Trickle Down or Diffusion?
An example of how our metaphors tend to become opaque to insight, rather than transparent or illuminating, come to comprise the “common sense”, and result in distortions of consciousness and then our social philosophies, with pernicious results.
One of those distortions of conscious, leading to an invidious social philosophy owing to such reification of a metaphor, is the famous “trickle down theory” and its reflection in that controversial (and quite false) slogan of neo-liberalism “a rising tide lifts all boats”. (Up their sleeves, of course, the promoters of that ideology were chuckling about their cunning and cleverness in putting one over on the bumpkins, and muttering words about how a “rising tide lifts all yachts“).
It doesn’t take much reflection to realise that these bon mots are the result of a metaphor gone wrong by becoming opaque to perception, just as reality is often eclipsed by rhetoric. It conceives of the social structure as being a pyramid, narrow at the top, widening at the base. At the very summit of the pyramid is the illuminating eye of “enlightenment”, the “elite” or power elite. This summit is called “point of view”.
You probably all know this structure, and in past postings in The Chrysalis (such as this one) I’ve examined the history and meaning of this structure pretty thoroughly as being derived from the invention of perspective in the Renaissance, even though the pyramid as symbolic form and as model of hierarchy has a much longer history.
Following the Hermetic principle of “as above, so below” (or coincidentia oppositorum), not only was this metaphor, derived largely from perspectivism, a self-understanding of the mind and human consciousness as being a pyramid (the mind at the summit, the body or “mass” below), but also became the social philosophy and the template for the ordering of society. That’s reflected today in the rather extreme inequality between the so-called “1% and the 99%”.
But that’s not just true of capitalist society. When the Marxist parties began to think of themselves and promote themselves as “the vanguard of the masses”, they were following the exact same model of consciousness — the “vanguard” was the illuminated eye occupying the same “commanding heights”, the base was “the broad masses of the people”. The notion that there was some absolute difference between the Marxist or Capitalist conception of society was pretty much a hoax.
Quite evidently, there is no real pyramid. It’s a social construction erected upon a faulty self-understanding of the human form as being in this triangular shape, a metaphor gone wrong, which I’ve called “point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness structure. In effect, this symbol is the symbol of the mental-rational consciousness structure itself. It reflects the understanding of the cosmos as dialectical in nature, and of a reality conceived in three dimensions of length, width, and depth. “Depth” (and infinity) was the new dimension that irrupted into consciousness in the Renaissance in which a new concern with the relationship of the finite to the infinite (perspective perception) displaced the earlier concern with the relationship of the eternal to time or the “secular order”.
In effect, therefore, the pyramid surmounted by the illuminated and illuminating eye is a symbol (metaphor) of the European Enlightenment conceived as an illumination of space, but not of time, and in terms of a triadic logic represented in dialectical reason — thesis, antithesis, synthesis reflecting the cosmic structure as it was understood at the time. This triadic logic and fundamental self-understanding was (and remains) common to “left”, “right” and “centre” alike. In fact, these political and ideological coordinates are in themselves spatial metaphors that have also become opaque to perception. These spatial coordinates, which have become largely politically meaningless to describe anything, reflect the human self-understanding, mirrored in the cosmology which conceives of reality as a three-fold structure. This is an image of what has been called “the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm” or Newton’s “Frame of the World”.
As noted also earlier, this same triadic and pyramid structure is reflected in Blake’s portrait of the insane Zoa named Urizen called “Ancient of Days”, who is in fact Jehovah or “the Selfhood”, who is the all-seeing eye of “Single Vision” and Architect of the “Ulro” — the Shadowland.
Basically, now, the Ulro as Land of Shadows and Idols is the bubble of perception that has arisen from metaphors and symbols losing their lucidity and transparency as “meanings” and having become “literal” or reified or opaque to perception. This is what we call “false consciousness”. This “bubble of perception” owing to the opacity of the metaphorical becomes important to appreciate when we turn to Gebser’s meaning about “translucency” and “diaphaneity” as essential features of integral or aperspectival consciousness. It really means the return of the metaphor to its essential transparency or as aid to insight, which is actually the real meaning of the word “Apocalypse”, which means “disclosure”, “dis-covery” or “revelation” or what we mean by the “shattering” truth.
Now, it should be seen that what some refer to as “the natural order of things” or even as being “human nature” is related to such metaphors gone wrong. It’s a mental tautology because “nature” here refers only to the metaphor that has become opaque to perception, not to the truth behind the metaphor which the metaphor is no longer capable of revealing because it has become “deficient” in that respect for having become opaque. We don’t live in that “natural order” any more since Time was added as the fourth dimension. Yet, the triadic logic persists despite the revelation of time. This sets up what we call “cognitive dissonance”. The metaphors which govern our perception and regulate our “common sense”, are no longer adequate to account for our full experience of reality, having become deficient. And that deficiency, which we call “crisis”, is manifested in problems of consciousness and of social order as well.
The “irruption” of time into “nature” and “human nature” is what Gebser means by the “irruption of a new consciousness structure”, while the old one (the mental-rational) becomes deficient for being insufficient. The human form is changing. That is to say “human nature” is changing by the irruption of time into consciousness, throwing all the old metaphors into disarray and confusion. It should be obvious that “trickle down theory” in economics was based upon a deficient metaphor as well, and which is no longer true of our real social situation. Right here is the essential meaning of that traditional saying that “time makes hypocrites of us all”. We are trying to live with our feet in two different worlds, a “three-dimensional” past and a “four-dimensional” future, and according to cognitive maps and metaphors which are no longer adequate. This is the prelude to catastrophe.
The new quadrilateral logic is a revolution in human consciousness because it replaces the “pyramid of power”. It’s not a model of “trickle down” of wealth so much as “diffusion of knowledge”.
Implicit in Blake’s “fourfold vision” and in Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral “grammatical method” and Cross of Reality is also a critique of contemporary economic theory. There is no “trickle down” here. Rather the model is one of “diffusion”. Nature and human nature ain’t the same anymore because the human form and the cosmos have become fourfold in structure, not threefold as in the mental-rational consciousness and in the limits of its dialectical or triadic self-understanding, which could only be represented as a triangle or pyramid.
Idolatry, or what we call “culture of narcissism” as well, is the result of metaphors that have become opaque to penetrating insight. The symbolic form actually becomes “diabolic” because it no longer reveals, but obstructs, obscures and hinders perception and insight (or for that matter, hindsight and foresight as well).
But as you will perhaps observe about the Cross of Reality also (and this is the “integral” nature of the integral consciousness), each of the quadrants of the cross itself forms a triangle or pyramid. The illuminating eye is still at the “summit” as it were, but now there are actually “four summits”, four directions and not just one. This is perhaps most clear in Jacob Boehme’s illustration of the fourfold vision,
This is the “Holistic Philosophy” and holistic/integral consciousness illustrated. The centre of the cross of reality corresponds, in effect, to Gebser’s “universal way of looking at things” rather than the “point-of-view-line-of-thought” structure.
So, yes indeed, the “cross of reality” and the fourfold vision are very revolutionary ways of reconceiving “nature”, “human nature” and therefore the “good society”, with profound implications for social philosophy and a reordering of the social times and spaces, not according to a pyramid structure and metaphor, but a diffusionary one.