The New Ratio

This morning, I want to pick up the thread of a theme that I raised in my response to a comment by Abdulmonem in the last post — the dissolution or disintegration of the “ratio” that informs rationality. This is, of course, revisiting a persistent topic in The Chrysalis, namely the breakdown of the mental-rational structure of consciousness in our time. The dissolution of the ratio as the meaning of the irrational is equally the meaning of the “breakdown of the human form” as Kahler describes it in The Tower and the Abyss, and “loss of the vital centre” as Gebser calls it in his Ever-Present Origin. This is also the estrangement and alienation of the ego consciousness from the intuitive self described by “Seth”, for in many ways the ratio that governs our reason is very much an intuitive affair.

Ratio means, amongst other things, proportionality, the measured, order, balance, the equilibrium of things. Our sense of justice or what is proportionate is intimately connected with the ratio. It is, therefore, far more than a matter of calculating reason, mathematics, or ratiocination. The ratio is also an aesthetic and intuitive sense that informs music, art, poetry, law and justice, and so on. It is as much a matter of timing as it is of spacing. It distributes and arranges. It rules our logic and orders our perception. It rules our speech, which we then call “grammatical” or “articulating”. We may say that the ratio that informs rationality is the principle of dynamic equilibrium that rules and regulates all things, and is involved in the process we call “homeostasis”.

When we speak of “the mental-rational structure of consciousness” we mean a certain way of expressing the ratio, or a specific understanding of the ratio. Hitherto, that ratio has been a spatial construct, as previously discussed — a perspectivist and perspectivising ratio that recognises only three dimensions of space as length, breadth, and depth. We can call that “the Modern Ratio” — its mode. This ratio I have called “point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness, and its cosmic number is “3”. And “3” is the number of its symbol, the pyramid of illumination, that defines its sense of order. So, this is the shape of the “ratio” of the mental-rational,

Perspectivism: The pyramid of vision

Perspectivism: The pyramid of vision

The fuller meaning of this symbol as, not just the chief symbol of the Modern Era, but as the actual shape of the modern consciousness has been discussed at length in other posts. Needless to say, it is based upon the perspectivist vision of the Renaissance artists who were the first to disclose and reveal the third dimension — depth — which necessitated a profound re-arrangement and re-organisation also of the previous “ratio”. It required a new logic, a restructuration of consciousness. Novus Ordo Seclorum is an exact rendering of the perspectivist eye and its logic of spaces as depicted by Leonardo,

da Vinci's Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

da Vinci’s Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

As also mentioned earlier, this shape, which is a coordinate logic of spaces or dimensions of space, is the exact shape and dynamics of the Cartesian cogito — the thinking function — as even illustrated by Descartes himself,

Metaphysical Dualism Illustrated by Rene Descartes

Metaphysical Dualism Illustrated by Rene Descartes

The “space age” really begins in the Renaissance, and space and its expansion is intimately connected also with a restructuration of consciousness and its new orientation towards the third dimension. It opened up the Age of Discovery. In effect, the cosmos of Copernicus, Newton and Galileo is a perspectivist construct of three spaces and a threefold logic of spaces. That is its structure or ratio. Our societies, our politics, our economies, our arts, our philosophies were all adjusted to this ratio, as well as our new sense of what was irrational — what was bias, extremist, lopsided, unbalanced, disproportionate, unreasonable.

The addition of a new dimension to the cosmos, which Einstein introduced with “time”, thus has profoundly unsettling consequences for the ratio. The older three dimensional ratio is forced into a restructuration, which is what we call a “revolution”. But it is also a dissolution or disintegration, and not just an addition. The shift from the cosmic number “3” to the cosmic number “4” requires an almost total reorganisation of the ratio and its logic, and therefore the very shape of its consciousness. That is the struggle that Arthur Miller captured in his book on the strange friendship of the depth psychologist Carl Jung and his patient, the quantum physicist Wolfgang Pauli,  Deciphering the Cosmic Number, and which Miller further explored in his book on Einstein and Picasso.

