Fourfold Vision, Values, and Evolution

Now I a fourfold vision see
And a fourfold vision is given to me
Tis fourfold in my supreme delight
And three fold in soft Beulahs night
And twofold Always. May God us keep
From Single vision & Newtons sleep
-William Blake, Letter to Thomas Butts

In his Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser often speaks of evolution as the dynamic unfolding of a “pre-existing pattern”, which pretty much flies in the face of existing evolutionary theory that is based on the notion of chance or random mutation — in other words, meaningless. A Buddhist master, once asked what “chance” was, replied “ignorance”. There is a pattern to the evolutionary dynamic, and that pattern has much to do with Blake’s “fourfold vision”.

When you think about it, it can’t be otherwise. What we call “physical reality” is itself a fourfold structure, being fundamentally an order of two times (time past and time future) and two spaces (inner and outer or subject and object spaces). In those terms, then, the “unfolding” that is evolution can only occur in four directions or the time-space matrix that we call “physical reality” — backwards, forwards, inwards, outwards. The pattern and structure of physical reality is a mandala, in other words. And regardless where you look, this fourfold pattern repeats itself, including, now, the notion of a “four dimensional reality”, the corresponding realisation of the “fourfold Self”, and therewith to Blake’s “four Zoas” and Jean Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” — being the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational.

For the ancient Greeks, reality was a fourfold structure of the primordial elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water which corresponded to the human physical form as metabolic system, respiratory system, nervous system, and circulatory system, and the soul or psyche could be correspondingly moist or dry, or earthy or airy, according to the bent of its nature or predilections. Today that fourfold pattern is replicated in the four fundamental cosmic forces of gravitation, electro-magnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. The same pattern, though, repeats itself. It has a logic, and that logic is fourfold or quadrilateral.

As mentioned in earlier posts, this same fourfold pattern was realised by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy as implicit in speech, in the pattern of grammar, and revealed in the person-system of speech: the persons of “I”, “You”, “He or She or It” and “We”. Research in compartive linguistics or “universal grammar” has pretty much confirmed that all languages have a basic four person system. When you think about it, how could it be otherwise? Since our experience of physical reality is that it is a fourfold structure of time past, and time future (or the “not yet”) and of two spaces of inner and outer, grammar provides the pattern for coordinating the spaces and synchronising the times. But how this is done, that varies from language to language. The underlying or implicit grammatical pattern, nonetheless, remains constant, because to survive in physical reality is a matter of properly organising, arranging, and balancing the contradictory demands of the spaces and times of our existence.

In those terms, Rosenstock-Huessy developed what he called his “cross of reality”. Human consciousness, represented in speech patterns, has certain predilections or “directedness” (which is what Phenomenologists call “intentionality”) which directedness can only be accomplished in the four directions of spacetime: subjective or objective for the spaces, and what he called “trajective” or “prejective” for the times, or past and future orientations or directedness. Subjective, objective, trajective, or prejective describe our “thrownness” or thrusting out into the times and spaces of physical existence, corresponding to the persons of grammar (who have some affiliation with Blake’s “four Zoas” too), and which have their own unique grammatical idiom, expressed in terms of the lyrical (or optative), the analytical (or indicative), the epical (or narrative), and the dramatical (or imperatival), respectively. “Articulation” means to integrate these four in a coherent way, and the pattern for this integration is provided by grammar.

When Rosenstock-Huessy applied this logic to the re-interpretion of the Modern Era, he discovered something quite astonishing, in fact. The four main revolutions that established the Modern Era conformed to the fourfold pattern or quadrilateral logic he had discovered in grammar — the Lutheran (or German) Revolution, the English Civil War or “Glorious Revolution”, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution. The accent or emphasis of each revolution — it’s revolutionary “principle” — corresponded to one of the directions of the fourfold spacetime matrix or “cross of reality” — being either accentuated towards the subjective-inner, the objective-outer, the trajective-past, or the prejective-future. Just as interesting was his discovery, which no one seemed to have noticed before, that each of the revolutions were separated from each other by only four generations — a pattern than needed to be explained, and which he did rather successfully explain in his book Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man.

What Rosenstock-Huessy concluded from his study of the revolutions was that each represented a phase or specialisation in the reconstitution of the human form, corresponding to what Nietzsche would describe as “the revaluation of values”. The reconstruction of the fourfold human form after the collapse of Christendom and its self-understanding of the human, made necessary each of the four subsequent revolutions, for what had been represented in Christendom by the four evangelists (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John) had now to be replicated in secular terms as what we call mind, body, soul and spirit. Each of the revolutions overspecialised in one of these principles, collaboratively working toward the new type of human being self-identified as “Modern Man”. In the four evangelists, the pattern of their relation or what distinguished them, was their representation as “guardians of the four directions” — the subjective, the objective, the trajective, and the prejective predilections or, correspondingly, those things we call “mind”, or “body”, or “soul” or “spirit”. Mind and body correspond to the subjective and objective relation, while soul and spirit correspond to the trajective and prejective orientations. Depending upon which predilection was emphasised, the secularisation of the theological principles enshrined in the four evangelists became secular ideologies — liberalism, conservatism, socialism, environmentalism.

