Quintessence: The Fifth Revolution
After his historical survey of the four modern European revolutions — the Lutheran, the English Civil War, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution — Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy concluded from observing the pattern he saw emerge between them that there would yet be a fifth revolution that would conclude and close the series. As he interpreted it, the World War was the initial rumbling of this coming global restructuration and it had made the fifth revolution necessary and irrevocable. He called it “transnational revolution” and concluded that its motivating principle would be “health.”
Rosenstock recorded his survey in a book entitled Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man, but the principles he distilled from the lengthier study were also reproduced in his more accessible and shorter work, The Origin of Speech.
We are now already well into this transnational revolution, which is another way of saying, really, “world revolution”.
Rosenstock noted a peculiar pattern to the Age of Revolutions which seems to have escaped other historians: in every instance, only four generations separated each successive revolution from its predecessor, and that each revolution attempted to resolve the human problem that had been left unaddressed and unresolved by its predecessor revolutions. What the Lutheran Revolution (that is, the Protestant Reformation which started the series) had failed to resolve about the human condition was taken up by Cromwell and the English Glorious Revolution four generations later, and what these had failed to address had to then be addressed and resolved by The French Revolution four generations later. In turn, what had been still left unresolved by The French Revolution had to be addressed by The Russian Revolution. Each revolution had made the other revolutions necessary, and each was separated from the earlier by four generations (counting a generation as 25 years or so).
This is not accidental. It may even be lawful. It is the manifest meaning of the New Testament saying that “the sins of the fathers shall be visited down to the third and fourth generations”.
The “sin” here is not difficult to identify. Each revolution sought to articulate one universal principle and to stamp it absolutely and indelibly upon its own times. That principle is only a facet of man’s overall being, but was mistaken as being defining and absolute. The creature called “Man” is a multiform being of mind, body, soul, and spirit, and must keep these vital aspects of his being in balance lest he literally fall apart. He disintegrates. He loses integrity. Each of the modern revolutions thought they had discovered the true essence and meaning of Man in one of these facets alone, and then absolutised it and made it into a universal principle. For Luther, Man was a living soul (every man a priest). For the Bolshevik Revolutionaries, Man was body alone (every man a worker). For the French Revolutionaries, Man was “universal reason”, homo sapiens, and intellect was his defining glory. For Cromwell, every man is king. What we call “national character” is largely an exaggerated emphasis on only one aspect of the human whole, but for that reason also, the most well explored and articulated.
Consciousness is multidimensional. Man is, correspondingly, multiform. Man’s whole being as a fourfold creature does not long rest content or satisfied in being reduced to one exclusive, predictable, and defining universal or absolute. The neglected, omitted, unexpressed and even repressed aspects of this multiformity eventually erupt in the form of revolution and are experienced even as an apocalyptic unveiling or revelation. It is because man is a multiform being of mind, body, soul, and spirit, that he is also a political, a religious/spiritual, a poetic (creative), and a reasoning being. This is the truth that underlies Blake’s proverb: “More! More! is the cry of the mistaken soul; less than All cannot satisfy Man!”
What becomes insurgent is not “man” per se, but one of these neglected and repressed aspects of the human whole that yearns to become realised and attain to physical manifestation. To say that man is a multiform and fourfold being of mind, body, soul and spirit is shorthand for saying that man’s physical existence is fourfold, being comprised of two spaces (subject and object) as well as two times (past and future). Mind and body correspond to inner and outer spaces, but soul and spirit correspond to past and future times, or origin (source) and destiny (purpose). It is also important to understand that mind, body, soul, and spirit are not “things” but largely mysterious activities and processes, which means energetic.
As Man is multiform being, so consciousness is multidimensional and polymorphous. Jean Gebser’s four structures of consciousness — the archaic, the magical, the mythic, and the mental-rational — are in effect what are also correspondingly named body, mind, soul, and spirit. These also correspond to “the four Zoas” of William Blake’s poetry, whose restored unity and integrity after the fall is re-attained in the figure of Albion, who corresponds to Jean Gebser’s “integral consciousness” as the promising fifth structure that Gebser believed was presently in the process of emerging or “irrupting.”
In effect, we are becoming living mandalas.
