Kiss of the Gorgon, III
If you haven’t already done so, it would be advisable to read the first two posts in this series — “Kiss of the Gorgon” and “Kiss of the Gorgon II” — before tackling this one. The previous two set the scene for today’s further commentary on “the Greek Mind”, otherwise known as “the mental-rational structure of consciousness”.
To this point, I’ve been commenting on the apparent “poison pill” that is implicit in the Greek Mind or mental-rational consciousness that, with time, eventually asserts itself and becomes the dominant factor leading towards the self-negation and self-contradiction of the mental-rational consciousness itself. We’ve made note of the curious historical fact that, wherever the Greco-Roman consciousness has been influential in history and across cultures, it has led to a spectacular flowering of culture and civilisation for a few generations only to result, finally, in a precipitous collapse — the recurrent “pendulum of history” as it were. Today, we call this predicament at our “end of history”, “post-modern” or “post-Enlightenment”, or simply “the new normal”. The current epidemic of duplicity — double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and double-bind — is this self-negating and self-contradicting factor now working itself out.
This duplicity is also connected with what Jean Gebser calls the strange, ambiguous, and paradoxical “double-movement” of our times — and I mean “times” in the plural, for there is more than one temporal dynamic at work presently: the Titans of Past and Future are in collision and conflict, as it were, although much of this is happening below the level of ego-consciousness — in that apparently “hidden” or “invisible” or “occult” zone that most people are pleased to call “the unconscious” or “the collective unconscious”. All that is simply a term for what lies outside the narrower horizons and borders of the mental-rational structure itself, which is practically everything. That’s why, when some learn to suspend the mental-rational viewpoint, they call the result “cosmic consciousness”. So, our interest here is in the limitations or deficiencies of the mental-rational or “Greek Mind” in that respect.
We’ve also examined the insight of the mythical structure of consciousness into the reciprocity of Athena, goddess of Reason, and the Gorgon, and how this polarity or reciprocity is once again reflected in the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde myth. That “Gorgon/Hyde” correlation is a reference to that same “poison pill” or self-negating principle of the mental-rational that is represented by Athena or Dr. Jekyll. The classical term for this reciprocity is “coincidence of opposites” (coincidentia oppositorum) or “paradox”, and the process by which one energetic dynamic reverts to the other is the principle of “enantiodromia“, or reversal at the limit or extremity. The point of reversal — of self-negation or self-contradiction — itself is called “Nemesis”.
This should not be too difficult to comprehend, because we are dealing with energy and with energetic facts. And even one of Mr. Newton’s laws of reciprocal motion — every action has an equal and opposite reaction — is an expression of coincidentia oppositorum as it applies to the energetic facts, which helps account for why there is a similar reciprocity between Jekyll and Hyde, or between Athena and the Gorgon. This is simply called the “karmic law of action and reaction”, and it’s quite nonsensical to say that the law of reciprocal action has nothing to do with the karmic law. Energy does not make a distinction between whether it is manifested as “physical” or “psychical”. Thinking is also action and the same rules that govern the energy of thinking apply. The cosmos is a pretty orderly place precisely because the same rules apply everywhere within it. The universe is coherent largely because of the fine balance between action and reaction.
According to this law of reciprocal actions, it would seem that we are fated beforehand to endless recurrence of same — trapped in the pendulum of history like Sisyphus and his heavy rock, which he rolls up the mountain daily only to have it roll back down on him again, and that we are forced to forever pursue an endless zigzag path of rise and fall much like Sisyphus. “What goes round comes round” as the saying goes. Athena will always be overtaken by the Gorgon and vice versa. Dr. Jekyll will succumb to Mr. Hyde and the cycle will start all over again. That’s the principle called “eternal recurrence” and enantiodromia, and it was, in ancient times, symbolised by the ouroboros.
The ouroboros symbol is a symbol of samsaric existence, for samsaric existence is existence ruled by the karmic law of action and reaction or consequence. What rises must fall. We can equally call “samsaric existence” by the name “ouroboric existence”. The terms are equivalent in meaning. “Impermanence” means this ceaseless rising and falling away that characterises this world of Time and Death, and which we call “entropy”. This is also what was called “paganism” — belief in the eternal recurrence of same.
Some minds, finding this situation quite unsatisfactory in which Athena and the Gorgon, or Jekyll and Hyde must forever and again keep trading places according to the karmic law, came to the conclusion that it was not a fate, but owing to a fundamental flaw in human reasoning and consciousness. It was, they held, possible to transcend the fatalism of the karmic law and ouroboric, or samsaric, existence by a leap of consciousness — “the truth that sets free” as Jesus called it. The Buddha, Rumi, Blake, Meister Eckhart, and latterly, Carlos Castaneda, Jean Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy just to name a few. That’s the meaning also of a famous illustration by the German mystic Jacob Boehme.
Exiting from the conditions of samsaric or ouroboric existence, and thus the entangling web of the karmic law, is the meaning of “emancipation” or “liberation” and “the truth that sets free”. It’s also called “stopping the wheel of space and time” or “stopping the world” by “Not-Doing” (Castaneda). This is also essentially what Jean Gebser means, too, when he speaks of “time-freedom” as a characteristic of his integral or arational consciousness structure. “Time-freedom” or “stopping the wheel” are pretty much the same issue — also stopping the pendulum of history and leaving the zigzag path between Jekyll and Hyde or Athena and the Gorgon.
Previous consciousness structures did not know this “time-freedom” as a possibility of the Here and Now. They certainly had an inkling, though, of infinity and eternity — only the located it elsewhere, in “otherworldliness” or the “beyond” somewhere. That dislocation was completely contrary to what the great ones actually taught — “nirvana and samsara are the same” or “the kingdom of heaven is within you” have precisely the same meaning.
So, no. I don’t believe that human beings are fated forever to be subject to the fatalism of the karmic law of action and reaction — that the Gorgon and Athena are forever doomed to trade places, or that Dionysus and Hades are likewise forever doomed to trade places in that eternal recurrence of the same we call “enantiodromia“. The Sisyphus myth isn’t ours unless we surrender to it. The search for “the Golden Mean” or for “the Logos” was always a search for the still point of the revolving world — that vital centre that Jean Gebser calls “the ever-present origin”.