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.

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13 responses to “Integral Politics and the Deficient Mental-Rational”

  1. donsalmon says :

    Excellent as usual. I just want to put in a plug for Parmenides. You did make a slight qualification – he didn’t quite mean what Descartes made of him. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Peter Kingsley, who almost makes Parmenides into a non dualist Eastern (or more accurately, Sufi) sage. I’m not sure I quite follow Kingsley that far, but I would say there’s more than a slight difference between Descartes and Parmenides.

    This would remain merely an academic point if it weren’t for the fact that I do kind of buy Kingsley’s notion that a recovery of Parmenides true meaning might be helpful to us.

    Kingsley says that the mistakes of Plato and the post-Socratics are the “Greek mind” you speak of, and those mistakes are still with us and the source of the all the deficiencies you so eloquently describe.

    The best of the Eastern – Taoist, Buddhist, Vedantic and the rest – sages may help us see through our limitations, but as we are now one world, a recovery of the deeper, sacred vision of the ancients in the West can help us to get to that Oneness. I think.

    Alan Wallace also speaks of the possibility of this new global renaissance, which may be glimpsed by this recovery (and re-visioning for the contemporary era) which can be helped along by a contemplative study of the ancients – both East and West.

  2. davidm58 says :

    You may have covered this elsewhere, but I’m not convinced that our reality and human form is only fourfold. It seems limited to the two dimensions of horizontal and vertical? What about the sagital (front to back) dimension? http://www.laban-analyses.org/laban_analysis_reviews/laban_analysis_notation/space_harmony_choreutics/planes/laban_dimensional_planes.htm

    • Scott Preston says :

      Just in the process of reading your paper on energy. Very engaging. As you know, I don’t make a distinction between “energy” and what is called “psychic energy” or “libido”. I’ll be reading your paper a second time more carefully to see how these insights apply to social and psychological energy equivalently.

      As to your remark about the “fourfold” being limited because of other dimensions (front to back, or above/below, etc), these are spatial referents aren’t they? In that regard, they are covered by the cross of reality and the quadrilateral still.

      • davidm58 says :

        I also believe that energy is energy, and I had originally hoped to discuss this in my paper, but ran out of room and time, beyond one brief remark near the end.

        Energy is energy (“any vibratory force that makes change happen” – T. Winton), but it manifests in different forms, with primary distinctions being it’s quantity, level of concentration, and its quality. For example, the sun provides a great quantity of gross physical energy, but it’s concentration is very dilute. A great resource, but it often needs to be captured and concentrated and transformed into a different quality to be useful in human technologies. Fossil fuel energy is very concentrated ancient sunlight – captured and embedded into the earth over millions of years. This concentrated energy is very powerful for moving our machinery and transportation vehicles, but for all practical purposes is a finite resource.

        Then we get into subtle and causal energies, which are of a transformed, higher quality than the gross energies, but again not as densely concentrated. Very powerful in a different way, but not in a way that can push heavy vehicles down the road.

        My hope is that the integral epoch will rely more on these energies for meaningful life, and we will let go of the need for so much gross energy. A simpler lifestyle, but with much more meaning and depth of connection with one another.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Buckminster Fuller used the term “tensegrity”, which was picked up by Castaneda to describe his “magical passes” too. It’s a good term to describe the cross of reality. The four tendencies (backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards) constitute the “stress of life”, they pull us in opposite directions. As Rosenstock put it, “we are all crucified on the cross of reality” and it is the function of articulating speech to manage and master these stresses. That’s “integralism” in a nutshell.

          Rosenstock calls that process “synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries” (times) and “coordination” of discordant bodies (spaces) — speaking is synchronisation and coordination or concordance. In its proper function, it is inherently peace-making.

          And that’s what it means to say that to speak from the centre of the voice is to speak from the centre of the Sacred Hoop (or Cross of Reality). Articulating is integrating. Grammatical speech is the lyre of Orpheus.

