The Irruption

I was reflecting lately on the observation, which has been made here recently, that if we are entering into a new “integral” era — a new mutation of the structure of consciousness as Jean Gebser suggests  — there seems to be little social evidence for it in everyday life, outside “specialist” circles such as the biological and physical sciences, or in literature.

I think the case can be made that it is also happening, autonomously and spontaneously, in general culture.

Yesterday, I revisited Jean Gebsers opus, The Ever-Present Origin, while looking up another passage but fell upon this one. It’s worth remarking upon.

“…no truly decisive process, that is to say, something besides a tentative and arbitrary occurrence with its provisionalities and recurrences, is a continuum. A true process always occurs in quanta, that is, in leaps; or, expressed in quasi-biological and not physical terms, in mutations. It occurs spontaneously, indeterminately, and, consequently, discontinuously. Moreover, we become aware of such presumably invisible processes only when they have reached sufficient strength to manifest themselves on the basis of their cumulative momentum (a limitation we must observe when applying this concept to psychic events). The apparent continuity is no more than a sequence subsequently superimposed onto overlapping events to lend them the reassuring appearance of a logically determinate progression.” (p. 37, “The Four Mutations of Consciousness”).

This passage is significant if for no other reason than that long before there was something we now call “Chaos Theory” (c. 1960), Gebser was already thinking in those terms. No process is a continuum — that is to say, no real process follows a linear, sequential (syllogistic) logic. That logic is something that the mind adds to the reality. For Gebser, rather, real process or action occurs non-linearly, and is characterised by spontaneity, indeterminism, and discontinuities or anomalies — in discrete quanta or “leaps”.

Many scientists do complain that standard public school textbooks and curricula actually misrepresent the history and process of science (and reason, too), and leave the false impression that the history of science has followed a rigorously direct, linear progressive model, while ignoring the follies, the bungling, the dead-ends, the errors, the sudden unexpected anomalies and discontinuities that became suggestive of new lines of inquiry. The textbooks actually portray science as being a nearly faultless machine pursuing a sure path that is constantly, confidently, routinely and mechanically adding, and adding, and adding to the cumulative body of knowledge. One of the very great books of the last century, Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) demonstrated that this is not the case, and that the actual history of science has been misrepresented and misunderstood. Science progresses through surprising discontinuities, spontaneities or “anomalies” that were completely unforeseen, very much in the way Gebser describes also — as “irruptions” (the anomalous instance or event). Kuhn’s book profoundly changed the way scientists and historians of science thought about the actual activity of science.

Gebser’s use of the term “irruption” my tempt us into thinking that the emergence of the new integral structure of consciousness is a one time or  a once-and-for-all event. But given the passage cited above, it’s more correct to think of this in the plural — as “irruptions”: up-wellings of the new consciousness structure from the depths which endure for a spell then die down or fall back, as if the new consciousness was simply testing the water or testing itself, then taking stock of its experience in repose before spontaneously irrupting and testing itself again under different circumstances. This is the “quanta” or discontinuous nature of the irruption that Gebser wants to highlight. This is, I think, how Gebser sees the emergence of the integral consciousness, and not as “a logically determinate progression”.

When one appreciates how the new structure proceeds, not in this logical, sequential, syllogistic fashion but in terms of “quanta”, then it is actually clearer. One could appreciate how some social events (say, the sixties) constitute such a discrete quantum which arises, tests the waters, persists for a time, but then falls back into repose once more to marshall its resources for another experimental energetic “leap”. We tend to call these events “breakthroughs” with good reason, or experience them as “inspirations”. Gebser refers to this in terms of “intensities” — a sudden intensification of consciousness or of our social energies.

But it can also be destructive (which is the significance of Rumi’s poem “Green Ears” and of Nietzsche’s meaning of “positive nihilism” or of the word “apocalyse” also). To the other features that Gebser ascribes to the integral consciousness — atemporal, arational, aperspectival — you will have to add amoral and asocial, too. Any legacy consciousness structure inherited from the past will invariably interpret the new consciousness structure in criminal terms. And in those terms, it is “criminal”. Essentially, though, amoral or asocial are attributes of Nietzsche’s own “transhuman”, or of what Rudolf Steiner also called “ethical individualism“. Amoral and asocial might sound negative or nihilistic (although these do not mean immoral or anti-social), but the fact is, the consciousness structure does not take its orders from the ego structure.