At the same time as Rosenstock-Huessy was working out his fourfold, quadrilateral logic, and applying it to history, sociology, economics, theology and so on, Jean Gebser was working out his history of civilisations as representing “four structures of consciousness”, while Carl Jung was working out this four psychological types and their orientations — introverted, extroverted, but also what we might also call “retroverted” or “preverted” or what we call rather “conservative” and “progressive” orientations of consciousness, which in their extremity are also called “reactionary” or “revolutionary” orientations.

Human beings become “caricature” (or deformed) when they over-exaggerate one aspect of the fourfold or the fourfold vision: subjective mysticism, objective logicism (scientism, economism, consumerism), trajective reactionary of prejective nihilism. The hypertrophy of one of these four is what leads to a consciousness structure functioning in what Gebser calls “deficient mode”. Deficient mode is exactly what William Blake calls “Single Vision” and which, in relation to the mental-rational consciousness structure, Gebser also calls “deficient perspectivisation” (which is a caricature of the human form), or what we call “myopia” or “tunnel vision”. These caricatures and exaggerations (which means, of course, hubris) are what we mean when we speak of the diseases of “reductionism” or “fundamentalism”, which likewise correspond to Blake’s “single vision”.

What all this signifies, however, is that space and time are not really “physical things” or objects but values. What is past and what is future, what is inner and what outer, are never “givens” or just the “data” of existence. It is human consciousness that decides what is past or future, or what belongs within and what belongs without and arranges these matters and affairs accordingly. Whatever is “present” or “presence” is whatever is admitted to the immediacy of consciousness. Whatever is not admitted to the immediacy of consciousness is thrown off and becomes, therewith, past or future, or inner or outer. This “throwing” or thrownness  (which is the meaning of the suffix –ject) is typically what we call “projection” or “alienation”. In fact, another way of speaking of Gebser’s “diaphanous” or “integral” consciousness is — withdrawl of the projections.

In effect, projection and alienation are pretty much the same issue. Realising the “ever-present origin” is the cessation of both projection and alienation.

If it is appreciated that space and time are not “objects” or things, but values, then it’s easily understood that evolution is value realisation that follows a pre-existing pattern, a fourfold pattern that is imprinted not only in grammar but in the structure of the cosmos, too, and which is represented equally in the human form. In those terms, evolution is the continuous process of re-valuation and de-valuation, yet which follows a pattern, as it must. The same fourfold pattern recurs always, whether it is in terms of today’s four fundamental cosmic forces, the four evangelists of the Christian Era, the four elements of the Greek cosmos, the four “ages of man”, the four Yugas or world ages, the four directions of the Sacred Hoop, the four “guardians of the four directions” in Buddhism and Chinese folklore, and on and on it goes. It is represented in the mandala form and in the near universal symbol of the cruciform.

The recurrence of the same fourfold pattern suggests that “revaluation of values” is less value destruction than value translation, from one mode of consciousness into another mode of consciousness. The magical, the mythical and the mental-rational all evince the same pattern but in different ways depending upon the hypervaluation of either will, or feeling, or thinking, or sensation. The same elements of the magical and mythical recur in what we call “consumerism” and brand culture.

“Branding” is, in effect, a revaluation of values itself. The same major and minor gods, spirits, sprites, fairies, ghosts of the magical and mythical consciousness are today represented in and as “brand names”. Consumerism has all the same values as the magical and mythical consciousness — or what is called “the irrational” or “the occult”. Brand entities are the major and minor divinities of the pantheon of the mental-rational consciousness, but which also double as talismans, amulets, fetishes, power objects, potions and elixirs and representations of the Jungian “archetypes” with their own “stories”. They are surrounded by ritual, ceremony, and cult. Branding is so ubiquitous, in fact, that it constitutes the mythology of consumer culture, and is so pervasive that we even now think in terms of brands, marketing, commercialism, and advertising.

I once scoffed at the boast of brand managers and admen that they had succeeded in getting people to think in terms of brands and advertising. It’s quite true, though. Branding is exactly what Nietzsche called “revaluation of values”, reconstructing the universes of magic and myth, and of coven and cult and congregation, in those terms, in terms of brand names and as “lifestyles”. The branders are quite convinced, from what I’m reading, that the “battle for your mind” is over, and that they have won it. Consumerism is the proof.

The universe of brand names and branding offers moral guidance, ideals, meaning, community, heroes and villains, worthy values, stories, and so on and it does so by exploiting the capital of magic and myth. And it “works” because these are abiding aspects of the human psychic whole. Some people defend this practice as supplying meaning or “reason for being” in an apparently meaningless universe (for a price, of course). The justification for this goes back to Plato and his “Noble Lie” theory of social organisation, and continued through Francis Bacon who believed that a little lying and illusionism added some meaning to life (so the vaunted “pursuit of truth” already from its earliest times, allowed an inroad for its own self-negation and reversal!).

