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.


34 responses to “Metanomics and the Four Guardians”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    This also recall to the mind the old four temperaments, the choleric, the melancholic, the sanguine and the phlegmatic and their relation to fire, earth, air and water respectively. This is indicative of the human urge to search and discover, explore and reinvent as Mr Perry said. It also indicates the admixtures of the human life and the continuous movement of his pendulum between the negative and the positive, between the malevolent and the benevolent. It is important not to forget the four energies of reality, when we enter the time and the space of the human fourfold tools to understand reality.

    • Scott Preston says :

      The malevolent aspect of the great powers or guardians of time and space or of earth, air, fire, water is a result of non-observance, non-recognition. The implicit sense of guilt that is associated with non-observance becomes fixated on the malevolent aspect and interprets that as “punishment” or “judgement” or “revenge”. It’s not that, so much as the proper workings of enantiodromia r the karmic law.

      I’m reversing the relationship between guilt and punishment, see? The guilt comes first, the perception of “punishment” second. The sense of guilt arises from a sense of lack or deficiency. And when the inevitable consequences of that lack or deficiency result, they are interpreted as punishment, or the malevolence of some evil power or wrath of God and so on.

      In Gebser, this sense of deficiency as guilt occurs in the odd statement he makes about modern man’s sense of “guilt about time” — again, a matter of non-observance or non-recognition or non-acknowledgement.

  2. LittleBigMan says :

    “…….thinking, willing, sensing, and feeling……”

    One of the reasons why what we do professionally and in our personal lives matter a great deal is, it seems to me, the way our professional and personal dealings affect our “thinking, willing, sensing, and feeling.”

    Our physical existence is quite ephemeral. But as Robert Monroe hinted in his book “Journeys Out of the Body”, our emotions, thoughts, and intent are permanent. We project them into some level of existence where they linger on forever and they can be picked up (or observed?) by entities that are not of this world.

    I read or heard somewhere that “our pursuit of what draws us to itself changes us in the process,” and which is why I left the stock market and never went back to it even when I knew I would gain several hundred percentages as profit. I still remember myself and how I thought, felt, and directed my will and intent before and after the years I jumped into the stock market frenzy – and I did not like what I saw at all.

    So, I don’t really know which half of my brain (right or left) was observing and judging how my emotions, thoughts, and everything else had changed in these directions that were devoid of the qualities I liked (compassion, lack of angst, living in the moment, etc.), but it seems to me that “the four Guardians” had become my metric. I was observing them, not the other way around.

    So, what do I mean?

    What I mean is that the four Guardians, it seems to me, are the artwork that is created by our “thinking, willing, sensing, and feeling.” And who among us keeps artwork that he or she does not like?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Our physical existence is quite ephemeral. But as Robert Monroe hinted in his book “Journeys Out of the Body”, our emotions, thoughts, and intent are permanent. We project them into some level of existence where they linger on forever and they can be picked up (or observed?) by entities that are not of this world.

      Called, by some, the akashic record, and one finds it in Blake too, poetically interpreted, when he talks about how the lives of men are bound in books and placed into a library. That’s what is called the akashic library. As Seth also put it, “nothing is ever lost”.

      The Buddha was also once asked how he knew so much. He didn’t he said, he simply had the question in mind and something in him fetched the answer from the akashic field. Harold Waldwin Percival said much the same thing in his book Thinking and Destiny. He simply fetched the answer from the akashic library or field.

      This is connected with Gebser’s “ever-present”. Gebser speaks of time past or future as that which arises into manifestation or returns to latency, but is never lost. This is the akashic field. So what has been and what will be already are — they are probable events or probable worlds. Past and future are, in those terms, matters of perception. This is Blake’s insistence that everything we call “real” has its source and roots in eternity. Physical space and time are simply the interpretations of the senses of infinity and eternity — translations, as it were. This translation work is the work of the left-hemisphere’s mode of attention. In other words, the “sea of time and space” is a metaphor for infinity and eternity, not vice versa. Everything we experience is a metaphor. The physical sense are a physical metaphor for the spiritual senses.

      This might be difficult to understand. In one of Blake’s visions, he was inside a great cave, in which there was an eagle (don Juan’s “Eagle”?) and the Eagle flapping its wings caused the cave to become infinite. “Cave” and “Infinity” are quite contradictory. But in one aspect, anyway, the “cave” is the human skull, and infinity is the consciousness or awareness. Blake’s vision probably has some parallel in Jill Bolte-Taylor’s experience, when she expressed her perplexity at how she was ever going to fit the vastness of herself — her awareness — back into “the tiny little body”. Indeed, once you recognise yourself as the “Life Force Power of the Universe” squeezing yourself back into the “tiny little body” (the cave) seems like an impossible task — the body is also what Blake calls a “Minute Particular”.

      One of the exercises Seth suggests is to imagine your awareness expanding to fill the entire cosmos, because, he says, it’s already the truth anyway. That’s what’s called “cosmic consciousness” and is what Bolte-Taylor experienced. Or, as Blake put it, everything living carries its own universe around with it. Even a bird is an infinity.

