By chance I happened to discover that Wikipedia has an article on the pronoun “we”. As a matter of interest, since we have discussed the problem of forming a successful “we” in our highly individualistic culture, I thought I would bring it to your attention.

Of interest to note is how some languages, such as Cherokee, have multiple forms of “we”. It’s even mentioned that the pronoun is even more highly differentiated in Fijian and other languages of the South Pacific Islands, having as many as six forms of the pronoun “we”.  Although it isn’t mentioned in the article, even Old English supposedly had at least two forms of “we” (another for a dual “we”, or marital “we”) but one has been dropped.

One might expect such precise differentiation and attention to the various communal forms in tribal societies where living together in tight-knit communities is even a matter of survival. It reflects what Harold Innis once wrote about in The Bias of Communication. Some languages, and media of communication, have a “bias” towards one or another aspect of time or space which may result in one aspect of the cross of reality being over-organised and others being neglected and subsequently under-organised, or remaining largely disorganised. The focus of consciousness is not in that direction of the full cross of reality. That neglected front becomes the society’s possible “Achilles Heel”, subject to attack by one of the four “diseases” of the social order identified by Rosenstock-Huessy: decadence, anarchy, war, and revolution. Each of these attacks one of the space or time fronts of the cross of reality, and are four forms of nihilism. Decadence attacks the future, revolution attacks the past, war attacks the outer, and anarchy attacks the inner front. All earlier civilisations succumbed to one or another, or more, of these four.

As you might surmise, that also goes a long way in helping us to understand Gebser’s taxonomy of civilisations as “structures of consciousness”. The particular “bias of communication” here is reflected in the differentiation of the archaic, the magical, the mythological, and the mental-rational types of civilisation. There is a bias of attention and intentionality in one direction of the full cross of reality, and that bias is easy enough to identify for each:

1) the archaic — the past, origin
2) the magical — the outer, power
3) the mythical — the inner, eros.
4) the mental-rational — the future, “progress”.

The Cross of Consciousness StructuresWhere the consciousness structure is positioned on the Cross of Reality is largely a question of what value of space or time (inner or outer, past or future) is accentuated, or where the emphasis or “bias” falls. Although the mental-rational tends to be associated with the “objective” (or power) front, it’s the only structure of consciousness that emphasises time as progress. None of the others have any concept of time as an arrow or as progressive time (futurity).

This arrangement, while corresponding to Rosenstock-Huessy’s Cross of Reality, or the Four Zoas of William Blake’s “fourfold vision” also, would appear to be reflected equally in Jung’s “psychological types” or four functions of consciousness and perception, as noted earlier,

Jung's four psychological functionsThis is not a precise “one-to-one” mapping, in terms of the spatial and temporal coordinates and axes of the cross of reality. It’s intended to reveal the quadrialteral logic that is implicit in these various mappings, and to suggest how Gebser’s “civilisations as structures of consciousness” correspond to the development (and eventual over-development in relation to the others) of one or another faculty of consciousness, each of those faculties having a “bias” towards one aspect or dimension of the full cross of reality.

And from these mappings and illustrations, we get a pretty good idea of what Gebser understands as “integral consciousness”, and what William Blake represented as “Albion”.



3 responses to ““We””

  1. donsalmon says :

    This is vitally important. Speaking at a much simpler level, when we began our site (www.remember-to-breathe.org) focusing on mindfulness and the brain, my single biggest concern is that almost all contemporary meditation/therapeutic techniques (particularly, I suspect, in the United States, but now probably around the world in most developed countries) end up strengthening the false self. They are seen as a way of “fixing” “me.”

    Jan (my wife) and I had LONG discussions about how to balance this tendency, and we came up with “The Most Important Page.” Essentially, the “MIP” page is about the fact that we don’t exist as isolated individuals. it also makes quite clear that this doesn’t simply mean we get “swallowed” up by the “community” (the libertarian delusion), or by “nature” (the libertarian attack on community) or lost in a primitive ‘group’ consciousness (the general Freudian attack on mysticism and Eastern philosophy – well, MIP doesn’t address this specifically but I hope people who are familiar with these issues will find it implicitly clear at least).

    it’s a fascinating issue. I stopped doing psychotherapy altogether in 2006 because I felt that people were coming to me wanting to get “fixed” so they could be “better separate egos.” I didn’t want to have any part of this so I just found other work – a lot of it involves fighting judges who want people to be stronger “individuals’ not “dependent’ on the government, even if they are suffering from intractable pain or have IQs that make them essentially functioning on the level of a 3 or 4 year old child.

    Amazing how pervasive this issue of the “I” and the “we” is, the utter confusion we have about it, and how simple the solution is – just look. As the Buddha said, in the seen, just let there be the seen, in what is heard, just what is heard. Don’t add anything. Just look. Just be.

    Of course, easier said than done.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “Decadence attacks the future, revolution attacks the past, war attacks the outer, and anarchy attacks the inner front. All earlier civilisations succumbed to one or another, or more, of these four.”

    Enlightening and insightful. Thank you for such clarity and depth of thought.

    In the link at “The Bias of Communication,” it says that:

    “The king tried to make the worship of the solar disc as an imperial religion.”

    That statement in that link is, in my opinion, in error. Here is why………

    One of the most important things I learned from “longsword” back when he was commenting on the Guardian in 2006 – 2007 politics was that in order to know who presidents really are and predict in which direction they will make decisions is to know who their advisers are through and through. Now, this is an EXTREMELY important point even in relation to understanding politics and decisions in the ancient past. So, it’s not just “the king” who tried to do this or do that, but a better understanding of the history all the way to the present is gained when we also know who were the people who surrounded the kings of the past? Who were these people who always hid behind the kings (or in their shadows – as encouraged by one of their most recent disciples – Samuel Huntington) but acted through the sleeves of these same kings/presidents/monarchs/clergy/turban-heads, etc?

    Although we can debate who these shadow figures have been since the time of the pharaohs, but the effect of their meddling from the shadows and mingling in the dark is always quite obvious when you see kings and presidents making decisions in the direction of dissolving national forces and sovereignty, reducing commonwealth and transferring it to private entities, impoverishing the indigenous people of nations, and raising the mantle of “business” above all other concerns and national welfare.

    These shadow figures are the most important factor – if not the only factor – in the way of constructing a “successful We.” These dark forces work behind the scenes with kings and absolute monarchs (where there are kings and absolute monarchs); they work withe banks and financial institutions (where these institutions run the show); they work their demonic deeds in collaboration with long-bearded, turban-wearing false prophets or a made-up and fake false religion (where such conditions are present); and ad infinitum.

    Where does a “successful We” exist when we look across the planet? We must take lessons from those societies to flush out those shadowy figures from around presidents, kings, leaders, so people once again can unite and become the true participants in the governments that rule them.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      By the way, these shadowy figures who prevent the formation of a “successful We” are the same ones who promote “competition” over cooperation and collaboration.

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