The Hidden Initiation – Thoughts after Reading Jonathan Black’s The Secret History of the World

Jonathan Black’s The Secret History of the World is a hard book to recommend.

On the one hand, it is an overwhelming undertaking; namely an attempt to reveal the secret ideas of cults and mystery societies since the dawning of mankind. On the other hand, it is an undertaking that seems to be abandoned by the author throughout the book.

Here is not a scholarly research, but more of a mixture of history and speculative literature, with Black often playing on the Secret part to allow a lack of eruditeness. You won’t find exact references and citations in Black’s book, but many stories, anecdotes and tidbits which at times create a cohesive account of a secret history, yet more often remain fragmented.

It is nevertheless full of interesting ideas and references to noted historical figures, who Black attests by were all knowers of the secret history. Black, the eponym for Mark Booth, asks the reader from the first pages of TSHOTW to allow this indiscretion since the narrative conceived by the secret societies is “upside down and inside out”; meaning, they adhere to an almost reverse view of the world from the modern, physical science’s conception.

The Secret History of the World

The Secret History of the World

The secret history of the world, according to Black, goes something like this:

The world was created out of thought (and not from matter as is conceived in today’s physical sciences). This thought predated and in fact created matter. Matter first appeared as a thin gas, impossible to sense even by sight or touch. Then, this gas began to slowly condense and solidify until it hardened enough in order to generate the minerals around us. From these minerals gradually emanated a second, vegetative phase, with the growing of plants. From this, emerged the third and final animal phase, from which humans have arisen. According to the secret history, mankind is the summit point of all evolution, being the only creature capable of being consciously aware of this creation.

Black calls this history an “idealistic” one for its formation of physical things out of ideas – matter out of mind. This mind is what that initial gas was, and it appeared in an already perfect form, reminiscent of Plato’s sense of ideals. Black indeed sees Plato as a member of secret societies and thus a proponent of the secret history.

In the times of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks, idealism was still a “living Philosophy (TSHOTW, p. 124). When Plato speaks of Ideals he is referring to them very much as an existing realm. The allegory of the cave is in fact about how thought creates material. Additionally, most of the ancient hybrids depicted in classical literature, such as the creatures that are a mixture of man, animal and God – the likes found in Ovid, the Greek pantheon, the Egyptian one and so forth – are all depictions of the living world while we could share imaginatively the same mind with the animals and the rest of creation.  These creatures are envisioned anachronistically by us today as if they are half-breeds, while back when these stories were lived and perceived these creatures were thought of as actual.

This history is also not completely linear and is in actuality moving in an ebb and flow pattern. According to Black, humanity is currently moving on a returning path, back into the initial gas form. The axis of this boomerang evolution was the appearance of Jesus Christ. As Black states throughout TSHOTW, the appearance of many renowned figures on the stage of history indicates consecutive spiritual phases in the development of mankind.

If you can’t criticize a book – what’s the point of reading it?

I do not wish to criticize Black’s book for its obvious incommensurability with today’s materialistic beliefs of the world, as some critics have already done. His request to depict a “topsy turvy” image for the origins of the world, in his words, is enough to make such criticisms futile. What I do regret is the book’s lack of ordered conclusiveness, showing in Black’s unsystematic approach. The Secret History offers many interesting and at times magically inspiring notions, yet does not pursue any of the to the fullest.

Although TSHOTW wishes to unravel the fact that many renowned historical figures were avid members of mystery groups, it does little to show how this affected their craft or their lives. The brevity of description awarded to most of these figures reads often like tabloid material or an old fashioned almanac. The idea that the secret history has been around us in literature, art and music for so long, and that hints have been planted by initiates as a way of communicating secretly with other acolytes is definitely intriguing. Sadly, black only allows glimpses of this idea throughout the book, as if he himself was writing a secret, hint-laden manuscript.

Another point of critique is that the attempt at a historic account of secret thinking is almost entirely westernized. Black focuses mostly on the esoteric ideas promulgated and followed by westerners. He fails to deal with the influences of eastern belief, science and philosophy on early western thought. He does note the Chakras throughout the book, although as an already fully formed idea that is intertwined with western arcane concepts. While this omission might be done for the sake of adding mystery, I believe that Black simply knows more about western cults to dare plunge into the ocean of ancient eastern wisdom. A choice that, for me at least, nullifies much of the “historic” intention that is behind TSHOTW.

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Secret Initiation Stories

Black claims that many great minds throughout history have been initiated into secret knowledge. This means that they were also probably taught in ways of reaching higher, more ancient connections with said knowledge. The fact that this knowledge was so well disseminated on the one hand yet was still kept under wraps is not easy to accept. Black hints at the ways of secret societies in keeping this history private, in their constant alluding to it in allegorical art. He recounts some the characteristics of the practices undertaken by mystery cults throughout history.