      • LittleBigMan says :

        Very informative (I had never heard of “the akashic record”), and very insightful and meaningful. Thank you!!

  3. abdulmonem says :

    There is the already observed record (akashic record) and there is the record of the observing perception and here we are faced with the question of observance and non-observance. It is clear that there are certain things that we need to observe, and that the non-observance ignites the fitting punishment. Scott is right in placing the punishment second, simply because the sense of guilt draws its revenge. The cosmos is a lively recording apparatus in the beginning and at the end, with nothing lost. The sea of knowledge is so large and extensive we need the sharia to help us select our way in this vastness, that is what to select out of the limitless observations.

  4. Dwig says :

    These three posts, starting with “The Cosmic Egg and the Fourfold Human” have definitely clarified much for me about this area, and the interrelationships among Blake, Rosenstock-Huessy, Gebser, Jung et al. In particular, I was pleased to see all four Zoas explicated in an integrated framework, and a clear framework expressing the “ever-present origin” and its correspondence with grammar, used in a much wider sense than usual (“grammar as a holon”, “Grammar has a mandala like structure”).

    Some observations:

    “The human form is itself an ecology of mind, body, soul, and spirit — one energy in various modes of articulation.” I’ve been coming to that view myself over the last few years; it’s nice to see it confirmed and stated so concisely.

    “Called, by some, the akashic record, and one finds it in Blake too, poetically interpreted, when he talks about how the lives of men are bound in books and placed into a library”. Interesting; I’ve conceptualized something similar: a great tapestry being ever-woven, in which my life is one small thread; it’s up to me whether my thread contributes to a harmonious pattern with those around me.

    Here’s another 4-fold model, from a different perspective: the “adaptive cycle”, a model of the dynamics of ecosystems by the ecologist C.S. Holling: This can be viewed as a generalization of the cycles of civilizations described by writers from Polybius to Spengler and Toynbee (and more recently, with ecological considerations folded in, by Tainter, Catton, and Greer). Holling also embedded this model in a larger one called Panarchy, which considers cross-scale interactions: I wonder if Holling’s models, with their essential focus on dynamics, could be a useful complement to those discussed on The Chrysalis (the marriage of Parmenides and Heraclitus?).

    (Side comment: “anarchy” as used by Rosenstock-Huessy in the “four lacks” presentation, seems to mean something like “chaos” — a common reading pf the word, e.g. Yeats’ “mere anarchy is loosed…”. However, to anarchists, the term is simply opposed to “hierarchy” — in which some have power to control others. David Graeber is an interesting anarchist writer; in this context, I especially recommend his book “The Democracy Project”.)

    • Scott Preston says :

      Hi Don. Glad to hear somebody found these last few posts useful. (I sometimes wonder whether I’m making any sense to anybody at all).

      As for political anarchism, the Athenians experimented with every form of political organisation possible (monarchy, oligarchy, democracy, dictatorship) but one they never attempted, but knew of, they called “isocracy”. This was what we today call “anarchy” in the sense of self-government or self-rule. It has its potential downside like the others (its deficient side) as indicated by the “iso-” prefix. It also refers to isolation or insularity, and so the close association of liberty with libertinism. Contemporary anarchists, for the most part, have attempted to get around that potential danger through concepts of anarcho-syndicalism or anarcho-socialism in order to distance itself from libertinism. Rudolf Steiner’s not one usually associated with anarcho-socialism but his “ethical individualism” is pretty much an optional phrase for that.

      So, “Isocracy” might be a good term to use for the political form of anarchism which I think would be feasible if everyone understood Blake’s fourfold vision or Rosenstock’s “cross of reality” as being an ethos. Real “self-government” is represented in these.

      Rosenstock-Huessy does have a book in which he applies his fourfold dynamic or ecodynamic to economics. It’s a very short book that explains his ecodynamic laws as applied to economics. I don’t think he knew of Blake, but his laws are very similar to Blake’s “fourfold vision”. Rosenstock’s laws are summarised as
      1) 1=1
      2) 2=1
      3) 3=1
      4) 4=1
      And he addresses these in succession in The Multiformity of Man. I’ve mentioned the book before. It is available online for anyone interested in the economic question and the fourfold logic

      Qiuite clearly, Rosenstock’s ecodynamic laws have some resemblance to Blake’s “fourfold vision”

      Now I fourfold vision see
      And a fourfold vision is given to me
      Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
      And three fold in soft Beulahs night
      And twofold Always. May God us keep
      From Single vision & Newtons sleep

      So, it’s worthwhile keeping Blake in the back of your mind while reading The Multiformity of Man (which I recommend). Rosenstock has also written about Polybius in terms of the fourfold model in an essay included in his book I Am An Impure Thinker (also available online)

      Blake’s vision is very central — core even — to my interests, which is probably the one reason I like Rosenstock-Huessy (who would otherwise be insufferable, I think). It’s as if Rosenstock-Huessy took up Blake’s “golden string” and began winding it into a ball himself.

