Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spanner R4 Update: New Themes

As I rewrite Spanner Book 1, partly in script form for Script Frenzy, I find new themes emerging. One is the "bicameral mind" hypothesis of the late Julian James, who in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (1977) posited that ancient civilization up to the end of the second millennium BC (and longer in more isolated cultures) was not built consciously but by hallucinated gods giving commandments that people obeyed without question or even awareness, that what is now the mental illness called schizophrenia was once the universal human mentality, and that religion, government, and much culture are remnants of the dying "bicameral" mentality struggling to regain its ancient supremacy against the inexorable rise of consciousness. Corporations as cults, the nation as God incarnate, mediums and channellers, and mass self-annihilation in cult and fascist rallies: all this fits the theme so perfectly that I suspect my muse kept the Jaynes hypothesis in mind even when I'd forgotten it. Recently I realized how perfectly it fits Freud's structural theory as modified by Henri Wallon, Jacques Lacan, and the British object-relations school: In the beginning, there was only id; man was just another ape with a typically simian mentality despite his greater cleverness. Through a series of events largely involving ice ages, language began to evolve around 45,000 BC and developed in tandem with tool technology until the twin innovations of names and agriculture around 10,000 BC. Names allowed chieftains' voices to survive their deaths: the gods were born, and superego with it. The breakdown of the bicameral mind created a gap between superego and id which can be called nemo (Latin for "nobody"), which silenced the gods: this was the Fall of Man, corresponding roughly to the explosion of the island of Atlantis around 1170 BC which created a tsunami that wrecked Mediterranean civilization. Nemo provoked many attempts to overcompensate, in religion, politics, and culture. Psychologically, the torment of the abyss produced first the false self that is colloquially called "ego", as in egotism and narcissism. Last to develop was true ego, and consciousness with it. But superego is by nature a jealous god and will not tolerate rival authorities such as ego, or the voices of reason, conscience, and the muse. Superego is the tyrannical voice that tortures schizophrenics, who have little to no ego to defend themselves against it.

The fundamental principle of the Enlightenment, in Freudian (and Jaynesian) structural terms, is the development and strengthening of ego, the integral self and its consciousness, against the brutal instincts of id, the tyranny of superego, and the nihilism of nemo. Now consider the culture war in America, a republic founded by Enlightenment intellectuals turned by religious millennialism into a decadent empire, with the capitalist Robber Barons the most fanatical crusaders for empire whether their religion was Calvinism or Social Darwinism. Its sequel is Spanner's "Conservative Revolution", which attempts to abolish the Enlightenment republic in the name of deified empire but (here's the foregone conclusion, based on the fall of the Soviet Union) only accelerating the breakdown of the already weakened bicameral mind even further, until a disenchanted people bring the creaky imperial structure down.

On a more personal level, I noticed how perfectly my new model fits the extended character arc of Desiree Richter-Thomas. In Bad Company and its backstory, she originally had a personality of her own which was quite charming until her mother, the tyrannical right-wing guru Drusilla Becket (a major villain of the entire Spanner cycle), destroyed it with relentless abuse. Two false selves, the inner villains of BadCo, emerged to fill the abyss Dru created, psychopathic Melody Starlight Thorndyke and fanatical terrorist Jamila Becket de Gabriel. With the help of her adored sister Charlie, Desiree manages to destroy these two false selves and her abusive stepfather along with them. In the sequel, Black Science, her true self starts to grow back within the abyss, and she significantly remembers her happy childhood. This is the origin of Spanner's revolutionary heroine.

The second theme: said foregone conclusion based on the fall of the Soviet Union. Irony of ironies: the Robber Barons created a new "corporate socialism" based on the philosophy of that fanatical antisocialist, Ayn Rand. What the Soviet and American Empires have in common is central planning used to prop up a hereditary elite: the Communist Party nomenklatura in Russia and China, the High Corporate oligarchs in America. Such planning locks the economy in stasis, which inevitably gives way to entropy and crumbles to dust. Naturally, the oligarchs adhere fanatically to a denialism of entropy, which in America goes along with denialisms of evolution and climate change. Thus the oligarchic Conservative Revolution is inevitably opposed by a Populist Revolution among the disenfranchised masses, leading to the entire plot of Spanner.

The third theme: ascent experience, as described by Morris Berman in Coming to Our Senses (1989). Last night I reread it after rereading Jaynes, and found them interlocking in my mind. Berman's book is where I got the idea of nemo, and ascent experience — the experience of mystical ascent of the soul out of the material body into spiritual ecstasy — strikes me as the fundamental Western overcompensation for the emergence of the yawning abyss of nemo caused by the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Berman documents five massive waves of ascent experience in Western culture: the Hellenistic period to the rise of Christendom; the Cathar era; the Renaissance and Scientific Revolution; the Nazi empire; and the current New Age period. The first four led inexorably to disaster, as the archetypal energy of gnostic ascent invariably decays into the tyranny of hardened orthodoxy. Enlightenment scientific rationality was devised as a defense against these mysticism-caused disasters. The ideologies of ascent, from quietist asceticism to crusading fascism, are inherently dualistic; indeed, Western dualism entails mystical ascent. The proper defense not only rejects dualism in favor of objective realism, not only counters faith and revelation with reason, but must be dialectical as well. This position (objective realism + scientific rationality + dialectics) is that of Spanner's heroes as they struggle to survive against an oppressively dualistic Empire.

Last but not least, there's the recent evolution of my scornfully cynical attitude toward terrorism. In a new scene in Chapter 8, Shira complains to counterterrorist Will Becket, "Problem with terrorists is, they're trying to be superheroes. They got the same contempt for the people that Superman used to have for Lois Lane before they got married. You can practically hear 'em sneering, 'We're heroes and you're not.'" Later, in Chapter 16, she answers Will's question "What do you think the terrorists want?" with: "Unconditional surrender." She explains that terrorists believe God or History gave them and them alone the divine right to oppress the people, making the government in power usurpers. In her crowning moment of cynicism, she declares that Henry Becket, leader of the Conservative Revolution, is the true heir to Che Guevara, theorist of terrorism who became the butcher of Cuba. Dr. Becket, after all, created both the Unabomber (founder of the Earth Revolutionary Front) and Osama bin Laden (founder of Al-Qaeda killed by the fangs of the Egregious Doctor's own son Will), both of whom followed Guevara's theory of terrorism religiously. In Chapter 21, Shira warns that Becket will use Guevara's paramilitary terror system against the people of Seattle, for he is its grandmaster whose greatest moment came when he used Guevara's theory to destroy Guevara himself. "Terrorism," she corrects Trotsky in Chapter 16, "is conservatism with a bomb." All the while she wears a Che T-shirt which says on the back, "I tried to exterminate the evil Yankee imperialists, but all I got was this stupid T-shirt."

These are the themes developing so far in the Fourth Revision. I'll probably find more themes and motifs as I edit beyond Chapters 4-8, 15, and 16. You'll know about them almost as soon as I do.

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