cycle being made in roughly 26,000 years, the legendary cycle of precession of the equinoxes…of which the Maya and other ancients were mysteriously aware.
We will not go into the arguments for and against what the ancients knew about precession of the equinoxes, or indeed astrological or astronomical arguments about whether in fact 21-12-2012 is the cusp of the Age of Aquarius or not. The left-brain analytical stuff here is all rather murky.
Instead, lets simply run with two creative preliminaries:
- Pisces, often depicted as twin, yin-yang fish, is associated with dualism.
- Aquarius is the sign of the Flood.
If you want to put these two together and arrive at the – entirely synthetic – idea that 2012 is the end of dualism, be my guest.
Or be your own guest.
It’s too early in our discussion here to go into it now, but we will see that the answer to ‘what is 2012’ is more than anything else, subjective. What you see is what you get.
At the moment though, we are still in the fishy age of dualism. We are all familiar with such basic distinctions as:
- Up : Down
- Left : Right
- Hot : Cold
- Day : Night
- Full : Empty
- Big : Small
- Near : Far
There are many more. Culture, being based upon certain ‘games’ (Wittgenstein) played between speakers of language, is essentially made of such conventions.
Going back to 2012 for a moment, we know for a fact that the Earth’s magnetic sphere is in the process of reversing its poles, though we do not know when this somewhat drawn-out and fractal process will complete, leaving us upside down, as far as compasses are concerned. If you want to be ready, my advice would be to turn your world map upside down and get used to it like that. Of course, beyond the terrestrial frame of reference, out there in space where no one can hear you scream, which way is ‘up’ anyway?
As for the others – big, small, near, far and so on – there is a certain absolute solidity to them. Indeed, these will be the hardest to invert, with the weirdest results, so let’s leave them for now and come back to them. Let’s consider a rather fishier set of dualisms:
- Good : Bad
- Heaven : Hell
- Life : Death
…and turn them upside down.
OK the last two are a bit loaded, but good:bad is fairly easy – we all know the adage, one woman’s fish is another’s poison. Alright, I’ve kind of inverted it already, but you get the idea – it’s a subjective matter. Which reminds me, what about
- Subject : Object
- Subjective : Objective
- Inner : Outer
If we’re prepared to run, creatively, with out 2012 transcendental flood idea, what we will find is that we can make the long jump between inner and outer, between subjective and objective. This is transcendence proper.
Scientists are fond of materialism. I have had any number of arguments with certain kinds of people who believe fundamentally that the only things worth concerning ourselves with are things we can see and touch, things we can rig together to make a light-bulb go on and off. Reliably, under as many different conditions as possible. An aspirin takes away pain reliably. The lives of millions would be incalculably improved by a simple cataract operation. If it was not for the microscope and all the hours scientists have spent looking through them, we would know nothing of microbes and cholera and all the rest of it. Where would be? (Well…perhaps not in the strange position of global overcrowding we are in now, but this is a distraction…) If the scientists are pushed, they will argue that everything, including our subjective trump card, consciousness, can be reduced to simple mechanics. Atoms and electrons. And that therefore, there can be no science of the subjective. True knowing is the of the objective kind. Therefore, psychology, or even worse, any kind of psychic talk is best left to stoners and charlatan cult leaders.
They are right of course, in their own way. Everyone is right in their own way.
But let’s take the brain (and the idea, that it is, if not the seat of consciousness, then the most important organ to it). Perhaps one day its workings can be entirely described in terms of the firing of neurons, the osmosis of ions through cell walls, the interlocking of neurotransmitters, the quantum functioning of microtubules. But where will this get us?
Would such a description not be like a description of the computer you are sat at now, in terms of binary read outs of its buses and buffers? In other words, not much use to you or me.
But possibly to a machine. Hold that thought. We will have to come back to the machines. In fact, we might even hold another thought – another dualism –
- Human : machine.
There is a limit to reductionism. Admittedly, I am talking about a subjective limit here. There are mathematical limits, apparently, but that is another story. I am not actually interested in destroying reductionism or materialism, but in simply saying, alright, so the brain and along with it consciousness and long dark tunnels with very bright lights and your dead grandfather at the end of them can be ‘explained’ in neurological and therefore chemical and therefore physical terms…so what? How does this in any way rule out dreams or God or spirit? There is no need, at this stage at least, to worry about teleology or ontology either. Let us, as the psychologists have at last learned to do in systemic therapy, simply go along with what people say is happening. Let us take the subjective experience on its own terms, and not wonder, for example, if the being floating against the operating theatre ceiling can read a five figure number on a piece of paper on a shelf invisible to her physical eyes. Let us go along with what we can in fact make sense of. Let us be sensible.
Sidetrack over: we have subjective accounts and objective explanations.
Wait! What is an explanation? I prefer the term ‘description’. An explanation implies completion, an end to enquiry, which is not at all the spirit of this blog. We are not turning stones over only to leave them upside down. We want them to keep rolling. Gather no moss. ‘Description’ seems to me somehow a better description. Am I explaining myself?
So have subjective and objective descriptions. A long dark tunnel, with a very bright light at the end of it. Bicameral frontal lobe and visual cortex phasic activity as the brain shuts down, unmediated by conscious-mind feedback and control mechanisms. How can we begin to go between these two, apparently incommensurable domains of description?
Why do we want to? Because it is exactly what the looming, 2012 tsunami is going to do. Wouldn’t a heads up be useful?
The wisdom of the ancients was, in a nutshell, precisely this.
That feels like a big enough fish finger to chew on for now. And we haven’t even inverted anything yet. But hopefully you’re getting a flavour of the madness.
- Coming up next…Good and bad and Heaven and Hell and whether the zigzag sign of Aquarius has anything to do with entoptics – probably not I’m subjectively creatively making it up as I go along.