Secret practices make us realize the true possibility of stepping out of the body. They involves an initiation, which usually practices being taken to a secret location, mostly underground; being asked inquisitive questions about our life and past, and being scared for our life to the point of realization that we wish to transform who we are and give for the greater good. “By the act of leaving the body the candidate knew beyond any possibility that death is not the end.” (p. 186). There is an out of body experience “that is shattering (p. 190), the spirit experiences “a lightness which nobody who has not been initiated could describe or understand”.  A being guides the initiate through the underworld, who is the god of the planet mercury, and then there is a strange swap, in which this guide reveals himself to be Lucifer, who is a “necessary evil”. Secret initiation prepares the candidate for a meetings with the guardians after death – who are the stars of the different spheres “both on the way up and on the way down”.

So, for the sake of making the most out of Black’s 500+ page book, I would like to assume that he is right in at least the detailing of the secret initiation rites. It could be interesting to pursue the secret initiation in the plotlines of several famous stories. These are some of the symbols and narratives which characterize, according to Black, the process of being initiated into a mystery school:

  • Being underground – a place where on receives secret knowledge
  • Being scared to death – a part of the process of forgetting past identity and accepting a renewed, spiritual life
  • An out of body experience
  • Traveling through the stars, both upwards and downwards
  • Conversing with the devil
  • Spiritual transformation and enlightenment
  • Oath or understanding of mandatory secrecy

So, much in the spirit of presumption embedded in The Secret History of the World, but with a nudge towards a more researched approach, let’s look at some of the classic stories available for us in our western society and see whether they meet these criteria. These narratives take the form of children stories, folk tales, myths and legends, known to us from the bible to Disney movies. Some of these stories will not contain all of the parameters on the list for an initiation story. They might nevertheless be about a form of secret initiation, or inspired, as stories often are, by a predecessor tale which was indeed about rites of accepting secret knowledge.

Secret Initiation Symbols and Acts in famous Stories

Initiation Story Criterion /StoryBeing UndergroundScared to DeathNear Death/Out of Body ExperienceTraveling through the StarsMeeting the DevilSpiritual TransformationOath of Secrecy
Jesus Christ+++++
Sleeping Beauty+++
The Golem of Prague++
The Binding of Isaac+++
The Little Mermaid+++
The Crossroads++++
The Lion King++
Jonah and the Whale++++

How Digital Media has changed how we Think, Operate and Behave

To say that people are occupied with their digital technology devices nowadays is almost redundant. One only needs to walk about in a big city and see how leering into cellphones has become a human reflex. What was not too long ago spoken about in terms of escapism is now a common and acceptable mode of behavior. The reasons for the meteoric rise in smartphone use are also fairly obvious, being a one-stop-shop for much of our informational and communicational needs, enough to outweigh its escapist proclivities. I wish to claim that much of the social disconnect that we experience nowadays can be explained by the rapid entrance of the new information media into our lives. That is, while we might believe that we are in charge of our thoughts and behavior, that we can choose how to examine things in front of us; our use of media ends up dictating our scope of perception, our expectations from reality, from ourselves and from others, and creates our cultures in its likeness.

Marshall McLuhan famously coined the phrase ‘the medium is the message’ to encapsulate a natural law – that the means and structures through which we perceive reality impact that reality itself. This idea has predated McLuhan and appeared in many incarnations and not limited to any genres, from Emmanuelle Kant to Chuck Palahniuk. As obvious as this notion may appear, it is a profoundly useful tool for analyzing the changing world. By regarding the digital technologies in our disposal today – like computers and smartphones – not merely as instruments for executing our wishes, we might see them alternately as mechanisms that also require from us a particular set of actions and engagements, we could see how ultimately they cause us to operate in recurring ways, forming new habits, behaviors and modes of thought. By examining some of the habits we have developed in dealing with digital technology, it is possible to explain and predict many urging issues unfolding in the world today.

Digital technology is at its peak of accessibility nowadays. Personal computers and handheld mobile devices with an internet connection, or smartphones, are passing the tipping point in which over 50% of the world population has one, and is thus considered a ‘user’ (and in the top 10 developed countries in the world, that percentage reaches around 73% of the total population). With such dramatic numbers it is apparent that digital technology is causing a revolution of histories scale, with what seems like an unstoppable trajectory of expansion. Several thinkers expressed their predictions for the course that this revolution will take or, more accurately, how it will end, with a spectrum of conflicting ideas. The ecophilosopher and primitivist John Zerzan sees technology as a whole as a the abandoning and forgoing of nature, and sees digital technology as a culmination of humans becoming alienated and robotic; whereas science fiction author Bruce Sterling regards the digital revolution as a passing fad, much like the nuclear age craze of the 40’s and 50’s in the USA, which he suggests will pass with a silent hum by the 2030’s.

Even though this tidal wave of digital technology invites predictions of how societies and individuals will appear in the future, looking far ahead is unnecessary. The impact of over 20 years of internet access and of smartphone usage is apparent right now, in much of the western world today.

