The Now and the Moment
Time is the dominant theme and reality in much of the new thinking, and the essence of the “paradigm shift” as some presently call it, or the “metanoia” (new mind) as Rosenstock-Huessy also calls it. Time-thinking is the dominant mode of Gebser’s approach to cultural philosophy and consciousness mutations in his Ever-Present Origin. The shift from “perspectivism” to “aperspectivism” is the shift from space-bound awareness to time awareness, and from perceiving “objects” in three-dimensional space to seeing, rather, events or objects as eventings in four-dimensional timespace. Objects become events, rather.
This also corresponds to the Buddhist principle of “impermanence”, the chief feature of samsaric existence in which all things are transient — originated and conditional — or as we would say “momentary”, including the mortal self in time. And if you have familiarised yourself with Iain McGilchrist’s wonderful book on neurodynamics, The Master and his Emissary, you will recognise the “Emissary” as being this momentary thing called “mortal self in time”.
I’ve found that the best way to think of the relation of the “Master” and the “Emissary” is in terms of time, and in those terms, they correspond to Now and the Moment. This is the actual situation, if you followed, for example, Jill Bolte-Taylor’s TED talk on her “stroke of insight” and the different modes of perception of the two hemispheres of the brain, it is largely connected to the interpretations of time, tempo, temporicity. The “first attention” (as we call it here) of the “Master”, or right-brain, is timeless presence or Now, while the second attention (as we also call it) of the “Emissary”, or left-brain, is the time-divider and time-binder, concerned with moments of time or “atoms of time”, as it were — details, and more details about the details, dividing and analysing Now into more and more fragments of time — hours, minutes, seconds, microseconds, nanoseconds, etc. Such moments of time correspond to “points of time”, as when we say “at this point in time”. In effect, “points of view” are moments of time — atoms of time, and always transient. And this is a source of much anxiety for the point-of-view or perspectivising, analysing consciousness (ie, rationality).
Now is presence. Now corresponds to the “ever-present origin”, as Gebser calls it. Now is the mode of being of the “human Itself” — the core or nucleus of the human form. This corresponds to McGilchrist’s “Master”. The Moment is always the transitory aspect of Presence. This is the “Emissary” or ego-consciousness. But, by the same token, Now is always the unchangeable aspect of the Momentary. This is the ambivalence of things that is represented, for example, in the Tai Chi symbol — Yin and Yang, animus and anima, life and death, Dionysus and Hades, or Athena and the Gorgon — the self-complementary polarity of events.
And, as you may have already noted, the dynamics of Holling’s “Adaptive Cycle” very much follow the same pattern dynamics of the Tai Chi (or T’ai Ki) symbol.
To repeat: Moment is always the transient or impermanent aspect of Now. Now is always and everywhere the eternal aspect of Moment. This is the rule of “impermanence”, and is connected with the meaning of Gebser’s “law of the earth” inasmuch as time is the shadow of eternity. So, William Blake’s remark that “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” (or “Eternity in the hour”) pertains to this mutuality or polarity existing between Now and Moment or Presence and the Momentary, or aeternitas and saeculum. Now, in Buddhism, is also called “the unoriginated and the unconditioned”. Now is always the “implicate” aspect of Moment. Moment always the “explicit” aspect of Now.
These are, correspondingly, the character of McGilchrist’s “Master” and “Emissary”. And when you begin to appreciate their essentially atemporal and temporal character, respectively, you will be well on your way to attaining that “metanoia” that Jean Gebser calls “aperspective-arational consciousness” (or “integral consciousness”). Now or Präsenz (to borrow from the German) is always perfect, complete, inviolable and indivisible, while the momentary is only the fragmentary, the atomised, the “point of view”.
In this relation between Now and Moment is also the relation between Master and Emissary, and is moreover the meaning of “true self” or “false self” in much of the Wisdom Tradition. What follows from that is that, as mentioned, our habit of perceiving “objects” in perspectivist space (3 dimensional space) gives way to “seeing” objects rather as events in timespace, and “being” ceases to be a thing and becomes moreso an activity — a process in time, an event or eventing.
In some parables, Now is always compared to the “sea” — the “sea of awareness” — or a vast ocean — the “oceanic feeling”. This is the “Master”. The ego-consciousness on the other hand is described as a boat or even a cork bobbing on this ocean (and so in the Book of Genesis, “water” is the original state of the Void, undivided and undifferentiated). The ocean is not “time” but “timelessness” or the pre-temporal. The ego is the cork or the boat, and this is what McGilchrist calls “Emissary” which (as “usurper” in McGilcrist’s terms), dares to try to drink up the sea. It’s appetite is greater than its capacity, however. This is called “hubris”.
Now and Moment is the “mirroring” that is performed by “reflection” or “speculation” (from speculum or “mirror”). The Emissary is really a mirroring, and all mirrors only reflect an image, and moreover, in reverse. Enantiodromia or reversal, is this process of “mirroring”.
When you appreciate the relationship between Now and the Moment (that Moment is only the Shadow of Now) you will then appreciate what Gebser means by “aperspective consciousness” or “arational consciousness”, and it is very much parallel to Iain McGilchrist’s two modes of attention as modes of being — as Master and as Emissary. In fact, in some sense, they are identical to the meaning of Now and Moment. All “points of view” are only successions of moments — atoms of time — and are, for that reason, essentially narcissistic.