Integral Politics

At this time, I’ld like now to return to an old theme, raised once of twice in the old Dark Age Blog — the meaning of “integral politics” as a corrective to the dissolute and duplicitous public politics of the Late Modern Era. To do so, I will be relying upon Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” and his “cross of reality”, accounting for the relevance of these to our situation, and how they might relate to Paul Mason’s suggestion, mentioned earlier, about a “new kind of human being” currently in the making.

Articulating and integrating are two aspects of one and the same process of making coherent, or unifying. The “grammatical method”, and its representation in terms of the “cross of reality,” is a mandala-like logic that claims to reveal the hitherto invisible “eco-dynamic laws” of society. It is a quadrilateral or fourfold logic that is of an order above that of dialectical reason or Cartesian metaphysical dualism. These latter correspond to a threefold logic appropriate to a three-dimensional cosmos — the perspectivist universe represented as a pyramid or triangle. Being a new fourfold logic appropriate for a four-dimensional universe, the “grammatical method” is distinguished from other models of logic by its inclusion of a “dimension” hitherto neglected by rationalism — its insights into the nature of time.

The Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm, and the dialecticism of Hegel and Marx, are in the process of decline and decay, so the time seems most appropriate for a new of logic and of human self-understanding. In a very real sense, “all that is old is made new again” really does apply to this fourfold logic and the cross of reality, as a truer and more faithful understanding of reality and of human consciousness.

Once again, here is the basic model, before we unfold and elaborate on its meaning further and apply its method to our own current situation,

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

This is not only a mapping of the cosmos, of spacetime, but also of our own consciousness of that cosmos. In that sense, Rosenstock-Huessy’s insistence that the cross of reality is valid for all reality, and not just part of that reality — the objective — seems quite sound. This logic transcends and overcomes the usual dichotomies of dualism and of the subject-object divide, which is ultimately, at root, the diabolical problem — the source of the “forked-tongue”.

This quadrilateral pattern corresponds to our actual experience of reality — time as twofold in nature (past and future) and space as twofold in nature (inner and outer). To the formal terms “subject” and “object” (inwards and outwards) of space, Rosenstock-Huessy has coined corresponding formal terms for our experience of time as “backwards” and “forwards”, those terms being, respectively, “trajective” and “prejective”, the twin problems of permanence (or duration) and change which every human being and every society must also face.

You may see immediately that this “cross of reality” bears a striking resemblance to the indigenous Sacred Hoop,

Sacred Hoop Symbol

Sacred Hoop Symbol

So that when my native friends say that “The Sacred Hoop is in language”, and that to “speak from the centre of the voice” is the contrary to the “forked-tongue” (duplicity), this corresponds exactly to Rosenstock-Huessy’s insights into grammar, as well as his cryptic saying that “God is the power that makes men speak”. The vital centre, the integrating and articulating centre, is the centre of both the Cross of Reality and of the Sacred Hoop. The centre of the cross is the root or source. Where the axes of time and space intersect is what is called “ever-present origin” or Eternal Now. That is equivalently the image of Christ on the Crucifix, as “the Word made Flesh” as also being this “centre of the voice”, surrounded by the four evangelists in their zoomorphic forms,

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

This representation, as mentioned earlier, is the exact representation of the legend of the Buddha, as vital centre, and “the Guardians of the Four Directions” who gifted their own begging bowls to the Buddha upon his awakening, but which it is said, the Buddha united with his own for the sake of the dharma. The four become the fifth, or quintessence — the fifth becomes the One.

The Buddha receiving the begging bowls of the Guardians of the Four Directions

The Buddha receiving the begging bowls of the Guardians of the Four Directions

These “four directions” are represented in the basic grammatical forms, in the person system for example, so that indeed it makes sense to say that “the Sacred Hoop is in language”

Cross of Reality A

There are not three basic persons of speech, but four — I, You, He (or She, It, They), and We. The reason we have been so unsuccessful in forming enduring “we” groups is because of a mistaken notion that “we” is the plural of “I”. This was the mistake of the “Greek Mind”, as Rosenstock put it. “We” is not plural “I”, a plurality of egos. It is a completely separate person — the collective or communal person.

This correction of the false paradigm, which everyone is taught in the schools, opens up vast new fields of understanding. The persons of grammar, corresponding to the Guardians or the Evangelists, and representing the various directions of social reality, expand into those forms of speech which form the basis for arts and sciences, religion and politics — dramatics (“Thou!”, imperatival form), lyrics (“I” or optative form), epics (“We”, narrative form), and analytics (“It”, or indicative form). And from these forms emerge the institutions of society — poetics, philosophics, prophetics, politics, each of which governs one of the time or space fronts of the social order — whether inwards, outwards, forwards or backwards.

Because the modern mind has laboured with a false logic, a logic of spaces, it has failed to perceive these interconnections before now. Grammatical speech is cosmic process, and it is in articulating speech that human beings have gained power over times and spaces and have pacified them and their conflictual and contradictory ways. Articulation is integration.

Now, how does this apply to politics today? There are four main tendencies in politics, which we call “liberal”, “conservative”, “socialist”, and “environmentalist”. These also correspond to the ‘guardians’ and the persons of grammar. As noted in earlier posts, contemporary ideologies had their origins in the sectarian feuding of the Protestant Reformation, as so many interpretations of the four Gospels of the New Testament. Ideology began as theology. It is secularised theology where the separation of Church and State (or religion and politics) led to the extraction of ideology from theology, which were formerly one and the same — as “reason” on the one hand, and “faith” on the other. But they remain two sides of one coin.

So, how does the situation look when we view it, not from one of the partisan perspectives or one of the “branches” of the cross of reality, but from the vital centre?

