Wisdom

In various posts in The Chrysalis, I’ve attempted to paint an image of what we have been calling “the global soul” (or integral consciousness) as the realisation, or concretisation, of what William Blake calls “fourfold vision”. For that reason, I have particularly focussed of late on Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” or quadrilateral logic as exemplary of that and of the meaning of “wisdom”, even as William Blake understands wisdom.

This is another aspect of the global soul — a re-emphasis on the reign of wisdom over knowledge, and of “the truth that sets free” over the mere “facts of the matter”. Wisdom is integrity and integration, and is what makes knowledge and the “facts of the matter” behave themselves. Wisdom is Blake’s “Albion” compelling the four Zoas to behave themselves. Wisdom is the Buddha reconciling The Guardians of the Four Directions. Wisdom is Rumi, compelling the “four nafs” to behave themselves and to be at peace (the “nafs” are a very important issue to understand in relation to the fourfold vision, for they are also Blake’s Zoas). Wisdom is the man or woman who “speaks from the centre of the voice” and thereby unifies the North, the South, the East, and the West of the Sioux Sacred Hoop.

The Buddha unifying the Guardians of the Four Directions

The Buddha unifying the Guardians of the Four Directions


William Blake -- the Fourfold Vision

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision


Sacred Hoop

Sacred Hoop


Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”


Jung's four psychological functions

I trust that these illustrations seal the point that we are, in essence, fourfold beings. Armed and empowered with this new logic might therefore provide insight into the meaning of Blake’s otherwise cryptic poetry, such as his “A Divine Image”,

Cruelty has a Human Heart
And Jealousy a Human Face 
Terror the Human Form Divine 
And Secrecy, the Human Dress 

The Human Dress, is forged Iron 
The Human Form, a fiery Forge. 
The Human Face, a Furnace seal’d 
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.

The prevailing structure of consciousness, the mental-rational or logico-mathematical, does not account for this fourfoldness. It is incomplete. Moreover, it is known to be incomplete. Therefore, we need today, especially in the planetary era, a new logic that can account for this fourfoldness. We need a logic of wisdom.

“The Sacred Hoop is in language”, my Sioux friends say. That’s the meaning of Rosenstock’s “grammatical method” or “speech thinking”. Human grammars, and not mathematics or conventional logic, provide the most complete model of this fourfoldness.

Today, I want to press this point home by reviewing the various articulations of “vision” or “sightedness”, for “seer” is another term for wisdom. “Vision” or “sight” have multiple meanings or aspects, and not just in terms of the the physical sense — the eye. It refers to a spectrum of other possible directions towards which consciousness or “the mind’s eye” can be directed and focussed besides space. And we call “visionary” or a “seer” someone who sees in more than one direction or one aspect alone.

We have “retrospectives” and we have “prospects”. This refers to focussing consciousness and the mind’s eye backwards or forwards in time. Hindsight and foresight are optional terms for this intentionality of consciousness. Past and future expand or contract depending upon the intensity of our hindsight or our foresight, or our love or indifference. In terms of space, we also have insight (or introspection) and oversight (in the sense of “supervision” or “survey”,expectation). These different directions of time and space is why we should speak, rather, of “times” and “spaces”. They aren’t at all uniform and homogenous. Past and future are contradictory, as are inner and outer (subject or object spaces). It is our consciousness that imposes a unity on them or integrates them and makes them behave, through exercising hindsight, foresight, insight, and oversight. In the Hindu pantheon, especially, some deities are represented with eyes all around their heads. This is what it means. The Roman deity named “Janus” (from whence we get “January”) was also sometimes depicted with four faces looking in four different directions (more commonly, though, with two to represent hindsight and foresight).

Quattro Capi, Fabricius Bridge, Rome

Quattro Capi, Fabricius Bridge, Rome

What we call “foolishness” or “folly” is to exaggerate one of these directions at the expense of the others, and to declare that one dimension alone as valid or real, whereas it is only a sliver of the full spectrum of the possibilities of consciousness. That fixity of focus is what Blake refers to as “Single Vision”, or what I’ve been equivalently referring to as “narcissism” or “obsession”.

What we call “soul” is that part of ourselves that wants to be fully realised or manifested in space and time. We call that “self-realisation” or “presentiation”, in Gebser’s terms. True “self-realisation” might have more success if it was realised that the “self” is fourfold in expression, as it must press itself into these four directions. It must, so to speak, take time to take place at all. It is an “eventing”, to coin a term. This is the proper function of the ego-consciousness. The ego-consciousness is that part of us that has learned, with lesser or greater success or wisdom, to navigate the times and spaces. The ego-consciousness provides the map, or what is called “the cognitive map”, the pattern. That map may be defective. If that understanding is inadequate, the soul’s attempt to realise itself in space and time is hindered and obstructed. As mentioned in an earlier comment, the ego-consciousness can be likened to the pilot boat that guides the larger vessel safely into harbour, and which somewhat corresponds to what quantum physicist David Bohm attempted to describe as the “pilot wave“. In fact, come to think of it, the “soul” and “ego” relation bears a very strong resemblance to the “wave-particle” relation (or the energy-matter relation) in quantum mechanics.

