Perspectivism and the Aperspectival

It occurs to me this morning, that in order to get a better feel for what we mean when Jean Gebser speaks of “unperspectival”, “pre-perspectival”, “perspectival” and “aperspectival” as modes of perception or structures of consciousness or, equivalently, civilisational types (or even Seth’s “species of consciousness”), one of the best places to see this visibly is in the artefacts of those civilisations — in their arts.

When we use the term “primitive” or “naive” in describing styles, we really mean “lacking in perspective” don’t we? For example, google up the phrase “primitive art” and what you’ll see is a mixture of styles from the completely unperspectival (cave art) to the “naive” or “folk” style (pre-perspectival).  You perceive how odd and strange or “quaint” these artefacts look to your eye because your own eye has been trained in perspectivism, and to see things “in perspective” and from a fixed point of view.

“Unperspectival” is the term Gebser uses for the magical structure of consciousness and mode of perception, while “pre-perspectival” is the term he uses for the mythical structure of consciousness and mode of perception. “Perspectival” is his term for the mental-rational structure and mode of perception. There are no “archaic” artefacts for comparison, because the archaic consciousness is the pre-historic or primordial. It generated no artefacts. There are only oblique references to it in ancient records and mythologies, as the state or condition before the splitting of the ancient Androgyne, or the separation of the Sky Father and Earth Mother. It is a state of consciousness characterised by non-differentiation and before the emergence of a “mind” that discerns between generals and particulars, or “compare and contrast”.

For Gebser, Picasso (especially) and the Cubists represented an altogether novel development in the arts, by their integration of these various styles. They are holistic in approach. Picasso incorporated all of them in his art in an effort to render the object perceptible as a whole. It’s a holon. Perhaps it is even an early attempt to represent what we now call a “hologramme”. It’s also, therefore, an attempt to visualise time or what Gebser calls “presentiation” of times insofar as all states of the object or possible “points of view” are presented “at once” — backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards.

Picasso Weeping Woman 1937

Picasso Weeping Woman 1937

That means, in some respects, that Picasso’s paintings are a kind of visual rendering of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, as raised in the last post on “Aperspectivity and the ‘Cross of Reality‘”.

Oddly enough, if you google up “tribal art” rather than “primitive art”, what you get is a lot of tattoos, most of which are of contemporary design. But that, too, belongs to the “return of the native”.

So, what’s important to grasp in terms of Gebser’s notion of “presentiation” (or “convergence of the times” as I’ve called that) is that these various styles are not to be taken merely as evolutionary “stages” in the “progression” of consciousness from a “primitive” state to a “developed” or “advanced” state. It is not a question of a linear or evolutionary development. The cave artist still exists today as the tattoo and graffiti artist. The mythical artist exists today as the naive or folk artist who simply ignores the rules and axioms of perspective composition in terms of ratio and proportion. Then of course you have the conventional perspectivist renderings (in the tradition of Renaissance artists) and also the abstract and cubist art, such as Picasso’s, which is an attempt to escape from the strictures of perspectivism and from the trap of the fixed “point of view”.

The child-like art of the Middle Ages is not inauthentic. We call it “naive” because of its lack of perspective, but that entirely misses the point. It wasn’t an attempt to render “objects” naturally but values. That is what a child does when the child paints and draws without perspective. Mom is as big as the house. The pet dog is as big as Dad. There is no effort to be “naturalistic”.

So, these “older” or “earlier” structures of consciousness (and rationalism is fast becoming one of those, too) still exist today in various states of articulation or eloquence. The magical and mythical have been largely subdued — or suppressed — until quite recently. In the seemingly ever-lasting “Star Wars” franchise or in The Lord of the Rings, and so on, you have a very potent convergence of the magical, the mythical, and the rational-technical. In the case of the Star Wars franchise, in fact, the mythologist Joseph Campbell was deliberately consulted for the narrative. Even a recent film like Gravity quite successfully and seamlessly incorporates elements of myth, magic, and rationality.

