Homeostasis, Equilibrium, Steady State

A unified outlook, which Gebser anticipates as the “arational-aperspectival”, will eventually have to come to the realisation that integral consciousness (equanimity), biological homeostasis, cosmic “steady-state” and social equilibrium are all one and the same. And that is the gist, pretty much, of what we anticipate as the unification of consciousness and cosmos. And this is also what is represented in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”.

There are precedents for this, in fact, although they only hinted at the possibility of a fifth form or “quintessence”. The pre-Socratic philosophers already had a fourfold model of the human form, in terms of the four elements Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, and their associated “four Ages of Man”. What they lacked was the fifth — the unifying “quintessence” that would account for kosmos or “order”, as the word means.

Here the parable of the blind men and the elephant is also of relevance. The pre-Socratics often argued amongst themselves which of the four elements was the true “archon“, the elder or first element to which the others owed their existence and their allegiance. Some thought it was water, Heraclitus held that true archon was fire. But over all of this was the question of what held the four powers of earth, air, fire, and water in relative balance or homeostasis — the quintessence.

This wasn’t simply an “academic” question either. It was a vital matter of self-knowledge and even survival, for the “soul”, as such, was under the sway of one of these elements, being either “moist” or “dry”, or “hot” or “cold”, and so on. The Greek understanding of “physis” or what we call “nature” or “physical” did not allow for a distinction between the “in-here” and the “out-there”. Physis was the realm of life and not matter minus life. Earth, air, fire, and water were the essential living substances or powers that corresponded to the metabolic system, the respiratory system, and nervous system and the circulatory system of the body, and through Greek history, the soul or “psyche” was associated with one or another system — either with the limbs, or with the blood or heart, or with air (spiritus or pneuma), or with the eye-brain pathway (nervous system). And so, to a certain extent, the pre-Socratics recognised that there were “species of consciousness” or different structures which they associated with the primary elements, as did some teachings in India (as mentioned earlier).

Consequently, these are associated with Jung’s four consciousness functions — thinking, feeling, willing, sensing — and life or kosmos was a matter of their homeostasis or dynamic equilibrium. What held them in equilibrium or homeostasis was the question of the “fifth”. In the East, the fifth was called “akasha” (or “space”) but for Heraclitus, the quintessence was the mysterious Logos. The akasha was, up until recently, also referred to as the “luminiferous aether“.

So, the pre-Socratics had a concept of the “fourfold Self” and they explained the differences in character as owing to the preponderance of one elemental substance in the psyche over another. In other words, they already had a conception of the psychic ecology as an equilibrium or homeostasis or steady-state. Preserving or enhancing that equilibrium was the quest for the “Golden Mean” or “Golden Rule” because hubris, or “sin”, was upsetting the homeostasis, which brought down Nemesis. “Nothing too much”, “nothing to excess”, “know thyself” were all pretty much tied to their fear of hubris and Nemesis, for death is another name for “homeostatic failure” and the loss of equilibrium.

Ethos anthropoi daimon, or “character is fate” as it is often translated, is related to this fourfold conception of the elements, where “ethos” could very easily be taken to mean a “structure of consciousness” or the preponderant influence of one element in the psyche over another. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” is the equivalent expression from Scriptural sources. Your fate is your ethos means, in effect, that “you create the reality you know” as your fate. For Heraclitus, your fate was not the work of the gods per se, but the working out of your inner ethos. The contemporary take on that idea of ethos as fate is Percival’s interesting book Thinking and Destiny.

Although Heraclitus was aware that the principle of equilibrium, order, balance, and homeostasis was what he called “the Logos“, and which he discovered by means of “introspection”, he was not understood by his contemporaries, and was ever-after called “Heraclitus the Dark” or “Heraclitus the Obscure”. Others, however, have named Heraclitus “the Greek Buddha”, with good reason. What has survived of Heraclitus’s teachings and doctrine (which is very little) is very much identical with the Buddha Dharma. Later, St. John was to take the Logos of Heraclitus  — “In the beginning was the Logos…” which translators have translated as “the Word”, even though Logos is notoriously difficult to translate as much as “dharma” is, seeing as they are equivalent in meaning. Logos is the dharma is the Word.

