The Cube





'And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time.' 





Revelation. 20, The Holy Bible, [NIV]
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Part One





The Mighty Movement





Before the introduction of machinery, the spinning and weaving of raw materials was carried on in the workingman’s home. Wife and daughter spun the yarn that the father wove or that they sold, if he did not work it up himself. These weaver families lived in the country in the neighbourhood of the towns, and could get on fairly well with their wages, because the home market was almost the only one and the crushing power of competition that came later, with the conquest of foreign markets and the extension of trade, did not yet press upon wages.

So the workers vegetated throughout a passably comfortable existence, leading a righteous and peaceful life in all piety and probity; and their material position was far better than that of their successors. They did not need to overwork; they did no more than they chose to do, and yet earned what they needed. They had leisure for healthful work in garden or field, work which, in itself, was recreation for them […] They were, for the most part, strong, well-built people, in whose physique little or no difference from that of their peasant neighbours was discoverable. Their children grew up in the fresh country air, and, if they could help their parents at work, it was only occasionally; while of eight or twelve hours work for them there was no question.

They regarded their squire, the greatest landholder of the region, as their natural superior; they asked advice of him, laid their small disputes before him for settlement, and gave him all honour, as this patriarchal relation involved. They were ‘respectable’ people, good husbands and fathers, led moral lives because they had no temptation to be immoral, there being no groggeries or low houses in their vicinity, and because the host, at whose inn they now and then quenched their thirst, was also a respectable man, usually a large tenant-farmer who took pride in his good order, good beer, and early hours.

The young people grew up in idyllic simplicity and intimacy with their playmates until they married; and even though sexual intercourse before marriage almost unfailingly took place, this happened only when the moral obligation of marriage was recognised on both sides, and a subsequent wedding made everything good. In short, the English industrial workers of those days lived and thought after the fashion still to be found here and there in Germany, in retirement and seclusion, without mental activity and without violent fluctuations in their position in life.

They could rarely read and far more rarely write; went regularly to church, never talked politics, never conspired, never thought, delighted in physical exercises, listened with inherited reverence when the Bible was read, and were, in their unquestioning humility, exceedingly well-disposed towards the ‘superior’ classes. But intellectually, they were dead; lived only for their petty, private interest, for their looms and gardens, and knew nothing of the mighty movement which, beyond their horizon, was sweeping through mankind.' 

With the 'invention' of the 'jenny,' 'spinning throstle,' and steam engine,' the victory of machine-work over handwork in the chief branches of English industry was won; and the history of the latter from that time forward simply relates how the hand-workers have been driven by machinery from one position after another. The consequences of this were, on the one hand, a rapid fall in price of all manufactured commodities, prosperity of commerce and manufacture, the conquest of nearly all the unprotected foreign markets, the sudden multiplication of capital and national wealth; on the other hand, a still more rapid multiplication of the proletariat [1], the destruction of all property-holding and of all security of employment for the working-class, demoralisation, political excitement, and all those facts so highly repugnant to Englishmen in comfortable circumstances...

The chief centre of this industry is Lancashire, where it originated; it has thoroughly revolutionised this county, converting it from an obscure, illcultivated swamp into a busy, lively region, multiplying its population tenfold in eighty years, and causing giant cities such as Liverpool and Manchester, containing together 700,000 inhabitants, and their neighbouring towns, Bolton with 60,000, Rochdale with 75,000, Oldham with 50,000, Preston with 60,000, Ashton and Stalybridge with 40,000, and a whole list of other manufacturing towns to spring up as if by a magic touch.

Thus arose the great manufacturing and commercial cities of the British Empire, in which at least three-fourths of the population belong to the working-class ... Now, he who was born to toil had no other prospect than that of remaining a toiler all his life .... In this way were brought together those vast masses of working-men who now fill the whole British Empire, whose social condition forces itself every day more and more upon the attention of the civilised world.

The condition of the working-class is the condition of the vast majority of the English people. The question: What is to become of those destitute millions, who consume today what they earned yesterday; who have created the greatness of England by their inventions and their toil; who become with every passing day more conscious of their might, and demand, with daily increasing urgency, their share of the advantages of society? 

In spite of all this, the English middle-class, especially the manufacturing class, which is enriched directly by means of the poverty of the workers, persists in ignoring this poverty. This class, feeling itself the mighty representative class of the nation, is ashamed to lay the sore spot of England bare before the eyes of the world; will not confess, even to itself, that the workers are in distress, because it, the property-holding, manufacturing class, must bear the moral responsibility for this distress. 

Hence the scornful smile which intelligent Englishmen ... assume when any one begins to speak of the condition of the working-class; hence the utter ignorance on the part of the whole middle-class of everything which concerns the workers; hence the ridiculous blunders which men of this class, in and out of Parliament, make when the position of the proletariat comes under discussion; hence the absurd freedom from anxiety, with which the middle-class dwells upon a soil that is honeycombed, and may any day collapse, the speedy collapse of which is as certain as a mathematical or mechanical demonstration; hence the miracle that the English have as yet no single book upon the condition of their workers, although they have been examining and mending the old state of things no one knows how many years. 

Hence also the deep wrath of the whole working-class, from Glasgow to London, against the rich, by whom they are systematically plundered and mercilessly left to their fate, a wrath which before too long a time goes by, a time almost within the power of man to predict, must break out into a revolution in comparison with which the French Revolution, and the year 1794, will prove to have been child’s play. [2]

[1] proletariat [n.] also proletariate, 'the lowest and poorest class,' 1853, from French prolétariat, from Latin proletarius. In political economics, 'indigent [poor, needy] wage-earners, the class of wage-workers dependent on daily or casual employment' from 1856. The Englished form proletary was used 16c.-17c. in the older sense and revived in the modern sense by 1865. The Leninist phrase dictatorship of the proletariat is attested from 1918.
[2] Friedrich Engels [September 1844 to March 1845]. Condition of the Working Class in England. Panther Edition, 1969, from text provided by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, Moscow.





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‘Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat’




Karl Marx




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The Red Terror




A spectre is haunting Europe - the spectre of communism.

Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinct feature: it has simplified class antagonisms [active hostility or opposition].

Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other – Bourgeoisie and Proletariat. [1]

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place.

​​​​​​​Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturer no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilisation. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate.

It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image. But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more.

In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat. Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.

The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralise all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organised as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.

In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.

Working Men of All Countries, Unite! [2]

[1] By bourgeoisie is meant the class of modern capitalists, owners of the means of social production and employers of wage labour. By proletariat, the class of modern wage labourers who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labour power in order to live. [Engels, 1888 English edition]
[2] Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels [February 1848]. Manifesto of the Communist Party.





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'The war of 1914 never ended; the revolution and the unrest afterwards, the civil war, all of that comes together in the war of 1914. … The unrest started in August 1914 and never stopped, as if the order of things had been forever disturbed.'




Emmanuel Levinas




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August 1914





The [so-called] 'Great War' was a total, global tragedy: its setting, the entire world; its duration, 1914–18; its main feature, mass violence.

