Thoughts On the Eve of a New Year

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This has been a very troubling year in many ways. The American presidential politicking has been nauseating. I don’t believe I’ve seen anything like it in my lifetime. Xenophobia and racism seem to be rearing their atrocious heads in an entirely new way. Not to mention those who refuse to accept the facts concerning global warming, world hunger, homelessness, and the health-care crisis. I think I have come to the realization that homo sapiens sapiens may not be able to extricate itself from the destruction it has caused on this precious planet. Right now, there is nothing more important to our leaders than corporate profit. I see no signs this will change in the near future. In the past, I have been optimistic. I have written extensively on this blog of the Anima Mundi and her quest for individuation, but that still continues. It’s just that we may not be the human species that assists her in bringing it to pass.

What if evolution needs to provide an entirely new species of human to solve the issues that threaten our survival? Scary thought, I must say, but isn’t this the way evolution works? What give us the right to think we are the final, perfected human species? The new human species will receive a widening of consciousness. The folly of our mindset will appear as obvious to them as the Neanderthals’ consciousness does to us. Utopia has never been possible with our species due to our selfishness, and war-like nature. But the new human will have overcome these, and may be able to bring about a new paradise on earth.

Am I just dreaming, or this possible? Nietzsche called this new human Ubermensch, or Overman. Jean Gebser’s integrative vision calls it the “integral” mode of consciousness, or homo integralis.

Research from the Neanderthal Genome Project has found that Neanderthals and modern humans share DNA, meaning they were contemporaneous and interbred about 50,000 years ago. Are there examples of homo integralis on the earth right now? If so, this is very positive for the future of our planet.

As each day passes, we see more and more evidence that mankind has come to the end of its rope. Mass shootings, the police shooting unarmed people, insatiable greed, government corruption, the loss of civil rights, etc. My fellow-blogger, Scott Preston, puts it this way:

…the present crisis is a crisis of consciousness. It’s a crisis of homo sapiens. The human species is in the process of negating itself, whether it understands this dynamic or not. And the abyss or precipice is that this “deconstruction” may indeed become a literal self-annihilation, a self-extinction (Planetary Man, Global Soul, by Scott Preston).

Scott is describing our current age as one in which ego-consciousness is being broken down and deconstructed. The overinflated ego of homo sapiens sapiens is an evolutionary mistake that must be corrected. The natural selective “choice” that inclined man down the path of an unbound ego will be rejected as being too dangerous to man’s survival.

Now, as the new year unfolds before us, I am asking myself, “What can I do here and now to improve our world?”

Happy New Year to you all!

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Truth and Lies, Part II

Yesterday, I discussed Nietzsche’s idea of truth and lie, the latter being the subversion of mankind’s conventional naming system. Unconsciously, we lie to ourselves and to each other because we have forgotten that the names of things are not the same as the original experience of the things themselves. The meaning of liar, of course, is relative, according to one’s perception. From the point of view of the masses, a liar is one who breaks with the accepted convention of not believing that language really describes reality. From Nietzsche’s perspective, we are all liars, since, to exist socially, we all use language.

To reiterate, what exactly is truth? From the perspective of the usual conceptual framework, Nietzsche believes it to be

A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and; anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding.

The experience of the “mass of images” originally flowing from the human imagination, like lava from an erupting volcano, was replaced at some point in the history of consciousness with the cushy “firmness” and “security” of an “invincible faith,” the lie that these images are the things themselves. Mankind has even forgotten “that he himself is an artistically creating subject.” In this sentence, Nietzsche has in mind an authentic sense of truth. Since “the drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive,” the practice of science and mathematics (take heed, all you STEM supporters) will not vanquish and satisfy it. The closest we will come to authentic truth is to engage in myth and art. Even if some of us are scientists, take time for these magical areas of your life. Otherwise, we really are living a lie, and denying that we are creators. The drive to form metaphors

continually confuses the conceptual categories and cells by bringing forward new transferences, metaphors, and metonymies. It continually manifests an ardent desire to refashion the world which presents itself to waking man, so that it will be as colorful, irregular, lacking in results and coherence, charming, and eternally new as the world of dreams. Indeed, it is only by means of the rigid and regular web of concepts that the waking man clearly sees that he is awake; and it is precisely because of this that he sometimes thinks that he must be dreaming when this web of concepts is torn by art.

Life should not be ruled by ratiocination, quantification, and cool logic. To be replete with meaning, life should be experienced as a dream, as a myth, with all the wonders and miracles that occur in dreams and myths. And please don’t take this literally, friends. We are discussing the drive to create metaphors.

…because of the way that myth takes it for granted that miracles are always happening, the waking life of a mythically inspired people, the ancient Greeks, for instance, more closely resembles a dream than it does the waking world of a scientifically disenchanted thinker. When every tree can suddenly speak as a nymph, when a god in the shape of a bull can drag away maidens, when even the goddess Athena herself is suddenly seen in the company of Peisastratus driving through the market place of Athens with a beautiful team of horses-and this is what the honest Athenian believed- then, as in a dream, anything is possible at each moment, and all of nature swarms around man as if it were nothing but a masquerade of the gods, who were merely amusing themselves by deceiving men in all these shapes.

Such a life sets up a constant stream of creation and possibilities. Anything is possible. I think this is the kind of life we have discussed before, in the work of Jung, and Hillman. It is the dynamic flow of soul. It is what Gebser calls the “new consciousness.”

When engaged in art and myth-making, “that master of deception, the intellect, is free; it is released from its former slavery and celebrates its Saturnalia.” Now, guided by intuitions, the free intellect smashes the “framework and planking of concepts,” and then creatively reconstructs it in strange, new ways.  Think of a few of the creative movements that erupted not too long after Nietzsche’s death: Expressionism, Surrealism, and Dada. These are examples of ways the old conceptual framework was smashed and reconstructed, as if reality were so much clay we may fashion using our imaginations.

This is the life I want to live. I hope you choose to, as well. Happy Saturnalia!

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Truth and Lies, Part I

What is Truth, by Nikolai Ge

 

This is a continuation of thoughts related to Nietzsche’s watershed essay, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.

I left off yesterday discussing Nietzsche’s assertion that man invented language as a “binding designation,” to bring us as close to “pure truth” as we can get.

…a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth. For the contrast between truth and lie arises here for the first time. The liar is a person who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real (Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense).

Man invented the words of languages as “valid designations” of truth. By accepting these,

…we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things–metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities .

The words we use have originated by equating things that are different. Take snowflakes, for example. Every snowflake is unique, yet we designate all snowflakes by the word, snowflake. This word is not the true thing, but merely a designator of similarities. The similarities of all snowflakes leads to the invention of forms, as in Plato’s philosophy, where, in a separate world somewhere, there exists a perfect snowflake. Of course, this sort of mental meandering sets up a state of dualism, and brings about a plethora of other philosophical problems, which this short article cannot deal with.

When words are created to designate “truths,” there arises a necessary contrast between truth and lie. But a liar is not defined in the manner in which we are accustomed to. Nietzsche tells us that a liar is someone “who uses the valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real.” Therefore, we are all liars, by necessity, since all of us use the valid designations. We “lie according to a fixed convention, to lie with the herd and in a manner binding upon everyone” So, we perform our “duty which society imposes in order to exist: to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors.” Furthermore, mankind

…forgets that this is the way things stand for him. Thus he lies in the manner indicated, unconsciously and in accordance with habits which are centuries’ old; and precisely by means of this unconsciousness and forgetfulness he arrives at his sense of truth.

The ramifications of Nietzsche’s thought in this essay are staggering. His ideas, here, were revolutionary in his day. It was a total break with the epistemologies presented prior to 1873. We arrive at our sense of truth via unconscious mendacity, because we have forgotten that this is simply the way things are. When humans begin to use language, they lay aside all intuitions and immediate impressions of the world around him, placing “his behavior under the control of abstractions.” The reducing of images into concepts now creates a totally new world of knowledge:

Everything which distinguishes man from the animals depends upon this ability to volatilize perceptual metaphors in a schema, and thus to dissolve an image into a concept. For something is possible in the realm of these schemata which could never be achieved with the vivid first impressions: the construction of a pyramidal order according to castes and degrees, the creation of a new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, and clearly marked boundaries-a new world, one which now confronts that other vivid world of first impressions as more solid, more universal, better known, and more human than the immediately perceived world, and thus as the regulative and imperative world.

By this order, we have landed on the shores of this new world of cool logic, mathematics, the rational, and, finally, Gebser’s deficient mode of rational consciousness, of which we are now reaping the whirlwind. The descent of rational man began when we accepted the methodology of arriving at truth by lying. It is lying because we accept, as absolutely true, things which are not absolutely true. Nietzsche uses the example of the word, mammal:

If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare “look, a mammal’ I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be “true in itself” or really and universally valid apart from man.

Such mendacity arises from viewing man as the center of the universe, as if nature were meant to serve us. Nietzsche says, “what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man.” The primary error we make is believing that the designated metaphors are true in themselves.

Due to this sort of dissimulation, we are now enmeshed in a

…conceptual crap game [where] “truth” means using every die in the designated manner, counting its spots accurately, fashioning the right categories, and never violating the order of caste and class rank.

More later………..

 

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Clever Beasts, Part II

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My previous article discussed the initial paragraphs of Nietzsche’s essay, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense. I left off with his conclusion that man is “deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images…” The manner in which the intellect operates is characterized by deception, both of others and of ourselves. We perceive things and think we are seeing them as they are in themselves, but this is a lie fashioned by our minds. It is a mechanism of self-preservation, according to Nietzsche. Since nature has chosen to fashion mankind such that we do not wage the battle for existence with horns or with the sharp teeth of beasts of prey,” dissimulation, as an art, has become highly acute in us. With this in mind, Nietzsche concludes that “there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among” us. But it did somehow arise, for there are those among us who possess this drive, or else I would not be penning this short article. Therefore,

What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him-even concerning his own body-in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! She threw away the key. And woe to that fatal curiosity which might one day have the power to peer out and down through a crack in the chamber of consciousness and then suspect that man is sustained in the indifference of his ignorance by that which is pitiless, greedy, insatiable, and murderous-as if hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger. Given this situation, where in the world could the drive for truth have come from?

So, what do we really know about ourselves? Can we know ourselves completely? It was Heraclitus who first said, Nature loves to hide (Fragment 10, trans, by G.W.T. Patrick). Nature does, indeed, conceal most things from us, but not all things. Even though it seems nature confines us “within a proud, deceptive consciousness,” this does not mean we must remain in this state. Remember what Heraclitus said, “Into the same river you could not step twice” (ibid.). Yes, nature does conceal itself, but it also changes constantly. This infers we are not locked within a deceptive consciousness. In the end, it may mean we cannot completely know ourselves, but we might be able “to peer out and down through a crack in the chamber of consciousness.” There is a drive for truth. We know this beyond all doubt. This is not one of our self-deceptions.

