Fourfold Vision Meets Cross of Reality

In his sociological writings, Rosenstock-Huessy observed that four lacks, diseases or deficits afflict civilisation and society, and the victory of any one of them suffices to result in breakdown and collapse. The four deficits are

a) lack of respect
b) lack of unanimity
c) lack of sufficient power
d) lack of faith

The corresponding terms we use for these are, respectively, a) revolution, b) anarchy, c) war, and d) decadence. And in Rosenstock-Huessy’s terms, it is the task of any vital social science to nurture and cultivate society’s shields against these diseases in terms of respect, unanimity, power, and faith respectively. A little reflection reveals that these are somehow associated with Blake’s four Zoas and with Jung’s four psychological types.

Respect and faith are dialectically related to one another in respect of time past and time future. And unanimity and power are dialectically related to one another in respect of spaces inner and spaces outer, or the within and the without. Backwards and forwards, inwards and outwards are implicated in respect, faith, unanimity and war. “Sustainability” thus means much more than is usually suggested by that term — it means the perpetual balancing and rebalancing of the “cross of reality” of society in its fourfold structure in order to forestall destruction by one of the four diseases or deficits. For although respect and faith, unanimity and power are dialectically related, they are related within a greater more encompassing quadrilateral logic that expresses as a whole the interdependency and inter-relatedness of the two times and two spaces of the social order.

Now there is very much a similarity of structure between Blake’s “fourfold vision” as depicted in the last post, and Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality,

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, the basic model


Social Reality in terms of the Cross of Reality

Social Reality in terms of the Cross of Reality

One could easily map the four Zoas to this same structure. And this has been done, albeit quite inadvertently and without reference to Rosenstock’s cross of reality, in illustrating Jung’s four psychological types,

Jung's four psychological functions

In trying to represent a four-term logic, the mind sort of instinctively fixes on the cruciform shape as the most appropriate symbolisation, as also with the aboriginal Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel,


Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

What Blake, to some extent, calls “fourfold vision” is equivalent also to what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “the ecodynamic laws of society”. Both are an illustration of integralism and of Gebser’s “integral consciousness”. For Rosenstock-Huessy, sustainability and dynamic equilibrium are matters of sustaining the time and space axes of society within a harmonious whole. When civilisations become too obsessed with one direction of the cross of reality, their “bias” as it were (and the bias of their consciousness in terms of thinking, willing, sensing, or feeling), they leave themselves vulnerable to attack on the fronts that are neglected and remain disorganised. Too much future, too much past, too much subjectivity, too much objectivity belong to the meaning of hubris, and in consequence Nemesis cannot be too far away either.

And this is our current situation.

The pattern by which societies arrange and guard their time and space fronts is encoded as grammar. Grammar is highly associated with the second attention and the brain’s left-hemisphere, as described by McGilchrist. That is to say, as “the parts of grammar”. Yet grammar also, by virtue of its relationalism or emphasis on “betweenness” as McGilchrist terms it, also preserves its roots in the first attention. This root or origin is represented by the “vital centre” of the cross of reality, the focal point. This is the fountainhead of the grammatical pattern, and Rosenstock-Huessy tended to think of it as the Eternal Now — the place of the arising of the sea of space and time. The centre is, in other words, Genesis. As such, it corresponds exactly to what Gebser means by “vital centre” and “the ever-present origin”. This is also Blake’s true human form as “cosmic egg”.

In those terms, Blake’s fourfold vision and Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality are radiant models or reality, dynamic, and quite different from the symbolic form of consciousness represented by the Enlightenment and still preserved on the US dollar bill — the pyramid of vision, which is dialectical consciousness, and is traceable back to Leonardo’s illustration of the perspective eye (as discussed in earlier posts)

Perspectivism: The Dialectical Consciousness

Perspectivism: The Dialectical Consciousness


da Vinci's Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

da Vinci’s Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

As you can see, the perspective eye is actually one quarter or quadrant of the cross of reality. It is not entirely false. But it represents only a very narrow band of the greater whole.

To say, then, that the cross of reality (encoded as grammar) is a radiant model is also to suggest that it is prismatic, as the brain might also be compared to a prism. And in this sense, also, the cross of reality is a map of intentionality — for as the creative forces arise at the vital centre, they are arranged and distributed in a spectrum of times and spaces according to the model of grammar, and thus intend a world also arranged and distributed in terms of times and spaces. And in effecting this, the whole human is involved in terms of thinking, willing, sensing, and feeling, which are represented in grammatical speech in terms of forms — not just the “persons”  of grammar (I, You, We, He or She or It), but in analytical, dramatical, epical, and lyrical forms of speech, or as indicatives, imperatives, narratives, and subjunctives/optatives correspondingly.

