Sunday, September 4, 2011

McLuhan (1968) to Rev. Robert Campbell at the Aquinas Institute of Philosophy and Theology

Dear Father Campbell:

Further reflection enables me to put the matters we discussed more compactly. In the 16th century when the book was new, public liturgy was fragmented. Many of the Catholic clergy felt compelled by the new hardware environment of the book to embark upon a private and inner and non-sacramental and non-liturgical worship. Exactly the same hardware created a huge centralism of bureaucracy in politics, and in commerce and in religion. Rome centralized and bureaucratized. The Pope became an earthly monarch. Kings and princes became the heads of the Protestant churches.

Today with electric software or information, all these tendencies reverse. Rome ceases to be central and bureaucratic. The Pope ceases to be an earthly potentate. The liturgy which had been fragmented before is recreated in a new unity. Whereas some of the clergy had mistaken the printed book for the inner life of the spirit, many of the Catholic clergy now mistake the new software environment for the mystical body. They feel compelled to abandon a bureaucratic Rome for a miasmatic involvement in mankind at large.

The Gutenberg revolution was visual hardware. The electric revolution is acoustic. Hardware congealed and legalized Catholic doctrine. Software blurs it into a kind of echo chamber of all religions at once. The voice of the Pope has nothing to do with any technology, anymore than the Church does. The incarnation was the ultimate extension of man, the ultimate technology. Electricity is for the birds ...

1 comment:

Andrew Chrystall said...

Try reading the last paragraph in light of []. Is this little "s" embedded in a larger "S"?