The Machine Will Never Triumph, part twenty-three
When we get out of the glass bottles of our own ego,
and when we escape like squirrels from turning in the cages of our
and get into the forest again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.1
The principles Lawrence writes of in the poem are very powerful and, potentially, life-changing. We have already laid out numerous problems with the attachment to the ego, but Lawrence goes farther here and gives us the very welcome news that if we can get out of our heads, we can start living, whether that living happens again or for the very first time. To escape the cage of our personality allows us to get back in touch with all of nature. It is a frightening thing when it happens, but it has beautiful consequences. When the death-dealing ego is surrendered, we will abound in life, a beautiful life of the soul, and when that happens we will change and we will no longer need systems and machines. When that happens, all of modernity will crumble, and the house will come down, praise be to the Gods. Lawrence and Kierkegaard would have seen eye to eye on this:
[I]t may very well be that the best responses to technology will not come from tracts seeking to “overcome” its threat but, rather, from those that cultivate a different way of thinking about and participating in reality. Put in concrete terms, having a conversation, taking a walk in the woods, or spending time in prayer may very well be more important in this area than any particular philosophical or sociological retort.2
Subtle changes within one person can create more real change in the world than major wars and revolutions. To attain an understanding of the Machine, and to know it as pure evil, is to already have claimed a major victory. We can only escape from the systems of mass-slavery that dominate us by understanding their diabolical nature. Schuon writes:
[W]hoever understands the real nature of machinery will at the same time escape from psychological enslavement to machines, and this is already a great gain. We say this without any optimism and without losing sight of the fact that the present world is a necessary evil whose metaphysical root lies in the last analysis in the infinity of Divine Possibility.3
Schuon was neither optimistic, like Lawrence, nor pessimistic, like Jeffers. Certainly, our present predicament lies within the realm of “Divine Possibility,” but we would disagree with Schuon when he states that “the present world is a necessary evil.” This world was a possibility, but not a necessity. And, we have to side with Lawrence, since his optimism, which we will detail in the chapter on the Machine, is based on certain metaphysical truths. Ultimately, if all life on this planet becomes extinct, the Machine will cease to exist as well. Gods and souls are immortal, but the Machine is transitory, so Lawrence is fully correct when he states that “the machine will never triumph.”4 Additionally, no matter how robot-like a man has become, he still contains a kernel deep within him of the numinous soul that existed prior to the body and will exist after the demise of his current incarnation. Even at his most machine-like, a man always has the potential to awaken: “[T]he living, wakeful psyche is so flexible and sensitive, it has a horror of automatism. While the soul really lives, its deepest dread is perhaps the dread of automatism. For automatism in life is a forestalling of the death process.”5
Clearly, something is wrong, but it is no use focusing on the past or the future, since our lives exist here and now. Sure, we can blame machines, technology, and systems, but we created all of those. We have criticized all of these, since it needed to be done, but dwelling on it will get us nowhere. Ultimately, the root of the problem is in the human psyche, but the solution also lies there as well. As Friedrich Hölderlin writes “The god is near and / Hard to grasp but / Where there is danger some / Salvation grows there too.”6 To change the world, we must first change ourselves. As Lawrence states:
What is wrong then? The system. But when you’ve said that you’ve said nothing. The system, after all, is only the outcome of the human psyche, the human desires. We shout and blame the machine. But who on earth makes the machine, if we don’t? And any alterations in the system are only modifications in the machine.—The system is in us, it is not something external to us. The machine is in us, or it would never come out of us. Well then, there’s nothing to blame but ourselves, and there’s nothing to change except inside ourselves.7
We must change ourselves! But, to do so we must escape from the prison walls of the ego and do battle with all the evil forces within us. Standard psychology is not only no help here, but in most cases is downright detrimental. Western psychiatrists are often too focused on drugging their patients into submission rather than leading them towards enlightenment. It is much better to be like the old Zen master who hits his student on the head and calls the Buddha a “dried shit stick” in order to awaken him. “We have lost the art of living, and in the most important science of all, the science of daily life, the science of behaviour, we are complete ignoramuses. We have psychology instead.”8 As for religion, it can either awaken us or make us dead inside; it all depends on the religion in question. Classical, earth-centered, pagan religions were all vivifying, but modern religions, especially those that focus on law and renounce beauty, such as Protestantism and all forms of fundamentalism, are endless vacuums that suck the life force out of us.
