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The Fifth Essence

K. W. Gilbert 2/16/98


In his latest book, William Irwin Thompson offers his readers various schema for examining stages of the evolution of human consciousness [Coming Into Being, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996]. This paper raises some questions about the metaphor through which thinkers may wish to consider the nature of the current stage.

Thompson begins with McLuhan's schema, which identified five stages of human social development, each identified by its medium of communication and therefore the Oral, Script, Alphabetic, Print and Electric stages.

Thompson himself also categorizes five stages of development, cross-indexed against axis of economy, polity, and cohesive association. These are (with their approximate dates):

Economic stages:
     Culture (200,000 - 10,000 B.C.E.)
     Society (10,000 - 3500 B.C.E.)
     Civilization (3500 B.C.E. - 1500 C.E.)
     Industrialization (1500 - 1945)
     Planetization (current)

Five forms of polity:
     Noetic Polity

Five forms of cohesive association:

The evolutionary growth from one stage to the next, despite the giving of sequential dates to each era, is not to be conceived of as a progression or unidirectional movement from one stage to another. The concept of "evolution" is given a fractal face-lift and recreated as a model of complexity, that fine line between the stasis of order and the randomness of chaos. One now has the pattern of "emergence", each of these epochs being pictured as the shaking out of a new pattern after a transitional "crisis" much like the settling of the glass fragments into a new mosaic image after one turns a kaleidoscope.

Thompson agrees with McLuhan in differentiating the medium and its content with the admonition that the content of any new medium consists of the form of the preceding stage. Therefore when books were first written they simply contained the mythic and historical tales that had been previously told. It was not until centuries later that the French "invented" the nouvelle (novel), that new sort of story (fiction) that consciously used the nature and form of the medium.

This is an example of what Russell and Whitehead meant by logical types. The name of a set (in this case "book") cannot be a member of the set (tales of history, tales of gods, tales of heros, etc). It is a sign that we are in the post-literary stage of culture that we can now have books about books, about writing, about being a book, about being a writer who's writing this book which you are reading about books, Italo Calvino in infinite self-referential ad nauseam. Self-reference in media is an anomaly, the sort of warning sign of a paradigm shift that Kuhn talks about in the sciences.

Likewise characters on TV read books, magazines, newspapers, etc. but you rarely see them watching TV. Not only is the content of TV shows not about people who watch TV, but the effects and form of most TV shows do not make use of that which is intrinsic to videotape. Most TV shows are actors performing scenes that could be performed on a stage before a live audience (and often are). Even with the advent of "blue" screen technology, and the ability to shoot scenes out of sequence and splice them together later there is still precious little of the sorts of effects used by video artists in the Soho art scene a quarter of a century ago. Virtual characters, cyberstories, morphing are simply gimmicks sprinkled on stories that could come from Leave It To Beaver, or even the days of serialized radio.

Thompson spends much time suggesting how this model holds true for each strand of his quintumverate. Bands are still present in Nation-States, and Dominance continues to hold sway in the era of Representation.

The reason these various schema can be "mapped" upon each other is because they are each five-tiered. In none of these plans was it a matter of the thinker saying, "Let us divide the history of our species from 200,000 B.C.E. until now into X number of eras." Had that been the case there would have been as many reasons to have the "seven stages of man[kind]" or the "three eras of evolution."

After all, there is great value in the power of "three": the three faces of Eve (virgin, mother, crone); the triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis; the trios of time: yesterday, today and tomorrow, or, on a micro-level, soon, now, recently; and the Christian three, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Going backward in time, from Christian to Jewish practice offers us a plethora of numbered schema, the four unspeakable letters of God's Name, the seven days of creation, the ten commandments, the twenty-two paths of knowledge, the six hundred and twelve mitzvot, etc.

Earlier still were the Sumarians and Babylonians who had a number system based on base 60 and its common factors (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20 and 30). [Ernest G. McClain, Musical Theory and Ancient Cosmology].

Buddha had the eight-fold path but there were seven days in the week, seven known celestial bodies besides Earth (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter). Graves, in The White Goddess, spends a chapter [16] speculating of the replacement of those who believed in a God with a Seven-lettered Name by those who worshipped the God with an Eight-lettered Name.

Why five?

The way Thompson (and McLuhen) arrived at five epochs was through identifying the "break points," where the structure of media, governance, habitation, et cetera seemed of an order of difference such as to "make a difference." Each man may have started out at the dawn of history and simply travelled "forward" along the time line until he found each point, however, once schematicized and presented in a chart in a book, the reader is first grabbed by the five-ness of it. Before one even reads the names of the epochs one notices the quantity of division, and so one asks, "why five?" What is it about "fiveness" that one can keep in mind while reviewing the content of these schemes. What of the topology informs the content?

