Values, Interests, and Evolution

Evolution, says Seth, is the process of value realisation. That seems self-evident to all but much of the contemporary evolutionary orthodoxy, such as Richard Dawkin’s meme of “the Blind Watchmaker“. In the contemporary orthodoxy, still too much under the spell of scientism and the “objective attitude”, subjective values are eliminated in principle and by establishment in favour of explanations of randomness and “chance mutation”.  The “Blind Watchmaker” is only autobiographical of scientism and the objective attitude itself — the perfect image of Iain McGilchrist’s left-brain mode of attention. Even the most elementary understanding of evolution must acknowledge the influence of subjective states — of sentience, desire, and value.

That subjective states are an integral part of the evolutionary process is the “big picture” conclusion even to be drawn from recent research on the influence of emotional states on ecosystem sustainability — the big picture conclusion that most people seem to have missed about this research. So, here we want to discuss evolution as value realisation, why it is essentially value realisation, and the relevance of that for human social and political evolution, particularly in the context of what is happening in American political culture today.

Holling’s “adaptive cycle” or Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” may both serve equally well to describe evolutionary unfolding as the process of value realisation. The whole of the Modern Era is the history of an experiment in value realisation — to realise the value of “Universal Reason” as the mental-rational consciousness structure in all its possible forms and ramifications, and particulary as the possibilities for the “rational self-interest”. In this development, it has become very one-sided and now extreme in the form of the culture of narcissism and the extremes of competitive egoism. And that is because other, just as vital values have been ignored as a consequence, and even deliberately suppressed.

Politics is, chiefly, the art & science of value realisation. People form political communities or parties because they want to collectively realise some value they sense is missing. And in contemporary terms, these values are not of a great variety — the individual, the family, the community or public, the environment or nature. The omission of any one of these values is sensed as a dangerous lack, as a deficiency. A political culture or social structure is stable only to the extent that these values, or interests, are harmonised and achieve a relative equilibrium. They are, in effect, the “Guardians of the Four Directions”, and they reflect that fact that the human form is also a fourfold structure of mind, body, soul, and spirit, and the harmonisation of these is called “equanimity”. So, social equilibrium and personal equanimity are mutual, and is what we call “peace”. It is the same pattern.

Thanks to Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic and “cross of reality” we can interpret these values in their proper arrangement in a functioning political culture. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism all represent some value conceived as a political unit — the individual, the family, the community, and nature respectively or, in Rosenstock-Huessy’s terms, the prejective, the trajective, the subjective, and the objective orientations of consciousness, respectively. And these are represented in the “cross of reality” as the forwards, backwards, inwards, and outwards vectors of the space and time matrix of the social order.

Basic Cross of Reality

We have, of course, addressed this structure and its political applications earlier in The Chrysalis, but it has become relevant again as we reflect on the current political situation in the United States, where there is talk of the two-party system splintering and forming a possible four-party system. A four party system, far from being a “disintegration” (although it is that, in one sense) can be appreciated rather as a reorganisation according to the pattern of the cross of reality. In fact, much of the rest of the world has been bemused by the fact that a four-party system hasn’t yet emerged in the United States even as it is becoming the norm in many other jurisdictions.

Such diversification may look to some like social and political disintegration, and may provoke (and is provoking) reactionary responses. It is quite logical, however. Past and future times, and inner and outer spaces, are our experienced reality. Each social front needs to be adequately represented politically — the individual unit, the family unit, the community unit, and nature. In the United States, the Republican Party has largely stood for “family values”, while the Democratic Party has largely stood for the individual. What has suffered in consequence are the values of community (or fellowship, solidarity) and nature, and so there is a social crisis along with an environmental crisis. The political units of family and individual are over-represented while those of community and environment are under-represented in the political and social discourse.

