The Vital, the Vision, the View
After reading Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and his Emissary, I’ve gone back to review Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin in light of the new information from current research in neurodynamics and neuroplasticity. Although it took me almost ten years to get through The Ever-Present Origin the first go round, It’s going more smoothly the second time, even though I’m spending more time this go checking up on his footnotes and references. But it’s still a tall order to work your way through the book. Some things are crystal clear, others more opaque and obscure to me. It has taken me years to decode his cryptic reference to “the law of the earth”, for example. I provisionally assumed it was related to the meaning of Kali Ma, the “Dark Mother”, the archetype of which was explored by Erich Neumann in his master work The Great Mother: An Analysis of the Archetype. It may well be that Neumann’s book is an extended treatment of the meaning of Gebser’s “the law of the earth”.
(Neumann’s other masterwork The Origins and History of Consciousness very much influenced me when I read it at university, and very much redirected my interests into consciousness studies).
Among the obstacles to our understanding and appreciating the “integral standpoint” is our habitual commitment to spatialised thinking — perspectivism or the “mental-rational” approach to reality. So, from the very outset it is necessary to appreciate that time, and not space, is the primary “dimension” (or “amension” as he prefers to call it). For Gebser, time is literally of the essence, space is secondary. This is also true of Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s philosophy. Both are principally “time-thinkers”. Moreover, Gebser apparently approves of Augustine’s notion that “time is of the soul” — a realised potentiality of what we call “soul”. In other words (and this Gebser also shares with Rosenstock-Huessy), we are not “thrown” or “hurled” into space-time. We perform space and time. Different eras, different cultures, different civilisational types encode and perform space and time differently, especially evident in grammar. How they encode and perform time and space is a reflection of the “shape” of their consciousness — the “consciousness structure”.
So, in those terms Rosenstock-Huessy and Gebser are very close in thinking of grammatical speech and physical reality altogether as being “the mirror of the soul” — speculatio animae (or in the case of the space-bound perspectivist mental-rational structure, speculatio rationis, or “mirror of the mind”, which takes the form of a triangle or pyramid).
As it turns out, the diversity of consciousness structures is not infinite fundamentally. And in this both Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy concur, although they use different terminology for this (as does William Blake with his “four Zoas). There are, historically realised, four civilisational types or structures reflecting the “fourfold Self” or soul in its faculties or capacities, or what we might call the soul’s “ecology”. For Gebser, the four realised structures to date are, and have been: archaic, magical, mythical, and mental-rational, along with the prospective “fifth” or quintessence he calls “the integral”. For Rosenstock-Huessy, they are, correspondingly, trajective, objective, subjective, and prejective with their orientations backwards, outwards, inwards, and forwards in relation to space-time, relations and orientations which are encoded and performed in the names and words, and in the person system and tenses of human grammars.
All this is to say, fundamentally, that “you create the reality you know”. Or, as Mr. McGilchrist would say, your “mode of attention” determines and defines your “mode of being”. Phenomenologists would concur — consciousness intends its world, and it does so by structuring and organising its experience of space and time and largely in conformity with a pre-existing and pre-established pattern and blueprint — human grammars. Grammatical speech orients the soul in physical reality. And as the soul is fourfold in structure, in terms of “faculties” of sensing, feeling, thinking, willing, so is its reality fourfold, a structure of two spaces (inner and outer) and two times (past and future). This is the speculatio animae. It turns out, though, that these times and spaces are structured very, very differently according to a particular realised potentiality of the soul which becomes its mode of being — the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational or, alternatively, the unperspectival, the pre-perspectival, and the perspectival.
These correspond to the 3 V’s, as it were — the vitalistic, the visionary, and the viewpoint. These are convenient shortcut terms for representing different civilisational types as structures of consciousness, but also have the merit of reflecting some inner realised capacity or potentiality of the soul as a consciousness structure — will, emotion, or thought. As such (and incluseive of the “archaic” structure) these are not “stages” in an evolutionary progression, but are “ever-present” in the human form, as more or less manifest or latent structures.
“…without these forms of realization we would not survive even for a day, since the structures on which they are based along with these forms of realization make up our integral constitution. It is the degree of our insight into and encompassing perception of them — or, more exactly, the degree that they become transparent in us — which transforms them into our instrument and prevents us from being their plaything.” (p. 189).
As Gebser (and Rosenstock-Huessy also) presents it, it is the increase in the dimensions of physical reality that corresponds to an mutation or incrementation of consciousness — the discovery of some inherent potentiality or faculty of the soul precedes the incremental increase in the dimensionality of physical reality. Archaic consciouenss was zero dimensional (pre-spatial, pre-temporal), the magical was one-dimensional (space-timelessness), the mythical was two-dimensional (circular temporicity), the mental-rational was three-dimensional (perspectivist, linear time) and the incipient “integral” represents the four-dimensional with the addition of “time” as a “dimension” — our awakening to time.
In that sense, time is of the essence, for what really characterises a consciousness structure is the tempo or rhythm of its being. But it is important to understand that all the other potential structures of consciousness existed as latent potentialities within any realised structure, such that the mental-rational was a latent potentiality even of the magical (and sometimes irrupted into consciousness in the case of certain individuals) and, vice versa, the archaic, the magical, and the mythical also continue to exist as latent structures of the mental-rational, and can be made “transparent”, in Gebser’s terms. And in those terms, the integral consciousness structure is both the transparency of the psyche and its cosmos which brings with it time and space freedom.
Tempo, or the rhythm of life, is perhaps the defining characteristic of a consciousness structure, and is most exemplified in the music, dance, art, poetry, literature, but also in the organisation of social life. The highly structured, mechanical, and abstract time of economic civilisation or “the Modern Age” is a reflection of the mental-rational structure (the Ratio) as the dominant mode of consciousness — the dominance of Iain McGilchrist’s “left-hemisphere” of the brain he calls “the Emissary”. It is the quantification of time and even the atomisation of time (into microseconds, nanoseconds, and “points-of-view” or “viewpoints” etc). This quantification, fragmentation and atomisation of time (the “atomic clock” for example) represents the dissolution of lifetime into pieces of time. “Time is money” is perhaps the most cogent expression of this quantification and corresponding fragmentation of time as mechanical time — time becomes interest rate calculation and the tempo, the rhythm, of the 24/7 economy. The real problem of neo-liberal globalisation is about imposing a single homogenous tempo and rhythm upon the globe — mental-rational time; a kind of time colonialism or time imperialism.
Gebser calls Modern Angst (anxiety, even “the maelstrom of blind anxiety”) our sense of “guilt” about time — we pass time, kill time, do time, run out of time, the sense of time speeding up, and the obsession with speed. The tempo of Late Modern life is becoming centrifugal, chaotic time. And since “time is of the soul”, the state of time gives a clue to the condition of the soul — disintegration. In this, both Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy concur — the personality and character structure of Late Modern Man is fracturing and disintegrating. And, as Heraclitus once put it, “character is fate”. This is reflected in the mood of nihilism today.
We see, today also, glimpses of different orders of time and even of the timeless — quantum non-locality and entanglement, fractal geometries, the spatial simultaneity also of Picasso’s art that Gebser (and Arthur I. Miller) found so significant and intriguing as exemplifying, also, a change in tempo and not just aperspectivity. And it is in these things, appearing in the midst of the ruins of the old, that Gebser saw the incipient emergence of a new consciousness structure, one characterised by “time freedom”, one in which all consciousness structures, their temporicities, their hitherto realised possibilities, and correspondingly all space and time, would become manifest and transparent in the “diaphanon” — the manifest presence of “origin” or what he calls “the Itself”, the core, nucleus or “vital centre” of the integrated human form.
Blake already knew this “Itself” or diaphanon — the universe in a grain of sand, Heaven in a Wild Flower and Eternity in the Hour, and so on. What Gebser calls the “diaphanon” or “Itself” is what Blake calls Albion, the resurrect “Universal Humanity”. And as the nucleus, core or “vital centre” or “ever-present origin” it also corresponds with the intersection point of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, previously discussed. The diaphanon is the dynamic radiance of the cross of reality, and the central point of cross is called “ever-present origin”. That is the shape of the fifth structure of consciousness called “integral”.
What characterises Blake, Gebser, and Rosenstock-Huessy is the switch from thinking in terms of the finite and the infinite, and more towards the eternity and time, and the implicitness of the timeless within time. The eternal and infinite are the polarities of the diaphanon, or the human “Itself”.
And that is what Jill Bolte-Taylor was also trying to convey in her TED talk. So, have no doubt that the diaphanon is, and it is who and what you are essentially, that it appears presently to be in the process of awakening, with all the necessary turmoil and turbulence that this brings with it (and aptly described, even in horrifying detail, by Blake), that it is what Nietzsche meant as “transhuman”, what Aurobindo means by “supramental”, what Blake meant by “Albion”, what Meister Eckhart called “the Aristocrat”, what McGilchrist calls “the Master”, what Seth calls “the energy personality essence”, or what Ralph Waldo Emerson called “Oversoul” (and which, indeed, is an essay that seems to have influenced Nietzsche in his concept of the “overman”).
“Eternity is in love with the productions of time”, wrote Blake. That’s your clue. That’s the end of Blake’s “golden string”. “ ‘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 in Jerusalem’s Wall” is a symbolic reference to another symbolic reference, called “the Eye of the Needle”. It was an actual gate in Jerusalem’s Wall that Jesus used as a metaphor for the gateway to heaven. But if you become nothing, you can pass through the Eye of the Needle with ease.