There is an initial step toward the “truth drive” we must understand. Since we cannot know truth in and of itself, something must be invented that represents truth: “That is to say, a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth.” In other words, truth can be conveyed, albeit in a limited fashion, through language. The thing-in-itself, which Nietzsche calls “pure truth,” is incomprehensible, and “not in the least worth striving for” (Nietzsche, at this point in his career, was still adhering to the Kantian distinction of phenomenon and noumenon; he later rejected it and overcame metaphysical dualism). The creator of languages only desires to demonstrate “the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors.” And now we come to a fascinating passage:

…we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things–metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities. In the same way that the sound appears as a sand figure, so the mysterious X of the thing in itself first appears as a nerve stimulus, then as an image, and finally as a sound. Thus the genesis of language does not proceed logically in any case, and all the material within and with which the man of truth, the scientist, and the philosopher later work and build, if not derived from never-never land, is a least not derived from the essence of things.

If you think about this, Nietzsche is exactly correct. The initial entity we deal with in our process of knowing is the image. Jung also believed this, as did James Hillman:

In the beginning is the image; first imagination then perception; first fantasy then reality…Man is primarily an image-maker and our psychic substance consists of images; our being is imaginal being, an existence in imagination. We are indeed such stuff as dreams are made on (James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology, p. 23).

Prior to our perceiving anything in this world, there are images that create our reality. Jung said, “The psyche creates reality every day.” Our consciousness is totally dependent upon this vast storehouse of images we call soul. Soul is image and image is soul. The only way we experience anything in this world is because of our ability to imagine. We imagine and create constantly. Our consciousness would not exist without images. Images are the irreducible elements inherent in all things.

Nietzsche is referring to the metaphors of language, i.e. words. A metaphor begins, perhaps, as a nerve stimulus, then as a picture in the mind, then as a sound. These sounds become words in many different forms, according to one’s language and culture. I find it interesting that Carl Jung likened the archetypes to instincts. Images originate in the body, in human Being (in the Heideggerian sense). They come from the instincts/archetypes. These are the sources of all knowledge, in my opinion.

I will continue with this line of inquiry in my next article.

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Clever Beasts, Part I

elmyr7-644x662

Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly-as though the world’s axis turned within it. But if we could communicate with the gnat, we would learn that he likewise flies through the air with the same solemnity, that he feels the flying center of the universe within himself. There is nothing so reprehensible and unimportant in nature that it would not immediately swell up like a balloon at the slightest puff of this power of knowing. And just as every porter wants to have an admirer, so even the proudest of men, the philosopher, supposes that he sees on all sides the eyes of the universe telescopically focused upon his action and thought (F. Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, 1873).

This is quite an humbling statement from our friend, Nietzsche; it sets the seemingly all-knowing scientist and philosopher in his or her proper place. That “mendacious minute of world history,” in which the clever beast invents the art of knowing, may be temporal, even though we pompously view it as the beginning of something unending. The believer in Platonic Idealism will violently rail against these statements, for this violates every precept of that doctrine. Likewise, Christians will hurl accusations of heresy at the mere mention that the art of knowing will dissipate with the death of that great star. Since it created the gathering of knowledge, humanity believes itself to be the center and master of the universe. This is, of course, the rankest form of hubris.

If you read on in the essay, Nietzsche goes on to tell us, “The pride connected with knowing and sensing lies like a blinding fog over the eyes and senses of men, thus deceiving them concerning the value of existence” (ibid.). An extreme pretentiousness has begotten a form of deception that blinds us entirely to the nature of existence and truth. “As a means for the preserving of the individual, the intellect unfolds its principle powers in dissimulation” (ibid.). Man is the master of dissimulation. This is without a doubt, symptomatic of the deficient form of the mental-rational mode of consciousness, spoken of by Jean Gebser.

Deception, flattering, lying, deluding, talking behind the back, putting up a false front, living in borrowed splendor, wearing a mask, hiding behind convention, playing a role for others and for oneself-in short, a continuous fluttering around the solitary flame of vanity-is so much the rule and the law among men that there is almost nothing which is less comprehensible than how an honest and pure drive for truth could have arisen among them (ibid.). 

This is our culture in a nutshell. These are the impediments that prevent any form of individuation, any form of deepening consciousness. We will not profit by a return to a purer, more enlightened era; mankind has been like this since the birth of the intellect. Some future Utopia will not solve our problems either.

They are deeply immersed in illusions and in dream images; their eyes merely glide over the surface of things and see “forms.” Their senses nowhere lead to truth; on the contrary, they are content to receive stimuli and, as it were, to engage in a groping game on the backs of things (ibid).

Empirical data and the quantifiable will not be our saviors. While beneficial to humanity in some ways, science is still living in that deep, dense fog that causes it to blindly grope in the darkness.

Politicians are the most deceived, and most deceiving, group of all humans. While “normal” people engage daily in dissimulation to a certain extent, according to their natures, politicians are absolute masters of deception, possessing finely honed words of rhetoric designed to cause the bleating sheep who follow them to do their bidding, while they look on approvingly. The most mendacious among them move to the head of the herd. These have the ability to deceive the most sheep into voting for them. One of their primary tactics is demagoguery. By preaching xenophobia and racism, and thereby inflaming the passions of the masses, their agenda is furthered.

But this begs the question, Who, among us, knows? If mankind is blinded by hubris because we possess intellect, of what good is the quest for truth, and where did the desire even originate in the first place?

More to come…

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The Emergent Awareness of Soul

Procession of Carpenters, Fresco from the Bottega del Profumiere (Perfumer's Workshop) (VI, 7, 8), Pompeii.
Procession of Carpenters, Fresco from the Bottega del Profumiere (Perfumer’s Workshop) (VI, 7, 8), Pompeii.

…the essential characteristic of the mythical structure is the emergent awareness of soul (Gebser 61).

In the schema of Jean Gebser, the mythical structure is the mode of awareness that appears prior to the mental-rational structure of consciousness. It is characterized by a two-dimensional, unperspectival level of awareness. There is no real awareness of space, and only a natural awareness of time. This means an awareness of the movements of time through natural events, such as the changing of seasons, the moon cycles, the movement of planets, etc. This all occurs in a world without spatial awareness. The cyclical movement of nature is the predominant human point of view at this time. It is cyclical, so there is no movement forward in space. It is only circular movement from pole to pole; it doesn’t go anywhere. It is an endless circularity. The shifting between poles seems to create a unique energy that initiates the emergence of a new consciousness.  Thus, from this experience mankind creates symbols and myths. The emerging of imaginative thinking signals the emergence of the individual soul.

Such is the world of humans around 40,000 years ago, the era of late Cro-Magnon man, or “European early modern humans” (EEMH), as scientists now call the humans of that age, and his descendants. They begin to form a symbolic and mythological worldview, bringing about the emergence of the soul, and begin to distinguish themselves as individuals. The Ego, at this point, is certainly not yet developed, but it is starting to form. This is the advent of the road to self-consciousness.

Prior to the mythical structure, the soul is not regarded as being that important. In the fully mature mythical mode of consciousness, however, soul becomes very crucial, indeed, to the human experience. Gebser explains that

Myth is the closing of mouth and eyes; since it is a silent, inward-directed contemplation, it renders the soul visible so that it may be visualized, represented, heard, and made audible (Gebser 67).

And,

what is viewed inwardly, as in a dream, has its conscious emergence and polar complement in poetically shaped utterance (ibid.).

This is the advent of imagination. Prior to the mythical structure, “vital connections reach awareness and are manifested in emotional forms” (ibid.), whereas the mythical has “an imaginatory consciousness, reflected in the imagistic nature of myth and responsive to the soul and sky of the ancient cosmos” (ibid.).

Some very important archetypal motifs become evident in mythology in the period from about 20,000 B.C.E to the point when consciousness mutates to the mental structure around 500 B.C.E: stories about the cosmos, especially the Sun and Moon; the genesis of the earth and of mankind; myths of sea voyages, such as that of Odysseus; all other Greek myths, especially those of Hades, Narcissus, and Athena. This is not to mention the comparative myths of humans around the world. Joseph Campbell aptly demonstrates the importance of these.

On the importance to us today of this form, and all other forms, of consciousness that have emerged, or are emerging, Gebser sums up succinctly in this statement:

Everyone who is intent upon surviving–not only the earth but also life–with worth and dignity, and living rather than passively accepting life, must sooner or later pass through the agonies of emergent consciousness (Gebser 73).

This agrees with James Hillman’s position that the nature of the soul is to pathologize.

 

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

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Dreams of a Planetary Society

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Die gefrorene Stadt, by Matthias Zimmermann (Künstler)

The task of constructing a global commonwealth  — a planetary civilisation — which still preserves the integrity and dignity of different human experiences of the Earth, and one in which all kinds of different people can still feel at home in the Earth, is the Great Work of our time. It requires a different and more adequate consciousness structure — an integrating consciousness. That means, largely, a switch from an “either/or” type of logic to a “both/and” type of logic. This really isn’t a simple matter for those who have been schooled from birth in the former, and who everywhere think in terms of dualisms (Scott Preston, Person and Planet, The Chrysalis).

I suppose you’ve realized by now I am a huge fan of blogger, Scott Preston. His website contains some of the best writing on the Internet.

I’ve been thinking of this paragraph all day, contemplating how far we are from realizing a truly planetary society, where all people of the world can feel comfortable being a global citizen, where they “can feel at home in the Earth.” It would probably be easier to colonize Mars, but what good will that do for the billions of souls who yearn for true freedom? The obstacles seem insurmountable. But just imagine being one of the early humans who, many, many thousands of years ago, trudged out of Africa and migrated to lands all over the world. Think of the difficulties these people faced for generations upon generations, to finally come to where we are now. We all trace our lineage back to those stalwart souls (this is a starting point of commonality for a new global society). At that point in the human journey, they had no idea what lay ahead for them. The thought of traveling to the moon would have blown their minds. Is the thought of a global commonwealth such an impossible idea?

Scott is right. It will take a transformation of consciousness (or mutation, according to Jean Gebser) to get there. Those of us who love peace, who eschew greed and malice, who desire that our world be a good home for all peoples, we will dream big dreams that require an equally big consciousness, a kind that humans have never experienced before. The more we reach for the big dreams, the easier it will be to get there. Gradually, by stretching our minds, by properly caring for our souls, human consciousness will evolve. Then, we will have the world we dream of.

What prevents this from occurring now? It seems to be in large part due to the desire to roll back the clock to some distant point in the past, where many believe society was better. Sadly, it also has much to do with religion. Religious belief structures are inextricably ingrained in the current consciousness structure of the world, so getting everyone to agree, even to “agree to disagree,” will be extremely difficult. That may be the most difficult task of all. But there are others. Agreement on a form of government that is fair to all seems impossible. But, again, think about those early humans who trekked around the planet. Sure, it was over a great period of time, but they did it. If we survive, it may take an equal number of years to achieve our dreams. The important point is that it can be done, eventually.