It makes perfect sense, then, that the political culture would evolve into a four-party system. It is in accord with the implicit structure of our reality, which only a faulty dualistic rationality prevents us from seeing clearly. Some must take responsibility for the future (the “prejectives”), some for the past (the “trajectives”), some for the inner unanimity (the “subjectives”) and others for the health of the overall environment (the “objectives”). These are called “predilections” and conform somewhat to Carl Jung’s model of the “psychological types” in terms of the accent on thinking, willing, sensing, or feeling. Problems of social order arise when any of these are neglected. Each faction must be clear that its predilection is only a predilection, and has no meaning in itself except in relation to the other predilections. They all serve a social and political purpose and task.

The recognition of this diversity as forming a unity is the ecological sensibility proper. It should be appreciated, then, that any uniformity or conformity is eventually self-destructive. Liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism are secular society’s overall predilections for organising its time and space fronts. More importantly, though, they are social moods and in one form or another exist in all human societies. Before secularism, they were represented in Christendom as the four Gospels and the four evangelists — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. These were, especially in their zoomorphic forms, the same “Guardians of the Four Directions” for the Age of Faith. In fact, as noted earlier, the four main secular ideologies emerged from the schisms and sectarianism of the Reformation. Ideologies were once theologies, but have forgotten their roots in the splintering of the Christian crucifix.

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

Of course, as in the Reformation period, today liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism are at each other’s throats, because what is missing here is the unitary principle or ‘quintessence’ — the Logos that is still missing, one might say. But surely it must be clear that this “Logos” is the consciousness that knows itself as being present within these various modalities as multiform being, and as realising itself and its own implicit value in and through these multiform modalities of being? As thinking, willing, sensing, feeling being, all of which faculties must be developed in perfect equanimity?

Mind, body, soul, and spirit are values. They are the articulations of the singular awareness called “Logos”. They are the self-same “Guardians of the Four Directions”. The same are the “four Zoas” of Blake’s fallen, disintegrate “Adam”. Dualistic thinking simply perpetuates the division and continues to justify a deficient monopoly or duopoly of political power and the problem of “special interests”. So, the splintering of the duopoly may not be an unhealthy sign at all. It may actually be a movement towards health — the holistic.

 

 

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9 responses to “Values, Interests, and Evolution”

  1. davidm58 says :

    Another timely, interesting, insightful post – much to contemplate here.

    One tangential question: do you see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as “Guardians of the Four Directions,” having specific correlations to each of the directions, or to particular points of the Cross of Reality?

    Thinking aloud here: perhaps Matthew, with his emphasis on the Kingdom of God, relates to the subjective or community orientation (or would this instead relate more to family than community?); and John, with his emphasis on ‘ye must be born again’ to the prejective or individual orientation. I’d have to review Mark and Luke again to guess their respective orientations.

    And what if we substituted the Gospel of Thomas for the Gospel of John? Or the Apostle Paul for the Apostle Mark?

    • Scott Preston says :

      I think the four evangelists effectively served both roles. In their discipleship, they each approached the life and doctrines of Jesus from the four directions of the cross of reality. But especially in their zoomorphic forms they served the more mythological functions typically associated with the Guardians of the Four Directions, and these in terms of psychological functions.

      I have not read it yet, and don’t know if I will, but Rosenstock-Huessy’s book The Fruit of Lips, or Why Four Gospels? addresses the four gospels in relation to his cross of reality. It’s one of his more theologically oriented writings. I’ve pretty much restricted myself to his sociological and historical works, and I have no knowledge at all about some of the more newly recovered gospels that were not included in the canon. Something I should do in future.

      • davidm58 says :

        OK, perhaps it’s this part that i need to have explained. I don’t know what this really means: “But especially in their zoomorphic forms they served the more mythological functions typically associated with the Guardians of the Four Directions, and these in terms of psychological functions.”