The nemesis that awaits our civilisation
is social insanity
which in the end is always homicidal.
Sanity means the wholeness of the consciousness.
And our society is only part conscious, like an idiot.
If we do not rapidly open all the doors of consciousness
and freshen the putrid little space in which we are cribbed
the sky-blue walls of our unventilated heaven
will be bright red with blood.9
As Lawrence makes clear, sanity only exists wholly, integrally. To separate out even the best part of our consciousness will only lead to insanity. Since so few today are whole, far too many are insane, and our society as a whole appears more and more insane. Only through a reintegration of the consciousness, whether through arduous practice, devotion to the Gods, time spent in nature, or the judicious use of psychedelics, will we attain wholeness, and hence sanity. Modern psychiatry, rather than integrating consciousness, separates off only the socially acceptable parts, then tries to kill off the rest of a man’s being. So rather than feeling what he or she should feel, a person tends to feel only anger and hatred, or nothing at all. As Lawrence states, this is insane:
As a matter of fact, far from having nice feelings about everything, we have nice feelings about practically nothing. We get less and less our share of nice feelings. More and more we get horrid feelings, which we have to suppress hard. Or, if we don’t admit it, then we must admit that we get less and less feelings of any sort. Our capacity for feeling anything is going numb, more and more numb, till we feel we shall soon reach zero, and pure insanity.10
The sane universe
One might talk of the sanity of the atom
the sanity of space
the sanity of the electron
the sanity of water—
For it is all alive
and has something comparable to that which we call sanity in ourselves.
The only oneness is the oneness of sanity.11
All that is, is alive, from the Gods, to the Sun, to wild horses, to a million-year-old rock. It is all alive. We are alive as well, but by separating ourselves from the universe, we have less of the vivid fire of life flowing through our veins. To be revivified, we must reintegrate ourselves with the cosmos. A very tangible example comes from Lawrence:
The atom! Why, the moment you discover the atom it will explode under your nose. The moment you discover the ether it will evaporate. The moment you get down to the real basis of anything, it will dissolve into a thousand problematic constituents. And the more problems you solve, the more will spring up with their fingers at their nose, making a fool of you.12
Lawrence published this statement in 1922. It is a prophetic statement considering the events of the last hundred years. An atom is a unity. As soon as we split the atom we end up with Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima. When certain parties of delusional pseudo-greens today advocate for nuclear power or fusion, they are fools. As Lawrence makes clear, any problems solved by technology will cause many more problems in the long run.
Fear of society is the root of all evil
Today, the social consciousness is mutilated
so everything is insane:
success is insane, and failure is insane
chastity is insane, and debauchery is insane
money is insane, and poverty is insane.
A fearful thing is the mutilated social consciousness.13
Through the creation of technological systems, our individual psyches have become mutilated. These mutilated psyches in turn create more systems. It is a vicious circle, leading ever onward toward a more and more psychotic society. A free man can only be alone, but to be alone is not natural either. Only organic togetherness in a spirit of brotherhood and tenderness is truly lovely, truly sane. That is why all the sun-men must come together into small communities—Rananim—so as to foster their ideals.14 As Lawrence writes:
He knew that conscience was chiefly fear of society, or fear of oneself. He was not afraid of himself. But he was quite consciously afraid of society, which he knew by instinct to be a malevolent, partly-insane beast. […]
Oh, if only there were other men to be with, to fight that sparkling electric Thing outside there, to preserve the tenderness of life, […] and the natural riches of desire. If only there were men to fight side by side with! But the men were all outside there, glorying in the Thing, triumphing or being trodden down in the rush of mechanized greed or of greedy mechanism.15
We must find other anti-Machine people and come together in loving brotherhood and sisterhood. We must do this to re-establish the natural, organic flow between people. Without this life-giving warmth, we are doomed. As Lawrence states:
[O]ur civilisation, with its horrible fear and funk and repression and bullying, has almost destroyed the natural flow of common sympathy, between men and men and men and women. […] If you don’t, if you don’t put back a bit of the old warmth into life, there is savage disaster ahead.16
Sane and insane.
The puritan is insane
and the profligate is insane
and they divide the world.
The wealthy are insane
and the poverty-stricken are insane
and the world is going to pieces between them.
The puritan is afraid
and the profligate is afraid.
The wealthy are afraid
and the poverty-stricken are afraid.
