Return of the Native III: Convergence of the Times
The “convergence of the times” is the real issue of what is called “globalisation”. I know that everyone thinks it is the integration of spaces all peacefully and happily ruled over by His Majesty, the Free Market, which is to say, Capitalism. And yet this happy destiny of one world under the free market is beset by a contradiction called “clash of civilisations” or “culture war”, as even admitted by one of neo-liberalism’s champions, Amy Chu in her book World On Fire. Despite that, Amy doesn’t get it either, although it’s a good, sober-minded book for tempering the zealotry of those who worship at the altar of the global free market.
In fact, the more nation states sacrifice their sovereignty and prerogatives to international trade deals or “corporate bills of rights”, as they have been called, and go a-whoring after Capital, the more they seem to insist on the symbols of nationhood and the value of patriotism and groupthink, even though those symbols are being emptied of meaning and are becoming merely vain, empty conceits and pretenses.
This contradiction called “Clash of Civilisations” is the result of an omission in our conventional logic. It’s not a conflict of conventional territories and nation states, but of different traditions, histories, or time-frames. Globalisation is really about the convergence of these different histories or times. A nation isn’t just a territory. It is also — even principally — an historical entity with different experience and perception of space and time which we call “tradition”. And even though we tend to think of “nationality” as defining of a person’s character or mode of perception, we have to recognise that far more primary still is what Seth calls “species of consciousness” or families of consciousness sharing the same consciousness structure, in much the same way, perhaps, as Marx thought that the international proletariat shared the same consciousness by virtue of their universally subordinate position of “wage slavery” in relation to global Capital. They had no nation and were internationalists by instinct and common experience. Or, so he thought. It wasn’t entirely accurate. In a sense, “clash of civilisations” is a diversion from “class war”. Marx believed that your social class was more significant and more important than your nationality. That’s the basis of his dialectics of historical materialism and of social change.
And while “class” and “nation” might be influential factors still in some respects, that’s not the whole story. In some important respects, the violent conflict between communism and fascism had to do with these different allegiances to “class” or “nation” as defining a human being.
“Clash of civilisations” is, in some important sense, a notion of “class war” conducted on a planetary scale. In the global era aborning, all wars are now civil wars within this one body called “humanity”, and civil wars are wars of times — past and future, reactionary and revolutionary, conservative or progressive, or to use Rosenstock’s terms for these orientations, “trajective” and “prejective”, respectively. Our obliviousness to this dimension of time and times in the process of globalisation is why Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy both held that a global “catastrophe” was inevitable and immanent. We simply aren’t conscious of the real issue in globalisation, which is this convergence of the times.
“Civilisations” are, first and foremost, structures of consciousness, to employ Gebser’s useful insight. And Gebser, of course, recognised four historical structures he called “archaic”, “magical”, “mythical”, and “mental-rational”. These structures basically overlap, to a certain extent, with his other terms for structures of consciousness or modes of perception: “unperspectival”, “pre-perspectival”, “perspectival” or “aperspectival” in their relationship to space, or, somewhat correspondingly, unmodern, pre-modern, modern and post-modern in terms of time. These consciousness structures have a different relationship to space and time and the historical experience of space and time, or what we call “reality”. So, this “clash of civilisations” or “value-systems” is less about nation-state sovereignties than it is about the clash of consciousness structures and their belief systems. When the politicians blather on about “international community”, behind that phrase is an assumption about a shared consciousness structure and its specific mode of perception, in this case “the mental-rational” or what we refer to as “modern” without really understanding what that word means. It means, largely, “perspectivising”.
This is not at all the “normal” mode of perception or structure of consciousness. But, of course, every structure of consciousness believes itself to be the norm and the universal standard and true “human form”, for it is involved in what we call “identity”. But as Gebser pointed out, these structures of consciousness have both their “effective” or “efficient” mode of functioning, but also their “deficient” mode of functioning, brought about by their very bias and incompleteness. Their mode of perception is valid in their terms, but they all only perceive a sliver of the full spectrum of reality and the possibilities of human awareness. Eventually, they pay the price for that bias and exaggeration. And there’s a Sufi parable about that which you probably all know called the five blind imams and the elephant. This “clash of civilisations” nonsense is really about five blind men and the elephant.
The five blind men are also the physical senses, but that’s another aspect of the multiformity of consciousness. Each consciousness structure overspecialises in one of the physical senses as the “true organ of knowing”. In the case of the mental-rational, it is the eye, befitting the perspectivising consciousness structure. The eye-brain pathway is emphasised over the ear-heart pathway. Other cultures have yet a different authoritative sense which serves as the basis for their own “common sense”. I know from personal experience, from my intimate work in the Aboriginal Healing Project, that my Sioux friends don’t understand the White Man (the Sioux name for the European settler is wasichu, meaning “he takes the fat” — cupidity or avarice). Their own structure of consciousness is predominantly oral, or eye-heart pathway. They are (or were), in that sense, “unperspectival”, and their primary relationship is to time and times, their sense of obligation to the ancestors (seven generations past) and their responsibility for their descendent generations (seven generations future). There’s also an antipathy to symbols of squares and cubes or the angular (like housing), for their own traditions emphasise the “round” and circular, as befits their own symbol of the Sacred Hoop.
