Not a new story, is it? The future (or Capital-F Future, if you like) contains some Event or Person or the Climax of Some Process, and it’s such a big-bad-godamighty happening that we’re, even way back here in the past, caught up in its eddies. That event is messing with us. It’s throwing sparks into our bush, and we’re all about to be lit.
In this way, the true-bluest Singularity-ecstatic transhumanists are not unlike the LaHaye-thumping Pop Eschatologists you’re likely to meet in a Colorado Springs coffee bar: they want a transcendent story to believe in, and more, to be a part of.
Maybe we all do. I’ve been going back to my McKenna lately, and this idea of the “transcendental object at the end of time” just won’t leave me alone.
On the surface of it, the inherent teleology isn’t very negotiable. There’s clearly a design, a patterned movement, an intelligent system. Therefore (so it goes) there must be something supernatural — beyond the apparent chaos in the natural “order” — that has a hand in designing the world for some particular end.
So I get on board. I go back to the dice, scramble in the dust awhile, picking up bones. What I find there surprises me. It’s mothafuck’n Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, God incarnate. The Son.
Now don’t you Left Coast latte-‘stached vegan types tune me out. Not just yet. This is a somewhat attenuated position I’m describing. And I came up by way of sci-fi on UHF channels, yellow-papered Moorcock novels, and a general sense of paranoid dread. My parents took me to Sunday school, except when the church decided against allowing a local black choir to visit. At 7 years old I got “saved” and “baptized”, but while it was happening I knew deep down that this car lot preacher was using me as a tool (and, sure enough, shortly after I was professed and dunked, a bunch of my 2nd Grade kith “walked the aisle” too). I saw Jesus in the abstract pattern of a glass chandelier, but, you know, it was an abstract glass chandelier. And by the time I got solidly into my teens, I saw “my religion” as just one path out of whole lot of them and soon stopped feeling so precious about it. Not an uncommon way to come up.
I spent time in Soto Zen monasteries. I got into a good-witch/bad-witch situation with some Southern (Surinamese) yogis (and yoginis). I learned me some lore about them sacramental plants. Et cetera.
But then, by 30, I was back to sniffing around my roots again, looking for Good Practice to pick from old sun-bleached Baptist bones. Baptists didn’t show me much, but I was soon committed to the idea: if there were practices that could put me in touch with the nagual and Eternal in Buddhism, why shouldn’t there by something in Christianity? And so I was led back to the church (Orthodoxy, by grace, as it happens) to find some kind of practice, and I continue to work in this vein. As the Desert Fathers might have reminded us, ευθυς κραξας ο πατηρ του παιδιου ελεγεν πιστευω βοηθει μου τη απιστια. So what the hell.
Now Jesus is a problematic figure, and he’s not for everyone. Not even through the lite and denim-clad goggles of, say, the United Methodists is he for everyone. Everyone’s got to find the timeless numinous (if it exists at all) for themselves, how ever they can best figure to do it. Muhammad too, apparently, is quite a help on the way to encountering the divine. My practice? A sloppy and half-assed attempt at Hesychast prayer, an on-again/off-again approach to liturgy, and a “Oops! I forgot” attitude towards fasting. By grace I’ll buck up.
Somehow the idea that there is some all-sublimating meta-consciousness floating out there ahead of our evolution in time, at a Teilhard de Chardin-like point of noospheric convergence — that cozies a guy. To get too comfortable is, of course, to get dead. But to fail to vie for some kind of toolset that gets you in touch with a sense of mysterium tremendum could lead to a life lived without reflection, couldn’t it? Scrambling like a hungry ghost to fill cravings that never die.
So by hook or crook we pray. Have it your way: pull a Robert Monroe binaural thing. Chant some holy Vedic Jai Guru Deva Om. Build (and ponder) algorithms. Lash yourself. Like I give a shit.
But for me, I go back to what is (in broad strokes, at least) my tradition. I’ve got to see what’s there. I’ve got to personalize and try to truck (after a fashion) with the transcendental object at the end of time — the thing that’s out there flinging UFOs into the past, that brings a sword (symbol of East and Air and Mind) and fire (the Will) to the Earth (solidity, body, time), and that dies to conquer death.
We each have to choose a way to approach our myths. When that mythology gets dissolved, we can more directly apprehend its truths.
So eat your myths. Break the cross to see what it’s made of. Stick your finger in the swirling center of Singularity to see what happens. If it’s weak, if it’s blarney, if it’s scat, then it just won’t last.
If it’s True and if it’s Real — there’s nothing you can do to dissolve the pattern. The teleology might turn out, against all expectations, to be quite right: pulling us toward greater complexity as we ponder the creative forces behind the design. Only one way to find out.
So how you going to practice the Singularity?