They are afraid with horrible and opposing fears
which threaten to tear the world in two, between them.17
Dividing humanity into opposing classes results in social insanity. Human unity is an illusion, but so is the unity of religion, race, class, or nationality. The only unity is the unity of one’s self. And yet, for all these opposing interests’ fear or hatred of each other, they are all really the same at heart. The wealthy want to keep their wealth, and the poor want to become wealthy. Nobody challenges the system itself. But, it is the system—and even systems as such—that is at fault, rather than any one group. Lawrence describes what modernity does to men and women:
[M]otor-cars and cinemas and aeroplanes suck the last bit out of them. I tell you, every generation breeds a more rabbity generation, with indiarubber tubing for guts and tin legs and tin faces. Tin people! It’s all a steady sort of bolshevism—just killing off the human thing, and worshipping the mechanical thing. Money, money, money! All the modern lot get their real kick out of killing the old human feeling out of man, making mincemeat of the old Adam and the old Eve. They’re all […] little twiddling machines. […] If we go on at our present rate then in a hundred years’ time there won’t be ten thousand people in this island: there may not be ten. They’ll have lovingly wiped each other out. […] Quite nice! To contemplate the extermination of the human species and the long pause that follows before some other species crops up, it calms you more than anything else.—And if we go on in this way, with everybody, intellectuals, artists, government, industrialists and workers all frantically killing off the last human feeling, the last bit of their intuition, the last healthy instinct—if it goes on in algebraical progression, as it is going now: then ta-tah! to the human species! Goodbye! darling! the serpent swallows itself and leaves a void, considerably messed up, but not hopeless. Very nice! When savage wild dogs bark in Wragby, and savage wild pit-ponies stamp on Tevershall pit-bank!18
As Lawrence writes, the extermination of the human race, if it is the robotic humanity we now witness all around us, is not an event to be feared, nor hated. But, the problem is that if humanity goes, it very likely will take the whole world with it. Whether through war or through the relentless onslaught of the capitalist machinery upon the natural world, humanity is “developing” in a way that will lead to the extinction of all life on this planet. Unfortunately, “all western civilisation is now mechanised, materialised, and ready for an outburst of insanity which shall throw us all into some purely machine-driven unity of lunatics.”19
In all creation, only man cowers and is afraid of life.
Only man is terrified of his own possible splendour and delight.
Only is man agonised in front of the necessity to be something better
than he is,
poor mental worm.
Though maybe the mammoth got too big in tusk and teeth,
and the extinct giant elk too big in antlers,
out of fear of the unknown enemy;
so perhaps they too died out from fear,
as man is likely to do.20
No animal, no mineral, nothing in existence lives life in fear, especially fear of life, save for man. It seems, sometimes, that man’s speciality is not his intelligence, nor his ability to craft things, but his all-pervading sense of fear; fear of death, even fear of life. Lawrence makes a good point in saying that man is likely to exterminate himself out of fear. All our systems, all our technology, and even the Machine itself, man created to dull his fear of death. So, man tries to solve the problem of death, and in so doing brings death upon himself. As Lawrence writes:
The old Adam isn’t an animal that you can permanently domesticate. Domesticated, he goes deranged.
We are the sad results of a four-thousand-year effort to break the Old Adam, to domesticate him utterly. He is to a large extent broken and domesticated. […]
Our masses are rapidly going insane.
And in the horror of nullity—for the human being comes to have his own nullity in horror, he is terrified by his own incapacity to feel anything at all, he has a mad fear, at last, of his own self-consciousness—the modern man sets up the reverse process of katabolism, destructive sensation. He can no longer have any living productive feelings. Very well, he will have destructive sensations, produced by katabolism on his most intimate tissues.
Drink, drugs, jazz, speed, “petting”, all modern forms of thrill, are just the production of sensation by the katabolism of the finest conscious cells of our living body. We explode our own cells and release a certain energy and accompanying sensation. It is, naturally, a process of suicide.21
We are wild animals that have striven for thousands of years to escape the wild, but with every step taken towards that goal, we take two steps backwards towards destruction and nothingness. We are so afraid of real life, and our systems have dulled us so much inside, that we resort to all the “thrills” Lawrence mentioned above, but they only serve to hasten our demise. If we are going to change anything for the better and get back to the real, vivid life of past ages, we need to conquer the fears of life and death. Lawrence writes:
You can set up State Aid and Old Age Pensions and Young Age Pensions till you’re black in the face. But if you can’t cure people of being frightened for their own existence, you’ll educate them in vain. You may as well let a frightened little Jimmy Shepherd go bottle-blowing at the age of four. If he’s frightened for his own existence, he’ll never do more than keep himself assertively materially alive. And that’s the end of it. So he might just as well start young, and avoid those lying years of idealistic education.