      “I GIVE you the end of a golden string;
      Only wind it into a ball,
      It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,
      Built in Jerusalem’s wall.”

      “Heaven’s gate” is a reference to the doorway into old Jersualem that was known as “the Eye of the Needle” because it was quite narrow. You probably know of Jesus’ saying (Matt 19:24)

      “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”

      This is a reference to Goethe’s “two souls” problem, one with “clutching organs clinging to the world” — that is acquisitiveness, possessiveness, “having” rather than “being”. Having (left hemisphere) or Being (right-hemisphere) are the issue of the “two souls”

      “Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,
      And each from the other would be parted.
      The one in sturdy lust for love
      With clutching organs clinging to the world,
      The other strongly rises from the gloom
      To lofty fields of ancient heritage”.

      So, Goethe was one who apparently knew of McGilchrist’s “divided brain” and the two attentions.

      I’ll take a look into C.S.Holling. His name sounds familiar from somewhere.
      Thanks for the reference.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I had a look at the Holling’s Adaptive Cycle model. Not sure what “x” signifies, but I’m supposing it is entropy?

      If one is looking at it from a different aspect, and it describes the flow of energy within an ecology, the “nested” aspect of the adaptive cycle looks more like a double helix (when imagined in three dimensions rather than two) and even in four dimensions as the vertical aspect would be across time more than space. In other words, it would look something like this

      Which brings to mind the caduceus of Hermes

      To be an effective representation of the energetic flux, it should also be reflected in grammatical relations, which also map time and space relations, and since, as Rosenstock-Huessy put it, “the energies of society are compressed in speech” and represented in the quadrilateral also, the “adaptive cycle” should also map to the circulation of speech in society.

      Does it? Perhaps. There are hints that the four phases of the energetic flux represented by the adaptive cycle have their counterparts in grammar, and that

      growth or exploitation (r)
      conservation (K)
      collapse or release (omega)
      reorganization (alpha)

      have their correlates in imperatival, optative, narrative, and indicative forms of speech (or dramatical, lyrical, epical, and analytical); or, conceivably, these four stations of the adaptive cycle may indicate the trajective, prejective, subjective, and objective orientations of grammar in micro and macro dynamics (nested hierarchies).

      I’ll have to reflect on that further.

      • Scott Preston says :

        The other characteristic of the adaptive cycle I forgot to mention above, is that it is a pretty good illustration of enantiodromia. And in the case of the Hermetic caduceus, the Butterfly Effect — small initial conditions (the root) leading to large outcomes, as the form of the helix expands in scale as it ascends upwards.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Also forgot to mention that the caduceus, the adaptive cycle, and enantiodromia, and Butterfly effect all take the form of the so-called “Strange Attractor”, which also maps to a double helix in 4-D spacetime.

          Which raises the obvious and interesting question of whether grammar also isn’t a “strange attractor”.

      • Dwig says :

        “Not sure what “x” signifies” (in the adaptive cycle diagram): I’m not sure either, but I think it might refer to eXtinction — the way out of the cycle.

        • Scott Preston says :

          The first thing that occurred to me when I saw “x” was Nietzsche’s remark that “since Copernicus, man has been rolling from the centre towards X.”

          So, yeah… maybe x is extinction. In any event, of the action of centrifugal force and increasingly on an eccentric evolutionary path.

          • dadaharm says :


            The x in the picture does not mean extinction. It means that the complex adaptive system has transformed or reorganised into another type of complex adaptive system. Ecological systems, civilisations and economies are examples of complex adaptive systems. The adaptive cycle is a description of the life cycle of such a system.

            A forest after a collapse (usually a forest fire) normally reorganises as a forest, then it follows the same adaptive cycle again. But sometimes it reorganises as a savannah (or tundra). This is what the x signifies. It then enters a completely different adaptive cycle. It has transformed into something else.

            I do not see a relation between the adaptive cycle and Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality. However, there is in my opinion a relation with Gebser’s consciousness structures. I will try to explain why I think so.

            Civilisations can be described as complex adaptive systems. The worldview of a civilisation corresponds to how a civilisation experiences itself and the world around it. This means that the worldview changes, adapts or evolves as the civilisation changes and adapts. So the worldview of a civilisation can also be described using the adaptive cycle.

            Behind or below the worldview of a civilisation is a consciousness structure. A single consciousness structure supports more than one worldview (or more than one civilisation). Still also this consciousness structure adapts over time to the experienced reality. So it seems to me that one can also apply the adaptive cycle to consciousness structures.

            In fact, fact I see the efficient stage of a consciousness structure as equal to the exploitation phase of the adaptive cycle and the deficient stage with the conservation phase. Then reorganisation phase and latency stage can be identified. The collapse phase of the adaptive cycle is somewhat problematic. Maybe it involves a temporary regression to older types of consciousness structures. (I hope this makes some sense).

