“Irruption”: The Theme of the New Mutation
“The new consciousness structure has nothing to do with might, rule, and overpowering. Thus it cannot be striven for, only elicited or awakened. Anyone who strives for it, intending to attain it mentally, is condemned to failure at the outset. This is also true of those who think that mere desire and the power of imagination, that is, mythically-tinged volition, are sufficient to fully effect the new mutation. And it is equally true of those who believe that they can master the mutation by some machination, for they simply revert to magic compulsion and constraint.
What is needed is care; a great deal of patience; and the laying aside of many preconceived opinions, wishful dreams, and the blind sway of demands. There is a need for a certain detachment toward oneself and the world, a gradually maturing equilibrium of all the inherent components and consciousness structures predisposed in ourselves, in order that we may prepare the basis for the leap into the new mutation”. — Jean Gebser, “The New Mutation” in The Ever-Present Origin.
Let’s dwell for the moment on this theme of the new mutation in consciousness arising by way of “irruption”. Irruption is not gradualism, in the main. It implies a major and tumultuous discontinuity and bifurcation in the flow of events, not to leave unmentioned also the turbulent flow of psychic energies within and amongst ourselves. A “leap” is a discontinuity. It is a perilous act. (You can compare such a leap to Neo’s first failed leap over the abyss in the movie The Matrix).
For Gebser, “irruption” means “a breaking forth”. In that sense, “irruption” has the same significance as does the word “apocalypse”. There is implied in the very meaning of the word “irruption” a rupturing and a dis-rupturing. The irruption of a new consciousness structure into spacetime — Gebser’s “mutation” — has never been anything else but tumultuous and disruptive at its incipience: a time “to try men’s souls”, as Tom Paine once put it. It must overcome many challenges, resistances, obstacles in the process of being born. It is “critical juncture”, and as such must pass through the crucible like the alchemist’s leaden stuff on its way to transmutation into gold. It is not born fully mature (and armoured) like Athena — goddess of reason — from the head of Zeus. We must remember, too, that Athena had her polar character or alter-ego in the form of the Gorgon. The irruption of the aperspectival consciousness will appear, likewise, in various aspects. If it were not so, there would be no need for the kind of vigilance, resilience, and durability (mindfulness or altertness, care, and patience) that Gebser (and Nietzsche too) deemed necessary.
When we write of “aperspectival consciousness”, we mean also by that “transmodern” or “integral”.
What is this “integral consciousness”? Gebser, in one place, describes it as “the integration of our vitality, psychicity, and mentality”. The meaning of these terms needs to be unwrapped (and you will observe again the triadicity of values here), but each is a short-hand way of speaking of the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational structures of consciousness as they have manifested historically as civilisational types. In individual terms, vitality, psychicity, and mentality correspond to body, soul, and mind. Their successful integration is what amounts to the meaning of “aperspectival consciousness”, because no structure has the dominant and dominating hand within the whole ecology of being.
The three criteria forming the principal mode of the manifestation of aperspectival consciousness are described by Gebser on page 300 of The Ever-Present Origin:
1) ‘Temporics,’ under which term are subsumed all endeavors to concretize time;
2) ‘Diaphaneity,’ that which is pellucid and transparent, which we can perceive as the form of spiritual manifestation. It is perceptible only in a ‘world’ where the concretion of time transforms time into time freedom and thus makes possible the concretion of the spiritual;
3) ‘Verition,’ which as the integral ‘a-waring’ or perception and impartation ‘of truth,’ is the realization form of the integral consciousness structure which lends to the aperspectival world a transparent reality.
(If the name of Jean Gebser is new to you, you can find an introductory essay on his thought here).
This “equilibrium” that Gebser mentions corresponds to what Assange calls “justice”. In addition, the three values Assange holds dear — “freedom, truth, and self-realisation” — are the correlates of Gebser’s three criteria: temporics, diaphaneity, and verition (or what Bruce Sterling referred to as Assange’s “weird” “living in truth”). Assange isn’t really transparent (or “diaphanous”) to Sterling for the same reasons he’s not transparent to others.
