I don’t imagine too many of you have had the experience of flaking flint or obsidian into tools. It’s not too hard to get a sharp edge, but to actually craft a reliable tool that you won’t accidentally maim yourself with, that won’t shatter when you use it… that’s pretty hard. Pressure flaking is an incredibly intricate technology.
The reason you probably don’t know how to do that, is you don’t have to. And the reason you don’t have to is that you almost certainly have plenty of sharp objects at hand, ready-made out of strong and flexible steel.
The reason you have sharp steel tools is because the original understanding of how to manufacture sharp tools was combined with metallurgy, embodied in our technical and economic social process and subsumed into the material assumptions of society. The manufacture of sharp tools is something we take for granted and have rendered ubiquitous.
Along the way we’ve done similar things for fire and heat, metallurgy in general, electricity, chemistry, animal husbandry, agriculture, and computing.
We don’t have to think about it, because it’s been incorporated into the material stratum of reality, subsumed into the base level understanding of the world we were born into.
I just had it pointed out to me the other day, that every kid in school today, was born into a world of the internet. For them it’s just another thing, like knives, electricity, and medicine. I didn’t really get consistent use of computers till I was 21 or so. I have to think about computers. These new kids don’t, or won’t.
What this means, to round out the four corners of our essential depth scientific model, is that once you’ve mastered your skills and had your depth experiences, and communicated them amongst the society, is the depth experiences are embodied in material form. What started out subjective becomes objective. Your vision becomes an artifact.
Now, anyone can take that artifact and examine it from all angles. Because that artifact embodies certain truths in objective form, other people can take things away from it that you might not. That artifact often becomes a new paradigm in the proper sense. You can take that knife, that fire, that electricity and make it the basis for new experiments, that create new illuminations, that can be communicated to others and embodied in material form, to be themselves incorporated into new injunctions.
Even something as apparently simple as a book does something spoken language can never do: it binds communication into an inert form that can be retrieved by others without the need for a person on the other end. And no, this is not ideal communication, but it makes possible a one to many model of transmission, rather than a one to one model. It makes society as we know it possible, whether by book, radio, television or the internet. Nothing can ever really ‘capture’ a depth experience, but that’s not the point. You capture what you can, and what you can capture makes a big difference. Material artifacts are no substitute for face to face communication, but in the inverse way, face to face communication is no substitute for a material artifact.
Not only that, but in this way you create the basis of economic progress in the true sense. You can do more with less, and realise gains in quality for the same amount of energy. And this is because every new generation doesn’t have to recapitulate the experiments and artifact construction of the previous one. They can take the existing assumptions and build on them.
So in the large sense, there’s no real difference between a modern technological information society, where scientific breakthroughs are concretised as machines, and a shamanic society where, from time to time, groups of people in a psychedelic trance can apparently create new forms of plant life, and certainly new medicines, pharmacological innovations or social stretegies. No difference, except perhaps in scale or emphasis. The essential dynamic is the same.
And all of these are examples of the trend of the progressive ingression of intelligence into matter, as Mark Pesce would put it. The material stratum of reality is ever more suffused with the informational contents of intelligence. Before we even got here nature was busy chewing up the mineral and chemical world to make more plants and animals. Plant and animal intelligence is the same as bacterial intelligence is the same as human intelligence is ultimately the same as computational intelligence. Progressive ingression. Our dreams take hold of the world. It is the gnostic/alchemical dream of the union of spirit and matter.
So if we take our four corners together it’s easy to see where incomplete models of this work fall short.
-without depth experiences you have dead technical repetition, acting out calcified understandings until the world and yourself undergo thermodynamic entropy
-without skills and mastery you inhabit a world of superstitious randomness and episodic chaos, with no rhyme, reason, or logical progression.
-with no communication or community you become a hermit or madman, unable to express yourself, be understood or contribute anything to society.
-and without an embodied material understanding, regardless of the profundity of our inner lives, or our shared dialogue, we would still be naked apes flipping over rotten logs to forage for grubs. Even now, the chasm between our minds and bodies would quickly become insurmountable, or more likely, our minds would come to conform to the absent expectations of what the physical world can or should be.
So we have our essential method of epistemology, and our essential dynamic of manifesting those depth experiences, and we’ve struck down the arbitrary gatekeepers around certain corners of this… so what does this all amount to?