It is hard to imagine such a world with our current perspective. The entire point of view of human thinking will need to change. The current deficient mental-rational funk simply will not do. Dualistic thinking will not suffice. Forget Descartes. He had his day in the limelight. Glean what is useful from him and move on. The same with Newton. Learn his ideas and move on. Don’t build a city in his name. It is the same with all thinkers. Let them teach us what is useful for the mutation of our consciousness, what can open our minds to new possibilities, then move on down the road. As Preston suggests, mankind requires a switch from either-or thinking to both-and thinking. There is no other way to transform ourselves into what Nietzsche envisioned, the Overman, or the Transhuman, as Preston likes to call the self-realized, individuated Human.

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The Umpqua Community College Shootings

The Nightmare, by John Henry Fuseli, 1781
The Nightmare, by John Henry Fuseli, 1781

Another gun rampage, another massacre today, this time on the campus of Umpqua Community College in southwestern Oregon. Add thirteen to the many senselessly killed in the past several decades at the hands of those seemingly possessed by what Scott Preston calls “ultimate self-contradiction leading to self-annihilation (A Tsunami of Unreason II, The Chrysalis). We are living in the midst of what Nietzsche predicted well over a century ago, and what came after his pronouncement of the death of God:

What I relate is the history of the next two centuries. I describe what is coming, what can no longer come differently: the advent of nihilism (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, pg. 3).

Nietzsche knew the forces that had become manifest in the earth. He recognized the deficiencies of rational thought that transformed the minds of the people and Western culture. But he also knew that nihilism has two faces: a destructive side, which we usually see, and a creative side.

In January of 2014, I wrote these words concerning nihilism:

Nihilism is a transitional stage in the process of overcoming oneself. Many times, the thinker will arrive at the edge of the Maelstrom (my metaphor, not Nietzsche’s) after deciding that all is meaningless. The Maelstrom makes one giddy, its potency is overwhelming, its possibility incomprehensible. Frightened by the roaring, gyrating turmoil, most turn away, commit suicide, or live the remainder of their lives in torment (Nihilism as a Precursor to Transformation).

This turning away is what I suspect most of these shooter-killers are doing. In this era of what Gebser calls the deficient mental-rational mode of consciousness, we all daily face degrees of nihilism. The good thing is that some of us can deal with it and remain on the path to emergent consciousness and the coming era of integration. On the other hand, some us can’t deal with it. Many of these persons turn to the destruction of others and themselves.

Nihilism is an extremely powerful force which has the ability to wreak utter havoc. We have seen its decadent side during most of the twentieth century, especially since the beginning of The Great War in 1917, as well as what we have experienced so far in this century. Nietzsche believed in an “active” and “passive” nihilism.” Passive nihilism is a decaying, depraved perversion. The active nihilist actively seeks to overcome this state of decay. It is a revolutionary mindset, the philosophizing with a hammer, if necessary, to break down old, decrepit values, transforming oneself into the Self one is meant to be.

The decrepit side of nihilism is self-contradictory and disintegrative. These are characteristics of the deficient mental-rational mode of consciousness. The shooter-killers are souls divided against themselves. Instead of seeking harmony within themselves, they have, whether consciously or unconsciously, thoroughly embraced a meaningless and irrational existence. Their souls have been annihilated.

We hear much about gun control when these massacres occur. I am of the opinion that guns are definitely too easily procured these days, but this is not the answer. It is the reply of the knee-jerk reactionary. Scott Preston does a good job of describing this type of person:

The reactionary, however, isn’t really given to honest reflection, self-evaluation, sincere self-appraisal, or self-knowledge. Instead, rather than honestly face one’s own self-contradictions and duplicities,  ideological reconstruction, revisionism, lip-service paid to “principle”, and rationalisation (and failing that, violence) are the usual resorts of the reactionary mentality and attitude, regardless of how irrational, absurd, or untruthful these may be (The Reactionary, The Chrysalis).

In the case of gun control, the advocates would be reactionaries of the political left. There are also reactionaries of the political right, such as Kim Davis, who refuse to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Both these types are prisoners of the deficient mental-rational type of consciousness. These two types have a stranglehold on our culture. No, gun control will not suffice to stop these killings. We must learn about soul, about consciousness, and most of all about our true selves. We must learn to harmonize with the earth instead of fighting against it. Let us lay down the repudiated thinking of The Enlightenment and embrace the future.

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Consciousness and Water

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Sea Witch, by Frank Frazetta, 1967

 

Go visit the Prairies in June, when for scores on scores of miles you wade knee-deep among Tiger-lilies—what is the one charm wanting?—Water—there is not a drop of water there! Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it? Why did the poor poet of Tennessee, upon suddenly receiving two handfuls of silver, deliberate whether to buy him a coat, which he sadly needed, or invest his money in a pedestrian trip to Rockaway Beach? Why is almost every robust healthy boy with a robust healthy soul in him, at some time or other crazy to go to sea? Why upon your first voyage as a passenger, did you yourself feel such a mystical vibration, when first told that you and your ship were now out of sight of land? Why did the old Persians hold the sea holy? Why did the Greeks give it a separate deity, and own brother of Jove? Surely all this is not without meaning. And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all (Melville ).

What is this mysterious attraction we have to the sea? Melville calls it “the ungraspable phantom of life…the key to it all.” Since the dawning of human consciousness, the importance of water has been paramount. Civilizations were usually created near great bodies of water. Was it simply convenience, economics, or was the lure of the sea, lakes, and rivers something deeper, more primal? 

It is not surprising that the human body and the physical earth are both about 75% water, thus asserting once again the validity of the Hermetic principle, As above, So below. It seems to apply universally, especially in the relationship between the earth and mankind.

The beginning of humanity lies in the seas and oceans. The image of the deep ocean is seared like a brand in our consciousness. It symbolizes the most primordial aspects of human being. It is no surprise that Melville would turn to this image to symbolize Ishmael’s quest for self-realization. Heraclitus tells us, “Water comes into existence out of earth, and soul out of water.” Soul, earth, and water are very closely intermingled. The ocean has been considered for millennia to be a symbol of the unfathomable and limitless, but also of potentiality, for all creation proceeds from it, the fons et origo. Jung considered the ocean to be a prime symbol for the collective unconscious. This tells me that soul is this ocean, although no one symbol can encompass it’s depth. Marcel Proust profoundly comments, “It is said that the saline fluid in our blood is merely the survival of the primordial sea element in us” (qtd. in Gebser 218).

Of the four classic elements of antiquity, water is perhaps the most transitional. It is an intermediary between life and death because it brings forth life in abundance, but it is also a destroyer par excellence. Just think of the disastrous Japanese tsunami in 2011, or Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  I am also reminded of the Greek conception of death as having to pay Charon to cross the river Styx, prior to entering Hades. Soul is connected, yes, deeply connected to death and the Underworld.

The myth of Narcissus is mentioned by Melville in the above passage. What he says is quite interesting and mysterious: “because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned.” We know Narcissus fell in love with his own image in the water. He was not conscious of the fact that the image was his own. Eventually realizing his love would never be reciprocated, he killed himself. Because the soul has always been connected with water, and thus the deepest mysteries of human life, Narcissus died never realizing this beauty to be his own. There are enigmatic and deadly things in the soul/water/ocean. But it is also the font of all life and being. This is why the ocean is such a profound symbol. This “ungraspable phantom of life” is our soul, that which “we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans.” If Narcissus could have somehow become conscious of his own image, he would have experienced what Gebser calls the integral; what Jung calls individuation; and what Nietzsche calls the Ubermensch.

 

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. Project Gutenberg: 2008   <https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm>.

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The Unveiling of Origin

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Magic Garden, by Paul Klee, 1926

In the consciousness mutations, there is a process of rearrangement in a discontinuous and intermittent (sprunghaft) form apart from spatially and temporally dependent events. These processes of relocation make it possible for the intensified spiritual origin to be assimilated into human consciousness. Origin itself comes to awareness in a discontinuous mutation: consciousness mutations are completions of integration (Gebser 39).

In my article, Origin and Beginning, I have attempted to say a few words about what the idea of “Origin” means to Jean Gebser. You might want to peruse that prior to reading this installment. 

Basically, I see Gebser’s Origin as similar to what Hermeticism calls The All. Speculating further, one also finds similarity between Origin and Giordano Bruno’s idea of God. Bruno’s theological thought stemmed from an anti-Neoplatonic cosmology, but seemed to embrace a Neoplatonic theology. He agrees with Nicholas of Cusa and Plotinus that God was totally beyond every concept and knowledge. In fact, as Plotinus asserted, God is even beyond ‘being,’ understood as ‘being something specific and determinable’  (Mendoza 140). Gebser views Origin as the ground from which all things spring forth. But this originary presence is not to be viewed as a telos, or as some origin in the past. Origin is non-temporal and non-spatial in every way. It is ever-present.

Now, in the above passage, Gebser is describing the mutations of consciousness as processes that do not follow any regular pattern, and that irrupt chaotically. They are “rearrangements” of consciousness, and they are completely free of any temporal and spatial dependencies. Intermittently and discontinuously, consciousness becomes rearranged by means of mutation in order to further integrate and assimilate what Gebser refers to as “the intensified spiritual origin.” This is the intermingling of the divine (for want of a better word to describe God) with our humanity. It is a complete reacquaintance with Origin, the true spiritual essence. Our true Self is this integration of God and man. It is what William Blake called the Poetic Genius, and it is what Jesus meant when he said, “Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34, KJV). The entire enterprise of Gebser (and of Jesus, for that matter) was one of bringing to awareness the nature of our True selves, that we are destined to be god-humans. Furthermore, this destiny is probably programmed into our DNA, but there are many ways to reject one’s destiny. If we choose complacency over action, the integral mode of consciousness cannot revolutionize our lives.

Now, soul is said to be the bridge between spirit and matter. Plato referred to this as metaxy, the state of in-between-ness. It is the middle way between all polarities. As Nietzsche said, “Man is a rope fastened between animal and Superman–a rope over an abyss” (Nietzsche 43). Soul is the via regia to the integral mode of consciousness, to Origin, to the intermingling of God and man. It is up to us to actually place ourselves on this road and begin traveling. In other words, there is a volitional element involved.

Physicist David Bohm describes how the man’s Weltanschauung can be changed:,

Man’s general way of thinking of the totality, i.e. his general world view, is crucial for overall order of the human mind itself. If he thinks of the totality as constituted of independent fragments, then that is how his mind will tend to operate, but if he can include everything coherently and harmoniously in an overall whole that is undivided, unbroken and without border (for every border is a division or break) then his mind will tend to move in a similar way, and from this will flow an orderly action within the whole (Bohm ix).

To remain in our current state of consciousness, the deficient mental-rational, means utter and complete fragmentation. This is what we see all around us everyday. Whenever a nation refuses to allow refugees safe passage across their borders, it is evidence that said nation is enmeshed in the deficient mental-rational mode of thought. Whenever any of these refugees commit acts of terror against those nations that do offer them shelter, it is an example of the deficient mental-rational structure of consciousness. But, as Bohm says, if we can see things in a holistic manner, the rearrangement of consciousness will occur and humans will intermingle with the gods. We have a very long way to travel.

