Metanomics and the Four Guardians
While it’s still at the top of my mind, I want to quickly speak further to the issue of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanomics” as consciousness of the ecodynamic laws of society as these are represented also in grammar. There is a longstanding association, historically, with words for magic and the word “grammar” as spell-casting, which very much has to do with the power of language to regulate and legislate time and space. This is attested to even in the origins of the word “technology”. The Oxford English Dictionary I consulted traced the etymology of the word “technology” (the logos of the techne, or reasoning about the means or art) from the study of grammar. It was part of theology, being the study of how to articulate and communicate “eternal abiding truth” grammatically — how to make eternal truth incarnate or discernible, as it were. The meaning of techne and technology shifted with the reconceptualisation of the universe as a Clockwork mechanism. And with that, the “truth that sets free” shifted towards an emphasis on the “facts of the matter”.
One of the features of metanomics is its recognition of a peculiar continuity between the pagan, the Christian (or religious), and the secular orders. The fourfold pattern keeps repeating itself, albeit in different guises. In some form or another, the Guardians of the Four Directions recur and are resurrected. What Rosenstock-Huessy calls Respect, Faith, Power, and Unanimity are really the contemporary names for the old gods, whether they are represented as the four directions (North. South, East, and West) or the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) or as the four dragons, or even as the four evangelists (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, especially in their zoomorphic forms). And this same pattern is found in Castaneda and the teachings of don Juan as the “four enemies of the man of knowledge” (Fear, Clarity, Power and Old Age, or Death).
The four guardians are also the four beasts that surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, and in their negative of malevolent aspect are the same “four riders of the Apocalypse”.
In a sense, Rosenstock-Huessy has simply given new names to what were the old gods, the old laws, or the evangelists, or the Guardians of the Four Directions, and also the price of non-observance of these. The Guardians of the Four Directions have both a benevolent aspect and a malevolent or vengeful aspect. The price of non-observance of Respect, Unanimity, Faith, and Power is to face their malevolent aspect as revolution, anarchy, decadence, or war. In this sense, the four beasts that surround the throne of God in the vision of St. John (and as Blake’s four Zoas, too) metamorphise into the Four Riders of the Apocalypse as a consequence of non-observance.
In antiquity, observance was compelled by the obligation of sacrifice, either human or animal. It was superstition and quite aberrant but it did serve to compel recognition of the Guardians of the Four Directions. A more humane form of recognition is the observance of the Plains Indians, which is to ritually offer the ceremonial pipe and gifts of tobacco to the four directions. The ritual of observance is a ritual of recognition. No need of human or animal sacrifices to propitiate the Guardians. Recognition alone sufficed. And in this way, the integrity of the Sacred Hoop was preserved, and human beings were made cognisant of their obligations to the Guardians; that is to say, their responsibility and obligation to honour and to cultivate what Rosenstock-Huessy has simply rebaptised with the names Respect, Faith, Power, and Unanimity.
As the old saying goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Don Juan’s “four enemies of the man of knowledge” are the same old Guardians, and like the Guardians of old, they have a benevolent and a malevolent aspect. The malevolent aspect is revenge effect from non-observance or non-recognition. To be carried away by Fear, to be carried away by Clarity, to be carried away by Power, or to be carried away by morbidity is to be defeated. What were gifts become toxic.
The classical elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water likewise have a benevolent and malevolent aspect. Nor were they merely elements. They were powers, and also aspects of the soul. The soul could be earthy, or moist, or dry, or airy. So the predilections of the soul or psyche were also the face that the Guardians as Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, revealed of themselves. The pre-Socratics did not make much of a distinction between the “in-here” and the “out-there”. Earth, Air, Fire and Water not only described the human form (metabolic, respiratory, nervous, and circulatory systems) but were more in the nature of moods.
The Guardians of the Four Directions have existed in every culture, in some form or another. So the cross of reality isn’t really new so much as a recollection. What is new about it is that Rosenstock-Huessy has made the pattern explicit and, moreover, articulated the reasons for it. When my Sioux friends say, for example, that “the Sacred Hoop is in language”, they aren’t saying much different than Rosenstock-Huessy saying that the cross of reality is the shape and function of grammar. It comes as a surprise not because it is new, but because we had forgotten it.
Metanomics and the cross of reality does tie many things together, both diachronically and synchronically, and across cultures, that would probably remain quite unintelligible without it. Suddenly, they’re all shown to be implicitly connected, and for the reason that they do have something to do with the fourfold human form. The human form is itself an ecology of mind, body, soul, and spirit — one energy in various modes of articulation. And those are just other aspects of the Guardians of the Four Directions, or the Four Zoas, and for which respect, unanimity, power, and faith are but alternative names, or the optional names for Jung’s four faculties of consciousness — thinking, willing, sensing, and feeling.
Grammar has a mandala like structure. The human form is also a mandala like structure — and not as a pyramid.