Behind the veil of reality. The gnostic aspects of postmodernity

Sviatoslav Vyshynsky
The National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine H.S. Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy

Until recently, the generally accepted view of the erosion of identity in the virtual space, its pluralization and fragmentation, the transformation of a more or less integral “I” into a kind of rhizomatic complex [5, p. 12-17] in an endless game of masks that consciousness can try on in the modern world - together with society itself, which will transform from a hierarchical whole into a chaotic totality of individuals and communities. This was also facilitated by general instability, a tendency to change not only psychological, but also socio-economic roles as a distinctive feature of a developed society at the beginning. XXI century. One way or another, the social structure as a whole becomes rhizomatic, which, in turn, determines and is conditioned by rapid cultural changes, most of which occur in the virtual space, and later are "imported" from there into the "physical world". In turn, the change in the ontological situation no longer allows us to speak of the virtual sphere as apparently “unreal” - rather, on the contrary, virtuality no longer only “complements” reality, but also radically modifies it, pushing the boundaries of corporeality (“new sensuality” [22 ]). The development of modern technologies will soon make it possible to predict the complete replacement of the real with the virtual, the "implementation" of the latter, and, consequently, the revolution in ontological theories, which has been outlined for quite some time.

So, the traditional thesis in the analysis of virtual existence is that in it the real “I” is able to easily disguise itself and resort to “identity games”, which is facilitated by the very nature of the Internet and other virtual networks. The phenomenology of virtual space is characterized not only by fluidity, non-fixedness, metamorphism of images, but also by the alignment of various planes of being, be it internal and external, conscious and subconscious, real and play - the emancipation from the dictate of ratio and “actual” consciousness from a pure intellectual declaration of postmodernism turns into a self-evident given of postmodernity. After all, “factuality” itself is relativized, the boundaries of what exists figuratively and objectively, imaginatively, hypothetically - and really, in fact, are blurred. In ontological and psychological theories, this should lead to a rethinking of such concepts as "reality" and "factuality", which, in turn, means broad prospects for the destruction of traditional ethics.

Most of these characteristics were true for the Web 1.0 era (although, as a sober analysis of the situation shows, they were largely wrong then) - but the changing nature of the Internet and other virtual systems in recent years forces us to correct such statements. The first stage in the consolidation of the virtual (starting with television and the culture of “glossy publications” in the second half of the 20th century) really stimulated endless fitting of other people's masks, artificially inspired roles, a split personality and its separation from the real (“riot of castes” or, rather: “riot against castes "). Disguises and veils could not only encourage "sincere" communication (which, in reality, always remains on the verge of a frank monologue with an imaginary interlocutor), but in fact made it difficult, bringing any seriousness to the point of absurdity (the character of the "funny moron" [10] in blogosphere and other communication platforms).

On the other hand, it has now become clear (and since the revelations of Edward Snowden - and it is generally known) that technology allows you to mask only up to certain boundaries, presenting transparent masks that break off as easily as the night spell dissipates. Speculation about the emancipation of consciousness in the postmodern era turns out to be utopias, far from the logic of social and cultural development: the romantic-revolutionary anti-logocentric discourse collides with a hidden logocentric "counter", the possibilities of which are multiplied by the dual nature of the game. The trick of the Devil is that he makes you believe that he does not exist.

The nature of power relations in the 21st century, regardless of whether they relate to developed countries or "developing" countries, consists in the appropriation of information, and indirectly through it - in the enslavement of life time and the immanent resources of consciousness - which are the main value of the post-historical world: “... People in this sense are much more like obedient animals that the archon leads on a leash to the slaughterhouse (since he feeds on their souls)” [1, p. fifty]. It is natural that the "logocentric agents" in the face of special services and technological corporations, apparently playing an antilogocentric party, is, first of all, a set of forces that own thoughts both in the direct and figurative meanings of the word - both the true meanings of what is happening, and the entire set of signs and designations circulating within the controlled system. At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the nature of both information mediators and the activity of sense-forming units of the upper level retains a purely traditional, logocentric character, only veiled at first glance by the excellent rules of postmodern games, from which one should conclude that not only actors, but also and, to a large extent, of the postmodern situation itself in totum - hence the sheer seriousness behind the mask of the game.

