Sermon of the Technical Image

We are here today for the following reason.

To impress the fact that one of the most important dimensions of the present cultural revolution is not sufficiently emphasised.

Namely the fact that, linguistic communication, both the spoken and written word, are no longer capable of transmitting the thoughts and concepts which we have concerning this world.

And new codes are being elaborated.

And one of the most important codes is the code of technical images.
For example, a photograph.

So we have come today to look at what this is doing.

Let me explain a little bit what I mean.

It has been clear for several centuries now that,
if we want to understand the world, it is not sufficient to describe it by words, it is necessary to calculate the world.

So that science has had ever more recurrence to numbers,
which are actually images of thoughts.
For instance, 2 is the ideogram for the concept ‘pair’ or ‘couple’.

Now this ideographic code, which is the code of numbers,
has been developed in a very refined way, lately, by computers.

Numbers are being trans-coded into digital codes
and digital codes themselves are being trans-coded
into synthetic images.

So it is my firm belief, that if you want, nowadays,
to have a clear and distinct communication of your concepts,

you have to use synthetic images, no longer words.

And this is a veritable revolution in thinking.
And I am very much interested in this,
but I have to confess that

as far as my experience in this community is concerned I haven’t seen much in this sense.

The reason may be, that people do not yet know,
how to really handle the new apparatus.

Could this be an answer to the situation?

Let’s take the following…
When alphabetic writing was invented,
let’s say 3500 years ago,

a total transformation of – not only our experience,
but even our actions were involved.

Before the invention of writing,
traditional images were used as maps of the world. And the structure of images involved a specific way of looking at the world, which is the mythical way.

Now when the alphabet was invented,
mythical thought gave way to historical critical thought. Because the structure of linear writing
is a uni-dimensional, uni-directed line.

So that by and by, people started to think
historically in a causal way, and in a critical way.
Now that this line has been disrupted into points,
now that discourse has been substituted by calculus,

historical progressive thinking is being abandoned in favour of a new type of thinking,
which I would like to call systemic,
or a structural way of thinking.

So that, I believe we are present
and witness to a revolution which can be compared
to the one which gave origin to history.

In my terminology, I say that before the invention of writing, people thought in a pre-historical way.

After the invention of the alphabet,
historical consciousness was elaborated.
And now we are beginning to elaborate a post-historical, structural way of thinking.

Systems can be complex in two senses.

They can be structurally complex.
For instance, systems where elements maintain
a very complex relation with each other.

But there can also be functionally complex,
which means that if you use the system,
you can use it in a complex way.

Now those two complexities are independent from one another.
A structurally complex system may be functionally simple
like a television box, which has a structure of almost
impenetrable complexity, but the use of which is extremely simple.

On the other hand, simple systems like the Chess game,
can have very complex functional manipulations.

It is a fact that functionally complex systems
are a challenge to creative thought.

Whereas functionally simple systems are stultifying, idiotic.

Now, the complex systems, which are coming about
are complex in a structural sense,

whether they will be functionally complex or not, depends on us.

For the time being, those complex systems
are being used for functionally simple uses,
which is why the intellectual, aesthetic
and even the ethical level of mankind is lowering.

But this is not the fault of the system,
it is the fault of the users of the system.
We may, in time, learn how to give
functional complexity to these structures,
and this is what I am committed to.

There is a long history to the philosophy of images
most of it is negative, because due to our discourse, philosophy has a prejudice, as far as images are concerned.

It is the prejudice that the image is only a copy,
a simulation of thought.

So that either it is forbidden to make images,
or that images are being accepted
with a great distrust.

But I think this is now changing,

because the images no longer represent the world.
They are not copies, but projections, models.

So a new attitude toward the image is necessary,
and I think we are developing it.

Binyaameen was one of the first Western thinkers who articulated this
He proposes an attitude towards the image which is hard to argue with.

I would thus like to end with the following if I may,

Every great change in society, be it political, economic, social, or aesthetic is in the last analysis, a technical revolution.

If you look at the revolutions that mankind has gone through,
let’s say the neolithic revolution, or the revolution of the bronze age,
or the iron age, or the industrial revolution.

every revolution is, in fact, a technical revolution.

So is the present one. But there is one difference.

Because so far, techniques have always simulated the body.

For the first time, our new techniques simulate the nervous system.
So that this is for the first time, really immaterial.
and, to use a more pertinent term, Spiritual.

I think that it is important to say this in our context.

So can we now take the idea of a technical image and apply it to religion?

In this scheme the Sacred Text could be the raw data,

and the prophet an informed process that transforms the data
into intelligible information for us to comprehend.

And in the Islamic cosmology
the supreme intelligence, is signified by the black cube
since the beginning of time.