The Hegemon

Lately, I’ve been re-thinking Jean Gebser’s description of civilisations as “structures of consciousness” in terms of Antonio Gramsci’s (1891 – 1937) theory of “cultural hegemony”, and this seems a quite suggestive and fruitful way of reflecting on power, values, and consciousness structures.

“Hegemony”, from the Greek hegemonia, translates as “leadership”, “rulership” or “domination”. “Rulership” is the theme I want to stress in reconsidering consciousness structures in terms of hegemony, which means I must take Gramsci’s theory of cultural hegemony to a whole other level of interpretation that he didn’t consider.

In Gramsci’s theory, cultural hegemony “describes the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class, who manipulate the culture of that society — the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores — so that their ruling-class worldview becomes the worldview that is imposed and accepted as the cultural norm; as the universally valid dominant ideology that justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural, inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class” (Wikipedia)

A “hegemon” may also be a geopolitical entity rather than a power elite. But the important point to emphasise in speaking of “hegemony” and hegemonic power is that the dominance exercised is often very subtle and indirect, even invisible. It is a kind of ubiquitous pressure or stress on individual and public consciousness and is, in that sense, what I have hitherto been describing as “the foreign installation”.

Hegemonic power in Gramsci’s sense of the term is exactly what the late influential and controversial conservative political scientist Samuel Huntington described as desirable for a power elite,

“The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen. Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.”

That sounds, indeed, like a prescription for The Matrix or for Orwell’s fascist dystopia, and could well be considered a conspiracy against democracy and the public. Gramsci himself suffered an unhappy fate for his own exposing of the hegemon to the sunlight.

Antonio Gramsci

Antonio Gramsci

But I want to speak of the hegemonic power not so much in terms of ideological domination but as a structure of consciousness. In those terms, Jean Gebser’s four historical structures of consciousness — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational — can be reconsidered in terms of hegemony and their core “ruling idea”. “Ideology” is simply the specific cultural product or construct of the mental-rational consciousness. And when John Ralston Saul complains about “the dictatorship of reason in the West” in Voltaire’s Bastards, he is actually taking aim at the hegemony of the mental-rational consciousness structure itself rather as Gebser did in The Ever-Present Origin, too, where Gebser diagnosed the “deficiencies” of the contemporary mental-rational consciousness structure.

Gebser doesn’t speak in terms of the hegemony of consciousness structures, but it seems to me a useful and enlightening approach. In those terms, magic was effective and real within the horizon of the shamanistic-sorceric consciousness structure, residues of which abide in terms of the “placebo effect” or “nocebo effect”. Likewise, the hegemony of the mythological consciousness structure, the gods and nature spirits were effectively real, autonomous entities.

The hegemon personified is the demon Mara, who is a kind of psycho-spiritual parasite with whom Siddhartha has to do battle on his way to enlightenment. Mara is the perfect candidate for what we have been calling also “the foreign installation” and the image of the hegemon in the soul, who is called “the Architect”, “Lord of Illusion”, and as “Lord of my own ego” by the Buddha. Here, the significance of Mara as hegemon can’t be overlooked. It is his meaning. If the Buddha realised the ultimate truth, it is because he recognised the ultimate hegemon who was then “exposed to the sunlight” of awareness.

Who does Mara remind of? It is William Blake’s Zoa named Urizen. Urizen is the real hegemon of this age. The “power elite” are only his vassals and minions and courtesans. If we penetrate the meaning of Urizen as hegemon, we will also penetrate the meaning of Mara.

Or, as the great Rumi put it, “your boundaries are your quest”.


14 responses to “The Hegemon”

  1. James Luchte says :

    It is unnecessary to ever think of a ‘mental-rational consciousness structure’ – I think for instance of Heidegger’s indication of the ‘mythology of consciousness’ in his History of the Concept of Time. Gramsci belongs where he is, in Left-wing political strategy.

    • Scott Preston says :

      The Lost Paradise. The Doom of the Powers. The Twilight of the Gods. Value Nihilism.

      What do these events have in common? The archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational in dissolution, respectively. Each faced the same “apocalypse” but faced it in a different way. They seem to me the best evidence of all for speaking of “consciousness structures” that endured crises of disintegration. They are the same apocalypse, and yet not the same.

      The violent primordial separation of Earth and Sky, or the fission of Plato’s hermaphrodite or androgyne as the crisis of the archaic — the lost paradise and end of the “Dreamtime”. The disintegration of the shamanic consciousness structure is the meaning of Black Elk and of the Ghost Shirt Society. Ragnarok or twilight of the gods is the form of the dissolution of the mythical consciousness. Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” and value nihilism as the form of dissolution (“deconstructionism”) of the mental-rational.