The shape of a five-elemental system can be pentagonal, or pentagramal, with five, equal, discrete elements, or it can be pyramidal, with four foundational elements whose dynamical interaction / synthesis produces a fifth.

The synchronistic shape of five is the pyramid or the spiral, entered by an element at each compass point who then plait themselves towards the center.

The magic of five is in the "quint" essence, and it is in Alchemy that we most familiarly encounter it. The Prima Materia, the primal matter passes through four stages as it is first charred in Negrido (the Blackening), second, reduced to ash in Albedo (the Whitening), thirdly cleared from the dross in Citrinitas (the Yellowing), and finally infused with the blood of eternal life in Rubendo (the Reddening).

The final transformation, the hatching of the Philosopher's Stone, is not much written about, although Adepts of every age have claimed to achieve it, perhaps because it is Unmentionable, not in its Holiness, but in its Inarticulatability. It is the Ineffable Ein Sof before he withdrew into himself to create a space to utter "I Am", the tat tvam asi the Vedic concept of "that you are", the Brahman before Atman, the Gnostic Deity before the Demi-Urge, etc.

This model of five, therefore, tells us the way to go home, the reuniting of that which has been split, the undifferentiating of that which had been temporarily differentiated. The message here is how to escape the wheel [Karen W Gilbert, "Concerning a Hanged Man Before a Hinged Door". Keeping this in mind let us turn to the alternate topology of five.

The pentagonal notion of five is expressed by the Chinese disciplines of I Ching and Feng Shui, in each of which the nature of the realm of "Earth" or "mineral" is expressed in two ways, as "trees" or "wood" to represent the responsive, growing aspect of the mineral realm, and as "mountain" or "stone" to represent the enduring, unchanging aspect of minerals.

Thus the Occidental quartet of air, water, fire and earth becomes the Oriental quintet of sky, river, fire, rock and tree. Rock and tree are processional words, they are modes of dealing with the other three elements. As in the game "Scissors, paper, rock," wood and stone trump and are trumped by the three fluid media in ways in which the difference makes a difference.

In dealing with air a rock can deflect the air (and rechannel weather) but it pays in erosion, whereas a tree bends in the wind but is not worn away. However the relation of tree to wind in also more complex, as forests temper weather and even entire global climates.

Likewise a rock can rechannel the stream (e.g., a dam) whereas a tree can bridge it, the one an example of task-oriented, goal obtaining behavior, the other an example of lateral, discursive thinking.

The tree feeds the fire, and is consumed by it, but in this consumption is transformed into smoke with is a sub-categorization of air. The stone can survive the fire, contain the fire, or even quench the fire, and yet stone in the volcanic deepness of the earth, is created by fire. Wood is necessary for fire, fire is necessary for stone.

Rock and Tree tell us the temperament of Earth, and the notion of temperament likewise characterized the other three elements. Air may be still or active, ether or raging wind; Water may be deep lake or torrential river (or alternately, rainfall); Fire may be heat or actual combustion, Earth may be stone or tree.

The purpose of this teaching to tell us that temperament matters. It is a lesson of "how" rather than "what". Not "Air", but "how does the Air present itself?". In quantum field theories the noun becomes a verb, the "particle" become a momentary "manifestation of particleness", or "particling". Likewise Air is "still" or "blowing", Water is "still" or "flowing", Fire is "heat" or "flame".

Gregory Bateson's later work on developing a cybernetic model of human communication was based on the work he did with Margaret Mead and Reo Fortune attempting to cross-reference temperament and sex roles within three different cultures in New Guinea.

Let us attempt a temporal examination of temperament. Just as we speak of the Russian or the Balinese Temperament can we not ask how the temperament of Civilization (3500 B.C.E. - 1500 C.E.) compared with the temperament of Industrialization (1500 - 1945) [according to Thompson].

To discuss temperament perhaps we must first start with the four elements discussed above rather than using a nomenclature of technology, (where a Stone Age is followed by an Iron Age) or of media (in which the Literary Age transforms into the Electronic Age). Can we speak of the Age of Fire segueing into the Age of Water? Or must we look at the predominant temperament of the inhabitants of the Age, so that an Age of Fire might in actuality be the Hegemony of People of a Fiery Temperament.

