Species of Consciousness, Structures of Consciousness
Today, I want to revisit what I previously referred to as “the most haunting words in all literature”, which still stand out for me starkly against the background din and cacophony of the “Information Age” despite being uttered over four decades ago by the “energy personality essence” that called itself “Seth”. They sent a chill up my spine when, not so long ago, I first read them. They still send a chill up my spine whenever I re-read them. It seems we missed whatever opportunity there was back then to evade the outcome and fate that Seth describes as our “probable” future.
The following excerpt is taken from the book The Unknown Reality (1977)
Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else. You are in a position where your private experience of yourself does not correlate with what you are told by your societies, churches, sciences, archaeologies, or other disciplines. Man’s “unconscious” knowledge is becoming more and more consciously apparent. This will be done under and with the direction of an enlightened and expanding egotistical awareness, that can organize the hereto neglected knowledge–or it will be done at the expense of the reasoning intellect, leading to a rebirth of superstition, chaos, and the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge.
When, at this point now, of mankind’s development, his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by his institutions, then it will rise up despite those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the use of reason, because reason will have denied the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge, disorganized and feeling only its own ancient force.
If this happens, all kinds of old and new religious denominations will war, and all kinds of ideologies surface. This need not take place, for the conscious mind – basically, now — having learned to focus in physical terms, is meant to expand, to accept unconscious intuitions and knowledge, and to organize these deeply creative principles into cultural patterns…
I am saying that the individual self must become consciously aware of far more reality; that it must allow its recognition of identity to expand so that it includes previously unconscious knowledge. To do this you must understand, again, that man must move beyond the concepts of one god, one self, one body, one world, as these ideas are currently understood. You are now poised, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways. There are species of consciousness. Your species is in a time of change. There are potentials within the body’s mechanisms, in your terms not as yet used. Developed, they can immeasurably enrich the race, and bring it to levels of spiritual and psychic and physical fulfillment. If some changes are not made, the race as such will not endure.
This passage is so incredibly rich in meaning that I could probably start a whole new blog just drawing out the fuller implications of these words, uttered as they were in the historical context of the denouement of the heady optimism and idealism of the counter-culture of that time, when it seemed a whole new world was possible. The “greening of America” (Reich), Where the Wasteland Ends and The Making of a Counterculture (Roszak), the Love Generation and the Aquarian Age expressed that optimism until it crashed and burned in disillusionment — the “flash of light before the bulb burned out” as Roszak later put it. “Saving the world” became a theme of scorn, cynicism, and derision. We missed whatever opportunity there was then to avoid the kinds of outcomes that Seth anticipated as our probable future by our failure to come to terms with the changing reality and the irruption of this “unconscious knowledge”.
That “probable future” is here now, and in place of the anticipation of a new age of Light and Love, we have a complete reversal — the premonition of “havoc” (Pogany), “Dark Age” (Jacobs, Berman), cataclysm and “global catastrophe” (Gebser). The “System”, it seems — the juggernaut of history — would not be turned from its course, but would fulfill its implicit nihilistic logic as a fate in the endgame described by Seth, not excluding the possibility also of the total destruction and annihilation of the Earth and its humankind.
But who or what is Seth? I propose giving Seth the benefit of the doubt when he describes himself as “an energy personality essence no longer focussed in physical reality” but one who has found a way to cross the frontiers separating probable worlds, and he provides a pretty convincing description of how he did that. Just as intriguing is his selection of the name “Seth” to summarise the totality of himself, “Seth” being the name of the third son of Adam and Eve who, for some reason, completely disappeared from the narrative of Genesis into the hidden history of origin and “the mists of time”, who left the field of “history” to his more famous antagonistic siblings Cain and Abel. Just what is the mystery of the Biblical Seth? Why introduce a third son of Adam and Eve into the narrative of Genesis only to have him promptly step out of the whole process of time into some hidden dimension? We are informed that we all “bear the mark of Cain”, and that all civilisation is founded upon a crime. But the mystery of the Biblical Seth suggests, too, an alternate or hidden history that has yet to come to light. If Abel represented the nomadic, and Cain was “the founder of cities”, just what did this tertium, Seth, represent? Apparently, the mythical consciousness felt compelled to introduce this third son of Adam, but without knowing why. Again, you have this quadrilateral relation between Adam and Eve (who were originally one), and the three sons, Abel, Cain, and Seth. The need to complete the quadrilateral (or “cross of reality”) intuitively, but without consciously knowing why, may be the reason why Seth is introduced and then mysteriously disappears.
