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The Ghost who no longer haunts but is lost

posted Oct 25, 2016, 10:34 AM by Scot Casey   [ updated Oct 25, 2016, 10:35 AM ]
I imagine Gilbert Ryle would be dismayed at the resonance his compelling phrase, The Ghost in the Machine, has acquired over the years. Perhaps amused to note that it has taken on a "life of it's own" - a Frankenstein creation that has betrayed it's creator with trenchant irony. Where Ryle was attempting to undermine the Cartesian Dualism of mind and body, the poetry of his words gave it a new life - better: after-life. For where Descartes postulated a mind and a soul inhabiting the flesh and bones of the body, Ryle's phrase (counter-Ryle) leaves us haunted by a ghost lost or trapped or imprisoned with a puppet made of meat. And Ryle would have it for us to acknowledge the illogical superstition of this ghost and deny our haunted nature. But the ghost is persistent. And we are all of haunted creatures crucified on a cross of bones.

I am reminded of this daily as my body fractures and stresses under the burden of time and suffers the accumulated excesses of my heedless youth. "The Spirit is willing, but the Flesh is weak." The ghost is exhausted from his haunting. The wails and chain-dragging, knocks and bumps in the night, the luminescent flashes of divine radiance no longer startle or shock the flesh. The false enlightenment of cynicism infects every thought. The ghost is a harmless and all of his efforts of scare the life out of flesh are pathetic and silly. 

There are infinite regressions here. The One and the Other. I who write and You who reads. Ryle wrote: "In searching for the self, one cannot simultaneously be the hunter and the hunted." I see the logic. But I can easily persuade myself this is not so. I am multitudes. And the motivation animations of my flesh are informed with these personas of Mind and Body, Ghost and Machine, Hunter and Hunted. These are problems with language. And while I can see what Ryle was up to, there is a nauseating atmosphere of reductionism in his thought. 

What I am up to is trying to re-animate the Ghost. The Ghost who no longer haunts but is lost within the labyrinth of the Machine. I want to find this Ghost and make it newly awe-full and terrifying. A Rilkean Angel:

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?
and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.