We hang together, or we shall hang together, is the fate of the intellectuals. — E. Rosenstock-Huessay, Speech and Reality
The “end of the Modern project”, the post-Enlightenment or post-modernity, is the story of the First World War. The disillusionment of the intelligentsia was profound. The theme of dystopia became prominent in literature following the Great War. Many retreated from social engagement completely into a private metaphysics, reactionary attitudes, or began to concern themselves with obstruse matters of relevance only to an insular like-minded group. Others became merely courtiers and minions of the power elites. In 1927, Julien Benda complained about La Trahison des clercs (The Betrayal of the Intellectuals — albeit for many of the wrong reasons) and the charge that the intellectuals had abandoned their posts and their responsibilities still echoes down the decades in the critiques of Noam Chomsky, John Ralston Saul, and Chris Hedges. Ralston Saul even refers to the intellectuals as “Voltaire’s bastards”.
And not without good reason.
I concluded my day yesterday by posting a comment to the last entry in The Chrysalis that, in a nutshell, summarised The Chrysalis and served as a kind of synopsis of everything I’ve read about or thought about regarding the meaning of contemporary events. I arrived at the synopsis as a culmination or climax upon concluding my reading of Thomas Berry’s book The Great Work: Our Way Into the Future, and reflecting on the intersection of concerns expressed there with the work of Jean Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, Iain McGilchrist, Nietzsche, Aurobindo, and many others, all of whom have attempted to articulate the theme of an impending or incipient “new integration”, even a species change, and all of whom might well be described as “apocalyptic thinkers”, (or as we might put it optionally, “thinkers of the chaotic transition”). By “apocalyptic” I understand its original meaning as “revelation” or “disclosure”, also represented by the dancing god Shiva — the dance of creative destruction or the dance of “the shattering truth”.
The specific instance of this meaning of the apocalyptic as the coincidentia oppositorum was neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s “stroke of insight” as she described it in her TED talk, which was in a quite literal way a shattering revelation, a revelation born in the midst of the catastrophic — the dance of disillusionment in the ambiguous or paradoxical sense of that term. And I can’t emphasise enough, really, how much Bolte-Taylor’s personal experience is the model and pattern for what we can anticipate as the meaning of the “chaotic transition” on a larger scale. Her trauma and revelation was Shiva’s dance played out in microcosm.
“Will to power” was identified by Nietzsche as the fundamental operative force pervailing in the cosmos. Until Castaneda came along, it really wasn’t possible to properly interpret this “will to power” other than as a drive to domination. But don Juan’s understanding of “intent” as the fundamental force operative in the cosmos provided a proper context for understanding what Nietzsche intended to say by “will to power”. In actual fact, “intent” is not quite identical with “will” at all.
What Phenomenologists call the “intentionality of consciousness” is a reference to this same will to power as being also don Juan’s intent. Don Juan also uses “intent” almost synonymously with “the force of awareness”. That is to say, similar to the principle of Phenomenology in which the act of attention or perception simultaneously intends the world it perceives. Consciousness creates form. In effect, what is called “intent” is what is also called “creativity” or the “creative force”. It is this implicit “force of awareness”, understood as intent, that gives substance to “Seth’s” oft repeated remark: “You create the reality you know.”
As noted in a comment in the last post, those who balk at diving into Iain McGilchrist’s lengthier book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World will be pleased to know that McGilchrist has published a precis of the book as an e-book entitled The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning, which is available through the usual online sources. This is a 10,000 word essay. It’s quite inexpensive, and all the core themes and ideas from the lengthier book are presented in the essay. It’s a good synopsis of what’s in the book.
As noted earlier, I don’t think we can appreciate fully the nature of contemporary events (or much of history for that matter) without reference to neurodynamics and brain asymmetry as described by McGilchrist, inclusive of the emergence of “ecology” and the bearing of that on the meaning of Jean Gebser’s “mutation” towards the integral consciousness. Ecologics or ecodynamics is one of the manifestations of this mutation. And it is somewhat surprising, then, that it isn’t raised in McGilchrist’s book, which takes a rather pessimistic tone about the human prospect.
“The older tension in human affairs between conservative and liberal based on social orientation is being replaced with the tension between developers and ecologists based on orientation toward the natural world. This new tension is becoming the primary tension in human affairs.” — Thomas Berry, The Great Work (p. 107).
I know there will be (and even is) a temptation to associate left and right, or liberal and conservative orientations, with the divided brain. There is even some of this evident in McGilchrist, largely owing to his intellectual commitment to Hegelian dialectics, which I critiqued in an earlier review of aspects of The Master and his Emissary. But if you watch Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk closely, you will see that “left” and “right” are interpretations of the left-hemisphere alone and are not really all that relevant to brain bilateralism.
On the other hand, I do think that Berry is quite right, and that the political tension between “developers” (or those more broadly that Nietzsche contemptuously dismissed as “the Improvers of mankind”) and “ecologists” is related to brain bilateralism.
Upon Ed Levin’s earlier prompting, I dug out Thomas Berry’s books that had been idling unread in my bookshelf — The Dream of the Earth and The Great Work. I have begun with The Great Work, and I’m very pleased to have discovered this book. Not only is it a fine illustration of what Nietzsche means by “Be true to the Earth!”, Berry also is, in my estimation, a very good approximation — an evident precusor, an incipient manifestation — to what Jean Gebser anticipated as “the integral consciousness”. These two themes of fidelity to the Earth and self-transcendence (and also what I’ve called “the return of the native”) come together in Berry in a remarkable way, even though neither Nietzsche nor Gebser are referenced in the text of The Great Work at all.
The rocker, Henry Rollins — whose look of square-jawed determination suggests the “universal soldier” rather than the sensitive artist that he is — has written an interesting piece that appears in today’s Guardian: “Our species is a ruinous pain in the ass“. It is, for me, an interesting piece not only because it speaks to that mood of bad conscience and suicidal self-loathing and near despair afflicting the human species (that Nietzsche so aptly described in the opening pages of his Thus Spake Zarathustra), but also because it is so rich in what it does not say.
Yes, it is kind of nihilistic in its mood of human self-loathing and “self-disgust” (for here Rollins is not speaking of himself alone, but as an agent of the species itself), but “between the lines” one also reads a longing, a yearning, a higher aspiration for self-transcendence that somehow seems frustrated by “reality”. And in this too, Rollins simply speaks as a representative of the species also. Here, in this one man, is an embodied example of Gebser’s “double-movement” of the times — the pendulum swing between a great “No” and a great “Yes” to existence. It’s the mood that I once put into a riddle: “Everything is as it should be. Nothing is as it could be.”