From the very beginning, the British, French, German and Belgian governments made the war global by pulling the inhabitants and resources of their empires into it. This took place long before the United States entered the war in 1917. Countries, whether neutral or not, helped maintain the epic scale of the violence through industrialized production of munitions, food and other supplies...

For the first time in history, the whole world waged war – a war that devoured men, resources and energy; that split loyalties, reignited old fervours and generated new horrors. What began in Europe, and might have been only the 'Third Balkan War', was turned into a global catastrophe upon the whim of the great imperial powers. Four of them – Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Russia – were destroyed by it, but the war would also leave a vivid scar on the collective memory of all involved. The world would come to mourn the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians and ten million combatants, and the loss of an innocence never to be regained.

The military fronts and the home fronts formed an immense, complex war machine: there were fronts on land, sea and air; there were sites of invasion and shelter, of Herculean labour, of military and civilian imprisonment, of tireless battles against wounds and disease, and of mourning and remembrance. This sowed the seeds of later catastrophes. In some areas, civilians were at the heart of the war; invaded, occupied, looted and bombed, they had become everyday targets in a total war. In these areas, outside the four walls of their laboratory, the authorities tested their ideas of how to repress large groups, displace entire populations, even attempt, in the words of the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] at the time, the 'systematic extermination' of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire.

In his essay, Wars of the Twentieth Century and the Twentieth Century as War, the Czech philosopher Jan Patocka fully grasped the paroxysmal nature of the conflict: 'The First World War is the decisive event in the history of the twentieth century. It determined its entire character. It was this war that demonstrated that the transformation of the world into a laboratory for releasing reserves of energy accumulated over billions of years can be achieved only by means of wars. [2] Emmanuel Levinas, a Lithuanian philosopher exiled from his country for the first time as a child in 1914, spoke of the importance that the two world wars had had on his life: 'The war of 1914 never ended; the revolution and the unrest afterwards, the civil war, all of that comes together in the war of 1914. … The unrest started in August 1914 and never stopped, as if the order of things had been forever disturbed.' [3]

Both thinkers point the way to how we should explore this laboratory of violence, the 'unrest', the 'disturbances' and the extremely difficult task of perceiving, conceptualising and remembering what happened. 

The Great War was, whether deliberately or unconsciously, a laboratory for the twentieth century: a field experiment or test site where violence could be carried out and the effectiveness of military materials to kill men measured and improved. As weapons became increasingly sophisticated, the white-coated technicians were sometimes located right at the front. When poison gas was deployed on a massive scale for the first time, Fritz Haber, a German chemist, was on the battlefield at Ypres to observe the consequences of his research at first hand. Psychologists set up laboratories as close as possible to the action to use war as an extended experiment, with men serving as lab rats. Experts like these became proselytisers [advocates or promoters] of total war, a way of waging war ever more effectively in the service of their countries. 

The goal of the laboratory war was not universal knowledge but national victory. On the military fronts, that meant many more captured, wounded or dead. Total war meant globalisation and industrialisation; modernisation and regression; atavism [4], anomie [5] and cultural appropriation across regions, countries and continents. [6]

[1] Guillaume Apollinaire [16 November 1917]. Mercure de France.  Œuvres complètes, T 3, La Pléiade, Gallimard, p. 514.
[2] Jan Patocka [1975]. Heretical Essays in the History of Philosophy. Carus, Chicago, IL, 1996 , p. 134.
[3] François Poirié [1987]. Emmanuel Levinas, qui êtes-vous?, La Manufacture, Lyon, , pp. 63–65.
[4] 'reversion by influence of heredity to ancestral characteristics, resemblance of a given organism to some remote ancestor, return to an early or original type'.
[5] lack of the usual social or ethical standards in an individual or group.
[6] Annette Becker [2015]. The Great War: World War, Total War.  International Review of the Red Cross.





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'God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?' 




Friedrich Nietzsche




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Twilight of the Idols





Was this the result of the fall of the Christian worldview and the rise of a scientific, reductionist and mechanistic worldview? Was Friedrich Nietzsche’s most famous and controversial statement - 'God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? - the most momentous event of the modern era?

On the surface it may appear that he was referring to the observation that belief in the monotheistic [1] god of Christianity - a religion that had dominated Western culture for some two thousand years - was on the decline. However, such a view is not generally accepted by modern day scholars; rather many suggest instead, that with this statement Nietzsche wanted to symbolise his conviction that God had long provided people with what he saw as their most important desire - the need for meaning and purpose.

In response, Nietzsche argued humans throughout history developed what he called 'True World theories:' a destination such that to reach it is to enter…a state of ‘eternal bliss’, a heaven, paradise, or utopia. Hence true world philosophies…give meaning to life by representing it as a journey; a journey towards ‘redemption, towards an arrival that will more than make up for the stress and discomfort of the traveling.' [2] According to Nietzsche, most of our religions have been different versions of a True World theory. With the death of God, faith in True World theories, in general, were deteriorating. 




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Many scholars and philosophers, claim that in communicating the death of God to the masses, Nietzsche should be characterised as a modern day prophet. What is it about his message that qualifies him for such an honorable title? Nietzsche was only one of a number thinkers in his time to recognise the growing skepticism towards Christianity, as well as other less prominent true world theories. So surely this alone does not qualify him for the title of ‘prophet’. 

Rather, the uniqueness of Nietzsche’s message lay in his remarkable ability to foresee the potentially devastating consequences which would befall those individuals unable to retain their faith in true world theories. Nietzsche thought that when true world theories lost their influence, individuals would be torn from the very worldviews which gave their lives meaning, and the strength to persevere in life despite sometimes miserable conditions. In short, Nietzsche understood that the death of God could potentially vault a large majority of the human race into a state of nihilism. [3]

The philosopher Walter Kaufmann, in his classic work Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, described exactly why Nietzsche is often heralded as a modern day prophet:  'Sometimes prophecies seem to consist in man’s ability to experience his own wretched fate so deeply that it becomes a symbol of something larger. It is in this sense that one can compare Nietzsche with the ancient prophets. He felt the agony, the suffering, and the misery of a godless world so intensely, at a time when others were yet blind to its tremendous consequence, that he was able to experience in advance, as it were, the fate of a coming generation.'

The generation following Nietzsche in many ways seemed to have experienced the fate he had prophesied. 

As the historian Ronald Stromberg, in his book Redemption by War, explained, the turn of the 20th century marked a time when  intellectuals in Europe were gripped by a growing sense that life was meaningless – and it was this feeling which can help to explain the now forgotten fact that the vast majority of European intellectuals were in fact pro-war in the years leading up to [August 1914]. Stromberg wrote:

'How, in the end, are we to explain this so fateful explosion of warlike ideas and sentiments among all manner of European intellectuals in 1914? Of the ingredients we have found to be pervasive, all are important: hatred of the existing society; the apocalyptic 'sense of an ending'; need for some kind of worthy cause to give meaning to one’s life; sheer thirst for adventure against the background of a dreary materialism…' 

[1] monotheistic [adj.] relating to or characterised by the belief that there is only one God; the belief that there is only one deity, an all-supreme being that is universally referred to as God.
[2] Julian Young [19 May 2014]. The Death of God and the Meaning of Life.  Routledge.
[3] nihilism [from Latin nihil, 'nothing'] a philosophy, or family of views within philosophy, that rejects generally accepted or fundamental aspects of human existence, such as objective truth, knowledge, morality, values, or meaning.
[4] Ronald N. Stromberg [January 1, 1982]. Redemption by War: Intellectuals and 1914. University Press of Kansas.