This sets the stage for interpreting Rosenstock’s “transnational revolution” as the anticipated fifth revolution in the historical series and why it pertains to the principle of “health”. Significantly, the Latin word for healing or achieving well-being is “integrare” — the integral — which will complete or fulfill the shortcomings of the earlier revolutions by realising the multiform, in which the creature “Man” will truly achieve to consciousness of his multiformity as integral being and as living mandala or global soul. If Rosenstock is correct in his history, this is now very close, and his “transnational revolution” may have even already begun in the Middle East, for the Arabs have now discovered what was only historically a European phenomenon — the power of revolution to master time.
Here, let’s review what the foremost student of revolutions, Rosenstock-Huessy, has to say about the character of revolution from The Origins of Speech:
“A revolution does not listen to the old language of law and order. It creates a new language….But a revolution is inarticulate at first. In war both warring parties have their sets of language. Two languages which exist clash. In a revolution the revolutionary language is not yet in existence. Revolutionaries are called young for this very reason. Their language must be grown in the process of the revolution. We might even call a revolution the birth of a new language…. In a revolution old speech is rejected by a new shout which struggles to become articulate. The revolutionaries make a terrific noise but nine tenths of their whoops will evaporate and the final language spoken by the bourgeoisie or the proletarians thirty years later will have cleared of these shouts of the beginning. But during the revolution suffering results from this very fact that the revolution is still inarticulate. The conflict lies between an over-articulate but dead old language and an inarticulate new life. War is a conflict between here and there, the languages of friend and foe, revolution between old and new, between the languages of yesterday and tomorrow, with the language group of tomorrow attacking…. The opposite of revolution is tyranny or counterrevolution. In a counterrevolution the old attack the young, and yesterday murders tomorrow; yesterday is attacking. Its technique is significant. While the young revolutionary group shouts because it is still inarticulate, any reactionary counterrevolution is so hyperarticulate as to become hypocritical. The disease of reaction is hypocrisy. Law and order are on everybody’s lips even where circumstances of a different truth prevail. Trusts and monopolies call themselves free enterprise. Unions cartelizing labor speak of freedom of contract. Decadent families speak of the family’s splendor and claims to privilege, and so on…. Lipservice is the cause of tyranny. An old order is degenerate, abusing future life wherever lipservice takes the place of shouting. The equilibrium between yesterday and tomorrow consists of an interplay between articulate namedness and inarticulate unknown-ness” (pp. 12 – 13).
It’s worth commenting here, in respect of revolution and reaction (or counterrevolution) on the controversy about multiculturalism versus “clash of civilisations” by drawing on William Blake’s imagery of the four Zoas at war and at peace. The Zoas are aspects of the fourfold human, who is Albion, in disintegrate and mutually antagonistic state. This disintegrate or agonistic state results from the fall and partition of Albion “upon the stems of vegetation”. The “clash of civilisations” represents the continuation of this disintegrate and agonistic state, while what is called “multiculturalism” is the fumbling attempt to restore to the disintegrate Albion his original integrity by bringing the Zoas into self-conscious memory of their original unity in and through Albion. Multiculturalism is really a half-conscious and somewhat inarticulate movement towards this “global soul,” who is Albion as the integral consciousness, and who is the destination of the “transnational revolution”.
In effect, Rosenstock’s aim of a “universal history,” as collective human autobiography, and which will be forged only in the process of “transnational revolution,” isn’t much different from Blake’s mystical vision of Albion restored.
Virtually everything you need to know about the meaning of the present is foreshadowed in William Blake’s visionary poetry of the four Zoas and their reconstitution as integral aspects of the reborn Albion. The very elements today are in revolt, and that is what “anthropogenic” climate change is really about. Earth, air, fire, and water are also the Zoas, and they comprise an ecology of the soul. They are also the four biological functions of metabolism, respiration, nervous system, and the circulatory systems of the body. Everything is reflected in everything else. Everything is interconnected. The boundaries between them do not exist in reality. They are man-made, mentalistic boundaries, limits, definitions, categories, concepts, and constructs meant to facilitate comprehension and the intellect’s functioning by analysis. Nature itself does not know such segregations, boundaries, limits or definitions between part and whole.
It is a dangerous and fragile project however that could fail, in which case Seth’s and Gebser’s prediction for the fate of mankind and the earth will come to pass. Neither will endure.