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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