I could multiply such examples of the fourfold relation indefinitely, I think.

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12 responses to “Wisdom”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    How do we gain wisdom? is it by human will or divine grace or both and what is the share of each. what is our role being an addressee and why are some bad and some good and some mixed and when the imitation of the ideas of others stop and intuition starts, in the context of personal responsibility and what about accountability since we are talking in its context.

  2. donsalmon says :

    I’m so delighted to have found this site. As a long time student of both Sri Aurobindo and Jean Gebser, I admire your ability to get beyond the usual conceptual boxes people find themselves in. I’ve been musing for some months on the silliness of the labels “Left” and “Right” in politics – recently playing with corporate libertarian, civil libertarian, socialist libertarian (my favorite) and trying out a few others (psychopathic libertarian – that would be Ayn Rand, and maybe Herbert Spencer:>)).

    I happend on an essay (sorry, been skimming a lot and don’t remember which one) in which you beautifully, elegantly and very simply dispensed with these “left” “right” terms in the context of the emergence of an integral consciousness.

    Wonderful stuff!

    Don Salmon
    http://www.remember-to-breathe.org
    “Shaving Science With Ockham’s Razor”

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks, Don. I’m very pleased to have crossed paths with another fellow traveler in the paths of Gebser and Aurobindo. Don’t be shy, here. Share your insights.

      I have posted a few blogs on the political question. I don’t know which one in specific you were referring to. I’ll probably get riled up enough again in future to post more on the current pathologies of politics.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Ah! You’re co-author of Yoga Psychology and the Transformation of Consciousness: Seeing Through the Eyes of Infinity. It received very good reviews, I see.

      http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Psychology-Transformation-Consciousness-Infinity/dp/1557788359

      Another book on the list for LittleBigMan and myself. I’ll really have to move that to the top of my reading list while you’re still hanging around The Chrysalis.

      • donsalmon says :

        Hi Scott – well, I should add, in case you find the book boring, you might enjoy the CD that comes with it (music and meditation):>))

        Or wait for the website – coming probably in 2016 or 2017.

        I’m enjoying making my way around your site. Thanks!

      • LittleBigMan says :

        “Another book on the list for LittleBigMan and myself.”

        Oh, yes, added the book to my list (number 425) 🙂

        Really, too many gems to mention in this essay, and a powerful generator of good thoughts in the mind of the reader. Reading The Chrysalis is a profound experience in serenity.

        One of my favorite segments is:

        “It [the soul] must, so to speak, take time to take place [self-realisation] at all. It is an “eventing”, to coin a term. This is the proper function of the ego-consciousness.

        It is truly enlightening and very meaningful and poetic way of putting it when you say that the soul must “take time to take place.” In other words, “time” and “space” are the tools of the soul to embark on the experience of self-realization, as if the paint, the brush, and the canvas of an artist painter.

        I couldn’t resist posting this next excerpt from The Anti-Christ, which I have been reading. It is more relevant to other essays you have posted, though.

        The Anti-Christ: (essay 34: p. 47):

        “If I understand anything at all about this great symbolist [the Christ], it is this: that he regarded only subjective realities, as “truths” – that he saw everything else, everything natural, temporal, spatial and historical, merely as signs, as materials for parables. The concept of “the Son of God” does not connote a concrete person in history, an isolated and definite individual, but an “eternal” fact, a psychological symbol set free from the concept of time. The same thing is true, and in the highest sense, of the God of this typical symbolist, of the “kingdom of God,” and of the “sonship of God.” Nothing could be more un-Christian than the crude ecclesiastical notions of God as a person, of a “kingdom of God” that is to come, of a “kingdom of heaven” beyond, and of a “son of God” as the second person of the Trinity.”

        “The “kingdom of heaven” is a state of the heart – not something to come “beyond the world” or “after death.” The whole idea of natural death is absent from the Gospels: death is not a bridge, not a passing; it is absent because it belongs to a quite different, a merely apparent world, useful only as a symbol. The “hour of death” is not a Christian idea – “hours,” time, the physical life and its crises have no existence for the bearer of “glad tidings.”…. The “kingdom of God” is not something that men wait for: it had no yesterday and no day after tomorrow, it is not going to come at a “millennium” – it is an experience of the heart, it is everywhere and it is nowhere…..”

