Part 6.4: May 24, 2018
Updated: May 27, 2018 (v. 3)
Unless specified otherwise, page numbers are from Letters of Marshall McLuhan (1987) 
Letter to Wyndham Lewis (February 7, 1954, p. 242)
Marshall McLuhan mentions that he discovered the “religious basis” of these “almost meaningless quarrels.” He asserts that the arts and sciences became more “intelligible” after his “self-initiation.”
Letter to Lewis (May 9, 1954, p. 243): Militarism
McLuhan praises Lewis’s novel Self-Condemned, comparing the timeliness of the section on history to the book Count Your Dead in 1938. The footnote explains this refers to a chapter in which a historian sees the past as a “crime story” with the criminals being “heads of States.” Count Your Dead advocated peace in the lead-up to World War II and the main character concluded that all factions were “armed rackets” whose only principle was the “philosophy of Force.”
McLuhan wonders what individuals can do and whether the Catholic Church should speak out, considering
. . . the current plan to bring the world to an end
I would see that only as McLuhan’s hyperbolic interpretation of what he understood and also how he perceived the nuclear arms race.
Letter to Walter J. Ong, S.J. (October 14, 1954, pp. 243-244): Rosicrucianism, Impregnation of Matter by Spiritual Forces, Secret Doctrine
McLuhan challenges Ong about a statement in his essay (footnote, p 243: “Space and Intellect in Renaissance Symbolism,” Catholic Renascence Society Symposium in Philadelphia, April 1954, published in Explorations 4, February 1955):
. . . modern science . . . possibility it offers for increasing the subjection of matter and impregnation of matter by spiritual forces . . .
[See references about “Golem”]
I’ve read a lot of Rosicrucian stuff . . . wonder whether you have their thoughts in mind.
McLuhan quotes p. 396 of Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled (Vol. 1) about Imagination vs. Fancy, interpreting Imagination as “direct contact with divine archetypes” whereas Fancy is “human and cognitive” . . . .
As fallen spirits or devils men have their intellect which is . . . earthy, presided over by the Earth mother, the White Goddess of Robt Graves etc. The intellect is the dark principle. But the imagination is mode of divine union for the uncreated divine spark hidden in our corrupt clay etc. You are familiar with this aspect of the Old Religion, Gnosis, neo-platonism theosophy et al?
I don’t see how it is possible to teach . . . literature . . .without full knowledge of the “secret doctrine” . . . the fecund source of lies and misconceptions e.g. Puritan Inner Light.
He asked Ong why students should not be told about these “secrets.”
Letter to Lewis (August 12, 1956, p. 249): Hollywood Superhumanism (Transhumanism) and Satanic Reform Program
McLuhan praises Lewis’s novel The Human Age, picking up on:
. . . the relation of Third City to Third Program and the infernal relations of Hollywood superhumanism to the Satanic reform program . . .
Letter to Ong (February 1, 1962, p. 283)
McLuhan expects there would be hostility against his book The Gutenberg Galaxy in:
gnostic and masonic quarters . . . the rug pulled out from their matter-spirit bias.
Further research: how do themes in The Gutenberg Galaxy relate to Gnostic ideas about matter and the body being bad (as opposed to the Christian attitude towards creation as being a good thing)?
Letter to John I. Snyder, Jr (August 4, 1963, p. 290): Media Theory & Extension of Central Nervous System & Consciousness (Transhumanism Again)
. . . with electro-magnetism we extended the central nervous system itself in a global embrace so that the next immediate step technologically is the extension of consciousness. . . .
Letter to Harry J. Skornia (March 3, 1963, p. 288)
McLuhan describes the area of study at the new Centre for Culture and Technology (1963-81) at the University of Toronto (footnote):
. . . all technology as extensions of man’s body, and of electric technology as the extension of the central nervous system. . . . The only remaining act of extension is for consciousness itself.
Comment: We see this supposed “extension of consciousness” happening now that we have the Internet and high-speed data transmission.
To me, this appears to be the same concept as the “noosphere” of Teilhard de Chardin and the function of the Internet as perceived by Terence McKenna.
In the Garden of Eden story, the serpent (Satan) claimed that Adam and Eve would become gods if they disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I believe that many Gnostics adopt the serpent’s point of view. Is technology being used to turn some men into “gods”–or collectively turn “mankind” into a “god”? (See H. G. Wells’ comments on this idea and power).
A related story is the Tower of Babel (nothing becomes impossible so they were scattered).
(Note: verse in which one supposedly stands in the place of God).
The Child Cult and Bloomsbury
Possibly both the “child cult” and the Bloomsbury group relate to occultism. Aldous Huxley was involved with Bloomsbury.
Letter to Sheila Watson (September 20, 1965, p. 324)
McLuhan refers to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland.
The whole [Bloomsbury] circle seems to have taken the child cult totally to heart. . . . not grown up [reminiscent of Peter Pan], and they knew it, and were proud of it. In his chapter on Alice, in Some Versions of Pastoral , Wm. Empson points to the strange union of child, artist, aristocrat, and snob . . . the formula for Oscar Wilde. Perhaps the real freedom in the child cult is the freedom to play and to probe. . . . dear to the learning process.. . .
(Note: research “children of the sun”).
Letter to Robert Manning (June 1, 1969, p. 374): Child Cult, Dehumanizing Forces, TV
McLuhan writes about Wyndham Lewis:
In The Apes of God he pilloried the literary mandarins of Bloomsbury . . . In The Doom of Youth he explained the idiocy of the child-cult long before . . . Dr. Spock [research Spock’s alleged regrets]undertook to sponsor permissiveness. In The Human Age, . . . he presents the dehumanizing forces of the magnetic city. . . TV and its power to alter the images of self-identity on a world-wide scale. . . .
Comment: McLuhan insists, as Lewis did, that television alters our sense of identity.
Letter to Jacqueline Tyrwhitt (May 11, 1946, p. 298)
McLuhan discusses Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. He interprets one section as moving out of
visual space into discontinuous auditory space again. This he mentions as the return to “Lewd’s Carol”, that is, through the looking glass into the world of non-Euclidean space once more, lewd, ignorant, tribal, involved totally as in group singing. . . .
Comment: With auditory media, identity moves away from an individual with private thoughts to being someone who is more part of a group (“tribal”). If the media is electronic and global, then we have the “global village” –global tribal identity (see the May 9, 1969 letter to Jacques Maritain below). This reminds me of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley–with its strong caste identities (determined by deliberately engineered IQ differences, i.e. poisoning of embryos), its mandated sexual promiscuity and pornography, and its use of electronic music (in religious ceremonies and entertainment).
Electronic Communication Grid as Satan
Letter to Jacques Maritain (May 6, 1969, p. 370)
the . . . print-oriented individual thought of himself as a fragmented entity, the electric-oriented person . . . tribally inclusive of all mankind. Electric information environments . . . fosters the illusion of the world as spiritual substance. . . . facsimile of the mystical body, . . .manifestation of the Anti-Christ. . . . the Prince of this World is a very great electric engineer.
The danger of not recognizing the different effects of media:
. . . just as the Roman clergy defected in the Gutenberg era on the illusion of the inner light, even greater numbers may be expected to defect under the mystical attractions of the electric light. . .. why have men never considered the consequences of their own artefacts upon their modes of self awareness? . . . repugnance . . . against understanding the processes in which we are involved. . . too much responsibility for our actions.
. . . creates the attitudes of “involvement” and “participation” . . . Since we are doing these things to ourselves, there is no earthly reason for submitting to them . . .
Comment: I notice his emphasis on how we should take responsibility. We should be more aware of the power of television and so on, and we should make the choice of switching it off, but we don’t. We would rather preserve the belief that the forces controlling television and its content are benevolent. It seems to be very important to us that we preserve our delusions about who is in control rather than acting to protect ourselves and those we love.
Even in the pre-Internet era, a combination of print, television and radio has been used in order to recruit people into cults or the occult without any outside screening from parents in most cases. A particular library book gets into the teenager’s hands without the parents catching it, and then he or she is hooked by the message of religious or political cults–which I believe are intended to fragment society, families in particular, along with our common ground when it comes to even our sense of rationality and morality. In a broader sense, now especially, television shows, movies and Internet websites–including and especially mainstream programming and pop culture loaded with occult and sexual themes to draw people in–push the limits in an effort to degrade and blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy.
Instead of only being used to defend obscenity, the ideal of freedom of expression should have been used to protect the family, moral rules and legal principles that were protecting us against subversion efforts by the oligarchy which works to engineer us into accepting a global slave system.
Letter to Robert J. Leuver (July 30, 1969, pp. 386-387): Media Theory, Global Theatre, Large Jokes, Prince of this World
Going along with the . . . ignorance of man-made environments, is the failure . . . to notice that our senses are not passive receptors . . . Each of our . . . senses creates unique modalities of space . . . They prefer to study the mechanisms of the senses rather than the worlds created by them. .. .
. . . Every human being is incessantly engaged in creating an image of identify for himself. . . . The tribal . . . mores of the TV generation is rooted in a response both to the iconic TV image and also the new satellite environment of the earth. The latter has transformed the earth into a global theatre . . . each seeks to “do his thing”, to achieve a unique role with a unique costume. That the entire planet should become show business on a twenty-four hour basis is not only inevitable now, but it creates “challenges” . . . on a scale that will gradually obliterate consciousness.
