Observations on Gebser’s “The Integral Consciousness”, II
Although there are many events presently that practically cry out to be recognised and commented upon, I want to stick with Gebser’s essay on “The Integral Consciousness” posted a couple of sessions back. Hopefully you printed it off, read it carefully, and are prepared to follow along with the commentary.
I’ve already touched upon Jean Gebser’s recognition of the emergence (or “irruption”) of what he calls “the integral consciousness”. It is what the Hindu seer Sri Aurobindo independently, but equivalently called “the Supramental consciousness”. This also most probably corresponds to what Pierre Tielhard de Chardin once called the evolution of “the noosphere”. (It has come to be known, independently by others also, by other but perhaps less adequate terms: as “the global brain”, for example). The important point to recognise in all these observations, however, is that it is a “mutation” — the term is Gebser’s — “embracing the whole of humanity”, laying the foundation for the emerging Planetary Era and Planetary Civilisation. This is the critical feature of what is called true “globalism” — not the “genuine imitation” variety presently known as neo-liberal or free market globalisation, which is misconceived as “modernisation” (but more appropriately understood as neo-imperialism).
Globalism against Globalisation could just as well be the theme of the “Occupy Earth” movement — or the ideal of the Global Village against the Global Imperium.
We are still dealing, here, with the first paragraph of the essay in which Gebser confidently asserts that the irruption or emergence of the integral consciousness is an historical discontinuity or mutation that has nothing to do with “the increase of intellectual knowledge” or, for that matter, the accretion of technical knowledge or the spread of the “free market” ideology for that matter, which is usually destructive (Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism and Amy Chua’s World on Fire). Nor is it a continuation of “Modernity”. Consciousness is not ideology despite the persistent prejudice — really a mass delusion and a species of mass narcissism or “legacy thinking” — that makes self-interested thinking, mentation, or ratiocination — or merely holding an opinion as a egocentric “point of view” about this or that — equivalent to consciousness or proof of being. The ongoing revolt against the legacy of Cartesian metaphysical dualism and “point of view consciousness”, expressed in the formula cogito ergo sum (I think, therefore I am) or Francis Bacon’s scientia potens est (“knowledge is power”) since the widespread disillusionment following the First World War is also a repudiation of the Age of Reason and of the foundational assumptions and one-sidedness of the European Enlightenment. It is a repudiation of what the English poet William Blake equally referred to in his time as “single vision and Newton’s sleep…” This is the root of what is presently called “the post-modern” or “the post-Enlightenment” condition. The mood of disillusionment and pessimism with respect to the Modern Era (the last 500 years) was solely owing to the shock of the World Wars, Great Depression, and the rise of fascism from 1914 – 1945 which was seen as the end of the Modern Project and the “Grand Narrative” of universality.
But that disillusionment — which in some respects resembles nihilism towards the naive assumptions, beliefs, and values of the past — is also an opening up. There is a positive aspect of nihilism that is a will to become completely empty as a preparation for receiving a new inspiration, or what Christians sometimes call a new “dispensation” of the Spirit. This nihilism may also be called “the dark night of the soul”. A glass which is already full of “old wine” cannot be filled with new wine. It must first become empty. And much of what is called post-modern “deconstruction” or even “nihilism” today is just this process of emptying in order to prepare the soul for a new dispensation or inspiration.
This is also what gives to the experience of our time the sense and mood of being “apocalyptic” for that word means “disclosure”, “uncovering” or “revelation”. Gebser simply uses the term “irruption” for that. Our times are pregnant with imminent catastrophe, but only because (as Shakespeare put it in his own day) “the times are out of joint”, and a new sense of integrity or integrality is being invited and sought after.
The “new consciousness” of which Gebser speaks is a mutation. Being a mutation, it is an historical discontinuity. It is not a fruther, “evolutionary” development upon modernity or the Age of Reason, which only linger around as zombies or lost causes. That is why Geber calls the new consciousness “arational” (not to be mistaken for anti-rational or “irrational”).
And yet, in Gebser’s terms, it also represents a “transformed continuity” (from his Ever-Present Origin). This “transformed continuity” has the same meaning as “all that is old is made new again” (in Nietzsche’s terms, a “convalescence”). And this has the same meaning also as Nietzsche’s “revaluation” or “transvaluation of values” (Umwertung, in the difficult to translate German term). This transvaluation has the same meaning, I find, as Rumi’s poem about the four nafs or animal spirits,
“The rooster of lust, the peacock of wanting
to be famous, the crow of ownership, and the duck
of urgency, kill them and revive them
in another form, changed and harmless.”
(And really folks, if the pimps and shills amongst the punditocracy who slavishly serve the 1% still demand precise “demands” and a ideological programme by the Occupy Wall Street movement, etc, then Rumi’s demands are the occupiers’ precise demands! The pimps and shills in the media, of course, know full well who butters their bread and who tosses their salad, and so are willing accomplices in spreading ignorance about all this).
Is it so difficult to recognise that the new “integral consciousness” is presently being worked out in the occupy movement, which is now global in scope from Tunis to Cairo, from Madrid to New York, and from New York to London or Vancouver or across the United States, too? It is the first truly global protest against the false globalism of neo-liberal globalisation. What is also being worked out in raw existential terms, and not just academic or ideological terms, is a universal history of the human race, and this will come only through the process of a common global revolt against the old order of nation-state supremacy and against the perverse and anachronistic ideology of “the clash of civilisations”.
Conservatives, of course, despise social revolution, but admire war as heroic. What these “conservatives” (who are today really only reactionaries in the new historical context) don’t comprehend is this: that in the “Global Village” all war now necessarily assumes the form of a world revolution. Once the nation-state was supreme authority. Now it is subordinate to the Global Village (presently called “international community”). This coincidence of opposites in the global era is why the old “thesis” and “anti-thesis” opposition and antagonism of both Hegelian idealism and Marxist historical materialism no longer holds and has become “deficient rationality” in Gebser’s terms. “Blowback”, “perverse outcome”, “unintended consequence” or “revenge effect” — all of which now necessitate something called “crisis management” — are the consequence of an earlier dualistic or “legacy” logic of antagonistic, absolute contradictions in terms of thesis and anti-thesis (deficient dialectical reason) attempting to assert itself and its exclusive validity despite the reality that the globe is now become one social and political unit.
Against the old imperialistic and nationalistic logic expressed by Rudyard Kipling that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”, Gebser has asserted the contradiction that is true for the global era: “It is precisely because Asia and the Occident are not mutually exclusive opposites, but are mutually complementary poles (which may very well one day rediscover their common roots), that it is important for this [integral] consciousness to be coherently and fully explored.”
This statement, so appropriate for the Global Era, is a definitive repudiation of the perverse dualistic logic of the Modern Era. What Marshall McLuhan called “the Global Village” so many years ago (and was misunderstood), is the necessary political correlate to what Jean Gebser called “The Integral Consciousness”.
This — the new terms and constitution of the Global Village — is what is presently being worked out in the global “Occupy Earth” movement.