      Four types of apocalypse for four species of consciousness.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    It occurs to me this morning, that Allen Ginsberg’s Moloch in his poem Howl is the hegemon, and whether Ginsberg had in mind by this form of Moloch either Blake’s Urizen or W.B. Yeats’ “rough Beast” of “The Second Coming” are both possibilities. Moloch may be both. Blake is referred to in the poem and Moloch is described as “a sphinx of cement and aluminum”.

    Ginsberg’s description of “Moloch” would meet what I’m describing here as the “hegemonic power” and seems a fair depiction of Urizen. The question here is whether Ginsberg captured something real about the times — the “Zeitgeist” — in terms of psycho-spiritual reality or whether Moloch is simply the dark mood of his private despair and anguish. It’s safe to say, though, that Urizen, Moloch and Yeats’ “rough Beast” are one and the same entity, and that in their terms we can speak of them together as “the hegemon”, Lord of the Kali Yuga, and that they all bear a notable resemblance to the Buddhist demon “Mara”, or the much more complex demon Kali.

    Howl is a poem about the Kali Yuga. It has all the attributes of the Kali Yuga, much like the poem’s counterpart, the film Requiem for a Dream which conveys the same mood.

    The four yugas or world ages are, of course, reflected in the four world ages of classical Greek understanding — Golden, Silver, Bronze, Iron, so we could speak of each element as the hegemonic element, or in the contest of the elements of earth, air, fire, and water. The curious thing about this fourfold pattern is that it is repeated in Gebser’s taxonomy of civilisations — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational — and it is also reflected in Rosenstock-Huessy’s interpretation of the interconnectedness of the four revolutions that established the Modern Era — the Lutheran, the English Civil War, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution — that he disclosed in his book Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man.

    There appears to be a lawfulness to this pattern that has been overlooked, but which seems to reflect the actual structure of our cosmos, or at least our experience of it. Time past and time future. Spaces inner and outer. In those terms, the “hegemon” of an age would be the dominance of only one aspect of this time-space configuration, an imbalance or bias in terms of too much past or too much future, too much inwardness or too much outwardness.

    In other terms, these are the “Guardians of the Four Directions” of the mandala or of the Sacred Hoop. I need to do more research into the lore of “the Guardians of the Four Directions”, particularly in relation to the legend of the Buddha and the Guardians, their likely connection to Blake’s Zoas, and whether they are the successive hegemons of the four world ages. My instinct tells me they are the same as the Zoas, fragments of the fourfold human, and they also reappear in Christian iconography as the four evangelists, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.

    This pattern is equally present in what I’ve called “the sins of the father” law: “the sins of the fathers shall be visited down to the third and fourth generations” is only intelligible in reference to the mandala of action, but something that Rosenstock disclosed in his quadrilateral logic or “cross of reality” that he discovered in the pattern of the European revolutions beginning with the German revolution (Protestant). The curious coincidence that four generations separate each of the four main revolutions of the Modern Era was demonstrated by Rosenstock to be necessary and not arbitrary, and for the simplest of reasons — so simple, in fact, that it is strange that no one noticed it. It was phasic or periodic. The new revolutionary principle – the central idea — had to reform reality, and since our reality is a fourfold structure of past and future, inner and outer — thrusting backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards — each generation specialised in adjusting that aspect of social reality (history or futurity, society or nature) to the new principle or value — so that they would not exist in contradiction. The new future had to be ruled, the past reinterpreted, world and society had to be reconciled. These four directions — past, future, society, world — had to be reintegrated after the social cataclysm into a new cosmos, a work which took three or four generations of work to actually accomplish.

    There is a kind of holographic principle at work here, it seems. Each of the social revolutions was fourfold, and it took four revolutions to shape the “modern era” as a chapter in the Book of Ages, which is also beheld as fourfold, even in terms of Gebser’s “consciousness structures.” The shape of reality is a mandala because human beings are a mandala — the same pattern Rosenstock discovered in grammar. And the “hegemon” of any age is one exaggerated aspect or direction or bias of that relationship, or we can say equally, one faculty and the will to “system”.

    So, we can interpret the meaning of Ginsberg’s “Moloch” or Blake’s “Urizen” or Yeats’ “rough Beast” as a condition in which the human psycho-spiritual configuration is out of balance, being hyper-exaggerated in one direction or faculty. The “Sacred Hoop is broken”, as my native friends say, which is what we are calling “disintegration”.

