Aperspectivity and the “Cross of Reality”
One of the terms Jean Gebser uses to describe “integral consciousness” is “aperspectival consciousness”. These are pretty much identical terms. Aperspectivity is the mode of perception of the integral consciousness structure and pretty much the meaning of the term “transmodern” or even “transhuman”. But what, exactly, is that?
The mode of perception of the “transmodern” is aperspectivist. This does not mean that the perspectivising mode of consciousness we also refer to as “mental-rational” or modern is entirely dispensed with, but that it is augmented to include other possible modes of perception. Gebser considers the aperspectival a truly “universal way of looking at things”. He therefore associates it with the symbol of the sphere rather than the pyramid. A sphere, though, is a mandala form.
The aperspectival or integral (or holistic) therefore includes the use of the other modes of perception referred to as “unperspectival”, “pre-perspectival”, and “perspectival”, and which characterise the different “structures of consciousness” (or civilisations) that Gebser plotted out (archaic, magical, mythical, mental-rational). Some civilisations were unperspectival or pre-perspectival because they didn’t rely on the eye to validate reality, but on other senses. Nietzsche, for example, considered his nose or sense of smell his most important sense.
Which is maybe why Nietzsche made the rather surprising claim about his “unique” ability to “switch perspectives”. There’s really nothing unique about that unless Nietzsche is referring to an ability to move between all these modes of perception — the unperspectival, the pre-perspectival, the perspectival, and that fluidity of consciousness in being able to switch modes of perception is what we mean by “integral” or “aperspectival”. They are all useful in some way or another, and Nietzsche seems to have employed all of them to some degree.
Gebser also refers to aperspectival mode of consciousness as a “catholic” mode of perception, in the original sense of that term — as “holistic” or “holy” or “universal”, so not to be confused with Catholicism per se.
The merit of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” lies in this very aperspectivity. It forms a holon. Consciousness is not fixed in any one mode, but is distributed (or expands into) the entire spectrum of its possibilities. Fixity would mean to be trapped in one of the arms of the cross of reality and consider that, alone, the valid reality. In that sense, Rosenstock’s “cross of reality” bears something of a resemblance to what Nicholas of Cusa gave as a description of God — “a circle whose centre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere”.
It is because Rosenstock’s model is aperspectival, that it bears such a striking resemblance to Carl Jung’s own model of the different consciousness functions or “psychological types”. “Types” of course also means “species” (or “forms”, modes) and suggests a “type” suggests an exaggeration or bias towards one function or another.
This fixity, reification, or bias is what we are trying to overcome with the aperspectivity model. We want to restore to consciousness and perception its inherent fluidity. That fluidity is the capacity and liberty to circulate through all four of the orientations, which are really “modes of perception” without becoming stuck in any one of them.
So, the “cross of reality” isn’t just a map of society or reality (although it is those, too), but also of the fullness of the human form, and the realisation of that fullness. In that sense, it’s a very good candidate for what Heraclitus called “the Logos“, since it describes the cosmos (as a time-space structure), society, and the individual as well. And in that sense, a hologramme-like model.
Translated into grammatical or oral terms, “aperspectivity” is the conscious circulation of awareness through the four grammatical forms and their associated moods. We do this everyday, in fact, but without awareness of what we are doing.
And, in conditions of Late Modernity, you do see some diminishment of the spell of perspectivity on the mind — in a lot of modern art. Picasso or what is called “abstract” art is an attempt to escape the limitations of perspectivism by bringing back in some of the other possibilities of perception — the unperspectival or pre-perspectival. But in doing so, it is also stretching towards the integral or aperspectival consciousness. Especially in Picasso, for example, you see a good deal of what we have been calling “the return of the native”, even as a lot of current aboriginal or native art is beginning to incorporate perspective elements — ratio, proportion, foreground-background effects, and so on. In is in that sense that I’m speaking of the “convergence of the times”, which is pretty much also a reference to the possibilities of aperspectivity.
Aperspectivity is globalist, in that sense. It is a subduing of the consciousness structure we call “mental-rational” by its augmentation by other factors. What I call the “point-of-view-line-of-thought” (POVLOT) mode of perception, which had become so reified as “the common sense” and as the very structure of our minds (represented by the pyramid of the Illuminati) is giving way to a more holistic approach. And, as mentioned, this looks to the mental-rational as a “dis-integration” when it is, in very many respects, just the opposite — a new integration.
In that sense, “aperspectivity” is the meaning of “metanoia” or “new mind”, and it concurs very well with William Blake’s “fourfold vision”. And why not? It is truly the-way-things-are. “To be” is to be a fourfold being, because our form takes up time and space, and time and space are fourfold, as past and future; as inner and outer. Rosenstock’s own terms for this are “trajective”, “prejective”, “subjective” and “objective”. We are all four. We are never one of these alone, although we may spend some time deeply immersed in one orientation or mode, and that is called “bias” of perception.
In that sense, we are multiform beings — beings of “fourfold vision”, and that is what I call “the human form” or mold, the archetypal human. Aperspectivity is, in a sense, a fifth mode. It is the integrating realisation of that fourfoldness and it is this fifth mode (or quintessence) that is called “holistic”.