        • Scott Preston says :

          The zoomorphic forms of the evangelists are Eagle, Lion (or Gryphon), Ox, and Angel or winged man. Here’s one from the Book of Kells

          And here’s another,

          Fairly common motif that I’ve even seen on the outside of contemporary churches. They are said to symbolise various qualities or virtues — vigilance, courage, faith, etc — but in conception they are pretty much envisioned as the four beasts that surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation, which are also the Zoas (“beasts”) of Blake’s fourfold vision and of the disintegrate or reintegrate “Universal Humanity” as Adam or Albion.

          I don’t see much difference at all between the four evangelists in their zoomorphic forms and Buddhism’s “Guardians of the Four Directions” or the four dragons (and the Jade Emperor) of Chinese lore, nor for that matter the four directions of the North American aboriginal Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel, as I’ve discussed these earlier. North, South, East, West of the Sacred Hoop are spirits or values, equally.

          Does this answer your question?

  2. Susan says :

    Very helpful insights into the current political crisis in the U.S. Would that we could morph into a four-fold social order sooner rather than later. By the way: the fourth of Jung’s psychological functions is intuition, not willing. I believe it was Steiner who talked about willing.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes. I think you’re right. I often mix Steiner’s and Jung’s models. But I also hold that the “intuitive” is the fifth function that is active when the four other functions of consciousness are in harmonious relation (thinking, feeling, willing, sensing), so that would be where I differ from Jung’s typology.

  3. abdulmonem says :

    One wonder , can a watchmaker be blind, is it ok to mix the nonmixable in the name of science. Is it ok to ascribe consciousness to ourselves and to nature and deny it to the divine phenomenon which we can not understand and can not grasp despite the millions that bear witness to it across the ages including the twelve apostles and many recent discoveries that point in that direction. Are the conservatives honestly serving the families or the democratics are serving the individuals. Who will insure that the new procedural modalities will honestly serve their purposes. It is a question of principles. All modalities will function properly if the principles are maintained. History bears witness to that even in secular context. Finally I like to ask what is the reasoning behind assigning the eagle to John, the ox to Luke, the angel or man to Matthew and the lion to Mark ?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Finally I like to ask what is the reasoning behind assigning the eagle to John, the ox to Luke, the angel or man to Matthew and the lion to Mark ?

      That can get a little involved, I think. But I’ll attempt to be succinct.
      Basically, the four are the same four “nafs” or animal spirits mentioned by Rumi, but because they are now winged, they are transformed or transcendent. The same are the “four beasts” who surround the throne of God in the Book of Revelation. Matthew is winged reason, so he is depicted as a man. He corresponds, then, to Blake’s Urizen in his unfallen spiritual state.

      John is the Eagle, emblem of aspiration but also Vision, since the eagle flies highest and sees much, and is king of the birds. He corresponds to Urthona/Los in Blake’s mythology, who is Vision or Imagination, but also vigilance.

      Luke is the Ox, signifying strength — the capacity to bear burdens (or long-suffering). It probably corresponds to the Zoa Tharmas in Blake’s mythology.

      Mark is the Lion, signifying fearlessness or courage, but also the firey passions. He probably corresponds to Luvah in Blake’s mythology.

      If Matthew is winged reason (higher reason) then the other forms may also suggest their being emblems of the faculties of consciousness, too — feeling (or desire, the lion), willing (the Ox) or sensing (the Eagle) in their higher or transcendent forms. They evidently have some association, too, with the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water — earth (the Ox), fire (the Lion), air (the Eagle) and man with water.

      So, if this holds together, we can ask also whether these four might also have some connection with Rosenstock-Huessy’s four grammatical representatives of the cross of reality — the Poet, the Philosopher, the Prophet, the Politician, and correspondingingly, lyrical, analytical, dramatical, and epical forms of speech, too. My suggestion is that there is a connection owing to the fact that the human form is fourfold, consistent with a now four-dimensional cosmos.

      Rumi’s “four nafs” or animal spirits are likewise the same “guardians of the four directions”, but they have their fallen and their unfallen (or transcendent) forms.

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