    Jung also has the fourfold self as a thinking, feeling, willing, sensing being. The “hegemon” is the dominance of one and the weakness, repression, or suppression of the others. It isn’t a hierarchy of faculties, but a mandala, and we can put it this way: the “Guardians of the Four Directions” are thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing, and the directions they guard are past and future, inner and outer. When they get out of balance, and one becomes dominant, you have a hegemon.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    Who is the hegemon of our time. The capitalist class, the excess mongers of everything, the activator of narcissistic falsity, the releasers of the unrestrained human desire, the class that instituted greed as the sacred emblem of our time, the class that gated itself from ordinary people, anew apartheid. The class that is killing every thing called welfare or public., any thing that differ with them The list is long.
    All sufis confirm that consciousness is god and god through the creation of the devil ( called it what you want, shadow ,foreign installment, moloch, wetigo ,lucipher etc etc) prescribed bad consciousness in order to test and activate humanity to choose either consciousness, some up some down some good some bad with all kind of shades and grades.It is a frightening landscape. The Sufis emphasis that your consciousness is not you consciousness but it is the divine consciousness that is longing to make itself known and has created the human vessel to accomplish that task. This is why we are seeing this rapid expansion in spiritual knowledge across all culture and this intercultural exchange, running fast to its destination the original one consciousness. No wonder Schrodinger said consciousness is one and it does not exist in the plural. This is exactly what all religions stated in their pure form. Different structures of consciousness is only a veil. In the Quran we read and god speaks to the human through inspiration or through veil or send a messenger to teach. In that context he remind all prophets that the knowledge they have is His. and give knowledge the name of light. What is the use of all these streets and high buildings when the human balance, human love is broken. We must have something to say in the time that comes after death.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    It occurs to me to mention that this is the story of the money changers being retold in a new cast and in a different time frame, as for the space it is the globe. It seems to me that humanity never stopped perverting the purity of the sacred, the only difference the modern perversion is across the board, encompassing everything and accelerating toward its destruction. When you destroy others you are calling for your destruction. This is written in the cosmic record. It is strange to read in chapter 17 of the quran that god dictated in that record on the Israelite to plunder and commit corruption in this earth twice, the first time prior to the Islamic era which have played a crucial role in wiping that corruption, only to give them a second chance to regain their supremacy to see how they perform.The western christian world thinks that he is the captain of the ship ,while in actuality the Jews are the captain using the christian train to reach their goals. Reading history carefully will reveal that truth. Killing others is a Jewish trait not a christian one. Read the torah and you will know that. This is not a hate mongering talk but an errand in revealing the truth exactly like what you are doing in revealing the atrocities committed by the west toward the Indians. The sorrowful song you attached in your other post is saddening, it really breaks the heart of those who have heart.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    I like to add that the purpose of knowledge is not to live but to worship because life is a must, your choice is in the option that is to recognize that you are living in His uncountable favor, only consider the brain you think with or the tongue you talk with, We have lived for a long time entertaining false premises like the false premise of Descarte or the mechanical vision of Newton or the concept of a divided god. As I said in previous comment god is consciousness and consciousness is one and has no plural as it was well put by Schrodinger.The time is running fast we are urged to keep pace.Death is devouring people all around us, when are we going to wake up and stop the blunders committed in the name of the people, what a false democracy!

    • Scott Preston says :

      We are living with the consequences, the “fallout”, the blowback of previous blunders, and in many directions at once. Since the First World War, at least — a cascade of consequence and of cause and effect.

      Can we break that chain of consequence or must we submit to it and endure it? Jesus taught the law of forgiveness as the means to break the chain of consequence, in order to free ourselves from the past — the endlessly repeating past. It’s the lesson that seems to have been forgotten.

      Forgiveness is not forgetting, but to attach no fault, to forego accusation. Satan is called “the Accuser” by Blake. We all participate in “sin”, which is waywardness. But we must all also have the generosity, the charity or “caritas” to forgive ourselves and others. Then “future” becomes possible. We clear the deck for the new future to arrive, which is not just more “consequence”.

      That’s the reason for forgiveness. Buddhists call it “non-attachment”, but it means much the same thing.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I might also add to this that forgiveness is the very core and essence of Jesus’ teaching, and where there is no forgiveness there is no Christianity. Christianity is made into something stupid where forgiveness is not central.

        Nietzsche did, in fact, know this. But he reframed it in terms of “resentment” or “resenttiment”. That’s another of the ironies of Mr. Nietzsche as “anti-Christ”. Gratitude and amor fati was his cure for resentment. But that is just another way of interpreting forgiveness. The purpose of forgiveness is to overcome resentment, because resentment makes sick.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Disclosure of truth is a type of forgiveness. Forgiven does not negate punishment for those who do not respect forgiveness.

    • Scott Preston says :

      The revelation of truth brings with it its own form of “vengeance” which we call “comeuppance”. Comeuppance is actually an old idea which we’ve called here “ironic reversal” but which the Greeks knew as Nemesis. Nemesis is the rebalancing of factors after an act of hybris or excess, which is called “transgression”, which upsets the balance or equilibrium of things.

