Michael Martin on Ahrimanic Technology vs. Sophianic Tools

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(the author is a eastern rite Catholic, influenced by Orthodox authors and associated with the Waldorf schools)

Michael Martin:

"Rudolf Steiner, who used the Zoroastrian name “Ahriman” to identify the spirit working through the technological, described this phenomenon in these words:

“In his technical machines of the economic sphere the human being will perceive that, although he constructed and made them, they nevertheless gradually take on a life of their own—a life certainly which he can still deny because they manifest themselves to begin with only in the economic sphere. But he will notice more and more in what he himself creates that it gains a life of its own and that, despite the fact that he brought it forth from the intellect, the intellect itself can no longer comprehend it…. People will discover, in fact, how the objects of their industry (Wirtschaft) become the bearers of demons.” [1]

In recent news, transhumanism, which had been percolating under the cultural radar for decades, has been rebranded as a societal good, whether through various medical interventions to combat viruses, through similar medical interventions devised to alter one’s identity, or through other applications that seek to permanently connect human biology to the “internet of things.” Strangely, these developments are being proposed by the very powerful, and many people seem to be going along with it—ironically, these are the same people who were blaming these powerful figures for all the evils of Capitalism and the instrumentalization of human beings for control and profit not two years ago. For my part, I have rather a hard time believing that the people who’ve been destroying the planet and human societies for the past century will be the same people to save us from their disastrous projects. Only a fool could buy that. We have no shortage of fools, alas, but fear can make even the best of people do foolish things

In Transfiguration, I note that “as the World of Ahriman more and more encroaches upon the business of being human, more and more compromises being human and turns it into a business, the World of Sophia, the Wisdom that God poured forth upon all his works (Sirach 1:9), more and more reveals itself as the antidote to his madness.” But how do we access the World of Sophia?

First of all, by extricating ourselves from the World of Ahriman. Let’s turn the non serviam back on him. Extrication happens by non-participation, as our Amish brothers and sisters exemplify so well. The Amish, contrary to popular stereotypes, use telephones, even cellphones (the Amish carpenter who put my roof on has a nicer cellphone than I do). The difference is that they don’t let their phones use them.

Another method is by returning to the Creation. When we’ve been herded into virtual spaces, it’s easy to forget our connection to Natura. Learn how to pay attention to the Real. Develop an awareness of where the planets are in the heavens at any given moment of the day. You can start with just the moon. Where in the heavens above or below the earth is it right now? Do you know? What phase is it in? Note the subtle changes in your consciousness after doing this for a few weeks.

Attending to the subtle changes in the flora and fauna in your area works in a similar way. How is the apple tree (or grape vine, or rose bush, or lilac bush, and so forth) different today from yesterday? from last week? How does your attention alter your being?

Not participating in the World of Ahriman is the best medicine, though, of course, in this day and age, it is nearly impossible to completely divorce ourselves from the “net” (perhaps the perfect metaphor). But participation in the World of Sophia is without a doubt the antidote to the World of Ahriman. Maybe if we called the World of Sophia a vaccine more people would try it. At least post-menopausal women wouldn’t start having miraculous periods again (is anything more fitting an image of the diabolical parody of fertility, this anti-fertility?).

Another way, and perhaps one of the most practical, is to not participate in the “food” distributions system of the World of Ahriman. Join a biodynamic or organic CSA. Buy a stake in a herdshare to give yourself access to milk that’s still alive. Get to know farmers. Buy as much of your food as possible directly from them (farmers markets are okay, but they’re often of more benefit to the municipalities hosting them than to the farmers, who get fee’d to death by participating). Start a garden.

Once you start doing these kinds of things, you’ll notice you are less and less a part of the World of Ahriman and more and more a part of the World of Sophia. Sophia’s world is inhabited by people in community with animals, plants, and the land; by community with saints, angels, and God. Sophia is the bridge between these worlds.

The Ahrimanic, however, becomes enraged by such things. It wheels out various methods of curtailing life: taxes, regulations, any number of proscriptions intended to disable or destroy the wholesome and deliver the unwary into the waiting tentacles of the technocracy.

This way of smashing the technocracy boils down to generally ignoring it, or ignoring it as much as possible, and by loving each other, the land, and the beings which inhabit it in a gesture of absolute generosity and care."


Background on Ahriman

Michael Martin:

"In the Zoroastrian mythos, Ahriman (or Angra Mainyu) is the spiritual power who opposes Ahura Mazdao (or Ormazd), the Creator, whose name means “Lord of Wisdom.” In his early novel Cosmic Puppets (1957),Philip K. Dick uses the Ahura Mazdao/Ahriman binary in the story of the battle between spiritual and cosmic evil and good played out in small town Virginia; it was kind of a precursor to Dick’s later fascination with Gnostic dualism and in no small part influenced his thoughts on what we would now call mass surveillance and transhumanism.

The concept of Ahriman also appears in the writing of the great Russian radical Christian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev and became a fundamental idea in the spiritual science of Rudolf Steiner. For both Berdyaev and Steiner, Ahriman represents the technological, the materialistic, and the technocratic, that which seeks always to turn human beings into collectivist and efficient machines: emotionless, unfeeling, and inartistic—like the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In the introduction to The Meaning of the Creative Act (1914), Berdyaev confesses himself a dualist (with some serious qualifications):

“I confess an almost manichean dualism. So be it. “The world” is evil, it is without God and not created by Him. We must go out of the world, overcome it completely: the world must be consumed, it is of the nature of Ariman, Freedom from the world is the pathos of this book. There is an objective source of evil, against which we must wage an heroic war. The necessity of the given world and the given world itself are of Ariman.”

And then the qualifications:

“Over against this stands freedom in the spirit, life in divine love, life in the Pleroma. And I also confess an almost pantheistic monism. The world is divine in its very nature. Man is, by his nature, divine. The world-process is self-revelation of Divinity, it is taking place within Divinity. God is immanent in the world and in man. The world and man are immanent in God. Everything which happens with man happens with God. There is no dualism of divine and extra-divine nature, of God's absolute transcendence of the world and of man.”

He is completely aware of the antinomy and embraces it.

In The Meaning of History (1923), Berdyaev returns to the Zoroastrian understanding of Ahriman is his consideration of history and, what is always a preoccupation of his, eschatology:

“The conflict between Ormuz and Ariman is resolved by a catastrophe which brings about the end of history and the beginning of something else. Without this sense of an end, the process cannot be conceived as historical movement. Without this eschatological perspective progression cannot be considered as history, for it lacks inner purpose, significance, and fulfillment.”

The Eschaton, I think it’s spiritually healthy to say, is always already happening. It’s only that sometimes it is easier to perceive.

My guess is that Berdyaev first became intrigued by the religious and sociological implications of the concept of Ahriman during the period of his interest in Rudolf Steiner. Berdyaev’s friend, the poet and novelist Andrei Bely (real name Boris Bukarev) was an early Russian enthusiast of Steiner’s and encouraged his friend to read some of the Austrian philosopher’s work, and even entreated him to attend lectures of Steiner’s in Helsingfors, Finland in 1913. Berdyaev was never completely sold on Steiner, but neither did he completely dismiss him. He returns to Steiner often in his work, sometimes in approval and sometimes in critique. But he takes him seriously.

Steiner’s treatment of Ahriman is much more developed and complex than Berdyaev’s. Clearly inspired by Hegelian dialectic, Steiner reads Ahriman as part of a polarity with Christ as the mediator."