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,

Da Vinci -- Mona Lisa

Da Vinci — 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”,

Picasso Weeping Woman 1937

Picasso Weeping Woman 1937

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.


13 responses to “Visions of the Flux”

  1. srosesmith says :

    Another aspect of this four-fold-ness was emphasized by my teacher in the 1970s, Brugh Joy, M.D., in transformational psychology : Four is the number of the heart chakra and the heart is the “place” of integration. Our challenge in this disintegrating Kali Yuga time is to move from being centered in the head
    to the healing/wholing heart energy — or, as in Buddhism, heart-mind.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, and the number “four” figures prominently in Arthur Miller’s fine book (previously mentioned) Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung.

      (Miller, by the way, also wrote a book comparing Einstein and Picasso’s outlooks — something of great interest to students of Gebser. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to read it yet).

      McLuhan noted that whenever an old environment becomes visible (as the Modern Era has become for post-modern reflection), it has already ceased to be the present environment. So, presently we have visible a reality of four dimensions, while the “fifth”, the new environment which is the vantage point from which the four are perceived, remains the invisible — the not-yet concretized. The “fifth”, of course, is the meaning of “quintessential”, and in Buddhism/Hinduism, there are, correspondingly, five elements rather than the four classical ones of air, earth, fire, water. Eastern philosophy includes the fifth (the aether or aethereal).

      This strikes me as corresponding somewhat to the meaning of Bauman’s “liquid modernity”.

      Which, by the way, I located on the web early this morning, and have only just dived into. The URL for his book is

      Liquifaction is also liquidation. But, in a sense, his thesis about the liquifaction of modernity was already foreseen by Marx (“all that is solid melts into air”) and by Nietzsche (‘since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre toward X”). In the past, I’ve actually used the term “decoherence” of the Modern Era as corresponding to this liquifaction/liquidation. Evidently, from the Gebserian view, this liquifaction of the mental-rational corresponds to its “dis-integration” or dehiscence.

      Much more information about my previous night’s dream (and earlier, similar dreams) has flooded my mind this morning, and it’s kind of exciting. I’m trying to get it organised so that I can post something more about it.

      • Scott Preston says :

        By the way, I like the way Bauman opens his book, quoting Paul Valery as follows,

        “Interruption, incoherence, surprise are the ordinary conditions of our life. They have even become real needs for many people, whose minds are no
        longer fed… by anything but sudden changes and constantly renewed stimuli. We can no longer bear anything that lasts. We no longer know how to make boredom bear fruit.

        So the whole question comes down to this: can the human mind mas­ter what the human mind has made?”

        That’s a great quote, particularly that last sentence, which is something I’ve raised repeatedly in the past — that the modern mind can no longer master the circumstances it itself has generated (most recently once again in the post “God-Like Powers”, ).

        This is of interest to us, of course. I’m sure many of us feel, like I do every day, that there seems to be an intensification of gibberish lately (what I earlier posted as “An Epidemic of the Crazies”). The “incoherence” Valery mentions — I sense this in the news feeds, in my daily contacts, and even the reporting of the news seems incoherent. Political rhetoric has become incoherent. Art has become incoherent. And much that passes as “post-modern thought” is completely incoherent.

        That “incoherence” corresponds to liquifaction — almost purely “stream of consciousness” or mere mechanical, associative thinking without a discernible structure or order to it (deconstructed, as it were; end of the master narrative, as it were) — inconsistent, self-contradictory.

        This I find quite worrisome, because it seems to reflect that warning issued by Seth (to which I refer again in the post) about the irruption of “the ancient force” without guidance from an enlightened ego consciousness (corresponding, of course, to Gebser’s anticipation of a global catastrophe in the making).

        I’ll have to dive into Bauman and see what he makes of this “liquid modernity”.

