Marxism is an incomplete philosophy, and I do consider myself a Marxist. It acknowledges, accurately, that human ideas spring from material conditions and that the conditions of opposing classes are the bedrock of opposing ideas. Human ideas come from class conflict, and class conflict comes from material conditions. Humans are solidly embedded in the natural world.
What Marxism lacks is a clear conception of the nature of consciousness in relation both to a specific era (capitalism, communism, etc) and to nature itself (where humankind comes from and ultimately must relate to). Marxist philosophy and its writers have occasionally hinted at this connection but have never fully fleshed it out in its entirety, or at least as far as I am aware of.
It is my goal here to illustrate in brief terms what the major stages of consciousness are, and further, their relationship with the development of the species including, if applicable, the modes of production. These stages are meant to express the overall development of conscious life and action on the Earth as an aggregate. Individuals exist in complex societies, but the whole of society develops an existence of its own, quite apart from the individual. As with everything, development is uneven. These stages need not apply universally to every last tribe or lifeform. But they exemplify the total development of the planet at various times.
It is vital that we have a sense of ourselves as what we truly are: the cosmos woken to itself. The bare sketch I lay out here is meant to illustrate what that means and what the future really looks like.
Each stage I will discuss in more detail on their separate posts. Necessarily, each stage has greater complexity than the last.
1-No consciousness. The only contributing factors are end-goal oriented processes (like molecular catalytic processes and cell division) or simply physical causation. The interplay of atoms and chemistry rule here. Though these processes never actually disappear (humans are still chemical creatures made of atoms), it is here that they are the main driver of causality. Important so far as the story of life goes, but it can be abbreviated for our purposes.
2-Instinctual consciousness. The first level of consciousness that appears in the cosmos. With many stages and gradations, this is the consciousness of animals. This stage of consciousness, vis-a-vis the cosmos, is not distinguishable from it in any meaningful sense. That is, the consciousness of instinct is entirely expressible as a natural force, it cannot express itself as being distinct from nature because it is not built for that, and it is entirely subject to the whims of nature.
Experiences as we humans understand them can happen at this level, but free will is not present. This is consciousness as it first arises and is entirely ruled by natural processes, such as the environment, chemistry, and genes. Human beings, of course, still live with instinct as an artifact of evolution.
3-Social or Distinct consciousness. Distinct, because it is the first kind of consciousness which can build its sense of the world, and thus its sense of self, as separate from nature. Social consciousness is what I call distinct consciousness in the human context, since our separation from nature exists entirely due to our sociability with each other. As instinct still remains with humans, so to does social conscious remain with humans to this day.
Language is the product of social consciousness. Language makes up the vast majority of all thoughts humans have and influences behavior more directly then even their genes. Language is a means of communicating often complex ideas, ideas which carry content and meaning all on their own apart from the mediums that they move through (writing on paper, spoken tongue, etc.). Language is not possible at the stage of instinct, and its appearance marks the beginning of the social stage of consciousness. Social consciousness had usurped instinct as the main driver of evolution during the early days of human agriculture, and had continued its development through the ancient days of slave economies and feudal societies.
Social consciousness has its focus on fellow social beings and its interactions with them. This social world is in many subtle and not-to-subtle ways perceived as virtually separate (even alleviated above) nature. This is the source of religion and belief in God. It is in this stage of consciousness that spirituality, religion, and politics arise… with all that implies, good and bad. In this stage, humanity can also experience existential dread for the first time… suicide becomes possible. Also, although human instinct still drives us to reproduce, our social consciousness has allowed us the ability to craft our sense of selves in ways that do not rely solely on reproduction.
This stage of consciousness introduces everything we know about being human and also has given us quite a lot of neuroses. The spiritual angst and also the intense creativity that humans are capable of comes from the fact that social conscious acts as if it were divided from nature. In reality, all life (and all consciousness) is embedded in nature (the cosmos) and could not be otherwise. But social consciousness, properly understood, views itself as separate. Because of this, human beings at the social stage of consciousness end up trying to justify themselves, and find meaning outside of nature, rather than within it. This is what I mean when I say that religion and the belief in God comes from the social stage of consciousness. There would be no need for belief in either if human beings had found total tranquility in their own material conditions. As it stands, they quite often don’t.
4-Scientific Technical consciousness, or Statistical consciousness. Failing to find ultimate serenity or even practical merit from something outside of and distinct from nature, consciousness (as an aggregate) turns to picking apart and dissecting nature. Including, notably, human consciousness itself. This is the age of science, and, importantly, capitalism.
It is this mode of consciousness that becomes dominant in, and also fuels, the capitalist mode of production. This is because capitalism requires the dissection of nature, on a previously unknown scale, so the profits may flow from nature in the form of surplus value (of human labor… human labor, itself, being the only product of nature directly controllable by consciousness, a very important point I will return to). This mode of consciousness is a great boon to humanity in uncountable ways, by taking nature apart and putting it back together in countless ways, nature comes to serve man far more than in the past.
But it also leads to an amplification of the previously mentioned neuroses of the social stage of consciousness: Science acts as an acid to all previously held logic and meaning. By taking apart nature, and thus humankind itself, what was once the sacred ground of social consciousness becomes mere atoms and chemicals again. Humanity’s special place of honor alongside the spiritual vanishes, and we are a part of nature again… though we do not feel it. It feels alien and inhuman because we aren’t used to it. The truth is we are a part of nature, though science and technology alone cannot fully numb the sting. This is why in the early development of science and capitalism there is such a conflict between religious morality and secular morality.
