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The Great Parody:
Some Remarks on the Phenomenon of “Virtual Reality”

[1]4,877 words

Translated from the Hungarian by Zsolt Sáfián

The purpose of this study is to provide an overview of the phenomenon of “virtual reality” – its increasingly dominant social role and effects, and its symbolism will be surveyed. The presentation of the latter is necessary in order to demonstrate that the emergence and development of “virtual reality” is a new and very dangerous stage in the long-lasting process of involution occurring in mankind. “Virtual reality” not only endangers our natural way of living, but also intensifies our conviction that it represents the emergence of a new utopian vision, offering possibilities that the religions and spiritual paths once opened for those who followed them seriously.

At this point, we need not enter upon a detailed explanation of the subject matter to be able to say that the evolution of digital technology has radically altered the natural order of our human existence. With regard to the manipulation of the human psyche, Alan Watt gave an in-depth interview in which he described how the advent of television has greatly contributed to the destruction of our living human societies and customs.[1] [2] Today, this tendency is even more perceivable. People carry personalized and portable mini-computers in their pockets, and they often have a more intimate relationship with them than with their friends and family. We have also seen the development of virtual reality glasses, which will be an even more effective tool in manipulating our mindset. Consequently, it also means that all those negative effects which have been proven to be caused by television cannot even begin to compare to what these high-tech instruments are about to bring, especially if they become predominant in our lives.

All this, however, implies a far greater problem than treating them as a mere anomaly. The question at issue is not only that “virtual reality” has negative effects on our lives – especially when utilized in an inappropriate way – but also the fact that its mere existence is ominous in itself.

In one sense, we could conclude that “virtual reality” can be described as a perfect antithesis of those upward mental operations in which one can get closer to one’s spiritual essence. As far as the most recent products of technical development are concerned, one can observe that the telephone, the radio, the television, the computer, the Internet, the smartphone, and the increasingly popular virtual reality glasses and helmets not only change the basis of our lives by reshaping the contours of our living conditions, but also bring about a new world – the emergence of an alienated reality – which today seems to increasingly predominate. Due to the use of these gadgets – mostly through the stimulation of the visual and auditory organs – human consciousness is completely transposed into a new “dimension” which almost completely eliminates the basic experience of our earthly human reality.

All those considerations which Tradition has made in respect to the deviations of the modern world also correspond to the problems of “virtual reality.” It appears that among all modern phenomena, there is perhaps none which could compete with “virtual reality” in terms of qualitative parameters because it tends to eliminate all qualities from its system. This allows us to conclude that it is the most parodistic, distorted, falsified, and caricature-like phenomenon:

  1. that it is irreversibly dualistic;
  2. that it is akin to the “animation of psychic corpses”;
  3. that it is characterized by dissolution, which falls short even of materialism;
  4. that it is exclusively mechanistic and devoid of any autonomous spiritual efforts;
  5. that it conforms to that “new age” which is constantly being stressed in certain circles;
  6. that it is marked by an indefinitely enhanced individualism, collectivism, uniformity, and so forth. In other words, it carries most strikingly those features of a “counter-initiation” which “can neither lead beings toward ‘supra-human’ states as can initiation, nor confine itself exclusively to the human domain; the ‘counter-initiation’ inevitably leads them toward the ‘infra-human.’”[2] [3]

We speak of a distorted universe, since in its entirety it is only a caricature of our human reality. The images and the sounds of “virtual reality” are only imitations, reflections, and echoes – that is, a quantity-based recreation of our living world. This also points to the fact that its whole system is contingent and based on the numerical units from which it evolves. To put it more precisely, it is constructed on the binary numerical system which is also the underlying principle of computer systems. This very well reveals that what it constitutes lies not merely in the spirit of an extreme quantity, but is also permeated by an exceedingly intensified duality. In other words, its mechanism is based on the tension inherent in polarity in which the elements (i.e., the numbers 0 and 1) are cut off from their underlying metaphysical principle. It holds true to the views of all those organizations which, in a spiritual sense, have undergone some kind of distortion.[3] [4] Although pure quantity as such could not exist in itself – “pure quantity can never be reached in the course of the development of manifestation”[4] [5] – nonetheless, the almost purely quantity-based computer system, the numerical data (bit), and the quasi-indistinguishable units, so to speak, are very close to attaining this state.