  2. Abdul Monem Othman says :

    It is all imagination. It is dangerous and misleading to mummify the flow of imagination into a specific form, the manifestations are infinite,that is why those who worship god in one form are misled. The shift from the Lisa to the crying woman is message as not to restrict the unrestricted, limit the limitless. One Sufi said god is consciousness. Sheikh Junaid said, when the contingent is joined to the eternal,not a trace of it remains. When the attribute of the eternal shone forth then the mantle of temporality burned. Even the earth has a sip from the cup of the divine, limitless generosity.
    Faith as your professor friend said is the tool that helps us to alleviate the increased feeling of uncertainty and delirium and to join us to the traditional networks of support, the root.We are all thrones for meanings. Ibn Arabi said , the purpose in everything i write is never the gnosis which appear in the phenomenal existence, but rather is the gnosis of the human essence. My aim is not to inform of cosmology or philosophy or even religion, but to bring each person to self-knowledge in conformity with the prophetic tradition i.e how to be truly human. It is unfortunate that the west is occupied with outside on the expense of the inside, hope that the new trend in the exploration of the inside can successfully compet with the external. What we comprehend is only what we experience and undergo and the cosmo is outside that and that is why the knowledge of revelation is necessary for the knowledge of reason, that is the sea of necessity complement the sea of possoblity.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Sheikh Junaid said, when the contingent is joined to the eternal,not a trace of it remains. When the attribute of the eternal shone forth then the mantle of temporality burned. Even the earth has a sip from the cup of the divine, limitless generosity.

      Who is Sheikh Junaid? That’s a very interesting reference, because it brings to mind not only the dance of Shiva, but also William Blake’s vision (as I’ve recounted earlier),

      “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 Questiond 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.”

      This passage is really full of meaning (although probably appears as nonsense to most people).

      Your citation also brought to mind a Buddhist sutra — one that I encountered in Sumedho’s “Intuitive Awareness”, and which seems pertinent here too (it also reminds of Mohammad’s “Night Journey”). As the sutra (the lesson) goes, the Buddha told this story,

      “He tells of a monk in the mind of whom the
      question arises: “I wonder where it is that the four great
      elements — Earth, Water, Fire and Wind – cease
      without remainder?” Being a skilled meditator, the
      bhikkhu in question enters a state of absorption and
      “the path to the gods becomes open to him.” He begins
      by putting his question to the first gods he meets, the
      retinue of the Four Heavenly Kings, the guardians of
      the world; they demur, saying that they do not know
      the answer, but that the Four Kings themselves
      probably do: he should ask them. He does, they do
      not and the search continues.

      Onward and upward through successive heavens he
      travels, continually being met with the same reply: “We
      do not know but you should try asking…” and is
      referred to the next higher level of the celestial
      heirarchy. Patiently enduring the protracted process
      of this cosmic chain of command, he finally arrives in
      the presence of the retinue of Maha-Brahma, he puts
      the question to them; once again they fail to produce
      an answer but they assure him that The Great Brahma
      Himself, should He deign to manifest, is certain to
      provide him with the resolution he seeks. Sure
      enough, before too long, Maha-Brahma appears but
      he too does not know the answer, and he chides the
      monk for being a disciple of the Buddha yet not going
      to his own teacher with such a question.

      When he finally meets the Buddha and asks him, he
      receives the reply: “But, monk, you should not ask your
      question in this way: Where do the four great elements
      – Earth, Water, Fire and Wind — cease without
      remainder? Instead, this is how the question should
      have been put:

      Where do earth, water, fire and wind,
      And long and short, and fine and coarse,
      Pure and impure no footing find?
      Where is it that both nama (name) and rupa
      (form) fade out,
      Leaving no trace behind?

      “And the answer is:
      In the awakened consciousness –
      the invisible, the limitless, radiant.
      [vinnanam anidassanam anantam sabbato

      There it is that earth, water, fire and wind,
      And long and short, and fine and coarse,
      Pure and impure no footing find.
      There it is that both nama and rupa fade out,
      Leaving no trace behind.
      When discriminative consciousness comes to
      its limit, They are held in check therein. ”
      ( )

      And all this reminds, of course, of Castaneda’s vision of “energy as it flows in the universe” when “name” and “form” faded out, as it were, the description of which is included in his final essay (which I reproduced earlier, at ). His actual experience he records as follows,

      “Following don Juan’s suggestions, I had persisted in forcing myself to remain silent, and one day, while walking at UCLA, I reached my mysterious threshold. I knew I had reached it because in one instant, I experienced something don Juan had described at length to me. He had called it ‘stopping the world.’ In the blink of an eye, the world ceased to be what it was, and for the first time in my life, I became conscious that I was seeing energy as it flowed in the universe.