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‘If you wish to understand the psychological and spiritual temper of any historical period, you can do no better than to look long and searchingly at its art. For in the art the underlying spiritual meaning of the period is expressed directly in symbols.’




ROLLO MAY




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Part Two




Art and the Unconscious




One of the most revealing ways to grasp the significance of the transition from spirituality and religion to science and the secular; is to look at it through the prism of art, and to examine the changes in art produced before, and after. For great artists, in all ages, are what psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung [1875 – 1961] called ‘the unwitting mouthpiece of the psychic secrets of [the] times.’ [1]

They are men and women who are acutely sensitive to the zeitgeist - an invisible agent, force or Daemon dominating the characteristics of a given epoch in world history - and who, through their creations, give form and expression to the underlying atmosphere of the culture in which they live. As the existential psychologist Rollo May [1909 – 1994] explains: 

‘If you wish to understand the psychological and spiritual temper of any historical period, you can do no better than to look long and searchingly at its art. For in the art the underlying spiritual meaning of the period is expressed directly in symbols .... They have the power to reveal the underlying meaning of any period precisely because the essence of art is the powerful and alive encounter between the artist and his or her world.’ [2]



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In the beginning of the 19th century, the decline of the Christian worldview reached a critical point of no return. Just a few years earlier, in France, the hatred of religion by not a few well known philosophes [encyclopedistes] and many of their followers is clearly manifested in the following quote by Baron de Holbach: 'Religion has ever filled the mind of man with darkness and kept him in ignorance of the real duties of true interests. It is only by dispelling these clouds and phantoms of religion, that we shall discover Truth, Reason and Morality.' not to mention the well known statement of Voltaire: 'Every sensible man, every honourable man must hold the Christian religion in horror.'

It was this group of intellectuals and a number of revisionary religious, ethical and political works which provided much of the ideological basis for the French Revolution and the program of dechristianisation, in which religious practice was outlawed and replaced with the cult of the Supreme Being, a deist state religion. The program of dechristianisation waged against the Christian people of France increased in intensity with the enactment of the Law of 17 September 1793, also known as the Law of Suspects. It was used to carry out more actively, the following measures: [a] all priests and all persons protecting them are liable to death on the spot; [b] the destruction of all crosses, bells and other external signs of worship and; [c] the destruction of statues, plaques, and iconography from places of worship. [3]

At the same time, it is now generally accepted that both the conception and practices of [naturalistic] enquiry [4] in the Western tradition underwent a series of profound developments - developments which I. Bernard Cohen in the book the Revolution In Science [5], characterised as a ‘second scientific revolution’ and, much more tellingly, the ‘invention of science' by Simon Schaffer in Scientific Discoveries and the End of Natural Philosophy. [6Jonathan R. Topham:

While eighteenth-century natural philosophy was distinguished by an audience relation in which, as William Whewell put it, ‘a large and popular circle of spectators and amateurs [felt] themselves nearly upon a level, in the value of their trials and speculations, with more profound thinkers’, the science which was invented in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century was, as Simon Schaffer argues, marked by the ‘emergence of disciplined, trained cadres of research scientists’ clearly distinguished from a wider, exoteric public. These moves were underpinned by crucial epistemological and rhetorical shifts - from a logic of discovery, theoretically open to all, to a more restrictive notion of discovery as the preserve of scientific ‘genius’, and from an open-ended philosophy of ‘experience’ to a far more restrictive notion of disciplined ‘expertise’. [7]

Intimately connected with these changes was the discovery of steam power, the invention and development of the steam engine, and of machinery for working cotton - the jenny, the mule, the spinning throstle. These inventions gave rise, as is well known, to an industrial revolution: the victory of machine-work over handwork in the chief branches of industry. A revolution which altered the whole of civil society in England, Europe and America; the historical importance of which is only now beginning to be recognised. 

More importantly, at this same point in history, the subject matter of art underwent a curious and dramatic change.

[1]. Carl Jung [1966]. The Spirit in Man, Art and Literature.
[2]. Rollo May [August 6, 1975]. The Courage to Create.
[3].Encyclopedia Britannica. The First French Republic
[4].?
[5].I. Bernard Cohen [1985]. Revolution in Science, Cambridge, MA and London: Belknap Press.
[6].Simon Schaffer [1986]. Scientific Discoveries and the End of Natural Philosophy, Social Studies of Science 16, pp.387–420.
[7].Jon R. Topham [2000]. Scientific Publishing and the Reading of Science in Nineteenth-Century Britain: A Historiographical Survey and Guide to Sources, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A, Volume 31 (4), pp. 559 - 612.




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'He [the painter] must like the historians, represent great events, or like the poets, subjects that will please; and mounting still higher, be skilled to conceal under the veil of fable the virtues of great men, and the most exalted mysteries.'



André Félibien



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Prior to the 19th century,  the great artists focused on what is now termed 'Academic art:' – a style of true-to-life but highminded painting and sculpture championed by specialised art schools that 'sprang' up across Europe from the sixteenth century onwards. These schools - known as 'academies' - undertook to educate young artists according to the aesthetics and practices that were formulated in Classical Antiquity [Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome], and revived and revised during the Renaissance era and its new notion of 'Humanism' - which downplayed religious and secular dogma and instead attached the greatest importance to the dignity and worth of the individual.

Students began with drawing, first from prints of ancient Greek sculpture or famous paintings by 'Old Masters' like Leonardo Da Vinci [1452-1519] and Raphael [1483-1520]; then from plaster casts or originals of antique statuary; and finally, from this they progressed to figure drawing from live male nudes ['drawing from life']. At the end of each stage their drawings were carefully assessed before they were allowed to advance any futher. Only after completing several years of drawing, as well as geometry and human anatomy, were students allowed to paint in oil: that is, to use colour. In particular, there was a strong emphasis on the intellectual element, combined with a fixed set of aesthetics - the 'hierarchy of genres'. [8] André Félibien:

'In this art [of painting] there are different workers who apply themselves to different subjects; there is no doubt that to the degree to which they occupy themselves with the things that are the most difficult and the most noble, they separate themselves from what is lowest and most common, and ennoble themselves by more illustrious work. Therefore he who does landscapes perfectly is above someone who makes only [pictures of] fruits, flowers, or shells. He who paints living animals is more estimable than those who merely represent things that are dead and without movement; and as the human figure is the most perfect work of God on earth, it is certain that he who makes himself the imitator of God in painting human figures, is much more excellent than all others.' [9]

These sentences, pronounced in 1667 by André Félibien, conseiller honoraire to the recently founded French Academy, are often cited in art history as the first explicit articulation of the hierarchy of genres; though Félibien himself did not deploy the precise phrase 'hierarchy of genres' - he spoke simply of positions above and beneath. [10] Nevertheless, from the 16th century onwards genres were organised into a hierarchy, with the noblest form of painting - history painting - at the top, followed by portraiture, genre painting [scenes of everyday life], landscape painting and finally the lowly still life category itself. Leo Tolstoy:

Instinctively [or not] the question presents itself - For whom is this being done? done? Whom can it please? In order to answer this question, it is necessary, first of all, to cease to consider that the aim of art is beauty - that beauty is recognised by the enjoyment it gives, and that artistic enjoyment is a good and important thing, because it is enjoyment - and to consider it as one of the conditions of human life. Viewing it in this way, we cannot fail to observe that art is one of the means of intercourse between man and man. Every work of art causes the receiver to enter into a certain kind of relationship both with him who produced, or is producing, the art, and with all those who, simultaneously, previously or subsequently, receive the same artistic impression.