 

Works Cited

Bohm, David. Wholeness and the Implicate Order. New York: Routledge, 1980.

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Mendoza, Ramon G. The Acentric Labyrinth. Rockport: Element, 1995.

Friedrich Nietzsche. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. Walter Kauffman and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Penguin, 1969.

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Borders

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Refugee Children, by Majsiej Sliapian

We have been hearing much in the news recently concerning thousands of refugees fleeing   from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan only to be met with closed borders. The Hungarian borders have even been lined with razor wire, along with many police and military personnel. They attempt to deter the refugees with teargas, pepper spray, and water cannons. This is the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. What we are seeing everyday in the headlines is the gradual disintegration of the predominant consciousness structure, which Jean Gebser called the mental-rational, in its deficient mode. The people want peace. They crave true freedom and safety from crazed psychopaths who want to murder them and their families. The people are crying out for what integration and world individuation will bring.

The daily news is replete with evidence for the ongoing fragmentation of this so-called rational society. The more of this we see, the closer we come to the Integral, the next mutation of consciousness, which will encompass all other modes and will transform us from a three-dimensional paradigm to a four-dimensional paradigm. I look at this as individuation on a cosmic scale, the individuation of the World Soul.

It is said that it is darkest before the dawn; we may see more darkness, more totalitarianism, more fascism before we fully experience the world as it is meant to be. Remember what James Hillman taught us: pathologization is the nature of the soul, even on a world scale. In that day when the World Soul overcomes herself, as Nietzsche would say, there will be no nation-states, and no borders to close; as a matter of fact, there will be no borders! Humans will move freely where they choose. It is the current deficient mode of human consciousness that brings about situations where human freedom is impaired. Hierarchical authorities, with apparently no regard for human lives, attempt to rule with economics as their prime directive.  I know it sounds Utopian to think that there will come a day when there will be no nation-states, no wars, no borders, but I choose to imagine it will come to pass. To choose otherwise is total nihilism.

The perspective of Late Modernity, which Wikipedia describes as being “marked by the global capitalist economies with their increasing privatisation of services,” along with the continuation of extreme rationality, to the exclusion of all other modes of thought that might offer succor to the suffering masses, is the driving force behind our current society. The global capitalist market is paramount in the minds of those who have brought us to this state of affairs. Things are melting down. We have seen war upon war, especially in the last twenty-five years. There is a crisis occurring, a turning point. As Gebser puts it,

…weapons and nuclear fission are not the only realities to be dealt with; spiritual reality in its intensified form is also becoming effectual and real. The new spiritual reality is without question our only security that the threat of material destruction can be averted. Its realization alone seems able to guarantee man’s continuing existence in the face of the powers of technology, rationality, and chaotic emotion. If our consciousness, that is, the individual person’s awareness, vigilance, and clarity of vision, cannot master the new reality and make possible its realization, then the prophets of doom will have been correct. Our alternatives are an illusion; consequently, great demands are placed on us, and each one of us have been given a grave responsibility, not merely to survey but to actually traverse the path opening before us (Gebser 5).

God help us choose the right path.

 

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985

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The Concept of the Unconscious Revisited

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Tidings of the Eagle, by Nicholas Roerich (1927)

There is a deceptive idea that many followers of depth psychology seem to adhere to. It is the perception that what depth psychologists call “the unconscious” is some sort of objective reality, or compartment of the mind that stores the thoughts, ideas, images we repress, things we forget, etc. Basically, anything we are not consciously aware of is supposedly “stored” in the unconscious. This is inaccurate. The word simply means, “not aware.” We treat “the unconscious,” as a place or thing when, in reality, there is much we are simply unaware of. Not very hard to understand, but lots of people who are interested in the human mind, and especially Freudian, Jungian and post-Jungian psychology, make this mistake. In fact, some seem to speak of the unconscious as a divine entity, even capitalizing the word and attributing all sorts of powers to it. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of this, myself.

Again, unconsciousness is simply a lack of awareness. For example, I am trying to remember the name of someone I went to school with when I was a child. I can see her face clearly in the imagination, but I am unconscious of what her name is. I don’t remember her name. But, if I think of her face for awhile, the name usually comes to me. Does this mean that lost memories are stored in a compartment of the mind called the unconscious? No, it simply means I was momentarily unaware of the name.

Jung proposed a model, a revision of Freud’s picture of the mind, that divided the unconscious into two layers, “personal unconscious,” and “collective unconscious,” the latter being the “storehouse” of what Freud had previously called “archaic remnants.” In retrospect, we see this dichotomizing as being a product of the extreme adherence to Cartesian dualism. Both men were still in the grip of, what Jean Gebser calls, the decaying mental-rational mode of consciousness. It is true that Jung’s view evolved over the years to an understanding closer to Gebser’s, but many of his followers still hold to this bifurcated idea. Yes, there is a collective and a personal aspect to the mind, but they are not compartmentalized. They work in unison.

Furthermore, consciousness and unconsciousness are not oppositional areas of the mind. In everyday experience, they walk hand-in-hand. In reality, they are one. In his classic work, The Ever-Present Origin, Gebser declares

There is no so-called unconscious. There are only various modalities (or intensities) of consciousness: a one-dimensional magical, a two-dimensional mythical, a three-dimensional mental consciousness. And there will also be an integral four-dimensional consciousness of the whole (Gebser 204).

Gebser does make allowance for using the term to describe lesser intensifications of consciousness. In our day, we would speak of the archaic, the magical, and the mythical modes of consciousness as less intense, since we are currently dominated by the mental-rational modality. Unconsciousness would also relate to the respective dimensionality of the less intense modes (archaic, magical, and mythical) than what we currently experience. The archaic has zero dimensionality, the magical is one-dimensional, the mythical is two-dimensional, and of course, the mental-rational has access to three dimensions. According to Gebser, there will be a four-dimensional consciousness. This is known as the integral mode. It will amalgamate all previous modes.

James Hillman makes some very pertinent and interesting observations concerning “the unconscious” in his work, The Myth of Analysis:

How does this term help us now? Already in Jung’s usage the term was becoming inadequate. He had to speak of a consciousness in the unconscious, and he ascribed to the unconscious a superior, guiding intentionality–which is more fitting to divinities than to subliminal mental processes.

By questioning the term, we do not doubt the existence of unwilled and unreasonable psychic states, of dreaming and of subliminal creative activities, or of any of the disturbances that are called the psychopathology of everyday life, nor do we question their “inferiority” as “sub” forms of consciousness, as we now conceive consciousness… (Hillman 174).

And also,

The term, “unconscious” is suitable for describing states where consciousness is not present–coma, for instance; but to use the word for the imaginal region, for morally inferior or culturally ignorant behavior, for instinctual release reactions, and for a causal agent who “sends” dreams and to which one can turn to ask an opinion, is an erosion of categories. To personify it and regard it as one’s inhibitory daimonic voice, or totem animal, or familiaris is not merely superstitious. Such habits are sacrilegious, because they deprive the Gods of their due. The unconscious is a concept, not a metaphor, even if what it represents is indeed the metaphorical and the source of metaphors. Thus we seem unable to avoid speaking in this peculiar, superstitious manner. But it is not good psychology to make a theology of the psyche or to psychologize the divine (Hillman 175).

Language in our current mode of consciousness does not sufficiently deal with the difficult realities of the human mind. I think, however, that both Gebser and Hillman are are on the right track.

Hillman, in another place in The Myth of Analysis, likens the term, unconscious, to what the ancients called memoria. I find this quite fascinating. The human ability to memorize vast amounts of information is a fascinating topic. Hillman thinks it is closely connected to the soul and what Henry Corbin called the mundus imaginalis, the imaginal world.

Regarding Gebser, I think he might say that memoria is the modality of consciousness holding all four modes of consciousness, preserving all of mankind’s experiences with consciousness throughout the history of the human race. The soul is timeless. Because of that, the four modes are presently accessible to us. Our origin, as living creatures, is “ever-originating,” an eternal presence. We have forgotten this. Our true selves have been disconnected from eternity. We have wandered far from our origin. Our task here is to re-member, to re-collect that which has disintegrated. It’s not a remembering in the sense of memory, but a re-integration of what has been torn asunder. It is difficult to say what the origin is, but it seems similar to what Hermetists calls The All. It is certainly non-spatial and non-temporal. All the various modes of consciousness emerge from the origin. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all things in the universe share in this ever-present reality. It is not an external reality. The very roots of our being lie within us, connected rhizomally to the origin, and, in turn, to each other.

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Hillman, James. The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972.

 

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Portents of Doom

The Great Day of His Wrath, by John Martin

Strange irruptions from the depths of unconsciousness began to burst forth in the late nineteenth century, up to the beginning of World War I. It was evident that a disintegration was occurring, one that would ultimately lead to two world wars, the invention and detonation of several nuclear weapons, the rise of fascism, and the death of nearly one hundred million people.

Several important events occurred in 1912. C.G. Jung published Psychology of the Unconscious (Wandlugen und Symbole der Libido). It signaled the split with Freud, and would usher in a new revolution in psychology. Alfred Wegener formulated his theory of continental drift, which I have connected to Gebser’s theory here. On the morning of April 15, RMS Titanic was swallowed by the sea, plunging over two miles to the bottom of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg the previous evening. The death of the Titanic sounds a powerfully dissonant chord in the increasing cacophony of the earth. It is a harbinger of things to come. Almost fifteen-hundred lives were lost that night because of a very freakish convergence of rare natural occurrences (irruptions from the collective unconscious, perhaps?). On June 6, the mighty Alaskan volcano, Novarupta, erupted spewing thirty times more material into the earth’s atmosphere than Mount St. Helen in 1980. Was this also evidence that something was amiss? Was it a dark outpouring of collective unconscious content from the depths of the Anima Mundi?

The World Soul has a shadow side, just as we do. It is the collective shadow of humanity. The fall toward darkness we have been experiencing for a little over one hundred years is the result of an ongoing mutation of the consciousness of mankind. We are in what fellow blogger, Scott Preston, calls a time of “dehiscence,” which is “a term used in botany to describe the last stages in the life of a plant or flower. It is when the plant, upon reaching maturity, dies, but in the process bursts or otherwise broadcasts its seeds” (Preston). This idea eloquently describes what has occurred, and what is occurring. The so-called Modern Age met its demise around the beginning of World War I, which began in August of 1914, just two years after the events described above. The ancients would call these “evil omens,” portents of future calamity and malaise. But, even though an age has been destroyed, and is still in the process of being destroyed, another is being birthed. The so-called New Age is on the horizon, that is if chaos doesn’t overtake us first. The collective World Soul must make peace with her Shadow prior to a new holistic and rhizomal mode of consciousness taking root. This means we must make peace with the dark energies within us. The over-inflated ego must be put to death. Like the Apostle Paul, we must “die daily” to the deceit of the narcissistic ego. A harmonious Soul is our only hope as a species. In conclusion, a warning from Jean Gebser:

…weapons and nuclear fission are not the only realities to be dealt with; spiritual reality in its intensified form is also becoming effectual and real. The new spiritual reality is without question our only security that the threat of material destruction can be averted. Its realization alone seems able to guarantee man’s continuing existence in the face of the powers of technology, rationality, and chaotic emotion. If our consciousness, that is, the individual person’s awareness, vigilance, and clarity of vision, cannot master the new reality and make possible its realization, then the prophets of doom will have been correct. Our alternatives are an illusion; consequently, great demands are placed on us, and each one of us have been given a grave responsibility, not merely to survey but to actually traverse the path opening before us (Gebser 5).

