Our postmodern existence is one that rules out limitations. We now have the freedom to become anything, more than any other time in human history.
Brave trailblazers who sail on the treacherous seas of the Left Hand Path — What is it that you wish to become? More importantly, what are you doing to bring that desire into being?
The brilliant businessman, philanthropist, and self-doer William Clement Stone discerned that humans are “products of their environments.” This insight is an effective tool for recognizing and challenging the product our environment has made of us. This tool is made more powerful when combined with Ipsissimus Don Webb’s suggestion that the “practice of beautifying the world as a form of aesthetic talisman [can aid] the Initiate in his or her quest to become more awake and more conscious of that which they are trying to shape themselves as.” (Webb 30) Our environment is a talisman that can shape who we are. We must beautify our environment with objects that shape our “coming into being.”
The Puritan movement surrounded themselves in dark and drab colors. They often wore blues and greens, and even black for special occasions. For the Puritans, the Christian God was the center of their universe and the reason for the suffering of their existence. The Puritans held an immense paranoia for the world outside of their communities. This was especially true with regards to the forest as they believed Devil himself, in the form of Native Americans, resided there.
Salem-born author and novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne characterized the Puritans as “dismal wretches, who said their prayers before daylight, and then wrought in the forest or the cornfield, till evening made it prayer time again.” He went on to describe that, ”Their weapons were always at hand, to shoot down the straggling savage. When they met in conclave, it was never to keep up the old English mirth, but to hear sermons three hours long, or to proclaim bounties on the heads of wolves and the scalps of Indians. Their festivals were fast-days, and their chief pastime the singing of psalms. Woe to the youth or maiden, who did but dream of a dance! The selectman nodded to the constable; and there sat a light-heeled reprobate in the stocks; or if he danced, it was round the whipping-post.” (Hawthorne 1277)
The only decent part of Puritan life is that they got by. Outside of their biological need to sustain their culture through successful procreation, and perhaps in spite of it, they were miserable bastards. Rightfully so, for the Puritans created an environment of drab and ugly things. Therefore, they became drab and ugly.
For the forward thinking antinomian, the Puritan lifestyle is terrible. They believed that the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, or the one. For the Puritan, conformity was always more beloved than individuality.
While the Puritans are a distant memory, their lifestyle lives on in literature and popular culture. In their most recent incarnation, the Borg of Star Trek, question the need for individuality. The Borg (or “Collective”) is a hive-mind that surrounds itself with dark, drab, and joyless environments. Their main goal is to obtain biological and technological perfection. The Borg obtain perfection by “assimilating” other species. Through assimilation, they strip others of their individuality for the purpose of adding them to the Collective.
BORG QUEEN (OC): Are you ready?
DATA: Who are you?
BORG QUEEN (OC): I am the Borg.
DATA: That is a contradiction. The Borg have a collective consciousness. There are no individuals. (the Borg Queen’s head and shoulders descend from the ceiling)
BORG QUEEN: I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many.
(the head and shoulders lock into a cybernetic body and the Queen approaches Data)
BORG QUEEN: I am the Borg.
DATA: Greetings. …I am curious, do you control the Borg collective?
BORG QUEEN: You imply disparity where none exists. I am the collective.
Borg assimilation is accomplished through the reprogramming of an individual into a Drone. Assimilation subdues the individual’s sense of autonomy and replaces it with complete interdependence with the Collective.
The Borg are gestalt of individuals that have fallen asleep. The Collective is an allegory for the non-dualistic concept of God. There is no sense of self in the Collective. A Drone has no individual goals. The life of a Drone is controlled by the “Right Hand Path formula” line of thinking, that is, “Thy will be done”. This is opposite from the Left Hand Path formula of, “My Will Be Done.” A Drone has no sense of “I” or “me” — only “we.” (Webb 112)
“Star Trek: Voyager,” prominently features a Borg Drone named “Seven of Nine” who unwillingly leaves the collective. When introduced to life outside of the Collective, Seven begins a drastic transformation from an unambitious, subdued Drone into an autonomous individual. Seven is able to acclimate into a mode of self-transformation because of her surroundings.
The starship Voyager offers Seven a platform to grow, giving her access to the tools necessary to embrace her individuality. To Seven of Nine, Voyager represents what she wants to become at her core level. This is apparent due to her core dynamism speaking out through a series of subconscious flashbacks to her childhood. As a child, Seven was an autonomous individual happily existing outside the influence of the Collective. Voyager and its crew are aesthetic talismans for Seven. They remind her of the change she wants to see in herself.
Voyager allows Seven to recognize the value of her individualism. In the episode “Dark Frontier,” Seven has a conversation with the Borg Queen demonstrating her transformation:
QUEEN: Assimilation is complete.
SEVEN: Three hundred thousand individuals have been transformed into drones. Should they be congratulated as well?
QUEEN: They should be. They’ve left behind their trivial, selfish lives and they’ve been reborn with a greater purpose. We’ve delivered them from chaos into order.
SEVEN: Comforting words. Use them next time instead of resistance is futile. You may elicit a few volunteers.
QUEEN: You cling to sarcasm because you are afraid to see the truth. Species one zero zero two six is already adding to our perfection. You can feel their distinctiveness coursing through us, enhancing us. Stop resisting. Take pleasure in this.
SEVEN: I will not take pleasure in the destruction of a race. QUEEN: Human sentiment. Compassion, guilt, empathy. They’re irrelevant.
SEVEN: Not to me.
QUEEN: Me? There is no me. There is only us. One mind.
SEVEN: My thoughts are my own.
By coming full circle from an individual, to a sleeping drone, and back again Seven of Nine proves that environment shapes an individual. Using Voyager as a talisman, Seven shaped herself into the person she wanted to be. This allowed her to shed undesirable aspects of herself. This is proved when Seven states to the Borg Queen, “My thoughts are my own.” For Seven, leaving the collective was a single conscious act of godhood awakening her true autonomous nature.
In order to accomplish change, we must shape our environment in order to shape change in ourselves. Change is brought about through surrounding ourselves with the things we wish to be. We are a product of our environment. By shaping our environment we shape ourselves into the very beauty that we wish to bring into being.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The May-Pole of Merry Mount.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Sixth Edition. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: Norton, 2003. 1273-1280. Print.
Menosky, Joe, and Brannon Braga. “Dark Frontier Part I.” Star Trek: Voyager. Season 5 Ep. 15, 17 Feb. 1999. Television.
Webb, Don. “Uncle Setnakt’s Essential Guide to the Left Hand Path.” Smithville: Rûna-Raven Press, 1999. Print.
Star Trek: First Contact. Dir. Jonathan Frakes. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, and Brent Spiner. Paramount Pictures, 1996.