Did we choose to use computers and smartphones or did they choose us? Throughout history, other media have come into existence based on the requirements of their time, culture and history. The literary novel has changed its form over the years and around the world in both length and subject matter, based on how much free time people had for enjoying  a leisurely read.  Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a cultural preference to use certain media instead of others. The rise of the internet managed to abolish much of printed journalism, just as the popularity of smartphones eroded the photography business. The more optimized and effortless our actions thanks to a particular medium, the better chance that medium has of lasting. And so, the most optimal systems of delivering and receiving information, that is also most suitable to our times right now is the smartphone. These transformations and metamorphoses of one media to another have often led to different cultural behaviors. The pace of living, the way we perceive the world and our expectations of ourselves and other people, are very much constructed by the channels through which we accept reality.

It would be helpful at this point to examine some of the recurring actions we are required to make in the routine use of a smartphone. These are all standard processes we accept as part of the operating rituals of digital technology, yet they have no parallel in the real, non-virtual life. We can try and extrapolate how each action becomes over time an actual habit, and how it is finally translated into to new forms of human behavior.

The Operating System makes the Real world Virtual

Most people over 18 in the west have already been shaped by digital operating systems even before the arrival of the smartphone, due to previously using a personal computer. The most popular operating system in the world, Microsoft’s ‘Windows’, has conditioned users to its mode of operating. A product of 80’s American corporate mentality, Microsoft Windows is riddled with metaphors and concepts[a]  from the business world of an office. It has ‘files’ and ‘folders’, it has indeed and ‘Office’ brand for its top programs, it is built on the hierarchical language of DOS operating system, in which you give ‘commands’ and the computer carries out the tasks. 

While the language attempts to portray ‘Windows’ as a physical place of work, the actions it allows users to make are still performed in virtual space, and so none of its executions has any repercussions or gravity in the physical, real world. The recycle bin can make anything you previously saw or heard on the computer vanish with a click. Despite the fact that new information is still needed to overwrite the “deleted” data in order for the actual deletion to be performed, the message of this medium is that you can make your unwanted things and trash disappear in an instance; and the message, as said before, is reinforced through countless performances, through muscle memory, into a habit of thinking and behavior in the real world.

We still use personal computers, and so the underlying assumption that we can perform those actions in reality still lingers very much in the minds of the current generation. It is worth mentioning that computer use is on the decline, with most youth in the west nowadays preferring consoles and video games to the PC. Therefore, the engraining of ideas and behavior that is illustrated here applies mostly to those people 20-60 year old, and might indeed perish when they are no longer alive.

The Digital Rhythm and Responsibility

While they are often lauded for their fastness, their quick processing and speedy reaction time, digital media – when compared to speed of human capabilities – only fulfills the promise of being fast paced on some occasions. Computing powers of calculation now dwarf most of human ability, as is evident in performing basic and elaborate mathematical calculation that are unsurpassable by even those humans who have dedicated their lives for its mastery, as in the games of chess and ‘go’. On the other hand, operations which require more dexterity, flexibility, reasoning and even what to humans is considered basic communication skills, are a thing which as of yet, no digital system was able to approach. Computers take time to load, to connect, they require electricity, batteries, they are replaceable and, most noticeably, they tend to malfunction.

Examples of these can be found abundantly, and are epitomized at every locale where digital machines carry a sticker displaying the human contact’s number to call if it breaks down. In our case of personal use, computers and smartphones both engage many systems which appear as innovative yet mimic human capabilities with slower results. These include printing, since the operations needed to print a page – from connecting the cables, clicking files and commands, loading paper, etc., are much more elaborate and time consuming than handwriting onto a piece of paper. Handwriting, being more tactile than typing on a keyboard or pressing on a touch screen, is also disappearing thanks to the use of the computer and phone. While this might be environmentally healthier, the relocation of the written word to an exclusively virtual space marshals the vanishing of its reverence and gravity. In explaining why he prefers to write his jokes not using a computer writing software but with a pen on a yellow legal pad, Jerry Seinfeld mentioned the stress induced by the ever-present, ever-blinking line at the end of your digital word processing sentence. Adding to the diminishing gravity of the written word is the digital media’s ability to update and change their texts at any time. The words in a printed book acquire their significance from their being unchangeable, and being so, they have real consequence.

As opposed to that, today with the decline of printed journalism and books, their online digital versions are easily changeable and updated, with the headlines of every major news organization alternating more rapidly than ever, even for the same article. Given this ability to correct and edit on the go, true consequence is gone. Newspapers in the digital age, perhaps without our noticing, have lost their status as moral compasses, of being reliable and responsible. With responsibility gone, cynicism and despair take hold, as is very much apparent in today’s world of journalistic coverage. As will be discussed soon, the current climate of ‘fake news’, much like ‘reality TV’, resulted from the internet’s placing higher merit on changeability than on consequence and research.

Here too, it is interesting to notice the language used for renaming and altering perceived reality within the digital medium that is the internet, and to observe how it is then passed on to venues in physical life. When changing a digitized piece of text, the most common terms are “edit”, “update” and “refresh”. These words seem to refer to a text as a part of a series of appearances, each rejuvenating and giving it renewed life. This change of pace has indeed created an impossibility for news coverage to continue in any other structure but the 24 hour news cycle. But while the new corporations have all the machinery to observe and report (a word originally meaning “account told, rumor“) things that are happening in real time, they are also driven to display those concurrent happenings in real time, lacking the breadth of vision and the distance needed to process and investigate deeper into the worth of a story. Much of the extreme outrage characterizing western culture nowadays (and the emergence of ‘fake outrage’) is a byproduct and incarnation of the 24 hour news cycle. With news corporations playing by the digital media’s pace, they have become a reactionary medium, offering on-the-spot commentary to the events they are witnessing; whereas given more time, they could have stopped and investigated deeper.

Uniformity of Information and Tribal Mentality

The standardization and uniformity of written texts predates the modern era, and can be traced to the invention of the Guttenberg printing press in 1440. Before that, texts were hand copied so that different versions of the same texts would be varied with many nuances and idiosyncrasies. Since Guttenberg, uniformity has become a standard in the reproduction of visual and auditory works of art. Uniformity is an artificial manmade construct, which does not occur in nature, much like right angles, yet years of industrialization and automation have instilled its image in our cultural psyche. But where previous media and technology outpoured “forgivable” uniform creations such as cars, clothes, machinery, etc., the internet risks promising the standardization of information itself.

The internet works much like a telephone conversation. It connects between one side and another side for the exchange of information. This can be symmetrical, as in a chat, or one sided, as in browsing through webpages. Nevertheless, the internet is often portrayed as an “information superhighway”, or more colloquial is the term “world wide web”. Again, much like the computer’s operating system, metaphors of place and space appear. We start browsing on our “home” page, move to different “sites” send emails to “addresses” and webpages are assigned a “domain”. Along with the web metaphor, the internet is often conceptualized as a huge network, an equivalent to a big city, a massive library, or the universe. All these are ways or trying to order the very much unstructured nature of the internet.

The Internet from Above [source:]

Where the internet reveals its underpinnings as being a cluster of callers on a circuit board is in the chat rooms and online message boards which allow anyone with a modem to sound their voice.  As expected, such sites are notorious for the impossibility of creating anything similar to a real life conversation. The sensation of such forums is of a rabble of people attempting to talk over one another since that’s the only way they could get a word in.

Sounds familiar?

If you managed to identify moments like these in real life, you’re not alone.  In the last decades, groups of people all around the world have been expressing themselves increasingly vocally, with a significant rise in protests all over the globe. The Financial Times ran an article which describes 2020 as “The Year of Protests”, and have asked whether these gatherings are so popularized that they have become less effective

 While one could say that it is not just the discordant nature of the internet that leads to more violent communication patterns but the information itself that is becoming more available and horrific, I wish to claim that the internet has shaped our very perception of information and knowledge, making us expect a uniformity of thought on a grander scale than ever. The expectation of uniform, identical information has become so prevalent, that its clashing with the many voiced world leads to violence, intolerant behaviors.

With the powerful ability to instantaneously receive information and answers to questions, we have become, in a significantly short time, willfully dependent on the internet and on smartphones as its most accessible vehicle. The ability to reach to our phones and find seemingly inexhaustible responses to our needs has created a sort of reflex reaction. You do not need to stop and count the times you have reached for your phone to search for something you don’t know, but simply look around and see that it is already ubiquitous in our culture. The internet does the same thing for emotional distress, of course, offering optimized communication that serves as an instant fix, but it is extremely dangerous when information itself becomes fixated and perceived as uniform – which is what our new reflex of quick-answers has brought about. In other words, we have grown accustomed to thinking that the internet has all the right answers.

Given the fact the internet is carried by binary media, most of us have unknowingly became habituated to seeing it as a life calculator, demanding of it answers for what is true or false, right or wrong. And this habit, especially at the hands of young people who grew up using the internet, is an instrument of uniformity. It abounds with informational sites for life answers, from Wikipedia to Quora, from Snopes to FactCheck. The irony is that these websites, originating out of a desire for critical thinking, ultimately contribute to the abolition of human questioning. The internet, in other words, started as a promise for polyphony of opinions and cultures and ultimately makes us crave absoluteness.

And this absoluteness is already experienced in many countries today. For a generation of well-off people all around the world, and particularly in the rich western countries, growing up with the internet has bred people’s expectation of the world to appear a certain way and not the other. Going through a generational clash as did countless other groups in history, many western youth today present the novelty of not being able to understand or deal with the existence of opposing opinions. This is often touted as part of their being the ‘snowflake’ generation, yet I think saying they are spoiled misses the mark – their inability to understand, I believe, is based in their view that no person who was exposed to the same information could reach different conclusions. That is, the free information found online has caused them to assume that the truth itself is uniform, and anyone who disagrees with their perception must have an ulterior motive.

