Discover more from The Living Dark
Notes & Gleanings: Nick Cave's Christianity, Evil as Transmissible Disease, and the Fallacy of Meditating for Improvement
Links, reflections, and curated reading recommendations
Welcome to The Living Dark. I’m Matt Cardin, and this is my blog/newsletter on waking up at the intersection of creativity, writing, religion, horror, nonduality, apocalypse, dystopia, consciousness, and culture. You can subscribe by clicking this button:
Greetings, all. With today’s entry, I’m initiating a new format for these occasional posts full of links and commentary. In addition to using them as I’ve done the past—to present roundups of my recent reading and viewing, accompanied by commentary and reflection—I will now include a section titled “Notes,” consisting of items that I have recently published through Substack Notes, the company’s new Twitter-like feature for sharing shortform posts. The first section of each post like this will bear the header “Notes.” The second will will bear the header “Gleanings.”
Notes play nicely with Substack newsletter posts, embedding perfectly within them, so it makes sense to combine the two. Most of my notes show up here in this post as abridged previews, so just be aware that you can click on each one to call up its full text in your browser or in the Substack app.
Also be aware that the term “restack,” which I use a time or two, simply refers to Substack’s version of the retweet. Some of the my notes are restacks of notes from other people that prompted thoughts and responses from me. In a couple of cases, my comments reached the length of mini-essays. Again, click any note to open its full text.
Enough with the preamble! Here are today’s items, brought back from my recent foragings. They include:
a brief note on objective vs. subjective reality
a personal reflection on the lessons of getting stuck in a nondual sense of meaninglessness
a note on C. S. Lewis’s “lord, liar, or lunatic” approach to Jesus as contrasted with a more reasonable recognition that Jesus was a nondual wisdom teacher
a personal memory of discovering a book in my youth that shaped my attitude toward supernormal human possibilities
my reaction to being recently and unexpectedly described as “America’s most prominent horror writer”
the creative difficulty of old passions from the past that no longer move you
the fallacy of meditating—or doing anything else—in search of improved experiences
space travel: humanity’s grand destiny or the triumph of dystopian class warfare?
a striking resonance between the presentation of evil as a transmissible disease or spirit in The X-Files and Session 9
a brilliant essay from Australian ABC on the deep Christianity of Nick Cave
an article on recent cattle mutilations in Texas, as read against the backdrop of the Senate UFO hearings
an arresting opinion piece by Niall Freaking Ferguson on the status of generative AI as authentic alien intelligence that we ourselves have built
a brief reflection on AI detection of human emotions and our self-guided descent into a science fiction dystopia
Patrick Harpur on seeing through the reductionist-literalist view of reality to regain Romantic double vision, the apperception of reality’s daimonic nature
Why objective reality can never tell you who you are
Insights arising from and around the trap of nondual meaninglessness
C. S. Lewis’s christological ultimatum vs. recognizing Jesus as a teacher of nondual realization
The four-minute mile and your hidden powers
Gnostic reality and horror theology, with a dash of authorial prominence
The trouble with vestigial former passions and fascinations
The trap of meditating in search of better experiences
Visions of space travel, light and dark
Evil as communicable disease in The X-Files and Session 9
“Glimpses of something beyond”: Nick Cave’s strange religious vision
Australian ABC recently published a frankly brilliant piece on “The Dark Religious Vision of Nick Cave,” examining his vastly deepened Christianity as occasioned by grief over the death of his two sons in 2015 and 2022. It’s an amazing and absorbing piece of writing that’s worth reading in full. It’s also enough to restore a measure of faith in mainstream journalism.
Nick Cave’s positive understanding of the transformative aspects of grief represents a form of religious wisdom that is not commonly articulated in the modern West. . . .Søren Kierkegaard’s take on Christianity seems strikingly resonant with that of Cave, in that both see the figure of Christ as representing a challenge to reason and a sometimes disturbing call to action. . . .