      I had to sit down on some brick steps. I knew that I was sitting on some brick steps, but I knew it only intellectually, through memory. Experientially, I was resting on energy. I myself was energy, and so was everything around me. I had canceled out my interpretation system.

      After seeing energy directly, I became conscious that although I was seeing for the first time in my life, I had been seeing energy as it flows in the universe all my life, but I had not been conscious of it. To see energy as it flows in the universe was not the novelty.”

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    I have always thought that recurring dreams must have a special meaning.

    The only recurring dream I have had (by the way I haven’t had the dream for a while right now – a year or more) was the vision of a dystopia. In this dystopia, I kept seeing nothing but hunger, abject poverty, and death. Death always came in the form of a hybrid mechanical/biological monster; something of a vast army of biomechanical dinosaurs chasing people around and killing them indiscriminately. In one of the episodes, I was hiding underneath a massive pile of concrete rubble together with a mother and her two children. We were all very hungry, clothed in homeless like clothing, and very afraid. I remember I was trying to hold my breath as one of the giant dinosaurs that was hunting people passed by. I only saw the shadow of the creature and heard its huff and puff as it passed by. In this recurring dream of a dystopia there was never a single building standing. Everything was in ruins. I never figured out why I was having this dream since I never thought of dinosaurs, dystopia, or anything they represented. They were not fun dreams at all and I always felt a great deal of fear in the dreams.

    By the way, the dinosaurs I sometimes saw in these dreams, or heard screaming, or felt their presence, sounded and looked a lot like those shown in the movie “Pacific Rim.”

    “I’m sure many of us feel, like I do every day, that there seems to be an intensification of gibberish lately (what I earlier posted as “An Epidemic of the Crazies”).”

    Yes, I feel and observe this feeling in others in the urban environment with even more intensity. I know people and colleagues who are quite accomplished professionally and well off financially, but their demeanor seems quite on the edge. As they say “it’s crazy!”

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s quite the dream. I’ld say your “biomechanical” monsters have something in common with my dream of the Green Man recounted earlier, although yours is a more cyborgian monster and may well be, as you note later, a symbol for the “urban environment”, which is a peculiar hybrid of “urban jungle”, “rat race”, “dog eat dog” etc, etc. — ie, a hybrid form of the “natural” and the “mechanical”.

      I’ve noticed this especially amongst my US relatives — a certain trip-wire edginess, a certain restless anxiety, which always reminds me of Thoreau’s remark about most people “living lives of quiet desperation”. There’s the jovial exterior, but which seems patina thin — a fragile shell that is trying to contain an explosive anger (anxiety and anger being related), and that at any moment, that fragile shell will burst, the jovial exterior collapse, and they will reach for my throat.

      I puzzled about that for some time, and came to the (tentative) conclusion that it seemed more pronounced in my American relatives and acquaintances than in my Canadian ones, and the only reason I could think of was Canada’s more social democratic traditions, which provide for a social “safety net”. If you fall, there are social supports, so you won’t fall far (like universal health care, for example), whereas US culture seems much more individualistic and atomised, much more “every man for himself”. That can be a real burden and a crushing responsibility that one can never quite live up to. Conviviality and sociability is a necessity of human life.

      The two main thrusts of American politics (and not just American politics either) — the individual (liberalism) or the family unit (conservatism) leave out community altogether as incidental — a mere sum of individuals or families (as Margaret Thatcher too once blurted out in her “there is no such thing as society” statement — just individuals and families). The search for real community in the US runs into cultism frequently, or unions or political parties of common ideological interests as surrogate. Not real fellowship. Not real community — not a real “convivium”.

      This dissolution of fellowship, of community, was part of economic policy, of course — done in the name of “social mobility” and “liberation”, and the US is a very highly mobile society. But the result is, as Gebser noted, isolation and aggregation, which are pathological conditions.

      This is the threat also that Canada’s current PM, Harper, represents for Canada, a complete deconstruction of its social democratic traditions. It kind of negates the very meaning of the name “Canada” which is an Indian name meaning community or village.

      Even Buddhism, for all its emphasis on the individual’s responsibility for his or her own emancipation, nonetheless has as part of its “three gems” the support of the community — “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the dharma, I take refuge in the Sangha”. The Sangha is the community — the convivium, as it were. This is lacking in not just in the US, but practically everywhere in Late Modernity.