            • Scott Preston says :

              It means that the complex adaptive system has transformed or reorganised into another type of complex adaptive system.

              But reorganisation is already incorporated in the loop, so the x , exiting from the loop, must refer to a failed reorganisation. If, for example, the adaptive loop is used to describe the rise of the Roman Empire through successive stages of the loop, x could only mean the fall of the Roman Empire — a failed reorganisation. x would then mean “collapse” of the adaptive cycle (or so it seems to me. Probably Holling has already explained x elsewhere).

              Still also this consciousness structure adapts over time to the experienced reality. So it seems to me that one can also apply the adaptive cycle to consciousness structures

              Yes, but then at some stage the consciousness structure enters “deficient” mode, in Gebser’s terms. X could be a representation of this “deficient mode”. In other words “decadence” (or entropy in other terms, or death) has to be accounted for in the adaptive cycle somewhere. If there is a representation of “adaptation” (just another word for “response” or “learning” in some ways) there must also be a representation of “non-adapatation”, too.

              In fact, the old song “may the circle be unbroken” may very well be a fear of “x”.

              If the adaptive cycle is pertinent at the micro and macro-levels than it must also pertain to the organisation of the life energies of the individual, too — as the stages of life, from birth to death. Death isn’t an adaptation. It’s a conclusion.

              What the adaptive cycle pertains to is form. So, there is initially a growth of form, then follows a conservation of form, then follows a deformation (release stage) or loss of form, and then a re-organistion of form (transformation). The stages in those terms describe the path of “creative destruction”. But, any energetic process gives off waste in the form of heat. Heat is disorganisation of energy.

              At least, so it seems to me. But as I say, I’m sure “x” is explained by Holling elsewhere.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I’m sure that Holling has taken the Strange Attractor (basis of Chaos Theory) as the model for his adaptive cycle. But a strange attractor isn’t an eternal form. It eventually breaks down over time.

              Now, we can apply this adaptive cycle to the whole process of revolution: the growth phase (the revolution), the conservation phase (preservation of the new forms as “institutions”), the release phase (the eventual inadequacy of the new forms or “institutions”) and transformation phase (reorganisation). One can see all these phases in the French and Russian Revolutions.

              One can see this same process in language with a) birth of a new language (usually associated with revolution), b) conservation of the new language (institutionalisation), c) discrediting of the new language (now “old language”, loss of meaning and d) reorganisation of the language (“revaluation of values”,

              In human societies, though, “adaptations” are actually responses, and humans have the choice of “sink or swim”. Swimming would be renewal of the adaptive cycle, but “sink” would be “x”.

              Revolutions break out when an old consciousness structure has become deficient (past it’s sell-by date). Release corresponds to decadence of the forms (institutions). “Reorganisation” is the revolutionary response to decadence. If successful re-organisation, society lives. If failed reorganisation, society follows the logic of its decadence and dies, exit stage left. And that’s probably what “x” represents in human terms — a failed response.

            • Scott Preston says :

              I’ve come to the conclusion that Holling’s adaptive cycle does, in fact, correspond to Rosenstock’s cross of reality and quadrilateral or quaternary logic.

              Holling’s “reorganisation” phase corresponds to Rosenstock’s “imperatival” phase or “dramatical”
              The “growth or exploitation” phase corresponds to Rosenstock’s optative phase — the subjective response to the imperative as affirmation.
              The conservation phase corresponds to Rosenstock’s narrative or epical phase (the new “Grand Narrative” of origins, the history of the enactment of the responses)
              And the “release” phase is the indicatival or analytical phase. In the indicatival or analytical phase, the dynamic dies in becoming “objective”. Objectification is the death of the living process as reification. The inspiration expires in the objectification. This is “release”. Objectification is also deformation.

              We can use Rosenstock’s own example of the circulation of “Love”
              The imperatival phase is the command “Love!” (or “Love thou!). The imperative only makes sense because Love is absent or not yet presence. Or the imperative might be “Peace!”, which makes sense as an imperative only because Peace is not presence. This corresponds to Holling’s “reorganisation”.

              The subjunctive or optative phase is the subjective response: “May I love” or “May there be peace”. If I give my “yes”, the process continues. If I give my “No”, the process is aborted. If yes, this corresponds to Holling’s “growth” phase.

              The narrative or epical phase corresponds to Holling’s “conservation” phase. “We have loved” or “we have made peace” is the narrative of all those heroic acts or performances that brought about the experience of love or peace. The mythos, or Grand Narrative.

              The indicative or analytical phase is the last phase. Only now can the mind say “Love is…” or “Peace is….” such and such. The definition is an entombment of the process. Love or peace become “objects” and as objectifications the original inspiration dies. This is Holling’s “release” corresponding to Nietzsche’s principle that understanding freezes action.

              Release corresponds to nihilism, in other words. Love or peace, in being made objects of analysis, are vivisected.