Speech, transmitting the thoughts and experiences of men, serves as a means of union among them, and art acts in a similar manner. The peculiarity of this latter means of intercourse, distinguishing it from intercourse by means of words, consists in this, that whereas by words a man transmits his thoughts to another, by means of art he transmits his feelings. And it is on this capacity of man to receive another man’s expression of feeling, and experience those feelings himself, that the activity of art is based. And therefore the activity of art is a most important one, as important as the activity of speech itself... [11]

According to the Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle [384 BC - 322 BC], feelings or emotions vary from person to person under specific social situations. With this understanding, Aristotle in his treatise on persuasion Rhetoric, identified three artistic rhetorical appeals: pathos, ethos, and logos

[8].Visual Arts Encyclopedia. Hierarchy of the Genres [c.1669-1900] Academic Art Ranking System: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/hierarchy-of-genres.htm
[9]. A. Félibien [1667 ]. Conférences de l’ Académie royale de peinture et desculpture, pendant l’ année [Paris]. 
[10].Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen [2021]. The Hierarchy of Genres and the Hierarchy of Life-Forms, Res: Anthropology and Aesthetics, pp.76.
[11].Leo Tolstoy [1904]. What Is Art?  Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York, pp.




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‘The picture of the ideal man disappeared from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.’




Nikolai Berdyaev



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By the 19th century, art by-and-large, still performed this life-enhancing function, but alongside paintings which depicted the human being as heroic and the world as sublime, many artists began to portray the world in forms which elicited anxiety, confusion, and dread: Instead of fashioning works of supreme beauty which saved us from what Friedrich Nietzsche called ‘the horrors of the night,’ some modern artists started to introduce to the world, the terrors and horrors of it.

In the works of Caspar David Friedrich [1774 – 1840], the setting for this ethos of desolation is nature: his landscapes portray a world grown cold in which mother earth elicits the feelings of dread associated with being alone and homeless in the midst of its vast empty spaces. For Edvard Munch [1863 – 1944], the ethos of desolation is transferred from nature to the social world. The subjects in Munch’s paintings suffer from an unbearable isolation, they are lonely souls, unbridgeable islands unto themselves, unable, in their anxiety and sorrow, to reach out to, connect with, and find solace in others.

Alongside this ethos of desolation, many other 19th century works of art are charged with a demonic force. Whether it be the chilling figures of Francisco Goya [1746 – 1828], or the malevolent compositions of Franz Stuck [1863 – 1928], nocturnal and chthonic [10] powers rise to the surface. The artists of this era confronted the monsters of the abyss, and the only thing which saved them from descending into madness was their capacity to externalise their horrific visions, to give them artistic form.




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‘If the creations of great artists reveal the underlying psychological and spiritual atmosphere of the times, then an honest survey of modern art must lead one to consider the possibility that modern civilisation is suffering from a spiritual sickness – a deep existential loneliness…’



ACADEMY OF IDEAS



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But the chaos of 19th century art pales in comparison with its manifestations in the first half of the 20th century. As modern art progressed, the chaos menacing it only became more explicit and pronounced. In Picasso’s paintings, the human being is broken into fragmented parts, and then pieced together again in disjointed, abstract, and often hideous forms.

Yet Surrealism was not just motivated by a love of chaos, but also by a desire to annihilate the human form by merging the human with the inorganic realm. In many of its works, the line demarcating the human from the object and the living from the dead is blurred, and entities which have no intrinsic connection to each other are brought together in a senseless embrace: the human becomes lost, a thing among things, dissolved in the surrounding world of inanimate objects.

And so, if the creations of great artists reveal the underlying psychological and spiritual atmosphere of the times, then an honest survey of modern art must lead one to consider the possibility that modern civilisation is suffering from a spiritual sickness – a deep existential loneliness, a negation of human nature…a celebration of chaos – and thus perhaps, even a ‘sickness unto death.’ Yet as psychologist Erich Neumann [1905 – 1960] points out, as children of the times, we must recognise that this sickness also lies within us:[11]

‘But let us be careful! We are speaking of ourselves. If this art is degenerate, we too are degenerate, for innumerable individuals are suffering the same collapse of [culture], the same alienation, the same loneliness… The disintegration and dissonance of this art are our own; to understand [it] is to understand ourselves.’[12]





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'Abstract art is ‘a product of diseased minds as well as a product of the untalented sold by the unprincipled to the utterly bewildered.'



Al capp



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Part Six




Ornament Is Crime




In architecture - the 'Mother of All Arts - the creation and use of what is now derisively called ‘ornament’ – exquisitely carved, highly sophisticated and incredibly realistic stone sculptures and reliefs in reverence and gratitude to nature’s generous bounty and beauty - was declared a criminal act within architecture by the architect, theorist and polemicist of modern architecture, Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos [1870-1933] in his essay, Ornament und Verbrechen ['Ornament and Crime']:

‘The child is amoral. To our eyes, the Papuan is too. The Papuan tattoos his skin, his boat, his paddles, in short everything he can lay hands on. He is not a criminal. The modern man who tattoos himself is either a criminal or a degenerate. The urge to ornament one’s face, and everything in one’s reach, is the origin of fine art. It is the babble of painting. All art is erotic. The first ornament that was born, the cross, was erotic in origin. The first work of art, the first artistic act which the first artist…A horizontal dash: the prone woman. A vertical line: the man penetrating her.




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'I have made the following observation and have announced it to the world: The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects.'



ADOLF LOOS



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The man who created it felt the same urge as Beethoven, he experienced the same joy that Beethoven felt when he created the Ninth Symphony. But the man of our day, who in response to an inner urge, smears the walls with erotic symbols is a criminal or a degenerate. I have made the following observation and have announced it to the world: The evolution of culture is synonymous with the removal of ornament from utilitarian objects. I believed that with this discovery I was bringing joy to the world; it has not thanked me. People were sad and hung their heads.