Although it is said that there is no connection between the words “empiricism” and “imperialism”, that’s not so. The eye wants to conquer space and rule and regulate it, impose order on space and domesticate it. That’s the purpose of the “grid”. The eye is very aggressive in that regard.
There is no question that Seth is correct. There are indeed “species of consciousness” and our task, as holists or integralists or peace-makers and healers is to discover, not so much what distinguishes these structures from each other, as the to disclose and reveal what they share in common, or what is truly “universal” in the human experience. We have been so busy insisting upon the “uniqueness” of each individual or specimen that we’ve neglected to pay attention to what they share in common, which is why Rosenstock-Huessy and Gebser worked to come up with a “universal history” of the human experience that everyone could agree upon and see as their story, too — a common origin and a common destiny for the whole. That is also the issue of what Jung called “the collective unconscious”.
Now, this convergence of the times is also what I’ve been referring to as the “return of the native”, and that to think of what is called “the unconscious” as something subjective or as a “primitive” layer “below” or “behind” or even “above” the ego consciousness is inadequate. It is still an attempt to spatialise the unconscious in a way intelligible to the mental-rational mind and its perspectiving approach. It tends to do the same thing with time — spatialise it as “remote” or “distant” or near or far. It telescopes time. That’s what the eye does. It can’t handle time like space. Descartes freely admitted that his method couldn’t account for time. And that’s the huge gap in our conventional logic which is making handling of the process of globalisation so clumsy and even dangerous.
So, to repeat myself, what is called “the unconscious” or “the collective unconscious” is your surround, the medium or milieu in which the ego consciousness “lives, moves, and has its being”, as it were. And this is what Blake means when he states “Every Man carries his Universe around with him”, which is fully the equivalent of Nietzsche’s statement in his Zarathustra — “Fundamentally, we experience only ourselves”. And we have this poem called “The Well” from Rumi to corroborate those statements,
In those terms, we “create the reality we know”, as Seth insists, but in ways unbeknownst to us. These are becoming an issue in quantum mechanics, though, where it’s referred to as “observor created reality” (OCR) or “consciousness created reality” (CCR), which is a bit of a misnomer because it’s not really a conscious process at all. It’s the “unconscious” and what we call “intent” that generates or intends the forms. The ego-consciousness is simply the surprised witness of this creative activity which if finds, by turns, delightful or disconcerting because it has no conscious command of this process. That’s why we have to discern somewhat between “will” and “intent” as described in Phenomenology and in Castaneda. Intent can become more and more conscious, for that was the meaning of Castaneda’s apprenticeship as a sorcerer — the mastery of intent which meant, ironically, surrendering will to intent. You probably recall his first task as an apprentice (after dispensing with his “precious self”, as don Juan called his egoism) was to find his hands in his dreams and focus on them. You probably know how difficult that is to simply will it. You need other resources.
That’s the issue with the “convergence of the times”. Older structures of consciousness hitherto suppressed are reasserting themselves, and we are becoming more and more conscious of what we call “unconscious content” which is expressed as the magical and the mythical (the “archetypal” in Jung’s terms), and even older forms the Gebser calls “the archaic” or pre-historical. We are a composite being in the sense that are made up of all these structures, all these evolutionary potentialities that have been more or less manifest or latent in human evolution. We are becoming more and more conscious of our milieu as “the unconscious” itself, through notions of transference or “projection” for example, however unclear those might be, still, because we still don’t understand intentionality.
This “irruption” or convergence of older structures of consciousness looks like disintegration and fragmentation to the mental-rational consciousness. It looks and feels like loss of prediction and control, or “command and control”. It is that, but it is also an integration at the same time. It’s a double-movement. It requires a response and guidance, more than what is presently called “crisis management”, and that is the purpose of “integral consciousness” or holism, to provide that response and guidance through a new logic, and to dispel our perplexity and confusion about this pluralism and multiformity. This is happening whether we will it or not, and in some ways fulfills Blake’s earlier prophecy about the future publication of the “Bible of Hell”, by which he meant the “underworld” or undercurrent.
That new consciousness structure — which corresponds to Blake’s “fourfold vision” — is also being called “integral”, “holistic”, “metanoia“, “aperspectival” or even “transmodern”. It is, of course, meeting resistance in terms of reactionary attitudes or is insufficiently greeted as “cultural relativism”. “Live and let live” isn’t an option for us, though, and reactionary attitudes are merely decadent in the context of planetisation and the emergence of the whole or “the Field”. We need to be, as is said, “pro-active” and not merely reactive.