The reality of the "Matrix" is a post-historical world as a world of absolute transparency, all the facts and events of which are always fundamentally fixed and analyzed, and therefore, with high probability: predictable. In turn, any failure allows you to identify and eliminate its cause (in reverse order: traced and detected). Speaking about this, we do not mean the vulnerability of information from horizontal attacks (at the level of “hacking”), but the initial disclosure of data to the managers of information fields, which are their creators (“architects”, i.e. “archons”) who own the keys to secrets. Thus, not disclosure, but the initial openness of at least such things as personal correspondence and recordings of conversations, is equivalent to the disclosure of the thoughts themselves and, to a large extent, the feelings of each individual. The phenomenological ego cogito is no longer closed behind seven seals - on the contrary, by the fact of its informational existence, in a series of communicative acts, it is just revealed in the illusory closed sphere of the virtual, which is already its main mediator today, and will eventually turn into the only form of reality.

The border between internal and external disappears, the subject is exposed to such a point that we can talk about the erasure of the very principle of subjectivity to the extent that the principle of "unknown", "unknowable", "secret" is canceled. As a result, this turns any communicative practice, virtual and real communication not into a way of understanding among "netizens", but into a way of self-denial and self-programming within the framework of the global information system. Accordingly, each act of communication both in the media space and on its periphery constitutes an act of unconscious submission, each next word and sign become instruments of power - over those who speak, write, and produce any form of media activity. In turn, the level of modern technology expands the scope of espionage to quite real, traditional acts of communication, which over time become more and more vulnerable to the onslaught of technology. This is the realization of the virtual offensive against the real, the vampiric craving of the phantom for embodiment, which in these conditions cannot but be crowned with success (“The hour will come and I will recognize the warmth of your hands” [15, p. 108]).

The already dubious ideas of the communicative mind are now increasingly discredited by empiricism. After all, we owe high technologies not only the expansion of the communicative field, but also the absorption of all spheres of life by this field, the cancellation of privacy, which no network data authorization systems can guarantee - and not only from the “all-seeing eye” of Big Brother in the guise of PRISM, etc., but also from the slightest horizontal interference (from information hooliganism to “crimes of the century” à la “WikiLeaks”). The bottom of the technological "Titanic" of Western civilization, described by Friedrich Junger [16, p. 6-7], at the beginning. XXI century. constantly "leaking" - in the conditions of the post-industrial leap, dosed and, in most cases, controlled leaking has become its integral characteristic. Controlled information collapses and flooding of the lower compartments create only the illusion of "anarchic" data circulation, uncontrollability of most processes - and distract attention from closed levels that are not associated with empty sign systems, which are "existentially unrooted by the way of constant uprooting" [11, p. 170] (das Gerede), but with their meanings.

One way or another, a fundamental change in anthropological status occurs: the ego is increasingly dissolving in the cogito process with an increasing share of figurative impressionism and, as a result, with increasing impulsiveness, desystematization and derationalization of both communication and one's own being in general. Limiting the sphere of the private, private also means narrowing the area of ??"silence", "inner silence", which is permanently "muffled" by the streams of external impressions - and the appearance of polylogues. We can talk about “coercion to communication”, understanding by the latter, however, not so much actual communication as its surrogate forms, interactions with “virtual mirrors” generated by the individual himself. The virtual "comfort zone" thus turns into a zone of "lonely insecurity" - under the vigilant control of the System, and, increasingly, of the rest of the "prisoners" of the Network. Since the moment when interaction and participation in filling it became the main formula of the virtual world, this zone has expanded significantly in comparison with the “disunity” of “lonely crowds” [4, p. 30], described by Guy Debord in relation to the one-sided "society of the spectacle", because now the spectators themselves have become its actors, who at the same time lose awareness (but not the feeling) of their own loneliness.

