Mythology and Psychotechnics


I am part of a group that every week watches and discusses The Meaning Crisis. 

And this point in time we are in the middle of a meaning crisis. There is a mass reckoning with structural inequality and with perceived notions of unquestioned institutions such as the police. The protests in the street are an example of participation in history (see below) in response to a world that is very broken.

The meaning crisis is an attempt by cognitive scientist John Vervaeke to discuss the history of meaning making. This week we watched part 3:  a discussion of the developments of the psychotechnics of the ancient hebrews and ancient greeks. 

Here is a list of psychotechnics that I picked up

  • reason (from the socratics) – I have lots of thoughts about this and the development of logic and computation
  • patterns or relation (and the cosmos) – Pythagoras developing the notion of mathematics from arithmetic. The idea that numbers can be expanded to describe relationships between things and the world – such as the octave. This is probably the beginning of modeling. Also the notion of the cosmos vs the universe. The cosmos being an ordered beautiful thing – seeing the beauty in the world. 
  • historical time vs cyclical time – So with the development of exodus story we have the notion of history. We can break out of the perception that everything is a circle (thank you for returning us to the circles Nietzsche with the eternal return) What happens then … we can act! we can influence the future. I think this is the beginning of the science or need for decision making.  There is also a discussion in the lecture on participation – that in ancient cultures there is the notion of participation – this is what it means to be in a ritual.  Historical time allows us to be participants in the world.  So this is interesting participation vs observation.
  • real vs illusion – this we discussed in our group a bit. V mentions that people used psychotechnics to distinguish between the real world and some sort of false world. This I have a problem with, although members of the group had different interpretations.  Why does real vs illusion matter?  If you want to act in the world, participate in the world, then you want a mental map that helps you do this. If your map some how does not match the world, or if you find yourself going off course – then you have an illusory map. Perhaps this is the meaning. In this case you need a bunch of real maps not just one -and that is metamodern. And the reality of the map is related to what you want to achieve.  This notion of achievement and destiny or goal – like we are on a journey with a goal. This I suppose is the meaning crises.  Historical time presupposes a goal and there really is none beyond the journey and the extent to which you participate in the journey.  I do like the Hanzi notion that we want to experience greater depth and range and then integrate this into ourselves.
  • mythological space  – V talks about how these psychotechnics arose in a mythological world that we no longer inhabit. What is the mythological world? We discussed this a bit. But if you imagine the distant past as a world we were deeply embedded in (participating in via ritual), and via the scientific revolution we are engaged in the world as an observer -perhaps that has something to do with it. V talks about the notion that we have regressed to a world view that preceeds the axial age and historical time with the advent of the scientific revolution.  And that when we apply the psychotechnics of the axial age to the modern age it makes no sense, because we are not in the world in the same way. 

Have we left the mythological age? Probably. Have we returned to a previous age? Probably not because we still have the cognitive apparatus of mythological grammar. What is the sort of participation we have now? Is the ability to determine a deep fake similar or different to the ability to judge whether or not the divine right of kings is true or whether a statement is logically true or false? True or false are unhelpful categories. We just want greater clarity in order to act in the world with full participation. And this is perhaps the shift in pyrotechnics that we need. This capacity to look at a phenomena with many different maps and from many different perspectives to get a full understanding of how to act. This is so difficult in the modern world as there is so much information and things are moving so quickly and it is difficult to understand even what the most important thing in life should be. Also we are alienated from abilities to take care of ourself in a most fundamental way (food, shelter, support). We are looking for a higher meaning, but there is instability in our lower levels of support or a lack of understanding and transparency. Perhaps the we must now return to the beginning not necessarily to grow our own food, but do that too, but also to understand where food comes from the points of failure the precariousness of the network. We are looking for meaning in higher levels of the maslow pyramid but perhaps even if we are fed and sheltered, we have neglected the bottom of the pyramid in a substantial way.


psychotechnologist – writing and the computer

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