 

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Preston, Scott. Dehiscence and “Golden Age”. The Chrysalis. 26 Aug. 2015.

 

 

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The New Consciousness

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Parageburt 3, by Doro Breger, 1956

The manifestation of the new consciousness is not a milestone on the path to a so-called higher development; it is rather, on the one hand, an enrichment and intensification of the human consciousness and, on the other, our conscious response to the Integral Structure of the world, which through us becomes transparent. This invisible process activates in us the new consciousness that has always been latent in us.  Evolution, from this point of view, is the evolving (e = from, Volvere = proceeding, forming) of man’s hitherto latent possibilities of consciousness, which are released by a corresponding supplementary “involution” of the Integral component of the world-consciousness: that involution (in = inward) in the terrestrial sphere is answered by its other pole, awakening—our readiness at a given time for the Integral and time-free consciousness; to evolve from within us (Jean Gebser, The Integral Consciousness, Main Currents in Modern Thought, 1974 ).

The new consciousness that is emerging is, first of all, not a phenomenon we should view as yet another rung on what Saint John Climacus called the scala paradisi, or “ladder of divine ascent.” Western man is obsessed with climbing higher and higher, as in “climbing the corporate ladder, or “making it to the top.” In spiritual matters, the general consensus is that one draws closer to God if one ascends into the heavens. Why the preoccupation with an upward path? Why is heaven up and hell down? It is because we still view reality is terms of space, whether it is two-dimensional or three-dimensional. The West has been consumed with space since the advent of what Gebser calls the mental-rational mode of consciousness. One of the milestones of this obsession was when a human stepped out onto the lunar surface in 1969. The new consciousness will supersede spatial considerations. Three-dimensionality will be transcended to include the fourth dimension of time.

Secondly, the new consciousness is not an evolutionary breakthrough along the road to a “higher species,” as if evolutionary development occurs in a straight linear path to perfection. Gebser wants us to understand that the new consciousness is an “enrichment” and “intensification” of human consciousness. It is not necessarily “higher” in the sense of  ascending toward a state of perfection. Humans will never be perfect. Greater awareness of what lies latent within us is a profound enrichment of the human experience. I have written before on the gifts that reside in the realm of Hades. The Ruler of the Dead is quite an interesting fellow. For instance, Hades is the god of the hidden wealth of the earth. One of the common names associated with him is Pluto, which is derived from ploutos, meaning “wealth.” Hades is god of all precious minerals and metals that are mined from the depths of the earth, for

The entire bulk and substance of the earth, was dedicated to father Dis [Haides] (that is, Dives, ‘the rich’, and so in Greek Plouton), because all things fall back into the earth and also arise from the earth. – Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.26

When we are able to partake of the emerging new consciousness, we will gain insight into these riches that currently lie hidden within. It will bring an enrichment of consciousness for all.

Furthermore, Gebser says the new consciousness involves “our conscious response to the Integral Structure of the world, which through us becomes transparent.” In this integral paradigm, our response to the world from the point of view of an acutely aware consciousness will be one of “transparency.” This means we will see things as they are in truth, as in Heidegger’s Dasein, Being which empowers and reveals all beings to be. We will no longer think of things from a dualistic viewpoint, as mere objects. rather, what the world is in its true being will be quite obvious to us. The emphasis will no longer be on things, but on the whole. We will “see through” things and will be aware of their true being. Gebser calls this “diaphaneity.” What lies now in unconsciousness will all be made conscious. There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed, and there is nothing secret that won’t become known and come to light (Luke 8:17, NIV).

Next, Gebser says, “This invisible process activates in us the new consciousness that has always been latent in us.” We are currently enmeshed in the deficient stage of the mental-rational structure of consciousness, but, lying hidden within us is this new integral consciousness. It is currently part of our unconsciousness. You can see why the idea of the unconscious is so important to Jungian psychology. There are diamonds hidden there just waiting to be revealed. From the thickest blackness, a diamond is born. Many people believe that diamonds are formed from coal. This, however, is a popular misconception. Geologist, Hobart King, says the majority of the world’s “diamonds…were formed in the mantle and delivered to the surface by deep-source volcanic eruptions” (Hobart King, How Do Diamonds Form?). Creation takes place deep within the earth’s mantle, where black is absolutely black, where carbon material is pulverized beneath the continental plates, some ninety miles below the earth’s surface. The temperatures there reach at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. After being ground to the blackest powder, the earth creates these wondrous stones and thrusts them back up to the surface. As above, so below. This is a powerful image of how the Nigredo works within the human psyche. At times, our lives are thrust deep into the unfathomable depths of the Underworld, where we are crushed, pulverized, and annihilated until we are black as the raven’s head.

Aristotle’s notion of Entelecheia, or entelechy is another idea I am fond of that pertains to the current latency of the integral consciousness. Joe Sachs, a translator of Aristotle, has this to say:

Entelecheia, as can be seen by its derivation, is a kind of completeness, whereas “the end and completion of any genuine being is its being-at-work” (energeia). The entelecheia is a continuous being-at-work (energeia) when something is doing its complete “work”. For this reason, the meanings of the two words converge, and they both depend upon the idea that every thing’s “thinghood” is a kind of work, or in other words a specific way of being in motion. All things which exist now, and not just potentially, are beings-at-work, and all of them have a tendency towards being-at-work in a particular way which would be their proper and “complete” way (Sachs, Joe (1995), Aristotle’s Physics: a Guided Study).

The telos of an entelechy is not to be understood as a static endpoint. The notion here is that the entelechy is a “continuous being-at-work.” An animaterial human, or integral human, does not suddenly arrive at full completion and then remains static. The process is endless. Soul in-forms the animaterial human, thus transforming her into that which she was destined to become.

Next, Gebser discusses how the process, currently latent in us, involves both evolution and involution. Involution is a turning-in; it is from the Latin, involvere, literally to “roll into.” When we experience the integral mode of consciousness, we will be rolled into a holistic people who are able to experience the world and each other as interconnected. I once used the metaphor of a soulish maelstrom to describe the process of immanence:

We are learning that the idea of an increasing consciousness is not as we once thought, i.e. it is not necessarily a higher consciousness, but an involuting consciousness. The metaphor of increasing consciousness is changing to one that increases inwardly, as our individual Souls spiral into each other. These are merging together as we whirl inward. As we acknowledge the power of Soul and the Cosmic Mind, we are becoming One upon the Earth.
We have been distant from each other due to our ignorance of the collective unconscious. As we all, in unison, abandon our projections upon each other and become more aware of our True Selves, we grow closer and closer to one another, thus allowing the World Soul to individuate and experience greater and greater consciousness.
 
We are swirling within Soul’s Maelstrom. Round and round we go in this world, and ever downward. But, as we move deeper into the Vortex of Life, we move, simultaneously, inward and closer together. The lower we go into the Maelstrom, the quicker consciousness increases.  Let this image burn within your mind (The Involution of Consciousness).
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Time and the Soul

The Persistence of Memory. 1931, by Salvador Dalí

In some ways, there isn’t really much difference between what we call “psyche” and what we call “history”, since history is better understood as our autobiography. This is, in part, what St. Augustine intends by his statement that “time is of the soul” and what historian Jean Gebser means by “the ever-present origin”. Self-overcoming and transcending history are one and the same (Scott Preston, Faking It at the End of History II).

These few words from Scott Preston’s amazing blog, The Chrysalis, are chock-full of astounding truths. If you haven’t perused Mr. Preston’s powerful posts, you’re in for a treat. In the above passage, Preston is musing on what time means to the soul, and vice-versa, and if they are really just equivalent. Fascinating idea, but one that he finds reference for in St. Augustine, as well as Jean Gebser. Let’s explore this a bit further.

First, he postulates a profound similarity between psyche and history. He claims this is because history is really “our autobiography.”

I am thinking of C.G. Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. It is a rather odd book, but one of the most impressionable I have ever read. It is not the typical biography; rather, it is soul-centered and image-filled. Memories, dreams, and reflections are powerful pictures that Jung carried with him all those years until, finally, he and his personal secretary, Aniela Jaffé, set them down on paper. They reflect his own soul, just as true history (not revisionist history) reflects the soul of mankind.

The images we have of history come to us from many sources and experiences, past, present, and future. We usually think of history as occurring in the past, but, like soul, history is timeless. In reality, we live in the moment, in soul, as well as in history. The word, “history,” contains within itself, the word, “story.” It is also related etymologically to the idea of story, from the Greek word, historia. Just as the soul is an ongoing tale being told, so also is history a story that is being recorded continuously, eternally. In all actuality, what we normally think of as time is a product of our conscious awareness, which is presently mired in deficient mental-rational consciousness, according to Gebser’s terminology. When humanity makes the jump to integral awareness, we will experience timelessness. We get glimpses of it occasionally now. Then, however, it will be our normal, everyday experience. Our future history will roll like a wheel. It will be timeless, imaginative, and soulful. And we will not speak in terms of now and then, for all will be now.

You’ve all heard that old saying, time flies when you’re having fun. When one is experiencing life as it should be experienced, i.e. soulfully, time simply melts away. You lose awareness of it in the normal sense. I find this occurring when I’m reading, writing, or doing anything else I really enjoy. One feels “in the zone.” I am also experiencing the awareness of the acceleration of time as I grow older. It is possible that one grows more aware of the soul as one ages. This would explain this strange phenomenon.

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A Time of Transformation

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Trois femmes (Three Women), by Pablo Picasso

Has the epoch of soul already begun? Has the so-called Age of Aquarius commenced? Are we living in an era sort of like the idea of messianic secrecy where, what Scott Preston calls The Planetary Era, has already come into existence, but the fact is still hidden from the consciousness of the masses? Since the beginning of The Great War in 1914, events pointing to the birth of a new age have accelerated quickly. Since that time, we have seen the dreams of Modern Era (Age of Enlightenment) thinkers annihilated. No longer do we assert that extreme rationality and scientific progress can solve all of our problems. This view involved a linear idea of progress, where “advances in technology, science, and social organization can produce an improvement in the human condition” (The Idea of Progress, Wikipedia). We now know this to be false. It was a case of anthropocentric naivete, or just downright narcissism. The fact that we are now aware of our erroneous thinking leads us to conclude that, first, we are presumably more aware of the human condition, and second, due to this expanded awareness, a different era of collective consciousness has been inaugurated.

