If one has an inappropriate vision in the imagination, one generates an inappropriate “phase-portrait for the geometry of behavior” of the self. Our culture, lacking a vision of a multidimensional model of consciousness, simply oscillates back and forth between an excessively reified materialism and a compensatorily hysterical nihilism. This Nietzschean nihilism, in all its deconstructionist variants, has pretty much taken over the way literature is studied in the universities, and it also rules the cognitive science of Marvin Minsky, Dan Dennett, and Patricia and Paul Churchland, in which the self is looked upon as a superstition that arose from a naive folk psychology that existed before the age of enlightenment brought about by computers and artificial intelligence. This materialist/nihilist mind-set controls the universities.
That is the real reason that Wallace and Gilbert are appropriate for this book: not because they sense the lostness of the age—this dark vision was alive already in Eliot’s Wasteland and Beckett’s Endgame, and countless other testimonies from the early part of the twentieth century. No, what makes these contemporary authors worth reading instead is that they are trying to find a way into the light. In seeing how they fail, we will prepare ourselves to search for the sacred possibilities still alive in the modern world.