You would think, though, that a man who declares his motives publicly in this way — justice, freedom, truth, and self-realisation — would be sufficiently intelligible to others and fully transparent in his motives. So why does everyone still consider him opaque? Why does Sterling hold that Assange represents “something we don’t yet have words for”? Why has Assange become a kind of Rorschach inkblot upon which everyone projects their own deficiencies or expectations? He’s been called everything inappropriately reactionary for the reasons Sterling gives: “traitor”, “terrorist”, “spy”, or even “saint”. But it’s because “justice”, “freedom”, “truth”, and “self-realisation” do not necessarily mean the same thing for Assange as they do for these others that Assange remains opaque and the stranger.
Assange’s values are themselves “mutants” insofar as they correspond more closely to Gebser’s criteria for recognising the manifestations of aperspectival (nonlinear) consciousness. That’s the only reason I can think of why people still find Assange opaque even after he has fully declared his reasons for doing what he did and does. The linear, perspectivising mind of Gebser’s “mental-rational structure of consciousness” (McLuhan’s “Gutenberg Man”) confronts Gebser’s man of non-linear, aperspectival consciousness and, like Sterling, becomes speechless, having no words to describe the “something” that Assange represents except as being an avatar of the global internet. Yet, despite the fact that Assange has fully declared his motives, he is still considered un-understandable. And there’s little doubt that old power has been completely traumatised by it’s first major encounter with Digital Man to the point of babbling innanities.
This is the weirdest thing of all about the whole episode. Perhaps Nietzsche’s “many-too-many” don’t really want those things that Assange aspires to secure in order to, as he put it, “elevate the world to a better place”: justice, freedom, truth, and self-realisation. Apparently, many find this frightening — the horrid nitroglycerine of Sterling’s “Blast Shack“. Maybe they really don’t see Assange because they really don’t want to see him.
What does Assange really mean when he talks about “the world being elevated to a better place” or “redefining global history”? Perhaps he himself does not know. Perhaps it is Gebser’s “new mutation” that speaks here, and not Assange himself. He just wants to create a global spacetime where justice, freedom, truth, and self-realisation can become reality. He wants a “new heaven and a new earth”, and to describe this in terms of a “cypto-anarchist utopia” really misses the point, I think.
But, perhaps lacking the words for that “something” that Assange incarnates, “cypto-anarchist” is the only word anyone can think of besides “traitor,” “spy,” or “terrorist”, etc. Assange is at present only the most controversially visible manifestation of Gebser’s “irruption” and “new mutation”.
The Cyborg as myth and symbol is the integration of “vitality, psychicity, and mentality” as Gebser describes. That is well illustrated from the cover of Donna Haraway’s book Simians, Cyborgs, and Women reproduced above. It is in this sense too that Assange can be considered an avatar of the global internet. The Cyborg is the symbol of integral consciousness adapted to our historical context. Those who take the image of the cyborg as a literal physical fusion of man and machine are indulging in perversity and the worst forms of magical thinking. The “transhuman” is not the post-human has nothing to do whatsoever with the fusion of man and machine. The transhuman is Nietzsche’s “overman”. The Cyborg, in symbolic terms, is more akin to the shaman depicted in the illustration above and reflected again in Haraway’s cover illustration for her book (which, after having read part of her book, I don’t think Haraway gets it either). The “cyborg” is the contemporary symbol of integral consciousness. To take it literally is to indulge in a kind of quasi-religious fundamentalism and technocratic reductionism that is characteristic of a deficient kind of magical consciousness that obsesses with power rather than verition.
It makes some sense to consider Assange as a kind of shaman/cyborg in two senses: first, his odd early habit of reconstructing around himself the circumstances and experience of early cave man (shaman), and then also as an avatar of the global internet, in Sterling’s terms (cyborg). These are not irreconcilable symbols, although they are paradoxical ones. But in symbolic and even spiritual terms, the shaman and the cyborg just aren’t that far apart in meaning.