the unlikely story of how America slipped the surly bonds of earth & came to believe in signs & portents that would make the middle ages blush

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Blind Boy Apollo
and the All-White Astronauts

New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)

Tuesday, February 3

hidden gymnastics of the non-mind

When I was working in Japan's so-called Fifth Generation Project in Tokyo in 1984, I read George Steiner's book, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation. It made a great impression on me, an ex-carpenter/cabinetmaker suddenly thrown into the midst of one of the world's most prominent research efforts in artificial intelligence and natural language processing.

Now, in his 80th year, Steiner has just published My Unwritten Books (Jan 2009). The New Directions publisher's page says:

By one of the world's foremost intellectuals, George Steiner's My Unwritten Books meditates upon seven books he had long had in mind to write, but never did. Massively erudite, the essays are also brave, unflinching, and wholly personal.
Among the themes listed there is "a theology of emptiness," and one gets the impression from the following quote that he isn't talking about Buddhism. Perhaps some kind reader will buy the book for me (shameless hint-hint). Then we'll all know.

The quote is from an interview with Steiner on Australia's ABC Radio National. The interviewer reads a passage from the book: "I'm haunted to the point of panic by the fragility of reason." Asked what he means by that, Steiner replies...

As I come to the end of my life, there are four times as many registered astrologers in the United States as there are physicists and chemists. Four times as many. The wife of our sometime Prime Minister wears an amulet against "space rays." There is not a corner of our lives now that is not invented, invited, invaded by idiocy of irrational superstition, [such as] people who pay vast sums to have some fake Oriental arrange their furniture. Vast sums! The whole New Age -- this is a charlatan's age like never before. It makes the Middle Ages seem scientific in many ways. And all around me, in people I deeply respect, you scratch the surface and there is a frightened, profoundly superstitious person doing hidden gymnastics of the non-mind, in a way, trying to plan their fate, trying to escape from reality. And it frightens me a great deal, because reason is very fragile.
So you won't miss the reverb with Mystic B's extended subtitle, let me quote it again here...
The unlikely story of how America slipped the surly bonds of earth & came to believe in signs & portents that would make the Middle Ages blush.
Nuff said.