The Balance of an Idea: Mandala and Pyramid
I want here (with this post and following posts) to continue with the theme begun in the last brief essay on The House of Stone and Light, and to begin to address, in particular, some of the issues I raised in my summary comment about Martin Page’s song and the significance of this house of stone and light. As a mandala form it is a symbolic representation of what Jean Gebser would call a “structure of consciousness” — perhaps even the shape of minds to come. There is something quite “Blakean” about Mr. Page’s song; which is to say, prophetic.
Long-time readers of The Chrysalis (and the earlier Dark Age Blog) will recall my earlier scrutinisation of the premier symbol of the modern era — the triadic or pyramid form — as the shape of the modern mind or structure of consciousness made visible. This pyramid is the concrete representation of the mind of the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment, rooted in the discovery of perspective depth in the Renaissance (ie, the third dimension of space). This is what the pyramid form represents — a ratio of the three dimensions of space as length, breadth, and depth. This is the image of the mental-rational consciousness structure, and its most succinct representation is, of course, in the Great Seal of the United States,
The significance and psycho-history of this symbol, its structure, and its meaning were explored earlier (in “William Blake: The Cistern and the Fountain“) as being the shape of the mental-rational or “modern” consciousness, but also as being that against which William Blake revolted as belonging to “Single Vision & Newton’s sleep”. The “new order of the ages” is actually an order or “ratio” of spaces. Time is omitted by establishment. One can also say that “time” is the wasteland or No Man’s Land that lies outside the limits of the perspectivising eye that projects the pyramid of vision from itself, as depicted in the symbol.
The symbol is very revealing. It almost speaks for itself. The barren wasteland or desert outside the cone of vision (and therefore “unreal” by establishment) is what came to be called “the occult” or “the mystical”. The mental-rational (or perspectivising) eye and mind generated the invisible or “the occult” simultaneously with itself. This is why we don’t find the word “occult” employed until around the 15th century, coincident with the shift to the perspectivising eye as the true physical sense or organ of knowledge and awareness. The entire area beyond the limits of the pyramid, represented as a barren desert, is what also came to be called “the unconscious” or “the irrational”, the “void” or the horror vacui.
In the pyramid, in fact, you have the exact shape of dialectical reason. The bases of the pyramid form the thesis-anti-thesis relation, while the “synthesis” is achieved at the apex of the pyramid and the “all-seeing eye”. But this “all-seeing eye” is, in fact, merely a “point of view”. What lies outside the cone of vision is, in fact, invisible. Yet it is by far the largest part of the complete reality. For, at best, this “all-seeing eye” of the illuminated organ of sight perceives, fixedly, only 45 or 90 degrees of its reality. In other terms, it represents only a quarter of the whole considered in relation to the mandala form and structure. As for the remainder, it is called “the hidden dimension” or “the unconscious” or “the unknown reality”.
The truth is, nothing is hidden. The mental-rational consciousness merely hides it from itself, by its own structure. Most of reality, which is revealed to “fourfold vision”, is actually ignored. Here, then, is also represented the problem of “half-truth” — or the incompletely realised idea. In this image, too, is represented what Jean Gebser referred to as the “deficiency” of the mental-rational (or perspectivising, point-of-view) consciousness, as well as its essential vulnerability to being “invaded by the unconscious”. Perspectivising perception is synonymous with “objective attitude”.
In old medieval maps the world or cosmos is largely concentric. Outside the outermost ring or circle of known reality (ie, consciousness) was inscribed with the words “here be monsters” or sundry beings monstrous and also magical — mermaids and unicorns, gargoyles, gryphons, dragons, devils and angels. The mental-rational consciousness is no less constrained and constricted, even if the circle (the flat earth) has changed into a pyramid. Today, that “great unknown” beyond the limits of the consciousness structure is populated by “aliens from outer space” and “barbarians at the gates”. That is to say, it is just as vulnerable to “invasion”, and it senses its precariousness acutely. Anxiety or Angst about the unknown and invisible “beyond” or “outside” is built into the mental-rational consciousness itself, as an inevitable companion to it. Yet, this mode of perception has come to be considered “the common sense” or the norm.
Compare the pyramid of vision, however, to the mandala form and the essential problem of our time becomes quite evident,
Perspective consciousness, represented by the pyramid, represents only a quarter of the full possibilities of awareness. The pyramid structure represents, by contrast, only one arm of the “cross of reality” or only one facet or aspect of the full reality. Therein lies its deficiency. Nothing appears more “stable” than a pyramid. But when you consider it within the context of the “bigger picture”, as they say, it is actually highly unstable and unbalanced and quite precarious.
This “single vision” is Blake’s “Urizen”, the false god of Newton who he also calls “Satan” or “the Selfhood” amongst other names. He is the symbol of the deficient mental-rational, and Blake represents him, remarkably, in exactly the same posture as the “all-seeing eye” projecting the pyramid of vision from itself,
Here again, outside the “cone of vision” represented by the compass, the cosmos is represented as darkness and turmoil. Urizen’s posture is then echoed and reflected in Blake’s “Newton” who, as the disciple of the “false consciousness” of Urizen, is depicted in much the same pose in which Newton is obliviously immersed in, and at the bottom of, a sea,
Newton is, here, the symbol of “single vision” or classical consciousness, or what Rosenstock-Huessy referred to as “the Greek Mind” in reference to Greek rationalism (which he largely identified with the philosopher Parmenides, it seems).
This brief discussion of the “shape of the modern mind” (and as seen also by Blake) may help clarify the meaning of “fourfold vision” and “single vision”,
Now I fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep
Blake’s fourfold vision is the shape of a mandala, while single vision is the shape of a pyramid — of consciousness become trapped in its “point of view” and “line of thought” of the cone of vision, yet which condition is considered “normal” or “the natural order of things”.
This has enormous implications, for when the limitations of the mental-rational consciousness are fully appreciated, we will see that our commonsense notions of “equality”, “universality” and, consequently, “justice” are completely wrong, or, at best, but distortions and half-truths. For that is the other implication of the pyramid of vision — it is a symbolisation of half-truth. It is not a mature structure of consciousness, as it inhibits a great deal of reality and “the idea of man” from becoming fully realised at all.
How that happens will be the subject of the next couple of postings in which we will explore the mandala form as the actual shape of an idea, and a map for its fullest or perfected realisation. The reason human beings have not succeeded in realising their ideals (or without pernicious consequences) is because of a faulty understanding of “idea” which prevents and inhibits the ideal from becoming fully realised, resulting in the problem of “half-truth” (and, consequently also, blowback, unintended consequence, perverse outcome, reversal of fortune, or revenge effect and ironic reversal).