The Disintegration of the Consciousness Structure of Modern Man
There’s nothing like a contemporary political campaign in the pursuit of power to reveal the “hidden hand” of Mr. Hyde behind the crumbling mask of Dr. Jekyll — or, “the mask of sanity” as Hervey Cleckley called it. The post-modern condition is the disintegration of the consciousness structure (the ego-nature) of Modern Man. And in historical retrospect, we can see that the first symptoms and growing awareness of this impending disintegration or “deconstruction” occurred in the late 19th century. Everything subsequently follows logically from that insight.
We need to assess our present situation and predicament squarely and soberly.
What Seth once referred to as the “emergence of unconscious knowledge” and of “the ancient force” in our time is no better exemplified than in Nietzsche’s discovery of “the Dionysian”. At the same time, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote his The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in a mere three days as the record of a dream he had. Oscar Wilde wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray which explored much the same theme. The earlier insights of the artists were later confirmed by the scientists — “discovery of the unconscious” (Freud, Jung) and “the psychopathology of everyday life“.
None of these scenarios foresaw a happy conclusion to this bifurcation of the psyche. The “individual” proved itself to be divisible after all. In Nietzsche’s scenario, the irruption of the Dionysian element would result in “two centuries of nihilism” in the disintegration of the “Apollonian” consciousness — the intellect and the personality. Jean Gebser, surveying the emerging madness, wrote of the growing “deficiency” of “the mental-rational structure of consciousness”, while Rosenstock-Huessy wrote of “Modern Man’s Disintegration and the Egyptian Ka” (third essay in I Am An Impure Thinker). Both Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy accepted Nietzsche’s diagnosis and forecast, but sought for a way to “outrun” the dismal consequences of his “two centuries of nihilism” that would result from the disintegration of Modern Man’s personality and consciousness structure.
“Duplicity is the currency of the day” (Pope Francis), “the culture of narcissism” (Christopher Lasch), the “Era of Pretense” (Greer) and “the new normal” are not different things. They are all aspects of one and the same process of disintegration or loss of integrity of the consciousness structure. The ego-nature has become very devious, wouldn’t you say? Duplicity is dissolution and disintegration, and I have also parsed out that duplicity as disintegration into four aspects of “the new normal” — double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and double-bind, with the latter as a fate — a self-contradiction, a self-negation, a self-devouring tautology: the pursuit of “rational self-interest” become indistinguishable from, and identical with, the irrational pursuit of self-destruction; the “end of history” triumphalism being the same as the “Cadmean victory” that I raised in the last post.
Of course, there is a good deal of denial about all this — denial that the culture of Late Modernity has become duplicitous and a self-devouring self-contradiction. But I think that both here in The Chrysalis and in the former Dark Age Blog, I’ve made it plain that this denialism is itself without foundation, and is itself a symptom of the disintegration of the consciousness structure of Modern Man.
It’s difficult to foresee or anticipate the eventual End Game of this dynamic, the terminus of Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”. Jean Gebser anticipated a “global catastrophe” as its inevitable logical consequence, but also saw this catastrophe as a kind of “chaotic transition” between two structures of consciousness — the disintegration of the mental-rational and a re-integration or restructuring as the “aperspectival” or “arational” consciousness. Breakdown as breakthrough. There are certainly signs that this is a possibility. I wouldn’t have named this blog “The Chrysalis” if I didn’t also think so. And I’ve certainly tried to make the case that Rosenstock-Huessy’s “grammatical method” and quadrilateral logic of the “cross of reality” offers a much sounder, more holistic and integral basis than current models for such a “metanoia” or “new mind”.
This is also the prophecy of William Blake — the re-integration of the four Zoas in the universal “Albion”, who is the “cosmic consciousness” — the fully realised awareness beyond-within-behind the ego-consciousness or “Selfhood” as he called it. “Albion” and “the New Jerusalem” is the same as Gebser’s “integral consciousness”. And if anyone deserves recognition as the herald of a “New Age”, it is not so much Castaneda as it is William Blake. If you can penetrate Blake’s dense symbolism, you’ll find a precise map of the fullness of the human form in his “fourfold vision”, and it looks remarkably like Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, too. In fact, the “cross of reality” really does help us gain insight into Blake’s dense symbolism of the four Zoas and the resurrect Albion.
“Metanomics” is what Rosenstock-Huessy called his method — becoming conscious of grammar was the key or “open sesame” to the metanoia or “cosmic consciousness”. That’s the import of his otherwise enigmatic saying that “God is the power that makes men speak”. That statement isn’t any different from the statement of Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi — to arrive at the root and source of language itself is the same as enlightenment.
That alone should teach us a new respect for language, and a corrective for spin, propaganda, perception management, tricks of rhetoric, and insincerity. For it is largely in the abuse and destruction of language that we see the symptoms of a consciousness structure in the throes of disintegration. There’s the reason why “symbolic” and “diabolic” were deemed contraries. Nietzsche’s “devaluation of values” as the meaning of nihilism is nothing less than the abuse and destruction of names and words — their being emptied of meaning.