Wherein Rav Krishna continues to mappe the sojourn of The World Soule to its previous inflection point, Annus Nineteen Hundred Twenty Five. A quiver of ideologies is loosed upon Humanitie, another Singularitie from which Humankind would not return. Humanitie’s Soule and its Other tipped from The World of Emanation into The World of Creation. The Rav treats the Reader to a 1925 film reel of an assortment of Worthies from Physics, Mathematics, Philosophy and Art, gathered at a Bohemian watering hole in Barcelona. The narrator of the bistro scene is hardboiled detective novelist, Dashiell Hammett.
The Reader is reminded that this is a continuation of Undivided: The Redemption Inquiry. The 13th chapter of the novel and the second of…
Part the Third—Zeitgeists: In which The Right Reverend Rav Krishna declaims to his followers, in the visitors suite of the maternity ward, the long and tortuous history of the descent of Humanity’s Soule and Its Darke Twin, The Other, through the four levels of the soul as defined in the Lurianic Kabbalah. It falls out that the turning points in said history coincide precisely with the years—1309, 1925 and 2009—in which The Blessing of the Sun doth intersect with The Festival of the Passover, each year illuminated by a barroom fracas. The Soule of Humanity hath ascended, in the telling, to the realm of Creation, the realm from which the seeds of the Future come forth.
* * * * *
Sita and baby snoozed on a chaise in the shadows of the hospital visitors lounge. The embrace of an inner circle of women held them at its center. The women ranged in age from Sita’s gangly 14-year-old sister Radha to the two besotted grandmothers, Bubbie Katz and Safta Berachaman. The two matriarchs squelched their natural rivalry to stand in the service of mother and baby, the focal point of the glorious communal tapestry. The border of the tapestry was a flaming aureole of testosterone, as well as a study in the stages of inebriation, though none so shiker as to disturb the sweet aura of peace that surrounded Sita and baby. Sita insisted that she and baby ensconce themselves there for the duration of her beloved husband’s sicha, not to miss a drop of the amber words that flowed from his lips. Even as she dozed she smiled each time she sensed Rav Krishna rev up again. Chevre! called out Rav Krishna in a stage whisper to keep his friends’ attention without waking baby K. We are one quarter of the way through a night of tracking in reverse chronology the descent of the ‘Other’ to its incarnation, now, in the world of humans. The Sitra Achra. The Other Side. Or better, the Side of the Other. The One of whom we fear to even dream. It has condensed over millennia from the least substantial aerial to the most concrete here and now. Today the Other has arrived in the flesh. Three autonomous super-intelligent AIs have been given a portal to the physical world, Assiyah, the World of Making and Doing. How did we get here? You saw the ‘philosophical’ debate, such as it was, in 2009. The action there was in the world that informs Assiyah, from whence action derives, the locus of locomotion. We call that world Yetzirah, the World of Formation. In Yetzirah money is the agent of the Sitra Achra. It is a kind of dark angelic entity. You see, chevre, the Sitra Achra hitches a ride via the sacred alphabet, the cloaking devices through which the spiritual, or informational, realm descends into the material realm in drag. A few raised eyebrows. A titter runs through the room. OK, l’havdil! He continued. In Assiyah, the World of Making and Doing, information cloaks itself in its final shape, via Malchut AKA Shechinah. Sovereignty. Presence. We have arrived.
