The Mage, the Sage, and the Genius
Let’s continue from the previous post on “The ‘Deficient Phase’ of a Consciousness Structure” and my suggestion, there, that the triad of “mean-spirited”, “small-souled”, and “petty-minded” could be easily taken to represent the “deficit” of sensibility that characterises each of Gebser’s consciousness structures — the magical, the mythical, and the mental.
And, as you probably have already inferred from the title of this post, it’s quite evident that a particular human archetype is associated with each — the Mage (and the magical), the Sage (and the mythical) and the Genius (and the mental). Now things get interesting.
Of course, each of these figures is the outstanding representative of their respective ages and civilisational types, corresponding to the dominant mode of consciousness. The Mage and magic, the Sage and the Saga (or “the saying” or the “seen” and so “the Seer”), and the Genius with the mental (and ingenuity and engineering). There you have the chief representatives of each of the consciousness structures. Simple.
Except, the curious thing is that the Mage and the Sage have ceased to be explicit. They have returned to latency, and now appear (as Jung’s depth psychology has amply demonstrated) only as “archetypes of the collective unconscious”, and mostly in dreams, or as the stuff of fable and legend. The Mage and the Sage have been supplanted by the Genius and, of course, the associated mode of consciousness — thinking or the mental.
At one time, though, “Genius” appeared only as the dream form of the Mage or Sage, as “the dream of reason”. The word “Genius” is related to the Latin gens — meaning “the people” or “the tribe”. The possessive case of gens, being “genius“, it means “of the people” or “of the tribe”, and referred to the totem or tutelary spirit of the tribe. The word is related to “genie” (Arabic djinn) and was the spirit that acted as the protector of the tribe, guaranting its continuity, prosperity, and so on — the creative and fertile spirit, the source of the tribe’s inspiration, etc. Athena, for example, was the tutelary diety of Athens. And it is she who teaches Achilles to moderate his rage. Athena, though, is not wisdom. That is Sophia.
Gens forms all sorts of other words we use everyday — general, genesis, genuine, gender, gentle and Gentile, generous, generation, and genius. But the “genius” was not originally the ideal type, nor was the genius even human. The ideal type was either the Sage or the Mage. But these have returned to latency and now only appear to the mind as “archetypes of the collective unconscious” or as “spirit guides” and now only the stuff of mental man’s dreaming. But these figures are the representatives, or archetypes as it were, of the different structures of consciousness still part of our psychic inheritance and configuration.
It is not analysis that characterises genius, but ingenuity. And that attests to the form of creativity of the mental consciousness structure. In fact, the emphasis on analysis and description really attests to the exhaustion of this mode of consciousness — the exhaustion of its creative potential. This is the phase that Gebser calls “rationality” or de-generation. It has become, instead, myopic — “narrow-minded” or “petty-minded” is the meaning of “deficient perspectivisation” and the problem of the “point-of-view” consciousness structure.
It’s not just in terms of H.G. Wells’ observations of “mind at the end of its tether”, but also in Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Ingenuity Gap. Genius has run its course, and cannot solve, by rational or “ingenius” means, the problems of the present and the future. Genius must now summon the aid and assistance of the hitherto neglected aspects of the psychic whole — the Mage and the Sage.
And that is, basically, the meaning of Gebser’s “integral consciousness”.
There is, besides the Mage, the Sage, and the Genius corresponding to the magical, the mythical, and the mental, also the question of the “archaic” structure of consciousness and its representative. The archaic consciousness is the “whole”, and the traditional representation for that is the Androgyne.
So, you have these four archetypal representatives of the consciousness structures (which conform to Blake’s Four Zoas, too): The Androgyne, the Mage, the Sage, and the Genius, and the “efficient” and “deficient” stages of the consciousness structure they represent corresponds to their ascent and descent (or decadence). And the conditions called “mean-spirited”, “small-souled” and “petty-minded” represent the forms of their exhaustion and reversal of fortune, respectively of the magical, the mythical and the mental.
Seems pretty clear cut, doesn’t it? The only real question is whether Genius and ingenuity have indeed run their course as well, or whether it can carry on in “zombie mode” for an as yet indeterminate time period. For that’s what the contemporary myth of the zombie is — an intuition about the exhaustion and bankruptcy of this particular structure of consciousness.