Today is voting day in Canada, and a good opportunity, therefore, to talk about the higher meaning of the word and the act of voting. Many people take it far too lightly and frivolously. But it also has a deeper — one might say even “spiritual” — significance.
The word “vote”, of course, comes from vox — voice. It is “having your say”, giving your “yes” or your “no” to political or social tendencies or trends.
This “universal franchise” was a very long time in the making. As an ideal, its origins date back to at least the 12th century, vague echoes of which still reach down to our day in the phrase “vox pop” — the popular voice. The original full phrase is actually this: vox populi, vox Dei — “the voice of the people is the voice of God”. But, since God died, only this stump and residue of the original saying — “vox pop” — has remained. That’s significant in itself.
If the voice of the people is the voice of God, you can see why there might been a deep democratic urge in Christianity. To liberate the voice of the people was to free the voice of God to speak to all and everywhere. It took many generations of struggle to liberate the voice from its various shackles, inhibitions, and constraints.
Vox populi, vox Dei has been been resurrected, however, in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and in his remark that “God is the power that makes men speak” — that is, the power that enthuses human beings so that they speak, for that is the meaning of the word “enthuse” — en-theos, or “a god within”.
Now, just what does all that mean?
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. So begins the Gospel of John. It’s an auspicious beginning. John was responding to Heraclitus’s notion of the Logos, and that’s actually the term John used: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God”. The word “Logos” does indeed mean “word” or “speech”, but in a very special sense. For Heraclitus, the Logos was in all things and most especially in human beings. It was the principle of integrity or the integral principle. In fact, the Logos as Heraclitus understood it, is pretty much the same as the holographic principle today. The same Logos is endlessly repeated and reflected in all things — the macro and the micro.
The word “Logos” is notoriously difficult to translate, but its equivalent is the Buddhist “dharma“, which is also notoriously difficult to translate. The words “dharma” and “dogma” are related, of course, in the notion of “doctrine” or “teaching”, but the dharma is also in everything, like the Heraclitean Logos. Everything is a teaching.
For Rosenstock-Huessy, this Logos was represented in human grammar — as articulated speech. Articulation is integration — as the word “articulate” itself means — to join together, which is pretty much the meaning of the Greek word “symbolon“. The opposite of the Greek “symbolon” is “diabolon” — to separate or divide or thrust apart.
So, now you see where vox populi, vox Dei makes sense — articulating or “symbolic” speech was unifying, integrating, a joining together, a “making whole”. It was Genesis, while the speechless or inarticulate state was the opposite, “diabolical” — a dividing, a separating, disunifying, and disintegrating.
We’ve talked earlier about “the Guardians of the Four Directions” being a very common motif in practically all human cultures. The guardians of the four directions are the four dragons of Chinese lore (and the Jade Emperor is the equivalent of the Logos in this context). The guardians of the four directions are Mark, Matthew, Luke and John, the four evangelists, and the Logos is depicted as Christ on the Cross. The guardians of the four directions are the North, South, East, and West directions of the North American aboriginal Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel, and the representative of the Logos is the man or woman who “speaks from the centre of the voice”, which is the centre of the Sacred Hoop because “the Sacred Hoop is in language”. The guardians of the four directions are also Blake’s “four Zoas” of the disintegrate Adam, who re-integrated is the resurrect Albion. Albion is also a representation of the Logos. The guardians of the four directions are the four beasts who surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, and are likewise the same as “the four riders of the apocalypse” too. The Guardians of the Four Directions are the same guardians who gifted their begging bowls to the Buddha upon his enlightenment, but which the Buddha, as legend has it, “united with his own for the sake of the dharma”, that is to say “Buddha Mind” is also the Logos become conscious of itself.
Here, once again, I’ll provide illustrations of those four Guardians before speaking to how they are still represented today in Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality and in articulating human speech.
I trust, from these illustrations, that the implicit pattern will become evident. The source of that pattern is the Logos. The four “Guardians” are emanations or emissaries of the Logos, or dharma. And the four person system of grammar is also a representation of the guardians of the four directions (You, I, We, He/She). And there is a connection between all these and Jung’s four psychological types or four functions of consciousness, as thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing, for they are indeed the true “four guardians” who are represented in all these personfications or mandalas, and which William Blake calls the four Zoas of the disintegrate Adam.