What depressed them was the realisation that they could produce no new ornaments. Then I said: Weep not! We have outgrown ornament; we have fought our way through to freedom of ornament. See, the time is nigh, fulfilment awaits us. Soon the streets of the city will glisten like white walls. Like Zion, the holy city, the capital of heaven. Then fulfilment will come… The speed of cultural revolution is reduced by stragglers. The stragglers slow down the cultural evolution of the nations and of mankind; not only is ornament produced by criminals but also a crime is committed through the fact that ornament inflicts serious injury on people’s health, on the national budget and hence on cultural evolution… Freedom from ornament is a sign of spiritual strength.’[2]

Following the dissemination of Adolf Loos’ uncompromising anti-ornament position on functional and economic grounds, his radical assertions became an article of faith amongst the post-World War I European avant-garde; who accepted his claims uncritically, and somewhat naively, incorporated the essay into the canon of the Modern movement. 
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Part Seven




The 'International Style'




By the beginnings of the 1930s, it was possible for the discerning and selective eye to survey the productions of the previous decade and to single out a new style. From Moscow to Milan, from La Jolla to Japan, buildings of different function, size, material, meaning, and expressive power could be found which still had obvious features in common.

One could speak of the shared characteristics in terms of recurrent motifs like strip windows, flat roofs, grids of supports, cantilevered horizontal planes, metal railings…or one could define the general qualities of the style by more abstract features like the recurrent tendency to use simple rectangular volumes articulated by crisply cut openings, or to emphasise hovering planes and intermediate spaces. [1]

In 1932, architectural historian Henry-Russell Hitchcock [1903 – 1987] and architect Philip Johnson [1906 – 2005] presented an exhibition and companion book at the Museum of Modern Art in New York called The International Style. In it they wrote:

Today a single new style has come into existence. This contemporary style, which exists throughout the world, is unified and inclusive, not fragmentary and contradictory like so much of the production of the first generation of modern architects.




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‘Today a single new style has come into existence. This contemporary style, which exists throughout the world, is unified and inclusive, not fragmentary and contradictory like so much of the production of the first generation of modern architects.’




Henry-Russell Hitchcock & Philip Johnson




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It is particularly in the early work of three men, Walter Gropius [1883 – 1969] in Germany, [Jacobus] Oud [1890 – 1963] in Holland, and Le Corbusier [1887 – 1965] in France, that the various steps in the inception of the new style must be sought. These three with Mies van der Rohe [1886 – 1969] in Germany remain the great leaders of modern architecture.

But the man who first made the world aware that a new style was being born was Le Corbusier.

His Citrohan house model of 1921 was the thorough expression of a conception of architecture: the enormous window and the terraces made possible by the use of ferronconcrete[1], together with the asymmetry of the composition, undoubtedly produced a design more thoroughly infused with a new spirit, more completely freed from the conventions of the past than any thus far projected.

The influence of Le Corbusier was the greater, the appearance of a new style the more marked, because of the vehement propaganda which he contributed to the magazine L’Esprit Nouveau [The New Spirit], 1920-1925. Since then, moreover, he has written a series of books effectively propagandising his technical and aesthetic theories. In this way his name has almost become synonymous with the new architecture; it has been praised or condemned very largely in his person.[2]

[1] Reinforced concrete.
[2] Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson [1932]. The International Style. W. W. Norton & Company, New York.
[1] William Curtis [1987]. Modern Architecture since 1900. ‎ Phaidon Press.
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Part Eight




Crimes in Concrete - Hulme, Manchester




TBC
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Part Nine




The Tyranny of Modernism




We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism.
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Conclusion




The Walling of Awareness



When he was about five years old, my son Kai asked me, 'Daddy, who built Mt. Tamalpais?' 

Kai’s question shocked me. I said, 'Nobody built Mt. Tamalpais; it grew up out of the Earth thousands of years ago. No person could build a mountain.'

I don’t think this satisfied him, but it did start me on a new train of thought.

I think that was the first moment that I really looked around at the urban world in which he and I and the rest of our family and the majority of the people in this country live. I wanted to know how he could have gotten the notion that human beings are responsible for the construction of mountains. I soon realised that his mistaken impression was easy to understand; it was one that we all share on a deeper level.

Today, most of the industrialised world in general, spend their lives within environments created by human beings. This is less the case if you live in the rural countryside than if you live in cities, towns or an outlying district of a city or twon [suburb], but it is true to some extent all over the industrialised world. Natural environments have largely given way to human-created environments. What we see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel and understand about the world has been processed for us. Our experiences of the world can no longer be called direct, or primary. They are secondary, mediated experiences.

For example, when we walk through a forest we can - through our five senses - hear the sounds of the forest: smell the scent of the trees; see the sunlight playing through the leaves; and breathe the fresh, clean air of the forest - we can count on the experience being directly between us and the natural world. It is not mediated, interpreted, or altered. 

On the other hand, when we live in cities [et al], no experience is directly between us and the natural world. Virtually all experience is mediated in some way. Concrete, asphalt and tarmac covers whatever would grow from the ground - trees, shrubs, herbaceous plants, mosses, ferns, lichens, fungi. If there is any, all foliage has been confined by human considerations and redesigned according to human tastes. Buildings block the natural vistas. The water we drink comes from a [tap], not from a stream or the sky. There are no 'wild' animals, mammals and birds, there are no plateaus, mountains, plains, and valleys, there is no cycle of bloom and decline. There is not even night and day. No food grows anywhere.

Most of us give little importance to this change in human experience of the world, if we notice it at all. We are so surrounded by a reconstructed world that it is difficult to grasp how astonishingly different it is from the world of only one hundred years ago, and that it bears virtually no resemblance to the world in which human beings lived for four million years before that. That this might affect the way we think, including our understanding of how our lives are connected to any nonhuman system, is rarely considered. In fact, most of us assume that human understanding is now more thorough than before, that we know more than we ever did. This is because we have such faith in our rational, intellectual processes and the institutions we have created that we fail to observe their limits. 

I have heard small children ask whether apples and oranges grow in stores. 'Of course not,' we tell them. 'Fruit grows from the ground somewhere out in the countryside, and then it’s put into trucks and brought to the stores.' But is this true? Have you seen that? Do you have a sense that what you are eating was once alive, growing on its own?

We learn in schools that fruit grows from the ground. We see pictures of fruit growing. But when we live in cities, confined to the walls and floors of our concrete environments, we don’t actually see the slow process of a blossom appearing on a tree, then becoming a bud that grows into an apple. We learn this, but we can’t really 'know' what it means, or that a whole cycle is operating: sky to ground to root through tree to bud ripening into fruit that we can eat. Nor do we see particular value in this knowledge. It remains an idea to us, an abstraction that is difficult to integrate into our consciousness without direct experience of the process. Therefore we don’t develop a feeling about it, a caring. 

In the end how can our children or we really grasp that fruit growing from trees has anything to do with humans growing from eating the fruit? We have learned that water does not really originate in the pipes where we get it. We are educated to understand that it comes from sky [we have seen that, it is true!], lands in some faraway mountains, flows into rivers, which flow into little reservoirs, and then somehow it all goes through pipes into the sinks in our homes and then back out to - where? The ocean.