In the past, I have written that we are “on the cusp” of the epoch of soul, but I am now convinced it has begun. There will be overlap for quite awhile to come. Our world is in deep crisis. We are spinning in a maelstrom that will either lead to what some are calling a new Dark Age for humanity, or an era of what Gebser calls “integrality.” Gebser writes,

The crisis we are experiencing today is not just a European crisis, nor a crisis of morals, economics, ideologies, politics or religion. It is not only prevalent in Europe and America but in Russia and the Far East as well. It is a crisis of the world and mankind such as has occurred previously only during pivotal junctures — junctures of decisive finality for life on earth and for the humanity subjected to them. The crisis of our times and our world is in a process — at the moment autonomously — of complete transformation, and appears headed toward an event which, in our view, can only be described as a “global catastrophe.” This event, understood in any but anthropocentric terms, will necessarily come about as a new constellation of planetary extent (Gebser, xvii – xviii).

Notice Gebser’s phrase, “pivotal junctures.” Throughout history, there have been these turning points, which, by the way, is the meaning of the word, “crisis.” Mankind has faced profound crises during, and prior to, times of momentous transformation. They are “junctures of decisive finality for life on earth and for the humanity subjected to them.“ Gebser sounds like an apocalyptic prophet warning us of our impending doom. And rightly so, for there have always appeared prophetic voices throughout history to sound a clarion call to prepare for critical events to follow. Be attentive! Wake up! Gebser basically says we have a choice between “global catastrophe” and “integrality:” “Either we will be disintegrated and dispersed, or we must resolve and effect integrality” (ibid.).

Another premonitory voice who made a similar pronouncement was Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo:

At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way. A structure of the external life has been raised up by man’s ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction. Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites (Aurobindo, 1090-1092)…

Aurobindo offers us another a fork-in-the-road scenario.  If we desire to save our planet and humanity, “a greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a greater unity of whole-life.” If we choose this way, it will result in “a life of unity, mutuality and harmony born of a deeper and wider truth of our being…” This “is the only truth of life that can successfully replace the imperfect mental constructions of the past” (ibid.). These “imperfect mental constructions of the past” are synonymous with the previous structures of consciousness spoken of by Gebser. His idea of an integral structure corresponds to Aurobindo’s hope for a “greater unity of whole-life.”

How will this transpire? What strategy can we adopt to help us avert a disastrous future? It will be a difficult time for us, but we know that pathologization is the nature of soul, so we know that travailing times are birth-pangs. The evil and ugliness we see in our world are psychopathologizations of the Anima Mundi, symptoms that provide clues as to Her psychic state. 

We have seen the end result of a positivistic, myth-denying, sacrilegious mindset that allows bankers to run roughshod over those less fortunate; that encourages corporations to advertise to the point of brainwashing people into endless buying of nonsensical products; that influences people to bring assault rifles to public places in the hope of massacring as many as possible. Our society has become psychotic.

Since the advent of modern depth psychology, individuals have been focusing mostly on their own journey of the soul, which is perfectly fine, as long as one remembers there is a greater good, i.e. the psychic health of the World Soul. Of course, caring for one’s individual soul contributes to the health of the World Soul. We simply must be cognizant of this fact and not fall under the illusion that our own well-being is primary. Traditionally, individual patients were treated with forms of inter-subjective therapies, and even group-related therapies, but the world remained external to these. Many patients have made tremendous progress. Millions are in better shape today than possibly anytime in history. Certainly, there are many troubled people out there, and many who purposely choose to follow a dark path of malevolence. For the most part, however, humans have achieved astounding and wonderful things in the past few hundred years. It is now time to shift our focus to healing our world. In this, we heal ourselves.

 

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

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The Inner Striving of the World Soul

Weeping Woman, by Picasso
Weeping Woman, by Pablo Picasso

Alas! Two souls within my breast abide,

And each from the other strives to separate;

The one in love and healthy lust,

The world with clutching tentacles holds fast;

The other soars with power above this dust

Into the domain of our ancestral past (From Goethe’s Faust).

I realize this classic verse from Faust speaks to the terrible inner conflict of one who, on one hand is attached to the cares of the mundane, everyday world; on the other hand is a person seeking truth, self-realization, or, as Nietzsche called it, self-overcoming. The former is interested only in self-aggrandizement and material things. The world and nature are to be subservient to and distinct. The latter person is interested in overcoming the egocentric life, and loving her world and her fellow humans. In my experience, the conflict is an intense ordeal that never ceases.

We are familiar with interpreting this passage as pertaining to our own struggle. But these words can also be elevated to the level of the World Soul, that collective personage that is the sum total of human consciousness. Does she also experience the pain of this struggle? If the current state of our world is any indicator, then yes, most assuredly. On one hand, we see a disintegration of society, civilization, and culture. Historically, this side of the World Soul has become more evident since the advent of the Great War in 1914. Since then, the earth has been plunged into chaos and turmoil. One of the most disastrous events in this destructive chain was the discovery of nuclear energy. The atomic weapons dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki set off a deadly chain of events that we’re still seeing the effects of today, nearly seventy years later. This is not to mention the meltdowns at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

Since 1914, irruptions of the shadow personage of the World Soul have been wreaking havoc in our world. We all know of the problems and challenges we face in the coming decades. But, there are “two souls” abiding within the World Soul. The other is full of truth, love, creativity, awareness, and wisdom. Just as we struggle, one nature against the other, so does the World Soul. Alongside the terror and malaise we have faced since 1914, there have also been amazing human achievements that have kept alive the notion that the human race can survive and thrive in the decades and centuries to come.

The World Soul must overcome herself and enter a deeper level of consciousness, just as we strive to do. The manner in which this will occur will be if we discipline ourselves and overcome ourselves, as Nietzsche bid us, along with many other wise human prophets. We must strive to overcome ego-consciousness and the narcissism of our world. If we band together in doing this, the world will survive and flourish. We know what will happen if we fail.

As in my last article, we have strayed too far from our origin. So has the World Soul. She has allowed it because we have allowed it. To find her way back, we must decide to find our way back. In his book, Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser writes,

Man is in the world to sustain it as well as himself “in truth,” not for his or its own sake, but for the sake of the spiritual present. It is this spiritual present which elevates wholeness to transparency and frees us from our transient age, for this age of ours is not the present but partiality and flight, indeed, almost a conclusion. Only someone who knows of origin has present–living and dying in the whole, in integrity.

Carl Jung writes in the Undiscovered Self,

[A] mood of universal destruction and renewal…has set its mark on our age. This mood makes itself felt everywhere, politically, socially, and philosophically. We are living in what the Greeks called the kairos–the right moment–for a “metamorphosis of the gods,” of the fundamental principles and symbols. This peculiarity of our time, which is certainly not of our conscious choosing, is the expression of the unconscious human within us who is changing. Coming generations will have to take account of this momentous transformation if humanity is not to destroy itself through the might of its own technology and science….So much is at stake and so much depends on the psychological constitution of the modern human.

I am confident we will be transformed, as will the World Soul. It won’t be easy, but nothing great ever is.

 

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Origin and Beginning

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Arthur Rackham – “How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad

Origin is ever-present. It is not a beginning, since all beginning is linked with time. And the present is not just the “now”, today, the moment or unit of time. It is ever-originating, an achievement of full integration and continuous renewal. Anyone able to ‘concretize,’ i.e., to realize and effect the reality of origin and the present in their entirety, supersedes ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ and the mere here and now (Gebser xxvii).

I’m surprised I haven’t previously encountered the distinction between origin and beginning. If I have, it apparently didn’t make a great impression on me until this past week. This article will deal with the discoveries I’ve made.

I first became aware of the importance of the distinction while reading articles by Scott Preston at The Chrysalis. At least as long as I’ve been studying philosophy, I’ve understood the idea that time is simply a framework created by our minds to order our empirical experience. Time, as we normally understand it, is an illusion. Many are confused concerning a beginning as a moment in linear time, and the idea of origin. Most think they are synonymous, but they are definitely not. As Gebser says, “origin is ever-present.” It is not “linked with time.” A beginning is, on the other hand, linked with linear time. For example Isaac Newton entered this earthly life on January 4, 1643 at 1:38 AM. This was the moment Newton began his sojourn on Earth. This moment was not Newton’s origin, it was merely the beginning of his earthly life. Similarly, what scientists call the Big Bang is not the origin, but the beginning of this universe. They can attach an age to this event, which is about fourteen billion years ago. They cannot attach an age to the origin.

Our origin, as living creatures, is “ever-originating,” an eternal presence. We have forgotten this. Our true selves have been disconnected from eternity. We have wandered far from our origin. Our task here is to re-member, to re-collect that which has disintegrated. It’s not a remembering in the sense of memory, but a re-integration of what has been torn asunder. It is difficult to say what the origin is, but it seems similar to what Hermetists calls The All. It is certainly non-spatial and non-temporal. All the various modes of consciousness emerge from the origin. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all things in the universe share in this ever-present reality. It is not an external reality. The very roots of our being lie within us, connected rhizomally to the origin, and, in turn, to each other.

The sense of meaninglessness we experience in this current world is due to our straying too far from the origin. Nihilism is a symptom of what Gebser calls the deficient mode of the mental-rational structure of consciousness. Not only this, but the myriad crises of our world equate to birth-pangs meant to prepare the earth for the next transition of consciousness, which Gebser calls the integral structure. When the various structures have lost their potency, they enter their deficient mode. This is indicative of the imminent arrival of the next mutation of consciousness. When the integral structure comes to predominate human consciousness, all of the structures will be integrated into the whole. Our perception of time as linear will be superseded, as well as all dualism. Aperspectival man will experience reality four-dimensionally. Rationality will be replaced by arationality. Instead of extreme egocentricity, or narcissism, which dominates our culture today, mankind will experience diaphaneity, the transcendence of the ego in favor of a self that will fully experience the whole, not simply the parts.

The undivided, ego-free person who no longer sees parts but realizes the “itself,” the spiritual form of being of man and the world, perceives the whole, the diaphaneity present “before” all origin which suffuses everything (Gebser 543).

Is this what Jung means by the individuated Self?

Works Cited

Friedrich Nietzsche. The Will to Power. Trans. Walter Kauffman and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage, 1967.

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

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The Epoch of Soul Revisited

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General Confusion, by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

Three years ago on this blog, I wrote these words:

It must be the World Soul that transforms the Earth. By this, I mean the actual personality that is the collective Soul of the human race. The same self-organizing force that maintains our natural world is the same power that has begun to bring this about in the psyches of all of us, whether we consciously recognize it or not. The Epoch of Soul has arrived.

