Integral Politics and the Deficient Mental-Rational
OK. Now that I’ve laid out the basic model in the last post illustrating why we must move to a more adequate quadrilateral, or fourfold, logic, let’s see how we can use the Sacred Hoop or Cross of Reality as a diagnostic tool to interpret the ills that presently beset Late Modern society — the nature of the crisis. Additionally, we may see that the Sacred Hoop and the Cross of Reality are strong candidates for what Heraclitus meant by “the Logos“, and an interpretation of William Blake’s “fourfold vision” and the functions of his “four Zoas”. It is actually a very potent tool for understanding all sorts of hitherto invisible processes in society and human consciousness.
In the course of applying it as a diagnostic tool, we’ll come to a better understanding of what Jean Gebser means by the mental-rational structure of consciousness now functioning in deficient mode, or the present deficiency of perspectivising perception, and also what he means by “integral consciousness” and aperspectival perception as corrective.
You are probably all familiar with former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s controversial TINA principle (“There is No Alternative”) — that is, no alternative to neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism, or capitalism. You may also know her equally controversial corollary to the TINA principle (which is really the “principle” of so-called “principled conservatism”) that “there is no such thing as society”. She sees “only individuals and families”. That is, given her Chemistry background, she sees only atoms and molecules, but not the “mass” or collective which these atoms and molecules, individuaa and families, also comprise. There is no “public” per se. That statement was made, of course, to invalidate both socialist and environmentalist politics.
In effect, then, this is the pernicious effect of dualistic reasoning. Thatcher is essentially saying that only Conservatism and Liberalism (the family — or “clan” — and the individual as political units) are real. Right here is the essential deficiency (and decadence) of contemporary politics.
“Society” isn’t something you “see”. It’s rather something you hear. It’s the daily circulation of the public discourse and conversation that continues to construct the social order — the “common tongue”. This deficiency in perception is owing to the pernicious influence of what Rosenstock-Huessy called “the Greek Mind”, which was resurrected during the Renaissance. In fact, before Rene Descartes uttered his famous formula for the Age of Reason, “cogito, ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am), he was preceded in that some 2500 years ago by the Greek philosopher Parmenides, the foe of Heraclitus, who had already stated that “thinking and being are the same”, (even though he intended something a little different than what Descartes and his followers subsequently made of it).
So, that’s one of the issues to bear in mind when appreciating the “fourfold vision” of William Blake — his antipathy to “the Greek Mind” and the deficiency of the mental-rational structure of consciousness that he called “Urizen” or “Jehovah” or “Nobodaddy”, one of the four Zoas (or, probably, a contraction of the term “Universal Reason” or “Your Reason”). Blake would undoubtedly have considered Margaret Thatcher totally aberrant, if not insane.
I trust that, having now come to appreciate the meaning of the Cross of Reality or the Sacred Hoop, it will be evident why Thatcher’s “common sense” is so aberrant. In fact, what is presently understood as being “the common sense” generally is aberrant and irrational in the extreme, and it will have very nasty consequences or “blowback effects” the longer it persists.
Our true “life-world” — reality and our consciousness of that reality — cannot ever be adequately represented by only Conservatism or Liberalism (earlier called “primitivism” and “libertinism”). Attempts to force human beings and our reality to conform to this simple-minded duality, variously interpreted as ‘good” or “evil”, etc, have only resulted in a constant unsettled state of crisis, disturbance and turbulence in history and society. That’s because our reality and the human form is fourfold, and not dual. It was the inadequacy of Conservatism or Liberalism to claim to represent all reality and “human nature” that gave rise to Socialism and Environmentalism.
As such, it is only now, at our so-called “end of history”, that the human form and its reality is completely represented politically — the individual, the family, society, and nature (the body or “the native”). The real task for us now (which is what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “the fifth revolution” and Gebser calls “integral” or “aperspectival consciousness”) is the integration of these four orientations (Blake’s “Zoas” in effect) into a coherent holon. The “Holistic Philosophy” must displace the Mechanical Philosophy, which was only the unstable bias of the mental-rational consciousness — ie, the “objective attitude”.
