The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events: A First Reading

I’ve concluded a first reading Jane Roberts’ Seth book, entitled The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events. Providing a comprehensive overview of the work is something of a challenge because I find it a little uneven overall.

“Uneven” only in the sense, perhaps, that Robert Butts’ notes and extensive commentaries on the sessions and the material are a distraction which add very little to the material and almost serve only to cancel out the mood generated by the Seth material itself. I will skip over the footnotes and commentaries in any second reading.

In other respects, however, the material is consistent in the sense that the implied premise of every session is “you create the reality you know”. That is the entire explicit or implicit  theme of all the Seth books and sessions — the “Ariadne’s thread” through the labyrinth, as it were.

Students of William Blake, Friedrich Nietzsche, or Jean Gebser may be richly rewarded by paying careful attention to some sections of the book. I particularly found it helpful in coming to new insights into some of the more esoteric themes and images in William Blake’s prose and poetry. There are many correspondences here between Seth and Blake, and some important ones might be overlooked simply because of the difference in idiom employed — Seth’s prosaic or Blake’s mythopoeic approach will require a bit of back-and-forth translation between what we might call a kind of “scientific” mode and mood and a kind of “religious” mode and mood. But that, in itself, is a good exercise in maintaining the fluidity and flexibility of different modes of aperception.

“You create the reality you know” — the insistent and consistent theme of the Seth material — highlights the centrality of the imagination and perception in Seth as we find it also expressed in Blake or even Nietzsche. Blake’s “Poetic Genius” as “the true Man” is Seth’s creative “inner ego” or Self, and is the same as the Nietzschean overself, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “oversoul,” or Meister Eckhart’s “The Aristocrat”. The “outer ego”, in Seth’s terms, is equally Blake’s “the Selfhood” or what is usually meant by the term “ego”, that being what is often too narrowly focussed on physical reality at the expense of awareness of the greater imaginative and creative Self which we are. The exaggerated division between this “inner ego” and the “outer ego”, which is a disintegrate state or condition, is, insists Seth, the root cause of all our contemporary problems, as recognised equally by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin as the destructive “inner division” of contemporary man. That is to say, we are suffering because of a false dichotomisation of fundamental reality, which is the problem of “dualism”.

This is why I continue to insist that the so-called “rational pursuit of self-interest” has now become indistinguishable from the irrational pursuit of self-destruction and reflects the impending breakdown of dialectical consciousness, as is sensed in terms of “The Coming Collapse of the Age of Technology” (Ehrenfeld) or the general sense that the Modern Era is in process of passing away (post-modernism), Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”, or even that we are witnessing the onset of a new “Dark Age” (Berman, Jacobs, Thompson, etc).

The relationship between the inner and outer ego (although there is no real boundary here) also pertains to Seth’s distinction between the psychic realms he calls “Framework 1” and “Framework 2” (there is, apparently, also a Framework 3 and a Framework 4, but these are only touched upon briefly as being inconceivable to us presently). In my reading of the characteristics of the two Frameworks as described by Seth, it seems apparent that they exactly correspond to Castaneda’s “nagual” and “tonal” distinctions.

This shared view of what we might call “the psychodynamics of the soul” is also reflected in their philosophy of action. All action is realisation, that is, a manifesting of latent probabilities from Framework 2 within Framework 1 (the physical space-time system) but which are, nonetheless, ideal realities within Framework 2. This is the realm of Blake’s “innate Ideas”. Our society and culture tends to dissociate thinking and doing, and therefore associates these with inaction or action. All the authors here mentioned insist that this is false consciousness for being a false dichotomy, probably inherited from Cartesian metaphysical dualism. Imagination and perception are action (are equivalently the action of what Castaneda’s don Juan calls “intent“), and since all action is realisation or aims for its own self-realisation, or “fulfillment” as Seth puts it, the world as we know it begins first within Framework 2 and is translated or “fleshed-out” into the terms of Framework 1, so that, in Castaneda’s terms also, the nagual is the continuous source of energy for the tonal, which is the world of our ordinary perception or description.

This source called “Framework 2” in Seth’s usage (the “dream” state) is also Gebser’s “ever-present origin”, and manifestation of the ever-present origin within the limits of Framework 1 is what Gebser calls “irruption”, but (as discussed in past posts) I have suggested is actually Gebser’s own term for the “apocalyptic” or revelatory, which is a common enough theme in Blake’s poetry as well — “Heaven in a Wild Flower”, or “Eternity within the hour” or “eternity is in love with the productions of time” are all equally instances of what Gebser would call “diaphaneity”, which is the perception of the reality or action of Framework 2 within Framework 1 — its self-realisation or self-actualisation, as it were.

