Ethos Anthropos Daimon: The Law of Thought as Destiny
I have been reminded by amothman of my earlier promise to delve further into the enlightenment of Harold Waldwin Percival, and of his book <i>Thinking and Destiny</i>. And since his reminder comes coincident with a greater increase in search engine traffic by seekers looking for the meaning of Heraclitus’ “character is fate” (<i>ethos anthropos daimon</i>), it may be a good time to keep my promise.
So, to begin….
In an earlier post, we brought into relation the thinking of the former Harvard sociologist, Pitrim Sorokin with the transcendentalism of Harold Waldwin Percival. Sorokin identified three types of civilisation in history which he called “Ideational”, “Idealistic”, and “Sensate”. We also observed how these three types correspond to Percival’s “Triune Self”, or the whole Self, as comprised of the Knower, the Thinker, and the Doer-in-the-body. As Knower, Thinker, and Doer portions, their mode of manifestation or relationship to reality and experience is, respectively, the intuitive, the rational, and the sensory. In those terms, Sorokin’s “Ideational” culture is predominantly intuitive and attempts to represent the Knower; “Idealistic” culture is predominantly rational and attempts to represent the Thinker; and “Sensate” culture is predominantly sensory and attempts to represent the Doer-in-the-body.
These cultural types represent, in effect, the attempt of what is called the “transcendental” to become fully immanent — to achieve its epiphany, manifestation, or self-actualisation in historico-physical terms.
We also brought into consideration Aristotle’s distinction and relationship between potens and actus, or the potential and the actual, which has otherwise been referred to as “Framework 2” and “Framework 1”, or in other terms as quality and quantity, or spirit and matter, the supersensory and the sensory, the invisible and the visible, the ideal and the real, and so on, in other contexts and philosophical systems.
In Aristotle’s view, potentialities (or probabilities as now called) arise into actuality, into realisation or “take time” and “take place”, to endure for a while only to return to potentiality. In other terms, they become manifest and then return to latency, much as a plant grows from seed only to return to seed at the end of its cycle. Potentialities are “values” or ideals, and their manifest counterparts are called “virtues” or the “real”.
To the best of my knowledge, however, no one heretofore has ever attempted to explain in connection with these Aristotelian views how this transformation from potentiality into actuality or eventuality (or realisation), and then back into potentiality again, transpires.
This is the issue of Heraclitus’ “character is fate” as well as Percival’s “Law of Thought as Destiny”. It is thinking that is the generative, regenerative, and also degenerative factor. It is the activating or eventuating potency. Earlier I referred to Man as a translator, or as the “bridge between two worlds” considered as the supersensory and the sensory, or the transcendent and the immanent. More properly, it is the Thinker portion of the human that effects the translation from potens to actus. So, you do, in effect, “create the reality you know.”
This is how Percival expresses it,
“Everything existing on the physical plane is an exteriorization of a thought which must be adjusted through the one who issued the thought, in accordance with his responsibility and at the conjunction of time, condition, and place.” (p. 55)
In another passage, Percival goes into more detail,
“A thought is a being created by the Conscious Light and desire; and which, when issued, has in it an aim, a potential design, and a balancing factor — which balancing factor, like the needle of a compass point, points to the final balance of the thought as a whole. The thought endures until the balancing factor has brought about an adjustment through the one who issued the thought. The balancing factor causes exteriorizations as long as the thought endures. Whenever the thought, moving in its courses, approaches the physical plane, it causes the one who issued it to be in place for an exteriorization of that thought. An exteriorization can happen only when there is a juncture of time, condition, and place. The laws which control the exteriorization do not always fit in with the intention and expectation of the persons concerned; and the exteriorization is then called an accident. An accident is a perceived physical part of a thought which is proceeding on its otherwise invisible course. The exteriorization makes visible that part of the thought which touches the physical plane and is not yet balanced. The demonstration is made on or through the person who is concerned with the accident.” (p. 55-6)
Those of you who are familiar with the Seth series of books will find this statement very familiar, where the law of thinking as destiny, or character as fate, underscores Seth’s constantly reiterated message, in book after book, that “you create the reality you know”.