So that the first thing to be done, in the education of the people, is to cure them of the fear of not earning their own living. This won’t be easy. The fear goes deep, in our nervous age. Men will go through all the agonies of war, and come out more frightened still of not being able to earn their living. It is a mystery. They will face guns and shells and unspeakable horrors, almost with equanimity. After all, that’s merely death. It’s not life. Life is the thing to be afraid of—and having enough money to live on is the anguished soul-problem. It has become an idée fixe, the idea of earning, or not earning, a living. And we are all monomaniacs in it.22
The history of the last hundred years has shown that even communist and socialist systems cannot get rid of our fears. They only obfuscate them under more layers of bureaucracy. Nothing social can be of help unless man is internally free from fear, and that is something between a man and his Gods. Of course, once that is taken care of, life should be as free as possible. The system of grab, of buying and selling, must be done away with. The need of money to survive is a beastly burden, And even though getting rid of money won’t magically help us to get rid of our fears, if we get rid of our fears, we may be able to live happier and more peaceful lives without the burden of needing money. All of our work to be like Gods has made us like machines. “Man is a domesticated animal, that must think. His thinking makes him a little lower than the angels. And his domestication makes him, at times, a little lower than the monkey.”23 If we want to be angelic once again, we need to rediscover our primitive roots.
God and the Holy Ghost.
There is no sinning against God, what does God care about sin!
But there is sinning against the Holy Ghost, since the Holy Ghost is
in the flesh, is part of our consciousness.
The Holy Ghost is the deepest part of our own consciousness
wherein we know ourselves for what we are
and know our dependence on the creative beyond.
So if we go counter to our own deepest consciousness
naturally we destroy the most essential self in us,
and once done, there is no remedy, no salvation for this,
nonentity is our portion.24
Lawrence believed in life after death, but like Ibn Sina, he believed that not all souls were destined for eternal life. We will dilate on this more in the chapter on eschatology, but in brief summary, Lawrence believed that for a soul to attain some form of life in the great beyond, it needed to have lived here, in this world. All live save for robots, and so most people in the past, attained some form of salvation, but many people today so subjugate their consciousness that their only end is nothingness. This is far more compelling than certain narratives of the Semitic religions. There is no notion of sin or heaven and hell, but simply the dictum to “Live!” and if, and only if, we cannot do this simplest thing, we have failed. Now, since a soul is made of eternal stuff, most likely, it does not cease to exist entirely, but in layman’s terms it is sent to the big recycling plant in the sky, to descend again, wiped of all memories. On the other hand, for those who have lived, whether they are reincarnated, meet the Gods, or attain unity with the Fire at the root of all being, there is continuity and some form of memory is preserved. All we need to do to ensure this is to listen to the Holy Ghost / dark Gods within us. To put the same thought into more philosophical terminology, Heidegger writes:
[I]n order that man in his essence may become attentive to the essence of technology, and in order that there may be founded an essential relationship between technology and man in respect to their essence, modern man must first and above all find his way back into the full breadth of the space proper to his essence. That essential space of man’s essential being receives the dimension that unites it to something beyond itself solely from out of the conjoining relation that is the way in which the safekeeping of Being itself is given to belong to the essence of man as the one who is needed and used by Being. Unless man first establishes himself beforehand in the space proper to his essence and there takes up his dwelling, he will not be capable of anything essential within the destining now holding sway. In pondering this let us pay heed to a word of Meister Eckhart, as we think it in keeping with what is most fundamental to it. It reads: “Those who are not of a great essence, whatever work they perform, nothing comes of it.”25
Greatness is only greatness of vitality and of soul. Greatness of wealth, power, or material achievements is a greatness of nothing. All around us today, we witness the great void that civilization and people have become. “[P]eople are becoming soulless[…] [T]hey have conquered the lower worlds of metal and energy, so they whizz around in machines, circling the void of their own emptiness.”26 Despite this, we can change here and now. The Gods are alive! If we open our hearts, Nature, and the Holy Ghost will be there to welcome us with open arms. Listen to Gerard Manley Hopkins:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.27
Since Lawrence’s understanding of the Holy Ghost is so dramatically different from that of orthodox Christian theologians and philosophers, it will be helpful for the reader, at this point, to hear what Lawrence means by the term Holy Ghost:
