Seth Speaks… On Nihilism

Last evening, I was cruising around the Web when I came across these assembled quotes from the book Seth Speaks (1972). The quoted sections struck me with great force and impact, perhaps because I’ve also been brooding over our present predicament at “the end of history” and reflecting on this in relation to the works of Nietzsche and Jean Gebser, which the words of Seth powerfully drew together in their joint concern for the future of life, humankind, and the fate of the Earth.

Seth’s words may not strike you with the same force as they did me unless you have some familiarity with Nietzsche and Gebser and their similar concerns about nihilism in our time. But revisiting these words, uttered and written down 40 years ago, made me realise how close to the precipice, here presciently described by Seth, that we have since come over those intervening four decades.

“There are probabilities quite present, and for
that matter biologically practical, that would allow
for a change in individual consciousness so great
as literally to propel the race into another level
of experience entirely. Sess. 684.

“When, at this point now, of mankind’s development,
his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by
his institutions, then it will rise up despite
those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult
after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the
use of reason, because reason will have denied
the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge,
disorganized and feeling only its own ancient
force. Sess. 687

“If this happens, all kinds of old and new
religious denominations will war, and all kinds
of ideologies surface. This need not take place,
for the conscious mind–having learned to focus
in physical terms, is meant to expand, to
accept unconscious intuitions and knowledge, and
to organize these deeply creative principles into
cultural patterns. Sess. 687.

“In historic terms, as you understand them, the
“progression” of religion gives you a perfect
picture of the development of human consciousness,
the differentiation of peoples and nations, and
the growth of the ideas of the “individual.”
Sess. 687.

“You must understand that man must move beyond the
concepts of one god, one self, one body, one world,
as these ideas are currently understood. You are
now poised upon a threshold from which the race
can go many ways. Your species is in a time of
change. There are potentials within the body’s
mechanisms not as yet used. Developed, they can
immeasurably enrich the race, and bring it to
levels of spiritual and psychic and physical
fulfillment. If some changes are not made, the race will not endure.”
Sess. 687.


17 responses to “Seth Speaks… On Nihilism”

  1. Sharon Smith says :

    I happen to be re-reading one of the Seth books, being struck by how increasingly relevant his words are now. Since those days (Seth coming through Jane Roberts during the 1970s and ’80s) things have only deteriorated. Seth makes clear the availability of human potential for the opposite trend — just as Gebser does. Such a waste of opportunity! Thank you, Scott.

    • Scott says :

      I’ll have to go revisit them myself, I think. I had quoted the passage about “the race will no endure” earlier, but the fuller context of the passage seemed more poignant when I read it again.

  2. Sharon Smith says :

    Correction: The Seth books came out during the sixties & the seventies. Jane Roberts died in 1984.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    Indeed. Great illuminating insights from Seth. I was skimming through Max Born’s “Physics in My Generation” and I came across this quote on p. 143:

    “This loosening of the rules of thinking seems to me the greatest blessing which modern science has given us. For the belief that there is only one truth and that oneself is in possession of it, seems to me the deepest root of all that is evil in the world.” (Born, M., 1969. Physics in my generation, 2nd revised edition, Springer-Verlag: Japan).

    • Scott says :

      The quote from Seth is prescient, for it wasn’t long after this that the innovations in ideology (neo-conservatism, neo-liberalism, neo-socialism or Blairite New Labour) arose, then “clash of civilisations” ideology, religious conflicts, along with cultishness of all kinds (Jim Jones, Heaven’s Gate, etc) and the astonishing cults of celebrity today. It definitely is a mad world right now. I sometimes feel that I need to get me to a monastery somewhere, seal off the world, and quarantine myself.

      Can’t do that just yet. I just got high-speed!

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Excellent! Because I was worrying that PBS might remove the programs from its website since they’ve been there for a long time now. There are two NOVA episodes. I try to give the link to each below. Remarkable terrific programs. I enjoyed every minute of them. If the links don’t work on your side or if you have trouble finding the programs please let me know:
        Episode 1:
        Episode 2:

        • Scott says :

          Unfortunately, PBS won’t permit viewing outside a certain jurisdiction, it seems, so those aren’t accessible to me. One of the first things I’ve tackled though is something I’ve always wanted to watch on-line, the BBC series The Century of the Self. Just watched the first installment… pretty disturbing.

  4. Scott says :

    I went to the bookstore in the city today, just before attending the rally against political corruption. I was looking around for anything new on nihilism, particularly Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism, which I’ve never read. I picked up Chris Hedge’s book Empire of Illusion as probably a good approximation to my quest, but I noticed a brand new publication called Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age by “acclaimed writer” Modris Eksteins, of whom I’ve never heard even though he’s from the University of Toronto. The “crisis of truth” or “crisis of authenticity” sounded like the very thing I was looking for, but I balked at the price. The price of books is crazy today. I suspect, though, that I’ll be unable to resist it for too long.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      Monastery has never crossed my mind, but my refuge, as a child and now, has always been the nature. Particularly, amongst mountains I feel most at home.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      Scott, I just realized that the programs are also available on Youtube. Please try the following links. I hope these links work for you. Especially, the second episode about time points out other worldly features of time that don Juan also described to Castaneda when don Juan told him about his benefactor sending him to worlds where, it took don Juan about 30 or 40 seconds to get himself out of, but here on earth something like 7 years had passed during the time he was gone.
      Episode 1:
      Episode 2:

      • Scott says :

        Thanks. I’ll have a look tomorrow. Still trying to assess the first part of Century of the Self. Have you seen this? It’s also on YouTube. I knew a good deal of this history of propaganda, and was quite familiar with Bernays and the work of Stewart Ewen on the history of propaganda and consumerism (he’s interviewed in the film) but watching this history all unfold on film was another (unsettling) experience altogether — this toying with forces they don’t understand and teasing them out.

