thx to mr. harkon, who is a new member of the transhumanist party
This author gives an example on how to harmonize Thelema with Transhumanism:
http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/bio/milan His work led to a couple of papers in the internet like
http://transhumanity.net/author/ReneMilan Overview of transhumanist movements in the past
http://www.changesurfer.com/Acad/TranshumPolitics.htm What do Thelema and Transhumanism have in common?
About me: I am a Thelemit and, since a few months, i also am a member of the Transhumanist party. Now you may ask yourself, how does this fit together? Thelema is rather occultly oriented, some even associate it with Hippies and LSD. But Transhumanism? Is that not a kind of technology-oriented religion? First of all, the Hippies were a heterogeneous movement. Except those who were inspired by Aleister Crowley’s drug experiments, there also was an extremely technology-friendly faction, that among other things developed the first home networks. And in addition to yoga and meditation, which also gained a foothold in the hippie movement in the West, it is precisely the technical developments, which are living testimonies of this counterculture, while many other things from this time today are no longer viable. The two Apple founders for example, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, originally were hippies who were part of the, at that time, newly-emerged hacker scene. San Francisco as a center of Hippie culture and the Silicon Valley being just next door was no coincidence - much of the experimental Hippie mentality has borne fruit there. The Hippie culture was and still is, in a certain way, essential for technical progress, although one can now discuss the fact that many of their ideals were perverted, so we nowadays rather have a type of evangelical computerist.
It appeared to me for a long time that it is regrettable for the West seeming to be stuck in a political dead end. Capitalism appeared to have prevailed, and all these savage and romantic ideas of the '68s revolution of a new society seemed to have been banished from reality. At the same time, it was perfectly clear to me that technological progress is unstoppable. I dont think restrictions are a good basis for a society. While studying Discordian writings (an absurdist mindfuck movement from the late 1950s) i accidently stumbled upon the idea of Transhumanism. The concept of Transhumanism arose after the Second World War. It stands for a spiritual movement, in the broadest sense, for overcoming human nature through realization of new possibilities, in particular through new technical possibilities. Also, there exists a psychedelic transhumanist movement hoping for mentioned drugs or other consciousness-related techniques to overcome human nature. Really revolutionary is the idea only when it is explicitly applied to achieve a posthuman state, that is, to a society whose members no longer are human beings or at least partially no longer human beings. You could see it as a concomitant ideology of cybernetics, whose beginnings also took place at the end of the WW II. This opens Transhumanism to all sorts of possible and impossible projections and social visions made possible by technical progress. Science fiction writings are a dime a dozen. The Transhumanist science fiction can be categorized as ‘hard science fiction’, narratives detailed well within the range of what might be technically feasible, according to today’s knowledge. The idea that science and technology can serve certain political goals is largely independent of the nature of the political goal, let alone some fundamentalistic ideas. An exception here are large parts of the environmental protection movement, which frequently are critical of these ideas. Humanistically-oriented base democrats, cyberpunks, neoliberal technocrats, anarchocapitalists, cosmopolitans, effective altruists, already mentioned Hippies, various communists, Christian groups and even facists: the list of those who wanted to utilize the transhumanistic idea in order to
augment their social utopia is very long. One can ask with good reason whether these ideologists are not all in the error. How can we even know how the posthumane state will look like or what technologies will actually be possible? In order to influence technological progress, politics cant do much more than to invest money in certain areas of research or to prohibit certain technologies by law. We can safely assume if once Pandora’s box has been opened, the resulting posthumane state is completely non-predictable. Furthermore, I believe that almost all of the political groups mentioned above are too conservative to exploit the full potential of Transhumanism because they have an definite picture of mankind. Transhumanism could therefore be seen as a revolutionary vision of the future that does not contain any precise instructions on how to proceed. So ethics for transhumanism always comes from other ideologies, which interpret religiously loaded terms such as technological singularity or superintelligence or the reality of a simulation with their own terminology. In the following, I will show why Thelema is an excellent candidate to combine with Transhumanism. Both have the same goal to carry people beyond their existing limits. In its Upwinger Manifesto, FM-2030 uses the term New Age maybe not without a hidden agenda. He stands aloof from all the political trends that existed so far, therefore Upwinger, and speaks of a glorious turning point for mankind. He too hopes for miracles from science and considers this quite realistic:
"We want to spread a new triumphant spirit - an Optimism free of guilt, free of shame, free of self-denial. We want to spread the awareness that we are at the dawn of a beautiful New Age. There is a new hope in the world. " FM-2030
OPTIMISM - ABUNDANCE - UNIVERSALISM – IMMORTALITY
If you dont focus too much on the somewhat elitist and totalitarian excesses of some transhumanist directions, one could well imagine a collaboration with a hedonistic, progressive and undogmatic movement. It is still not quite clear what this might have to do with Thelema. I again have to lunge out a little. Thelema offers three essential aspects for me, importance indicated by order:
A) The vision of a new age
B) True Will and
All of this has a counterpart in Transhumanism, even though both are quite heterogenous. The vision of the new age, which I consider to be thelemic, means for me to question the human interaction - and thus to actually question the existing idea of being a human. The word Transhumanism also contains humanism what means that there is a connection with the humanist tradition, but which should be overcome. The four questions of Kant: “What can I know, what do I have to do, what can i hope for, what is the human being?” are to be answered afresh, perhaps also to be asked differently. The word humanism is chosen intentionally, one might also have chosen the designation transanthroposophic or transhomosapienism which would have emphasized the scientific approach even more. But it was preferred to explicitly refer to the age of Enlightenment. This is not to be seen as an attempt to make itself legitimate, but more as a promise to carry on the great work of Enlightenment. Friedrich Nietzsche is often seen as an ancestor of transhumanism, while in my opinion certain ideas already occur in Hegels philosophy. Or you locate the beginning of Transhumanism even earlier, the historical dimension is in my opinion not so important. The transhumanist vision of the new age would like to explore our humanity deeper. Maybe it is not essential for our human being having a biological basis, alternatively the term “biology” could also be expanded to technological systems. Possibly machines will develop a consciousness. Probably one day a machine can be smarter than all human beings and can improve by itself. The transhumanists call that a technological singularity. The technique is out of human control and develops exponentially. These machines would be capable of exploring the galaxy and would not be threatened by natural death. They would be smarter every day, so every day the intellectual distance would get bigger between them and humanity. Maybe we would be seen by them like field mice or cavemen in a highly-engineered world that takes no notice of us? Or we would be equal to the (Cy) Borg. Free forms of the symbiosis are already practiced, see eg Facebook. Could you even speak of machine gods? The answer to where all this will lead to is completely unclear, there are many people who warn of artificial intelligence, as well as those who see something like Jesus in it. The majority only agrees on that this strong artificial intelligence will become reality in the next decades. The reference to humanist tradition should therefore not deceive that this is risky technology, its effects are beyond imagination and the development speed is too rapid to be checked for all possible side effects. In addition, profit-making is the key driving force of companies developing products, and not the promise of a new age. The google AI who beat the Go World Champion, or Dr Watson of the Jeopardy Champion is only the tip of the iceberg of what might be possible in the near future. It should be pointed out that it has not been possible yet to establish a General AI, but only AIs for special tasks in a very tightly defined problem framework. However, there is an AI on OpenAI, which can beat any Atari game more or less successfully. A concrete example of the impact of technology on humans is, for example, that studies come to the conclusion that 50% of jobs will be lost over the next 20 years due to generalized application of robotics and artificial intelligence. An unconditional basic income is an obvious solution to mitigate the effects. But this is not sufficient. Work is something about which people define themselves. One would therefore have to think about new possibilities of social integration and giving your life a meaning. New forms of more intimate coexistence must also be explored and realized because the traditional family is based too much on the concept “work”. And here Thelema comes into play. While transhumanism is more a social vision, Thelema addresses the individual. In