The Four Enemies: Empathy, Antipathy, and Fearful Symmetry

“Dip him in the river who loves water” — William Blake, The Proverbs of Hell

The rapidity of my posts lately may strike you as annoying and irritating. I sympathise. There is, nonetheless, some method in the apparent madness. My intent is to thoroughly saturate and immerse the readership in this world of the fourfold, the grammatical method, and the cross of reality so that it has a chance to become your new “common sense” —  perhaps like a baptism?

At least, a reasonable candidate for the new common sense (by which I mean the “integral consciousness”).

So, it’s time at last to address the issue of the “four enemies of the man of knowledge” as we encounter them in Castaneda’s writings, and why they are so pertinent to our own situation today. For the four enemies of “the man of knowledge” (or woman of knowledge for that matter) are the same four enemies of the social order and the cross of reality that Rosenstock-Huessy identified as being war, anarchy, decadence, and revolution. There are at least very suggestive and surprising similarities between them.

After this, a summation of where we’ve been, and a well-earned rest (maybe).

In the last post, I introduced (at least for some readers) what Rosenstock-Huessy referred to as the “four diseases” of the social order. They are four forms of social distress and also four forms of nihilism. They are, in effect, Rosenstock-Huessy’s interpretation of the “four riders of the apocalypse”. They are, once again, decadence, war, anarchy, and revolution.  In effect, however, they correspond to the consequences of a structure of consciousness that begins to function in “deficient mode”, as Gebser put it. The “wages of sin” as it were. The total victory of any one of these is the end of society. This rather audacious claim should become clearer as we proceed here.

They are diseases or enemies of the cross of reality in the following senses:

Decadence (decay) attacks the future. It prevents society from reaching the future.
Revolution attacks the past and those formed by the past. The past is “liquidated”.
Anarchy attacks the inner front of society. “Every man for himself” and the communal bonds dissolve.
War attacks the outer front of society. It “invades” from the outside.

There is a reciprocal relationship (a polarity) between decadence and revolution, because they are diseases of the time fronts of the Cross of Reality. There is a reciprocal relationship and polarity between anarchy and war. They are diseases and enemies of the inner and outer fronts of society. Recall Rumi’s insightful remark that “the cure for the disease is in the disease” and you will see that truth in this reciprocal relationship. Revolution may be a “cure” for decadence and revitalise society. War may be a “cure” for the anarchy of egoism and competing self-interests (and very often it is the “constant” just because of that problem of inner cohesion and absence of unanimity, necessitating a “search for enemies”).

Grammatical, articulating speech is society’s defence against these four enemies of the Cross of Reality, according to Rosenstock-Huessy. Articulating speech is integrating speech. When the powers of vital speech fail, decadence, anarchy, war, and revolution have their way with us. War, for example, is not power but violence. Diplomatic speech is power when it achieves its ends without war. Where there is no common speech, only violence can restore order amongst human beings, Rosenstock-Huessy observed. The same may be noted of the other enemies of the cross of reality. Decadence is “lack of inspiration”. Revolution is “lack of respect”. War is “lack of power” and anarchy is “lack of unanimity”. “Lack” in other words, is what Gebser also means by “deficiency” of a consciousness structure. The corrective for decadence is new inspiration. The corrective for revolution is new respect. The corrective for war is diplomacy. And the corrective for anarchy is new unanimity (ie, or “one soul”, a new sense of “we” reborn).

I have also referred to these four enemies or diseases of speech by other names: double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and double-bind. Duplicity is also fourfold in nature. In effect, duplicity is the symptom of “lack” — of a consciousness structure functioning in deficient mode. These also correspond to the four enemies of the cross of reality.

The “forked tongue” leads to the corruption of the Sacred Hoop. The Sacred Hoop today is broken — disintegrate. The Sacred Hoop is mended and healed or reintegrated when a man or woman “speaks from the centre of the voice”. The Sacred Hoop “is in language”. It’s pretty clear that the Cross of Reality, the grammatical method, and the Sacred Hoop, and Blake’s “fourfold vision” are one and the same consciousness.

Now, how do these four enemies of the Cross of Reality stack up against Castaneda’s “four enemies of the man of knowledge“, which are fear, clarity, power, and old age? They also have a polar nature and a reciprocal relationship, which will become obvious when mapped to Rosenstock-Huessy’s Cross of Reality. First, we re-present here the basic model of the Cross of Reality, followed again by the distribution of the persons of grammar according to the Cross of Reality, and then, correspondingly, the four enemies of knowledge in relation to the grammatical method and the Cross of Reality.

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

Cross of Reality AFour Enemies“Knowledge” here means consciousness. The four enemies of knowledge are four enemies of consciousness. Yet they have this paradoxical and ambiguous character which attests to their essential polarity or coincidentia oppositorum. They are also the allies of consciousness and knowledge, as well as the rewards of self-overcoming. That double-nature of the enemies is also reflected in what Rosenstock-Huessy remarked about the four diseases or enemies of the Cross of Reality, that they were “blessings in disguise” because they compelled us to “wake up”.

Here again, a nod to the Hermetic principle of “as above, so below” would appear to be in order, for the four “diseases” of society — or enemies of the Cross of Reality — appear to be the same four enemies of knowledge, and yet have this paradoxical aspect of also being allies of awareness. This double-aspect is also a feature of William Blake’s “four Zoas”. The four Zoas are, in turn, a reference to the four beasts who surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, and very like the “four riders of the Apocalypse” are transforms or “emanations” (Blake’s term for that) of the same four beasts. And since the term “apocalypse” really means “reveal” or “disclose” or “dis-cover”, they would have that polar character of being both enemies and allies. The four enemies of knowledge are very similar in that respect also, so I think it’s safe to say that fear, clarity, power, and old age are also Blake’s “four Zoas”.

