Gebser: The Concretion of the Spiritual
If “New Age” has any meaning, its meaning is also connected with what is presently being called the “post-metaphysical”. Post-metaphysics has also two contradictory meanings, which ambiguity is also related to the strange “double-movement” of the times noted by Jean Gebser — a road down and a road up. On the one hand, “post-metaphysics” may be used to refer to the presumption of the definitive triumph of the Mechanical Philosophy, of materialism and of purely sensate consciousness over all competitors and over “spirituality”, or as “the end of history” and the final victory of the Kali Yuga. On the other hand, “post-metaphysics” may mean the exact opposite, or what Jean Gebser has called “the concretion of the spiritual” in which the spiritual nature of reality becomes self-evident truth, immediately and directly perceptible reality no longer beholden for its truth to the testimony of the physical senses or to justification by reason or the speculations and conjectures of an abstracting deductive logic.
Our interest in The Chrysalis is obviously with post-metaphysics understood in the latter sense as the “concretion of the spiritual” as the correlate to the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure or mode of perception. Gebser calls this new consciousness structure the “integral consciousness” (or the “aperspectival“); or, what William Blake also called “the New Jerusalem”. So, we need to make clear what “concretion of the spiritual” actually means as the more authentic interpretation of the meaning of “post-metaphysical”.
This ambiguity in the meaning of the post-metaphysical really does attest to the “double-movement” of the times observed by Gebser, and does indicate that the human form is at something of a crossroads moment in terms of the evolution of consciousness. The interpretation of the post-metaphysical by sensate consciousness (or “the mental-rational consciousness structure”) as the victory of materialism is what William Blake calls “Opacity” (and is the spiritual state called “Babylon”), while the other interpretation is the understanding of the emergent integral consciousness characterised by “Translucence” (and is the spiritual state Blake calls “New Jerusalem”). Thus the terms “Opacity” and “Translucency” are the two contending interpretations for the meaning of “post-metaphysics”. In one, spiritual reality is effectively denied, and in the other it is effective reality.
For the sensate consciousness (the “body-mind” or ego-nature) reality is opaque, in that perceived objects apparently throw up resistance to perception or insight. They do not yield up their meaning, so to speak. To the more integral consciousness, reality is transparent or “translucent”, and so the difference between the opaque and the translucent lies in the distinction between sight and insight. This latter is what Blake calls “Vision” proper, and informs his statement that he sees “not with the eye, but thro’ the eye”. The “concretion of the spiritual” is the immediate translucency of the world, and this is the affair of insight in which all things yield up their meaning without the obstruction of opacity. In that sense, opacity and translucence correspond to the meanings of reason and revelation.
“A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.” is Blake’s attestation to the difference between insight (or translucency) and mere sightedness (or opacity). That in us which perceives by insight is called, by Blake, “the Poetic Genius” in Man, which is the Seer, and is equivalent to what Jean Gebser calls “the Itself”. Taking these issues into consideration with Iain McGilchrist’s investigations of the modes of attention of the divided brain (in The Master and his Emissary) we then know that the “wise man” is the mode of attention of the right-hemisphere of the brain, while the “fool” is the mode of attention of the left-hemisphere of the brain, (or what I’ve referred to as the first and the second attentions respectively, or the primary and the secondary, or the supernal and the infernal). Therefore, “Opacity” (or Babylon) is the condition of the second attention, while translucence is the condition of the first attention.
Put another way, that in us which perceives immediately is the first attention, and that in us which perceives mediately is the second attention, concerned as it is with the attributes or secondary qualities (or “the details”). However, the second attention misconstrues these secondary qualities or attributes as being the primary.
The semantic contest for the meaning of “post-metaphysical” itself attests to a struggle going on within the human form itself, which Blake earlier depicted as the struggle between the Zoa named Los (the Imagination or “Eternal Prophet”) and the Zoa of “fallen Reason” named Urizen. The Zoas Los and Urizen, two of the four aspects of divided man, are very likely symbols for McGilchrist’s right and left hemisphere modes of attention of the divided brain (along with the other two Zoas Tharmas and Luvah) for Blake has Los say of the Zoas,
“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.
Let’s dwell for a moment on the “apocalyptic” character of Blake’s art and poetry and Jean Gebser’s philosophy, and by “apocalyptic” we mean the suddenness of revelation. In that sense, it is not an “evolutionary” but a “revolutionary” development. Gebser’s “irruption” is an insurrection, which is cataclysmic — in the association of apocalypse with destruction is the meaning of “shattering truth”. What Gebser calls “global catastrophe” as also being coincident with this revelation or the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure is drawn out in some detail in Blake’s horrific poetry of “the Last Judgment” during which the petty tyrant, Urizen and the world of his making called “Ulro”, is overthrown. Iain McGilchrist’s “Emissary” (the left-hemisphere’s mode of attention or “mental-rational consciousness structure” in Gebser’s terms) who has usurped the throne of the “Master” (the right-hemisphere’s mode of attention) is quite evidently Blake’s fallen Zoa “Urizen”. Urizenic Man is the consciousness that has completely closed itself up within the Ulro, which is the realm of Opacity. So the end of Urizen’s tyranny also brings about the destruction of the Ulro or “Babylon” (also called “Vala” by Blake, or otherwise the Veil of Maya or the Cloud of Unknowing). So, in those terms, it is indeed “cataclysmic”. It corresponds to Shiva’s dance of creative destruction, but is called by Blake Albion’s “dance of Eternal Death”. Albion’s “dance of Eternal Death” is exactly Shiva’s Dance of the Apocalypse. They are the same dance. The four arms of Shiva correspond to the four Zoas of Blake’s reintegrated Albion.
Blake subtitled his painting of Albion’s resurrection: “Albion rose from where he labourd at the Mill with Slaves / Giving himself for the Nations he danc’d the dance of Eternal Death”
In those terms, the “concretion of the spiritual” that attends the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure isn’t at all a stroll through the park. It’s insurrectionary and, in those terms, cataclysmic. In Blake’s prophetic books, it entails the “annihilation of the Selfhood” (fallen Urizen) and the corresponding destruction of the world it made — the Ulro or Babylon. But it is translucency or transparency (true inherent insight) itself that shatters the opaque world, and this corresponds to Seth’s remarks about the emergence of unconscious knowledge in our time. What I previously referred to as “chaotic emotion” or “affective disorder” is part of that irruption, however badly misunderstood it is by those who experience it in the absence of an “enlightened ego consciousness”.
The “concretion of the spiritual” does not come with a user’s guide, except for the pattern provided by (to my mind) Blake, Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, Rumi and many others in the Wisdom Tradition. Blake provides us with a rather important example in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in one of his “Memorable Fancies” on his confrontation with “Leviathan”. Leviathan attacks Blake “with all the fury of a spiritual existence”, but which Blake finally subdues through his superior insight. This is a very important message in Blake, for the “concretion of the spiritual” can also be Hell itself without that insight (as is relevant, too, in Rumi’s poem “Green Ears”). It’s worthwhile becoming familiar with both Blake’s “Memorable Fancy” and Rumi’s “Green Ears” for what they say about Gebser’s “concretion of the spiritual’ too.
Just a word of warning about that.