The Aperspectival Consciousness
I left off yesterday’s post on Narcissism and ‘The Point of View’ with a question about whether it is possible to escape the entrapment of consciousness (and identity, or the self-enclosure of consciousness) in the narrowing ‘point of view’ mode of consciousness called “the perspectival consciousness structure” (or “sensate consciousness”) now become deficient. “Deficient” is the term Gebser uses rather than “decadent”, although it amounts to the same thing. “Single Vision & Newton’s sleep” is how William Blake once put it.
That deficiency, or decadence, is best exemplified by two current mainstream phenomena that are, in fact, identical in meaning: Reformation has ended finally in fundamentalism, and Renaissance and Enlightenment have ended in reductionism. Fundamentalism in religion, and reductionism in thought are both the same reductio ad absurdum, equivalent in being the exhausted residua of Reformation and Renaissance, and perhaps best exemplified in the absurdity of the evolution versus creationism controversy — reductionism versus fundamentalism. I have absolutely no interest in this debate except as evidence of the exhaustion of all further possibilities for perspectivist perception and the current state of the ego-consciousness. The full truth of origin is much more subtle and nuanced than is represented by either term of this debased dialectic. From the aperspectival vantage point, reductionism and fundamentalism look exactly the same — both absurd.
If you can appreciate the absurdity involved here — the Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum battle between secular reductionism and religious fundamentalism — then you may not know it, but you are already well on your way to emancipating yourself from the thralldom of “Single Vision” and the deficiencies of the perspectival consciousness. If you sense the empty posturing represented by the two, then you are probably already participating in the emergence of the “aperspectival consciousness” as anticipated by Jean Gebser. Reductionism and fundamentalism, which are the two chief manifestations of the exhaustion of the mental-rational consciousness (or “Modern Era”) are both the offspring of the narrowing of further options for the ‘point of view’ mode of perception, and this self-enclosure of the consciousness is called “narcissism”. Whether they realise it or not, both reductionism and fundamentalism are nihilistic formations.
Once you see how fundamentalism and reductionism have shaped and conditioned the general human attitude and relation to world and self, and not just in terms of the evolution versus creationist controversy alone, then you will appreciate the essential problem as seen by William Blake, by Jean Gebser, or even by Iain McGilchrist in his neurodynamic approach (in The Master and his Emissary). The evolution versus creation controversy is just a special instance of this more general attitude.
Our apparent inability to transcend this ‘point of view’ consciousness and the twin problems of its collapse into reductionism and fundamentalism, is what constitutes the grave danger, presently, for the continuation of the human species. This should now be apparent in the turmoil of the present time. Becoming conscious of the roots and history of this particular mode of perception, as Gebser traces it in his Ever-Present Origin, is an essential task in the transformation or “metanoia” necessary to outrun it. I realise tackling The Ever-Present Origin is, for many, a daunting task. It’s a massive tome. But, as luck would have it, an excerpt covering the first 77 pages of his massive work is now posted online as “Fundamental Considerations” and it covers the history, the strengths and weaknesses, the origins of and prospects for, the perspectival and aperspectival orientations of consciousness. It’s an excellent history and outline of what we would today call “Ego Psychology”.
(And if, after reading it, it piques your interest further, you can follow it up by reading Iain McGilchrist’s excellent summary of his book The Master and his Emissary called “Divided Brain, Divided World” which is also very relevant to the concerns of Gebser and the present period).
It’s quite difficult, in some ways, not to look at the present state of affairs and find the whole situation repellent and contemptible. But understanding how it all got this way, and the prospects for transcending it through “aperspectivity”, is an important step towards emancipating ourselves from it and its destructive attractions and tendencies. Today, there are many resources, even online, to aid us in this respect, which assist us in understanding the “chaotic transition” — the crucible — through which we are currently passing: the “double-movement”, as Gebser calls it, of decline and ascent, of disintegration and re-integration, of the dangerous decadence of “The Perspectival Age” (with its attendant “end of history”) and the incipience of “The Aperspectival Age” as being a new, more holistic orientation of human consciousness towards our understanding of self and world, human and cosmos.