The Machine Will Never Triumph, part twenty-two
Vengeance is mine—
Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord, I will repay.—
And the stiff-necked people, and the self-willed people, and self-
important ones, the self-righteous, self-absorbed
all of them who wind their energy round the idea of themselves
and so strangle off their connection with the ceaseless tree of life,
and fall into sharp, self-centred self-assertion, sharp or soft,
they fall victim at once to the vengeance of the unforgiving god
as their nerves are stretched till they twangle and snap
and irritation seethes secretly through their guts, as their tissue
and flames of katabolistic energy alternate
with ashes of utter boredom, ennui, and disgust.
It is the vengeance of the Lord, long and unremitting
till the soul of the stiff-necked is ground to dust, to fertilising meal
with which to manure afresh the roots of the tree of life.
And so the Lord of Vengeance pays back, repays life
for the defection of the self-centred ones.1
Egotism is a disaster for one’s spiritual practice, and one of the greatest sins. To be egotistic is to be cut off from the world and to be uprooted. To be egotistic and self-willed is to spiritually set oneself on fire, but not the fire that heats and invigorates, but the fire that burns one alive, burns one down. The Gods disapprove of the egotistic, and for those who are self-absorbed, their fate is to be reincarnated in a new form that may attain something better and higher than the limited self. The Gods are good, but they are also just. As Emily Brontë writes:
And whispering ever, when I pray,
“God will repay—God will repay!”
He does repay and soon and well
The deeds that turn his earth to hell
The wrongs that aim a venomed dart
Through nature at the Eternal Heart2
Though the repayment may not be in this life, it will happen. And, of course, their punishment is always swift in one way, namely the removal of their grace from the self-centered person and the person who defiles the planet. To be egoistic, by definition, means that one cannot be a lover of other humans, animals, or the planet. Worst of all, egotism prevents one from attaining communion with the Gods. As Lawrence writes:
It all seemed so far from the dark God he wished to serve, the God from whom the dark, sensual passion of love emanates, deeper than the spiritual love of Christ. He wanted men once more to refer the sensual passion of love sacredly to the great dark God, the Nameless, of the first dark religions. And how could that be done, when each dry little individual ego was just mechanically set against any such dark flow, such ancient submission.3
Men like Gods.
When men think they are like gods
they are usually much less than men
being conceited fools.4
The mark of a truly godly man is to put others above himself. The mark of a truly debased man is to think he is higher even than the Gods. So long as we, as a species, are hubristic and ego-centric we will never change a thing on this planet for the better. One must fight one’s lower self with all of his or her strength. Only by doing so, and coming out victorious, may one potentially attain to peace, freedom, and love in the world. But, so long as the ego rules and man continues his hubristic adventure with technology, nature and all life on this planet will be headed for extinction. Even the Gods have limits. Only the eternal Fire at the base of all that is, is without limits. For a person to act as if there are no limits is, perhaps, the greatest crime of all. James Cowan writes:
The crimes of Tantalus represent those we have inflicted upon ourselves. We have overturned the laws of limitation and dismembered nature for our own consumption. Finiteness is no longer the embodiment of creativity but its obverse. Hubris rather than humility has become our primary motive. The gods will condemn us for this crime, just as they did Tantalus. Until we display warmth and dignity in our relations with the world, and by implication towards nature, then we will have achieved nothing.5
By taking on a god-like role in the world, we have become less even than machines. All that was non-man has been erased, but in the process even man has been replaced, such that man has become a robot and has roboticized everything, so that wherever he looks, it is as if he is looking in a mirror. Heidegger puts this as follows:
As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object, but does so, rather, exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. In this way the impression comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. This illusion gives rise in turn to one final delusion: It seems as though man everywhere and always encounters only himself.6
The only way to avoid this is to de-center one from one’s self, and to attain to a semblance of unity with all of creation. The soul is already perfect, here and now, so all effort at perfecting what is already perfect takes away from that perfection. This is why ancient man was so much higher than modern man. Modern man with all of his inventions has climbed down the chain of being, since he lets his appliances work for him. All attempts at perfection are mechanical and, as such, are doomed to failure. As Lawrence writes:
The Perfectibility Of Man! Ah heaven, what a dreary theme! The perfectibility of the Ford car! The perfectibility of which man? I am many men. Which of them are you going to perfect? I am not a mechanical contrivance.7
What then is Evil?
Oh, in the world of the flesh of man
iron gives the deadly wound
and the wheel starts the principle of all evil.
Oh, in the world of things
the wheel is the first principle of evil.
But in the world of the soul of man
there, and there alone lies the pivot of pure evil
only in the soul of man, when it pivots upon the ego.