As revolution and decadence are reciprocal, fear and old age are reciprocal. “Old age” and “decadence” are clearly equivalent in meaning “enervation”. “Fear” and “revolution” are also equivalent, in terms of “the unknown”. The revolutionist must also face down fear of the unfamiliar, untried, and unknown future in order to act at all. Revolution is a “leap of faith” in that sense. Clearly then, fear and old age correspond to Rosenstock-Huessy’s revolution and decadence, and both correlate to the two time fronts of the cross of reality, past and future.

In don Juan’s explanation of the four enemies, the overcoming of fear is the first step in the way. No change is possible until the seeker of knowledge overcomes fear of the unknown. The reward of that overcoming is clarity. But then clarity shows its dark side — overconfidence. The clarity that was so hard to attain suddenly reveals itself as an enemy, as delusive, for it erases doubt (skepticism). So, then the knowledge seeker is compelled to overcome clarity, and see his or her clarity as being only “a point before the eyes”. When the overconfidence that comes with clarity is overcome, the reward is true power. Fear is mastered. Clarity is mastered. The next step is the mastery of power. Power, however, also reveals itself then as having a dark side. He or she won’t have power, actually. Power has him or her. So the battle is on once again. The seeker must come to master power or be mastered by it, in which case the quest for knowledge comes to an abrupt end.

Clarity and power are reciprocal, then, and correspond to the inner and outer of the Cross of Reality, but in their negative aspects can well be said to correlate to the twin problems of anarchy and war. Why might clarity be associated with the problem of anarchy? Power and war is obvious enough, I think. But overconfidence means also that one ceases to heed or learn from others. One is too self-assured, too self-contained. One ceases to listen, so the seeker must learn to doubt again.

If the seeker of knowledge successfully masters power subsequently, the next and last enemy is “Old Age” — which is the danger of weariness, exhaustion, enervation, and depletion. It’s decadence and death by another name. It cannot be defeated, only fought off. And it is only at the last moment of physical life, when the warrior dances his or her last dance for Death, that he or she really becomes a true man or woman of knowledge — he or she has mastered fear, clarity, power, and death. Then fear, clarity, power, and death are in complete balance. That is fulfillment. And that, says don Juan, “is enough”. That’s the cross of reality.

It’s also the import of Blake’s remark that “more! more! is the cry of the mistaken soul; less than All cannot satisfy Man”.

Now, that’s quite amazing, really, because it is also the dance of Shiva, who dances upon the corpse of the dwarf of ignorance likewise, and who is also depicted as the four-armed, each arm in a gesture symbolising some aspect of the whole consciousness, or of time and space in their fourfold character as being backwards, forwards, inwards, and outwards.

Shiva Dancing the Apocalypse

Shiva Dancing the Apocalypse

So, in some strange way, perhaps not entirely unintelligibly, empathy and antipathy are conjoined, in much the same way that the Gorgon is another aspect of the goddess Athena. And that is likely what William Blake meant when he spoke of  “fearful symmetry”, which many have found quite enigmatic. That fearful symmetry is reflected in the polarity of the four enemies also being the four allies. The resistances they throw up to greater consciousness also aid the strengthening and enhancement of that consciousness, testing it for worthiness and “fitness”.

Mephisto describes himself to Faust in much the same terms: “part of that power that would ever evil do, but always does the good.” And it is likely reflected, too, in Nietzsche’s famous remark: “what does not kill me makes me stronger”.


3 responses to “The Four Enemies: Empathy, Antipathy, and Fearful Symmetry”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    The four enemies of Man of Knowledge: “fear, clarity, power, and old age” are a beautiful itemization of what can be summed up as “we are our own worst enemy.”

    An insightful essay, as usual, nonetheless I am hopelessly behind in reading them.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Or our own best enemy, if you want to put it that way — the worthy opponent, for in saying “we are our own worst enemy” the flip side of that is Nietzsche’s principle of self-overcoming: “in times of peace a warrior goes to war against himself” or “it is not the courage of one’s convictions that counts, but the courage to attack one’s convictions that counts”.

      You are probably familiar with Castaneda’s or don Juan’s “petty tyrant”? Don Juan encouraged Castaneda to find his own “petty tyrant” who would push him beyond the boundaries of himself. But, in truth, that ‘petty tyrant’ is really the ego-nature itself. The petty tyrant corresponds to Blake’s Zoa named “Urizen”, who is also the “Selfhood”, and also what he calls “Satan”. So, yes, in those terms, man is his own worst enemy, but also a very challenging one.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Yes, yes, to say that we are “our best enemy” cuts deeper and closer to the truth of the matter.

        I remember a vague notion of what don Juan termed as “petty tyrant,” and if my memory serves me well, that phrase was connected to an account of a very abusive and tyrannical boss don Juan had had working on a farm in his younger days, once (it may have been the same boss that shot don Juan in the chest and almost killed him before the one who would become don Juan’s benefactor saved him only to have him to return to the same farm and boss in disguise). Eventually, his boss ran into the stable at the wrong time and got kicked in the head by a horse and died. But I remember don Juan was telling Castaneda about this guy and the necessity of these tyrants that enter one’s life, and his point to Castaneda was to be accepting and appreciative of such personalities for they have a purpose to serve.

        But I totally agree with ego-nature being the real and unavoidable “petty tyrant.” It was fortunate that reading Seth taught me that much sooner than I could’ve come to that realization. It saved me from more trouble.

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