If we examine the Traditional doctrine according to which the beginning of a human cycle is always represented by a circle or sphere, whilst its end is symbolized by a square or cube,[5] [6] then we can observe a very expressive sign; namely, that every computer screen necessarily consists of small units of squares (pixels) displayed in different resolutions (no matter how small the squares are on the otherwise very often rectangular screen), which nonetheless never perfectly resemble natural shapes (i.e., circular and realistic forms). Indeed, there is something parodistic in the fact that a thing which in no way can realize circularity still tries to make this impression (i.e., it attempts to persuade us that it has nothing to do with disintegration and quantity, but rather represents a new beginning, an evolution, a quality: a New Paradise).

Furthermore, if we also take into account that these pixels are characterized by an almost perfect uniformity, then any form reproduced by these picture elements will be marked by the same feature. This means that whatever form they may assume, these configurations, besides the numbers and the colors illuminated by the pixels, do not differ from each other. For instance, “virtual water” has the same nature as “virtual fire.” In other words, in the sense of a reversed hierarchy, the distinctions in a virtual space appear in such a way that they, in their essence – whether taken in a horizontal or a vertical sense – are not at all different from each other. The phenomenon of “inverted quality” can be easily perceived in such a case, as when a company attempts to sell a television, saying that its new product displays more realistic pictures than ever before. In addition, one can come across advertising which undoubtedly suggests that what one sees on the television is more real than reality itself. What is involved here presumably coincides with the same phenomenon that René Guénon regarded as an accomplishment of “the reign of quantity,” which also includes a real modification of the ‘environment’ itself.”[6] [7] It was also insightfully recognized by a postmodern author, namely Jean Baudrillard, who considered our age to be defined by a world of “simulations” which concealed and alienated people from reality.[7] [8]

The same paradigmatic structure can be seen in the case of sounds and music. Our age is characterized by the spread of electronically-composed music, performed on instruments where the sounds are digitally recorded and replayed. This procedure, however, transmutes the music, because the method employed changes the melody, and in turn the sound, and thus the unique nature of the human voice is partially lost. Hence, the most brilliant music and the most heartfelt sounds take on the features of automatism and alienation. The sounds lose their direct power, and even though they seem to reconstruct live music fairly well, nevertheless this type of music is only a commodity which also cuts off the individual from the experience of real sounds.

The fashionable trend of taking photos with digital cameras also plays a key role in the creation and expansion of virtual reality, as does the tendency to equip every person, object, and area with cameras which, we are told, must be done for the sake of sharing the experience and securing our public sector. Besides the fact that this modus operandi facilitates the disappearance of our private space and the establishment of total control over our world, it also contributes to the alteration of our human reality, as mentioned above. Let us also add that by this whimsical digitization, we not only “record” our life and make ourselves – as well as everything else – recordable and controllable, but we also digitize our emotions, thoughts, memories, and activities; in other words, our entire life. This goes hand-in-hand with an intense decadence which transforms our life into an alienated reality. An illustration of this phenomenon is the tourist who ceaselessly takes pictures, or those who continually broadcast their lives on the Internet, such that, for them, the direct experience of the present moment means nothing but empty words. Instead of concentrating on their actual experience, they are only concerned with making the moments of their lives accessible and retrievable in the virtual world. Thus, they contribute nothing to their spiritual enrichment, but merely give rise to the consummation of the “virtual empire.”