I was beginning to become aware of a movement in the collective psyche that would bring about what I called the Epoch of Soul, but I was still seeing imperfectly. The vision is still not entirely clear, but it is coming into sharper focus. The Epoch of Soul is nearing, but it has not yet arrived, as much as wishful thinking would desire it. Humanity is still somewhat within the confines of what Jean Gebser calls the “mental-rational” mode of consciousness. It is deteriorating, and has been since the rise of perspective during the Renaissance. It would seem that we are in the last throes of the overemphasis on ratiocination, if events of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are reliable indicators.

There are, however, powerful beams of light shining into the collective psyche. We can finally see the integral structure beginning to influence human consciousness. An excellent example of this is how the Internet has influenced our lives in the past twenty years or so. The Internet is a huge rhizomal structure, analogous to the World Soul. Myself, and others, have written, for several years, about the rhizomal nature of the World Soul. In my article entitled, Rhizomal Soul, I describe how hierarchies based on transcendent power structures are quickly crumbling. The rise of immanence is the spread of rhizomal soul, roots snaking underground, interconnecting the previously unconnected, making an idea like “nation-state” totally obsolete. Have you ever seen what underground roots can do to a road or sidewalk? They grow underneath and actually lift and tear at the cement until it cracks and deteriorates. This is what the horizontal growth of the World Soul is doing to hierarchical power structures. This is all part of the manifestation of the integral consciousness structure.

The collective unconscious is a powerful rhizomal presence in human experience. It is a complex, subterranean root system that snakes and intertwines all humans in the tangle and convolution of Soul. This collective entanglement will one day decentralize the self-aggrandizing and narcissistic tendencies of human ego. It is already beginning. The rhizomal Soul will one day replace the Me Generation with the We Generation. No, it will not be perfect; Utopia will never totally manifest on earth, but we are a world of strivers, even though our goal may not always take us in a particularly linear evolutionary path. We may whirl in the maelstrom for a thousand years or more, but, eventually, the mutation to deepened consciousness will come. The more we allow the rhizomal root structure of Soul to grow, the quicker we will get there. It is up to us to care for Soul and nurture it.

The integral structure of consciousness has been undergoing birth pangs for several decades already. Of course, it will include all previous structures, the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational. Interestingly, Gebser’s model is based on a four-fold structure, while C.G. Jung viewed the quarternity as a basic structure of reality. This is also analogous to William Blake’s Four Zoas.

The World Soul is not only the collective soul of the human race, as I had previously mentioned, but of all things in our universe.  I believe it is this power that is orchestrating these mutations of human consciousness, which began with primordial man. According to Sufi mystic, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,

The world is a living spiritual being. This was understood by the ancient philosophers and the alchemists who referred to the spiritual essence of the world as the anima mundi, the “Soul of the World.” They regarded the World Soul as a pure ethereal spirit diffused throughout all nature, the divine essence that embraces and energizes all life in the universe (Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World).

 

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The Apex of Mental-Rational Consciousness

mountain-731396_1280

In his famous letter to Francesco Dionisio da Borgo San Sepolcro, dated April 26, 1336, Petrarch writes of his ascent of Mount Ventoux, the first such climb we know of in Western literature accomplished solely for aesthetic reasons. The man who began the ascent was not the same man who returned to Malaucene that evening, at the foot of the mountain. The Petrarch who ascended that day was a man whose consciousness was changed in a way that would effect Western culture for centuries to come. After reaching the summit, Petrarch began to muse on the sights before him.

As if suddenly wakened from sleep, I turned about and gazed toward the west. I was unable to discern the summits of the Pyrenees, which form the barrier between France and Spain; not because of any intervening obstacle that I know of but owing simply to the insufficiency of our mortal vision. But I could see with the utmost clearness, off to the right, the mountains of the region about Lyons, and to the left the bay of Marseilles and the waters that lash the shores of Aigues Mortes, altho’ all these places were so distant that it would require a journey of several days to reach them. Under our very eyes flowed the Rhone (Petrarch).

According to Jean Gebser, “Petrarch’s glance spatially isolated a part of ‘nature’ from the whole, from the all-encompassing attachment to sky and earth and the unquestioned, closed unperspectival ties are severed” (Gebser 13). In other words, his perception, and subsequently that of all Western civilization, was transformed from one of immersion in a nature that was predominantly time-based, to one where space, the vast spaces of this new vista from Ventoux’s summit, gained the ascendancy.

Awe-struck to the point where he felt distressed by entering into this experience, he writes

While I was thus dividing my thoughts, now turning my attention to some terrestrial object that lay before me, now raising my soul, as I had done my body, to higher planes, it occurred to me to look into my copy of St. Augustine’s Confessions, a gift that I owe to your love, and that I always have about me, in memory of both the author and the giver. I opened the compact little volume, small indeed in size, but of infinite charm, with the intention of reading whatever came to hand, for I could happen upon nothing that would be otherwise than edifying and devout. Now it chanced that the tenth book presented itself. My brother, waiting to hear something of St. Augustine’s from my lips, stood attentively by. I call him, and God too, to witness that where I first fixed my eyes it was written: “And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not” (ibid.).

Petrarch was astounded he had randomly chosen this passage. This bit of synchronicity heralded a struggle within him. From this moment on, he was torn between an idea he learned from the “pagan philosophers,” that “nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself (ibid.),” and the “externalization of space out of his soul” (Gebser 15). The Augustinian idea that, “Time resides in the soul,” gradually falls away and the dichotomization of subject and object begins its rise to predominance in Western consciousness. By the nineteenth century, the soul is viewed as nonsense.

According to Gebser, the mental-rational structure began around 1225 B.C. Petrarch’s experience marked its highest point. From that moment on, it has been in decline.

The consciousness of perspective, three-dimensionality, led to an externalization of space. Perspective takes as a preconceived assumption that space is infinite and homogeneous. The primary foundational stone of linear perspective is that of the vanishing point, what the Italians called the punta di fuga, the point of light. Through this new way of seeing that which is seen, a new relationship between humanity and the world is born. This new relationship would lead to the notion of an objective observer, one removed from what one is seeing. The new science that was just on the horizon would embrace this view of a dichotomy between humanity and the world, which would lead to Descartes’ schism between the mind and the world.

As much as I have criticized it over the years, I am beginning to think that our current mode of consciousness, the mental-rational structure, is something that was meant to be. It was necessary that Western culture pass through the various modes of consciousness to prepare us for the next evolutionary leap.

 

Bibliography:

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

Petrarch, Franceso. Familiar Letters. The Ascent of Mount Ventoux. <http://petrarch.petersadlon.com/read_letters.html?s=pet17.html>.

 

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The Ever-Present Origin: Initial Thoughts

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Recently, I voraciously devoured Gary Lachman’s book, The Secret History of Consciousness, where I learned quite a lot about Jean Gebser. I had seen the name bandied about in philosophy and psychology books, but never took the time to investigate him for myself. I was surprised that such an important thinker was not covered in my undergraduate degree work in philosophy, but I suppose Gebser is more popular in graduate school. Lachman certainly did a great job of introducing Gebser because, immediately, I became very, very intrigued and ordered Gebser’s major work, The Ever-Present Origin, straightaway. This evening, I cracked it and began reading. These words are my initial reactions.

From the introduction I’ve been given to Gebser, I am anticipating this work to be just as influential to me as was Heidegger’s Being and Time, Jung’s The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, and Hillman’s Re-visioning Psychology. These books have been watershed events in my life and work. The Ever-Present Origin will most likely take its place alongside these classics.

For years, I and many others have railed against the materialistic, scientistic Zeitgeist our world finds itself enmeshed in. I have despaired many times because I thought no one was listening. I was wrong. Many are listening, and have been listening for some time. The post-Enlightenment period, which began in the aftermath of World War I, was the wake-up call. But, even before this, Friedrich Nietzsche, with amazing prescience, warned humanity that the current consciousness structure, what Gebser calls the “mental-rational,” would be disintegrated.  The coming apart of this consciousness structure began after the world suffered through World War I. The mental-rational, which Gebser claims began around 1225 B.C., has been gradually eaten away by developments throughout the twentieth century, and into this century. These include the discoveries of quantum physics; the rise of fascism and another world war; the Holocaust; the rise of the corporate state and its involvement in the global war economy, which parallels the rise of fascism; the many discoveries of science and technology; the emergence of the Internet; and the post-911  national security state. There are many factors that are contributing to the dismantling of the mental-rational structure, and the eventual transformation (mutation) to what Gebser deems an “aperspectival,” or “integral structure” of consciousness. As I understand it, this structure is similar to other teachings of elevated consciousness, where ego and its self-interested, narcissistic demands are transcended.

I am of the opinion, too, that Gebser’s theory will correspond very well with my Jungian and archetypal inclinations. That will make for some interesting thinking and discussion.

We live in exciting times, folks. Until next time…

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A Pangaeaic Idea of Emerging Consciousness

NPS Photo by Neal Herbert
NPS Photo by Neal Herbert

There is always a concurrence between phenomena on different strata of existence. Other planes are sometimes unknown to us; by this principle we can at least glean some knowledge of what we would otherwise be totally ignorant of. As above, so below is a universal axiom. It applies to all strata of reality.

We live on the cusp of a new day. Just as the earth’s surface has formed over eons of time, so have the structures of human consciousness shifted and mutated from an original form.  Mountains have arisen from massive tectonic shifts below the surface, entire continents have drifted to their current locations. So also the topography of human consciousness has shifted first this way, then that. We are nearing the next shift, the next mutation that will supersede the current state of consciousness in favor of something wonderful, fresh, and deeply profound. Powerful tectonic movements are occurring now in the collective unconscious that will eventually irrupt into view.

In 1912, German geophysicist and meterologist, Alfred Wegener, formulated the theory of continental drift. He noticed how the shapes of the various continents could almost be fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. His hypothesis states that earth’s continents were originally one single land mass, and that, gradually, they broke apart and drifted away from each other. This single land mass he called, Urkontinent, meaning “primal continent.” This Urkontinent was later called Pangaea, which means “All-Earth.”

Wegener’s theory was not widely accepted until a viable explanation was offered to explain the mechanism of continental movement, that being plate-tectonics, evidence of which was discovered in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

I propose that continental drift theory is a beautiful metaphor of consciousness emerging from a “Pangaeaic” state at some point in human history. A few Western thinkers have postulated the idea that human consciousness has passed through several stages of change. One that is currently quite interesting to me is Jean Gebser, whose work, The Ever-Present Origin, lays out structures of human consciousness from proto-hominids to our current place in evolution. Gebser’s stages of consciousness emerge from what he calls “the ever-present origin.” This is not simply a beginning at a certain point in human history. This origin, according to Gebser, is an atemporal and nonspatial source. The idea can be likened to the Pleroma of Neoplatonism, or the Ein Sof of Kabbalah. Author, Gary Lachman, says “It is ‘sheer presence,’ a primal spiritual radiance whose luminosity is obscured by the lesser light of the consciousness structures that proceed from it” (Lachman 236).