        There’s the root of Twenge’s and Campbell’s “Narcissism Epidemic” and Lasch’s “culture of narcissism” that they never bothered to explore… a serious shortcoming, as I noted in my earlier criticisms. If you watch The Century of the Self, you’ll understand, perhaps, why their stated desire to avoid political controversy and any examination of what I called “the political economy of narcissism” was a sin against scholarship and a breach of professionalism. The narcissism epidemic or the culture of narcissism cannot be accounted for without reference to this whole post-World War I period that The Century of the Self illuminates. I’m probably going to have nightmares about it tonight.

        This kind of propaganda is like poking a lion with a stick. In fact, Rumi had a poem about that very thing that I’ve cited before: The Snake-Catcher’s Tale.

        I might wish that everybody would see The Century of the Self and know how it relates to Rumi’s Snake-Catcher.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          Just got back from my grocery shopping and I’m going to be watching The Century of the Self, right away. Thank you.

  5. LittleBigMan says :

    I had the chance to watch The Century of the Self in full. A good history of propoganda. I think the extent of intrusion and brainwashing has reached even inside the middle schools now.

  6. LittleBigMan says :

    I have a PDF copy of Seth Speaks which I was able to download about 4 or 5 years ago. It’s 185 pages long. Is this not the full book? Because I’m doing a “find” search for these quotes and I can’t find any of them.

  7. Scott says :

    Mulling over the Seth quote again has raised some questions for me that perhaps can only be answered by re-reading the book. Why is the expression of these new probabilities of consciousness constrained by biological practicalities? Does the physical body mechanism (or its sensual nature) impose an absolute limit on the expression of consciousness? Could it be that behind the “cyborgians” lies a kind of intuitive half-truth and frustration with the body’s limitations as a (perhaps deficient) response to this “emerging unconscious”? The body as cocoon?

    Why is it now, in this time, that this “emerging unconscious knowledge” (apparently, Gebser’s “irruption”) is occurring? Who or what stirred the primordial soup again? Is it possible that the kinds of devious psychological manipulations of the unconscious described in The Century of the Self actually stirred it up? (maybe, as Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust describes himself — “a part of that power that would ever evil do, but always does the good”?). It’s not clear to me what might have triggered this stirring in the depths or the awakening dragon. Interestingly, there plenty of themes in literature and film about this — “the Kraken Awakes” or monsters from the deep, aliens from deep space, etc. Do these tie into the sense and intuition of something “emerging” from the depths of the psyche?

    The problem with “deficient rationality” highlighted as the problem of our deficient institutions acting as blockades, impediments, constraints and restraints of this “emerging unconscious knowledge” or ancient force (those being evidently Gebser’s “archaic consciousness”, “magical consciousness” and “mythological consciousness” structures). Gebser actually warned about this in many places in The Ever-Present Origin and of the necessity of keeping our wits about us during this “irruption” (ie, apocalyptic manifestation). On this point, emphasised by Gebser and Seth both, we seem to be failing miserably. It seems an Age of Unreason and Delusion altogether. The breakdown of the mental-rational structure of consciousness (collapse of the dialectic) would seem, equally, to be connected with this “emergency” or “irruption” of this “ancient force”. (In this respect, see Rumi’s poem “Green Ears”, which seems uniquely addressed to this, as well as, from another angle, W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”). In that sense, “deficient rationality”, being also the breakdown of the dialectical, is mainly a deficient and inadequate reactionary response to this irruption more than anything else, in which case “deficient rationality” is synonymous with “reactionary”.

    Seth gives that “while the conscious mind– having learned to focus in physical terms is meant to expand” (which “expansion” Gebser actually calls “intensification”) it would seem to be constrained by biology — the body. For some reason, that brings to mind Gurdjieff’s “kundabuffer” as the same thing that Castaneda’s don Juan referred to as “the foreign installation”). Does this mean, then, that the “irruption” spoken of by Seth and Gebser (and Nietzsche also) can only succeed by radical changes in the “bodily mechanism”. How is that brought about? Does the “emerging unconscious knowledge” re-create the bodily mechanism in order to realise itself in physical terms? Seth seems to say as much when he calls evolution “value realisation”, and that the main factors in evolution are internal or “subjective”. But then again, even Christianity speaks of a “new body” also, as does Buddhism (an “infinite body of merit” corresponding to the realisation of Buddha Mind in the Diamond Sutra).

    The changing “cultural patterns” as realisation of a pre-existent pattern, also attested to by Jean Gebser, we’ve addressed before as the common “fourfold” — effectuated in “universal grammar” as per Rosenstock-Huessy, and realised in all the world’s religions, and which alone makes a “universal history” of life possible, and therefore a planetary civilisation feasible. “Another world is possible” indeed.

    The principle constraint, besides our present “institutions”, would appear to be biological/physical limitations that need to be overcome or transcended or “mutated” (Gebser’s favoured term). This needs more attention, perhaps.

  8. LittleBigMan says :

    Thank you. I always thought I had the full version. I’ve got to get the full copy.

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