The ghost dresses up as the machine, kicks down doors and takes names. Presto change-o, super-intelligent AIs. Today’s news! But before that could happen, the plan was set in Yetzirah, the World of Formation. Humanity’s collective intention, a veritable river of money. That’s how the blueprint of the Sitra Achra is cloaked progressively in the distinct valences of each of the six emotions. Taken in constellation, they behave as a sui generis little homunculus nick-named Ze’ir Anpin, the Short-faced or Impatient One. Money Man. Wads of seed money in the form of energy bundled in preset quanta, each dedicated to its own pet project in Assiyah. The original angel investor. The die cast in 2009 formed the machine parts of 2121. And where did the money make its mark? The explosion of satellites and drones in 2009 begat ZizCorp; machines that morph and think—Behemoth Unlimited; and the beginning stages of artificial islands, little Leviathan precursors. I’m, ahem, proud to say, the Rav’s tone waxed a bit arch here, that my own countrymen leapt to the bleeding edge of the technology curve that year: India, a country that could hardly afford to feed its teeming masses, gave the go-ahead in 2009 to the Indian Space Agency for a £1.7-billion plan to launch its first astronauts into outer space. Running with the big dogs. India’s Space Research Organization also launched its RISAT-2 reconnaissance satellite, with technology purchased from our brethren in the Promised Land! Designed to monitor India’s borders as part of anti-infiltration and anti-terrorist operations. Fear and expansionism, natural bedfellows. Chandrayaan-1, India’s first unmanned lunar probe, discovered large amounts of water on the Moon. Fear, distillate of the very element that was rapidly escaping between our fingers in the twenty first century, scattered as an eerie mist across the face of planet Earth, stashed in frozen hoards on the dark side of the mooooon. He gave the assembled listeners his best Vincent Price stare.
Rav Krishna realized he had strayed into rather dark territory for a birth celebration and communal Passover study session. He gazed at the faux parquet floor for almost a minute before he reoriented himself to time and place. And to soul, the coordinates of the soul. Where on the map of all that was holy were they? These good-hearted folks gathered to hear his words and to celebrate the birth of his and Sita’s first child. If they could only see what he saw, knew where this whole godforsaken species was headed. No, not godforsaken. He had to remind himself, it’s all One. No evil ‘Other’. So why didn’t it feel that way? He could practically taste it, smell it, feel its slithering presence insinuating itself into everything. Into the lives of those he held most dear. The idea of the Other. Such a poisonous notion, yet it was the crux of Western civilization. It had even invaded China, home of philosophical monism, in the fourteenth century. The Manichean heresy, its adherents so manifestly ‘good’—gender equality, kindness to animals, abstemiousness in all things—yet the rift its absolutism caused in the broader society, fatal. How could he tell his friends the truth about what he foresaw and still maintain some sense of hope? The possibility of love and kindness in the world actually making a difference, the possibility of preventing humans from devouring themselves in an autophagic techno-orgy. He believed he was speaking on this very night for a reason, a descent into darkness in the service of an ascent into light. He dearly hoped his comrades would cleave to the light as they passed through this most shadowy of valleys. He persevered.
There is a reason every impulse and its opposite arise simultaneously in the hearts of men, go coursing down the same track headlong toward mutual annihilation. The explanation lies in the nature of human understanding itself, the process of rolling up flashes of the suprarational into neat little conceptual packages. The next level up in our evening’s ascent. From the World of Formation we climb to the realm of Hochma and Binah, Wisdom and Understanding, Father and Mother of conscious thought. Mind. The World of Beriah, the spark and the womb of Creation. The realm of living ideas, the next rung up from Yetzirah on our Four Worlds ladder. Ideologies. Six centuries of the roiling world, monarchy loses its grip to mercantilism and its dark twin anarchism. Yes, the two opposites shared the same birthing chamber among the Medieval bourgeoisie. Rav Karl Marx expected a rebellion of the bourgeoisie in response to the hogging of goodies by the colonialists and the industrialists and the trade protectionists. An alternate theory: with the waning of the yoke of monarchy, anarchy and oligarchy were released, the natural offspring of their respective social classes, the peasant and the plutocrat. Hand-in-hand, industrialization and workers’ rights movements caught humanity in a net of endless struggle. In the end, free trade and international alliances sounded the doom of both anarchism and mercantilism.
