It Ain’t Rocket Science

It often occurs to me, as I read highly refined and articulated sociological works or cultural philosophies, that they are often just elaborations upon already existing popular expressions and intuitions.

For example, what is Gebser’s “deficient perspectivisation” but what we call “myopia” or “tunnel vision”? And what is “the mental-rational consciousness structure now functioning in deficient mode” but another  way of saying “too clever by half”?

Myopia is an example of the doctor who, I read recently in the news, objected to a ban on plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toothpaste as harmless things because, he stated, they passed right through the human body as waste anyway.

And ended up where?….And where they did what?

But “too clever by half” is an intuition about enantiodromia, and about hybris and Nemesis, isn’t it? It’s a statement about exceeding a limit, overstepping or transgressing on a boundary condition and consequently experiencing a reversal – some perverse outcome, revenge effect, unintended consequence that rebounds on the one who has exceeded the limit. We thought we were being clever, but having gone too far we are instead shown to have been very, very foolish. “Too clever by half “ is an intuition about the karmic law of action and reaction, which is after all not one bit different in meaning from hybris and Nemesis. The consequences of your thinking and acting stick to you, or, equivalently “what goes ‘round comes ‘round”.

“Language is wiser than the one who speaks it” says Rosenstock-Huessy. And these popular expressions are really a case in point. They often hit the mark more accurately than involved social analyses. They are spoken often without real depth of awareness as to their meaning, other than perhaps as an intuition about something or other. So, it is the task of the cultural philosopher or sociologist to draw out the meaning of that intuition, and to, in a sense, redeem the meaning from its lapse into rote formula or vacuous cliché.

At root, what Iain McGilchrist and Jean Gebser simply want to say, finally, is that we have become “too clever by half”, or have succumbed to a fatal myopia and tunnel vision – and all the consequences of that in terms of hybris, Nemesis, enantiodromia or the karmic law. What is involved in all that is a notion of transgression, or overstepping a limit. That is to say, that there really, really is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”.

In truth, it ain’t rocket science. It’s just an elaboration upon what is called “the common sense”. The good social scientist or cultural philosopher just draws out all the aspects and the full implications of that sensus communis as they find it already preformed and performed in everyday speech, and elaborates upon them to show what they reveal about human consciousness and perception. And that’s really what Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy do. They demonstrate by their approach that we already know what it’s all about, it’s just that we’ve forgotten that we know it.

One could write a fairly lengthy tome about the meaning of “too clever by half” and the revenge of unintended consequences. In fact, some have been written, such as James Chiles’ Inviting Disaster: An Inside Look at Catastrophes and Why They Happen or Edward Tenner’s Why Things Bite Back or Paul Virilio’s The Original Accident. I don’t know that they’ve reached the conclusions that Gebser has reached or that which McGilchrist fears (“ambling towards the abyss”), that something has gone dreadfully wrong with the prevailing mental-rational consciousness. But these students of catastrophe and the accidental do point in that direction and give some illustration of meaning of hybris and Nemesis.

“Ambling towards the abyss”, as Iain McGilchrist calls it. But that’s the image of The Fool in the Tarot cards isn’t it? – head in the clouds, abstractedly and distractedly engaged in some fantasy, not noticing that he’s about to step over a precipice, while a little yappy dog tries to warn him. It’s not exactly Modern Man’s image of himself, and who prefers to see himself as a “Winner” with a capital ‘W’.

The Fool

Maybe that little yappy dog’s name is Coleman Barks.

Or maybe it’s Jean Gebser, or Iain McGilchrist, or Rosenstock-Huessy, or William Irwin Thompson, or Jane Jacobs……



9 responses to “It Ain’t Rocket Science”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    When I look around and ask myself about the starry sky, the rosy flowers, the delicious fruits,the rivers and the mountains, about the ball, I and all the billions living on, floating in space without its water pours in space. When I look at myself and other humans with all these faculties of perception and the freedom to choose. The list is long and can not be exhausted but the main questions, what is going on and what is the purpose keep nagging.Is it all in vain. Is it just eat, make love and die. I think that such story is unreasonable, not digestible and absurd. The truth is being gradually revealed. The phenomenal is the door for the real. God never leaves the human unaware of the truth. The school of god took upon itself to teach her students irrespective of time and space until he learns that he is not sitting on this earth in vain and that there is truth that everyone has to be reminded of in order that no one claims that his is not reminded. Return to the source while alive before we return to him as corpse. This is the call of all the good friends Scott is watering his garden from their creeks. Only we have to realize that it is not every one is prone to the right brain as pictured and there are always falls behind,as if god in a process of screening his creatures whom he provided with consciousness.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    I’ve come to the heartening realisation lately that there’s a lot more going on in the world of a constructive and positive nature than I thought. Maybe things have changed since I started blogging or maybe I didn’t see the whole picture at that time. Most of what you hear in the news is about negativity, lousiness, and backstabbing, with the occasional crack in the edifice of negativity. In any event, the crack seems to be widening, from what I can tell. And that’s heartening

    • Scott Preston says :

      Of course, come to think of it, that “crack” could also be the abyss we’re all going to tumble into. Or, it could really be “the crack in the cosmic egg” as described by Joseph Chilton Pierce

      • Scott Preston says :

        If you’ve watched this video of Chilton Pearce there’s something unusual I heard him say — he spoke of having reached writer’s block while writing his book on play, and how he was struck by inspiration. He felt a bolt of lightning strike through his foot, ascend his frame and propel him backwards into the cosmos where he was batted around like a toy.

