Planetary Man, Global Soul

Just after posting that last post on “Progressives and Conservatives”, I came across an essay by Rosenstock-Huessy, previously unknown to me, entitled “Planetary Man: In Memoriam Oswald Spengler” published in The New English Weekly, 1946. I don’t think that it’s an especially good essay, except perhaps for this novel conception — at least novel for its time, at the end of the World Wars — of “Planetary Man”. “Planetary Man” might be said to correspond to Jean Gebser’s conception of homo integralis. And homo integralis is, in many ways, Nietzsche’s “overman”, or Sri Aurobindo’s “supramental consciousness”, or William Blake’s “Albion”.

Since gender bias is pretty generally pronounced in Rosenstock-Huessy’s writings (and which I think presently limits its wider accessibility) I won’t speak of “Planetary Man” but rather of a genus — “homo integralis“.

From Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Planetary Man” in 1946 to Pico Iyer’s Global Soul in 2000 is five decades, or two generations. The theme of Pico Iyer’s “global soul”, though, is its sense of anomie or homelessness, of uprootedness or rootlessness. Anomie, a term coined by the sociologist Emile Durkheim, pertains to this condition of uprootedness or homelessness. The Canadian philosopher, George Grant, considered this sense of “homelessness” to be a symptom of contemporary nihilism or decadence, as did perhaps another Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, in his Malaise of Modernity (which is available online). Other terms being used for this are “loss of self“, or “liquid modernity“, Karl Marx’s “all that is solid melts into air” or, indeed also, Spengler’s “decline of the West”. Simone Weil also wrote of The Need for Roots. The “post-modern condition” and “end of the Grand Narrative” also pertain to this condition of anomie. One man I read even fearfully described it as “the infinitization of consciousness” which he thought of as nihilism and death. But it is really a loss of definition, a loss of self-definition, a loss of form.

To a certain extent, it all pivots on Nietzsche. To some extent or another, they have all grappled with Nietzsche, for Nietzsche was perhaps the first to intuit the emergence of this “global soul”, and his forecast of “two centuries of nihilism” is essentially what Peter Pogany refers to as “havoc” or what we today call “chaotic transition”; or what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “modern man’s disintegration” or what Jean Gebser similarly calls the breakdown of the “mental-rational consciousness structure” or perspective consciousness.

It is all, in essence, the distintegration of the ego-structure of modern man which is experienced as loss of self or loss of identity. Many experience this as a threat to their very existence, which has become the disruptive issue of a reactionary “identity politics”. The “chaotic transition” is not just something, or even especially something, happening “out there”. It is happening especially “in here” — in the fracturing of the human consciousness structure leading to what we might call “Dionysian madness”. Much that is duplicitous, self-contradictory, hypocritical, chaotic in current events is due to this disintegration, fracture, and even dissolution of the ego consciousness which is being experienced as “loss of self”.

So, in those terms the present crisis is a crisis of consciousness. It’s a crisis of homo sapiens. The human species is in the process of negating itself, whether it understands this dynamic or not. And the abyss or precipice is that this “deconstruction” may indeed become a literal self-annihilation, a self-extinction.

So, things like “the decline of the West” are true. But it is not wholly what it seems. The so-called “deconstruction”, which is seen as decadence, is also, as Gebser (amongst others) insists, a restructuration, which I’ve described as the disintegration of the “point-of-view” consciousness structure and its supercession by the “overview” consciousness. This is in effect the slow and turbulent emergence of the “global soul”, “planetary man” or “homo integralis“. Homo sapiens is being gradually superceded by a new and different species, which will have different capabilities.

One of the milestones or landmarks of this emergence of the “global soul” was Jung’s “discovery” (if you want to call it that) of the so-called “collective unconscious”. That isn’t really an adequate term but it will have to do for the time being. It wasn’t, however, so much a discovery as an intensification and emergence of this “unconscious” into consciousness, or what Gebser calls an “irruption”, and which Nietzsche associated with the Dionysian — Dionysian madness or Dionysian rapture (Seth calls it “the ancient force”, which is called “libido” otherwise). This “libido” is simply energy, and it is the true energy of evolution.

There is, then, all these early attempts to articulate the emergence of a new human type — from Blake’s “Albion”, Nietzsche’s “Dionysian”, Jung’s “collective unconscious”, Rosenstock-Huessy’s “planetary man”, Jean Gebser’s homo integralis, or Sri Aurobindo’s “supramental”. And there’s an old saying that, before the cup can be filled, it must first become empty. The “emptying” however is also called nihilism, deconstruction, loss of self.

Paleontologists are now discovering that, surprisingly, many different kinds of modern humans coexisted at about the same time, even until fairly recently in evolutionary terms. Those that isolated themselves in narrow enclaves, in the belief they were preserving themselves, became extinct. They ceased to evolve further and were eventually discarded by life. There is a general lesson in that, about gated communities, fortress nations, closed minds, and so on. And as pertains to homo sapiens itself we might regard William Blake’s observation in that light,

“For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”

 

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