Fourfold Vision

Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me;
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And threefold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep!
(William Blake, “Letter to Thomas Butts”)

In today’s Guardian, the author Philip Pullman has published an article expressing his appreciation for William Blake. And I happened, also today, to come across a talk given by the previously mentioned Dr. Haridas Chaudhuri, author of The Evolution of Integral Consciousness. Chaudhuri’s talk is posted online and is called “Supramental Meditation“.

This happy confluence of Pullman’s article on the consciousness of William Blake and Chaudhuri’s talk on “supramental meditation” suggested to me yet another approach to the interpretation of “integral consciousness” as the meaning of Blake’s “fourfold vision”; or, the mandala of human action and the human form.

The relevant remarks are contained in the opening of Chaudhuri’s talk:

“When he [man] realizes God on the intellectual level, he perceives God as knowledge, wisdom. When he realizes God on the emotional level, then he perceives God as love. When he realizes God on the volitional level, then he perceives God as power in action. When, again, he realizes God on the psychological level, I mean on the total mental level, then he perceives God as the self of his self. So in these different ways we have different avenues of approach to the Divine and may perceive God on different levels of our personality. Sri Aurobindo points out that it is only when we transcend all the different levels of person-ality and succeed in realizing God on the level of thoroughly integrated consciousness, born out of the harmonization of total being, that we perceive God in his integral fullness.”

Let’s leave aside for the moment the meaning of “God” here except to say that what we might call “God realization” or recognition occurs only in and as the realisation of integral consciousness. This is the fuller meaning of Blake’s “fourfold vision”. Each of these “visions” is represented by one of the Zoas, who are aspects of the fallen divine in disintegrate state. Chaudhuri simply uses the word “levels” for what Blake would call “visions”. But a better term than either “levels” or “visions” would be “aspects”.

One of the first things to note about this fourfold arrangement of the attributes of God in terms of wisdom, love, power, and identity is how closely it also resembles the four “psychological functions” of Carl Jung’s fourfold human,

Jung's four psychological functionsActually, in other places the four functions are described as thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing, since intuiting and feeling are treated as being the same. Thus, the correspondence is clear: thinking — wisdom; feeling — love; willing — power, action; and sensing — identity.

An additional factor to note about this fourfold arrangement of functions is how closely it recalls Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” or quadrilateral logic, as discussed in earlier posts, the basic model of which is his “cross of reality”

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

This “cross of reality” maps the four directions of space and time as we experience them — the two directions of space (inner and outer, subject and object, self and world) and the two directions of time (backwards and forwards, past and future, origin and destiny). In effect, you are this “cross of reality”. It is you who directs your consciousness into these dimensions of time and space — inwards, outwards, forwards, backwards. Thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing/intuiting are the four functions of consciousness for the mastery of the spaces and times of existence — even the generation of space and time. The human form is a mandala.

So, it is not coincidence that the four perfected aspects of the integral godhead — wisdom, love, power, identity — happen to be very human and yet also very much more than human. They map not only to the human form, but to the very structure of the cosmos: wisdom to origin (past), love to destiny (future), power or action to the external world (will), and identity to the inner.

Consciousness creates form. It is not the other way around. Thinking, feeling, willing (intending), sensing are our instruments for creating a world, and a harmonious and sane world is one in which these aspects of the human totality are functioning sanely and harmoniously. Because I think, I have an objective world. Because I love, I have a future. Because I remember, I have an origin.

More! More! is the cry of a mistaken soul; less than All cannot satisfy Man (Blake, “There is NO Natural Religion“)

This “All” is the integral, and is for that reason also “God realisation” in the very sense used by Chaudhuri and Aurobindo, or what Jean Gebser calls also “the ever-present origin”.

Fourfold vision is not passive. It is the active imagining of the world, and the intending of that world in the act of imagining it — the works of the four Zoas, Urizen, Luvah, Urthona, Tharmas.

William Blake -- the Fourfold Vision

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision

“Consciousness” is these powers functioning together harmoniously.

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3 responses to “Fourfold Vision”

  1. Felix says :

    Thanks for your wonderful work, can you expand on what you see the difference being between “the active imagining of the world, and the intending of that world in the act of imagining it.” Many thanks, Felix

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes. thanks for the comment. I’ll get back to you shortly on that, as I’m in the process at the moment of preparing another post on this very subject.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hi Felix. As to this matter of intent or intentionality, Phenomenlogists like Edmund Husserl, Merleau-Ponty have been on the right track when they write extensively on this matter of “intentionality of consciousness”, although it might be better put presently as the intentionality of the “unconscious”. That is to say, in every act of perception that is an implicit creative act by which we shape what we perceive, so there is a latent aspect of imagination at work in perception that we are very seldom aware of. This issue of intent or intentionality has become very important in quantum physics, for example, where the so-called “Measurement Problem” or “the collapse of the wavefunction” acknowledges what is called “observer effect”, that in some as yet mysterious way, the observer’s intent causes the collapse of the wave function, ie, an “event”. This is somewhat similar to the old saying that “you see what you expect to see”. To put that another way, “looking” is an intentional act, but in some still mysterious way, when we “look at” something, our reality obliges by giving us something to look at.

      Now, it’s important not to confuse “imagination” in this sense with daydreaming or fantasy, which are affairs of the ego consciousness. A lot of New Agey stuff is this kind of blind confusion that leads to some aberrant forms of wishful or magical thinking. To get a better idea of what is meant by “intent” you could read Nietzsche’s chapter on “The Despisers of the Body” in his Zarathustra (it’s available online) or especially Iain McGilchrist’s book on neurodynamics called *The Master and His Emissary*. And, of course, in William Blake whenever Blake speaks of the “divine Imagination”, he’s referring to what Phenomenologists now refer to as “intentionality”.

      This is something that goes on below our everyday normal consciousness. We are, typically, spectators (and sometimes the victims) of our own intentionality (an example is not just the famous “Freudian slip”, but intentionality is also involved in Jung’s idea of “synchronicity”). We are actually becoming much more conscious of this role of intentionality and much has been written about it lately (like “the social imaginery” or “the social construction of reality” and so on). It’s the idea that reality isn’t just “outthere” or just “there”, but that collectively and individually both our consciousness is doing something to it.

      Although I don’t mention intentionality explicitly in my recent post on “Facts, Meanings, and Metanomics”, it’s implied in the whole essay, so you might catch up on that one.

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