For what these websites create is the assumption that it is natural to have all the information at the palm of your hands at all times, and that everybody else is supposed to have it as well. Such expectations induce stress and generate a shock – realizing that copious amounts of information do not make people likeminded or uniform in their thinking – signals that we do not have a single answer for most of the prevalent questions in life.

This behavior is not endemic to the snowflake generation, to social justice warriors, Gen Z, or any other name by which to call new groups of young people. It has invaded most of our cultures. In many western societies who are smartphone ridden, straying from cultural norms has begun to be seen as more grotesque and downright impossible, than ever before. We begin expecting each other to become in sync with our own mentality, as if in perfect unison. This explains the phenomenon known as ‘cancel culture’ (another computerized phrase thrown into real life). We opt to do away and discard anything that strays from the norm. The dangers of this computerization of the living world only start with the social deterioration we are witnessing the last years, but might end in a collective schizophrenia, a war waged for the sake of purging unwanted (natural) elements that do not exist in the binary realm.

Commodification and Comfort

There are plenty of other changes that the new media has imposed upon the smartphone carrying man and woman. It is possible to talk about how the quickness and uniformity of typing has led to a similar expectation of human communication, in conversation. I would venture into claiming that the pace of a talk show or a TV sitcom – that is, eliciting a laugh every 5 seconds or so – has transfigured from the appearance of the typed word, and since it bled into our lives. Moreover, the web’s ability to display only visual and auditory information has caused a stifling in activities based on the other sensory perceptions, with the exclusion of beautiful food, since it is possible to display it in visual form and elicit a taste-bud reaction. On the contrary, there is no trend of taking pictures of wines, perfumes or bubble baths. Time will tell whether the collective peak in the usage of exclusively visual and auditory devices will cause a development in the neuronal clusters in the brain in charge of those parts. With young children playing more hand-eye coordination games on console devices, I believe this will be the case.

Add to these the option to scroll endlessly and swiftly through more and more information and you will understand how impatient and demanding of new stimuli the internet prompts us to be. As an inverse of this, we are now driven to shallower thinking, with much less stamina for judging and analyzing the information given us. In a way, we become more accepting, yet unquestioning, similar to robots on a convey belt of images and sounds, and expect ourselves and other to behave in much the same manner. This is but another way in which the operating mechanism which we use begins creating us in its form – we become the things that we own. And so, robots operating robots is a bleak image for our society, which might have appeared exaggerated if it were not for the way in which the new media objectifies and commodifies our reality – and eventually, ourselves.

Becoming robotic is not only a hyperbole but in fact a point worth stopping to think about. Since using smartphones stifles our habit of deep and clear reflection, we eventually lose our ability to asses our own inner feelings. It is easy to notice how today, from a young age, this is already taking place. When cellular phones only started becoming popular, debates have arisen about whether or not children should be given them, and at what age should we start giving kids access to a smartphone and to the internet. In the second decade of the 21st century, such debates seem out of touch with reality, and parents are using the pacifying capabilities of smartphones on children from as early as toddlerhood. The irony behind such acts is that it is impossible to dismiss them as merely bad parenting; since pacifying is something all smartphone users take part in, whether they can admit to it or not.

From the comforts of having all the information we need at hand, to the seeming proximity we get to our loved ones, the smartphone is today’s quickest route to short term happiness. It has the ability to supply endless neurochemical stimulants and relaxants. From watching pictures that create the sensation of enjoyment, such as nice food, recognizable people and beautiful places; to receiving approval and even constant complements in the form of social media clicks, reactions and comments – the smartphone, with all its many helpful features, is put to use principally as a form of self-medication. By being continuously comforted, we begin expecting this state in real life as well as online, with our pacifiers firmly in hand.

Social media offers the drug of companionship, of amity and of approval. It has already changed much of the way we interact with one another in real life, I will claim, and is the foremost instrument for our increasingly commodified view of reality. By placing the carrot of social acceptance and companionship in front of our faces, social media has done away with much of the mechanism and structures created naturally for people to gravitate towards one another in real life. And while it may be true that entire social constructs such as etiquette, courtship, even hobbies and friendship can be seen in fact as byproducts of desiring the same neurochemical pleasure that social media provides in its instant version – they are not interchangeable since each of them offers different types of experience, namely a subjective and an objective experience.

As a binary medium, displaying visual and auditory information, the internaet offers an exclusively objective experience, by which I mean that turns our perception of anything put inside it into an object. For example, watching images of our friends on Facebook, no matter how dear they are to our hearts or even if we closely remember them from a meeting in the near past, is still placed within a square frame, among an endless scroll of other bits of information, related or unrelated, being held or placed on a desk, being able to click, and mostly static – with the ability to manipulate. All these are attributes of frozen and unchanging objects. The mere appearance of anything within a medium makes it objectified. Whereas seeing our friends in person provides a constant change, an unexpectedness as well as many more parameters for sensing, like smell, touch etc., all of which are attributes of subjective existence. And so the more time we spend replacing real life, subjective information, with media-ted, objectified information, we begin losing the ability to subjectify – that is, to relate to others, to sense the world around us as alive and having an individual existence – and begin commodifying our surroundings as if they were a part of an endless scroll, there for our instant gratification.

