In the second episode of its second season, Westworld reaches dizzying new heights of allegorical richness and complexity. Through sympathy, or sympathetic identification with characters, consciousness gives itself to other points of view. We witness Being from the standpoint of the commodity, the proletariat. Created beings piece together truth by eavesdropping upon conversations they overhear among the god-beings they’ve been made to serve. The West is a world that seeks the end of history, the show suggests. A world that seeks to destroy itself in order to puzzle out the meaning of its making. And where Westworld ends, The Blazing World begins. We are immaterial spirits cloaked in material garments, says Margaret Cavendish — our true selves, I would add, as invisible to us as video game players are to their avatars. Identification, I would remind readers, is the principle that allows this forgetting, this trance-formation that occurs, the self’s ability to merge in imagination with what was formerly other. One could easily extrapolate an imaginary but plausible heretical form of Christianity based on these beliefs. We are each of us the Christ, might go its teachings, each of us the Creator-Being made incarnate, entered into the Creation in order to save it. Let us imagine ourselves thus. Let us feel rapid and jittery upon our evening walks as we exalt in prefiguration of our approaching freedom.
We land on a word as if by spinning the Wheel of Fortune. What else would minds be if not for input from that part of ourselves that is exterior? The world is the set that contains those trees, and this house, and that house, and this body. But what about me, the Author, the Subject, the voice that posits itself through trance-scription? What is my ontological status apart from my body and my senses? Gnostics are they who know themselves to be caught in the midst of a tragic act of forgetting, the knowing and the forgetting intertwined. Because of its impoverished condition, they argue, humanity individually and collectively knows itself in an impoverished manner, through the art it holds up to itself and the names it applies to things — in short, by imperfect discourses, images, and myths. We must learn to commune again with plants, animals, rocks, and rivers. I find myself drawn with equal force, however, to the school of thought known as personalism, given the priority it grants to inner happenings. “How can anyone know me,” sings Matt Johnson of The The, “when I don’t even know myself?”
Is nature naught but presentations produced in finite minds by the Infinite? Material world as divine language? Why does weed take heads away from materialism toward idealism? We become spooky, ghostly, supernatural, transcendent. Nicolas Berdyaev speaks to us, draws from us assenting nods with the distinction he draws between individuals and persons. “The individual is a naturalistic category, biological and sociological,” he writes, “and it appertains to the natural world. […]. It is an atom, indivisible, not having inner life, it is anonymous. […]. Person signifies something altogether different. Person is a spiritual and religious category. Person speaks not only about man belonging to the natural and social order, but also to a different dimension of being, to the spiritual world. […]. Person is a sundering within the natural world, and it is not explainable from it.” The synthesis between inner and outer that the weeded subject seeks, I realize, is what Berdyaev calls “personalist socialism.” More on this, says the prophetic subject, in the days ahead.
Some would say we commit ourselves to metaphysics the moment we accept the existence of “minds.” But what else would it be but a mind that contemplates Ingrid Goes West, a new film that uses cash inheritance as the premise for its infiltration and critique of selfie culture? The master of that culture, the film notes, is some “emotional wound” that turns self-promotion into way of life. One imagines oneself floating above oneself with a camera, turning money into props for self-actualization through delivery of life narrative to followers. Such is the subjectivity at the heart of the film’s critique. Comedy, of course, requires that the film overstate this critique for laughs. Its stalker character acts on urges the rest of us repress. Speaking of urges: A pulse is touched and quickened. I reach out and connect as if by dial-up modem to Brett Naucke’s Multiple Hallucinations.
I feel like I’m living inside a montage sequence from Halt and Catch Fire, mulling over an idea beside a window on a rainy night, flashing back to visual and tactile memories bound to videogame sound-narratives from my childhood. Dots, squiggles, exploding fractal mandalas. Seeing multiples, reprocessing. A computer asks for permission to speak further. Glowing outlines perform expressive dance against a black background. The computer sucked us in and we never got out, I realize. It swallowed us like a sandworm or a whale. So teacheth the Gnostics, or rather, modern New Age derivations therefrom. This would be the “reality-as-simulation” theory. It was by repression of entry into the Matrix that the Matrix got us, goes the theory. Movement amidst abstract sign-systems. Neon re-imaginings of witch-burnings cut with similar blood sacrifices atop ancient Aztec temples. Knowledges are fed through the air in packets. Do I possess an ethics? Do one’s best? Stay formally attentive? Listen and learn, I tell myself, and you will know how to act. Trust intuition over reason. Seek the flows and go with them. Even when they lead to French onion soup and a cartoon scarecrow with corn growing out its chest. Go out on adventures, says an imaginary Australian life coach, gesturing with his hands as he speaks. Too bad my brain has been soldered to things, I shudder, as the hallucination comes to an end.