Reshared post from Andreas Schou

Deus ex machina

Arnold Gehlen made a note of the relationship between mysticism and mechanical fascination in his 1957 Die Seele im technischen Zeitalter. I use a selection for my class that might interest you.

“The fascination with automatisms is a prerational, transpractical impulse, which previously, for millennia, found expression in magic– the technique of things and processes beyond our senses– and has more recently found its full realization in clocks, engines, and all manner of rotating mechanisms. Whoever considers from a psychological viewpoint the magic which cars exercise upon today’s young, cannot doubt that the interests appealed to lie deeper than those of a rational and practical nature. If this seems improbable, one should consider the fact that a machine’s automatism exercises a fascination entirely independent of its practical uses, a fascination that might well be best embodied in a perpetual motion machine whose only goal and activity would consist in forever reproducing the same circular motion. None of the innumerable individuals who over the centuries have grappled with the insoluble problem of perpetual motion, did so in view of any practical effect. Instead, they were all fascinated by the singular appeal of a machine that runs itself, a clock that winds itself. Such an appeal is not merely intellectual in nature, but has deeper sources."

Gehlen goes on to talk about magic and supernatural belief as a kind of ineffective technology. We've happened to create working technology with modern science, but our relationship with machines is still drenched in mysticism. 

cf. "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" – A. Clarke. 

Andreas Schou originally shared this post:

The American northeast was a weird place in the mid-1800s. The Speaker of Vermont's House was an avid theosophist. Central Pennsylvania was populated by dissident German pietists. Joseph Smith was holding prophetic revival meetings for the religion which would eventually become Mormonism. 

Best of all, John Murray Spear and his congregation were attempting to assemble a clockwork messiah in his farmhouse in upstate New York. And while the rest of the weird dissident Christians were interesting, I'm somehow sad that the New Motive Power and its bizarre steampunk Gnosticism never ended up a major American religion.

John Murray Spear – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(Redirected from New Motive Power). Jump to: navigation, search. John Murray Spear (September 16, 1804 – October 5, 1887) was an American Spiritualist clergyman who is most notable for his attempts to…

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