When a new problem becomes greater than the human scale can cope with, the mind instinctively shrinks and sleeps. . . . . What is needed is a readiness to undervalue the world altogether. This is only possible for a Christian. Willingness to laugh at the pompous hyperboles and banalities of moon-shots . . . The “scientific mind” is far too specialized to grasp very large jokes. . . .
Comments: Think about the “very large jokes” before accepting the media’s portrayal of various current and historical “events.” McLuhan is characterizing the attitude of the Secret Societies towards us. Also, in this quote there is strategic advice about our attitude towards all of this.
. . . When the identity image which we enjoy is shattered by new technological environments or by invaders of our lives who possess new weaponry, we lash back first by acquiring their weaponry . . . in acquiring the enemy’s weaponry, we also destroy our former identity. . . . we create new sensory environments which “scrub” our old images of ourselves. Thus war is not only education but a means of accelerated social evolution. It is these changes that only the Christian can afford to laugh at. . . .
. . . the “Prince of this World” is a great P.R. man, a great salesman of new hardware and software, a great electric engineer, and a great master of the media. It is His master stroke to be not only environmental but invisible, for the environmental is invincibly persuasive when ignored.
War has become the environment of our time if only because it is an accelerated form of innovation and education. . .
Comment: If only Christians and everyone else would laugh at the system–the media for example–instead of taking it at face value. I agree with the concept of laughing at the world in the sense that we should ridicule the false, lying, artificial world system we live in–not in the sense that we should undervalue human life.
He calls media technology “weaponry.” If he’s correct, when we adopt the Internet (as we have) and Facebook, etc. to use against the propagandists and oppressors and war-mongers, possibly we are compromising our identity and more natural sense of self.
He refers to “Satan” as the promoter of new technology and media. Some research has made connections between the early creators of computer and Internet technology and Satanism. When many of us got on the Internet in the 1990s, we were exposed to occult content, including Discordianism for example, along with more valuable information.
And he emphasizes that we ignore the technological changes in our environment as we get used to them. We take the television for granted. We don’t notice it. We take the Internet for granted. It becomes the environment we live in. We don’t notice it in the sense of questioning its value or lack of value. We take the cellular radiation and the food/drink products on the shelves (and other potential toxicities) for granted as part of the environment we become comfortable with and we don’t question them, and we don’t want to as our livelihoods depend on these things in some cases. And that’s where the message of “Satan” thrives, whether Satan is literal or symbolic, as he becomes “infinitely persuasive,” being part of the artificial environment built around us that we take for granted.
Letter to Barry Day (February 4, 1970, p. 398): Agenda 21 Terra-Forming, “Fixing” God’s “Mistakes” and Human Imperfections
. . . The Gutenberg environment processed every type of human awareness and activity . . . [W]hen the satellites go around the planet, Nature is scrapped and the planet becomes an art form. Nature itself appears as a mess. Pollution becomes universal awareness so that everything now must be programmed. The second atom [Adam?] is thus saddled with the job of restructuring the garden of Eden on much more august lines than His original garden. .. .
Notice how McLuhan refers to the Garden of Eden and the idea of a new Adam wanting to “program” the earth and “restructure” it–because God’s a bad guy in their view and he didn’t do a good enough job. And this reminds me of the 1992 UN document, Agenda 21, which represents a plan for the total monopolization and domination of nature (while the authors pose as nature’s protectors). Gnosticism run amok. This reminds me somewhat of the doctrine of some churches that leave open the future for the saints to “perfect” the earth and even other planets.
Letter to Etienne Gilson (January 19, 1971, pp. 420-421) Challenge of Recognizing the Causality and Intent in the Pattern, Media Theory
… my interest in Symbolist poetry from Poe to Valery inspired my . . . study of media. Symbolism starts with effects and goes sleuthing after causes. With the media we have massive effects and little study of causes since the user of the media . . . is the “content” of the media. As content, we have almost no awareness of our surround . . . .
Notice how McLuhan saw the user as the content of the media.
Ovid . . . made a great comeback with the symbolist techniques in poetry since he too was concerned with understanding changes that could be programmed. Joyce, Pound, and Eliot use Ovid pervasively and technically. It was my study of these men that made me aware that the tracking backward from effects to hidden causes, to the reconstruction of mental states and motives, was a basic pattern of culture . . . . . . . books of Ovid in relation to Darwin. Is it not the case that Darwin is dealing with effects for which the causes are hidden and remote? Does this not put him somewhat in the position of the Symbolist for whom effects minus causes constitute the challenge to pattern recognition?
McLuhan recommends The Bias of Communication (1951) by Harold Innis.
People don’t want to know:
In my own attempts at understanding media I have discovered a uniform distaste . . . for the attempt to discover causality of any kind in the environmental action of media on man . . . . (p. 421).
Additional Information Areas for Further Research
Note: unless specified otherwise, web references are cited as accessed on or before May 24, 2018.
To be continued: Part 7