The Great Objectification – The Flattening of Reality

The continuing of all this has already led, in my opinion, to the further demolishing of such social constructs as friendship, marriage and the family. With the almost metaphysical law that what we create and repeat will make us in its own image, the internet’s constant informational flow would seem to be turning us users into information seeking and delivering automatons. E. M. Forster’s 1909 short science fiction story The Machine Stops depicts a future where humans are living solitary lives in pods which supply them with endless communication with other people around the world. They spend their time either creating or listening and seeing others giving lectures on various topics. Forster’s famous saying “always connect” predates the experiential tug of war currently taking place between the objectified and the subjective dimensions of real life. While the internet’s virtual nature has no bearing on real life, the expectations and behavior we have repeatedly come to employ while using it are sticking out into subjective, lived experiences, and dismantling much of the communication and perceptions involved with everyday social life.

As with the rise of ‘Cancel Culture’, many subcultures and movements in today’s society are displaying the push and pull of the internet onto our real experiences. No longer are the old considered as wise for their experience, since experience is knowledge found in subjective information. For well over a generation now, western culture is profoundly children-centric, placing higher values on youthfulness and its characteristics, like swiftness of action, dexterity and freshness. Yet a bigger change that the internet has brought forth is in its striving for collective, group mentality.

Being submerged under a constant flow of superfluous data and information that the internet provides, it is practically impossible for anyone to sift through it all and evaluate which bit is correct and which is false. Our latent desire to keep scrolling for more stimuli while being able to handle new information in extremely high dosages has led to an inevitable decontextualizing- a flattening of our valuation systems. This flattening which enabled the optimizing our reaction speed, has  led to the reactionary and inflammatory nature apparent in message boards, forums and Facebook comments– with numerous funny laws appearing to explain the failings of its communication framework – most of which originating, to my estimation, from the habit formed online to expect absolute information, in a clear binary yes-no fashion. A mere disagreement online is immediately cast as an argument with two distinct sides. The fault is in the medium itself and I our expectations of it. Yet arguing online is benign compared to taking this flattened perception of reality into the streets.

The inability to analyze information in its context is a growing problem of character, leading many younger people to crises of personality in numbers far exceeding anything in past years. The inability to detach from objectified, media-ted information, has desensitized a great number of people and brought upon a rift in their ability to identify their own personal, subjective sensations. Many today are stripped of having a real sense of inner monologue and moral compass, and with such existential insecurity bubbling, have made their most basic affiliations a safe haven and meaning. Tribal mentality is a new name for such classic phenomena as blind patriotism, nationalism or chauvinism – it is the weak individual’s falling back on a certainty; the confused psyche’s escape towards things that it cannot change, like its country of birth or its race or gender, and tapping into it as a source for safety and strength, often in a violent and overcompensating manner. While there is much to say about the psychological changes brought upon by the internet, the point combining most of its various expressions all is an insecurity and new forms of doubting reality – all of which create frightful and often vicious individuals, willing to use drastic measures to latch on to their identity.

The End of Subjectivity as we know it?

Observing current daily life through common media channels, a sense of immanent finality is inescapably present. It appears as if culture has run its course and new technology and its promises for a better tomorrow is only making things worse, commodifying the world and ourselves while turning the planet into a wasteland. The present-day intoxication from internet technology, social media and the uninterrupted flow of information, are changing our behavior and views of reality right now. It is all the more tempting to predict how our psyches and societies will change on account of the internet and digital media, since such prophecies are another form of escapism and desire to correct the wrongs perceived at the present time. Instead of predictions, I would like to consider the one thing that is changing due to our new capabilities of simulating reality, which is our subjectivity.

As stated, the internet has the ability to objectify our perception of the world – to dilute real happenings from any context, to extract the human element out of them, to make the world appear to us as binary, with the only things possible for consideration are those quantifiable and calculable. In gradually stopping to turn to our inner voice for answers and comfort, we are losing touch with its existence. The term “gut feeling” is very fitting for describing that subjective sense of inner knowing, a trustworthy way that is closest to us.

The French sociologist and philosopher of culture Jean Baudriard observed mankind’s growing ability to signify reality, and saw our times as being post-modern in the sense that the relation between our instruments and tools for signifying reality and that reality itself, are becoming indistinguishable. For such a world, in which we cannot tell apart the real from the signified, Baudriard coined the term “Simulacra” as a simulation and mimicking of reality that has become identified with the thing it is mimicking. This is apparent in our current culture in its most recent embodiment in the rise of Deep fake technology, which is a video and audio representation so similar to reality that it is difficult for us to identify it as being computer generated. The rise of “fakeness” as a term to describe the simulating nature of the internet is to me a sign of the medium’s deteriorating power of representation. We distrust only what we can sense is not true to begin with, and while the technology is getting better at copying reality, it is ironically seen by us as chiefly an act of fakery. I see this as a sign of something unchanging, a subjective element in mankind, which puts the new digital media in a perspective of human evolution since the rise of symbolization.