        In other words, Christ considered what belongs on the “Subjective/Inwards” portion of the “cross of reality” as “truths.” Everything else on the other three directions are experiences and events that vary from individual to individual.

        • Dwig says :

          So, might truths belong to Jung’s collective unconscious?

          • Scott Preston says :

            The relationship of truth to fact is as the relation of “Self” to “Ego”, what we might call “same but different”. Correspondingly, the relation of wisdom to knowledge. I’m leary of making too great a distinction, as labels often seem to do. There is no real “boundary condition” where one ends and the other begins, and yet there is a difference, as we know, between “the truth that sets free” and the mere “facts of the matter”. Again, it also parallels the relationship between the whole and the part, or the whole and the totality (the aggregate).

            Facts are, in a sense, man-made. It’s the very meaning of the word “fact” (as in factory, manufacture, faction, etc). In the classical understanding, men could make “facts” by reasoning, but truth could only be revealed. This “revelation” is the meaning of the word “apocalypse”, of course — unveiling, dis-covering, dis-closing. The lifting of the veil of Maya, as it were. The dance of Shiva. Blake was an apocalyptic thinker, as are both Gebser and Rosenstock. For Blake, the appearances of the world (the phenomena) would be consumed by fire, and the “truth which is hid” in the cloud of phenomena would be revealed in time.

            This distinction between truth and fact was likely the misunderstanding that got Galileo into trouble with the Inquisition. They weren’t speaking the same language in speaking of “veritas” or “truth”. For Galileo, fact and truth were equivalent and synonymous. At least, that was the premise of Owen Barfield’s very interesting book Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. In the eyes of his inquisitors, Galileo was an idolator for elevating “fact” to the level of truth. There you see, in embrio, the clash of the emerging mental-rational with revelation by faith, or reason versus revelation, or the new perspective consciousness with the older “pre-perspectival” consciousness. For what is called “Galilean space” or “ideal space” is a perspectivist construction. In fact, even before Galileo began his famous studies in falling bodies and motion, he had applied to teach perspective at the Florence Academy, but lost out to another candidate.

            I think we can learn a lot about the clash of consciousness structures (basically, the clash of civilisations by another name) by studying the trial of Galileo and also Socrates and, of course, Jesus and his times.

          • LittleBigMan says :

            “So, might truths belong to Jung’s collective unconscious?” – Dwig

            In my opinion, yes. I’m happy that you brought up the question, Dwig, since I can see from Scott’s excellent reply that he relates “truths” to “the whole” of The Self, which includes “collective unconscious” as its indivisible portion.

      • Scott Preston says :

        By the way, Don Salmon also has a couple of articles posted on the Integralworld.net website, also along the lines of a critique of Wilber’s model.

        http://www.integralworld.net/salmon2.html

        http://www.integralworld.net/salmon.html

        Worth reading.

  3. Dwig says :

    I was recently struck by the realization that the words “wise” and “wisdom” hardly ever occur in public discourse these days. (And wisdom has probably never been more needed!). This led me to try out some ways to describe or characterize wisdom. One example: “knowledge tells us what things we can do; wisdom tells us which of these we shouldn’t.”. This example reminds me of the works of Schumacher and Illich.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Socrates had his “daemon”, and his daemon never told him what he should do, only what he shouldn’t do, apparently. I’ld like to think that wiisdom is a little more creative, positive, and pro-active than only negating.

      German makes a distinction between two types of knowing: “to know” (kennen) and “to know” as wissen. The Scottish language still preserves something of that in the verb “to ken” (to know) or “canny”.

      Nietzsche, of course, associated wisdom with the Dionysian, and knowledge with the Apollonian.

      There are a whole range of terms — values in effect — that have been confused and collapsed. That’s Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism. We’ve discussed many of those values and that confusion of values in the Chrysalis and in the former Dark Age Blog. I once posted in the latter a fairly extensive list of terms that actually have “opposite” meanings originally, but which have been collapsed or leveled over time by being mistakenly treated as synonyms. Whole and Totality is just one. Integration or assimilation another. Wisdom and knowledge is of course, another one as is truth and fact. The confusion of symbol and sign is yet another, or myth with “counter-factual” or a lie. This is the pressure of what we call “reductionism” or “fundamentalism” — the treatment of very different matters as if they were homogenous and uniform. This is what Nietzsche refers to, though, as the distinction between the noble and ignoble virtues and values.

      This confusion of values reflects the collapse of the cross of reality into one-dimensionality — the objective and of the “deficient” mode of the mental-rational consciousness structure. That collapse is why we have confidence it suggesting that the Modern Era is now doomed, for it has neglected the other fronts of life which are just as valid and vital as the objective.

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