One of my favourite German expressions is “ein Kobold im Keller”, which roughly translates as “a goblin in the cellar” or basement. It means something similar to the English phrase “a skeleton in the closet”, although goblin in the basement seems much more expressive, much more animate. Ein Kobold im Keller would be like Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll.
Nature abhors a vacuum. So does human nature. Vacuum and “the soul shuddr’ing Vacuum” is a frequent theme in Blake’s poetry. Pascal, likewise, shrunk back terrified before “the silence of the Infinite Void”. In Blake’s poetry, Chaos, Vacuum, Void, and Nonentity are pretty much treated as one and the same.
The disintegration of the modern ego-consciousness, (which has also been described as “crisis of the individual” or “malaise of modernity” or “the crisis of the Modern self” or “deficiency” of the mental-rational consciousness structure, and so on), also results in a “soul shuddr’ing Vacuum” — Nietzsche’s “stare into the Abyss”, modern “emptiness” that we generally refer to as “nihilism”. Into this psychical vacuum attending the disintegration of the ego-consciousness (and the consequent “return of the repressed”) flow all sorts of monsters from the deeps, either from deep space or the depths of the sea: ghouls, demons, goblins, aliens, krakens, ancient chthonic forces from the Underworld. This has been referred to as “opening the gates of Hell”.
I think of the Peterson-McGilchrist encounter as one of the seminal debates (if debate it was) of our time, so I’ld like to continue my discussion of that which I began with the previous post on the subject (“Peterson versus McGilchrist I“). It was, in fact, more akin to a Socratic dialogue, and given my preference for McGilchrist, I, of course, see McGilchrist in the role of a new Socrates. I think he fits that role very well.
So, it we re-imagine the “Peterson versus McGilchrist” debate as a Socratic dialogue, some things about it become very revealing also about the difference between dialogical process and dialectics, as well as being an encounter between the perspectival and the aperspectival.
Just following up on my previous comments on the Peterson-McGilchrist encounter, I’ld also like to touch once again upon a recurring theme in The Chrysalis in respect of that encounter — that is, the proper relationship between “the facts of the matter” and “the truth that sets free”. That relationship also strikes me as an umderlying issue in the “Peterson versus McGilchrist” issue.
I woke up this morning to find that someone had linked from an article in Medium on the Jordan Peterson–Iain McGilchrist dialogue/debate to The Chrysalis, although I find no evident link to The Chrysalis anywhere in the Medium article. Perhaps someone wanted to flag the article for my attention, given that I’ve been quite critical of Jordan Peterson in previous posts.
Well, if so, I’ll rise to the bait.
When I worked in tech, the typical pitch to get people comfortable with computer technology was that it was unlike conventional machinery that required you to adapt to them and their tempo, like the assembly line or having to respond to them as “the cog in the machine”. No sirree! The computer would patiently wait for you, and you would reclaim your time and your rhythm from the machine. It was liberation! It was often the favoured pitch of the pitchmen in the marketing departments. You are in control. No doubt, many even believed this guff.
At individual scale, this is no doubt plausible. I can take my blessed time responding to an email or other matters. The computer will wait while I pace the floor or decide to wash the dishes first. But at scale, it is a different matter altogether, and I learned soon enough that the pitch to get ahead of the curve and computerise now was bullshit.
“Sensate consciousness” is a term used by the sociologist Pitrim Sorokin (in The Crisis of Our Age) to describe what Jean Gebser refers to as “the mental-rational” or “perspectival” consciousness structure. Sensate consciousness is a form of consciousness beholden for its sense of reality and order to the empirical senses (the physical senses), and the evidence of the empirical senses. Sorokin’s “sensate consciousness” is, in those terms, an optional name for what Iain McGilchrist calls “the Emissary” (in The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World). “Seeing is believing” might be taken as even the motto of sensate consciousness, although it must be pointed out that “seeing” is quite ambiguous, since the Seer — the man or woman of insight and visionary experience — also sees, but in a quite different sense than understood by the sensate consciousness. There is a difference between sightedness and insight, after all.
But for sensate consciousness, there is no other reality than that disclosed and revealed via the empirical senses, and this is usually the only understanding of the word “perception”. In other words, what we call “materialism” and “sensate consciousness” are interchangeable terms, and this is what Blake means in saying that “man has closed himself up till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”. In other words, too, “sensate consciousness” is equivalent to Christopher Lasch’s “culture of narcissism”.