“Many actions which seem cruel
are from a deep friendship.
Many demolitions are actually renovations” — Rumi

And it does seem to me that many cases of mental illness today are owing to the attempt of the ego (or society) to inhibit or suppress the more spontaneous and energetic “irruptions” of the new consciousness structure, both individually and socially. The terms sometimes used to describe that are kind of revealing in themselves: “up-tight” or “anal retentive”.

However, “the spice must flow”.

Like Nietzsche, I’m not a big fan of those who preach “moral inhibitions” as the only source of social order, who seem to be egotists themselves afraid of their own souls. Someone who teaches the doctrine of inhibitions teaches a doctrine of fear and weakness, really. Obviously, they must themselves sense their own inner self as being something evil, and therefore to be resisted. This was Nietzsche’s objection to moralism (it was also Jesus’ — “resist not evil”). The inner self is not evil. It is the inhibitions that pervert it’s expression. The ego’s purpose, really, is not to inhibit but to guide and sublimate. The difference is as that between the destructive and the creative.

“Inside you there’s an artist you don’t know about” — Rumi

There are a number of other passages from Rumi that speak to this — even to the meaning of Gebser’s “irruption”.

“This being human is a guest house. Ever a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and attend them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.”

“Welcome difficulty.
Learn the alchemy True Human Beings know:
the moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given
the door opens.
Welcome difficulty as a familiar comrade.
Joke with torment brought by the Friend.”

And on the superiority of sublimation over inhibition (and in some sense, “transformation” is sublimation),

“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.”

13 responses to “The Irruption”

  1. Scott says :

    By-the-by, the movie Black Swan was a great study of how mere inhibitions can be crippling to the full creativity and grace of the soul… in fact, can be very destructive of the overall personality.

  2. misterdirk says :

    Thanks for this; it’s inspiring.

    Nice that you should refer to chaos theory, because after our last exchange I revisited chaos theorist Ralph Abraham’s “Chaos, Gaia, and Eros,” and then just started reading his newest one, “Bolts from the Blue: Art, Mathematics, and Cultural Evolution.” He was one of the individuals responsible for my directing my commercial artist career into academia in the 80s and there doing “scientific visualization” for many years. As much as anything else, I was trying to know the felt experience of “doing science,” codifying the meaning, and performing it for others. And to feel how that changed through time. I’m glad that period of my life is over, because the extremely conservative (retentive?) values of that culture were not especially good for my artistic soul, but I’m also glad that I did it.

    I was also recently introduced to Charles Eisenstein’s “Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, and Society in the Age of Transition” and thought of your site. I don’t know if he’s portentous of the phase shift that we’re talking about, but if so then I’m encouraged. His earlier “Ascent of Humanity” is published online, from which you can get a good sense of his outlook. It’s good to see young minds working this way.

    • Scott says :

      We’ve mentioned Eisenstein in The Chrysalis a couple of times — his great article on OWS — but I’ve yet to familiarise myself with his other work, which is posted on the website “Reality Sandwich”. If you thought of my site, it might interest you to know that “Reality Sandwich” once linked into the old Dark Age Blog, too.

      I have the impression that your experience in “doing science” by performing it through art and illustration was probably a good one, an important formative one. If you need to shake off the overly technical aspects or influence of that — if you feel it was somewhat stifling of your creativity — give yourself over for a while to just doing plain old “naive” art, spontaneously, without any concern for technique or precision or perspective. If you were in that field, your technical skills are probably impressive and impeccable. Now drop them for a while. See what happens. Just play. I have an artist friend whose work is very impressive. But every once in a while he just drops all the technique and indulges himself in sheer child-like play painting in the informal, loose style they call “naive”. You wouldn’t recognise them as his work. What he does is paint what we might call “feeling-tones” or values, much like a child would paint. In this way, he restores his connection to real creativity and innocence by throwing off all formula/technique/stylism. Nobody would buy this stuff, but it restores him.

      • misterdirk says :

        Oh, my apologies, I must have seen CE’s name here, but it didn’t penetrate my awareness until he spoke in our town a short while ago.

        Your advice, and your friend’s restorative practice is right on. I do a similar thing where I roll out a very large sheet of butcher paper and tape it on a door. Then, holding a large child’s crayon in each hand, I go at it. The bilateral and full-body nature of the exercise, coupled with the scent and texture of kids’ crayons, makes for a total release. It’s like joyous medicine. I wouldn’t call it art, or even therapy — it’s more like hygiene.