All this corresponds to the bastardization of God’s “all-seeing eye,” which is another sign of the total misconception of Traditional symbols prevalent today. The camera perceives only the human world, or more precisely it can only detect part of its surface. Thus, what it sees is only a fragmented and distorted picture of our actual reality. It is not a coincidence that certain scriptures denote the “Antichrist” prophesied to appear at the “end of the circle” as a being whose most important mark is being one-eyed.[8] [9] This reminds us of the above-mentioned “one-eyed” camera which, again, has only a distorted view of our human reality. It holds true even in such a case as when one examines all the information collected by the network of cameras in a single area, since these views of reality are still merely accidental and fragmentary. In addition, the ability of this “all-seeing” only applies to external things; it has no knowledge about the intrinsic nature of the beings it records.

Additionally, it is also indisputable that these external phenomena bear some magical magnetism in themselves. The majority of our contemporaries are bewitched, and what’s more, mesmerized by the latest technical products of our time. Think of the ubiquitously accessible Internet, the touch screen, the remote control, three-dimensional films, eye-tracking software, and video games and other activities in “virtual space,” all of which possess a mirage-like character. Thanks to the latest technological products, their users begin to think that they have become a sort of miracle-maker, possessing special abilities, and that they are the agents of an irreplaceable and highly exalted experience. If we now take into account that even those who otherwise could live without these inventions cannot truly avoid their influences then for this reason we can rightly ask the question that appears as a well-known passage in the Book of Revelation: “No one would be able to buy or to sell, unless he has that mark, the name of the Beast or the number of his name.”[9] [10] Does this prophesy that eventually everyone will finally be forced have to enter this new world?

In relation to “virtual reality,” this criterion also seems to be fulfilled, since it creates a state of being which is more dangerous than materialism itself. Namely, it constitutes a reality of a deeply unstable nature, which – though based on matter insofar as one needs a more or less palpable method of storage where information can be saved in order to create a “virtual space” – nevertheless is not material in the sense that it dissolves the experience of material security. Hence, it transmits such shreds of reality and illusory phenomena to the users – who are so unstable that one may wonder how they survive at all. This is because all of this information, which is now saved in remote servers, can only be accessed indirectly – such as via the Internet. Consequently, in the event of a global breakdown of the network or a power outage, it would simply cease to exist – as if it had never existed at all. This unstable nature can be clearly seen, for instance, in such terms as “cloud storage,” which denotes the mechanistic character of this computer world; the tendency to produce wireless systems (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, etc.); or in the reduction in importance of the data storage device (HDD). One might refer also to the complete removal of physically tangible buttons from some devices (touch screen technology), and the aim of constructing frameless smartphones and monitors. Their translucency will create the illusion that the “virtual objects” they display are hovering in the air, and that the life shown by them is independent of those devices which underlie their existence. Consequently, the aim seems to be the elimination of the hardware, the vehicle of “virtual reality,” – or to put it more precisely, to fuse it with software in order to generate a kind of immateriality and provide the user with direct access to “virtual phenomena”.

Furthermore, it can be said that virtual reality attempts to assume the counterfeit appearance of the principle of unity, in which the telephone or the Internet – which are both an integral part of “virtual reality” – are said to connect people (albeit this claim is deceptive). At the same time, however, this operation brings forth the realization of an extreme individualism in which a person who immerses himself in the “virtual space” is perfectly isolated from society, as well as an extreme collectivism wherein everybody is accessible – albeit only indirectly and without any physical contact. It thus constitutes an atomization which is the opposite of the true nature of consciousness, since it possesses such qualities as solitude and unity but achieves something that is merely accidental and limited.[10] [11] It is also interesting how this intrinsically atomic state of mind is reflected in the external world, being recognized by the perceiver who, in a certain sense, is constructed by the atomic forms mentioned above. In this we should not only see the sign of the Traditional truth which proclaims that the quality of our existence inextricably corresponds to the quality of our state of consciousness, but also that certain modern myths – for example, the notion that the world is made of atoms – do not in fact provide us with true explanations about our existence. Rather, they merely predict a future reality: the encroaching structure of the “virtual space.”