Gebser’s theory is becoming very important to me. I see parallels between his work and what I’ve been trying to express these past several years. For example, what I have previously postulated as the coming of “the Epoch of Soul” seems somewhat analogous to the idea of the breakdown of Gebser’s “mental-rational structure” and a return to the “ever-present origin,” which is, as I currently understand it, a sort of a combination of all previous stages of consciousness. Gebser calls it a “concretizing of the spiritual.” I have just received his immense text, so I am just in the beginning stages of reading, ruminating, and digesting.

Cosmos and psyche are closely intertwined. What occurs to one intimately effects the other.

More to come…..

Lachman, Gary (2003-04-01). A Secret History of Consciousness (p. 236). Lindisfarne Books. Kindle Edition.

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Emissaries of the Soul

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Opportunity and Regret, by Girolamo da Carpi (1541)

 

Words, like angels, are powers that have invisible power over us. 1

Hidden deep in the mists of time is a truth we have almost completely forgotten. The words that make up human languages possess real power, especially what James Hillman called “big words.” These kinds of words have inherent substance, being powers unto themselves. Some examples are words like “Being,” “Spirit,” “Justice,” “Truth,” and God.”  We once capitalized these words to imbue them with power. Our Western scientific and philosophic traditions have hammered away at the innate power of such words, via nominalism, until now they are merely viewed as labels for things, devoid of any substance of their own whatsoever. It was partly nominalism that resulted in Nietzsche’s declaration of the death of God. By Nietzsche’s day, the word, “God,” had been emptied of all its previous potency in human language.

In reality, words are carriers of soul. Hillman calls them “angels,” referring to the original meaning of the word as “messenger,” or “message-bearer.” The messages they carry contain soul. These soul-messages are conveyed from one psyche to another. Things that have the utmost importance for the soul can be transmitted via words from psyche to psyche. Words are images, and, as with all images, meanings are myriad. Hillman goes so far as to say that “words are persons.” 2 Continuing, he says,

This aspect of the word transcends their nominalistic definitions and context and evokes in our souls a universal resonance. Without the inherence of soul in words, speech would not move us, words would not provide forms for carrying our lives and giving sense to our deaths. “Death” itself, and “soul,” “Gods,” “persons,” would become, as Antiphon the Sophist said thousands of years ago, mere conventions and artifacts.” 3

Entire mythologies, etymologies, and genealogies have been created and preserved via words. Think of the myths and stories that move us so overwhelmingly, the Greek myths, especially (I speak as a Western man). These were not always written down. Originally, they were transmitted via oral tradition, through memorization. There is something very powerful about memorizing certain sets of words. In doing so, one ingests them so completely that the power inherent in them becomes part of the person. This is why memorization plays such an important role in the mystery religions.

The personification of the powers of the psyche began with the Greeks and Romans, who actually erected shrines to worship and propitiate them. These possessed names like Fame, Fortune, Hope, Insolence, Mercy, and Peace. These are “big words” that contain innate substance and potency. Hillman says that

many consider this practice to merely animistic, but it was really an act of ensouling; for there is no question that the personifying of the ancient Greeks and Romans provided altars for configurations of the soul. When these are not provided for, when these Gods and daemons are not given their proper place and recognition, they become diseases–a point Jung made often enough. 4

The primary reasons why the personification of words is so important is to provide containers for the soul that can be transmitted to other psyches. We gain knowledge of the soul as a people, but also individually. These soul receptacles enable us, like in a mirror, to catch images of its many aspects. The act of personifying

offers another avenue of loving, of imagining things in a personal form so that we can find access to them with our hearts. Words with capital letters are charged with affect, they jump out of their sentences and become images. The tradition of depersonifying recognized full well that personified words tend to become cherished and sacred, affecting the reason of the heart. But this very recognition, that personifying emotionalizes, shifts the discussion from nominalism to imagination, from head to heart. 5

To the soul spelunker, words are very important, indeed. Each ensouled word is a cavern to be explored. Its meanderings may take many twists and turns that may turn out to be quite dangerous. As long as we are following after the soul and Her many persons, we can be assured we will not be lost.

  1. Hillman, James. Re-visioning Psychology. New York: Harper, 1975, p. 9.
  2. ibid.
  3. ibid., p. 9-10
  4. ibid., p. 13-14.
  5. ibid., p.14
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Hermes, God of the Winged Caduceus

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Hermes, by Salvador Dali, 1981

 

The story is told by Roman writer, Hyginus, that, one day, while Hermes was traveling through Arcadia, he witnessed two serpents engaged in a fierce battle. When Hermes placed his caduceus between them, they wrapped themselves around it and were at peace with one another. Thus, Hermes’ caduceus, to this day, has been associated with healing and a state of peace.

In the cosmology of the mundus imaginalis, Hermes has been given the task of bringing about peace and healing to all of us. One way he does this is by breaking down barriers that conceal from us the faces of the Others, as Tom Cheetham calls them:

When this Hermes is at work there is a tinge of real fear in the air, because behind the barriers He dismantles we can see the outlines of the Faces of the Others. Then we must consider the proffered opportunity: whether to accept them into our house, or whether to refuse the Feast. 1

Who are these Others with whom we should feast?  They

come to us as persons: mothers, fathers, lovers, strangers; as angels and demons, as complexes and as gods. They all embody and exemplify styles of consciousness, modes of living, ways of being. And it is only by being able to perceive the work of the real Hermes, that we can feel their presences at all. Without this, our worlds are filled with stereotypes, with typologies, with categories, with prejudices, and we never see a real person, never meet any Others at all. Until they break through in madness and misery, violence and destruction. 2

This plethora of personalities will, most likely, never be unified into a single whole, as is the dream of many who seek enlightenment or individuation. It is the task of Hermes to introduce us to these personages, thus allowing us to know them for who they really are. By successfully carrying out this assignment, and assisting the Anima Mundi in the building of her Soul, he fulfills his own role as World Daimon. Hermes wears many hats, but this may be the most important one for our world. If we don’t come to know the Others in this way, we meet them in another, more miserable and malevolent manner, through disease and madness, chaos and violence.

Mr. Cheetham has discovered a very important nugget of truth in the quest for soul-making:

We must greet the bearers of those strange voices, we must be the host at the Feast, and welcome the strangers. This is a delicate business. Respect and attention, care and courtesy are required. Again we require the aid of Hermes, for the ego wants to wall itself off from the Others. We need Hermes in order to violate those boundaries. The only way we can establish the Communion that is required is by moving freely in the spaces between the stars. We can only know who we are if we know who we are not, if we experience our boundaries by experiencing where they touch those of the Others. 3

By presenting to us and familiarizing us with the Others, Hermes bestows upon us the gift of healing. In doing so, our souls become stronger and more resilient. On a cosmic scale, this, in turn, brings about the strength and resiliency of the World Soul. This we are badly in need of in our day.

  1. Cheetham, Tom. Green Man, Earth Angel. New York: SUNY Press, 2004., p. 27
  2. ibid., p. 27-28
  3. ibid., p. 29
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The Death of Orpheus

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Nymphs finding the Head of Orpheus, by John William Waterhouse, 1900

Following the heartbreaking second loss of his bride, Eurydice, to the darkness of the Underworld, Orpheus attempted to cross the Styx yet once again, to plead for his beloved, but Charon refused to ferry him across a second time. The gods of the Underworld had given orders that Orpheus not be allowed entrance again until his death. Deeply distraught, he sat on the shore of the great river for seven days, taking no sustenance. His tears and troubled thoughts were his only companions.

From this moment on, he rejected female companionship. He returned to his music, but it became threnodial, mournful, and deeply distressing. Orpheus was inconsolable. Wandering through the wilderness of Thrace, he played and sang his lamentable songs. The rivers, rocks, and trees listened closely, and then grieved with him.

Was it that the song of Orpheus heaped scorn upon women; was it that his lyrics offended Dionysus and his Maenads? Perhaps so, for one day they fell violently on him, rock-battering him until the stones were red with his blood. In their furious attack, they mutilated his grieving body. Ovid tells us

The birds, lamenting, cried for you, Orpheus; the crowd of wild creatures; the hard flints; the trees that often gathered to your song, shedding their leaves, mourned you with bared crowns. They say the rivers, also, were swollen with their own tears, and the naiads and dryads, with dishevelled hair, put on sombre clothes. The poet’s limbs were strewn in different places: the head and the lyre you, Hebrus, received, and (a miracle!) floating in midstream, the lyre lamented mournfully; mournfully the lifeless tongue murmured; mournfully the banks echoed in reply. And now, carried onward to the sea, they left their native river-mouth and reached the shores of Lesbos, at Methymna. Here, as the head lay exposed on the alien sand, its moist hair dripping brine, a fierce snake attacked it. But at last Phoebus came, and prevented it, as it was about to bite, and turned the serpent’s gaping jaws to stone, and froze the mouth, wide open, as it was (Metamorphoses, Book XI, A.S. Kline translation).

The head of Opheus continued to sing and prophesy as it was carried down the river to the sea. It came to rest on the island of Lesbos, where it was found by nymphs.

So, Orpheus became a shade, making his way back to the ferryman. This time, there was no forbiddance. Charon brought him across the Styx and led him to his final abode. In Hades, he and Eurydice walk hand-in-hand to this day.

The most crucial aspect of the myth is that both Orpheus and Eurydice undergo transformation. He, at the moment he gave the backward glance, and she, when she slipped back into darkness. The soul is constantly being transformed, through both calamity and boon. It seems that the really important metamorphoses come through calamity, the soul’s pathologization. Orpheus was following his ego when he journeyed to Hades’ realm to beg for Eurydice’s release. Even though they were moved to weeping at the sound of his music, the gods of the Underworld knew Orpheus would look back and lose her again. It was necessary for his transformation. In his grief, he found his soul. Many times, the way of the hero is the way of the ego.

In this epoch, we are in the grip of the hero archetype, fueled by ego and selfishness. The hero is best typified in mythology by the Greek god, Hercules. The hero craves victory at all cost. The drive for corporate profit is one of its manifestations. War is another of its pastimes. Sports, yet another. These are all exercises in futility. The ego must be pulled down from its lofty pinnacle. There are other gods who deserve recognition. The pendulum always swings. The Hero/Ego will diminish as other archetypal figures to come to the fore.

Our heroes today, in the quest for victory at all cost, are totally opposed to death and the Underworld. The hero of today is consumed with ego, as in those who think of nothing but money, power, and success. Most of all, they desire to conquer death, as in Christianity (The last enemy to be conquered is Death). They refuse to recognize the underside of things, much to their dismay.

Orpheus was attempting to be heroic in his quest to resurrect his wife from the dead. The gods desired that he be transformed. The soul will always lead one into transformation, if one can successfully ignore the voice of ego. With his look back at Eurydice, he opened the door of salvation, not only for himself, but also for her. For, in that moment, she experienced the freedom of no longer being his possession. So, having discovered the power of their own souls, Orpheus and Eurydice become one with soul, and thus with the world, the Unus Mundus.

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