In any case, the association of the name “Seth” with the “unknown reality” seems highly appropriate. It’s also quite possible that, for some reason, the authors of Genesis introduced Seth as being the Egyptian god by that name, and that the “energy personality essence” that calls itself “Seth” is also referencing the Egyptian deity, who is both the Lord of Chaos and the subduer of Chaos, just as the Gorgon is, in her other aspect, the goddess of reason, Athena. But the disappearance of Seth from the Genesis narrative suggests — mythologically speaking — a hidden “history” of humanity that does not belong to the lineage of Cain. Or perhaps Adam and the three sons of Adam are, in effect, symbolisations of the very “species of consciousness” of Seth or “structures of consciousness” of Gebser, and that the Seth figure in Genesis was a representation of that incipient structure of consciousness that was not yet articulate itself and would have seemed strange to the authors of Genesis — the mental-rational. For it seems easy enough to associate Adam with the archaic consciousness structure, Abel with the magical, and Cain with the mythological. But we don’t know anything about the Biblical “Seth” at all. But Adam and the three sons would seem to parallel the legendary “four rivers” that fed the Garden of Eden.
With that aside briefly out the way, who and what, indeed, are Adam, Abel, Cain, and Seth, and their seemingly close association with the four rivers that fed the Garden of Eden? The idea that they might represent Seth’s “species of consciousness” (or Gebser’s “structures of consciousness”) is quite suggestive, and that the corresponding four rivers that fed the Garden of Eden (latterly, the ubiquitous “Guardians of the Four Directions” that we meet in practically all cultures) are equivalent with Jung’s four functions of consciousness,
Or, for that matter, that Adam, Abel, Cain and Seth may correspond as well to Blake’s four Zoas of his own mythology. There seems to be a clear correspondence between Blake’s “four Zoas” and Jean Gebser’s four “structures of consciousness”, and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, too, in terms of the subjective, objective, trajective, and prejective orientations and “directedness” of consciousness (ie, inwards, outwards, backwards, forwards, respectively).
These orientations as “species of consciousness” still find their expression in the confusion about human self-understanding: homo sapiens, homo religiosus, homo faber, homo grammaticus, homo loquens, homo ludens, homo oeconomicus, and so on. Each purports to find the essence of the human in some specialist activity, and they may be all correct but only as a reflection of the fact, mentioned by Seth, that there are indeed “species of consciousness”. Nonetheless they all attest to the deep confusion about the meaning of “human” today, and the often mutual antagonism between them.
It is not only a reflection of the disintegration of the human form, but also an emergent recognition of its multiformity, diversity, and the multidimensionality of consciousness.
So, enter yet a new term which I came across in Georg Feuerstein’s aforementioned Structures of Consciousness — “homo integer”. Homo integer (or “integral man”) is, for the most part, an aspirational paradigm rather than an existent one, although rare exemplars of homo integer can be found in various times and places. For Nietzsche (and possibly Rudolf Steiner) it was Goethe. For Feuerstein it is Meister Eckhart. For Gebser, it was Jesus of Nazareth. For William Blake, it was the as yet unborn “Albion” who was the model and pattern of homo integer.
Clearly, for anyone who doubts the disintegration of the human form and of the “ratio” of rationality in our time they need only be made aware of the proliferating and bewildering variations on the theme of “homo” that lack any kind of coherent common framework of understanding, and it is the chief task of an “integral consciousness” or integrating consciousness to come to provide that common framework, preserving the diversity and plurality, but without becoming a similar caricature and a specialism itself.
And that’s pretty much the gist of Seth’s remarks, here. Without that inclusive framework, cult after cult, ideology after ideology, gender upon gender, race upon race will war with one another, which is the problem of forming a successful “we” out of an entrenched “you”, or “I”, or “he and she or it”. This is pretty much our current situation. And resolving that was the task that Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy set themselves to realising as “universal history”.
I think the evidence of the disintegration of the human form is quite clear, quite obvious. These specialist definitions of homo (which tend to make caricatures out of living human beings in their exaggeration) do, nonetheless, attest to something real about the human form. It is a multiplicity with roots in the fourfold character of the human being, in terms of the spiritual, the psychical, the mental, and the vital (or spirit, soul, mind, and body).
In effect, as Blake well knew, the human form is at war with itself. And that is quite bizarre.