We, however, live in a scientific and skeptical culture, and we properly expect to observe this process in our own experience rather than simply accept such statements as fact even if, intuitively, they “feel” valid.
In this post, then, I will demonstrate how this process of translation identified by Heraclitus, Percival, and Seth is the actual case, and is moreover verifiable in your own daily experience using methods that are properly “scientific”. If you manage to make it through to the end of my exposition here, it may dawn on some of you that many a thing you assumed to be true about life, the universe, and everything has been, in fact, dead wrong.
In the context of this post I want to reintroduce you here to the work of the social philosopher and “speech thinker” Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy and to his “grammatical method” and “cross of reality” as he articulated these in his books Speech and Reality and I Am an Impure Thinker; and which method he demonstrated in action in his major historical work Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man and The Origin of Speech.
The grammatical method posits a new four-term logic (rather than three-term) based on the structure of grammar rather than traditional abstract dialectics. In earlier posts, I noted the significance of this “four-term logic” in connection with the four “structures of consciousness” of cultural philosopher Jean Gebser and even the “four Zoas” of William Blake, as well as the movement from a three-dimensional reality to a four-dimensional reality by the addition of time. In fact, Rosenstock-Huessy described himself as “time-obsessed” rather than “space-obsessed”.
For Rosenstock-Huessy, “in the beginning was the Word” was not just a story, but an experiential fact of daily life.
His “cross of reality” is a mandala-like structure that represents the visible shape of grammar, in which the multiformity of times and spaces is recognised and disclosed in the real-world social process of people speaking and listening. Speech is of a fourfold character, insofar as it must represent two times (past and future, backwards and forwards) and two spaces (subject and object, or inwards and outwards). No true language exists which does not attempt, in some way, to manage and regulate the spaces and times by representing them grammatically. The times and spaces of physical reality are represented in the basic four-person system we are all familiar with: “You”, “I”, “We” and “He” (or She, It), and in the main “moods” of speech: imperative, optative, narrative, and indicative.
The cross of reality is a radiant mandala because the four directions of space and time — inwards and outwards, backwards and forwards — expand, and they contract as well. This is quite a revolutionary concept of time because it shows time neither as a circle nor as a straight line or “arrow of time”, which are typically the only two conventional conceptions permissible. Rosenstock justified his cross of reality in these terms,
“To speak has to do with time and space. Without speech, the phenomena of time and space cannot be interpreted. Only when we speak to others (or, for that matter, to ourselves), do we delineate an inner space or circle in which we speak, from the outer world about which we speak. It is by articulated speech that the true concept of space, and that is its being divided in an inner and outer sphere, comes into being. The space of science is a posteriori, and just one half of the complete phenomena of space. But the truly human phenomenon of space is found in the astounding fact that grammar unites people within one common inner space. Wherever people articulate and vary one theme, they move in an inner room or community as against the world outside. And the same is true about the phenomenon of time. Only because we speak, are we able to establish a present moment between the past and future… By human speech, space and time are created. The scientific notions of time and space are secondary abstractions of the reality of grammatical time and space. Grammatical time and space precede the scientific notions of an outer space or of a directed time.” (Speech and Reality, pp. 20-1, “In Defense of the Grammatical Method”).
“The now and here of all of us, means that we are living in a twofold space and a twofold time. And the term twofold is literally true, because time unfolds itself in two directions, past and future, the deeper, the more vitally we do live. The extension of the past, the prospect for a future, increase, when we look backward and forward with intensity and courage. And in the same manner, space unfolds itself more and more, the more we throw ourselves into the process of facing the outside world and the inner process of agreement and harmony within the respective unit. Forward, backward, inward, outward lie the dynamic frontiers of life, capable of intensification, enlargement, expansion, and exposed to shrinking and decay as well.” (ibid, p. 18)
With these basic preliminaries out of the way, we can now say that what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “grammar” or “articulated speech” is what Percival also means by “Thinking”. They are somewhat equivalent. Grammatical speech or “articulation” is “the Word” by which what is called “the transcendent” is made manifest in space and time, or, as Rosenstock-Huessy put it, “God is the power that makes men speak.”