Mutual understanding, like normal communication, becomes impossible in front of the figure of the observer ("overseer") - the awareness of his vigilant presence ("Big Brother is watching you" [8, p. 97]) negates sincerity, and misunderstanding leads to even greater enslavement through criminal observation, the consequence of which is perfect predictability and nearly perfect programmability of the individual. Sincerity as a sign of subjectivity, the right to disclose or hide the inner at its own discretion in such a system can completely disappear - control over information in it escapes the hands of a free individual. From the role of the interrogated, in which he still retained a significant degree of freedom to speak or be silent, the ordinary individual goes into the category of an experimental, mostly unaware of the fact of comprehensive collection of data about him. Consequently, understanding the situation legitimizes insincerity as a form of flight, a veil. At the same time, technologies for protecting valuable information in a virtual environment do not consist in simple encryption, but in dissolving meaningful data in streams of meaningless combinations of signs. Paradoxically, the struggle for γνωσις results in the conscious production of “empty signs,” an illusion of both epistemological and ontological orders.

In the current sociopolitical and sociocultural situation, the ego turns into a cogitata of large sign systems, which are legal and illegal databases. In turn, even at first glance, autonomous objects and spheres of life (from the sphere of personal experiences, culture and art to the global economy) are translated into "data". In the information age, the whole world becomes a database - or, more precisely: the way of receiving the world is totally informatized, gradually overshadowing reality. To the same extent, the transcendentalism of the “I” becomes a fiction: all dimensions of consciousness are transformed into phenomena of an external order - even previously exclusively immanent and self-evident. The inner world, getting rid of the "echelons of protection", invisibly opens up to the Other - and mostly without obvious coercion, but through a wide soft power toolkit. The "comfortable" oblivion of Big Brother's existence strengthens the latter, while the memory of him, the awareness of permanent observation threatens consciousness with complete obstruction, bringing existence to the point of absurdity. Likewise, the condition for deep intersubjective interaction is its privacy, which cannot be ensured without paranoid measures in the spirit of The Matrix or the hero of Darren Aronofsky's film “”.

This state of affairs is in many respects consonant with the famous quote by Charles Manson ("Throw me into a dark solitary cell ... There is a whole world where I am free"), and marks the level to which freedom has now narrowed, since we are talking about the practical impossibility of preserving even internal freedom in any cycles of "normal" existence (common and, inevitably, "reasonable"). As a protest discourse of the XXI century. this actualizes not only the existentialist intuitions of philosophy, but also, on the spiritual plane, a gnostic project close to them. The confrontation of individual freedom and the laws of being - now not only and not so much metaphysical, but purely social reality, which "swallowed" the natural Cosmos and became its new incarnation - allows us to read in a different way the image of the Demiurge himself - the Architect - and in a new way interpret the prophecies: "... To defeat both the archons and the creators of this world, more precisely, the artisans, and everything they created ..." [1, p. 41].

So, along with time as a form of realization of a spiritual resource, a vocation, the basic value of postmodernity is becoming privacy, interpreted not so much in the everyday sense of the word, but as an internal existential space, opaque to external eyes - like a door that closes and opens only from the inside. In the realities of the information world, the preservation of privacy and internal dimensions of being, deep identity is possible either through a complete disconnection from information (and, therefore, social) reality (John the Savage in Brave New World, Junger's Waldgänger [6, p. 93], script "THX 1138"), or through disguise, the creation of a parallel world in its very fabric (der Anarch) and on its periphery (escaping the Matrix). One of the methods is cryptography, the transfer of transparent sign systems to the secret writing mode - either in the form of ordinary technological data encryption, or through the creation of new sign-semantic systems, or through symbolic recontextualization of old ones ("Follow the white rabbit": the metaphorical language of spiritual Tradition) ...

It is now obvious that ordinary masks in any information networks are not enough - pseudonyms, nicknames, and even empty anonymity are not able to hide the identity of neither subjects nor objects of information activity. The social, cultural, political, intimate spheres are already today almost completely de-anonymized to a scale that the average person is still poorly aware of. Indeed, under the control of the System, not only physical and virtual data transmission routes, which open the widest opportunities for tracking, and which largely function normally thanks to the System, but also the languages ??of these data, which are at the same time its most vulnerable link (“... We liberated cryptography, democratized it and spread it across the borders of the new Internet ”[19]). In turn, only in such conditions Orwellian thought crime becomes really relevant [8, p. 110], because thinking, translated into an information stream, turns into the only form of being itself. Whereas blackmail is the main means of manipulation.

The problem is not only that a person becomes more transparent because of the information content he has uploaded, photos and videos posted, in which the line between privacy and publicity is completely erased [21] - but also that purely private things and habits become part of a personal profile (including videos watched, searches, pages visited - thanks to social media plugins and Google Analytics, backtracking to personal mail, social profile, mobile phone, bank account and even to the current location, accurate to the street). Finally, it also includes such obvious and at the same time particularly sensitive information such as private and work correspondence in e-mail, on Internet forums and in social networks, which, in view of the rapid behavioral changes, is increasingly approaching direct presentation thoughts, unspoken. In the beginning. XXI century, thanks to technological progress, not the secrets of the Universe are revealed, but the secrets of souls.

In fact, this actualizes the gnostic paradigm not only in the figurative sense of the word, but also at the level of ontology itself - after all, freedom is increasingly realized in virtuality, to the extent that reality itself is virtualized, turning into a “sleep” of consciousness. If in the original Gnosticism the boundaries passed between two metaphysical levels of being (Cosmos and Pleroma), in modern times they mutated into opposition of the subjective "I" and the phenomenal world, in the postmodern age they entered the phase of doubling reality into real and virtual - then today there are dualistic features acquires the very sphere of virtuality, which completely supplants all the others. It is easy to compare that the instruments of balancing the equations in the traditional era were holistic initiatory systems, in modern times - materialism, in the second half. XX century - emancipatory postmodern and neo-Freudian theories, and now they are direct, and not speculative pluralism of the virtual, the main function of which is to become a Labyrinth for the differentiated "I". Including - Mirror Labyrinth, das Magische Theater ("... The entrance fee is the mind" [3, p. 142]).

Touching on onto-theological and anthropological issues, the formation of virtual network reality leads to a new reading of ethics, the development of an adequate code of conduct for a free person in the totality of the Matrix. The issue of choice and resistance to the actual position of images and things is the key to a new freedom, the relevance and prospects of which are evidenced by examples of accusers such as Edward Snowden: “... If you realize that this is the world that you are helping to create, and it will become it gets worse with each successive generation, to expand the possibilities and architecture of oppression, then you will understand that you will be ready for any risk ... ”[20]. The moral aspect of his work in disclosing international tracking systems is hardly more important than the nature of the disclosures, because he demonstrates that even a pawn can spoil the game for large players - even if it is a likely part of one of the parties. (Is it possible at the right time to program rebellious excesses and the will-expression of individuals sensitive to freedom? - Of course).

Rebellion and insurrection are fundamentally possible, because a significant part of the executive authority is delegated to the grassroots operators: “The people you want to run over are the people you depend on. ... We know everything about you. ... We control every part of your life ”[9, p. 158]. The situation, however, will change as soon as the System is fully automated and the "human factor" is reduced to zero - the direction of technological development makes it possible to assert that there is not much time allotted for such riots. The ability to effectively tear off the masks not only from the ordinary actors of the System, but also from its guides, demonstrated by Julian Assange's project, is a temporary “failure” that is natural at the stage of its construction and “running in”. Therefore, each blow that does not turn out to be fatal, in the best Nietzsche traditions, will only strengthen the new order [7, p. 558], making it resistant to internal attacks.