We learn there is something called evaporation that takes the water we don’t need up to the sky. But is this true? Is there a pattern to it? How does it collect in the sky? Is it okay to rearrange the cycle with cloud seeding? Is it okay to collect the water in dams? Does anyone else need water? Do plants drink it? How do they get it? Does water go into the ground? In cities it rolls around on concrete and then pours into sewers. Since we are unable to observe most of the cycle, we learn about it in knowledge museums: schools, textbooks. We study to know. What we know is what we have studied. We know what the books say. What the books say is what the authors of the books learned from 'experts' who, from time to time, turn out to be wrong. Theodore Kaczynski:

Some scientists claim that they are motivated by 'curiosity' or by a desire to 'benefit humanity.' But it is easy to see that neither of these can be the principal motive of most scientists. As for 'curiosity,' that notion is simply absurd. Most scientists work on highly specialised problems that are not the object of any normal curiosity. For example, is an astronomer, a mathematician or an entomologist* curious about the properties of isopropyltrimethylmethane? Of course not. Only a chemist is curious about such a thing, and he is curious about it only because chemistry is his surrogate activity - an activity that is directed toward an artificial goal that people set up for themselves merely in order to have some goal to work toward, or let us say, merely for the sake of the 'fulfillment' that they get from pursuing the goal.

*a person who studies or is an expert in the branch of zoology concerned with insects.

The 'benefit of humanity' explanation doesn’t work any better. Some scientific work has no conceivable relation to the welfare of the human race [and] some other areas of science present obviously dangerous possibilities. Consider the case of Dr. Edward Teller, who had an obvious emotional involvement in promoting nuclear power plants. Did this involvement stem from a desire to benefit humanity? If so, then why didn’t Dr. Teller get emotional about other 'humanitarian' causes? If he was such a humanitarian then why did he help to develop the H-bomb? ... Dr. Teller saw only one side of the question. Clearly his emotional involvement with nuclear power arose not from a desire to 'benefit humanity' but from a personal fulfillment he got from his work and from seeing it put to practical use. 

The same is true of scientists generally. With possible rare exceptions, their motive is neither curiosity nor a desire to benefit humanity but the need to go through the power process: to have a goal [a scientific problem to solve], to make an effort [research] and to attain the goal [solution of the problem.] Science is a surrogate activity because scientists work mainly for the fulfillment they get out of the work itself. 

Of course, it’s not that simple. Other motives do play a role for many scientists. Money and status for example. Some scientists may be persons of the type who have an insatiable drive for status and this may provide much of the motivation for their work. No doubt the majority of scientists, like the majority of the general population, are more or less susceptible to advertising and marketing techniques and need money to satisfy their craving for goods and services. Thus science is not a pure surrogate activity. But it is in large part a surrogate activity. 

Also, science and technology constitute a power mass movement, and many scientists gratify their need for power through identification with this mass movement. Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government of ficials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.




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'Some scientists may be persons of the type who have an insatiable drive for status and this may provide much of the motivation for their work ... Thus science marches on blindly, without regard to the real welfare of the human race or to any other standard, obedient only to the psychological needs of the scientists and of the government of ficials and corporation executives who provide the funds for research.'




Theodore Kaczynski




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Everyone knows about night and day. Half the time it’s dark, half the time it’s light.
However, it doesn’t work that way in our homes or outside in the streets. There is always light, and it is always the same, controlled by an automatic switch downtown. The stars are obscured by the city glow. The moon is washed out by a filter of light. It becomes a semimoon and our awareness of it inevitably dims. We say it is night, but darkness moods and feelings lie dormant in us. Faced with real darkness, we become frightened, overreact, like a child whose parents have always left the light on. In three generations since Edison, we have become creatures of light alone.
*              *
One evening during 1975, I went with my family to a small park in the middle of San Francisco to watch a partial eclipse of the moon. We saw it rise above the buildings, but it had little power. Hundreds of street lamps, flashing signs, and lighted buildings intruded. The street lamps, those new mercury-vapor arcs that give off a harsh pinkish-white light, were the worst problem. It was difficult to feel anything for the moon seen through this pinkish filter. The children became bored. We went for an ice cream.
Later that same evening, I went alone to a different park on a high hill. I imagined the city lights gone dark. I turned them off in my mind. Without the buildings diverting me, I gained the briefest feeling for how the moon must have been experienced by human beings of earlier centuries, why whole cultures and religions were based upon it, how they could know every nuance of its cycle and those of the stars, and how they could understand its connection with planting times, tides, and human fertility.
Only recently has our own culture produced new studies confirming the moon’s effect on our bodies and minds, as well as its effect on plants. Earlier cultures, living without filters, did not need to rediscover the effects. People remained personally sensitive to their connections with the natural world. For most of us, this sensitivity and knowledge, or science, of older cultures is gone. If there are such connections, we have little awareness of them. Our environment has intervened.

Not long after the eclipse I just described, my wife, Anica, was told by her ninety-year-old grandmother that we should not permit our children to sleep where the moonlight could bathe them. Born in preindustrial Yugoslavia and having spent most of her life without technology, the old woman said the moon had too much power. One night, our oldest son, Yari, who was eight at the time, spent an evening at a friend’s house, high on a hill, sleeping near a curtainless south-facing window. He called us in the morning to tell us of a disturbing thing that had happened to him during the night. He had awakened to find himself standing flush against the window, facing the full moon. He had gotten out of bed while still asleep, walked over to the window, and stood facing the moon. Only then did he wake up. He was frightened, he said, more by the oddness of the experience than any sense of real danger. Actually, he thought it rather special but didn’t like having an experience different from what is expected and accepted, which is not to experience the power of the moon. He had been taught that what he had just been through couldn’t happen; he wished it hadn’t and it hasn’t since.
Yari, like most of the rest of us, does not wish to accept the validity of his personal experience. The people who define the moon are now the scientists, astronomers, and geologists who tell us which interactions with the world are possible and which are not, ridiculing any evidence to the contrary. The moon’s cycle affects the oceans, they say, but it doesn’t affect the body. Does that sound right to you? It doesn’t to me. And yet, removed from any personal awareness of the moon, unable even to see it very well, let alone experience it, how are we to know what is right and what is wrong? Most of us cannot say if, this very evening, the moon will be out at all.
*              *
Perhaps you are a jogger. I am not, but friends have told me how that experience has broken them out of technologically created notions of time and distance. I have one friend in San Francisco who runs from his Russian Hill apartment to Ocean Beach and then back again, every morning. This is a distance of about eight miles. There was a time, he told me, when the idea of walking, or bicycling that distance seemed impossible to him. Now the distance seems manageable, even easy. Near, not far. He has recovered a personal sense of distance.
I have made similar discoveries myself. Some years ago I decided to walk to work every day instead of driving. It changed getting to work into a pleasurable experience—no traffic jams or parking hassles—and I would stop now and then for coffee and a chat with a friend. More important, it changed my conception of distance. My office was twenty blocks from my home, about a thirty-minute walk. I noticed that walking that distance was extremely easy. I hadn’t known that my previous conception of twenty blocks was one which technology had created. My knowledge was car-knowledge. I had become mentally and physically a car-person. Now I was connecting distance and range to my body, making the conception personal rather than mechanical, outside myself.
On another occasion, while away on a camping trip with my two children, I learned something about internal versus institutional-technological rhythm.
The three of us were suffering an awful boredom at first. My children complained that there was nothing to do. We were all so attuned to events coming along at urban speed in large, prominent packages that our bodies and minds could not attune to the smaller, more subtle events of a forest.
By the second day, however, the children began to throw rocks into a stream and I found myself hearing things that I hadn’t heard the day before: wind, the crunch of leaves under foot. The air was somehow clearer and fresher than it seemed to have been the day before. I began to wander around, aimlessly but interestedly.
On the third day, the children began to notice tiny creatures. They watched them closely and learned more about their habits in that one day than I know even now. They were soon imitating squirrels, birds, snakes, and they began to invent some animals.
By the fourth day, our urban-rhythm memory had given way to the natural rhythms of the forest. We started to take in all kinds of things that a few days before we hadn’t noticed were there. It was as if our awareness was a dried-out root system that had to be fed.
Returning to the city a few days later, we could feel the speedup take place. It was like running to catch up with a train.
Sensory-Deprivation Environments
The modern office building is the archetypal example of the mediated environment. It contains nothing that did not first exist as a design plan in a human mind. The spaces are square, flat and small, eliminating a sense of height, depth, and irregularity. The decor is rigidly controlled to a bland uniformity from room to room and floor to floor. The effect is to dampen all interest in the space one inhabits.
Most modern office buildings have hermetically sealed windows. The air is processed, the temperature regulated. It is always the same. The body’s largest sense organ, the skin, feels no wind, no changes in temperature, and is dulled.
Muzak homogenizes the sound environment. Some buildings even use “white noise,” a deliberate mix of electronic sounds that merge into a hum. Seemingly innocuous, it fills the ears with an even background tone, obscuring random noises or passing conversations which might arouse interest or create a diversion.
The light remains constant from morning through night, from room to room until our awareness of light is as dulled as our awareness of temperature, and we are not aware of the passage of time. We are told that a constant level of light is good for our eyes, that it relieves strain. Is this true? What about the loss of a range of focus and the many changes in direction and intensity of light that our flexible eyes are designed to accommodate?