Let’s now bring Percival’s “law of thought as destiny” (and therefore, Heraclitus as well) into relationship with Rosenstock’s “cross of reality” and what is actually accomplished by “grammatical, articulated speech”. Let’s here review the main thought in Percival as quoted above as it attempts to describe how we, personally and collectively, construct the time and space we actually inhabit through a fourfold phasic process of realisation.
“A thought is a being created by the Conscious Light and desire; and which, when issued, has in it an aim, a potential design, and a balancing factor — which balancing factor, like the needle of a compass point, points to the final balance of the thought as a whole”, writes Percival.
“A thought is a being created by the Conscious Light and desire” corresponds to Rosenstock-Huessy’s dictum, “God is the power that makes us speak” or that enthuses the human to speak. This is “inspiration”, and it takes the form of the imperatival mood. “Let there be light!”, “Love!”, “Be!” is the initial situation in which the human or “Doer-in-the-body” feels itself addressed as a “thou” or “You”. The imperative form is the form of what I have called “the transcendental impulse”, and it is experienced as if being issued from the future, for all imperatives are a calling or vocation that calls us to change in some way and become different. This is the first phase of self-realisation in a situation where what is only potential or latent aspires or desires to become realised or actual. The “thou” or “you” so addressed by the imperative is actually still in the past. The imperative, as calling or vocation, issues from the future. Thus, it is the revolutionary mood and is what Percival above calls “the aim”, which is telos.
The “potential design” is the four phase process of its realisation as follows….
The second phase of realisation is the response or the self-discovery of the respondee as “I”. This is the optative phase. “May I become light” “May I love”, “May I be” is the response to the imperative. The Doer feels itself called. Or, I may decline to become light, love or being in which case the phasic process is abortive. But when, as respondee, I respond in the affirmative, the process of realisation may continue. I affirm it. I am willing to suffer or undergo the transformation and willing to serve as the agency of its realisation. This is the phase called “servant of God”. From transcendental impulse to willing instrument of its realisation. This is the “I am” stage.
The third phase of the process of realisation or actualisation is the “we” phase, the historical narrative of its actual realisation. “We have loved”, “We have lived”, “We have born witness to the light” is the narrative phase of the ideal’s actualisation in space and time. “We have done it!” This is the “victory” phase, as it were. It has evented. The ideal has been achieved, or it may have been abortive at this phase as well.
The fourth and final phase is the indicative stage. Here, the realisation or “exteriorization of the thought” may finally come to rest as an assumed “objective fact”. “Love is…” or “Light is…” or “Existence is…” is the “definitive” or final resting stage of the thought’s actualisation. This “is” is the factuality of the ideal become real.
The thought, having passed through the crucible, as it were, of the cross of reality, is now balanced. It has taken both time and place. It has evented.
The four-phasic process of articulation in Rosenstock Huessy’s “speech method” is: imperative (“You”), optative (“I”), narrative (“We”), and indicative (“It”). This corresponds exactly to Percival’s “law of thinking as destiny” in terms of a) desire, b) aim or telos c) potential design, and finally d) balancing factor, as its final fulfillment in which the thought can now assert itself as “fact” (for good or ill) for it has passed through all four arms of the cross of reality.
This phasic process may, by the way, take more than one generation to complete if it is a collective work, and is called a civilisation’s “ruling idea”. The various phases, in that case, are called historical “periods” or “styles”. But the pattern holds for the individual life as well.
The reason that we are at the terminus of our age is because we now take the very last stage, the “it is…” stage as the definitive or indicative, as being the first and as the only valid form of truth or reality. It is this that is called “sensate” stage. We have inverted the actual process of truth realisation.