Branding is both the propaganda of agitation (agitprop) and the propaganda of control. It doesn’t matter whether propaganda and perception management is called “branding” or some other name (like “publicity” or “public diplomacy” and so on). It amounts to the same thing. It is co-optation. But some apologists for branding and consumerism point out that they are doing no different than Christianity when it co-opted pagan rituals and myths  — Easter, Halloween, Christmas and so on and “rebranded” them, just as they, now, co-opt the religious rituals and themes and rebrand them for commercial purposes. They are quite frank about it.

So, we have to put the question: what does “branded culture” do to space and time — how does it synchronise past and future times or coordinate the inner and outer spaces and what is the consequence of this for human consciousness and society? In terms of the coordination of spaces, that’s clear enough — branding seeks to coordinate consumption with production, stimulating both productivism and consumerism, spaces of “us” and “them”. But what does it do to the values of time — past and future? What is the “new human” that branding seeks to create by its own revaluation of values?


4 responses to “Fourfold Vision, Values, and Evolution”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    Few days ago I was reading a review of Robert Roberts book entitled Christendom astray and felt that Islamdom is also astray unaware of the passage of time and forgetting to live in the god time and not in the human time and bear witness not only to Mohammad but to all prophets as their book demanded, forgetting also that the phrase of the people of the books is applied to them and not only to other bearer of books. I feel we are living in a new space and new time, new understanding of the inner and the outer . A new time and space where cultural and religious or any other type of boxes are no longer viable or acceptable. New consciousness that is aware of the platforms ( time, space ,inner and outer) across which the four basic energy of the cosmos manifest their forces ( divine , angelic, satanic and human) in order to accomplish the purpose of the structure of the cosmos in revealing the glaring truth of existence defying all meaningless talk of chance and haphazardness and refuting all the attempts to distort the purity of god teaching. The wandering Arab must find his way in the lap of the Christians, exactly as his first people find their support in the early Christians.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I feel we are living in a new space and new time, new understanding of the inner and the outer . A new time and space where cultural and religious or any other type of boxes are no longer viable or acceptable

      That’s a good way to put it. changes in the configuration or representations of time and space are always indicators to major changes in consciousness. Such changes in the spacetime configuration are reflected in the tempos and rhythms of living and in the organisation of social spaces — private or public, inner and outer, etc. This is very key to understanding Gebser’s “consciousness structures” — they have very different space and time configurations, and its reflected in the arts, dances, music (tempos and temples) of each and in their respective organisation of space. In the case of Gebser’s “archaic”, it was pre-spatial and pre-temporal, and in those terms “oceanic”, now only the stuff of myth and legend. “Archaic” is identical with what Gebser calls “the ever-present origin” and is what Blake thought of as “the Golden Age” still latent in the human form as the inner “kingdom of heaven”.

  2. dadaharm says :


    The statement that the battle for our minds has been won by the advertisers seems to be true. It is a bit frightening, but not all is lost.

    Propaganda and advertisement do have weaknesses. They are not all powerful. They are imposed from the outside. They are not natural or inborn.

    This implies that they depend on constant repetition and reinforcement to be effective. The people must be continually exposed to propaganda and advertisement. In the age of mass media this is of course easy.

    The moment a company stops advertising, its products loose their coolness and are soon forgotten.

    It could well be, that it is also necessary that the propaganda and advertisements need to become more extreme to remain effective. That would also explain the rather disturbing, hysterical and totalitarian quotes about holistic branding in your previous post.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s true that propaganda is about repetition, and there’s a particular formula for it in advertising, including repeating the same commercial three times in a row, or repeating the same thing three times lie “fast, fast, fast relief”, and so on. As Gebser pointed out, three is the number of magic. It was in Shakespeare also — McBeth’s “three witches” for example. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d, Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined. Interestingly, come to think of it, Shakespeare has his three witches cast their spell in a “cavern” — significant symbol for Gebser, the “cavern” or grotto being largely the shape of the magical consciousness, which brings us back to the image of the “domed city” as primordial cavern.

      Much more significant than the content of branding is the form of it, so those who insist on “truth in advertising” are really missing the big picture, or those who insist on the proper representation of people of colour in ads or women in ads, etc. They’ve fallen for consumerism. They’ve already been co-opted. The branders are only to happy to comply in most cases.

      Something similar happened to the labour movement early on. When workers marched through Berlin in the early 20th c demanding “8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours sleep” they had already fallen in line, and for the time allocation and calculation of the industrial system. They weren’t being “revolutionary” at all. They, in effect, co-opted themselves.When they won the 8 hour day, that was the end of the revolutionary potential of the working class. Only then did they become really “wage slaves”, and had to accept the logic that “time is money” and accept shiftwork — the 8 hour shift.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: