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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