From Ego-Consciousness to Daimon

While I was going through some papers from my university days last evening, I came across a mimeographed copy of an essay by the historian (and mystic) William Irwin Thompson. The essay, entitled “From Nation to Emanation”, was given to me by a professor of mine those years back, but which I apparently did not get around to reading. Perhaps better late than never.

The essay was stuck in a file folder with another old mimeograph that I had also forgotten about but which I should mention here. It is the Introduction to Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell’s book From Outer Space to Inner Space: An Astronaut’s Odyssey. The Introduction highlights Mitchell’s experience of what has since come to be called “the Overview Effect” familiar to some astronauts, which Mitchell recalls as his transformative experience of “instant global consciousness”. Afterwards, Mitchell went on to co-found the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) for the purpose of evolving “the universal man of cosmic consciousness”, as he puts it.

The essay I have from William Irwin Thompson, which is a conference paper, runs to 25 pages, but it has no source attribution. It seems to have come from some unnamed journal. I tried an online search to locate a copy and discovered it had been extended into a 85 page book with the same title, but which is apparently now out of print. Multiple used copies are available through ABE Books, for those interested, nonetheless.

The paper is what I might call “semantically dense”, with its references to the “angelic intelligences”, “hieroglyphic” thinking, and the mystery schools. But what aroused my interest was Thompson’s suggestion that consciousness was moving from being ego-based or ego-centric to the Daimon, which Thompson describes as “integral being”. More specifically, Thompson describes the Daimon (an old Greek term) as “the integral being of all one’s incarnations” — the core self, in other words. This Daimon would correspond to Jean Gebser’s “integral consciousness structure”. In effect, then, what Thompson means by “emanation” is what the cultural historian Jean Gebser means when he speaks of the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure in our time. The movement from “nation” to “emanation” corresponds to the move from ego-centric consciousness to the Daimon.

The chief feature of the Daimon, in Thompson’s view, is that its mode of apprehension and expression is “hieroglyphic” rather than discursive and linear. What that means is “symbolic”, but “hieroglyphic” will do also. Thompson describes that as follows,

“What now seems to be happening in the realm of the intellect around the world is that there is a reconvergence of science, art and religion into a new synthetic way of thinking. Hieroglyphic thinking is polyphonic thinking; it is like a four-voiced fugue in which a sound, a geometrical figure, a mathematical equation and a mythopoeic image all become expressed in a single crystal-like form. In hieroglyphic thinking there are not words and concepts but crystals which are like seeds; if you drop one of these crystals into the solution of time-space, it would take volumes to express all the meanings of a single crystal.”

To illustrate his meaning of the hieroglyph as fourfold integral form (crystalline), Thompson provides the diagramme of a “yantra” that came to him in his “night school” — as a dream image — and which he describes as “a cosmological image of emanation”, a four-phasic process that leads from “Ontos” (Being) to “Praxis” (realisation) through the stages of Mythos, Logos, and Theoria. This is very similar to Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral “cross of reality” model by which an original inspiration enters reality and becomes concrete… slows down to the speed of matter, we might say. It is the same process that Jean Gebser calls “concretion” or “presentiation”.

I am going to take some time here to compare Thompson’s fourfold yantra of the Daimon with Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, Jean Gebser’s four consciousness structures, and William Blake’s “four Zoas” as all pointing to the same thing — Edgar Mitchell’s mutant “universal man of cosmic consciousness” in process of attempting to become ‘real’.

The illustration of the “emanation” that Thompson received from his “night school” which is recorded in the conference paper differs from the one I discovered on the internet. The illustration in the conference paper is a pyramid of pyramids. At the apex is “Ontos“, the Greek for “Being” and which Thompson identifies with the “formless” or “pure satchitananda” — the boundless; the Infinite. From Ontos, the movement of the inspiration is “downward” through the pyramid through Mythos, Logos, Theoria, and Praxis in that order.

“Radiating downward from the noumenal to the phenomenal world are four levels of knowledge: 1. Mythos, the level of unified mind, the hieroglyphic thought of the Daimon; 2. Logos, the inspired intelligence of the creative intuition; 3. Theoria, the normal intelligence of the scientist and the scholar; and 4. Praxis, the practical application of thought by men and women of action.”

This is how this dynamic is illustrated in the “yantra” that I found on the internet. These powers — Mythos, Logos, Theoria, Praxis all arising from “Ontos” represent the fourfold structure of the Daimon, the fourfold Self. They are equivalently the four Zoas of Blake’s Universal Adam named “Albion”. Blake’s Albion is Thompson’s “Daimon”.

We also see here that Thompson’s schema corresponds nicely to Jean Gebser’s historical account of civilisations as “structures of consciousness” of which he identified four types — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational, all of which arise or blossom forth from what Gebser calls “the ever-present origin”. Thompson’s “Ontos” is this same “ever-present origin” which is called “the infinite” and “the eternal”, or “the unoriginated origin” or “the beginningless beginning”. It is also called “the alpha and the omega”. Gebser also calls it “the Itself”.

Turning now from Thompson, Blake, and Gebser to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” and “cross of reality” we see that the cross of reality is simply another “yantra” or interpretation of the same fourfold structure or “Daimon” identified by Thompson. But instead of a “pyramid” we have a mandala,

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

And for comparison, we will also include once again Blake’s vision of the fourfold human and fourfold vision as also being “cruciform”

William Blake -- the Fourfold Vision

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision

In Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, “Ontos” — or the ever-present — corresponds to the centre of the cross, which is “Here and Now”. Instead of a “downward” descent of the noumenal to the phenomenal, this is a “radiant” model. The phenomenal radiates  forwards, backwards, outwards, inwards from the noumenal which is the crucial centre. This is a phasic process of realisation by which a thought or inspiration is translated into physical form. It begins as an imperative (“Love!”). From the imperative or dramatic mood it moves to the optative or subjunctive or lyrical (“May I love!”). From the optative or lyrical mood it moves to the narrative or epical (“we have loved”). From the narrative or epical it then moves to the “factual” or indicatival (“Love is” such and such). In the indicative the original inspiration comes to rest in a definition. It is “concretised” or presentiated and made into a “fact”. This process of realisation may take the cooperation of many generations.

It is, truly, love that is the engine of this process of realisation. And idea can only enter into time and space and become reality if it is loved. This is why it is said that God is love. Love is creative. Love overcomes death. In fact, the Russian sociologist Pitrim Sorokin developed a very profound sociology of love in just this spirit. He wrote a book entitled The Ways and Power of Love.

The powers of the Daimon are thus world-creating powers. Thompson’s Mythos, Logos, Theoria, and Praxis correspond to Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical forms and modes of speech: imperatival (dramatic), subjunctive (lyrical), narrative (epical), and indicative (analytical). This is the creative work of Blake’s “Zoas”.

So, along with the aforementioned book by Haridas Chaudhuri, The Evolution of Integral Consciousness, which I recommended as a “primer” for the study of integral consciousness, I will also mention William Irwin Thompson’s From Nation to Emanation in that regard.



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