The brave soul of man refuses to have the life-quick pierced in him. It is strange: but just as the thwarted will can persist evilly, after death, so can the brave spirit preserve, even through torture and death, the quick of life and truth. Nowadays society is evil. It finds subtle ways of torture, to destroy the life-quick, to get at the life-quick in a man. Every possible form. And still a man can hold out, if he can laugh and listen to the Holy Ghost.—But society is evil, evil[…] And evil breeds evil, more and more[…] We live to stand alone, and listen to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost, who is inside us, and who is many gods. Many gods come and go, some say one thing and some say another, and we have to obey the God of the innermost hour. It is the multiplicity of gods within us make up the Holy Ghost.28
Clearly, then, for Lawrence the Holy Ghost is synonymous with the dark Gods inside us, the intangible daemons or Gods within the cores of our beings that are the umbilical cords connecting us to the Powers that lie outside ourselves throughout the cosmos. The Gods are alive, and they can work through us: Athena, Dionysus, Odin, Artemis, and so on all exist tangibly, and all can work in us through the power of the Holy Ghost. This is such a powerful conception of reality, and really puts modern theological and philosophical systems to shame. As Lawrence writes:
[I]f we really try to grasp the pagan symbolic psychology, in its great range and its great depth of understanding—symbolic understanding—it does make our modern conception of the human being look small and trashy. And we really are smaller and sillier, as understanding emotional beings, than the pagans were. We are cleverer mentally. But physically, emotionally, vitally we are smaller and sillier than the intelligent pagans[.]29
We will have more to write on these topics in later chapters of this text.
Barnett, Christopher B. Kierkegaard and the Question Concerning Technology. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019.
Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology. Translated by William Lovitt. New York: Harper Perennial, 2013.
Hopkins, Gerard Manley. The Major Works. Edited by Catherine Phillips. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Hölderlin, Friedrich. Selected Poetry. Translated by David Constantine. Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2018.
Lawrence, D. H. Apocalypse. Edited by Mara Kalnins. London: Penguin Books, 1995.
———. Introductions and Reviews. Edited by N. H. Reeve and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Edited by Michael Squires. London: Penguin Books, 2009.
———. Late Essays and Articles. Edited by James T. Boulton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious. Edited by Bruce Steele. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays. Edited by Michael Herbert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
———. Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays. Edited by Simonetta De Filippis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. Studies in Classic American Literature. Edited by Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
———. The Plumed Serpent. Edited by L. D. Clark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
———. The Poems. Edited by Christopher Pollnitz. Vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Schuon, Frithjof. Language of the Self. Bloomington: World Wisdom, 1999.
D. H. Lawrence, The Poems, ed. Christopher Pollnitz, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 418.
Christopher B. Barnett, Kierkegaard and the Question Concerning Technology (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), 111–12.
Frithjof Schuon, Language of the Self (Bloomington: World Wisdom, 1999), 127.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:537.
D. H. Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, ed. Bruce Steele (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 181.
Friedrich Hölderlin, Selected Poetry, trans. David Constantine (Northumberland: Bloodaxe Books, 2018), 154.
D. H. Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, ed. Michael Herbert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 90.
D. H. Lawrence, Sketches of Etruscan Places and Other Italian Essays, ed. Simonetta De Filippis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 116.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:447.
D. H. Lawrence, Introductions and Reviews, ed. N. H. Reeve and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 88–89.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:448.
Lawrence, Psychoanalysis and the Unconscious and Fantasia of the Unconscious, 167.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:448.
Lawrence’s notion of “sun-men” living in a small isolated community called Rananim is described in a later chapter.
D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, ed. Michael Squires (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 120.
D. H. Lawrence, Late Essays and Articles, ed. James T. Boulton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 223–24.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:448–49.
Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, 217–18.
Lawrence, Late Essays and Articles, 284.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:460.
Lawrence, Late Essays and Articles, 173–74.
Lawrence, Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine and Other Essays, 91–92.
Lawrence, The Poems, 1:535.
Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013), 39–40.
D. H. Lawrence, The Plumed Serpent, ed. L. D. Clark (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 140.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, The Major Works, ed. Catherine Phillips (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 128.
D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, ed. Ezra Greenspan, Lindeth Vasey, and John Worthen (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 80.
D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse, ed. Mara Kalnins (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 189.