      Nemesis is the principle of adjustment, of restoration. Human beings interpret this principle of adjustment as “vengeance”, but Nemesis is quite impersonal, for it belongs to the karmic law of action and reaction. Nemesis is the action of enantiodromia, which is the reversal of fortune at the extremity. The very name “Nemesis” means this, and the old Greeks feared Nemesis above all.

      This fear of Nemesis underlies their cardinal rule called “the Golden Mean” or “Nothing too much”.

      In effect, the recently discussed “Sacred Hoop” symbol is the symbol of balance, of “nothing too much” also, for it is also called “sacred balance”, the balance formed by the equilibrium of the directions of the cross — East, West, North, South, which represent the fourfold human and the fourfold cosmos, or what is called elsewhere “The Guardians of the Four Directions”. They are called “Guardians” because they exact vengeance upon those who stray too far in one direction without proper regard for the others, in which case they become fearsome and terrible avengers.

      The Chinese had an almost exact equivalent of the four guardians, which is discussed briefly in this article on Wikipedia

      They are found in Burma as “the four heavenly kings”, who are described as “protectors of the dharma”, protectors of truth, in other words. It is the same “truth”, the same “dharma”, as it were, that is represented in the Sacred Hoop.

      Nemesis is the fate of those who transgress truth, and that is to pursue it in only one direction. But the paradox of the truth, of the dharma, is that it is fourfold, and a truth of balance. The Sacred Hoop is the truth of the balance.

      What this means in terms of the human psycho-spiritual configuration is that thinking, feeling, willing or sensing are the Guardians, and that truth must be represented in all four, and not just one mode. One and the same truth attains realisation and perfection only when it is balanced in the four modalities. The overdevelopment of one (and the belittlement of the others) induces imbalance, and imbalance provokes Nemesis.

      In the Christian narrative, the four Guardians are the four beasts that surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation and the four riders of the apocalypse. They are the same as the four directions of the Sacred Hoop.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    Forgive me Scott,but I need not to know the azure dragon, the vermillon bird, the white tiger, the black turtle or the four kings to know my message in life. The sea of god is full with diamonds, when the light of the divine radiates in the self, that prevent her from relapsing in the swamps of heathenism. Not every knowledge is useful that is why we condemn black sorcery. I like to stick to the circle that leads me to Him irrespective where I start.Thank you.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I forgive you 🙂

      But the issue of heathenism isn’t quite what it seems. The problem with what is called “heathenism” is a very simple one — mistaking the story for the real, mistaking the symbol for the reality. It’s called “literalism”, and that’s what Jesus denounced in the confusion of his times — those who mistake “the letter of the law for the spirit of the law”. Superstition is largely that — to mistake the symbol for the thing it symbolises.

      In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake gives a pretty good description of the origins of what we are here calling “heathenism”,

      “The ancient Poets animated all sensible objects with Gods or Geniuses, calling them by the names and adorning them with the properties of woods, rivers, mountains, lakes, cities, nations, and whatever their enlarged & numerous senses could percieve.
      And particularly they studied the genius of each city & country, placing it under its mental deity;
      Till a system was formed, which some took advantage of & enslav’d the vulgar by attempting to realize or abstract the mental deities from their objects: thus began Priesthood;
      Choosing forms of worship from poetic tales.
      And at length they pronounc’d that the Gods had order’d such things.
      Thus men forgot that All deities reside in the human breast.”

  8. abdulmonem says :

    What is important is intention, but we should not use symbol that mislead. the story of Moses with the sorcerers of the Pharaoh reveals that. Clear effective evidence is always needed. Confession is not always successful without honest intention.

  9. LittleBigMan says :

    “It isn’t a hierarchy of faculties, but a mandala, and we can put it this way: the “Guardians of the Four Directions” are thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing, and the directions they guard are past and future, inner and outer. When they get out of balance, and one becomes dominant, you have a hegemon.”

    Brilliantly put.

    I think presently I’m at a point in my life when “thinking” has become the hegemon. The days that “feelings” and “will” were the hegemon are pretty much over. But “sensing” has never been the hegemon. At least not so far.

    The hegemon of feeling was the most brutal in my experience. The hegemon of “will” was a life saver. Without it, I would’ve been tomato puree soup. The hegemon of “thinking” has been a wonderful companion, too, although thinking too much can become debilitating, too, in my case.

    I love the fact that different cultures, peoples, and spiritual thinkers have developed their own symbols for the “Guardians of the Four Directions.” It says so much about the wholeness of the collective subconscious. The one that also generated the personality that was Christ.

    “Can we break that chain of consequence or must we submit to it and endure it? Jesus taught the law of forgiveness as the means to break the chain of consequence, in order to free ourselves from the past — the endlessly repeating past. It’s the lesson that seems to have been forgotten.”

    A brilliant, illuminating, and concise description of the meaning of “forgiveness.” Thank you.

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