Whatever one chooses to call it, it is why there is Kosmos and not Chaos. It is the principle governing all things, and which upholds all things and sustains all things and is in all things, which makes Kosmos a beautifully reasonable place to be and not an utterly insane hell. Until, that is, the elements loose their connection to and contact with the Logos (which they now appear to be doing).

A little reflection will suggest that Gebser’s four consciousness structures — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational — have something to do with the classical four elements, as also appearing in other contexts as “the Guardians of the Four Directions”, even in terms of the four evangelists of the Gospels — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John in their zoomorphic forms.

And, of course, I never tire of mentioning in that respect Blake’s “four Zoas” of the disintegrate Adam, and their re-integration in the resurrect “Albion”. In effect, the Logos is the dharma is the Word is Albion.

The mysterious fifth or quintessence is also what is being sought in the form of the “Theory of Everything” or “Integral Theory” that will finally unite the four cosmic forces of physics as electro-magnetic, gravitational, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The irony that we have travelled all this way only to return to the same issue of the four cosmic powers “in search of an author”, as it were, shouldn’t be lost on anyone. The same principle of homeostasis or equilibrium or “steady-state” that governs life in the form of the body remains the same principle for maintaining the dynamic equilibrium or homeostasis of the cosmic forces and will, undoubtedly, prove to be awareness itself. And so “luminiferous aether” may not have been far wrong.

The unification of consciousness and cosmos, in and through the mysterious fifth — the Logos — is the “coming attraction”. But a little reflection would suggest that the four fundamental cosmic forces of physics, the four primal elements of the pre-Socratics, the “Guardians of the Four Directions” and Gebser’s four civilisational types as “structures of consciousness” or in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” are all connected in some mysterious, yet to be fully revealed or realized, way, and which would undoubtedly, change everything.

Last night, I watched the DVD of the movie “Lucy”. The gist of the story, if you disregard all the special effects and props, is the journey of a woman named “Lucy” from “point-of-view” to “cosmic consciousness”. It may well be an intuitive portend of the future “integral consciousness” and which may, one day, no longer be the stuff of science fiction. But it’s certainly interesting that these kinds of themes of the surmounting of the subject-object dichotomy or “point-of-view” in the unification of cosmos and consciousness are starting to become quite pronounced in contemporary arts.

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2 responses to “Homeostasis, Equilibrium, Steady State”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    Last night I was thinking of the prodigal daughter and here you are writing about Lucy the daughter that journeyed from the state of the limited consciousness to the cosmos consciousness. Lucy which I have asked you months ago to write about. The devil refused to bow to Adam saying I am better than him because I have been created of fire and he is made of clay. The reply given , it is not a question of physical formations but the response to the command . The purpose of our life, resides, in do and do not, knowing the one that gave and giving this order, that is moving from the human perspective to the divine perspective, that is the integral consciousness. There is no chaotic transition, every transition is well designed, if only we understand and not be hasty in making conclusion. We need to study the system of knowledge descent from the divine to the human, the system that all prophets and sages kept reminding us of, in order to utilize and do not conceal the benevolent grant and make it a trade for money. Again it is remembrance of the primordial Oneness,

    • Scott Preston says :

      Lucy which I have asked you months ago to write about.

      Did you? Well, there you go. Your wish is my command.

      “Lucy” is an interesting movie. It has some archetypal motifs, if you discount some of the hyperbole that is apparently used for effect. The transition from one state to another is painful and violent (chaotic transition), and initially she has no self-control — no mastery of the changes. The dissolution of the “body-mind” is made quite literal, as if dissolution of the body was a necessary adjunct to cosmic consciousness.

      That violent transition reminds of Gebser’s account of the “wrath of Achilles” that opens Homer’s Illiad, as the violent birth of the individuated consciousness.

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