Was the transition from roving bands of hunter-gatherers (i.e., Society) to settled "totalitarian" agriculturalists (i.e., Civilization) really the victory of the "Still" over the "Moving"? Was Wind replaced by Air, River by Lake, Tree by Stone and Flame by Heat?
If this is so, then - in the notion of each preceding stage being absorbed into the emergent stage as if a symbiotic organelle - we might find "still" water with a secret "deep" current within (i.e., "still waters run deep"). We should search for examples of an unmoving bank of air which is not the stillness of lack of motion but rather the stillness of perfectly balanced equilibrium, the stillness of scale wherein randomly moving implicate chaos balances out over a large enough sample to give the appearance of stillness. We should be able to discover how "heat", which is the measure of difference of kinetic energy, holds within itself the potential for the transform into the plasmic nature of matter (i.e., "fire"). Might this not be a case of the "intelligible realm" holding the "sensible realm" within?

And, when we reach the next juncture point, what then? Do we flip-flop once again to the alternate modality, from Still to Active? One must be careful to avoid the terminology "flip back to..." since we are talking about symmetrically mirrored infolding rather than a "straight" linear progression. Think of the Chinese child's toy which consists of small cards (or thin blocks of wood) held together with strips of ribbon in such a way that they unfold, accordion-like until they reach the end and then unfold in the opposite direction--sort of a perpetual motion, open ended mobius strip.

In looking for signs of these different modalities one difference to regard is between cultures who move through space, and those who move through time.

The nomads of Society travelled through space. This forest was the rainy season, this savannah the dry season. Place and time were not separated, they were placetime. In each place was only Now. Speaking of yesterday was speaking of yesterwhere, of when we were in the forest. The numinous too was a location. One was in the sacred space (glade, waterfall, cave), or one was without it, god was something one could carry with one, only totemic reminders.

Along the Nile, Tigris and Euphrates time moved in cycles, people stayed put. It was the time of drought, it was the time of flood, it was time to irrigate, it was time to dam. There was only Here, and without the notion of motion is must have seemed more as if Time passed through people, than that people passed through time. The river was always the river though first it was dry and then rampant, just so a man was always himself even though his surface appearance changed from the smooth undifferentiated face of youth to the convoluted swirls and eddies of old age.

Thus, when the culture of the City-State overran first the Fertile Crescent, then spread in concentric circles across North Africa, the Mediterranean and Southern Asia it was a matter of Time superseding Space, and space became internalized. It was this "space within" which we refer to as individualization, or personality. "We" travel through space, "I" travel through time.

An interesting example of that is the transformation of the role of warfare across the boundary of epochs. In the epoch of Bands, when humans were more like other predatory mammals than different from them the purpose of war was the acquisition of land and females. When the Israelite Clans of Simeon and Levi slaughtered the inhabitants of Shechem on the third day while they were recuperating from circumcision (Gen. 34:25) may have been the last (i.e., latest in history) recorded example of Band warfare. Even though willing to enact the rites of passage legally necessary to become "part of the Clan" the Hivites of Shechem were not to be allowed to join the gene pool. Orangutans would not let an outside band join their own even if the strangers agreed to learn the secret hand-shake and change the name of their gods.

Tribal (e.g., Societal) warfare was fully hominized. For the first time in mammalian history there were border skirmishes rather than territory and/or mate acquisition forays.

"Tribes living in a given area are more or less constantly in a state of low-level war with each other, but when Tribe X attacks Tribe Y, it doesn't .. take over its territory or its mates; rather, after inflicting a certain amount of damage, it ... turns around and goes home. Before long ... Tribe Y returns the favor, ... This relation of more of less permanent low-level hostility between X and Y isn't special. The same relation exists between X and Z and Y and Z--and these three have similarly hostile relations with the neighbors around them. . . . ...the people of Tribe X don't imagine that their life would be sweet if one day they went out and killed off all their neighbors they know there are neighbors beyond their neighbors, and these distant neighbors would be no friendlier than their near one. . . .

"What's working is that cultural identities and cultural borders are being preserved. [italics mine] When X attacks Y, it doesn't annex it. It doesn't destroy Y's identity or erase its borders, it just inflicts a certain amount of damage, then turns around and goes home. ... ...every attack serves as a demonstration and affirmation of identity to both sides: 'We're X and you're Y, and here's the border between us. ...'

