Fundamental to the world wide Christian Community is the invocation of the words of Jesus. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. I am the living bread ... this is my blood”; words endorsed with the spiritual power to convert those of faith to believe in the transformation of the bread and wine into body and blood of Christ. Jesus charged those at the ‘Last Supper’, “Do this in memory of me.” On his believers he placed a new reality and commanded them to spread the message world-wide. And they did by an ancient form of time-travel ... people. They transmitted the data through time and space by foot and horse; boats were sailed, and rowed; minds stored it in order to be preached or carved in words on stone or etched in clay or written on parchments of leather and skin to be sealed in jars or carefully copied into manuscripts and books. This is how this early form of social media crossed land, through cities, villages and towns, over seas and along rivers, to affect belief in the new reality of Jesus. People of different races and colours stretched out their cupped hands to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist and the living promise of Jesus. The priest murmured, and Jesus said, “I am the living bread, take it, this is my body do this in remembrance of me.” Lips opened for each sacred sip, and the priest murmured, “Take this cup, this is my blood”.
But with the advent of the, ‘Reformation’, John Calvin and like-minded others brought about climactic doctrinal changes to the fundamental Christian concept of the Eucharist and attributed to him the doctrine of Virtualism. The bread and wine are not transformed into the living body and blood of Christ but remain the same endowed only with Christ’s spiritual essence – a ‘Revolution’ ... the insurgency of ‘Protestantism’.
These new and heretical ideas on the Eucharist follow new pathways. The information web changed with the invention of the printing press, access to paper, monastic schools resulting in higher rates of literacy among the common populations and faster, more sophisticated means of transport. It was a medieval reformation of social media in the way data is distributed. New and challenging ideas and ideologies were delivered by this revolutionary process ... the printed word on inexpensive paper in the languages of the common people, on leaflets, posters, propaganda pamphlets, essays, written in treatise and books. Most important of all it lead to the first printed bibles. Perhaps the origins of twitter and facebook can be seen in this display of new media where the ordinary people can have an opinion, express a challenging comment and the vehicle by which it can be communicated. Empowerment of the common people.
Press forward in time to another revolution. This time the information insurgency is delivered by screens into a two-dimensional world through sight and sound via an electronic cyber-maze – the new World Wide Web ... The Internet. No need to chip at clay tablets, nail essays to church doors, preach from pulpits, hold last suppers, walk across continents or sail around oceans and print reams of information. With the push of a button, cyberspace will deliver the message along cable and wire, airwave and microwave to any electronic device, microchip, neurochip and nanochip. Cyberspace, the tasteless global information pathway, without form or place or sound where, in order to enter, you must forsake your body. Tell that to Jesus Christ and John Calvin.
Time is the Grand Master in these designer thinking revolutions whether ancient, medieval or modern. Time gives the information pathways the space and duration to disperse and compact minds to the new ideologies and technical changes as well as presenting the occasions to change and transform with the tempo of the future. One thing these three ages have in common is that somewhere the human hand is still, yet relevant. But is the human mind? Ancient, medieval and modern reveal how duplicitous the human mind is and how susceptible it is to the techniques of information delivery and belief. But now we’ve gone one step further. We have brain-scaping machines – televisions, computers, iPads, Wii, iPhones and computer games that can fire chain-reactions in trigger-happy neurons to re-shape parts of the brain to affect behavioural outcomes. Where will time take us next?
published 20 October 2012