Additionally, the capitalistic drive for profits by the exploitation of human labor and the commodification of the world, does not help human woes. Not forever at least. A pyramid of rich and poor develops where money is seen as the only kind of value, where humans are not defined by their own existence as people (or communities) but rather by the size of their accounts, the sheen of their cars, or their position on the pyramid. This is a natural development of scientific-technical consciousness because this stage of consciousness is chiefly concerned with the dissection of nature, and with it, the dissection, and most efficient exploitation of, human social norms and human consciousness itself.
Again, humans are not separate from nature or the cosmos in any real sense. By abandoning the social stage and entering the scientific-technical stage, consciousness on a planetary scale turns away from its fabricated world towards the concrete world of atoms and chemistry again, only now to take it apart and put it back together as efficiently as possible. It can only do so by employing the conscious beings that constitute its entire existence: humans. Most humans end up in what Marxists refer to as the “working class”, and their labor is the ultimate source of all the value generated by capitalism with the application of science and technology.
Perhaps most importantly, this is the stage where thought itself is automated. This is a subject which deserves attention alone, as significant to the scientific-technical stage of consciousness. Automated consciousness stands as the ultimate culmination of capitalistic science (achieved as all things under capitalism by the labor of the working class), and includes not merely machines and programs that perform the basic logic of consciousness, but also systems of social manipulation of a wide variety (the automation of a human’s own thoughts). It is also the beginning of the next and final stage of conscious evolution, but one which cannot be reached until the primary contradiction of conscious life has been resolved, that is, its separation from nature. This will be made clearer once I discusses scientific-technical conscious alone in its own post.
All past stages are of course still present and in the background. Your screen is based on the interaction of electrons in carefully constructed circuits. Your instincts are still waiting patiently, whether they are wanted or not. And your world is still inundated by language and human social interaction and all that implies. Yet the world of late capitalism is ruled by the law of extraction of value i.e. dissecting nature as efficiently as possible to produce surplus value. In other words, the world as we know it is based on the unit-ization and digitization of the world: mass production for market sale. Capitalism is the main driver of present history, and the frame of present Earth consciousness.
It relies on all past achievements of conscious life on the Earth including chemistry, genes, language, politics, etc. in order to maximize surplus value at the expense of human beings. It has perfected the nature of science and technology as the means with which humankind will fully understand the cosmos with it themselves, but it has not given humans the freedom to use that power. To fully use this power capitalism has to first be overcome by the conscious action of human beings.
5-Cosmic consciousness. This mode of consciousness is the stage by which humanity, armed with the tools of the previous eras, overcomes its separation from nature. As instinctual consciousness is bound by the whims of nature, nature is bound by the whims of cosmic consciousness. The evolution of life and consciousness finally ends where it began: perfectly settled within nature, only this time as nature embodied with consciousness and fully aware of itself.
A child cannot control their actions, but an adult can. Here we come full circle and see how consciousness itself becomes dominant over the forces of nature, rather than the reverse. Here the productive powers formed in the scientific technical mode of consciousness, where capitalism is dominant, are used by social human beings to rectify the problem of their estrangement, and solve their neuroses. Knowledge and scientific reasoning become tools for the maximization of consciousness, not the maximization of value (money). The material conditions of Earth and human society are such that all destitution and want can be eliminated, boredom and spiritual malaise relieved. The Earth becomes the perfect engine for the continuation of conscious life in the cosmos. Cosmic consciousness is simply the forces of life given total reign over the forces of nature for its own maximization.
Like all stages of conscious development, this process will be gradual. Science will assist us in maintaining and creating knowledge in our own benefit. Knowledge can be combined with artificial intelligence and mental engineering to increase our creativity beyond our wildest imaginings. The distinction between technology and biology will gradually fade, as will the distinction between the virtual and the concrete. Cosmic consciousness is exemplified by the coming age where consciousness (of whatever form, mostly human, though gradually more virtual) sees its position in the cosmos totally transparently. Nature will be aware of itself.
Christians have always longed for communion with God, but humanity’s real destiny is communion with nature.
Cosmic consciousness, properly understood, is the transition from a life which stands apart from nature to a life which stands as nature emboldened by consciousness. The evolutionary possibilities afforded by this far outstrip the possibilities of previous evolutionary eras.
Cosmic consciousness necessitates first the development of communism, defined here as a classless and stateless society where all means of production (and means of artificial thought) are controlled in common among human beings. Communism is not identical with cosmic consciousness. In the beginning of its development, communism will still exist primarily at the scientific-technical stage of consciousness. All human beings must be gathered in a collective project of consciously moving society, and by extension, the resources of the planet Earth, towards the fulfillment of conscious emotional, material, and spiritual needs. Before this, cosmic consciousness will not be fully developed. Only after the full development of conscious life under communism (and the complete development of all productive forces) will cosmic consciousness come to exist. Of course this will all be clarified once I discuss cosmic consciousness alone at length.
The Birth and Self-Fulfillment of Consciousness: The Cosmic Fugue. These five stages are the steps the cosmos takes to get from absolutely no self-awareness to complete self-awareness, at least in the current Earth example. This is the basic process in which Earth life has given the cosmos a path from determinism to freedom, mindless wandering to narrative adventure, and from stuff which feels nothing to beings which feel everything and can do anything.
In essence, the Cosmic Fugue is the development of a universe which simply is, to one which lives. In the Earth example, we see a gradual progression from beings slaved to the whims of nature (via instinct), to beings which form narratives separate from nature (in language and custom), to beings who can control nature (with science and technology), and finally to beings are one with nature, inseparable from it in mind, body, and spirit. With this progress you will see a change from beings determined to act one way to beings with a choice to make.
We can marvel at the fact that Earth is only one example of this process, and at the same time rejoice that we have an opportunity to be active participants in a cosmos destined to be filled with life and consciousness!