              But the nihilism, as release or emptying, also prepares the way for a new inspiration or a reorganisation. The reorganisation, in human terms, is a revaluation of values. The mind opens to a new imperative, which is Rosenstock’s “listen, lest we die” or “I respond,although I will be changed”, and so the “adaptive cycle” begins anew, but if, and only if, there is a corresponding subjective response to the imperative. Apathy becomes entropy if not.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    If I might continue with that thought on “isocracy” or “anarchy” from the previous comment.

    Generally, I find that Christians don’t understand the meaning of “Christ” or the “communion” at all. If they did, they’d probably be anarcho-socialists.

    The saying “Christ is King” or “Christ is Lord” or “Holy Spirit” can’t be interpreted at all properly except in reference to two key passages in the New Testament: “No I, but Christ in me” and equivalently from Ephesians 6:12

    “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

    “Christ is Lord” means the “Oversoul” or Eckhart’s “Aristocrat” or what Blake equivalently calls “Imagination” (Divine Imagination or the Divine Humanity). In the man “Jesus”, these two things were united — the Kingdom of Heaven and the Son of Man. Jesus was integral being, and as such is the Logos. You could say that “Son of God” and “Son of Man” correspond to the two attentions, which in gnosticism become, correspondingly, “Christic Light” and “Luciferic Light” — also it seems to me clear references to the two attentions or two cognitive minds.

    Blake evidently knew that his four Zoas and fourfold vision was implicit in the structure of the human brain, He has his Zoa Los say

    “Tho’ in the Brain of Man we live & in his circling Nerves,
    Tho’ this bright world of all our joy is in the Human Brain.”

    In this respect, Blake was firmly convinced that the “Christ the King” of the Christian Churches was actually “Satan”, the Anti-Christ. The God of the left-hemisphere mode of attention is Satan (Buddhism’s demon “Mara”)

    Recast in McGilchrist’s terms, the phrase “Son of God” is the “master” and the phrase “Son of Man” is the “emissary”. When Luciferic Light becomes isolated from Christic Light, Lucifer becomes Satan — the “rebel angel” who is the ego-consciousness estranged from its root — the “emissary” as “usurper”. This is the meaning of Blake’s “Urizen” and Urizenic Man. Urizen is the fallen angel.

    I might mention in this regard abdulmonem’s favourite Sufi, ibn Arabi. He was a remarkable guy, much akin spiritually to Blake. He says he had three teachers — Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses (the three branches of the Abrahamic religion). From Jesus he learned the meaning of “the Christ” as Christic Light and the ideal of “the Perfect Man”. “My heart”, he says, “is a monastery for Christian monks”. That is to say, you don’t have to be “Christian” in order to know the meaning of “Christ is Lord”. The man or woman of insight knows it is the “Oversoul”, as is “Buddha Mind”.

    So, Jesus, Mohammed, and Moses form, for ibn Arabi, a trinity. That is also reflected in the Christain trinity and also in the Hindu Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

    So, that’s only a threefold, you might say, where’s the fourfold vision? Well, it’s Abraham. Abraham is the fourth. Abraham is the root. So you have a quadrilateral formed of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. In terms of the Abrahamic religions, each name represents some spiritual principle that cannot be interpreted without reference to the others. They are all related as aspects of the fourfold human. They are teachers of the right way to live only in respect of one another. Treated as isolated, they would be distorted.

    Abraham’s seminal act was giving up human sacrifice — the sacrifice of the first born — as an evil. The sacrifice of the first born was the demand of the god Moloch. Moloch is repudiated. Moloch is “the beast with two horns”, because he is the Bull-headed god. Blake calls the religion of human sacrifice “Druidism” in his mythology.

    And whenever the Abrahamic faiths forget their inter-relatedness, they revert to this “Druidism” of human sacrifice. But here’s the rub of it all — once you understand their “betweenness” or inter-dependency — the “meta-meaning” we might say — of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed, or Judaism, Christianity, Islam or whatever — then one has transcended them all. One can no longer be identified with one or the other. Each represents only a partial principle that takes on its fuller meaning ONLY in relation to the others in the character of their “betweenness”. Once seen in their betweenness, we move from a mere “point-of-view” (as Christian, Muslim, Jew, etc) to “overview” and this greater awareness is not Christian or Islamic or Jewish (or Buddhist or Hindu, etc, etc). The greater awareness cannot be contained in any one of these “points of view” or “isms” at all.

    This “integral consciousness” is what Blake calls “the Divine Humanity” (or Albion) and ibn Arabi calls “the Perfect Man”.

    • abdulmonem says :

      In the Abrahmic literature, death is not a conclusion but a reorganizing period to ward a new reformulation, nothing goes lost. Life is built on continuity in various shapes and forms, on new consciousness bodied and embodied. There is no exhaustion in potentialities. The process of the divine reformulation never end. How could the ever present origin lapse into absence. WE are in a continual process of change, known, unknown and to be known until we return to Him. Return to him makes no sense if death is not a transitional interval. Resurrection is a new reformulation,otherwise we have to deny the concept of the second coming.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Beautifully explained as steps toward the root (the integral consciousness). The human can choose any ladders toward Him. The important thing is the realization of the original energy that creates and runs everything. The energy that were prior to the physical existence and remains so after the extinction of the physical existence,only to manifest its creation in a new forms.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    Once one convincingly realizes the source in himself, all roads to the source become acceptable. Of course realizing that the thoughts you manifest, like the physical things, are his manifestations and not yours and that there are tools to withdraw his knowledge. In the Quran we read, Aleef Laam Meem, doubt not, is the vibrations through which the divine knowledge is descended in the human vessel and this what help me to join the dialogue, The adaptive cycles is another human thinking tool to decipher how god is running his universe. Again it is not only how things are changing but also what is the purpose of all that and the purpose of the human on this earth. What we need is a balance look to the outside and the inside simultaneously in that context.

  8. Elbe says :

    I’ve been reading The Master and His Emmissary along with re-reading Doris Lessing’s space fiction, the Canopus in Argos series, and am finding many interesting parallels. Her description of SOWF (substance of ‘we’ feelings) corresponds to the right hemisphere inclusiveness, and the decadence of ‘rhetoric’ as described in her novels is a left hemisphere issue. Also, this discussion of ‘x’ as the possibility of extinction leading to further transformation is very much the subject of the fourth book in the series, The Making Of The Representative For Planet 8.

  9. dadaharm says :


    I guess we disagree somewhat on the interpretation of the adaptive cycle.

    The case of the mysterious x in the picture is not too important in my opinion. If it is supposed to mean extinction then the arrow should be from the release phase downward. There should not be first a reorganisation before extinction, I think.

    The more important difference of opinion concerns the relation between the adaptive cycle and civilisations. I will try to explain my interpretation using an old idea of how civilisations evolve. Giambattisto Vico has given a description of the evolution of civilisations in his book the New Science. An extremely short summary can be found here (

    Vico divides up the history of a civilisation in three periods: The age of the gods, the age of the heroes and the age of men.

    The age of the gods is what is called the reorganisation phase in the adaptive cycle. In the age of the gods people have few rational ideas about reality. Their wisdom is poetic wisdom (this is probably what Owen Barfield calls original participation). They feel inspired by their gods. Somehow they do succeed in creating a new civilisation.

    The age of the heroes corresponds to the exploitation phase in the adaptive cycle. This is the period where the civilisation expands. It is ruled aristocratically. The worldview is still religious or metaphysical.

    The age of men corresponds to the conservation phase in the adaptive cycle. This is the age where religion and metaphysics are discarded. This is the pragmatic stage of the civilisation. One could call this a stage of disenchantment or rationalism.

    Vico’s ideas can easily be applied to Western civilisation: The age of the gods (reorganisation phase) was somewhere at the end of the middle ages. The age of the heroes (exploitation phase) lasted from 1500-1800. It was the age of colonial exploration and expansion. Basically the industrial revolution and the french revolution formed the transition from the exploitation phase to the conservation phase. Since about 1800 western civilisation is in the age of men (conservation phase). Sprituality has vanished, only the rational and the material matters.

    The collapse phase of a civilisation corresponds to what is called a dark age. More precisely the collapse of a civilisation usually results in the start of a new dark age.

    The description above only gives the adaptive cycle of a civilisation in its totality. Within a civilisation there are subsystems that have their own adaptive cycles. These cycles are shorter and correspond to minor (!) crises like world wars and revolutions. They could well be related to some of the things you describe.

    Oswald Spengler’s ideas were probably influenced by the ideas of Vico. Therefore I expect that also Gebser’s ideas are indirectly (i.e. through Spengler) influenced by Vico. The adaptive cycle of a consciousness structure of course last much longer than that of a single civilisation.

    I think Gebser calls the conservation phase deficient because of its lack of spirituality and creativity. He seems to be somewhat of a mystic and probably dislikes pragmatism, rationality and materialism somewhat.

    To end this long comment here is a link to an interview: our panarchic future, where Buzz Hollings himself describes what kind of crisis we can expect.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’m just in the process of writing up something about Holling’s adaptive cycle and the strange attractor (upon which it is very evidently modeled), so I’ll address some of these things there.

      But, I don’t think Gebser was at all much influenced by Spengler’s cyclic view of history. In fact he repudiated it explicitly in Ever-Present Origin.

      The second issue is that transitions between ages (structures of consciousness) is never seamless. It is characterised by terrible upheavals, havoc, or “chaotic transitions” — discontinuities and bifurcations. Changes don’t follow a neat trajectory. They are, in Gebser’s terms “irruptions”, a term selected to emphasise the volcanic aspect of these shifts. In addition, these irruptions or chaotic transitions only occur after a civilisational type has already entered its deficient phase (decadence) and with such vehemence that the “new type” feels it must utterly annihilate the “old type” root, stem, and branch. So they are typically times of terrible wars and violence.

