Today we live in the epoch which annunciates the totalization of the panopticon (Foucault 1977). The human gazes now looks out upon every terrestrial millimeter. We are all already enfolded digitally in a planetary Global Positioning System. There is no where left to hide from the eye of the satellite. On some occult electronic planes we only exist as virtual coordinates in cyberspace, we are all now networked in a collective etheric web (noosphere?) of human consciousness.
At the time Sri Aurobindo was constructing his view of the individual, natutre, and the future body there had not yet been a movement from an organic, industrial society to a polymorphous culture of information science, in which identities fracture under the infomatics of domination (Harraway 1991), in which natural boundaries are penetrated by streamed capitalism in its quest for twenty percent returns on investment. Ours is an age in which not only the bio-sphere but our genetics are colonialized by techno-science, in which cultures are grafted on to vivisections in the global economy into explotive new hybridities.
In an era in which machine is inserted into flesh, in which natural and artifical boundaries permeate one another and protean adaptations of personality are required for our travel through the multi-dimensional topologies of cyber space, both nature and nature must be re-imagined. We all must take up the liminal existence of a nomad who moves freely from identities to affinities, from boarders to coalitions, from reality to virtuality.
The question we began with was whether it is still possible at present to conceive of certain individuals who through the practice of integral yoga will evolve the future bodies of the superman, which as Sri Aurobindo envisions: “must continue the already developed evolutionary form”, and be “a continuation from the type Nature has all along been developing, a continuity from the human to the divine body, no breaking away to something unrecognisable but a high sequel to what has already been achieved and in part perfected, or must we revision what we conceive of today as natural? Does nature mean the same thing in the first years of the new mellenium as it did in the first years in the last century of the old millenium?
Has our immersion in ubiquitous technological environments that discipline our bodies at exponential speeds already defined a discontinuity in our future physiology? Will this discontinuity render our bodies of the future unrecognizable when viewed from a perspective of biological evolution, as Sri Aurobindo describes it: our already developed evolutionary form? Or is such a perspective, while it may have been appropriate at the time it was conceived, in light of the evolution of culture over the past century something which we now must consider naïve and to which we must say “good bye to all that”?
This is the first part of a longer meditation on the future bodies. I have entitled this section “Goodbye To All That” which is the title of Robert Graves autobiography in which he recounts his experiences in the trenches in WWI. What he is saying goodbye to is the passing of an era: of the naive, carefree, class based culture of Edwardian England, which did not survive the war. Sri Aurobindo wrote the passages referenced here at about the time the Edwardian era ended and the great war began. Because our views and valorization of nature are cultural constructions to appreciate why Sri Aurobindo extrapolates a certain form of naturalism into the future body we must first excavate his conceptions of “what is natural”.
The context of his writing referenced here on evolution and the future body seems to flow naturally out of a post-romantic protestant view of Nature he must have been exposed to growing up in England which lived on well into Edwardian era. To the British upper classes it was a view of nature as pristine, which they enjoyed in well manicured English country gardens, not yet smeared with the blood of the trenches. Above all nature was clearly distinct from the machinery given to us by culture.
In forming his view of nature Sri Aurobindo took account of Ruskin's and Carlyle's critique of industrialism. This view of nature was certainly valuable for sacramentalizing nature at a time when the Industrial Revolution was rapidly desecrating it. Today however, the interpenetration of nature by information technologies and genetic engineering has added enough complexity to what it means to be natural/human that we can no longer escape environments which are increasingly mediated by technology. Electricity undergirds much of our phenomenological experience of the world, bio-technology sustains our physical presence in it. In such a brave new world the continuity of the already developed evolutionary form with all its biological naturalism seems to be a reality to which we have already said goodbye.
But, what is important for us in Sri Aurbindo vision of the future body is not necessarily that its a post-romantic construction, but rather that it is also informed by the darshanic discourse and yogic practices of India. It is his analysis of nature as prakriti and the way he conceives the epistemology of its knower purusha, which I would argue is most useful to us now and serve utilitarian ends in illumining a way forward for a bio/info-ethics of the future.
I will post the guiding abstract next, this work should not be thought of as reaching toward any certain ends, which is to say what this all will become at its end is far from certain. Therefore I welcome all comments, collaboration, quips or quotes..
Aurobindo, S. The Life Divine , Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press (1949/1972)
Aurobindo, S. The Supramental Manifestation , Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press (19491972)
Baudrillard, J Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, (1994)
De Chardin, T. The Phenomena of Man, : New York, McGraw Hill (1955)
Foucault, M. Discipline and Punish,New York, Vintage Books (1977)
Hayles, N.K My Mother was a Computer, Chicago, University of Chicago Press (2006)
Harraway, D. A Cyborg Manifesto, New York, Routledge, Chapman, Hall, Inc, (1991)
Kroker, A, The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism Toronto, University of Toronto Press (2004)
McLuhan M Understanding Media, New York: McGraw Hill (1964)
Pollen, M, In Defense of Food, New York, Penguin Press (2008)
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