It is revealing that we still insist on calling “modern” everything that is not modern at all, but represents a fundamental discontinuity. The shift from the cosmic number “3” to the cosmic number “4” is simultaneously a dissolution of the old ratio and a restructuration of it, and therefore of perception itself. The dissolution or disintegration of the ratio makes itself known in a number of symptoms — the disproportionate, the fanatical, in paranoia, in duplicity, in a sense of injustice, a loss of equilibrium and sense of balance, in the unpredictability and sense of uncertainty. All those things, in fact, that Zygmunt Bauman has characterised in the phrase “Liquid Modernity”. This liquifaction or liquidation is, in fact, the dissolution of the ratio that has hitherto informed our understanding of the rational, by the intrusion or invasion of our consciousness by time.

The new “dimension” of time has become a kind of force, pressure or stress on the ratio, and we aren’t handling it very well at all. That is to say, we are not handling the shift from “3” to “4” at all skillfully. The addition of a new dimension requires a new balance, a new equilibrium, a new ratio. A three-dimensional logic is not adequate for a four-dimensional reality, to put it in perhaps simpler terms, and that inadequacy gives rise to anxiety.

As mentioned before, the 0nly proper symbol of a fourfold reality is a mandala, rather than the pyramid. The mandala is also a ratio which expresses an equilibrium, and is one, moreover, that is truer to our sense of bodily homeostasis and psychic integrity. It is also, as Rosenstock-Huessy has depicted in his “cross of reality”, the actual function of grammar.

Rosenstock-Huessy: Cross of Reality -- Multiformity of Man

Rosenstock-Huessy: Cross of Reality — Multiformity of Man

One response to “The New Ratio”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    “Einstein, Picasso” is surely a gem to read. I have added it to my list. The review from the link you provide is illuminating. I began to appreciate the personality that was Picasso only when I found that Seth held him in high regard (and also Da Vinci – but Da Vinci I always took as a bright star). Thank you for mentioning the book.

    It seems to me all things in this universe – including the ratio within and between beings – were at some level only psychic entities. But transition from a psychic phenomenon to a mental phenomenon is what seems to do the damage. Mentality has the power to decay or destroy a psychic manifestation. In nature, psychic manifestations of the entity that we know as “ratio” are undeniable. All things are connected, and it seems that “ratio” is one of those psychic entities that helps establish that connection.

    Mankind is the only being in our level of existence that turns psychic forces into mentality and in doing so degrades the psychic entity, including “ratio.”

    There’s a book called “Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant.” It’s difficult to deny the psychic character and presence of numbers (and ratios) and even “words” after reading this book. Here are a few excerpts:

    “(p. 7): Numbers are my first language, one I often think and feel in. Emotions can be hard for me to understand or know how to react to, so I often use numbers to help me. If a friend says they feel sad or depressed, I picture myself sitting in the dark hollowness of number 6 to help me experience the same sort of feeling and understand it. If I read in an article that a person felt intimidated by something, I imagine myself standing next to the number 9. Whenever someone describes visiting a beautiful place, I recall my numerical landscapes and how happy they make me feel inside. By doing this, numbers actually help me get closer to understanding other people.”

    “(p. 9): Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine the first thirty, fifty, hundred numbers as I experience them spatially, synesthetically. Then I can see in my mind’s eye just how beautiful and special the primes are by the way they stand out so sharply from the other number shapes. It’s exactly for this reason that I look and look and look at them; each one is so different from the one before and the one after. Their loneliness among the other numbers makes them so conspicuous and interesting to me.

    “There are moments, as I’m falling into sleep at night, that my mind fills suddenly with bright light and all I can see are numbers – hundreds, thousands of them – swimming rapidly over my eyes. The experience is beautiful and soothing to me. Some nights, when I’m having difficulty falling asleep, I imagine myself walking around my numerical landscapes. Then I feel safe and happy. I never feel lost, because the prime number shapes act as signposts.”

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