Many foreign policy analysts have been scratching their heads over the last few days, after mention of a "mysterious device" turned up in the writings of Russian President Vladimir Putin's new chief of staff, Anton Vaino.
BBC reports that Vaino wrote an article four years ago, which disclosed information on a variety of esoteric concepts that, according to some, may help shed light on the reclusive Mr. Vaino's worldview. More specifically, at one point the article also mentions a very peculiar-sounding device, called a "nooscope":
The article describes a device called a 'nooscope' which, it says, can tap into global consciousness and "detect and register changes in the biosphere and in human activity'."
The "nooscope" bewildered many in Russia this week. Does the device really exist, they asked. What does it actually do? Is Mr Vaino really serious?
Apparently so. The New Yorker also reported on the strange "device", which had been described in a 29-page article Vaino wrote back in 2012, titled "The Capitalization of the Future".
The article also contains a dense description of a device called the Nooscope, which Vayno has apparently patented. The Nooscope, which “consists of a network of space scanners,” scopes out the noosphere. Or, as the article puts it, “The nooscope’s sensor network gives clear readings of co-occurrences in time and space, beginning with latest-generation bank cards and ending with smartdust.”
This alleged "device" has been largely dismissed as being a description of an imaginary, and largely unscientific concept. Nonetheless, those who have speculated that the article gives us a bit of insight into Anton Vaino's interests may certainly be correct.
As The New Yorker article suggests, the Nooscope "scopes out the noosphere", which refers to a framework for "a stage of evolutionary development dominated by consciousness, the mind, and interpersonal relationships", as discussed in the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Chardin was a very forward-thinking French philosopher, especially for his day, in addition to being a Jesuit priest who played a role in the discovery of Peking Man during excavations at Zhoukoudian, Beijing.
It was his early training as a paleontologist and geologist that also found him somewhat embroiled in the famous Piltdown Man controversy, which was exposed as a hoax (for many years, Chardin was even considered among the possible perpetrators, though his direct involvement now seems less than likely).
Chardin also wrote a number of books, including The Future of Man, in which he outlined many broad-reaching esoteric concepts that included our present item of discussion, the "noosphere." Chardin's comfort expressing these ideas occasionally put him at odds with the Catholic Church, though many theologians and religious leaders have since embraced, and actively defended his work. One fascinating example is the following passage from the book Spirit of the Liturgy, authored by none other than the resigned pope Benedict XVI, in which he wrote:
Against the background of the modern evolutionary world view, Teilhard de Chardin depicted the cosmos as a process of ascent, a series of unions. From very simple beginnings the path leads to ever greater and more complex unities, in which multiplicity is not abolished but merged into a growing synthesis, leading to the "Noosphere", in which spirit and its understanding embrace the whole and are blended into a kind of living organism. Invoking the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, Teilhard looks on Christ as the energy that strives toward the Noosphere and finally incorporates everything in its "fullness’. From here Teilhard went on to give a new meaning to Christian worship: the transubstantiated Host is the anticipation of the transformation and divinization of matter in the christological "fullness". In his view, the Eucharist provides the movement of the cosmos with its direction; it anticipates its goal and at the same time urges it on.
This spiritual evolution or "direction" of the cosmic flow, as far as how humanity relates to it all, was further expounded upon by Chardin in his concept of an "Omega Point", where Chardin envisioned a universe in continual evolution toward a higher state of complexity, both materially, and through the attainment of heightened levels of consciousness.
So in essence, these are some of the concepts that have found their way into Vaino's writings, at least as recently as 2012. So are his economic visions for Putin's Russia built upon spiritual concepts, which involve the spiritual evolution of humankind, and the furtherance of unification or "oneness" between people in all parts of the world?
Perhaps so, although this has done little to remove criticisms from others, even among the Russian academic community. Professor Vitaly Kourennoy, a philosophy professor at Moscow's Higher School of Economics, told the BBC that, "If we evaluate this article by its meaning, then without doubt it's a cause for concern," further noting that it "represents a utopian idea which has no connection to science. It's propounding some kind of all-embracing system of government that has to be enforced by top officials."
Part of the interest in coming to an understanding of Mr. Vaino's worldview has to do with his apparent shyness from media attention. No existing record of press interviews seem to exist for Vaino, despite his time serving as a diplomat with the Tokyo embassy, the BBC reports. Records do seem to indicate that Vaino holds a master's degree in economics, in addition to his numerous contributions in scientific articles similar to 2012's "The Capitalization of the Future".
Where all this goes is anyone's guess, although perhaps a bit of utopian fusion, inspired by the works of a forward-thinking Jesuit Priest and philosopher, could be beneficial, in terms of Russia's relationship with the Western World.