The Cosmos and other things: an interview with Greg Moffitt

Greg Moffitt at Legalize Freedom has posted an interview with me about The Caretakers of the Cosmos. Here’s the link:

8 thoughts on “The Cosmos and other things: an interview with Greg Moffitt

  1. I really enjoyed this interview, mostly the discussion regarding high/low culture. I was an art student in L.A. from 2000 – 2002 and one just simply could not discuss an appreciation for “high” culture, or express and belief in the idea of beauty, unless one wanted to be ostracized. I taught Art History after school for many years and this experience showed me clearly that the culture 20th century seemed to be about destroying western high culture. I don’t think it is hyperbole to say that the impulse seemed to be an adolescent rebellion against our elders. What we are left with now is a heap of junk (in some cases literally) and it is no wonder that so many young people seem so depressed and devoid of energy or hope for the future. In one class where I was trying to explain post-modernism to a room of students who had never heard the word, the idea struck me that since recent culture has been about proving, even celebrating, the idea that there is no truth, the next period needs to be about the opposite – that, yes, in fact, there are truths, and we are going to need them to get through the tumultuous phase we have entered.
    I recently watched Jim Jarmusch’s new film “Only Lovers Left Alive.” I could be wrong, but the message of the film seems to be an aching longing for an earlier time when art and literature could be about beauty, and that, yes, some things really are better than others. It’s a wonderful film. And it’s interesting that some critics have criticized the film for seeming to suggest that maybe we threw the baby out with the bathwater. A.O. Scott criticized Jarmusch for being so “conservative.” We have definitely lost so much. And not only did we lose it, we are continuing to celebrate the loss of it.
    Anyway, I loved this interview, will listen to it again, it is so good to hear someone speak your ideas. I wish more would.

    1. Many thanks for this perceptive comment and also for letting us know about the Jarmusch film. I’m glad to hear someone else is troubled by these concerns. As I say in the interview, I’m no enemy of pop culture; I grew up on it and for a time made it myself. But as I also say I do find the aggressive erosion of the distinction between ‘high’ and ‘low’ art and its attendant leveling fundamentally problematic and essentially wrong. I had a similar experience to yours in the academic world in the mid-nineties, when I was doing a Ph.D. in English Literature at USC. My ‘old school’ romantic humanism was stereotyped as ‘dominating’ and ‘colonial’ and the admission that I actually found some poetry beautiful and not riven with semantic contradictions and authoritarian agendas was tantamount to announcing that I had the plague. I dropped out after a year, realizing that not only would no one want to read any dissertation I might produce, I would most likely not find a position anywhere. It was the best career decision I ever made as it led to my becoming a full-time writer. If you don’t know it, Kathleen Raine has a wonderful essay, written in the 60s, “On The Use of the Beautiful,” which I suspect you would enjoy. All the best, Gary

  2. I don’t hate pop culture, or rather the idea of pop culture. I recognize that it was probably the pop culture of my youth (I am 47) that inspired me to study art. However, I do think earlier pop culture was smarter than today’s. I believe that us humans occasionally need to be lifted up, out of the mundane, everyday, work-a-day world, and high culture can do this. I know for myself, that that is why I am drawn to it.
    Anyway, thank your for the Kathleen Raine suggestion – I will definitely be reading it. Look forward to more of you writing and interviews.

    1. I think you’re right, at least I feel that the pop culture of my youth – the 1960s and early 70s – was, if not more intelligent, at least less crude than that of today. Sadly, with the various ‘liberations’ associated with the 60s, standards have dropped, not risen – we can say the f-word and show lots more sex and have lots more body function jokes now, all of which aim at the lowest common denominator. This is one of the ironies of cultural history: generally, increased political and social ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ often if not invariably leads to a leveling of standards, and a kind of tacit or frequently explicit condemnation of anyone having ‘higher’ ( read ‘stuffy’ and ‘elitist’) requirements. Our liberation comes at a price.

  3. I just finished reading _Caretakers of the Cosmos_. Thanks for the book, it hit home hard.

    I want to point out that I call people like John Gray, Servants of Nothing. “Nothing” as in _The Neverending Story_ movies(My sources of inspiration are more prosaic than the people you quote. HA!)

    Those SONs are the “destruct code” trying to end the RealVerse, or Cosmos as you call it.

    As you point out, the Cosmos is a living breathing thinking being, and we are the dreams, or nightmares, of that universal mind. Take the image of the Vitruvian Man on the cover of your book as literal. A Man floating in a bubble of realtime. When that Man gets infected with the nihilistic view the SONs are pushing, he will stop paying attention to the “many” that makes up the Cosmos, he will become singular, one. He will find himself pinned in that bubble of realtime, alone, wondering what is “outside” that bubble. In the act of popping that bubble to look outside, he destroys the cosmos, which is himself, which is us.

    It’s our job to remind him and everyone, that we are here. Don’t pop that bubble trying to see what is “outside”.

    Put in these terms, the Gnostic vs. Hermetic viewpoint.

    Gnostics are “trapped” and need to “break out”. That’s the self destruct sequence.

    Hermetics need to “remember” that we are “many”, and “Don’t Pop the Universe trying to look outside. There is no “outside””. HA!

    Thanks for the books.

    1. Thanks for this analogy. I haven’t seen The Neverending Story for some time, but then, we are all taking part in it, no? One way to differentiate between the Gnostic view – or at least a Gnostic view – and the Hermetic, is that while one wants to escape a prison, the other wants to turn it into a cathedral. All the best, Gary

  4. Gary, thanks for this thought-provoking interview – at least your commentary. I agree fully with the caretaker idea – Adam, said the medieval mind in one song, was a gardener. I think the Grail legend of the Fisher king also contains the idea that healing the land – via healing the person – was a core task. Eliot uses it in The Waste Land.

    You mention and affirm the importance of science, at least the right kind of science, clarified from the extreme reductionist/positivist stance. I am sure the hermetic tradition always maintained – at its best – a scientific intention, and achievement. The link between the hermetic as above/so below and complexity (eg Edgar Morin, Deleuze) is considerable.

    From a comment you made, I am wondering if you are familiar with 2nd order cybernetics (von Foerster et al) and ternary cybernetics (Stewart)? The first works explcitly with the observer, epistemology and self-reflexivity, so connecting to the participative phenomenology of Barfield and Bortoft. The latter brings in value (aka imparity) as a formal element (with informaiton and energy) of systemics. I think connects Whitehead (and Deleuze and Goethe I would say) into a formal and precise scientific description of the regulation and forming of order. It means that how any entity values an experience is an objective principle in the formation of an (eco)system or organism.

    1. Dear Angus, Many thanks for this. I have to admit I am woefully ignorant of most cybernetic literature, at least recent additions to it. I did read some years ago when studying system theories. I will have to follow up on your leads. Thanks for sharing this with us and all the best, Gary

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