This is not different from what is the ultimate truth of Buddhism: “nirvana and samsara are the same” (although some Buddhist masters caution that this cannot be taken as a general abstract principle. They aren’t the same until they are, to put it in a typical Buddhist riddle. Until they are actually seen as one, samsara, or what we call the secular or saeculum, will be only the echo or reflection of nirvana — as the “veil of Maya” — and this “reflection”, which is mental speculation, is not dispelled until we realise “the empty mirror” as the unity of ostensible opposites or “coincidentia oppositorum” as Nicholas of Cusa described it. In our “secular” idiom, we tend to describe these “oppositions” in terms of quality and quantity, and the quantitative mentality finds the so-called “qualia” bedeviling, but which is a kind of self-inflicted wound created by a false dichotomisation of reality which, in effect, reflects the same “inner division” or disintegrate condition of the overall psyche, divided as it is now even in terms of “conscious” and “unconscious” as if these were actual things, but which are only processes, for these are, in our limited terms, what Seth is calling Framework 1 and Framework 2. In Blake’s terms, this would by symbolised by his Marriage of Heaven and Hell. The marriage of Heaven and Hell has the same significance as the Buddhist’s “nirvana and samsara are the same”.

By the way, for fans of the depth psychologist Carl Jung, his method of “active imagination” is exactly equivalent, by its emphasis on action as the creative, formative potency of imagination, to Blake’s own views. Blake calls this at times the action of his “fancy” (which is not fantasy). His “memorable fancies” are what Jung calls “active imagination”, which is realisation or self-realisation or self-actualisation.

The relationship between Seth’s Framework 2 and Framework 1 is exactly the same as Blake’s expression of the relationship between Energy and Form, and “energy” is “eternal delight”. The constant translation of energy into form and form back into energy is the work of perception and imagination, called the creative of formative force. Thus, for Blake, the highest relationship that can exist for Man is that between creator and creature, not subject and object, not Ego and It, and this relation between Creator and Creature is the relationship between Energy and Form. Castaneda’s vision of “energy as it flows in the universe” is a direct perception of the reality of Framework 2, and it is this direct perception that constitutes “seeing“, which is, of course, the meaning of Seer — or wise one.

There can be no wisdom without a perception or intuition or at least acknowledgement of Framework 2, in that sense. The often overdrawn and exaggerated distinction between “quality” and “quantity” (or “spirit” and “matter”, in other terms) are a result of the fact that “quality” arises most directly from Framework 2, and this same issue is reflected in our distinction between wisdom and knowledge, Reason and rationality. Knowledge and rationality, in our present terms, are only a distorted echo of Wisdom and Reason as ideals arising from within Framework 2.

And it is for this reason that Seth stresses in The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events, over and over again, the vital role of “impulse” or “spontaneity” against the despotism of the intellect or the tyrannical ego (or what I’ve taken to calling “the foreign installation” somewhat after Castaneda’s usage). You find the same issue in Blake — his insistence that, for example, Jesus acted from innate “impulse” and not from rules or morals. “One Law for the Lion & the Ox is Oppression”. The Lion is the fully self-realised. The Ox is the egoic nature still toiling under the yoke of “the Selfhood”. Blake’s imagery is quite interesting, although it might be derived from alchemy too. But the Ox under the yoke is an image of the unfree psyche, for the “yoke” is the foreign installation.

I’ve attempted to cover far too much territory in this brief overview. But perhaps some of the connections drawn might be helpful or suggestive. I’ll likely attempt to “drill down”, as it were, into some of the particulars of Seth’s world view in future posts, particularly as they relate to Blake or Nietzsche, Jung or Gebser, but also to his philosophy of action, as it is very urgent in our time that this especially be understood, and the role of action in mediating between Energy and Form, or Seth’s Framework 2 and Framework 1 (which is also Newton’s “Frame of the World” and which reflects Blake’s horror of “single vision & Newton’s sleep”). This is the function of “metaphor”, insofar as “meta-pherein” means “to carry across” or “ferry across” (Greek “pherein” is related to our word “ferry”), and Greek “metaphor” is the meaning of Latin “trans-latus” or translate. This is the work of imagination and perception, and we need to overcome the false dichotomy and therefore “false consciousness” that has perniciously and falsely compart-mentalised, isolated, and segregated these faculties in the psyche resulting in a dangerous loss of integrity.

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7 responses to “The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events: A First Reading”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    By the way, Seth has some things to say about the nature of the reactionary mind, although he doesn’t use that term specifically. He calls it “the self-righteous” mind. It’s something,though, that I am particularly interested in these days because it seems epidemic in our societies presently, in various intensities of extremity (– “the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”, as Yeats once put it in The Second Coming). Because of my interest in this problem, I’ll probably have a lot to comment on here, although I’ld like to read Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind and Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind first just to provide some greater contemporary context for Seth’s concerns.

    First of all, the present epidemic of reactionary thought and activity (since the First World War, in fact) is definitely connected with the decline of the Modern Era and the corresponding onset of the Global Era, which is generating a lot of anxiety for people whose identities were formed and shaped by the former age now passing away. They feel anxious, disoriented, perplexed, a sense of anomie, alienation, and estrangement from the roots of their own identity. They feel the passing of the Age as their own passing away, so it raises issues of threat, “survivalism” and so on. That Age served as a kind of womb or incubator for a certain type of identity — I’ve called it “the foreign installation” — called “the Modern Self”, but which is equally Gebser’s “mental-rational structure of consciousness” presently in the throes of disintegration. In Gabriel Marcel’s book Man Against Mass Society this appears in the phrase “Man is in his death throes” (something he cites from others, rather than coined himself), but which is of course the danger of nihilism foreseen by Nietzsche and addressed by Camus, too.