      The adaptive cycle can’t be understood without reference to the strange attractor, but also to the two important axes of the adaptive cycle — potential and connectedness. The growth and conservation phases of the civilisation (what Gebser calls “efficient” or “effective” phases) are characterised by both increasing potential (energy) and increasing connectedness. The deficient phase (release) is characterised by decreasing potential (loss of energy or vitality) and decreasing coherence (“connectedness”) necessitating a “re-organisation” (new influx of energetic potential). This re-organisation may very well be violent — revolutionary.

      But, at this point, it is an open question whether the reorganisation will be successful or unsuccessful. It isn’t automatic, and Holling has indicated that by a bifurcation — one trajectory leads to the mysterious “x” and another trajectory leads into a new adaptive cycle. It is not a closed loop, The new path is a new adaptive cycle and not a repetition, which Holling has indicated by his break in the loop.

      In fact, in the Ever-Present Origin, Gebser is rather severe with Vico as having promulgated a false doctrine of a progressive and linear evolutionary dynamic. . Gebser wants in no way to suggest that his own “structures of consciousness” follow any evolutionary progression. They are more in the manner of articulations of consciousness potentialities, each with their own distinctive pathways of growth and eventual exhaustion. And since they do not represent “stages”, they cannot be mapped to the adaptive cycle. Each has its own adaptive cycle, its unique form of attention and therefore its own unique form of being-in-the-world.

      In that sense, the four structures of consciousness (archaic, magical, mythical, mental) map more successfully to Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality than the adaptive cycle. But within each consciousness structure, the adaptive cycle could very readily explain the rise and fall (or effective and deficient phases, or inspirational and expirational) of the consciousness structure itself.

      Every consciousness structure eventually reaches its critical (crisis) or “crucial” juncture (and both words mean “cross”). That is, in a way, already implied in Holling’s model, which does include the cruciform model. The loop itself also forms a crossroads. And how the civilisation choses to respond to that juncture or crisis is decisive for its fate.

      In fact, this very word “decisive” (which means to “cut away”) already implies a crucial or critical situation – a crossroads, and that the options are to change course or to continue. One of those pathways must be cutoff. And the response may be revolutionary or the response may be reactionary. “Re-organisation” cannot be automatically assumed to be “progressive” or appropriate or adequate.

      The only question here is whether the civilisation (or ecology) survives or does not survive. When a civilisational type completely loses both potential and coherence (connectedness) there’s really no point in any talk about its “adaptation”. Loss of potential and loss of connectedness are just other terms for total disintegration.

      • dadaharm says :


        I do understand that Spengler’s descriptions of how civilisations evolve is rather fatalistic and cyclical. And therefore that Gebser’s work is a reaction to the work of Spengler. A way out of Spengler’s fatalism so to speak. That is what I meant by being influenced by Spengler.

        It is untrue that Vico has promulgated a false doctrine of a progressive and linear evolutionary dynamic. On the contrary he describes a single civilisation as following an evolutionary path. That path is strikingly similar to a single loop of the adaptive cycle of Hollings.

        My interpretation of the structures of consciousness was and is that each of them represents an single adaptive cycle. Each is separated by a crisis (that is collapse of the previous consciousness structure) from the previous consciousness structure.

        Here is another article about the adaptive cycle on the automatic eath blog.

  10. Scott Preston says :

    Let’s test Holling’s adaptive cycle against something we know best — the Modern Era, the last 500 years or so, to see how far it applies to social energetics and evolution.

    So, we all know of the decadence of Christendom and Holy Roman Empire, inquisition, sectarianism, millennarianist movements, and so on. Christendom was finished as a civilisational type — the mytho-religious. We all know the history.

    The crisis, the emergency, required a response. Reformation and Counter-Reformation were two responses (revolutionary and reactionary). Some new principle of order and organisation was needed, and the way out of the morass and the abyss was supplied by Descartes, with his new formula “I think, therefore I am”. But what is implied in this formula is an imperative: “Think!”

    So, the new principle of order was the mental-rational — thinking (and not prayer) would guide our way into the future. And it was quite successful in recruiting an army of followers and adherents who were looking for a way out of the labyrinth. Novo Ordo Saeclorum — a new order of the ages or generations was to be constructed by rational thought.

    This is Holling’s “reorganisation” phase of the adaptive cycle.

    No one can doubt that enthusiasm for the rational principle led to a marvelous explosion of growth (and “exploitation”) All of society was progressively reorganised according to the Clockwork Universe and in accord with the rational principle. The history of revolutions is a history of “adaptation” to the new organising principle. There was an incredible growth in power (potential) and in connectedness (coherence). This was the exploitation and conservation stages of the adaptive cycle.

    But the momentum plateaued and started to undergo a reversal with the First World War — disillusionment with the rational principle and “Enlightenment”, doubt about “the Modern Project”, cynicism and nihilism followed — a precipitous decline in confidence in rationality, progress, and the Enlightenment project. This is the stage of “release” or reversal of fortune.

