The notion of the inexistence of man, that we are mere simulacrum of an alien mind, that our lives are but the tributary flow of a malevolent thought would in the tradition of religious iconoclasts be a foolish rebirth of ancient gnostic thought as if the world were the dramatic stage of some elder monstrosity, a demiurgic entity full of blind urges whose creation is a catastrophe – a kenosis, a vastation of immanent oblivion. But this would be wrong, a false estimation of ET’s work. No. He was no latter day Gnostic. His thought is closer to an alien incursion from the future, an artificial thought from some machinic world neither transcendent or parallel to our own, but rather our own world and thought known through an unknowing and non-knowledge, an immanent exploration of the Great Outdoors of our own forgotten reality. For it is us who are the fakes, the lost ones wandering in the maze of an illusory order of our own making. Long ago we built up and constructed this false order to hide from ourselves the very monstrosity of our own hideous life. We are the ones who created this counter-world, a utopia of pain and endless labyrinth of death based on our disgusting need to survive.
It is time we explored more radical alternatives. This does not mean giving up on science, it just means broadening our conception of what science is. This issue of Philosophy Now samples the work of four philosophers who specialise in consciousness (including myself). Each of us explores alternatives to conventional materialism. It is early days in the science of consciousness, and time will tell whether any of our approaches will bear fruit. But at the moment the spirit of free enquiry needed to make progress on consciousness is being hampered by an ideological insistence on the materialist paradigm – an ideological insistence not so dissimilar to that experienced by Galileo from the 17th century Catholic Church.