Visions of the Flux
For months, now, I’ve been having the same strange and bewildering dream, over and over again, although it keeps shifting its format and mode of presentation and representation. It’s a dream of the integral consciousness structure, and it keeps recurring as though trying to make itself understood or comprehensible to my mind. I’ve posted nothing on this to date because it seemed too indeterminate and in continual flux. There was simply nothing I could say about it that wouldn’t appear contradictory or a confused jumble of impressions.
But last night, something of an image suggested itself in yet another repeat of my dream of the integral, and I’m feeling bold enough — or foolish enough — to try to put it into words even though, to my grammatically-oriented mind, the vision seems quite unarticulated and incoherent itself.
In past posts on the integral, I’ve suggested images of the integral corresponding to the mandala structure (as opposed to the pyramid that characterises the mental-rational consciousness structure). These mandalas are highly organised quadratic patterns or tetrad (fourfold) structures of meaning that purport to map the shape or structure of consciousness. To these mandala-like structures I’ve compared Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” as likewise a mandala, highly organised, which represents the structure of human grammars and, therewith, a similarly holistic or integralist map of consciousness as well (see for example, my post “Consciousness in Perspective” and elsewhere in The Chrysalis).
The pyramid or triadic structure was appropriate to a logic of consciousness that was aware of a reality existing in only three dimensions — space, since the Renaissance, in its three dimensions of length, breadth, and depth. “Three” was its number, and the pyramid was the shape of the mental rational its “point-of-view-line-of-thought” (POVLOT) perspectivising consciousness and perception.
But with the addition of the “fourth dimension” (time) the triadic structure has now become deficient and anachronistic, necessitating a new, more inclusive — more holistic — logic or structure of perception to account for our experience of time as a new (or rather hitherto neglected) dimension of reality and experience. The number of the new reality is “four”. And much of the Chrysalis has been an attempt to point out the significance of this for our times, and for the urgent necessity of a change in our consciousness, or for opening ourselves up to this transformation. The necessity of this transformation corresponds to the historical transition (since the period of the World Wars 1914-1945) with the breakdown of Modernity and the emergence of the Planetary Era.
This historical transition is essentially a mutation in the structure of human consciousness. In Modernity, the ego consciousness was supreme, but has now become “deficient” (in Jean Gebser’s terms) or over-ripe. This supremacy of the ego-consciousness in the psychic economy was institutionalised in the Cartesian cogito (or res cogitans), or in notions of “the self-made man”, of the philosophy of acquisitive individualism, or as the supremacy of private property rights and “the pursuit of self-interest” as primary motive principle in economics and society. This supremacy of the ego-consciousness is what I call “POVLOT” or perspectivist consciousness, ie, “point-of-view-line-of-thought”. What it has ended in, however, is what Christopher Lasch and others have called “the culture of narcissism”, equally what Blake foresaw as “Single Vision & Newton’s Sleep”.
But my dreams of the integral consciousness — the anticipated successor to POVLOT consciousness — don’t have that neat and tidy fourfold or tetradic structure suggested by the mandala-forms, which are somewhat static. These mandalas are approximations and aids to the mind. To be sure, my dreams do suggest an implicit fourfold structure to the integral consciousness. But this structure keeps dissolving, de-structuring, re-structuring and reforming. There is only the flux and the flow, and to my waking mind, it seems all-too maddening.
So, once again, last evening, there is this same dream, and the same apparent lack of pattern to the integral. But then an image suggests itself in the dream. I’m gazing through a window, but it’s a peculiar window. The “glass” is golden luminous and translucent liquid, and it is rippling and flowing within the window frame, never static. It’s a lovely sight. But when I wake up, the first thing that occurs to my mind (after the Heraclitean flux) is Zigmunt Bauman’s description of “liquid modernity“.
Yes, that seems to correspond to the dreams.
Imagine, for example (and I’m very pleased with myself for thinking of this) that you are looking at da Vinci’s Mona Lisa,
But that in the course of looking at this, it constantly shape-shifts, so that even while you think you are looking at the Mona Lisa, it mutates into Picasso’s “Weeping Woman”,
So, that while there is an implicit theme to the flux, you actually never see it static like these paintings suggest at any time. The images are in flux, confusedly dissolving, destructuring and restructuring, reforming and morphing into each other in a continuous flow. There are no distinct boundaries between “past” and “future” or between “inner” and “outer”. There is only the flux, and it is indifferent to such definitions. Everything occurs at once, and no sooner do you say “it is” then it isn’t, and you can barely even speak of succession or “transitional effects” or even of just “one damned thing after another”.
In fact, you can’t. Which is why I’ve had such a damnable time trying to come up with an idiom to describe my dreams of the integral. It seems, rather, like chaos — like “everything all the time”.
This “all-at-once-ness” of the events and the flow is, of course, poison to the ego-consciousness, and not just the mental-rational consciousness or POVLOT structure. Bauman’s “liquid modernity” corresponds, therefore, to what Gebser calls the “irruption” of a new consciousness.
So, now the real poignancy of Seth’s remarks about the present danger to the human race become even clearer, even more ominous — those remarks which I posted under the title “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature“. The function of the ego-consciousness is to provide a pattern or order to this ‘all-at-once-ness’, and this is the essential function of human grammars, to organise and distribute the flux into distinct times and spaces. Man is “homo grammaticus“. Grammar is the prism or mirror of the flux. The mandalas, inclusive of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality,” are the pattern of that distribution and balancing.
My dreams have confirmed for me, definitively, the truths of Heraclitus.