        Not to derail your blog any further with this, but from a very young age I was sensitive to the feeling that accompanied various modes of drawing (for instance, representing what one contemplates before oneself in life drawing versus representing a symbolic concept with a cartoon image from your mind — subtly different feelings). That initial sensitivity was what piqued my interest in consciousness, and led to all my subsequent exploration of interiority and subjectivity.

        • Scott says :

          You’re not derailing the blog, misterdirk. You’re adding to it. Did you go to hear CE speak? I would have liked to have been there.

        • misterdirk says :

          (Can’t seem to add this reply below yours of 13:39)

          I missed CE’s talk, but a friend filled me in, and then I watched a subsequent video. I was very impressed by the clarity of his thinking and language, especially given his young age.

          Then a few days later I drove into the big city to meet Morris Berman at a book signing. He’s also very articulate and clear-minded, but his topic (“Why America Failed”) left us feeling somber and dampened. Had to work a bit to regain my center.

        • misterdirk says :

          (Oh, it did fall into the right position.)

    • Scott says :

      By the way, too…. if you liked Charles Eisenstein’s stuff, you might find this article by Blake Anderson of real interest also (as I did):

      What really interested me about this article was how Anderson now linked the pursuit of self-interest (free market liberalism) with the irrational pursuit of self-destruction, a theme I’ve persistently raised in The Chrysalis and the Dark Age Blog. He credits Karl Polanyi for this insight (from his famous book The Great Transformation) and that much is true, but it was Nietzsche who first realised that the total triumph of liberal institutions would be simultaneously their self-destruction. This is what I’ve presently taken to calling “ironic reversal”. It is somewhat like Agent Smith’s fate at the very end of The Matrix series.

      This is the most bizarre thing about our times, in my opinion. What people naively call “progress” is actually ironic reversal. Most of the time, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about that.

      • misterdirk says :

        Enantiodromia… I guess you might laugh until you start crying, then back again.

        • Scott says :

          “Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps” — Blake. The law of hubris, in a nutshell. That’s the essence of ironic reversal, but by any other name also “enantiodromia”, which may also be understood as the karmic law.

  3. amothman33 says :

    This recalls the concepts of Flashes in the tradition of sufism. Nothing moves in lines, everything in leaps. Cessation of the disturbances of the mental.This is the core of your advice in being a child.If only we appreciate God the source of everythings.

    • Scott says :

      That’s interesting. I’ve not come across this notion of “Flashes”. But I just bought a book by Seyyed Hossein Nasr called The Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam’s Mystical Tradition and maybe I’ll find it in there.

  4. Scott says :

    Hidden amidst all the noise of “culture war” today is a great struggle between the mental-rational and the integral structures of consciousness, and this goes well beyond “the personal”. It’s more like the clash of the Titans in older mythological terms. Some of this takes very perverse forms, which are recognisably what Gebser would call “deficient magical” or “deficient mythical” or “deficient rational”. To this would have to be added, probably, “deficient integral”. The mode of manifestation of the “deficient integral” is the assimilatory or metabolistic, which is imperialism. And in that respect, men like Osama bin Laden and George Bush actually mirror and resemble each other.

    At the same time, much that is called “New Age” resembles the deficient magical or deficient mythical, and the “deficiency” is recognised by its revolt against reason. To that extent, also, we can call it “deficient integral”. Yet this “revolt against reason” characteristic of the deficient aspects of the New Age Movement is exactly mirrored by the practice of propaganda and perception management, so that those who are often most vocal in denouncing the New Age Movement as irrational, are themselves engaged in the practice and promotion of deficient rationality in the form of propaganda.

    Those who are actually crossing the threshold, presently, into the authentically integral now speak of this in terms of a “house of mirrors”, or the “alice in wonderland” or “wizard of oz” condition of Late Modernity because they can see the “Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum” caricature of this faux controversy — that the conventional “thesis” versus “anti-thesis” mode and model is largely delusional, and involves a good dose of poisonous deceit and toxic self-deception.

    There would be no physical “smog” if there wasn’t actually, first, mental smog. Always and everywhere, our physical reality is a faithful and genuine reflection of our psychic/spiritual one. That is the most exciting and engaging thing about “reality” — that the “Book of Life” or the “Book of Nature” is our own autobiography. “You create the reality you know”. And what otherwise is the controversy in quantum physics between “Observer Created Reality” (OCR) or “Consciousness Created Reality” (CCR) except this? Metanoia is Metamorphosis.

    “Ten years of dreams in the forest!
    Now on the lake’s edge
    Laughing a new laugh”

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