    Nietzsche’s remark that the triumph of liberal institutions would also be their self-annihilation is not unconnected with all this, and with the fact that the rational pursuit of self-interest has become identical with the irrational pursuit of self-destruction. It may be true that “Man is in his death throes”, following the “death of God” (the two statements are indeed connected psychically) but “Man is in his death throes” can have many layers of interpretation beyond physical self-annihilation or planetary suicide. Gebser equally warned of our “disintegration” and “dispersal” but also saw in it a mutation, a metamorphosis, or a transmutation, much as Nietzsche also saw as the first step towards the “transhuman” — the conqueror of nihilism; the Affirmer rather than the Negater, as narrated in the opening passages of Thus Spoke Zarathustra (so terribly distorted and perverted though it has been by lesser spirits than Nietzsche).

    But… I am getting way ahead of myself here.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “I’ve attempted to cover far too much territory in this brief overview. But perhaps some of the connections drawn might be helpful or suggestive.”

    Indeed a great territory was covered here and also in that other article which I’m still trying to get my head around: “A Tale of Two Seer: William Blake and Jean Gebser.” These are very valuable thoughts and I greatly appreciate your project of discerning and seeing the connections between these various works of the giants. Thank you for this.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    This past week was a week of 3 revelations for me. One of those revelations is pertinent to our discussion here. Two things happened that led to this particular revelation and I shall give an account of both before talking about the revelation itself.

    The first thing that happened was an innocuous discussion I was having with some colleagues during lunch. I made an innocent suggestion that ‘time’ seems to pass more quickly here in the United States than se ome other countries in the Middle East, where I have also lived and worked. Unfortunately, my colleagues, whom all have solely worked in Western countries, could not relate to the contrast in my experience. However, I have known those with similar work and life experiences as mine who felt more or less the same way as I do.

    The second thing that contributed to the revelation happened as I was continuing to read Seth’s “The Way Toward Health.” For the first time I reached a point in the book where Seth talks about “Framework 1” and “Framework 2.” Here’s that excerpt:

    “Healing can involve help on many levels, of course. The world of normal communication I call Framework 1, while Framework 2 represents that inner world, in which indeed all time is simultaneous, and actions that might take years in normal time can happen in the blinking of an eyelid in Framework 2.” (p. 275).

    The revelation happened when I noticed that Seth gives ‘time’ as the distinguishing factor between Framework 1 and Framework 2. He associates “normal communication” with “normal time” as he refers to Framework 1, implying that communication that isn’t normal is associated with ‘time’ that “is simultaneous” within Framework 2. So, here’s the revelation:

    Time is a product of self expression

    I think your own term for this is “self realization.” And I’m finally beginning to understand your quote of Augustine’s “Time is of the soul”.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      I think I should add that because I found fewer opportunities for self expression when working and living in the Middle East, I felt time there went by so slowly, and here in the West, where there are plenty of opportunities for self expression, time seems to pass quicker even though a day is still a day everywhere. I can only imagine how slowly time must pass for the vast majority of those who are incarcerated.

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s great, LittleBigMan! Your observation about time brought to mind a book I have (still only half-read) by Robert Levine called A Geography of Time: The Temporal Misadventures of a Social Psychologist. He was also very acutely time-sensitive, and noticed how time was experienced and enacted differently in different cultures and traditions, although I think that with the pressures (and indeed coercion) of so-called “free market globalisation” many of these varieties and flavours of human experience of time and space will be levelled, standardised, and homogenized into one great primal grey goo. There are, indeed, different “species” of humankind, who have been shaped differently by their different experience of time and space and their representations of that experience. This connects into Gebser’s taxonomy of “structures of consciousness”, too. There is an ecology of human types, what Rosenstock-Huessy called “The Multiformity of Man” (in a short book by that title) is, in effect, an ecology of human types. And it is necessary to overall human survival in the planetary age that this ecology or multiformity (or diversity) be preserved and respected, for, in some ways, it also reflects what Seth understands as the multi-dimensionality of consciousness.

      In fact, your comment arrived just as I was preparing my next post, and it deals with some of this. Hopefully have it posted in a couple of hours or so. I’ve called “William Blake Against the World Machine”.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Thank you, Scott! Those are terrific ideas, comments, and references you have provided. I look forward to reading your next post on “William Blake Against the World Machine.”

  4. amothman33 says :

    Time is of the soul and not of the place.I remember a saying that goes, the universe will be closed in the same speedy mood as it began. I am here in the middle east feeling the fast tempo of time as never before,It is a question of awareness of the power that is running the universe, in its begining and its end. the power that reacts severly when things go wrong. Cosmic justice.
    , and the necessity of the correspondance between the walk and the talk. IT is a question of language, by honest words we ascend and by dishonest words we descend.Let us study the connection between the natural disaster and the human misbehivour. Nothing in our universe runs haphazardly.

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