Thus, when Rosenstock-Huessy says that “God is the power that makes men speak, that enthuseth man so that he speaketh” this becomes easily understandable if, a) we understand Blake’s “fourfold vision” and the cross of reality and grammar as prismatic or crystalline, and b) grammar is the interface between the two modes of attention described by McGilchrist in The Master and his Emissary. Inspiration arises from the vital centre. But in order to become actualised or real, it must take time to take place, as it were. It must pass through the crucible of grammar before it becomes an element of our world, and be represented in imperatives, optatives, narratives, and indicatives. And this may, in fact, be the work of many generations. We call the inspiration the “ideal”.

So, to the four fronts of our reality, society brings four types of speech, and these types of speech correspond to the four functions of consciousness considered as thinking, willing, sensing, and feeling or intuition. That these have something to do with the four Zoas is clear from Blake’s manifesto “There is NO Natural Religion”

If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic Character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, and stand still, unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again.

The Philosophic & Experimental are two types of grammatical speech corresponding to the subjective and objective. The Poetic and Prophetic are two types of grammatical speech corresponding to the times (which Rosenstock would call the “trajective” and the “prejective” orientations or backwards and forwards respectively). So, in effect, Blake is objecting to the ignorance of time and the meaning of time in denouncing “Single Vision”.

The meaning of the fourfold vision and the cross of reality is this: true reality comes to us first as a whole, and as a direct perception of the energetic flux, timeless and infinite (which Jill Bolte Taylor called “the Life Force Power of the Universe” and “La La Land”), and this is the domain of the first attention. The first attention passes it on to the second attention, which is the grammatical mind, where this vital energy is patterned, arranged, and distributed in a spectrum which becomes the sea of space and time — a world. And this cruciform symbol occurs everywhere, the basic form of the mandala like character which is the shape of homo grammaticus. And because it is a universal, a universal history of the total human experience of the Earth is feasible, and even necessary today.

Rosenstock-Huessy calls this science of man as homo grammaticus “metanomics”. And the merit of this is that in compelling the mind to consider grammar as a holon, as a prism, the mind must step to the right of the left-hemisphere’s mode of attention just in order to perceive the whole as a whole and to realise that the truth does not reside in the parts or the positions, but in the dynamic relationships between them, and this is ecological or ecodynamic thinking, as it must come to appreciate more than two variables in any relation.

The most concise statement about the integral consciousness and the cross of reality (and fourfold vision) I found in a Buddhist legend. It narrates how, upon his enlightenment, the Buddha accepted the gift of their begging bowls from The Guardians of the Four Directions, but which he, “for the sake of his dharma”, united with his own begging bowl — the fifth element or quintessence, which is the Logos. 4=1. The four form one through the fifth (“Albion” in Blake’s mythology), but remain four. This is one of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “ecodynamic laws”. In 4=1 an authentic “we” is formed, which is not merely plural “I”s, but a genuine unity.

This is integral consciousness.



3 responses to “Fourfold Vision Meets Cross of Reality”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    All mandalas are human tools to illume the road toward understanding reality. Your explanation of the different mandalas and the interconnections among them has led me to understand the fourfold vision of reality in terms of God as the original energy source and the three subsidiary energies, that of the angel energy as the positive energy and the devil energy as the negative energy and the human energy as a mixed energy. The problem of the human resides in understanding the nature of this mixture and how to find the way out through the process of balancing and rebalancing. Life is a fine tuning process either to the high road or the low road and thus is the march of humanity ever since the beginning. Our time is an excellent mirror through which we can see the followers of each road.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    I like to say that the four lacks in term of respect, accord,power and faith, point to human lacks toward reality with all its negative repercussions as described.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Just reading in Nesfield-Cookson’s very fine book on Blake, and came across this passage which really hits the mark as far as Blake is concerned,

    “The sanctity of individuality is central to Blake’s philosophy of life. Whereas the mystic would banish individuality, and thus silence its faculties, Blake extols individuality and demands that it reintegrate its faculties. For the mystic, death of self is attained when the last claim of individuality has been annihilated, for Blake the annihilation of selfhood is achieved when the last claim of individuality has been harmoniously fulfilled. The key words being ‘harmoniously fulfilled’ , that is, no faculty should act to the detriment of any other. All self-centred interest of any one faculty is annihilated in the process of reintegration.” (p. 96)

    This is pretty much also the meaning of the cross of reality. The “I” is displaced from the centre and becomes simply one of the arms of the cross of reality — the subjective, corresponding to what Blake calls “the outward circumference of energy”.

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