One can draw a similar conclusion on the basis of that modern hypothesis which claims to prove that there is only matter in the universe, and that so-called mind or consciousness is simply the result of some sort of material interactions. In the computer’s case, it is certainly true that the software – that is, the soul of the computer – is based on and derives from the computer’s body, but this conception no longer holds true in the human domain. Human consciousness is not a type of machinery because it is not mechanical; that is, it is not a rule-based system such as the computer, and if the latter happens to show signs of intelligence, it is nonetheless incapable of comprehending anything at all. In turn, it is an indivisible and self-sufficient unity, and thus represents such a wholeness that the computer or the so-called artificial intelligence will never be able to achieve it, since they are driven by complex commands and constructed by man. Hence, they (i.e., computers and artificial intelligence) will never be capable of constituting a true unity. Today, human consciousness is thought to be machinery; additionally, its performance is believed to be inferior to that of machines. In light of the current situation, one can therefore speak of a process in which – after the relativization of consciousness and the glorification of the superiority of matter – a consciousness-like reality is put on a pedestal, which is a mere caricature, a separated and alienated form of the latter.

Seeing that these inverse conceptions have gained a foothold in many minds, it is indeed not unlikely that the Internet and artificial intelligence, as a parody of a “universal consciousness,” will eventually be considered as if they had always existed as the very source of the universe. For this reason, the Internet in many ways may appear to be the universal consciousness. It seems to be omnipotent, omniscient, and also ever-active, because it is available everywhere and seemingly supports and make us capable of doing many things. That is to say, it has qualities that, at first sight, we may think are divine. It is easy to see, however, that this digital mechanism is created by human beings, and for this reason it will be never capable of surpassing its creator, nor even of approximating the human level, just as human beings cannot transcend God and yet have denied Him and pretend as though He never existed.

The term “transhumanism” is likewise very revealing in this respect because it speaks as though combining with machines and a process of integrating into machinery (cyborg) were a kind of transcendence, a higher state of being and consciousness which strives to surpass our worldly human state. However, it is easy to see that what stands at issue is quite the contrary.

It is worth pointing out that the so-called “New World Order,” which is constantly referenced by certain agents, is not really a political enterprise; that is, it has nothing to do with the emergence of a new temporal power and the rearrangement of an existing power structure, since its objective is to shepherd people into this radically new reality. Besides the fact that there are wars and conflicts in our time which have evolved along different lines of demarcation, one thing is certain: The whole world has yielded to this latest technology. In other words, no one is fighting against the real enemy (i.e., modern technology and virtual reality, which is its pinnacle), and in a certain sense no opposition can be made because one can only survive (at least it is believed) if he prostrates himself, like everyone else, before the altar of modern technology. This is a vicious circle in which the intention to avoid it leads to even worse results. The question arises, therefore, as to whether the constant and highly suspicious allusions to terrorism and other forms of catastrophes are merely suggestions intended to mesmerize people and instill the belief that this world is “unsafe,” as well as further reinforcing the belief that behind this world there is another real one: the virtual reality into which we are finally supposed to enter.

According to certain considerations, at the “end of the cycle” the continuous acceleration of time “consumes space.”[11] [12] This obviously implies that these processes – following the geographic discoveries and the phases of the various temporary expansions – necessarily have to give rise to conditions in which beings have a smaller physical space. And indeed, the partisans of “virtual reality” will have to finally abdicate all their own space and, inasmuch as they are subjected to the “means” of virtual reality, will be subsequently deprived even of the ability to move their bodies. It will thus become unnecessary to travel from one location to another, because the need to discover new and unknown worlds will simply cease to matter, since the necessity of connecting themselves to this new virtual world will take precedence. Furthermore, there will be no room for mysteries worth exploring in the world of human beings, since detailed reports on distant lands will reach people much faster, abrogating their desire to see them with their own eyes. Consequently, it will render new discoveries unnecessary, because their access to data will conjure the illusion that they already know all there is to know. Additionally, there will be the illusion that people experience a seaside holiday in their own room, so that the physical trip becomes of secondary importance. What we really observe is the advent of a new space, albeit in other guises, which is the most limited form of our spatial awareness since it bears witness to a dimension which is brought forth precisely by the denial of a higher mode of living.[12] [13]

