Crazy Horse dreamed and went into the world where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that one
Black Elk, Black Elk Speaks
Modern man, I dutifully noted, is in search of a soul, and the age is an age of longing.
Theodore Roszak, Where the Wasteland Ends
Perhaps the reason some of us are feeling a sense of loss and longing is that we are, as Black Elk informs us, living in the shadow world. Our reality on this side may only be the fleeting ghosts of a place that is more real somewhere else. On this side we have broken our commitment to the earth and have unsouled ourselves from the wilderness. By the first century CE, the essayist Plutarch was asking, “Why is it that the gods are no longer speaking to us?”
For a long time now, we have been trying to create a new and different image of ourselves. It is an image where modern humanity is placed at the center of its own universe. We learn by observing, probing, experimenting, and finally dissecting and destroying the dynamic world we live within. From this, the modern mind started to develop a new reality for itself.
The collective reality in which we now reside does not take kindly to opposing perspectives. We have inherited an alienated consciousness that views the world as an outside entity – a world of objects that move in mechanical motion. This alienated consciousness has substituted the enchantment and mystery of living within a dynamic and animated world with a dream of the artificial, and ultimately the unreal. The modern landscape is now more scattered with administration than adventure. The central image of our modern age has been that of consumerism: the ability of the average person to buy the material goods they require in order to have a decent standard of living. A standard of living albeit promoted to us through our mainstream media and glamorous propaganda.
Only recently have some of us come to realize that consumerism has now become a contemporary form of crash therapy for unsatisfied people wanting to buy their way into happiness to escape from the very system they are simultaneously supporting. The easy acquisition of things has become more about trying to cover up anxiety as a substitute for contentment. Modern life, especially in the highly-developed West, is now rife with people parading their false selves in place of authenticity.
The modern history of the West has been about the removal of mystery, mind, and magic from the world around us. In the past there were realms of wilderness that existed outside of the social order, and each culture had these ‘wild zones’ where people danced with the little folk in the woods, undertook initiations in caves, circles, and hard-to-find corners. There were pagan rituals, crazy ecstasies, and unknown zones where primal energies were released. These were the places of wilderness, where dreamtime reigned, and clock-time was banned. And now these wild places are fewer and fewer as a new ‘reality order’ becomes the manifesto of the day. Now it is many of us who are feeling haunted. We have lost the presence of the ‘transcendent’ within our modern societies.
We must now recognize that something has happened – a break, a mutation, has occurred that has placed us in an ‘intermediate’ stage between eras. Modern life is being not so much rewritten as reconfigured. We are seeing odd things occurring in relation to time, speed, and distance. It’s as if right now the clock, and our sense of timing, is malfunctioning. This ahistorical period is out of time, until it resets itself. And here, the possibility of transcendence lingers like a phantasma.
We are in a time of carnivalesque distortion where ‘fast food’ is a parody of our normal food preparation and consumption; mediatized sport is a spectacle of its original form; and the music industry is one huge commercial carnival that mocks genuine creativity. In the pop music industry, the spectacle, the live show – the ‘carnival performance’ – is often more important than the actual merit of the song (even when the performer mimes, as they often do). We are in a different world right now – or at least a seemingly different reality.
In this new world of different relations, symbols, and meanings we have become unmoored from our harbors. We are talking about the fractal, the quantum, the molecular, the nano, the bots, artificial intelligence, and the singularity – yet we find we have no soulful connection with any of these terms or their significances. Perhaps we have entered a void-time.