Liber L’s commentary, the following can be read: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law“ [And then in short version.] What this means everyone may decide for himself. “Love is the law, love under will.” It is known among the IT-people that the most beautiful software is not useful if the user does not apply it. The greatest technology is pointless, if I can not reconcile it with my personal goals. The exploration of the true will, which for me is a harmonious relationship of the individual with its environment, can be supported by technology, but the users decides how to use what technology. This is not always easy, competencies in the handling of the technology have to be learned and not only extend to an intellectual understanding. For example, for a gender transformation, I am aware that hormone therapy completely turns my life upside down probably, however, I will only find out what that means, if I decide to do so. The subjective experience of the individual thus far can only be insufficiently judged objectively. A slightly less dramatic example is the medication of healthy people who try to optimize certain capabilities such as the ability to think. The black market for Medikinet is booming and the consumers are especially those who are no regular drug users, although Medikinet is suspected of causing psychosis if taken without a proper medication. Another interesting example is biohacking. It is possible to get a surgical kit on the internet and a guide how to perform a local anesthesia and how to implant a technical device, for example a transponder. Like this you can aquire additional senses. An electrical impulse might indicate the body where North is, or the next free W-Lan. Or you simply implant a magnet under your hand, in order to be able to pick up coins more easily. Here it can neither be appropriate to warn of the diabolic technology and shut yourself away, nor should one get carried away by the promises of advertisements. Who can have a reasonably demanding job without a computer today? Tomorrow, one might perhaps need implants to get along in work or in everyday life. Nevertheless, as a none-cyborg, i assume one should not blindly accept every implant.
If i see Thelema as a collection of methods to be aware of oneself, meaning to have a good rapport with myself, then I may get a better feeling for decisions that are good for me, or it is easier for me to speak for myself without having to ask other people. This allows me to acquire some kind of self-competence, making it possible for me to make decisions in order to live a full life by extending my scope instead of reducing it. Self-competence does not necessarily mean to know the impact of every decision. However, one should know the risks he is willing to take in order to achieve the goals he aims for. Thus, risky technology leads to the fact that the user has more to deal with what he actually intends. Transhumanism ultimately cannot grant safeness, but it is clear that our present state doesnt grant that either. Not to intervene into evolution means to leave it to chance. Not to follow my will means leaving the decision about how to live to someone else. Why should this always be the better choice?
Ok, the first two points are checked off. What still remains is the thing about immortality. Immortality is an ancient theme of religions, the own mortality will even puzzle enlightened people again and again. It is a sort of crack in our self model, so to speak. The Mystics know that death can mean alot of things; it is not just the end of our lives as a biological existence. Of course, when death can be so many things, the logical question arises what life is all about. The passing on of knowledge by the generations, which might now make the great work of Transhumanism possible, perhaps also is a form of immortality. In addition, life-prolonging methods already exist and are subject of research:
- Immortality is still science fiction, but the slowdown of the ageing process has been shown to be technically possible in animal experiments. The biological body may be far less subject to entropy than we experience in practice. A few minor genetic corrections and our life expectancy may rise to several hundred years. Several companies like the SENS research foundation are investigating this. [For example there are scientific studies, demonstrating that the aging process of mice can be slowed down. There are, however, no serious scientifical studies giving evidence that human beings can become immortal. Not even SENS is claiming this. SENS just holds out the theoretical possibility of immortality under certain conditions. Technologies such as mind uploading as an example are currently science fiction. Furthermore, immortality per se is no goal of transhumanism, it is only for prevention of suffering. Depending on interpretation, a few transhumanists argue that aging = suffering. But this can also be disputed. Prevention of death is at least media-effective. As far as I have noticed, there were some Transhumanists, to whom the immortality topic was important. Otherwise thanks for the information, i will qualify my claims.]
- Engineered organs. From organ trafficking to organ donation to organ breeding. Meanwhile it is possible to make some organs which are functional, by 3D printing, the used technology is still in the experimental stage. Printing of living cells is still problematic too, even though some progress was made by using methods derived from inkjet printing. One can also make something like protein scaffolds (with 3D printing, but also by other means) and then let cells grow on them. For the most part, this is still very experimental, but I think on scaffolds made out of collagen and spider silk, ear-replacements already have been grown.
- Become a cyborg. Replace fragile organic parts by cybernetic prosthesis. This already happens, heart pacemakers eg. Prostheses can also be made more cost-effective with mixed success. Some prostheses for soldiers are that good that the soldiers again would have combat value, other prostheses tend to malfunction frequently. Keyword biohacking. Additional functions are possible, prostheses are adaptable depending on the use. Creative approaches are particularly interesting. The color-blinded who can hear “colors” by a technical device.
- Treatment with blood plasma of young humans. Brain and other organs rejuvenate due to blood transfusion. Still not sufficiently researched.
- Gen and cell therapy and autophagy. Already co-opted by esoterics, not sufficiently researched. Experiments with telomerase are also very interesting, and bacterial DNA repair enzymes.
- Fast. Not sufficiently explored, is suspected to prolong life
- Cryostasis. Humans are deep-frozen in order to wait for progress to invent new methods of healing or life-extension. Not sufficiently researched. No water ice crystals that destroy cell membranes may form during the freezing process. New approaches using sugar solutions, as far as i know inspired by tardigrades and frogs and so on.
- Nanotechnology. Nanobots, which are injected into the blood system to improve health. At present science fiction.
- Cloning. Multiple lives?
- Mind Upload. Mind on hard disk? An eternal life in Virtual Reality or as a robot. Possibility of a mind download into a clone. At present science fiction.
Do we need the supernatural to become immortal, or is the materially implementable immortality sufficient?
Do we need the supernatural to explain things like consciousness?
In the exploration of our own consciousness, Virtual Worlds and Artificial Intelligence can be extremely rewarding objects of study and are already partly used as such, even if our consciousness should be more than mere brain chemistry - in which case unsurmountable quality differences may become noticeable.
Technical aids can be useful to achieve a deeper understanding about phenomena such as meditation or dreams and if necessary, to make them more communicable, Metzinger speaks in this context of 1. person techniques.
Is there something like a naturalistic mysticism? Something like materialistic idealism? Magic realism in art denotes a stylistic direction, that synthesizes reality and hallucination to a third form of perception. So instead of excluding subjectivity, it is integrated. I envision something similar for the thinking - A world view that attempts to open itself up to subjectivity without losing itself into subjectivity, as well as generally be open without being merely arbitrary.
Above all: Does Thelema need the supernatural? I would like to refer to the definition of Magick. Magick does not contain any reference to the supernatural in his various definitions. Supernatural, for example, is defined in art as transforming will into action.
In my opinion spirituality can be realized through the overwhelming experience of being-in-the-world. Things like intellectual honesty, radical skepticism and an open worldview could be described as spiritual, because to question everything really is a venture few individuals are ready to letting themselves in and certainly represents a more intense experience than to listen to the soporific Bible readings, as can be experienced on a church pew. Specifically on the question: “How far am I willing to go to achieve my goals?” - for example, am I ready to change my perception and to change my body through technology? Instead of speaking about spirituality or mysticism one could also speak about operative psychology to clarify the subjective component as such.
We may have the privilege of taking an active role in participating in the greatest social vision since the French revolution. With all the enthusiasm or the fear for the coming, critical distance needs to be maintained, so we dont forget ourselves in the hustle and bustle and continue to be able to act and think in good conscience. Such a polarizing issue makes it difficult to still ask the right questions, but that exactly remains the essential task.
In fact, I see transhumanism as the only surviving utopia in a capitalism behaving itself as only alternative. A social turning to nationalist or fundamentalist worldview is as much a sign of helplessness as a conversion to thoughtless consumerism is.
The symbiosis of transhumanism and thelema could be very productive.