As far as the declaration that “all men are created equal” is concerned, it seems that it can be relatively well-accomplished in this way inasmuch as this new world constitutes a uniformity in which everyone is deprived of all qualities, and in which anyone can achieve anything. In fact, in this artificially-created world, there will be hardly any substantive distinction between beings.

In terms of “inverted spirituality,” it would be difficult in the present state of affairs to find a more appropriate example than “virtual reality.” As is the case with all initiations, we can, in a certain sense, also speak of a transformation that “virtual reality” imposes on consciousness. The aim of true spiritual initiation, however, is to separate the consciousness from its vehicle (i.e., the body), as well as from the limited state, symbolized by the earthly human reality. In the case of “virtual reality,” however, consciousness not only remains amalgamated with the body but also places additional fetters upon it. These are imposed, for instance, by the usage of a headset or its variants which, for their users, comprise such a world and bring forth such an earthly craving that “constitutes a sort of counterfeit.”[13] [14]

In “virtual reality,” human beings appear as if they were “omnipotent”: They can fly and create miracles, new worlds, individuals, and objects in their mind, but all this is achieved at the expense of closing the prison doors of their awareness even tighter. All this is in accordance with the state of the “Antichrist,” in which people are capable of performing the same miracles as did Jesus Christ himself, except that these actions, in the strict sense of the word, are not performed in the human world, and they also lack the intention of achieving direct communion with the Holy Father. The price one has to pay for the attainment of these special powers and magical life is that human beings, by means of a descent or degradation caused by this process itself, are cut off from God, or in other words, from the possibilities of realizing higher states of consciousness. This observation is tantamount to Guénon’s recognition when he argued that “the Antichrist must surely be the most ‘deluded’ of all beings.”[14] [15] What can we call a sign of an unsurpassed self-delusion if not the attitude of a being who is totally blind not only to the transcendental dimension, but also to human existence itself, whilst nonetheless – due to the possibilities offered by virtual reality – considering him- or herself as a god?

This also implies an issue which may appear astonishing at the first sight – namely, that being occupied with the means that give rise to “virtual reality” is nothing other than a day-by-day and unconscious participation in a Satanic ritual. That is to say, in almost every case, when one comes into contact with these gadgets, one in turn strengthens and nurtures the power that has created this reality. Additionally, if we look at the general standard and the trend transmitted by radio and the television channels, the above conclusion becomes clearly understandable. For example, the cinema, or, in other words, the collective imaginary recreation shows clearly that what is involved in this question also conforms to an ill-omened common rite, in which we find interesting correlations with regard to both the various films anticipating the future and the phenomena that are coming true in our lives. Thus, it can be seen that what was being broadcast to the public a few decades ago has now largely come true. This probably is due to the fact that people have begun to believe in them, and therefore they have created favorable conditions for their becoming.

A strange phenomenon also gives an additional occult strain to the fact that television, parallel with the disappearance of the popular Spiritualist séances of earlier times, has gained ever-more attention. Moreover, this preserves in a special way the practice of these séances, namely the resurrection of the deceased and communication with spirits. With a few clicks on the remote control, we can “evoke” images of people in who passed away a long time ago in “virtual reality” as if by occult phenomena and powers which were once evoked within a strictly ritual framework. As with ghosts and spirits, it can be also said concerning these virtual beings that they, too, are certain coagulations and reflections of a once-living being, and thus carry merely a residue of the deceased. In this regard, what one sees on television is not radically different from an occult séance for communicating with spirits, as well as the increasingly pervasive contact with the world of ghosts. One can conceive of no more telling proof of this than the state of mind which one, after a couple of hours of watching television or staring at a computer screen, gets into: The effect seems as though it has drained the life out of us, and made us somewhat ghost-like.