          Tensegrity is a very good word to describe the cross of reality.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I might add, that its probably best to think of the Sacred Hoop or the Cross of Reality in holographic terms. For something to be considered “real” in our terms, it must take time to take place. But time and place are fourfold in the sense of time being past-future and space being inner-outer. For something to become “real”, it must pass through the “crucible” as it were — the crucis. And sometimes this is the work of generations and of “long waves of history” as they’re called. In that regard, the four stations of the cross of reality are phasic, or what you might call “phase states”.

      I discussed that somewhere here in the blog — this phasic process of realisation. I’ll try to find that posting.

      • Scott Preston says :

        The post I had in mind (or, at least one of them that addressed the phasic nature of the grammatical method) is called “The Balance of an Idea”, and can be accessed at

        https://longsworde.wordpress.com/2014/03/26/the-balance-of-an-idea-multiformity-and-realisation

        Also, your blog and don salmon’s blog, now have a place of honour in the blog roll. Hopefully that will bring some traffic to your worthy websites and generate more discussion.

        (Was a little surprised that Prigogine wasn’t mentioned in your paper on Order/Chaos. He, and Tad Homer-Dixon, have been the main sources for my thinking on energy. But I appreciate the many references in your paper — Morin sounds interesting. I’m going to make sure I familiarise myself with some of your sources.).

        • davidm58 says :

          Thanks for taking a look at my paper, and for the link!

          Prigogine was prominent in an earlier iteration of my paper, which was almost exclusively focused on the expansion/contraction, order/chaos, concentration/diffusion polarity patterns. This will hopefully become a follow-up paper, where I will be aiming to demonstrate the expansion/contraction pattern as a “final cause,” and the boundary conditions of life. Expansion, expressed as H.T. Odum’s Maximum Power Principle is “Time’s speed regulator” according to Odum himself. Contraction, expressed by the 2nd law of thermodynamics may be space’s girth regulator. Together they enforce impermanence – siding more with Heraclitus rather than Parmenides, i guess.

          I have T. Homer-Dixon’s “The Upside of Down” on my shelf, but haven’t read it all the way through yet. Edgar Morin’s “Homeland Earth” is a short, easy read. A very important thinker with his own systems thinking approach, and integral is his own way. “On Complexity” is also very, very good.

          For me, essential books outlining the path forward:
          Rethinking the World – Peter Pogany
          Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability
          Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century by Howard T. Odum
          Homeland Earth and On Complexity by Edgar Morin
          The Ever Present Origin by Jean Gebser

          • Scott Preston says :

            I’ve ordered Pogany’s book. I think I’ll start with that.

            Are you familiar at all with Gebser’s der Grammatische Spiegel? Unfortunately it’s only available in German and it is also very, very short, and a little hazy. But it’s clear Gebser there was fumbling for the kind of method that Rosenstock-Huessy came up with — the quadrilateral.

  3. Mark Dotson says :

    Scott,

    I’ve been reading lots of your articles and find them extremely well-written and informative. I was wondering if you’ve written any books?

    Keep up the good work,

    Mark

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hi Mark. Thanks for the comment. No, I’ve written no book. I think the last thing the world needs is another book. What it needs is a good kick in the ass.

  4. LittleBigMan says :

    “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.”

    Illuminating.

    I just looked it up, and in the United States, socialism seems to have made major strides beginning with social security (1935) all the way up through Medicare (1966) and Civil Rights Movement (1954 – 1968). Some major accomplishments over a span of about one generation (30 years?). Astonishing success, really, given the fact that the United States went through some major wars during that same time (WWII, Korea, and Vietnam). The vast majority of that generation are either no longer with us or – judging by the lifestyles of my colleagues who were young and active in the later years of that period – are well-off.

    That generation having grown old and well-off now, and their children who became beneficiaries of their parents’ new assets, may be the reason why socialism – as a force for the fusion of individual, family, and society – is no longer seen as necessary – at least in the United States.

    I have to say that although in no way I condone the violent history of far-right in Europe, I can understand why the sustained economic downturns in Europe, which have happened at the same time as a sustained increase in the flow of immigrants from third world countries into Europe, are pushing the continent in that direction. For Europeans, it’s increasingly becoming a simple matter of bread and butter and the quality of life.

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