Now, these same four guardians reappear in Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality and his grammatical method or “speech-thinking”. “Through speech society sustains its time and space axes…. Without articulated speech man has neither direction nor orientation in time or space. Without the signposts of speech, the social beehive would disintegrate immediately”.
Society, Rosenstock-Huessy notes, is beset by four potential “diseases” — war, revolution, anarchy, and decadence. Each attacks one of the time or space fronts of the social order: war attacks the outer, revolution attacks the past, anarchy attacks the inner, and decadence attacks the future. What Rosenstock calls “vital speech” erects defences against these four diseases. The four defences are power, respect, unanimity, and faith (inspiration) respectively. As Rosenstock puts it “Social research is imprisoned in a reality, in a cross of reality, between the four simultaneous tasks to cultivate faith, power, unanimity, respect, all four. Social research is the search for the restoration of the perpetual balance.”
“Vital speech has as its raison d’etre the conquest, the perpetual conquest of these four trends…. To the four diseases, four different styles of speech bring relief. Men reason, men pass laws, men tell stories, men sing. The external world is reasoned out, the future is ruled, the past is told, the unanimity of the inner circle is expressed in song. People speak together in articulated language because they fear decay, anarchy, war, and revolution. The energies of social life are compressed into words. The circulation of articulated speech is the lifeblood of society. Through speech society sustains its time and space axes. These time and space axes give direction and orientation to all members of society. Without articulated speech, man has neither direction nor orientation in time or space. Without the signposts of speech, the social beehive would disintegrate immediately” (from “In Defence of the Grammatical Method”, Speech and Reality, p. 16).
In other words, the “guardians of the four directions” reappear again, but now in grammatical forms which have become institutionalised: reason (science, power), politics (law, future, faith), religion (narratives, respect), song (art). A little reflection will show that these also have something to do with Jung’s four functions of consciousness itself, in terms of thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing (or intuition).
The rationale for the vote and for vox populi, vox Dei resides in the faith that, despite the ignorance and follies, prejudices and irrationalities of the individuals or specimens, society itself — the habitat that is formed by speech, as it were — will always try to achieve a balance or equilibrium between the four directions by cultivating the “guardians” — unanimity (inner), power (outer), respect (past), faith (future).
The vote or the universal franchise was, itself, an expression of faith in the principle represented by vox populi, vox Dei. It often seems a pretty shaky faith, to be sure. Our confidence in the potential maturity of individuals to overcome narrow and petty self-interest and narcissism is often challenged when we witness “extraordinary delusions and the madness of crowds” or “the march of folly”. But it’s then that the “guardians of the four directions” revert to their frightful aspect as “the four riders of the apocalypse” — the “correction” and rectification of the imbalance and the disequilibrium. The old speech is diseased and becomes discredited. A new language is born in the process, however, in an attempt to restore the equilibrium of the “cross of reality”.
“Vox populi, vox Dei” or “the Sacred Hoop is in language” or “God is the power that makes men speak” have pretty much the same meaning. But that meaning has yet to be revealed and manifested in its full significance as a pointer to the Heraclitean Logos. But the vote, at root, is an expression of confidence that the mature individual is potentially capable of serving as a responsible agent of this “Logos” himself or herself.
Many people are losing faith in the “Modern Project” and the democratic experiment. They have become very cynical about its mistakes and failures and the weakness of individuals. But that’s because they really don’t understand what “self-government” is, and because of a faulty self-understanding. The human form (and society) is fourfold in nature, not a dualism of subject-object or even, indeed, a matter of maximising self-interest. The experiment in democratic “self-government” will succeed only when we all come to realise that we are the guardians of the four directions ourselves, and it is we who balance the time and space fronts of the social order, which we will know when we come to know ourselves as fourfold beings, and that consciousness is multidimensional and, indeed, “radiant” in the way illustrated by the cross of reality — focussing, in turns, inwards and outwards, and backwards and forwards, and that it brings different tools, moods, or functions to each.
Every individual is this same “cross of reality”, but they often act only in or from one-dimension of this reality.