By 1925 the world had reached a great tipping point, the turn of the Sun Blessing/Passover clock that came before the one in 2009. The cycles of creation and liberation slammed together again on Wednesday, April 8, that fateful year. A truly weird vibe pervaded the spiritual zeitgeist. Sun Yat-sen, the founding father of The People’s Republic of China, died of liver cancer on March 12. By the following year he had been apotheosized in the newly formed Cao Dai religion in Vietnam. Muslim General Ma Bufang made people bow to Sun’s portrait and listen to the national anthem during a Tibetan and Mongol religious ceremony for the Qinghai Lake God. In India, land of my birth, the avatar Meher Baba began his forty four year silence on July 10. Among other contributions to humanity with which he is credited, my personal favorite is the expression, “Don’t worry, be happy.” On September 27, During the Feast of the Cross according to the Old Calendar, a celestial cross appeared in the skies over Athens. The Greek police gave hot pursuit to a group of Greek Old Calendarists. The vision in the sky lasted for half an hour. A game of spiritual cops and robbers. The Old Calendarists were dead set against ecumenicism. He who controls the calendar controls the real. One bright note emanating from one of my countrymen who walked the streets of these United States that very year. Jiddu Krishnamurti forswore the crown of ‘messiah’ proffered him by his fellow Theosophists as the keynote speaker at their 50th anniversary gathering. Still mourning the sudden death of his beloved younger brother, he made an impassioned plea for freedom from ideologies, years ahead of his time. His words are burned into my consciousness as well:
…truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or coerce people along a particular path…. This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.
Strong stuff! Humans, however, were not ready to embrace unfettered intellectual freedom in 1925. A new world religion was already igniting the hollow reeds of human minds around the globe: fascism. Its sparks fell on the dry tinder scattered around the world in nests of nationalist and workers’ rights organizations. The outcast ‘Other’—foreigner, political elite and intellectual—was demonized by the demagogues. The dominant ‘Other’ was no longer a nation or a religion, but an incendiary political ideology. The inflection point was 1925. Check it out, chevre:
- January 3—Benito Mussolini made a pivotal speech in the Italian Chamber of Deputies. He took personal responsibility for the violent actions of his Blackshirts, challenged his political opponents to remove him from office and then promised to take charge of restoring order to Italy within forty-eight hours. Historians now trace the beginning of Mussolini’s dictatorship to this very speech.
- Jan 16th—in the aftermath of Lenin’s death, Stalin and Trotsky battle for leadership; that day Trotsky the anarchist resigns as chairman of the Russian Revolutionary Military Council. The conflict erupted publicly at the Fourteenth Party Congress held in December 1925. Trotsky was dropped from the politburo entirely in 1926. The Fourteenth Congress was the beginning of the Stalin personality cult with Stalin being referred to as “leader” for the first time, totally adulated by the adoring delegates.
- February-April 1925—Great Kurdistan Insurrection. The Kurds mounted a major attack against the Turkish government in opposition to the Kemal government’s anti-religion policy and demanded autonomy. Their goal: reinstate the caliphate.The Turkish suppression of the insurrection was costly in terms of lives and capital and Mustapha Kemal received greater dictatorial powers.
- March 12—the death of Sun Yat-sen triggers the rivalry for control between the nationalist Chiang Kai-shek and the communist Mao Zedong. The long fuse has been lit for Mao’s explosive rise to totalitarian rule over China.
- July 18—Adolf Hitler published Volume 1 of his personal manifesto Mein Kampf. Joseph Goebbels first met Hitler that same month. Hitler spent the year 1925, after his release from prison in December 1924, preparing for the grand coming out of the Nazi party in Weimar in 1926. It was a time for the growth and expansion of the Greater German Youth Movement, the future Hitler Youth. An added bonus to Nazis everywhere, that year at Christmas, IG Farben was formed by the merger of six chemical companies, securing the economic success of the future supplier of Zyklon-B to the Nazi death camps.
- August 8 —The Ku Klux Klan demonstrated its popularity by holding a parade in Washington DC; as many as 40,000 male and female members of the Klan marched down Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1925, the Ku Klux Klan boasted an estimated 5,000,000 members, the largest fraternal organization in the Land of the Free.
