I’m rushing things into print a bit. Sorry for the overwhelm, but while these matters are atop my mind I’ld like to set them down.
There are some remarkable things happening to our consciousness and to our self-understanding in “post-modernity” — a mutation of consciousness that Rosenstock-Huessy also described as a “metanoia” (or “New Mind”). But like all mutations, some will be successful and some not successful and abortive — in fact, some will be outright thanatic and destructive, or what Erich Fromm calls of “necrophilous character” in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.
This belongs to the paradoxical “double-movement” or double dynamic described by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin — as a coincidentia oppositorum. There is a disintegrative and degenerative dynamic (or nihilism) proceeding apace with a new integrative or regenerative dynamic (holism), and this is, quite literally, a life and death struggle between the nihilistic and the holistic, in the context of which a great many symptoms of pathology and morbidity appear. Jungians would say that the nihilistic or thanatic manifestations in our time are the eruption of “the Shadow” — the dark or unintegrated aspects of the psychic totality that threatens to overwhelm, and even take over, our little light of consciousness (the zombie meme). The stakes are very high indeed.
Globalism has revealed that what we call “the cross of reality” is a human universal and a common consciousness. It should be the first truth of any prospective authentic planetary civilisation. Unfortunately, it is not, and this is a problem. The cross of reality is a mandala. What better symbol than the mandala to represent the whole Earth and what William Blake also describes as “the Universal Humanity”? A mandala is a symbol of wholeness and of integration.
In past postings, we’ve discussed Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic of the cross of reality as this is reflected in Blake’s “fourfold vision” and his “four Zoas”, which also form a mandala. We’ve discussed the cross of reality also as being revealed in the indigenous Sacred Hoop/Medicine Wheel, which is also a mandala. We’ve discussed the cross of reality as it is revealed in Carl Jung’s four psychological functions and types, which also form a mandala. We’ve also discussed the findings of “universal grammar” so far that also reveal that all languages have a minimum four-person system, which also forms a mandala. Jean Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational — also form a mandala. A mandala is the holographic or holotropic principle made manifest. What Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy has essentially described and revealed through his social philosophy, “grammatical method” and”cross of reality” is that any truly healthy or sane society takes the form of a mandala. To become conscious of grammar is to become conscious of that mandala structure.
Fake news, false memory, post-truth, post-rationality — symptoms of the morbidity and social pathology of late modernity or post-modernity, they all seem to refer to one and the same thing, although in another sense they imply different things. They imply the total disintegration of modern civilisation’s “cross of reality”.
Consider the fact that any particular civilisational type and its associated “consciousness structure” is a particular configuration of spaces and times, and how it configures, arranges, organises, or domesticates those spaces and times is its milieu or habitat that we call a “culture”. That culture exists to reproduce human beings in its image, in both its temporal and spatial aspects. A culture’s arts and sciences exist to regulate its inner and outer fronts of life, and its religion and politics exist to organise its relationship to past (origin) and future (destiny). A culture or civilisation, as much as any organism, survives only to the extent it effectively manages its relationships to these four fronts of life. These are termed “the teachings of the Four Directions” or “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. We call them “institutions”. A civilisation declines, falls, or collapses whenever its institutions, or its members, fail to sustain the space and time axes that constitute its life world, in which case it disintegrates because its cross of reality disintegrates, helter-skelter. This is called “nihilism”, “chaos” or “havoc” and so on.
Chaos Theory describes states in relative equilibrium and states “far from equilibrium” (or “chaotic”). Basically, “far from equilibrium” means crisis or critical, a word which is related to “cross” and “crucial” (and “crucible” and “crucifix”) because a crisis is a crossroads, and traditionally crossroads were sensed as being places of evil or evil-doing, mainly because they are associated with life and death decisions. When Francis Fukuyama penned his ridiculous “End of History” thesis, he almost immediately followed that up with America at the Crossroads, apparently without even noticing the self-contradiction. But that kind of double-think — thought descending into self-negation and self-contradiction — is very characteristic of the state of mind of post-modernity, which we might describe as a consciousness structure now in a state “far from equilibrium”.
But to be in a state “far from equilibrium” (which is death by another name, also described as “homeostatic failure”) means that the cross of reality is broken or disintegrate, and along with this decay or disintegration of the cross of reality come symptoms of nihilism, morbidity, and what Erich Fromm calls a “necrophilous” or a thanatic dynamic (destructivness). So, today we want to carry on with the exploration of the meaning of “the Guardians of the Four Directions” at peace and at war (or integrate and disintegrate states) as these pertain to the quadrilateral of the cross of reality and the meaning of equilibrium and “far from equilibrium” as life and death states of the cross or reality.
Carlos Castaneda’s teacher, the Yaqui Indian “sorcerer” he called don Juan Matus, once described to Castaneda what he called “the four natural enemies of the man of knowledge“. The four enemies are fear, clarity, power, and old age. I also refer to these as the sometime forms of “The Guardians of the Four Directions”, for they do, indeed, map to the Sacred Hoop and to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” as well. They are also quite paradoxical, being both enemies and yet benefactors.
They also, in an uncanny sort of way, describe the stages, or phases, in the rise and fall of civilisations. In his historical work on the modern revolutions called Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man, Rosenstock-Huessy showed how each of the four principal European revolutions of the Modern Era — the Lutheran (or German) Revolution, the English Glorious Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution — conformed to the pattern or the directions of his “cross of reality”, as phases or stages in the unfolding and shaping of the Modern Age and its particular structure of consciousness.
What I want to do with this post is show how these “four enemies” really do describe the phases, or certain eras, in the life-cycle of the Modern Age, and perhaps of any age — or the life of any individual for that matter — and what this might mean in terms of “post-modernity”.
A Quest for Meaning is the title of a documentary that is available through the video streaming site Vimeo. You have to pay a couple of bucks to watch it, but it’s worth the expenditure. “A Quest for Meaning reveals the profound aspirations of a whole generation in search of wisdom and common sense – a change in human consciousness is happening all over the planet – a desire to live in harmony with oneself and the world.”
Students of Jean Gebser’s philosophy of culture and consciousness will, I think, find it particularly meaningful. And it certainly brought to my mind Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s prediction from 1938 — made after his massive study of the modern revolutions in Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man — that a fifth revolution, based on the principle of “health” (integrality by another name) would close and seal the Modern Age, and inaugurate a new Era and a “metanoia” (or “New Mind”). That prediction parallels Gebser’s own forecast made around the same time. A Quest for Meaning might be described in such terms also.
“Four strong winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high…”: those are the opening lines of a song entitled “Four Strong Winds” by Canadian singer-songwriter Ian Tyson. It has been covered by practically everybody — The Band, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Neil Young, among others. I suspect, too, that the song’s popularity is owing to the symbolic significance of the numbers four and the seven. Four, seven, and twelve are prominent archetypal numbers in myth and mysticism.
“Four Strong Winds” has been on my mind ever since I began my musings on the primal imperatives or “the four Fs”, or the “organic drives” as discussed in the last two postings on the Primal Imperatives, as matters also connected with William Blake’s “four Zoas” or Rumi’s “four nafs” or “animal souls” and “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. As it said, “no man can serve two masters” let alone four. Even some neurophysiologists, we shall see, are uncomfortable with the consensus view of the four primal imperatives. What I principally want to speak to today is how Rumi and Sufism understand these “animal souls” or the nafs.