Before Philosophy

Let’s spend a little time today on what Jean Gebser means by “unperspectival” consciousness, which is also, in many respects, what Nietzsche means by “Dionysian” consciousness, rather than “Apollonian” consciousness. For Dionysian consciousness, a formula for being like cogito ergo sum (or “I think therefore I am”) is absurd. We could just as well say “I sing therefore I am” or “I dance therefore I am”.

The formula (which dates from at least the Greek philosopher Parmenides) that thinking and being are the same has pretty much defined the Modern Era, or what Gebser means by “the mental-rational structure of consciousness”. It has also become established as the “norm” for what constitutes a human being. Nietzsche, in shifting the emphasis onto the Dionysian consciousness, also then conceives that thinking should become more like music, song, or dance, and the image of Nietzsche dancing his Dionysian philosophy butt-naked in his apartment in Italy upon his final breakdown is an image that sticks with me. Even though his mind was gone, he was still attentive and responsive to that inner music.

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The Chrysalis: A Summary-to-Date

There are a number of new subscribers to The Chrysalis. I thought it advisable to summarise the road thus traveled to date, as I do on occasion. That theme is the present breakdown, and metamorphosis, of the present structure of consciousness we call “the Modern Mind”, or otherwise as “point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness, or what Jean Gebser calls “the perspectival” or “the mental-rational” structure of consciousness. We will simply refer to this as the breakdown of the point-of-view.

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The Hippocratic “Crisis”

Another important concept in Hippocratic medicine was that of a crisis, a point in the progression of disease at which either the illness would begin to triumph and the patient would succumb to death, or the opposite would occur and natural processes would make the patient recover.

From the entry “Hippocrates”, Wikipedia

It is apparently the case that the term “crisis” originates with Hippocrates, indicating a crucial turning point in the progression of a disease. That appears to be corroborated by the etymology of the Greek “krisis” (from the verb krinein meaning to sieve, discern, distinguish, separate, also related to crux, crucial, perhaps even Christ and chrysalis through the Indo-European prefix “*krei, signifying “to cut”, “to separate”, “to choose”, “to judge”, and thus also to the idea of de-cision as a “cutting away”. The decisive moment is not only saying our “yes” to one path, but also to cut away another. It’s interesting, though, that this idea of crisis as the decisive moment, the crucial moment, originates in medicine, and with the issues of disease and recuperation or convalescence from disease. The Hippocratic “crisis” is very akin to the Heraclitean notion of enantiodromia, or the point of reversal of a dynamic at the extremity of an action.

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