Species of Consciousness

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. — Seth, from The Unknown Reality

The paradox of the One and the Many — how the One is also the Many, and the Many is also the One — is the paradox of that “same but different” expression that strict logicians and “the logic police” find so exasperating when they hear it from others.  It’s an ostensible rule of Aristotelian logic (and the dumb philosophy of Ayn Rand) that A is A and cannot be non-A too.  It’s called “the rule of non-contradiction”.

The rule of non-contradiction really has nothing to do with reality. It’s simply a means by which the mental-rational structure of consciousness preserves its ostensible “purity”, identity, or structural homogeneity (loss of which would be “chaos” in its terms) against alleged “impurities” or contaminating “subjective” influences — ie, the elements of myth and magic.

All awareness is one. Yet the modes of manifestation or expression of that awareness in terms of “consciousness” are potentially infinite and are what Seth calls “species of consciousness”.

In human terms, such species of consciousness (the word “specie” meaning “form” or denomination) have been identified by the cultural historian Jean Gebser as the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational structures, although they all emerge from the same Source or root awareness he calls “the ever-present origin”.  The four Zoas of William Blake’s mythology of disintegrate man are likewise such “species”.

Despite arising from the same root, they have ever been in conflict, and human history — the narrative of its origins — is pretty much the narrative of that conflict and mutual antagonism — the mythical with the magical or shamanistic, the magical and mythical with the mental-rational, the mental-rational with the mythical or symbolic. “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” expresses the hostility of the mythical consciousness towards the shamanistic, and the Inquisition and the trial and execution of Socrates expresses equally the hostility of the mythical towards the mental-rational.  The mental-rational species in its turn expresses its own hostility to the magical and mythical through its chief weapon “logic”. “Myth” becomes synonymous with “lie” and the magical with superstition or the lunatic.

Each species of consciousness has its own time structure (of which we’ll say more later). The archaic does not experience time. It is a time of no-time. For the magical, time exists but is an illusion. For the mythical, time is a cycle (the ancient ouroboros being its image). For the mental-rational structure or species, time is an arrow — a line pointing from the past to the future. So, species of consciousness are intimately connected with the sense of time, and time is not singular either, but is a plurality — “times”.  The conflict between Blake’s four Zoas of the disintegrate human is basically of this character.

To the mental-rational structure or specie of consciousness it appears that human consciousness has “evolved” from a lower to a higher stage — namely itself — and that it has passed through more primitive structures in the course of history, successfully eliminating in itself or destroying or annihilating these earlier forms and civilisations on its way to victory — being insinuated also by Mr Fukuyama’s triumphalist “end of history” thesis. That is part of its own delusion based upon its own misunderstanding of evolution and the ostensible arrow of time — its own narrow perspectivism.  For in the Global or Planetary era these various structures or species co-exist in the now of things, and this has the potential for great conflict because of the present continuing imperiousness of the mental-rational structure in its determination to expunge and eliminate the other species of consciousness, as well as the continuing hostility of the essentially mytho-religious to the mental-rational.

Not only are these “species of consciousness” now co-present (and not “stages” of evolution through which mankind has passed), but are either latent or dominant in each and every human being, so that in effect, the hostility of the consciousness structures towards each other sets the stage for internal conflict, repression, inhibition and violence, too, even leading to self-destruction. “As you do unto others you do unto yourself” is essentially true. The bias of any age or current civilisation is its expression of one of these consciousness structures, and the policy of “clash of civilisations” or culture war in the global age is really a clash of such consciousness structures or species, and is, in some ways, conflicts  (often completely unconscious) about the nature of time and the interpretation of time and therefore of the rhythms and tempo of life.

One of the great insights into this was expressed in the noted essay (and subsequent book) by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer called The Dialectic of Enlightenment, about the Age of Reason and the history of the European Enlightenment, where the authors made note that “myth is already Enlightenment and Enlightenment is myth” (or words to that effect). They show that the mental-rational consciousness structure is itself erected upon a foundation of myth and magic, more or less suppressed to its own awareness.  Placebo and nocebo effect are, of course, well-known as belonging to the “magical” and mythical modalities, and continue to play an “unconscious” role in the mental-rational despite the misguided efforts of the mental-rational to combat and suppress these “mystical” or “subjective” influences in favour of pure objectivity.

Gebser’s “integral consciousness” or fifth modality of awareness is, therefore, quite appropriate to the planetary era. Evolutionary “stages” are quite misleading, since it is informed by an understanding of time that is specific only to the logic of the mental-rational consciousness structure — linear time.  In the global era, in effect, all such “stages” co-exist and thus must lead to a different “time” sense for the human, which is what Gebser calls a new “time-freedom”. So, there is an ironic sense in which Mr. Fukuyama’s “end of history” is potentially true, but just not in the way he understood it.