      Extreme mobility which dissolves and erodes — that is part of the meaning of the fluid dynamics of Bauman’s “liquid modernity”

      • Scott Preston says :

        Might add that gangs are also a symptom of dissolution of genuine community, just as cults are. And it is, unfortunately, one of the appeals of fascist collectivism or racism or “groupthink”. more generally.

        One might take note of how “community” is actually used today. It doesn’t have much in common with the past. “Communities” are merely physical and geographical entities in contemporary rhetoric — towns, villages, neighbourhoods, etc. None of these are necessarily real communities. They are quantified measures — aggregates, sums. The idiocy is the assumption that one can add together individuals and families like 1 + 1 + 1 and come up with a sum total called “a community,” a “we” form.

        In a real community, the individual is, for a spell, released from the burden of individuality by becoming a “member” in a common life, a shared consciousness. Communities should form, dissolve, and reform again. But the conditions of Late Modern life make this practically impossible, despite the assurance of “free association” as one guarantee of liberty.

        Human personality and consciousness can’t really develop in complete isolation, but only in association. This is the basic premise of the dialogical principle (in David Bohm or Rosenstock-Huessy or MM Bahktin, for example) and the real challenge of the Planetary Era is to construct a “we” form that embraces the entire Earth, and not just families, cities, states, nations, which are but fragments of the whole.

        This “We” form — “we” humans, “we” the living creatures of the Earth — transcends narrow and exclusive self-interest or national interest. We becomes identified with the life process. This was why Rosenstock pressed for a “universal history” of the human experience, or why Buckminster Fuller tried to get us to think of ourselves as crew members of “Spaceship Earth”.

        Today the “we” person of grammar must come to embrace the whole earth, too, but this problem of identification — of expanding the horizons of our consciousness and identity — comes up against the egotism — the presumed supremacy of self-interest, the “cogito”, the supremacy of private property rights and the ego-self — of the entire Modern Era.

        Nonetheless, this ego-consciousness is under a lot of pressure in the Global Era to expand, which is why “letting go” is becoming such a central mantra of the “human potential” movement or “transpersonal”, etc, etc. The ego is under a lot of stress, and can turn violent — and very often does — as a response to that stress and anxiety about itself.

        That’s the gist of Seth’s words about the necessity of the ego consciousness to expand, to include more intuitive knowledge, to “familiarise itself with its roots” lest it disintegrate completely, leading to a rebirth of cults, warring ideologies, religions, and perhaps complete destruction of the human race and perhaps even the planet itself.

        Bauman notes in his Liquid Modernity (and I had not noticed this before myself) that there has been almost invisible shift from the ideal of the “just society” to the ideal of “human rights”, which again swings away from focus on the issue of community to the individual — a community IS just (or unjust) but an individual HAS (or doesn’t have) rights.

        So, there again you see the implicit apparent contradiction between Being and Having.

        • LittleBigMan says :

          “The ego is under a lot of stress, and can turn violent — and very often does — as a response to that stress and anxiety about itself.”

          Very true. I have lived in the Middle East, Europe, and America, and this is the most stressed and depressed society I have seen. Of course, you correctly point out that all this depression is hidden underneath a façade of a “jovial exterior, but which seems patina thin — a fragile shell that is trying to contain an explosive anger”. It is also true that the lack of adequate social security and support heightens this social anxiety to a large degree. At the same time, just last week, I was listening to an interview with an author on the radio KQED station about his book (I cannot recall the name of the book or the author) who had found that 50 – 60% of the American college students are on anti-depressants. I was able to find a 2012 study on the web that claims that 30% of the American college students are depressed:

          and this snippet from the National Institute of Health:

          Interestingly, the 30% of the college students that is depressed seems to correspond closely with the proportion of the college students that is not on anti-depressants.

          Not to mention the illegal/experimental drugs that are also being taken by a lot of college students.

          All this drug circulating in the blood of a bunch of 18 – 25 year olds – who by the way are also under the influence of lots of youthful hormones produced naturally from their own glands – and a deep culture of consumerist narcissist does create an “explosive” combination of influences that can quite likely lead to violence.

          Here in America, ego-consciousness is strong while awareness is sound asleep. The vast majority just want to “Have” while “Being” is considered to be for the losers. The dystopia I have seen in my dreams may very well be the urban environment that has adopted this attitude as its normal state of being.

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