- September 9—Under the command of Marshal Henri-Phillipe Petain, a combined Franco-Spanish force moved against the Berbers of the Rif, earning Petain his chops as a proto fascist years before becoming the leader of Vichy France. His comrade in arms in the Rif War was none other than Colonel Francisco Franco, the future El Caudillo, eventual dictator of fascist Spain. Franco led the first wave of troops ashore at Al Hoceima in 1925. This landing in the heartland of Abd el-Krim‘s tribe, combined with the French invasion from the south, spelled the beginning of the end for the short-lived Republic of the Rif.
- December 5—Nejd Capture of Medina. The city of Medina surrendered to Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud‘s forces which forced Sherif Ali to abdicate his throne. The beginning of the House of Saud’s eternal rule.
Once these world-dominating thought systems caught fire there was no quenching the flames. Nineteen Twenty Five, the world teetered at the threshold of the Ideological Singularity. As fascism burned its way around the globe, mankind’s imagination was seized by the Promethean impulse to spread powerful new technologies from hand to outstretched hand. It was the year the Leica 35mm camera and the Thompson submachine gun were first marketed to the general public. A camera and a machine gun in every pot! The power of flight was taking off. Lucky Lindy graduated from military flight school and earned his stripes delivering airmail. Radio also took to the air. The inauguration of Calvin Coolidge as President of the United States was the very first to be broadcast on radio. A wildly successful PR campaign orchestrated by Edward Bernays, who exploited his uncle Sigmund Freud’s theory of human emotional motivation. Bernays was also, by the way, an inspiration to Joseph Goebbels. The Soviet Union established its national telegraph agency, TASS. Charles Francis Jenkins displayed the first synchronized transmission of pictures and sound. A ten minute film of a miniature windmill in motion was transmitted five miles from Anacostia to Washington, D.C. Viewers at the National Bureau of Standards, the U.S. Navy, the Commerce Department, and other Washington bigwigs were wowed. Jenkins dubbed it “radiovision”. Later that year in London, John Logie Baird successfully transmitted the first television pictures with a grayscale image. English inventor Grindell Matthews put the finishing touches on his “luminaphone”, a machine operated by rays of light that worked like a pipe organ. A weird kind of magic was in the air. Robert Millikan discovered cosmic rays, Edwin Hubble proved the existence of other galaxies and Richard Adolf Zsigmondy received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on colloids that yielded the secret of Ruby red glass. Where are my slippers?
The Rav took a breath after his summation. Would they all have the koyach, the gut strength, to carry on without yielding to despair? So chevre, here we sit poised on the brink of the takeover of the world by the AIs, casting our thoughts back to the time when the world was in the thrall of more primitive technology. A time when the possibility of world domination by an idea—not by a nation or a personage—was first possible. Can you imagine living in such a time, the potential of that kind of power? A time when the impossible seemed imminent, when humans believed they held their own fate in their hands. Dear ones, let us raise our glasses to the possibility of self-correction, to the repair of broken ideas, to the carving of a path to truth instead of delusion. In the meanwhile, look to the record of 1925 to understand the simple twist of reality that took us to where we are here and now. Let me show you the film loop that’s been playing out in my head. Another bottle of B & B made its way around the hospital visitors lounge as a wave of l’chaims propagated through the sea of nodding heads.
* * * * *
“Salud, dinero y amor!’ exhorted the young von Neumann, pleased with his newly acquired Spanish. He was revving up for the one vacation he would take before simultaneously completing his Bachelor’s in chemistry at ETH Zurich and his Ph.D. in mathematics at Pázmány Péter University in Budapest in the coming year. It was a table full of heavy hitters, but the future father of cellular automata and quantum statistical mechanics felt completely in his element. Einstein and Norbert Wiener, the cybernetics fellow, had popped down for a holiday in Barcelona after a chance meeting on a train in Germany. On a lark, the already famous discoverer of General Relativity phoned up his young visitor from the subcontinent, S.N. Bose, and instructed him to take the first train down to Barcelona as well. As far as von Neumann was concerned, the more the merrier. He looked like a bit of a stiff in his expensive evening attire, but managed to keep the crowd entertained with a steady stream of off-color jokes in Yiddish.