The notion that only individuals or families were adequate to account for all social reality is absurd and irrational. The “new ratio” recognises that our true ratio is a proportionate and measured fourfoldness. Not to recognise the validity of all these orientations in their eco-dynamic relationship to one another is extremism of the very worst sort and quite irresponsible. It belongs to the “culture of narcissism”. And that is pretty much the problem today. What Gebser calls “deficient perspectivisation” occurs whenever the consciousness gets trapped in a single “point of view and line of thought”, rather than living out from the vital centre. The bias that results from living in only one direction of the Cross of Reality, and holding that as alone true and valid, is what leads to both bigotry and fanaticism, and is become the cause of our duplicity. As Yeats put it in his ominous poem “The Second Coming“, “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”
Why is politics today in such dreadful shape, if not the spitting image of Yeats’ “Rough Beast”? Lip-service (duplicity) which is a symptom of decadence, is everywhere. You’ve probably noted it: an “illiberal liberalism”, a conservatism which conserves nothing, a reactionary conservatism which even thinks of itself as “revolutionary”, an anti-social socialism of the Blairite variety (even the Canadian social democratic party has dropped the word “socialism” from its programme), and an environmentalism that is often overly deterministic and not human or socially friendly (ecology and environmentalism are not necessarily synonymous). Politics has become little more than a game of musical chairs. It’s all just pretense.
In effect, what we are seeing in the realm of this confusion of politics is Nietzsche’s anticipation of “two centuries of nihilism” — “all higher values devalue themselves”. And that’s what these self-devouring, self-contradictions now amount to — the logical outcome of the “mental-rational structure of consciousness now functioning in deficient mode”, as Gebser put it — the loss of the “vital centre” and of a “universal way of looking at things” that can only be got from being at this vital centre — the centre of the Sacred Hoop or Cross of Reality.
Former UK Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Tony Blair would almost be right if his “radical centre” actually corresponded to the “vital centre”. But it doesn’t. Again, I invoke what I call Khayyam’s Caution: “only a hair separates the false from the true”. Mr. Blair is simply confused, and that’s reflected in his very bad political judgement.
Now, having touched upon the real deficiencies of Thatcherite neo-liberalism/neo-conservatism of “individuals” and “families”, let’s look at the same deficiency in respect of socialism as revealed through the quadrilateral logic and Cross of Reality.
Socialism looks to the problem of how to form a successful “we” despite the anarchy of competing self-interests, whether of egoistic individuals (liberalism) or families (conservatism). It belongs to a distinct social process. Yet, it is now even abandoning that guardianship and function — its core value — in order to occupy the terrain that is being abandoned by liberalism — as neo-liberalism. That’s what Blair’s New Labour or “neo-socialism” and the “radical centre” amounts to. In effect, the “watchmen” are abandoning their posts in what amounts, as mentioned, to a confusing game of musical chairs.
Because socialism has yielded up its core value and unique responsibility — how to form a successful “we” — Conservatism is moving into this terrain yielded by socialism. The “past” in other words is invading the present. But that is not conservatism’s function or “prime directive”. The only consequence of conservatism’s usurping the role of socialism is fascism.
In effect, whenever one orientation — one of the watchmen, stewards, or guardians — attempts to usurp, imperialise or colonise the others, the result is totalitarianism. This attempt to usurp the role of the others is what is called “hybris”, and wherever there is hybris, Nemesis and the Furies are sure to follow. Ironically, it is the function of a valid conservatism to guard against hubris, which is called “conservative prudence”. But neo-conservatism has itself become a form of hybris. In effect, because these orientations are attempting to usurp the roles of the others, which is not theirs to usurp, they have become riddled with self-contradiction and hypocrisy. They have forgotten their responsibilities, and the result is a new irrationality — an unbalanced and inequitable situation. Everything becomes disproportionate, unmeasured, inequitable, including our notions of “justice”. In other words, ‘irrational‘.
This situation is not likely to end happily, for the only result of this irrationality (or “Single Vision” in Blake’s terms) will be accelerating unintended consequence, perverse outcome, blowback effect, reversal of fortune, revenge effect, etc — all terms for exactly the same issue and problem: the karmic law in action — the growing deficiency of the mental-rational structure of consciousness.