These films and the art-style of Picasso represent what Gebser calls “presentiation” or “concretion” — an integration or convergence. The artist is able to make the unperspectival magical, the pre-perspectival mythical, and the perspectival mental work together in a true “convivium“, as it were. And in so doing, we call this the incipience of the “aperspectival” mode of perception. It might even be called “the holy” because it is holistic.

In a sense, then, the shaman, the mythical poet, and the scientist are able to meet in the present and cooperate with one another. Different civilisations are represented now in one “Present”. And in so doing, they are generating a new type of human being, one who is comfortable with all the modes of perception and functions of consciousness. This is what we call “integral” or “aperspectival”.

This is really the fuller meaning of what we are calling “globalisation” or “the global soul”. It’s a form of consciousness that finally feels comfortable, confident, and at home in the cosmos.



5 responses to “Perspectivism and the Aperspectival”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    I did a search and find for “Picasso” in my abridged PDF copy of Seth Speaks. I then located the actual text in my physical copy of the book on pages 279 – 280. It is the reason why Seth Speaks is the only book that I read from which I don’t take any notes. If I did, I’d have to duplicate the entire book. I feel the same way about Carlos Castaneda’s 11 books, only a tiny bit less than Seth’s revelations:

    “Since past, present, and future do not exist, this is a level of crystal clear communication of consciousness. Those involved have an excellent knowledge of their own backgrounds and histories, of course, but in this state possess also a much larger perspective, in which private and historical backgrounds are seen as a portion of a greater perceivable whole.

    “At this level, messages literally flash through the centuries from one great man or woman to another. The future speaks to the past. The great artists have always been able to communicate at this level and while living literally operated at this level of consciousness a good deal of the time. Only the most exterior portions of their personalities bowed to the dictates of historical period.

    “For those who reach this state and utilize it, communication is clearest. It must be understood that this communication works in both ways. Leonardo da Vinci knew of Picasso, for example. There are great men and women who go unknown. Their contemporaries ignore them.

    “Their achievements may be misunderstood or physically lost, but at this level of consciousness they share in these communications, and at another level of existence their achievements are recognized.

    “I do not mean to imply, however, that only the great share in this communication of consciousness. A great simplicity is necessary, and out of this, many of the most lowly in men’s terms also share in these communications. There is an unending conversation going on throughout the universe, and a most meaningful one. Those from both your past and your future have a hand in your present world, and at this level the problems that have been met and will be encountered are being discussed. This is the heart of communication. It is most usually encountered either in a protected deep level of sleep or in a sudden spontaneous trance state. Great energy is generated.”

    It’s pure joy to read Seth.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, this is what I’m referring to as “the convergence of the times”, or the co-presence of probable worlds or realities. They arise from, and meet in, what Gebser calls “the ever-present origin”. This “irruption” is part of that process described by Seth — of unconscious knowledge now making itself conscious, and needing the guidance of an “enlightened ego consciousness”, like the pilot boat in a harbour that guides the big ship safely into port. (Ironically, or symbolically, that’s the meaning of physicist David Bohm’s “pilot wave”. The pilot wave corresponds to the ego consciousness. Bohm may even have understood it in that way himself).

      Don Juan actually once demonstrated to Castaneda this “convergence of times” in the “Eternal Now”. Castaneda was so disconcerted by the experience that he became violently ill. He threw up. So, imagine what that might do on a planet wide scale.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “Castaneda was so disconcerted by the experience that he became violently ill. He threw up. So, imagine what that might do on a planet wide scale.”

    In fact, I do remember Castaneda throwing up. Something that I believe the creators of the movie Matrix recreated in the scene when Neo wakes up after taking the red pill.

    • Scott Preston says :

      By Castaneda’s account, he threw up a lot. That was his nervous response to the presence of the uncanny and inexplicable.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Yes, Castaneda’s ego-consciousness seemed it was not able to take not being number one very well 🙂

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