    So, where are we now but at the crossroads formed by Holling’s adaptive cycle itself? Most uncomfortable place to be as it is the crisis point and that point corresponds to Gramsci’s statement about the modern crisis:

    The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.

    To even say we have entered a period of “Late Modernity” or “post-modernity” suggests that we are again entering into a period of reorganisation, as per Holling. We are presently right at this intersection of decadence (release or decreasing connectedness/disintegration) and increasing potential, just as Gramsci put it — when both reactionary and revolutionary possibilities are both most pronounced (Gebser’s “double movement”)

    We are right at the start of this “re-organisation” phase, with lots of decisive questions meeting with few decisive answers. Gebser believes that “integral consciousness” or integralism is the new organising principle for the New Age (new adaptive cycle) but freely admits it could be abortive. In any case, rising potential is accompanied by maximum disconnectedness (disintegration or incoherence) according to Holling’s own adaptive cycle.

    And so we come to the mysterious “x” in the adaptive cycle which marks a bifurcation point in the loop. One pathway leads into a new adaptive cycle, while the other leads off into the mysterious “x”. And “x” could very well be the fulfillment of Gebser’s enigmatic reference to “the law of the Earth”. I’m pretty certain that the bifurcation point in Holling’s adaptive loop (one leading to “x” and the other to a new adaptive cycle) corresponds to Blake’s “Book of Death” and “Book of Life”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Aldous Huxley is one, of course, who tried to find a way out of the unfolding disaster of Late Modernity through Blake (Doors of Perception and Heaven and Hell and in The Perennial Philosophy. That’s was Huxley trying to identify a new principle of organisation or order for a world he saw headed towards disaster.

    • dadaharm says :


      I agree that we are currently at the beginning of a collapse or release stage. The reorganisation stage has not yet begun. For that to happen a real alternative has to be visible and desired. That is what Gramsci quote means in my opinion.

      In western civilisation there is also a so-called hegemonic cycle. It is also an adaptive cycle. It describes the changes in the location of political and economic power. In short it describes where the superpower within civilisation is located. The corresponding collapse is a period of about thirty years of big economic crises and total war. (The last were world war I and II, after which the U.S. became the superpower).

      The thirty years war was also a hegemonic war. After it the United Provinces of the Netherlands became the superpower. Of course, the thirty years war was also a fight between catholics and protestants. So probably more than just the cycle hegemonic power played a role in that crisis.

      My point is that the theory of adaptive cycles and panarchy is both very complex and simple. A single cycle is very simple. But in a civilisation there are many cycles related to subsystems. And these different cycles influence each other, which makes the system very unpredictable.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes. Holling has referred to these as “nested hierarchies” of adaptive cycles. The only question for me is, whether the adaptive cycle adequately accounts for the energetic flux.

        There are some things in its favour. First, being a strange attractor, it is a very good illustration of the process of enantiodromia or reversal at the extremity. This is also an important issue in interpreting William Blake, for Blake there was a “Limit to Expansion” and the “Limit to Contraction” and these he calls “Mercy” (Blake didn’t have the term “enantiodromia” but it is implied in many of his Proverbs of Hell: “Excess of sorrow laughs, excess of joy weeps”, for example). The adaptive cycle and the strange attractor both seem to illustrate enantiodromia in that respect.

        A strange attractor (or adaptive cycle) must say something true about energy and evolution or it wouldn’t be of much interest. Since it seems to describe the process of enantiodromia, it is of much interest indeed.

        Another issue is whether the strange attractor (or adaptive cycle) really does describe the process of neurodynamics, inasmuch as the “wings” of the butterly could be correlated with Mcgilchrist’s two cognitive minds in their reciprocality — the flow of energy in and through the brain. This is the more intriguing question — whether the strange attractor is a map of neurodynamics.

        And since enantiodromia is just another interpretation of hubris and Nemesis, the strange attractor seems to have something to say about that, too. And in those terms, what Blake calls “Mercy” is also “Nemesis”. So in those terms as well, the strange attractor may map the actual dynamics of the karmic law of action and reaction.

        One doesn’t normally think of Nemesis as “Mercy”. But there’s another coincidentia oppositorum for you.

        • davidm58 says :

          Good interpretation and application of H.S. Holling’s complex adaptive cycle. in regards to “whether it adequately accounts for the energy flux,” I would say yes. One paper that connects the dots between Holling and energy (esp. Odum’s conception of Maximum Power) and to civilization/anthropology is Tom Abel’s paper on “Complex Adaptive Systems, Evolutionism and Ecology within Anthropology” (esp. the last half of the paper):

          • Scott Preston says :

            Next step is to see if we can correlate Holling’s adaptive cycle with the cross of reality. I think we can. As Rosenstock put it, the cross of reality is also subject to both expansion and contraction. What is not clear from the cross of reality is the process of enantiodromia as it seems so clearly represented in the adaptive cycle.

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