Above all, what we are dealing with here is the accomplishment of a deviant quality of an avatar – or, in fact, two particular forms of deviation – having an effect on people who are deceived by this subversion, which can be best termed by the word “reincarnation.” This concept mainly corresponds to a “descent” in which the doer tends to completely forget about his higher origins and is inclined to attribute his genesis to the lowest strata of manifestation.[15] [16] (In this connection it is worthwhile to note that in order to register for some Websites, one needs to provide a means for user identification – that is, an “avatar” which is a personalized graphic illustration of the user). On the other hand, in the form of those three-dimensional holographic images which are now being developed, we can speak of a certain “ascensional rebirth.” What is at issue here is a process of projecting “virtual shapes” onto our world, an operation which seems to be realized today to a certain extent, and which corresponds to the ghost-like and sub-terrestrial realities which tend to infiltrate our world. The question may at once be asked whether this anti-avataric phenomenon may be associated with an enigmatic passage in the Bible, according to which: “The Beast you saw is one that used to be and no longer is. It will come back from the deep pit, but only to be destroyed. . . . they will see this Beast that used to be and no longer is, but will be once more.”[16] [17]

In this present essay, besides devoting much attention to the danger of virtual reality, we have tried to point out that if we can speak of a downfall pertaining to consciousness, we can also assume that there must be a corresponding ascension movement in consciousness which is its logical opposite. By the same token, if one can conceive of a state of consciousness which has been enclosed within “virtual reality” and thus descended into the subconscious psychic layers of human beings, then one may also consider its very opposite: namely, an awareness which transcends the limited state of one’s own individuality. By the above, we may have a clearer picture of the differences or even the similarities which stand between a true initiation and its counterpart – that is, the counter-initiation whose orientations are shown above – stand in stark opposition to the former. It follows that by knowledge of this kind – that is, by a clear understanding of the nature of this opposition – we may be able to reorient our lives, and we perhaps might recognize that we must be, at least in our own spiritual path, as determined as those agents of the Counter-Tradition who, by presenting a unified front, are preparing the ground for the accomplishment of the conditions of a counter-initiation.

This article originally appeared in the Hungarian Traditionalist journal Magyar Hüperión [18], Vol. 5, No. 3 (2017), pp. 269–276.

Notes

[1] [19] Alan Watt, Shock and Awe: The Manipulation of the Human Psyche [20].

[2] [21] René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times (Hillsdale, N.Y.: Sophia Perennis, 2004), p. 263.

[3] [22] Ibid, Chapter 39: The Great Parody: Or Spirituality Inverted.

[4] [23] Ibid, p, 50.

[5] [24] Ibid, Chapter 20: From Sphere to Tube.

[6] [25] Ibid, p.43.

[7] [26] Cf. Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1994).

[8] [27] “Ad-Dajjal was mentioned in the presence of the Prophet. The Prophet said, ‘Allah is not hidden from you; He is not one-eyed,’ and pointed with his hand towards his eye, adding, ‘While Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal is blind in the right eye and his eye looks like a protruding grape.’” Sahih al-Bukhari 7407.

[9] [28] Revelation 13:17.

[10] [29] Ibid, Chapter 6-7: The Principle of Individuation & Uniformity against Unity.

[11] [30] Ibid, p. 159.

[12] [31] Ibid, Chapter 23: Time Changed into Space.

[13] [32] Ibid, p. 242.

[14] [33] Ibid, p. 277.

[15] [34] Ibid, Chapter 39: The Great Parody: Or Spirituality Inverted.

[16] [35] Revelation 17:8.