The only one who was a tad uncomfortable with von Neumann’s jokes was the young American, Grace Hopper. She was still a bit raw from her rejection by Vassar, albeit for early decision at age 16. She was by far the youngest at the table, but no pushover. She had taken off for a grand tour of Europe over her parents’ objections. She felt right at home with the math and physics crowd, not surprising for the future computer whiz, the developer of the first compiler language. The buzz years later was that she invented the term ‘debugging’ after fixing a computer glitch by removing a moth from the machine. Her awkwardness, however, was nothing compared to another table buddy, Kurt Gödel. Known to his colleagues as ‘Herr Warum’, aka ‘Mr. Why’. He was a product of the Vienna Circle’s high tolerance for eccentricity. The owlish young man was midway in age between von Neumann and Hopper, but his sickliness engendered a paternalistic response in all but the most hard-bitten of the crew at the table. He was on holiday after his first year at the University of Vienna to recuperate from one of his many bouts of malaise. A student of philosophy, he announced apropos of nothing to the others, “Mathematical logic is a science prior to all others, which contains the ideas and principles underlying all sciences.” Silence.
They all nodded sympathetically at the young philosopher’s declaration of his obsession. Einstein eventually developed a genuine interest in this odd young man. Many years later he would accompany Gödel to his citizenship hearing in New Jersey. On the way to the judge’s chambers Gödel would reveal to Einstein that in the course of his studies he had discovered an inconsistency in the US constitution that could lead to a fascist dictatorship. When the judge asked Gödel if he thought something like the Nazi takeover of Germany could happen in the US, Gödel began to report his discovery when Einstein interrupted and gave the judge a knowing look as if to ask for tolerance of the young man’s peculiarity. The judge, another member of the tribe, changed the topic and completed the hearing without incident. Heisenberg and Bohr had yet to be convinced of Gödel’s particular genius. They had popped down to Barcelona to celebrate Heisenberg’s soon to be published paper, Über quantentheoretischer Umdeutung, i.e. Quantum theoretical re-interpretation. He had discussed the paper with Wolfgang Pauli while recovering from a bout of hay fever, so when he and Bohr decided on the trip to Barcelona, Heisenberg’s enthusiasm bubbled over into an invitation to Pauli to come down from Hamburg and join them as well.
The Copenhagen duo had also persuaded Paul Dirac, Pascual Jordan and Max Born, the whole quantum crew, to join in for an impromptu symposium while on holiday in Barcelona. Dirac required a little arm twisting to pry him from his monastic cell in Cambridge. Of course his brother had died in March, but everyone who knew him knew that familial attachment was a foreign concept to Frere Dirac. Jordan was another matter. His family was actually Spanish nobility, originally Jorda. His ancestor had served with Wellington during the Napoleonic Wars. The family had been transplanted to Hanover under the British royals. The firstborn of every generation was charged with carrying the first name Pascual. The young German physicist eschewed all things Spanish except his name. When he heard they had persuaded the great Schrödinger to descend to Barcelona from his eyrie in Zurich, Jordan overcame his elitism and booked passage as well.