        That description not only brought to mind Castaneda’s “leap into the abyss” during which he experienced some fifteen “elastic bounces” as he called them, but it is very descriptive of an illustration Blake made of his own “inspiration”, when he felt the spirit of Milton enter him through a lightning bolt that entered through his left foot.

        Blake made an illustration of it

        It’s quite an odd coincidence, and Blake shows himself also propelled as if in a backward somersault much as Pearce described his own experience.

  3. LittleBigMan says :

    That enantiodromia is a lovely rule, only if it would act more speedily. Unfortunately, it doesn’t kick in until one is scraping from the bottom.

    P.S. Too bad that I’ve been away from the Chrysalis for a while. Since late January, and now February and March are going to be crushing months around here.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Enantiodromia is implied in notion that once you reach rock bottom, the only way out is up, or as a song put it (Ozark Mountain Daredevils, I think) “if you want to get to heaven, you got to raise a little hell”. It’s also implied in Heraclitus’ saying “the road down and the road up are the same”. It’s also in Dante’s Inferno — the trip through Hell leads to the gateway to Paradise.

      Speaking of Dante, I was surprised at reading on ibn Arabi’s website of the suggestion that Dante was influenced by ibn Arabi. That’s an interesting suggestion because there’s also an historical anecdote that St. Francis of Assisi was influenced by Shams, the friend of Rumi.

      Which brings to mind something also I was musing over the other day — that the Knights Templar could have been influenced by Sufism, too, or even converts to Sufism, which they may well have learned about during the Crusades. It was, after all, the charge that they “worshipped an image of Baphomet” (Mohammed in all likelihood), but that may have been an elliptical reference to Sufism. The usual historical interpretation of the destruction of the Knights Templar is jealousy of their wealth (they were Europe’s first bankers, which they also learned from the East) but maybe they really did bring back more than knowledge of finance. Maybe they also brought back with them Sufism, and this was the charge of “heresy” against them.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        “if you want to get to heaven, you got to raise a little hell”

        I love it when truth is wrapped in humor 🙂 It makes me remember and connect to the words of wisdom longer with less effort 🙂

        Although I lack my citations now, but I had heard or read somewhere that some Jews who supposedly and ostentatiously converted to Islam, went on later to found the Sufi tradition. For example, this Wiki page falsely claims that Qutb Shirazi was a Muslim, but he was from a Jewish family.

        Unfortunately, I lack the exact citation for that, but I believe that information may have come from “Children of Esther.”

        I had heard that the Knight Templar was also founded by Jews and the internet certainly has some sources which support that claim, but I’m not able to independently verify any of it with my own miniscule knowledge of the Knight Templar:

        But the point of it all for me is that any order of institutionalized religion that has had a stay in the halls of power or cult circles is either a fake or was substantially changed or corrupted from its original source for matters of personal gain.

        Rumi’s “Diwaneh-e Shams-e Tabrizi” is really complicated, but not as much as the work of Blake.

        I was naive – no, I was very naive – to have thought that I could understand it as a whole when I bought Rumi’s two volume magnum opus. I miss my literature professors the most nowadays, which by the way, I valued the least as a teenager, since I was a natural sciences major at the time and prayed at the altars of the likes of Newton and Darwin.

        Now, that picture of “THE FOOL” you have up there perfectly depicts my temperament in those days, albeit with no yappy dog howling to warn me. Oh, well……

        Since you summoned Shams, I thought to pick some easiest verses that I could half-comprehend from Rumi’s “Shams Tabrizi” and read it for you, here it is:

        From Rumi’ “Shams Tabrizi,” (verses 1571):

        “Still in love with the first love, we’ve become old now,
        not even the words of the jealous made us turn round

        Women fear such devotion, proclamations of love,
        no need to tell us otherwise, for we are men among men

        We are men, brave men,
        concealing what we’ve done is not our lot

        Try not to con us with such show of color red to yellow,
        it’s from the dagger of love that we look so yellow

        Thousand kudos to this pain,
        sit with us for we’re friends with this pain”

  4. abdulmonem says :

    The whole mission of the Sufis and prior to them the prophets is to show the humans that knowledge is a divine gift and it is given to those who earnestly and devoutly aspire for it. Contemplation,meditation,concentration and devotion are the tools to channeling, tools that, no few humans, have become aware of and utilized. The problem as Mr Pearce said we have forgotten the message and became preoccupied with the different messengers. When humans words precede the divine words all types of speculations preside the scene. What do we expect from a civilization that have murdered its god and drowned itself in the swamp of deficient mentality.

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