Those who build artificial environments view the senses as single, monolithic things, rather than abilities that have a range of capacity for a reason. We know, for example, that our eyes can see from the extremely dark to the extremely bright, from far to near, from distinct to indistinct, from obvious to subtle. They perceive objects moving quickly and those that are still. The eye is a wonderfully flexible organ, able to adjust instantly to a dazzling array of information, constantly changing, multileveled, perceiving objects far and near moving at different speeds simultaneously. A fully functioning visual capacity is equal to everything the natural environment offers as visual information. This would have to be so, since the interaction between the senses and the natural environment created the ranges of abilities that we needed to have. Sight did not just arrive one day, like Adam’s rib; it coevolved with the ingredients around it which it was designed to see. When our eyes are continually exercised, when flexibility and dynamism are encouraged, then they are equal to the variety of stimuli that night and day have to offer. It is probably not wise always to have “good light” or to be for very long at fixed distances from anything. The result will be lack of exercise and eventual atrophy of the eyes’ abilities.
When we reduce an aspect of environment from varied and multidimensional to fixed, we also change the human being who lives within it. Humans give up the capacity to adjust, just as the person who only walks cannot so easily handle the experience of running. The lungs, the heart and other muscles have not been exercised. The human being then becomes a creature with a narrower range of abilities and fewer feelings about the loss. We become grosser, simpler, less varied, like the environment.
The common response to this is that if we lose wide-spectrum sensory experience, we gain a deeper mental experience. This is not true. We only have less nonmental experience so the mental life seems richer by comparison. In fact, mental life is more enriched by a fully functioning sensory life.
In recent years, researchers have discovered some amazing things about the connections between mental and physical life by doing sensory-deprivation experiments. In such experiments, a human subject is cut off from as much sensory information as possible. This can be accomplished, for example, by a totally blank environment—white walls, no furniture, no sounds, constant temperature, constant light, no food and no windows. A more thorough method is to put the blindfolded subject inside a temperature-controlled suit floating in a water tank with only tubes to provide air and water, which are also at body temperature. This sensory-deprivation tank eliminates the tactile sense as well as an awareness of up and down.
Researchers have found that when sensory stimuli are suppressed this way, the subject at first lives a mental life because mental images are the only stimulation. But after a while, these images become disoriented and can be frightening. Disconnected from the world outside the mind, the subject is rootless and ungrounded.
If the experience goes on long enough, a kind of madness develops which can be allayed only by reintroducing sensory stimuli, direct contact with the world outside the subject’s mind.
Before total disorientation occurs, a second effect takes place. That is a dramatic increase in focus on any stimulus at all that is introduced. In such a deprived environment, one single stimulus acquires extraordinary power and importance. In the most literal sense, the subject loses perspective and cannot put the stimulus in context. Such experiments have proven to be effective in halting heavy smoking habits, for example, when the experimenter speaks instructions to stop smoking or describes to the subject through a microphone the harmful, unpleasant aspects of smoking.
These experiments have shown that volunteers can be programmed to believe and do things they would not have done in a fully functional condition. The technique could be called brainwashing.