The ability to create a symbol, and thus, to simulate reality, has been around for millennia. As a unique, thinking species, ours is the ability to symbolize and to mimic. It is quite possible therefore, to see in the many inventions of humanity through the ages a mere copying of nature, from language to the computer, from the wheel to the internet. There is an almost biological predisposition for people to copy themselves into things they create. This recreation of ourselves is repetitively done perhaps for the sake of expanding our infinity-reaching minds out of our limited corporeal bodies, in Ernest Beker’s terms -much like winning an award or securing everlasting fame. The creation of digital media and of the internet is our most recent attempt in simulating reality, in encapsulating every piece of the landscape in a single objective framework. Yet, as all reality is subjectively experienced, it is relentlessly changing, and so in itself is endless and infinite like our imaginative minds. It is my subjective feeling that in the future additional attempts will be made to capture as much of reality as possible, and in so doing various new technologies will be utilized, yet these would also diminish when reaching the point of obvious mimicking, when they – like DeepFake technology, reveal their intentions of simulating the actual surroundings.

This does not diminish the already devastating impact of the digital media on the current pace of living. The 24 hour news channels have created a heightened sense of stress that is enough to cause anyone relying on it as a source for news to become morbidly frightful and enraged; the smartphone and GPS navigation have annihilated our former ability for orientation and memory; and with every new popular app, a previous human capability is extinguished. Yet all of these are still tools, and require us to use them, to operate them, and to turn them on. Although we have become a generation that would rather record reality and comment on it than create it or experience it, a backlash is immerging with the same protests discussed before signaling a change in moods. The global pandemic has reminded many of the reasons they crave being outside, breathing fresh air and engaging physically with other people. Although Forster’s portrayal of the future as a being willingly cooped in a room for one is becoming a vivid concern, virtual existence has not won yet in the fight over human consciousness.

[a] The idea that metaphors and figurative language are revealing of how we perceive our concepts, was suggested by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson in their 1980’s book, Metaphors We Live by. It is a vital source for understanding how we create meaning by building our concepts of the world with metaphoric language.

A Thought about Stories

“Change is tremendously stressful, so control the amount of newness you must face”

In one of his more popular lectures, which became known by the title “How to live the rest of your life”, Neil Postman warns against facing too much “newness” all at once.

As a general rule, this is not only great for mustering the forcefulness of life, but is also serves as a fine guideline for writers everywhere in plotting a story.

When reading a book, a short story or even a non-fiction text, the narrative works best when it revolves around a single key novelty. Any other information which is new for the reader, and unrelated to the main novelty ,should be kept to a minimum. This creates a greater impact on audiences I believe, both aesthetically and morally, and is the heart of great storytelling – i.e. knowing what information to include and what to leave out.

This made me think that the true meaning of stories as a thing that human beings do. Stories are a construct intended for coping. The lasting of stories as a human act is due to their ability to make people aware of those new things that might come their way in life – that is, the hardship, perils, heartbreaks, danger, surprises – and in devising a way to memorize them for later use.

A good story, in other words, is always a lesson.

The fact the newness is hard for us to deal with, is probably a great clue to the way the human mind works. Despite our ability to symbolize, human beings are best able to face things based on habits and muscle memory. Stories, texts and narratives all help us visualize and memorize more newness than we have ever faced, and the catharsis and joy we obtain from a good plot is partly through the sensation of having “leveled up” and learned how to cope another novelty.

T & J, or Porch Thoughts

T: “There’s nothing sadder than a spiteful old-person.”

J: “That’s that fear of death.”


Much like an old man who grows vengeful at society for carrying on without him, ideologies are bred by thinking you cannot die or cease to exist.

You wish to exclude and push away at the foreign elements surrounding you, thinking the world is meant to remain as you desire it for yourself and for your children. You refuse to believe that things might be different than they are.

That reminded me of my cousin asking me years back what, to my views, was the one ‘problem in the world’ – to which I answered ‘fear’. He agreed and said he believed it was indeed a fear – “a fear of change”. I was younger and did not fully realize the extent in reality of his statement.

defined as “a change of thinking from an old way into “a new way

This reminds me of Doug Stanhope, saying that people ranting about how fun it was when they were young – saying, it’s not that that period was fun – youth is fun.

Acknowledging your death and demise relieves the tension of maintaining “control” over your surroundings.

Things just change.

On Gender-Identity

Listening to too much American podcasts makes it impossible to escape the recent debate surrounding gender-identities, and the use of gender-pronouns in particular. The claim that gender is not a binary construct boils down, in my view, to a definition of gender.

