Equanimity is Equilibrium

Equanimity is an important principle in Buddhism, although it’s more often expressed as a negative — non-attachment or non-aversion. In effect, though, equanimity is the positive aspect of non-aversion.

Equanimity is also supposed to be the meaning of “disinterestedness” in scientific method, but this is another area in which the mental-rational consciousness has become deficient. “Disinterestedness” has become confused with indifference and with the “value-free” point of view, which is just nihilism by another name.

As an example: you want your surgeon to maintain his or her poise, which is equanimity. You don’t want a surgeon who is indifferent to whether you live or die, or who woofs his or her cookies at the sight of blood.

The very word “equanimity” attests to the multiformity of human consciousness. “Anima” or “animus” means “soul” or “life force”, and the “equa-” to equality or balance, or what we call “poise”. In effect, equanimity is justice by another name — the sacred balance. Equanimity is what the Sacred Hoop or the “cross of reality” are intended to symbolise. The dynamic equilibrium of the powers, who are called “the Guardians of the Four Directions”, is intimately connected with the equanimity of the consciousness structure itself. And for all practical purposes, “equanimity” has the same meaning as “integral consciousness”.  Or you might say that equanimity and equilibrium are attributes or features of the integral consciousness structure. The mandala is a representation of equanimity.

Sacred Hoop

Sacred Hoop


Jung's mandala of the Self

Jung’s mandala of the Self


Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

Jung's four psychological functions

Buddhist "Vantra" -- Mandala of the Integral

Buddhist “Vantra” — Mandala of the Integral


Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self


William Blake -- the Fourfold Vision

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision

All the above are images of equanimity. Equanimity is dynamic equilibrium. Dynamic Equilibrium is justice, which is distributive justice or restorative justice. In fact, even when we speak of “sustainable” today, we don’t mean stasis. We mean the maintenance and preservation of a dynamic equilibrium.

But how can you achieve equanimity and equilibrium if you don’t know what it is you are attempting to balance?

Equanimity “inside” leads to equilibrium “outside”. The four social diseases identified by Rosenstock-Huessy — decadence, anarchy, war, revolution — are the consequence of the loss of equilibrium. Restoration of the equilibrium is the work of equanimity. There is a close association of Gebser’s meaning of the “vital centre” with equipoise and equanimity, because the vital centre is the centre of the mandala like structure of the cross of reality.

When my Sioux friends speak of the ideal man or woman as one “who speaks from the centre of the voice”, this centre is Gebser’s “vital centre”, which is coincident also with what he calls “the ever-present origin” or Source or Logos or “The Word”. All have pretty much the same meaning. The one who speaks from the centre of the voice speaks from the centre of the Sacred Hoop or cross of reality, and restores its fourfold integrity after some catastrophe has disrupted the dynamic equilibrium of the powers represented in the arms of the cross — North, South, East, West are the Guardians of the Four Directions. But as Jung’s illustration shows, the Guardians of the Four Directions are coincident with the four primary functions of consciousness itself. This is further illustrated in Richard Moss’s “mandala of being”,

Richard Moss' "mandala of being"

Richard Moss’ “mandala of being”

In that sense, equanimity of the soul and equilibrium of the cosmos are identical processes in the sense of being coincidentia oppositorum — polarities of one and the same thing.

A one-sided development and attitude of consciousness, which Gebser calls deficient perspectivisation, results in loss of equanimity. Loss of equanimity immediately translates into loss of equilibrium. Loss of equilibrium is what we call “crisis”, and it is significant indeed that this word “crisis” or “crucial” is connected to the word for “cross” — crucis or crux. It’s also the root of the word “crucible”, which is not usually a very pleasant place to be in. It’s also a crossroads, and traditionally crossroads have been considered very evil places to be at, which is an old superstition of the conservative mind. A crisis demands a decision, and this word “decision” is connected to the word “scissors” — something is cut off or cut away, and it just might be the old and familiar. There is indeed a deep sense of irony in Francis Fukuyama declaring his “end of history” but immediately following that up with his America at the Crossroads. This “end of history” and the “crossroads” are the same thing.

Carlos Castaneda, in a quite moving passage, records how his teacher, don Juan, urged him to follow “a path with heart“. It’s a lesson in equanimity and equilibrium. This “path with heart”, properly understood, is the same path as “the Good Red Road”, “the Way of the Cross”, “the Shariah”, “the Golden Mean”, or the Buddhist’s “entering the stream”. The path is neither rushing ahead nor lagging behind. The path is neither zigging nor zagging to one side or another. Owen Barfield, in his book Saving the Appearances, claims that the Old English word for “sin” was an archery term for an arrow that deviated from its trajectory and missed its mark. In that sense, “paranoia” is the word for that — being beside oneself or eccentric — and “metanoia” is the return to the path. Paranoia is loss of equanimity and equilibrium. Metanoia the restoration of equanimity and equilibrium. The “heart” of the path is, of course, the “vital centre”.

The “path” is no longer understood, precisely because of this loss of inner equanimity and of knowledge of the vital centre. This is also a world-wide phenomenon. The Christian cross has splintered and fragmented. The “Sacred Hoop is broken”. The meaning of the Shariah — the path that leads through the desert to the well — has decayed into mere legalism and moralism and its spiritual content preserved perhaps only in the mystical branch of Islam, Sufism. Buddhism has largely decayed into a mere ideology, especially as nationalist Buddhism, while the secular mental-rational has decayed into mere rationalisation of its inherent self-contradictions.  The corruption is pretty well global.

“The wages of sin is death”, and death, or Nemesis, today takes the form of Rosenstock’s four diseases — war, revolution, decadence, anarchy. Sin is loss of equanimity and equilibrium, just as hubris is deviation from “the Golden Mean”. This, at least, is also intuitively recognised by Gidley in her paper “The Integral Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative“. She apparently doesn’t know the “cross of reality” as such, but she has certainly intuited its disintegrate condition when she writes that,

“We live in an hour of grand transition. The tensions between rival worldviews, globally and locally, cry out for mediatory perspectives. Many perceive the current global tumult as evidence of breakdown of culture and with it the safety of the familiar . They posit their various solutions, such as: the secular neo-liberal economics of globalization, a return to religious fundamentalism, cures for emotional and psychological despair, or just plain war.”

The disequilibrium is global, and the manifestations of that disequilibrium are the familiar ones — revolutionary globalisation (attacks the past), reactionary decadence (attacks the future), choatic or anarchic emotionalism (inner dissolution), and warfare (outer imperialism). These symptoms of a great disintegration or disequilibrium attest to the loss of inner equanimity.

Equanimity is peace within, and peace within is followed by justice without. Synchronisation of times and coordination of spaces are the terms for restoring dynamic equilibrium. But that requires a “new mind”, a metanoia. To think that the internet or “the internet of things” is the solution to the atomisation, fragmentation, and disequilibrium — a technofix — is highly delusional. It will simply amplify the symptoms of the disequilibrium — an apparently “rational” decision, but which is having the wrong outcomes. That’s the message also of Kentaro Toyama’s Geek Heresy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: