Scripture, Constitution, Contract
I wanted to continue with this timely discussion of the myth of the market, not least because of the recent conclusion of the TPP deal, but also because of some rather odd parabolic themes in Aurobindo’s The Supramental Manifestation Upon Earth, which I began reading yesterday, as well as converging with some interesting points from Critical Theory raised by Nancy Fraser in the video clip on the Crisis of Governance that Ed Levin provided yesterday.
First, let’s begin with Nancy Fraser’s comments about the contemporary “triple movement” and what that signifies for the meaning of “crisis of governance”.
Fraser’s comments highlight what she perceives as a triple dynamic — one, (taking her cue from Karl Polyani’s The Great Transformation) the tendency of the markets to become disembedded from the social milieu (“transcendental” as it were) to become one “universal market” called “global economy” or centre of “global economic integration”; the second dynamic she calls “social protection” against the hegemony of the globalised market, i.e. defence of traditional society; and a third called “emancipation” dynamic (largely influenced by feminism) which largely rejects both.
After listening to Fraser’s video talk, I linked that “triple dynamic” to my earlier discussion of the three themes of integration as they have appeared in modern history — the earlier God-centric theme (before the “death of God”), and the theme of “Universal Reason” (before it disintegrated with the post-Enlightenment), and the third being the “postmodern” one — the market principle. Correspondingly, Scripture, Constitution and Contract are the central “languages” of each epoch, and that the “triple dynamic” has something to with each — social protection, emancipation, and the flight of the market from the constraints of each of those.
The complaint against so-called “Free Trade” and Commerce is that the law of contract runs roughshod over Scripture and Constitutionality, and that each is defending its turf against the incursions of commercialism and the hegemony of the globalising market. There’s a large measure of truth in that. The “democratic deficit”, so-called, is largely connected with the globalising market. “Fast-track authority” it’s called in the United States, “executive democracy” in Canada are somewhat symptomatic, in the realm of politics, of the hegemony of the market and the market paradigm. Equally the law of contract runs roughshod over Scriptural prohibitions against usury, and the law of forgiveness (“Jubilee”), and so on. The Church regularly comes out with denunciations of capitalism, largely because it wishes to put Scripture back at the centre of the public discourse, while the “emancipation” dynamic wants to put the Enlightenment discourse back at the centre of the public discourse as the perfection of (if not salvation and redemption of) democracy as true public participation.
The hegemony of the market is reflected in the tendency of the Corporation to displace (and even usurp) the former institutional functions of Church, State, and University. Some corporations even have their own “campuses” or “universities” (absurdly called) or otherwise have co-opted public universities as being essentially research departments for themselves. The corporate governance model (managerialism) is even being aped by governments, while corporations have their own code of ethics (or, “mission statements”) which certainly don’t have much to do with Scripture. The Corporation is the dominant postmodern institution, the successor of Church, State, and University and is basically in competition with them for that hegemony.
Some people, including myself, are not very happy about that situation. But this conflict between Church, State, University, and Corporation… what does that remind of except the strife and contention of Blake’s “four Zoas” with each other?
The institutions of Church, State, University, and Corporation are really the secular forms of the mythological “Guardians of the Four Directions”, or the “four dragons” of Chinese mythology also. The Guardians of the Four Directions are represented virtually everywhere, in some form or another — even as the primary elements Earth, Air, Fire, and Water to the ancient Greeks. They are the same “four beasts” that surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, the same “four guardians” that gifted their begging bowls to the Buddha upon his enlightenment. They are the same four evangelists of the Christian Cross in their zoomorphic forms (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John). They are the same four directions of the aboriginal Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel — North, South, East, and West. They are the same “four Zoas” of Blake’s disintegrate Albion/Adam. They are also Rumi’s four nafs or “animal souls” in their positive and negative aspects. And as noted earlier, we still have them in the shape of the four cosmic forces — gravitation, electro-magnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.
All that becomes consciously represented in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and his quadrilateral logic. In fact, so far, I haven’t discovered a cultural group that doesn’t have them in some form or another
But also in all cases, there is the mysterious “fifth” or “quintessence”, and it has been called by various names in various places. The Logos, the “luminiferous aether”, “Buddha Mind”, or “Jade Emperor” in China, or “Christ consciousness”, or, amongst the Sioux, the man or woman who “speaks from the centre of the voice”.
This fifth element is the true integrating principle, generally identified as “vital centre”. It’s called “the supramental truth-consciousness” by Aurobindo or “the Itself” by Jean Gebser, and in Rosenstock-Huessy’s social philosophy it is the anticipated “fifth revolution” that would definitively seal the Modern Era, close the book on the Modern Age, and lay the foundation and cornerstone for a new age he referred to as the Johannine.
This “fifth”, in some form or another, also appears everywhere in the mythology of all peoples as the binding or integrating power and to which the four guardians owe their allegiance and their loyalties despite their differences. The fifth is the Awakened One, the awakened awareness. And in Blake’s mythology of the four Zoas, the Awakened One is called “Albion reborn”.
The Awakened One is the vital centre — the centre of the mandala, the centre of the cross of reality, the centre of the Sacred Hoop and Medicine Wheel, the centre of the “fourfold vision” of William Blake.
So, this is the issue. We won’t solve the moral question, the political question, the social question, the economic question until we awaken this “fifth element” or find “the hidden treasure” — the integral consciousness living from the true “vital centre”. What are the prospects of this? For the “vital centre” is within you yourself. “The body is the temple of the living God”, or by whatever name you want to call “the Itself”.
The absurd belief that the global market is this “vital centre” is only narcissistic projection (displacement) of the vital centre outside oneself. That’s also called “idolatry”, but it is consistent with the meaning of Lasch’s “Culture of Narcissism”.
There are occasional events or “irruptions” (as Gebser calls it) that suggest that “the end is nigh”, so to speak — the awakening of “the Jade Emperor” or Meister Eckhart’s inner “Aristocrat” or Emerson’s “Oversoul” — Aurobindo’s “supramental truth-consciousness” or Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanoia” or Jean Gebser’s “integral consciousness” or “the apocalyptic”, coming like “a thief in the night”, as it were. These writers can, and do, point to a number of promising developments in arts and sciences to that effect and to justify their optimism about a “new age” in the making, although Gebser at least thinks there’s a distinct possibility that we could destroy ourselves and our earth in the very process in a great burst of “deconstruction” a.k.a. nihilism. And Seth also warned about there being a distinct possibility that we could annihilate ourselves in the very process of that awakening to “unconscious knowledge”.
It remains to be seen.