When the mind makes a wheel which turns on the hub of the ego
and the will, the living dynamo, gives the motion and the speed
and the wheel of the conscious self spins on in absolution, absolute
absolute, absolved from the sun and the earth and the moon,
absolute consciousness, absolved from strife and kisses
absolute self-awareness, absolved from the meddling of creation
absolute freedom, absolved from the great necessities of being
then we see evil, pure evil
and we see it only in man
and in his machines.8
During the golden age of mankind, there was no need for machinery, since there was abundance. Now we say we need machinery due to scarcity, but it is we humans that have caused the scarcity in the first place. As such, even the first steps we took towards the development of machines were evil steps. The wheel and the plow, insofar as they led to machines are evil. Only man could have invented machines, and so mankind is the only species capable of evil. A badger builds, but never exceeds its needs, whereas man, with his hubris, and his machines, builds, and in so building he destroys everything. As Nietzsche writes:
[E]ven if measured according to the criteria of the ancient Greeks, our whole modern being, in so far as it is not weakness but power and consciousness of power, continues to distinguish itself as sheer hubris and godlessness: for throughout most of history it has been the very opposite of the things we honour today which have had conscience on their side and God as their guardian. Today our whole attitude towards nature is one of hubris, our violation of nature with the aid of machines and the thoughtless ingenuity of technicians and engineers.9
There are tangible wheels, then there are spiritual wheels. The machines we externally build are monstrous, but far more monstrous are the machines we build internally, which tarnish our souls. No other creature does this. From the Gods, down to the ants, only humans exalt the ego, and, as such, it is collective man who represents the ultimate principle of the ego. When Jesus told Satan to get behind him, he was really fighting with the evil principle at the root of his own soul. We have the capacity to do and be good, but we also have the capacity to wreak terrible evil. Modern man created the Machine, but now he is the Machine’s tool, and both, together, hand in hand rape the planet. But, even so, though some men are to blame, many have been robot automatons since childhood, and these people are not to be hated, but pitied. We all should try to save them. Mumford paints a sad picture of their lives:
We arrest our inner creativity with external compulsions and irrelevant anxieties, at the mercy of constant interruptions by telephone and radio and insistent print, timing our lives to the movement of a production belt we do not control. At the same time, we give authority to the stomach, the muscles, the genitals—to animal reflexes that produce obedient consumers, whip-wielding man-trainers, slavish political subjects, push-button automatons.10
At the root of our present crisis is the illusion that we are able to solve every problem, and overcome every difficulty. The truth, however, is that too many of our solutions only make the problems worse. We are so focused on doing, that we have lost the art of being. Lawrence describes where this has led us:
This has been the fallacy of our age—the assumption that we, of our own will, and by our own precept and prescription, can create the perfect being and the perfect age. The truth is, that we have the faculty to form and distort even our own natures, and the natures of our fellow men. But we can create nothing. And the thing we can make of our own natures, by our own will, is at the most a pure mechanism, an automaton.11
Death is not Evil, Evil is Mechanical.
Only the human being, absolved from kissing and strife
goes on and on and on, without wandering
fixed upon the hub of the ego
going, yet never wandering, fixed, yet in motion,
the kind of hell that is real, grey and awful
sinless and stainless going round and round
the kind of hell grey Dante never saw
but of which he had a bit inside him.
Know thyself, and that thou art mortal.
But know thyself, denying that thou art mortal:
a thing of kisses and strife
a lit-up shaft of rain
a calling column of blood
a rose tree bronzey with thorns
a mixture of yea and nay
a rainbow of love and hate
a wind that blows back and forth
a creature of beautiful peace, like a river
a creature of conflict, like a cataract:
know thyself, in denial of all these things—
And thou shalt begin to spin round on the hub of the obscene ego
a grey void thing that goes without wandering
a machine that in itself is nothing
a centre of the evil world-soul.12
The true man is made up of many dualities, many contradictions. To deny them is to deny who we are. As soon as we walk away from our animal natures, we walk toward machine-like natures, and that is evil. All of this is a result of the spirit/self/ego in opposition to the body and soul, and it all starts with the metaphorical apple from the tree of good and evil. If we want to get back to paradise, we have to stop trying to know, and start simply being. As Lawrence puts it:
The final aim is not to know, but to be. There never was a more risky motto than that: Know thyself. You’ve got to know yourself as far as possible. But not just for the sake of knowing. You’ve got to know yourself so that you can at last be yourself. “Be Yourself” is the last motto.13
Brontë, Emily. The Complete Poems. Edited by Janet Gezari. London: Penguin Books, 1992.
Cowan, James. A Spanner in the Works. Blackheath: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2007.
Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology. Translated by William Lovitt. New York: Harper Perennial, 2013.
Lawrence, D. H. Kangaroo. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Studies in Classic American Literature. Edited by Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Mumford, Lewis. The Conduct of Life. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. On the Genealogy of Morals. Translated by Douglas Smith. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 530.
Emily Brontë, The Complete Poems, ed. Janet Gezari (London: Penguin Books, 1992), 187.
D. H. Lawrence, Kangaroo, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 202.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:580.
James Cowan, A Spanner in the Works (Blackheath: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2007), 24.
Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013), 26–27.
D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, ed. Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 20.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:626.
Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Douglas Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 92.
Lewis Mumford, The Conduct of Life (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970), 11.
Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, 180–81.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:627–28.
D. H. Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 105.