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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