The Most Haunting Words in All Literature

I know I’ve had occasion to post this extract from Seth’s The Unknown Reality before. But these words bear repeating. For me, there are no more haunting words in any language than these. What suffuses them with such haunting potency is that they are words touched by the mystery of death, and not just personal death, but the possibility of species and even planetary death. They are words spoken with absolute assurance and finality.

These words were spoken forty years ago. I imagine that the warnings here foretold then may have seemed fantastical, remote, and the stuff of science fiction. Forty years on, however, they now seem all too prescient. For it seems that we have indeed reached the edge of that abyss that was anticipated if we did not alter course. And in the intervening years it appears that nothing has intervened — and especially not the god and idol of the marketplace, the blind and impotent “Invisible Hand” — to deflect us from this trajectory.

Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else. You are in a position where your private experience of yourself does not correlate with what you are told by your societies, churches, sciences, archaeologies, or other disciplines. Man’s “unconscious” knowledge is becoming more and more consciously apparent. This will be done under and with the direction of an enlightened and expanding egotistical awareness, that can organize the hereto neglected knowledge–or it will be done at the expense of the reasoning intellect, leading to a rebirth of superstition, chaos, and the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge.

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.

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 – basically, now —  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…

I am saying that the individual self must become consciously aware of far more reality; that it must allow its recognition of identity to expand so that it includes previously unconscious knowledge. To do this you must understand, again, 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, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways. There are species of consciousness. Your species is in a time of change. There are potentials within the body’s mechanisms, in your terms 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 as such will not endure.

The pressing urgency of a transformation expressed, say, by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin — this “ever-present origin” being the same “roots” of the ego consciousness — becomes quite intelligible when assessed in regards to Seth’s words here. What the ego-consciousness otherwise might “turn into” is a matter of speculation, perhaps for science fiction or horror writers, but cyborgism is probably one possibility and, to me, a most unpalatable and undesirable possibility.

Even more ominous here is the divorce between our received institutions (inclusive of our social habits and behaviours) and our actual personal experience, arising as man’s “unconscious knowledge” becomes “more and more apparent”, or in Gebser’s terms, transparent or “diaphanous”, as he puts it. This arising of unconscious knowledge from the depths of the psyche is what Gebser refers to as the “irruption”. This “irruption” of disorganised ancient psychic forces takes the form of a global crisis. Another term for this “irruption” into transparency is “apocalypse”, for that is precisely what the word means — “disclosure”, “revelation”. In effect, both Seth and Gebser concur, in this regard, that we are living through very apocalyptic times, both potentially regenerative but also nihilistic; or what Gebser calls a “double movement” that reminds of a puzzling paradox or coincidentia oppositorum of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus — “the road up and the road down are the same”.

Gebser does, in fact, associate the apocalyptic “irruption” of the powerful psychic roots (or Seth’s “ancient forces”) with a potential global catastrophe. This catastrophe should not be necessary save for the fact, as Seth notes, that our social institutions no longer serve these deeper psychic aspirations, and so “the times are out of joint”. There is a discontinuity. These are the critical and crucial social events we are witnessing today on a global scale. The association of revealed truth or “apocalypse” with destruction and disaster is only a function of the dissociation of our institutions from our deepest aspirations. Unguided by reason, those institutions, now experienced as inhibitors or as being repressive, will be annihilated and destroyed. The deeper the narcissistic trance, the self-deception and the delusion, the more utterly “shattering” the truth will be when it is disclosed or uncovered.

But, for Gebser, our situation is made doubly precarious because “reason” has become “deficient”, having decayed into a mere rationalism, rationalisation, or reductionism (economism, scientism, fundamentalism, etc) that he calls “deficient rationality” and an accompanying blindness for everything but quantification. This “deficient rationality” is the same as “the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge” in Seth’s terms. It is this that makes for the “disintegrate state” or condition of relentless, unresolved dualism — the Jekyll and Hyde condition — of Late Modern man.

In all respects, our situation has become quite dire since Seth (and Gebser earlier) spoke and wrote those ominous words, that unless certain changes are brought about “the race will not endure”.

And it is in this greater context of the possibility of imminent species death, or even planetary death, that Nietzsche’s double imperative for self-realisation takes on its poignancy for me — “Become what you are!” and “Be true to the Earth!” Both are necessary in order to outrun life’s destruction, as he anticipated it also in the late 19th Century — the onset of “two centuries of nihilism”.

I want to conclude this post by quoting, once again, the equally potent words of another great Seer, William Blake, about the meaning of “apocalypse” as revelation and its connection with liberation of our perception from amalgamate falsehoods — falsehoods that have become our “institutions” and even our “common sense”. This is actually a statement about apocalypse, and of what both Seth means and what Gebser also means by the potential “transparency” or “diaphaneity” of self and world,

“Error is created. Truth is eternal. Error, or Creation, will be Burned up, & then, & not till Then, Truth or Eternity will appear. It is Burnt up the Moment Men cease to behold it. I assert for My Self that I do not behold the outward Creation & that to me it is hindrance & not Action; it is as the dirt upon my feet, No part of Me. “What,” it will be Question’d, “When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?” O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of the Heavenly host crying, `Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.’ I question not my Corporeal or Vegetative eye any more than I would Question a window concerning a Sight. I look thro’ it & not with it.”– William Blake, A Vision of the Last Judgment

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3 responses to “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    “a potential global catastrophe”

    Some time ago, I read an old report (first published in 1972) called “Limits to Growth.” The report summed up the data, analysis, and conclusions of a group of researchers who, basically, declared that the rate of growth in the population of the earth alone, if not addressed, and its impact on the environment and scarcity of resources will have severe global impact by 2050 — at the very latest.

    Sometimes, I wish China’s “one child policy” was universal. But that would mean that I, as the second child in the family, wouldn’t have come to exist 🙂

    • srosesmith says :

      “Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else.”
      The spate of recent media reports and commentaries on the outrageous attempts being developed to turn humans into cyber-somethings (google glasses, software that supposedly can “read” emotions, computer-program-therapists, etc. etc.) may indicate that it’s a device, or an app, or whatever the next techno-horror may be that humans will be turned into!
      I don’t really think that will happen. I trust the better angels of our nature. And anyway we’re much more likely to blow the whole planet to pieces first.

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