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.