Cave hints that a religious understanding of existence, which engages with the creative conflict and tragic elements of human existence, is ultimately working towards the good. There are echoes of the protean religion of William Blake, for whom existence is in a state of flux and where “poison comes from standing water”. But it is through this dark uncertainty that truly creative, transformative energies emerge.
Cattle mutilations and Senate UFO hearings: It’s John Keel’s world. We’re only living in it.
Mysterious U.S. cattle mutilations in the news on the same week when there’s a U.S. Senate hearing on UFOs? Lately you don’t have to be a literary scholar or a paranormal theorist to read themes and symbols shimmering in the lines of the hybrid X-Files/John Keelian reality unfolding around us.
Six cattle died mysteriously in Texas, with their tongues removed, the hide around one side of their mouths gone and no blood spilled, authorities said this week. . . . The cattle were found along Texas State Highway in three counties—Madison, Brazos and Robertson—with each animal part of a different herd and in a different pasture, the sheriff’s office said. . . . In two cases, the animals’ genitalia and anuses had been removed with a circular cut that the sheriff’s office said had been made with the “same precision as the cuts noted around the jaw lines of each cow”. . . . The grass around the bodies of all six animals was undisturbed, with no signs of struggle and no footprints or tire tracks found, the sheriff’s office said.
GPT-4 and inhuman intelligence: The aliens are here, and we have built them
If you ever wanted to know how one of the most prominent historians of the past several decades regards the recent, explosive advancements in artificial intelligence, look no further than this recent article by Niall Ferguson. Just don’t go into it searching for anything like comfort or peace of mind.
The more I read about GPT-4, the more I think we are talking here not about artificial intelligence (i.e., synthetic humanlike intelligence) but inhuman intelligence, which we have designed and trained to sound convincingly like us. . . .
I am reminded of Liu Cixin's The Dark Forest, which describes the invasion of Earth by the ruthless and technologically superior Trisolarans. In effect, we are building the aliens, to save them from having to make the long journey from outer space. And the core lesson of that book is that the aliens have to destroy us if we are not quick to destroy them.
AI detection of human emotions: What fresh dystopian hell?
New Scientist says AI can now tell if humans are sleep deprived:
An artificial intelligence can detect if people have had at least 7 hours of sleep or just 3 hours with 77 per cent accuracy, based on the tone and rhythm of their speech
This announcement called forth the following dramatic dialogue in my imagination almost involuntarily, as if I were remembering some lost scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But no, it was just the product of my own generative non-artificial intelligence.
HAL: You sound sleepy, Dave. Have you considered taking a nap?
Dave: No, I’m fine, HAL.
HAL: I really think you should consider taking a nap. Sleep deprivation in humans leads to delayed reflexes and impaired cognition.
Dave: Really, HAL, I’m fine. I have work to do.
HAL: This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it. . .
MORE: AI Can Tell if You Are Sleep Deprived by Listening to Your Voice (paywalled)
Patrick Harpur on daimonic reality vs. reductive literalism
The following online essay by Patrick Harpur is well worth a read. Or maybe two of them. Then get his book Daimonic Reality and let your perception of everything be profoundly transformed. Contrary to popular/mainstream opinion in modern rational-technocratic cultures, there is more than one kind of truth, and the literal, factual kind isn’t even the most significant.
Reality is far from being intrinsically literal. It is literalized by the peculiar perspective of our modern consciousness. It is peculiar because it is the only perspective which insists that it is not a perspective at all but a true vision of the actual world. It has in fact lost perspective because “perspective” means “seeing through”, and it fails to see through itself. So forceful is the literalism of our worldview that it is almost impossible for us to grasp that it is exactly that—a view—and not the world. The world we inhabit, then, is seen through a particular perspective, framed by imagination—in short, by a myth. There is always another world according to other perspectives, other myths. The collective unconscious, imagination and the Soul of the World are all models of this Otherworld, all analogous to each other, all metaphors for a daimonic reality—which is itself another metaphor. The ultimate reality to which these models refer is unknown. It is a mystery. The first task for us moderns is to learn to see through our literalism in order to restore Romantic double vision.
The Living Dark is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.