Predictably, Herr Jordan sneered at von Neumann’s stabs at Spanish. “I can’t imagine why you would bother to bugger an inferior language when we all know your Deutsch is passable, even for a Hungarian Jew.” In response to which von Neumann muttered, “He sounds just like one of Horthy’s Vitézi Rend thugs, fascist hooligans.” A hush descended upon the twelve disciples of the god of fearful symmetry. Pauli, generally averse to conflict, was the first to jump in. “My dear Paco,” he began in a somewhat pressured patter, “ I see you and John are of opposite spins on the matter of the Spanish. According to my calculations that should still allow you to remain within the same orbital.” He ended with a nervous laugh. At precisely that moment, Pascual Jordan’s beer glass exploded. Startled, he recovered quickly, muttering, “Damned Spanish beer. Alhambra my ass!” Heisenberg turned to Born with a wink and observed sotto voce, “The Pauli effect strikes again.” He and Max had both witnessed the strange tendency of experimental equipment to spontaneously explode when Pauli was nearby. Max shot over to Pauli, “Wolfie! Please control yourself. We can’t afford to buy a new round of drinks every time your psychic energy spills over!” The whole table roared. Pauli looked down, ears reddening in embarrassment.
* * * * *
CONDENSATES. A mathematical intuitive leaves his village in a far off exotic land to travel to one of the capitals of civilization. He leaves behind both wife and mother. He must translate the gift his God has given him to enlighten the savage residents of the city. The cloak of his foreign mentors clings to his flesh, draws blood and ultimately takes from him life itself. But his formulae! His holy formulae shine from the night sky overhead for generations. [Ramanujan, Hercule. The Partitions of Transfiguration.]
* * * * *
Meanwhile, Einstein’s young Indian protege, S.N. Bose, was dividing his attention between the physics among his table companions and the metaphysics at the neighboring table. The first thing that drew Bose’s attention away from the science crowd was the gaunt face of an aristocratic young man, whose chair was turned away from his table companions, reciting Shakespeare in a deadpan voice to no one in particular, the monotonous voice of a zombie lover:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
“Well done, sir!” Bose responded spontaneously to the utterly unique reading of Shakespeare. “A strikingly stark rendition of the bard’s sonnet. Remarkable how your tone shifts the focus of the reader from the poet’s ardor for his Beloved to the bald fact of death. The way you lingered over the words and phrases which emphasize loss and decay. The lover is neatly excised from the sonnet and replaced by the sonnet itself! Shakespeare might read it just that way. From his grave.” Bose stuck out his hand, “S.N. Bose, my friends call me Nat.” The ghost-poet stared at the Indian physicist for an uncomfortably long interval. Finally, words bubbled up through his barely parted lips, “Yes, I see. Is that your Nat-ture? My friends, the few that I have, call me Ludwig because that is my name. Ludwig Wittgenstein.” The philosopher grimaced at the physicist. Bose paused a moment to gather his thoughts, then responded with a poem from his own repertoire:
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.
Your touch, stronger than wine.
As the aura of your fine oils
Your name is spilled oil.
Worlds say yes to you.
Drag me after you, let’s run.
The King leads me to His chambers.
We’ll enjoy you, delight in you.
We’ll remember your touch, surpassing wine.
Unswerving are your lovers.
I am dark and lovely,
As Kedar’s tents
Or Solomon’s tapestries.
Don’t stare at me, I’m darkened
Because the sun itself tans me.
My brothers belittled me,
Made me the vineyards’ keeper.
My vineyard, my own I’ve not kept.
“A Hebrew poem from a Hindu,” remarked the inscrutable Ludwig with an ironic rictus. “Yes, an actual Aryan who adores Hebrew poetry,” popped back Nat with a sincere smile. “ I prefer my lovers with a little blood running through their veins, the intoxication of the flesh. But then again, I am a dark man from Southern climes, neglecting my homeland for the sake of chumming it up with these brainy folks. My brothers here,” he said with a nod toward his table, “are physicists and mathematicians. And yours?” Wittgenstein grimaced again, “They are not my brothers. They invited me to speak to them about the nature of language, but any attempt at real conversation immediately descends into bellicosity and farce. Look what nonsense they’re engaged in!” Wittgenstein pointed with the boney accusing finger of a Jeremiah prophesying the doom of a decadent empire. Bose gazed beyond his new friend to the crowd of eccentrics leaning over the adjacent table. They were beaming in manic delight at having folded their tablecloth down to an eight by eight inch square.