This issue has more to do with linguistics than it does with ideals. Since, the definition of ‘gender’ is: “the state of being male or female (typically used with reference to social and cultural differences rather than biological ones)”. The term ‘gender’, then, disregards the biological, and indeed the binary, categorizing of men and women into two sexes. In so doing, it presupposes that a gender is a cultural construct – and can be formed as fluidly as one’s personal identity.

Watching Bill Burr being interviewed on the “Your Momma’s House” podcast. At the 55:00 minute mark, the hosts ask (perhaps glibly, although I don’t think so) Burr, if he is “raising [his] child by the gender binary” ( ). The talk continues when the hosts ask Burr if he will “raise his child to be a girl”, to which he very aptly responds, “what are you talking about, my kid’s a girl”. I see this exchange as a depiction of the two conflicting voices on the matter nowadays.

I think it’s clear that what is disconnected here is the clear idea of what a sex is an what gender is. A person’s sex, as opposed to their gender, is assigned to them by their chromosomal makeup. This is unchangeable. A gender, as defined in the dictionary, can be seen as a person’s cultural affiliation to a certain set of convictions of character, some of which are related to their sexual orientation. But, here is when one side (the hosts’ side) of the argument gets it wrong in my opinion- They are conflating and jumbling together ideas of a person’s ‘sex’ and their ‘identity’. To prove this, many use the term “sexual identity”. This notion assumes that there is in fact a set of character traits that a are brought on by being born to a certain sex. That is – when someone says “you are acting like a girl” they mean, being weak, feminine, winy, etc. Or “she’s one of the boys” about a girl would dictate that she is the opposite of that, and would rather “work on carburetors” and play soccer, as Burr suggests. This reveals the underlying shortcomings of thought from the gender-pronouns movement. They are in fact the ones adhering more than anyone else to dated concepts of what it is like to act like a girl or a boy. Instead of accepting that a person’s identity has nothing to do with their sexual basis, they would rather generate an eschewed and superseded discussion regarding “gender” – a mere cultural definition – and claim it to have prevalence over a biological sex.

I do not know how many of the people who adhere to the use of new gender pronouns are in fact being naive, and how many of them, as I suppose several radical factions of the feminist, trans and other movement are engaging in the debate out of dishonesty. I claim that this use ranges between metal sluggishness to dis-ingeniousness. On the hosts’ side, I believe the former is the case. This illustarte the case of how the intellectual elite can once again, through spreading panic (in this case of messing up your child), can stupefy the general public into misinterpreting reality and acting in a reckless way, which they otherwise would never do.

The gender-pronoun movement is also very lazy in hiding its own ulterior motives and hypocrisies. Since, in most western cultures (and indded on those in which the debate takes place) one is intitled use any gender pronoun they would like for themselves, wear whatever colors of fashions they would like, and perform sex change operations to their heart’s desire. Indeed, they can be as gender-fluid as they like. But asking others to be non-fluid in their relation to them, in calling them by a specifically assigned word, is hypocritical and dishonest to themselves.

To summarize, the gender-pronouns movement is wrong based on at least two grounds. First, it conflates the ideas of identity, which can be socially altered and chosen, with a given, unchangeable sexual makeup. By wishing to change a person’s gender, its proponents constantly self parody their very idea by actually assuming that for each of the biological sexes there is a set of defining character and behavioral traits. Second, by the active appealing to others to engage them by their new assumed identities (asking people to call them by their newly taken gender pronouns), the proponents of the gender-pronoun movement are incredulously ordering others to become non-fluid in their own perceptions of gender. In thus doing, they are performing the ultimate act of self-indulgence, which is, being superior to others (hence, why people like Jordan Peterson refer to them correctly as “fascist”).

The movement, in my view only illustrates how lost and out of touch certain people have become in seeing the world around them. They display a desire to break off of the shackles of definition, but in doing so they are creating an even more strenuous and suffocating set. The real realization of the self, be it sexual, mental, political, etc. is brought by renouncing of definitions and accepting the fluidity inherent within those so-called distinctions. My belief is that this movement’s achieving publicity can lead to a phase of recognition of the self in people, that is brave – and not based of linguistic borders.

An Unnecessary Update

This is some month we’re going through. My wife is busy chasing the deadline of her M.A. thesis, and I get to see less and less of her in a relaxed state, or at all. In the meantime, the house we moved into just half a year ago does not handle the winter rains well. The roof is leaking every time a heavy rain pours over it, and today the water managed to crack into the kitchen floor from behind some wall.

I just want to freeze frame it all. It would feel nice to stop and take it all in, in good humor. I think this is why people are more preoccupied than ever with taking photos of themselves these days. If you can stop reality you can enjoy it like an observer from the side. I just feel that life right now is this thing that is either flashing too quickly in front of my face or at a complete halt, and never allows me to grab it.