The Promethean archetype, guided by the idea of ??the common good, equality and the right to freedom, also has a shadow, hermetic side: Partizan [12, p. 26] (der Partisan) Karl Schmitt in the realities of the game himself becomes a playable figure, donning masks and guided primarily by the personal good and the good of a limited ("chosen") caste of people ("party"). The daytime, sacrificial role of the whistleblower, the Savior ("enlightened" Neo) has its own night counterpart (hacking Neo), who is a trickster, Junger's Anarch, the personification of the archetype of the two-faced Hermes, who does not enter into open confrontation with the tiger, but tries to "saddle" him [14, p. eighteen]. His tactics of individual and irregular struggle are based on egoism, combined with value nihilism, which, as a form of Gnostic iconoclasm, protects Anarch not only from phantom attachments and illusory goals, but also from the risks of an illegal position [17, p. 49]. Unlike proselytism of the former, the latter understands the matter of salvation in the context of the inner nature, hence - merit, repeating by this the purely Gnostic racial division of humanity into pneumatics capable of perceiving γνωσις and gaining spiritual freedom - and Giliks, obviously doomed to live in captivity [2, p. 39]. And, paradoxically: of their own free will ("... Most of these people are not ready to be unplugged").

In this aspect, the ancient confrontation between two types of dualistic traditions is reproduced anew: the elite gnostic, subject-oriented, which is characterized by a deep level of opposition between the internal and the external, the accentuation of intellectuality, and therefore less attention to the transformations of the objective world (readiness to "dig in" in Zion " Platonic reality of ideas and information flows ”[18]) - and egalitarian creationist, community-oriented, with its emphasis on moral action and the corresponding revolutionary component and the desire to destroy the Matrix, renew the heaven itself and the earth itself (Rev. 21: 1). Both paths in various spheres are relevant today, resonating, on the one hand, with the high-tech islands of the virtual civilization "under the dome", and on the other, with the expanding "desert of reality" beyond them, which becomes a haven for numerous outcasts of the post-historical world. Nevertheless, the fundamental condition for liberation in both the first and second editions of the new dualism is not only the rejection of the illusions of the real and the virtual and opposition to the multitudes of phenomenality - the reality of the single (der Einzige), but also the realization that the uniqueness of the subjective "I" being the only reason like Nothing [13, p. 353] (das Nichts) is - and in any ontological situation will remain - the only authentic space of moral and intellectual freedom.


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The article examines aspects of gnostic interpretations of the postmodern situation and the problem of the formation of network reality. The tendencies of doubling reality and pluralization of identities in the virtual space are indicated, a new reading of subject-centered philosophy is proposed.

Key words:

identity, reality, virtuality, dualism, gnosticism, postmodernity.


Vishinsky S. Behind the Veil of Reality. Gnostic aspects of postmodernity. The statistic examines the aspects of the Gnostic interpretations of the postmodern situation and the problem of the formation of low-lying reality. The tendencies of the submission of the action and pluralization of identities in the virtual space are indicated, the new reading of the sub-centered philosophy is promoted.

Key words:

Identity, reality, reality, dualism, gnosticism, postmodernity.


Vyshynskyi S. Behind the veil of reality. The gnostic aspects of postmodernity. The article deals with the aspects of gnostic interpretations of postmodern situation and problems of construction of the network reality. Tendencies for the duplication of reality and for pluralization of the virtual identities are marked out, as well as the new subject-centered philosophy is suggested.

Key words:

identity, reality, virtuality, dualism, gnosticism, postmodernity.


Vyshinsky S. Behind the Veil of Reality. Gnostic aspects of postmodernity / Svyatoslav Vyshinsky // Practical philosophy. Science journal. - 2014. - No. 2 (52). - S. 127-133.


Vishinsky S. Behind the Veil of Reality. Gnostic aspects of postmodernity / Svyatoslav Vishinsky // Scientific notes of the National University "Ostrozka Academy". Series "Culturology". Problems of cultural identity in the context of social and cultural development. Materials of the International Science Conference (Ostrog, April 4-5, 2014). - 2014. - VIP. 15. - Part 2. - P. 16-27.

Vishinsky S. Behind the Veil of Reality. Gnostic aspects of postmodernity / Svyatoslav Vishinsky // Quasi! Bukovynsky social and cultural chasopis. - 2014. - No. 0. - P. 8-13.

© 2014


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