"So: Tribal warfare--casual, intermittent, small-scale, and frequent--worked well for tribal peoples, because it safeguarded cultural diversity. ..."
     [Daniel Quinn, The Teachings of B, Bantam Books: New York, pp. 217-219]

"Cultural borders are being preserved." If Tribal peoples care to defend their borders, then Tribal people live in Space. And if Space is a quality of Motion (just as the stream moves through the landscape--indeed may create the landscape by carving it--whereas the lake endures in the same place over time) then the quality of Tribal warfare should be more like moving water, plasmic flame or blowing winds. And so Quinn describes it, "...it just inflicts a certain amount of damage, then turns around and goes home." The darting tongue of flame, the brief torrential downpour, the quick-moving tornado.

Quinn, who sees the transformation of eras swing on the pivot of what he calls "totalitarian agriculture", contrasts the self-perpetuating nature of tribal warfare with the self-destructive nature of Civilized (City-State) warfare.

"Signs of Distress 5000 - 3000 B.C.E. . . . It was getting crowded, and overworked, overgrazed land was becoming less and less productive. There were more people, and they were competing for dwindling resources. . . . When more people start competing for less, they start fighting. . . .

"We see [at this time] war-making machinery. I don't mean mechanical machinery--chariots, catapults, siege machines, and so on. I mean political machinery. ...warlords, kings, princes, emperors. ... It's juring this period that we see the standing army forged as the monarch's sword of power."
     [Daniel Quinn, The Teachings of B, Bantam Books: New York, pp. 262-264]

"Standing armies," the very term is ironically antithetical to motion, standing armies stand still--over time--awaiting their need. So here we have the transformation of the mobile, but temporary raiding Band who moved along the axis of Space into the always available, but sedentary standing army who existed along the Axis of Time. Air, not Wind, Heat rather than Flame. But, infolded within the standing army the Band remains, the Black Ops, the guerilla unit from the Maccabees to the Viet Cong.

Curiously in all the above descriptions the duality of the Tree and the Stone to represent the Active and the Still aspects of Earth have been missing. They do not fit. The tree although it grows upward along the vertical axial is constrained to remain rooted in space, motionless along the horizontal axis more relevant to humans. And yet the Tree is the manifestation of the Active-Spacial element, in contradistinction to the Stone who attests to the Still-Temporal. The "tree" and the "stone" are taken to represent the "vegetative" and the "mineral" aspects of the Earth, and their role as emblem might be better served if they had been portrayed as "Kudzu" and "Diamond". Those words far better depict the voluptuous, flagrant, verdant abundance of the active and the brilliant, impenetrable, enduring, multi-faceted complexity of the temporal. Now we can add these terms to their comrades, the Sandanistas darting through the jungles as if they themselves were the tough, sinuous tendrils of lianas, the lobsterback Grenadiers exemplars of, if not diamonds at least rubies.

Now let us return to look at the other pattern of five-fold, the synchronistic pyramidal shape with four foundational elements whose dynamical interaction / synthesis produces a fifth, or as an alternate topology, the spiral, entered by an element at each compass point who then plait themselves towards the center. This creates a conceptual plan that pairs opposites to develop a descriptive vocabulary composed of complementary opposites, such as the Laban notation system of modern dance. Imagining the four faces of the pyramid as active opposite still and time opposite space we create the four boundaries of active-time, still-time, still-space and active-space, all of which then converge at the apex.

Turning to reconsider McLuhan quintumverate in light of this schema we can consider the first, Oral Epoch, as one in which still-time and still-space dominated and active-time and active-space were implicate. Storytelling, not in its pale contemporary version, but in its original cosmogonic, numinous form, created both a Here and a Now. There was Storytime and not-Storytime. Modern man, so enamored of his visual weltanschauung forgets the primacy of sensory input that cannot be excluded. Julian Jaynes describes it beautifully in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bi-Cameral Mind.

Sound is a very special modality. We cannot handle it. We cannot push it away. We cannot turn out backs to it. We can close our eyes, hold our noses, withdrew from touch, refuse to taste. We cannot close our ears though we can partly muffle them. Sound is the least controllable of all sense modalities, and it is this that is the medium of that most intricate of all evolutionary achievements, language. We are therefore looking at a problem of considerable depth and complexity.

"...consider what it is like if ...there is no person there, no point of space from which the voice emanates, a voice that you cannot back off from, as close to you as everything you call you... where the voices were recognized as ...gods, kings, majesties that owned you, ...omniscient, omnipotent voices...

"...in bicameral men, this was volition. Another way to say it is that volition came as a voice that was in the nature of a neurological command, in which the command and the action were not separate, in which to hear was to obey."
     [Julian Jaynes, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Houghton Mifflin, 1976]

The closest modern man can come to comprehending the overwhelming primacy of Story is in our sympathy for schizophrenics with auditory delusions. The Storyteller was the Story, the Story was the Word. It is no coincidence that so many religions remember some version of "in the Beginning was the Word."

When Plato forbade Poets from his Republic he was warning off not the externalized structure of written verse (Shakespeare, et alia) but the Numinous domain of the Shaman/Bard. The epochs of the written pictogram-ideogram-sign [Script-Tribal (10,000 - 3500), Alphabetic-City-State (3500 B.C.E. - 1500 C.E.), Print-Nation-State (1500 - 1945) are epochs of Action, Active-time or Active-space predominated.

It now becomes clear why Thompson set the boundary between the Epoch of Industrialization and Epoch of Planetization at 1945. More than space flight, floating currency, the United Nations, or the nuclear bomb, 1945 marks the advent of the Electric Age. But if the age of TV and the computer is post-print does that make it homologous to the Oral?

As in the fallacy that studying a contemporary hunting-gathering tribe in the Amazon or some remote Pacific island can revel to us what our common forbearers were like, comparing post-literate and pre-literate society is a risky business. Thinking topographically, the pre-literate age is the base of the pyramid, the post-literate is the apex. The question to ask of the current age is not what was the nature of the base from which we arose, but "What is the construct of the confluence of the four streams?"

In the development of the modern notion of "complementarity" we have a clue to the origin of the Modern. Bohr and Heisenberg's gift was the conceptualization of superposition. The particle was not either/or this or that, it was both. Suddenly the axis of Time and the axis of Space could be viewed at the Field stretched between them. The Electric Age could contain Active-Time, Still-Time, Active-Space and Still-Space all together, limitations were only set on what one could only measure at any one point of observation.

Here, suddenly, the metaphor of the Tree and Stone becomes the most apt. For Tree and Stone are not opposites, as Air and Wind, Lake and Stream, and Fire and Heat may be construed to be. They are each other's mirror selves, like particle and anti-particle, two complementary halves of a Platonic whole. This is because Air and Wind have the same (equally opposite ) temperament of Time and Space, Air is Still-Time and Still-Space, Wind is Active-Time and Active-Space. Likewise Water and Fire are internally consistent. But Earth is complementary and cater-cornered; Tree is Active-Time but Still-Space and Stone is Still-Time and Active-Space.

The Tree changes with each season and so represents the cyclic nature of time, Active-time, while the Stone endures over eons and so represents the durational nature of time, Still-Time. This much is intuitively apparent; and the argument can be put forth that Tree is Active-Space, Stone Still-Space based on each one's Form. Wood is (compared to Stone) a more flexible medium, and trees grow visibly in human life-times, moving actively through vertical space, whereas the Stone/Rock/Mountain remains still, bound, neither growing nor eroding visibly at a consequential rate.

The aspect of Form over Time is the easier one to judge, for we, those who judge stand Still to make our judgement. We are in Einstein's streetcars of constant moment ("a 'freely falling frame of reference' in which neither gravitational nor inertial forces are felt because they are in perfect balance for all bodies.") But to judge Aspect of Space we must look through the lens of Time, and Time never stands still, it only moves at differing rates. Time standing utterly still is Timelessness, the absence of Time. Therefore in order to know whether the Tree or the Rock exemplifies Movement through Space or Stillness in Space one asks, "Which has moved in this unit of time?" The answer to this question is that Tree is Active-Space, and Stone is Still. Stone is the organic matrix of the Earth, from which the Tree grows as an extrusion; therefore Stone is Still-Space and Tree is Active-Space

From this perspective Stone is Still-Space and Still-Time, just as Lake, Air and Heat are and Tree is Active-Space and Active-Time, just as Stream, Wind and Flame are.

But if we attend to the scale of geologic time rather than human time (here one must think of the scene in the movie version of The Time Machine where the good doctor sits in his Time Machine trapped inside the enclosing mountain for Eons as the time-meter spins at a dizzying rate) we ask a different question. "What is still here?" What endures? The notion of "still here" represents the field of Space-Time, "still" after the passage of time, "here" in this place. The answer to that question is that the Rock moves through time, i.e., endures, withstands is "still here"; whereas the Tree exists only for a geological "moment." So that perhaps the Tree is Still in the sense of momentary, an instant/instance, a "still" frame in the slow-motion film of life, and the Stone is Active in the meaning of continuing. The Stone exists in the Intelligible Realm, the Tree in the Sensible.

In this conceptualization the Tree becomes Active-Time, Still-Space, and the Stone becomes Still-Time, Active-Space.

What is significant here is not that one can make an equal argument for Tree, or Stone, representing Still-Time and Active-Time, but that because one can do so then one is able to cross the boundary from dichotomous either/or conceptualization to complementary, probabilistic both this-and-that conceptualization. What if the "point" of the apex was no more a "point" than the "point particle" of light, the photon is a "point". The photon is just the part of the electromagnetic field that we can measure, and therefore is the unit by which we calibrate our measurement devices.

The quark is the point manifestation of the quantum chromodynamic field, the photon is the point manifestation of the electromagnetic field, the graviton is the point manifestation of the gravity field and what we are trying to name here is the point manifestation of the spacetime field.

To call the new (current) epoch the Electric is to identify the medium which is the metaphor for this particle. So let us look at the electronic media. The first electronic medium to become common is television, which is composed of TV "waves" which manifest themselves as point particles, the pixels, which may be "on" or "off", a world of binary choice. But the pixels are always there, like the dark side of the moon, so that "on" and "off" can be considered "potential" and "manifest." Or going back to even older language, "intelligible" and "sensible". However commercial TV (as opposed to art video) rarely makes use of the pixelated nature of electronic media. It simply puts the stories once told in books, (i.e., episodic narratives about characters) into the little box. Film in fact, the older medium, still sets the boundaries for experimentation with the recursive, the flashback, the simultaneous, the hypertext and the metaphysical.

It is the video game, rather than the TV show, descendant of the comic strip rather than the book, which is the first generation of interactive, Active-Time, electric media.

Thompson, in Coming into Being, shares his disquietude as a member of the last generation in America who grew up without a television mediated childhood with the mentality of the first generation who did.

Television destroys solitude, reflection, peace, and tranquility; it is a system of subconsciously irritating interruptions, and the content of the program is irrelevant to what is occurring in the perceptual activity of consciousness. Actually, content is destroyed by the medium, and noise itself becomes the new environment. So children raised on television grow up to prefer noisy discos to pubs where one can hear and have a conversation; they grow up to prefer excitement, interruptions, and violence rather than reading, reflection, solitude, and meditation. ..."
     [William Irwin Thompson, Coming Into Being, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996, pp. 47-48]

Reading this as a mother I wonder at Thompson's cloisteredness. Throughout his book he gives explicit consideration to a "feminist" or female-oriented point of view in those places where he deliberately sets out to do so. His "default" mode however is patriarchal, and though he makes much of his "heroic" journey from the sanctioned clan-space of academy, his "home" space is the ivory tower. Mothers who must find their public space on the playground bench and soccer field bleacher rather than the "pubs where one can hear and have a conversation" are more adept than he at conducting a conversation amidst the noise, excitement, interruptions and violence.

Thompson identifies himself as "...someone of my generation, [for whom] this electronic development is frighteningly alien; it is not a literary culture or world that I would care to live in, so in love am I with the integrity of the text and the cult of the genius." [ibid. p. 150]

Yet he instructs his own readers that in his book "The structure of the narrative will, therefore, not be revealed in the linear narrative of this book, but in the hypertext in which all the texts are stacked in the imagination of the reader. In this more complex space, permissible and forbidden knowledge cross in ways that excite the artists but disturb the academic clergy. So when I shift from one zone of knowledge to another to say, "Now, let's consider forbidden knowledge, crazy knowledge, artistic knowledge, responsible knowledge, dominant knowledge, the narratives of the powerful and the narratives of the powerless," the reader can take them all in, in the way that Levi-Strauss recommends that we take all variants of a myth as performances of the myth."
     [ibid. p. 51]

It is with a blindness born out of this cloistered "home space" that he doesn't comment on the irony of identifying himself as one who is simultaneously taking advantage of the "hypertext mentality" and frightened and opposed to it. But if hypertext is the form of information that is always potentially available out there in the etheric field of hyperspace, and which becomes manifest at the click of one's mouse, then once again the medium is the message. To demonize the structure, qua structure, while appreciating the structure when it's filled with content of ones choosing, "forbidden knowledge, crazy knowledge, artistic knowledge, responsible knowledge, dominant knowledge, the narratives of the powerful and the narratives of the powerless" begs the point.

If the medium is the message, than the content of the Electronic Epoch is bytes and pixels, but the form of the Electronic Epoch is Information. And Information in the Electronic Epoch is the point particle of the numinous Space-Time field that was once accessible only to the Storyteller.