The “Deficient Phase” of a Consciousness Structure
These three terms always occur to me whenever I encounter contemporary political discourse. It’s certainly no “high politics” by any means. Nor is it exclusive to the political right, although they seem to be most gathered and pronounced amongst self-styled “conservatives”. It strikes me as characteristic of the deterioration of the public discourse in general.
Last night, though, as I was reading even more mean-spirited, small-souled, and petty-minded political views and news, it struck me that this triad very closely corresponds to Buddha’s “Three Evils”, and that the Three Evils very closely correspond to the deficient phases of Gebser’s three consciousness structures — the magical, the mythical, the mental.
It would prove fortuitous if the matter of a “deficiency” of consciousness could be summarised in this way. And I don’t see why it can’t. Let’s look at the parallels.
The Three Evils of Buddhism are Greed, Malice (Ill-Will), and Ignorance (Delusion). Low and behold, these Three Evils very much resemble, respectively “small-souled” (Aristotle’s Mikropsychos), mean-spirited (malice and menace), and petty-minded (or narrow-minded).
What stands out in each case is one of the emphases of the consciousness structures — spirit and the magical, soul and the mythical, mind and the mental, so that the terms “mean-spirited”, “small souled”, and “petty-minded” would represent the negation of themselves. Let’s draw up a synoptic table to see how this might fit
a) mean-spirited — malice or ill-will — deficit of the magical structure of consciousness — willing / spirit
b) small-souled — greed or grasping — deficit of the mythical structure of consciousness — feeling/ soul
c) petty-minded — ignorance or delusion — deficit of the mental structure of consciousness — intellect/mind. Perspectivism.
The deteriorated phase of a consciousness structure would seem to be adequately represented in the three terms. Moreover, it gives even greater depth of meaning to the Buddha’s Three Evils of Greed, Malice, and Delusion/Ignorance if they correspond to the deteriorated or nihilistic stages of a consciousness structure in Jean Gebser’s sense.
In Buddhism, the Three Evils are met and countered in the “Three Gems”: The Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha. “I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha” or sanctuary. It would seem that the “Buddha” counters the greedy and grasping (the small-souled) with generosity; the dharma counters the petty-minded by broadening the mind; and the sangha (the community) counters the mean-spirited and the malicious by mutual benevolence and consideration.
It simplifies matters pertaining to Gebser’s cultural philosophy a great deal if we can interpret the deficiency of consciousness structures in such terms, for spirit, soul, and mind are the cornerstones of three of the four consciousness structures/civilisational types — correspondingly, the magical, the mythical, and the mental.