The Quadrilateral of Politics

The Quadrilateral of Politics

Each political orientation corresponds to one of the space of time fronts of the social order. Not one of them can represent the entirety of that social order. When it presumes to do so, it becomes a totalitarianism. From the centre of the quadrilateral, we note that liberalism is concerned with the future, and is restrained in that by conservatism, which is oriented towards the past. Socialism is concerned with fraternity and fellowship and community, while environmentalism guards the outward front of the social order — Nature. Social order, therefore, depends on a healthy balance of each orientation, and each of these guardians is valid in relation to the others — but only in relation to the others. Problems of social order arise whenever one of these presumes to attempt to usurp all the others, or even destroy them as enemy or “opposition”.

We might take comfort in that fact that no totalitarian regime has ever survived precisely because of that. The human is a mandala. That’s how the situation looks when you look from the centre of the cross of reality or from the centre of the Sacred Hoop. The only question is whether one attempts to imperialise all the other fronts of society. The balance must be maintained, lest the human become unbalanced. And that is the terrible situation we are in today. The human is a multi-form being of individual, family, community, and nature (body), too, or liberal, conservative, socialist, and environmentalist. The healthy individual is one who can move through all four, and know when one has become too much or another not enough.

When one becomes too much at the expense of the others, society begins to breakdown, and this is reflected in the literal breakdown of individuals or families, or the environment, or society as a whole. When the guardians of the four directions no longer function, the result is the “four riders of the apocalypse” in the form of four social diseases — war, revolution, anarchy, or decadence. They are four forms of nihilism.

It seems that today, our civilisation is being beset by all four, and those four I’ve also called “double-think, double-talk, double-standard, and double-bind”. They are the forms of our duplicity, which has arisen from a false logic and a false consciousness. Your freedom to circulate through all these positions of the cross of reality is what guarantees the continued viability of society. That’s what “integrity” is. That’s what democracy is supposed to be. This freedom, while never fully realised in practice owing to a false philosophy, is now under even more threat by extremism of all kinds — exaggerated and hyperbolic reactions to the critical situation of Late Modernity.

The grammatical method is the “crucial” method because it takes the form of a mandala or cross, not the pyramid of sacrifice and power.

To “speak from the centre of the voice” is “crucial” in that sense. And that is the articulating and integrating consciousness. Indeed, “the Sacred Hoop is in language”.

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4 responses to “Integral Politics”

  1. davidm58 says :

    Fascinating! Especially in light of two other papers I’ve recently been exposed to, both exploring grammatology in relation to integral ideas, both presented at the just concluded Integral Theory Conference. Bruce Alderman’s “Integral In-Dwelling: A Prepositional Theology of Religions,” which won an award for best alternative metatheory (about the radical relationality and mutual indwelling of beings in the cosmos, using prepositions as signifiers, and tying together elements from Wilber, Roy Bhaskar, and Edgar Morin to frame a “deep participatory” interreligious model).

    The second paper is “Recognition of Emergive Reality and a Conceptual-Practical Dimension for Integral Projects” by Chandana Kulasuriya, Priyan Dias, and Vanissorn Vimonsatit (about the need to go beyond subjective and objective and to have a place for consideration of “emergive” or “quantum reality” that emerges through the interaction between subjects and objects. An interesting alteration of Wilber’s quadrants and use of pronouns)..

    I can send copies of these papers if you provide your email address.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I just realised I put “socialism” and “environmentalism” in the wrong orientations, to be consistent with the basic map of the cross of reality. Socialism would correspond to the “inwards”, envronmentalism (the body) to the “outwards” in the map of social relations.

    The actual fourfold relation, nonetheless, remains constant, though the orientations may alternate positions in the “cross of reality”. Usually that is done when one or another becomes “deficient” in its function. If liberalism becomes deficient, conservatives may come to think of themselves as “revolutionaries’ and “progressives”. When one or another of the “guardians” falters for some reason, its function may be temporarily usurped by one of the others. But that often results in the other also becoming deficient in regard to its own functions.

    Contemporary socialism is an example. Having attempted to become more “liberal” (Blair’s “radical centre”, in effect), it has become itself deficient in its own specific function — the formation of a successful “we”. This may result in either conservatism or environmentalism compensating for the deficiency by usurping that function, and so the emphasis on one or another aspect of time or space (forwards, backwards , inwards, outwards) may shift. It’s a lot like a merry-go-round or the game of musical chairs. But in some way or another, society as a whole will always attempt to preserve these functions and their eco-dynamic relations in one form or another. It is practically instinct because the human being is fourfold, simply because our reality is fourfold.

    Liberalism — the unit of meaning is the individual (future, prejective)
    Conservatism — the unit of meaning is the family (past, trajective)
    Socialism — the unit of meaning is the community (class, fraternity, the inner, subjective)
    Environmentalism — the unit of meaning is the body (nature, the outer, objective).

    Ecology is actually not the same as “environmentalism”. Ecology is when all four are seen in their relationship, as forming a whole, even in their contradictory (mutually dissenting) tendencies. In effect, they correspond to Blake’s “four Zoas” of disintegrate man. To move to the “vital centre” rather than the periphery is what Blake refers to as Albion, the quintessence.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    Enlightening from the first sentence to the last. Too many gems to mention…….

    “The reason we have been so unsuccessful in forming enduring “we” groups is because of a mistaken notion that “we” is the plural of “I”. This was the mistake of the “Greek Mind”, as Rosenstock put it. “We” is not plural “I”, a plurality of egos. It is a completely separate person — the collective or communal person.”

    Now, that’s critical, and it gave me great hope to then read:

    “We might take comfort in that fact that no totalitarian regime has ever survived precisely because of that.”

    I love to see totalitarian regimes fall. Really, their era as a whole has passed, given the failure of ideology and the stupidity that a whole vast wide world should be at the beckon call of a few families.

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