It would be going too far to call our modern offices sensory-deprivation chambers, but they are most certainly sensory-reduction chambers. They may not brainwash, but the elimination of sensory stimuli definitely increases focus on the task at hand, the work to be done, to the exclusion of all else. Modern offices were designed for that very purpose by people who knew what they were doing.
If people’s senses were stimulated to experience anything approaching their potential range, it would be highly unlikely that people would sit for eight long hours at desks, reading memoranda, typing documents, studying columns of figures, or pondering sales strategies. If birds were flying through the room, and wind were blowing the papers about, if the sun were shining in there, or people were lolling about on chaise lounges or taking baths while listening to various musical presentations, this would certainly divert the office worker from the mental work he or she is there to do. In fact, if offices were so arranged, little business would get done. This is why they are not so arranged. Any awareness of the senses, aside from their singular uses in reading and sometimes talking and listening, would be disastrous for office environments that require people to stay focused within narrow and specific functional modes.
Feeling is also discouraged by these environments. Reducing sensual variations is one good way of reducing feeling since the one stimulates the other. But there is also a hierarchy of values which further the process. Objectivity is the highest value that can be exhibited by an executive in an office. Orderliness is the highest value for a subordinate office worker. Both of these are most easily achieved if the human is effectively disconnected from the distractions of her or his senses, feelings, and intuitions.
With the field of experience so drastically reduced for office workers, the stimuli which remain—paper work, mental work, business—loom larger and obtain an importance they would not have in a wider, more varied, more stimulating environment. The worker gets interested in them largely because that is what is available to get interested in.
Curiously, however, while eschewing feeling and intuition, business people often cannot resist using them. They come out as aberrations—fierce competitive drive, rage at small inconveniences, decisions that do not fit the models of objectivity. Such behavior in business sometimes makes me think of blades of grass growing upward through the pavement.
A more poignant example, perhaps, is that modern offices have proven to be such hot sexual environments. Aside from the occasional potted plant, the only creatures in offices with which it is possible to experience anything are other humans. With all other organic life absent and with the senses deprived of most possibilities for human experience, the occasional body which passes the desk becomes an especially potent sensual event, the only way out of the condition of suspended experience, and the only way to experience oneself as alive. In fact, the confinement of human beings within artificial environments may be a partial explanation of our new culture-wide obsession with and focus on sex.
*              *
I have been speaking mainly of cities. This has only been because their effects are most obvious. I don’t want to create the impression that suburbs, retirement communities, recreational communities, and the like offer any greater access to a wider range of experience.
Those places do have large trees, for example, and more small animals. The sky is more visible, without giant buildings to alter the view. But in most ways, suburban-type environments reveal less of natural processes than cities do. Cities, at least, offer a critical ingredient of the natural world, diversity, albeit a diversity that is confined to only human life forms. It does not nearly approach the complexity of any acre of an ordinary forest.
In suburbs the totality of experience is plotted in advance and then marketed on the basis of the plan. “We will have everything to serve the recreational needs of your family: playgrounds, ball fields, a golf course, tennis courts, bowling alleys and picnic grounds.” This, plus a front lawn, a back lawn, two large trees, and an attentive police force makes up the total package. Human beings then live inside that package.
Places formerly as diverse as forest, desert, marsh, plain and mountain have been unified into suburban tracts. The human senses, seeking outward for knowledge and stimulation, find only what has been prearranged by other humans.
In many ways the same can be said of rural environments. Land which once supported hundreds of varieties of plant and animal life has been transformed by agribusinesses. Insect life has been largely eliminated by massive spraying. For hundreds of square miles, the only living things are artichokes or tomatoes laid out in straight rows. The child seeking to know how nature works finds only spray planes, automated threshers, and miles of rows of a single crop.
Rooms Inside Rooms
There are differences of opinion about what the critical moments were that led human beings away from the primary forms of experience—between person and planet—into secondary, mediated environments. Some go back as far as the control of fire, the domestication of animals, the invention of agriculture or the imposition of monotheism and patriarchy.
In my opinion, however, the most significant recent moment came with the control of electricity for power, about four generations ago. This made it possible to begin moving nearly all human functions indoors, and made the outdoors more like indoors.
In less than four generations out of an estimated one hundred thousand, we have fundamentally changed the nature of our interaction with the planet.
Our environment no longer grows on its own, by its own design, in its own time. The environment in which we live has been totally reconstructed solely by human intention and creation.
We find ourselves living inside a kind of nationwide room. We look around it and see only our own creations.
We go through life believing we are experiencing the world when actually our experiences are confined within entirely human conceptions. Our world has been thought up.
Our environment itself is the manifestation of the mental processes of other humans. Of all the species of the planet, and all the cultures of the human species, we twentieth-century Americans have become the first in history to live predominantly inside projections of our own minds.
We live in a kind of maelstrom, going ever deeper into our own thought processes, into subterranean caverns, where nonhuman reality is up, up, away somewhere. We are within a system of ever smaller, ever deeper concentric circles, and we consider each new depth that we reach greater progress and greater knowledge.
Our environment itself becomes an editor, filter, and medium between ourselves and an alternative nonhuman, unedited, organic planetary reality.
We ask the child to understand nature and care about it, to know the difference between what humans create and what the planet does, but how can the child know these things? The child lives with us in a room inside a room inside another room. The child sees an apple in a store and assumes that the apple and the store are organically connected. The child sees streets, buildings and a mountain and assumes it was all put there by humans. How can the child assume otherwise? That is the obvious conclusion in a world in which all reality is created by humans.
As adults, we assume we are not so vulnerable to this mistake, that we are educated and our minds can save us. We “know” the difference between natural and artificial. And yet, we have no greater contact with the wider world than the child has.
Most people still give little importance to any of this. Those who take note of these changes usually speak of them in esoteric, aesthetic or philosophical terms. It makes good discussion at parties and in philosophy classes.
As we go, however, I hope it will become apparent that the most compelling outcome of these sudden changes in the way we experience life is the inevitable political one.
Living within artificial, reconstructed, arbitrary environments that are strictly the products of human conception, we have no way to be sure that we know what is true and what is not. We have lost context and perspective. What we know is what other humans tell us.
Therefore, whoever controls the processes of re-creation, effectively redefines reality for everyone else, and creates the entire world of human experience, our field of knowledge. We become subject to them. The confinement of our experience becomes the basis of their control of us.
The role of the media in all this is to confirm the validity of the arbitrary world in which we live. The role of television is to project that world, via images, into our heads, all of us at the same time.
[1]

[1].Jerry Irwin Mander [1978]. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television




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'Why then does he revere them? Because they flatter him. This is the first secret of mass mind control and can be observed as the foundation stone of virtually every false religion, party, cult, philosophy, system and training. How can modern man free himself when he is told that he is already a demi-god, that the problem lies only in finding a pure enough economic or political system worthy of his high-minded brilliance?'




MICHAEL A. HOFFMAN II




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I have heard small children ask whether apples and oranges grow in stores. 'Of course not,' we tell them. 'Fruit grows from the ground somewhere out in the countryside, and then it’s put into trucks and brought to the stores.' But is this true? Have you seen that? Do you have a sense that what you are eating was once alive, growing on its own?

We learn in schools that fruit grows from the ground. We see pictures of fruit growing. But when we live in cities, confined to the walls and floors of our concrete environments, we don’t actually see the slow process of a blossom appearing on a tree, then becoming a bud that grows into an apple. We learn this, but we can’t really 'know' what it means [belief is the enemy of knowing], or that a whole cycle is operating: sky to ground to root through tree to bud ripening into fruit that we can eat. Nor do we see particular value in this knowledge. It remains an idea to us, an abstraction that is difficult to integrate into our consciousness without direct experience of the process. Therefore we don’t develop a feeling about it, a caring. In the end how can our children or we really grasp that fruit growing from trees has anything to do with humans growing from eating the fruit? 

We have learned that water does not really originate in the pipes where we get it. We are educated to understand that it comes from sky [we have seen that, it is true!], lands in some faraway mountains, flows into rivers, which flow into little reservoirs, and then somehow it all goes through pipes into the sinks in our homes and then back out to -where?  In cities it rolls around on concrete and then pours into sewers. Since we are unable to observe most of the cycle, we learn about it in knowledge museums: schools, textbooks. We study to know. What we know is what we have studied. We know what the books say. What the books say is what the authors of the books learned from 'experts' who, from time to time, turn out to be wrong.

Everyone knows about night and day. Half the time it’s dark, half the time it’s light.
However, it doesn’t work that way in our homes or outside in the streets. There is always light, and it is always the same, controlled by an automatic switch downtown. The stars are obscured by the city glow. The moon is washed out by a filter of light. It becomes a semimoon and our awareness of it inevitably dims. We say it is night, but darkness moods and feelings lie dormant in us. Faced with real darkness, we become frightened, overreact, like a child whose parents have always left the light on. In three generations since Edison, we have become creatures of light alone. [2]

[2]. Ibid
Cover: Graffiti in Charles Barry Crescent, Hulme [1990] by British social documentary and portrait photographer, Richard Davis [1965 - ].
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