But more on this later.

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4 responses to “Species of Consciousness”

  1. Abdulmonem says :

    Ibn Arabi says god is one in essence , many in names and warns the sticking with one pole. We live in a vital field of interactive energies, the energy of the different species of consciousness and we are always searching to understand the divine puzzle. It is a battle of concepts and the human is the arena of this battle.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    A wonderful analysis of the consciousness structures in current times.

    Reading Seth is always remarkable. Here’s an excerpt from pages 11-12 of my partial PDF file of Seth Speaks:

    “There are no real barriers to separate the systems of which I speak. The only separation is brought about by the varying abilities of personalities to perceive and manipulate. You exist in the midst of many other systems of reality, for example, but you do not perceive them. And even when some event intrudes from these systems into your own three dimensional existence, you are not able to interpret it, for it is distorted by the very fact of entry.”

    Pardon the digression 🙂

    • Scott Preston says :

      Your Seth quote about many worlds — infinite worlds — co-existing within a comprehensive “Now” is actually quite pertinent, and not a digression.

      You might recall, perhaps, don Juan’s words to Castaneda, that there are “infinite worlds for our vision”, infinite worlds “in which a man can struggle and die”, and that the perception of these worlds is really a matter of “shifting the assemblage point” (the point of perception where sensory data is assembled and interpreted) that is located on the outer luminous “shell” or egg that is the true human form. All this is implied in Seth’s words, for Seth himself exists in one of those worlds of possibility, and his description of how he himself enters into the perception of the world of “three dimensional existence” from his reality is pretty much the same process. He has to, as he says, slow down his consciousness to the speed of this world — that is, its frequency, “vibe”, tempo, rhythm, or “timing” — call it what you will.

      It might be quite unappealing to minds conditioned to think of an “end of history” and a singular everlasting paradise in a “beyond” or “heaven” to think, instead, of “infinite worlds in which a man can struggle and die”. But for someone like don Juan, this is paradise. Or as Nietzsche put it in one of his poems (I have taken liberties with the translation),

      Black ice is very nice
      For those who know how to dance precise.

      This “many worlds” of perception has, of course, some theoretical support in contemporary physics — string theory, many worlds hypothesis, and so on, some of which keep adding new dimensions to reality almost as fast as they add subatomic particles.

      Don Juan’s “definition” of the human is, as far as I’m concerned, the last word on the matter — that we are fundamentally “perceiving beings”. Everything else that constitutes a definition of man (including homo mendax) — homo sapiens, homo religiosos, homo oeconomicus, homo ludens, homo faber, etc, etc — deal with merely secondary or derivative qualities or activities. And Descartes cogito ergo sum takes no account of perception at all (or rather, confuses completely thinking and perception), and thus results in that deplorable confusion today of ideology and awareness.

      In fact, I don’t mind saying that the ideologue (political, religious, economistic, rationalistic, scientistic — reductionist or fundamentalist) is not conscious at all. Ideology is a substitute for consciousness or, if you prefer, frozen consciousness or frozen perception, which is a way of saying “narcissism” or idolatry.

      William Blake’s many images of this frozen consciousness or perception as being like a “stagnant pool” or “standing water” or as a self-enclosing within a narrow cave (or Nietzsche’s “chamber of consciousness”). So, perception, and not thinking, is more fundamental still and the first and final issue.

      And not only do philosophers and rationalists (and everybody else, too) confuse the act of perception with thinking, but also they often confuse perception with the sense data (the senses) of perception.

      These “other worlds” are worlds of perception, worlds of consciousness, just as much as this one is, and are intimately connected with the act of perception, which is constitutional and creative in itself. “Physical” reality is, in a sense, physical, “solid” only because it reflects a frozen consciousness or frozen perception, for otherwise, it is perceived rather as flux of energy in various stages of metamorphoses. “The spirit bloweth where it listeth” or “moving across the face of the waters”, etc, etc.

      Sensation, thinking, perception — these are different ways of “knowing” — different modalities. And problems for the human arise only when they each insist that they are the only way of knowing. Then you get “materialism” (sensation), or “idealism” (thinking) or “mysticism” (perception). Deficiency arises when one becomes dominant at the expense of the others, for you then do not have integrity or integrality.

      The very worst feature of the deficient mental-rational consciousness is thus its false equation of thinking with perception, and consequently, of ideology with awareness.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Very meaningful. Thank you.

        P.S. I didn’t know what “Black ice” was until I lived in Oregon 🙂 Indeed, one would have to know how to “dance precise”; especially while driving 🙂

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