Getting Rad, Getting Rootsy
I had to drive to the city yesterday for my bimonthly medical review of the lab work related to my kidney condition (which I’m pleased to report remains stable). The attending nurse there, who hails from the Caribbean, described me as “rootsy”. “Rootsy” seems to be Caribbean slang for someone rooted, anchored, grounded, down to earth, centred as contrasted with flighty, fanciful, or given to “putting on airs”, as we say.
“Rootsy”, I thought, was a very engaging word, because it corresponds to the meaning “rad” or “radical” in its original sense (Latin radix meaning “root”, hence “radish”), and so to a sense of, and attunement towards, origin. And since Steve Lavendusky had mentioned in a recent comment that he was reading Simone Weil, and Simone Weil is the author of the notable book The Need for Roots, I thought it was all quite serendipitous because my thinking lately has been focussed on how best to represent Jean Gebser’s notion of Origin as “ever-present”.
I love serendipitous events (or what Jung calls “synchronicities”). They point to a mysterious logic underlying our normal everyday rationales and logic that often irrupt in daily life and force themselves upon our attention in the form of the “anomaly” or anomalous instance. Don Juan advised Castaneda, for example, to be mindful and observant for the anomalous in daily life as representing a “knock of the spirit”.
While I was driving to my medical appointment in the city, I was thinking to myself about how best to characterise what Jean Gebser means by “ever-present origin”, and hit upon a kind of ditty: “Before is, was, and will be is Origin. Before I or Thee, He or She, and It or We is the ever-present.” I was quite proud of myself with that. So I was already in a “rootsy” mood by the time I arrived for my medical review.
We tend to associate the meaning of “rootsy” with a very conservative, or even folksy, mood and orientation. Gebser’s critique of “progressivism”, for example, as “distantiation” from the vital centre could easily be misconstrued as just another expression of cranky conservatism, or even as the complaint of the thorough-going reactionary — the all-too common type today, it seems. But that would only be the case if Gebser’s “Origin” was synonymous with “Beginning” in time, which it isn’t. In both Gebser’s cultural philosophy, and Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical philosophy and “cross of reality”, “progressivism” and “conservatism” both represent forms of distantiation from the vital centre and thus from Origin or the Source. Rosenstock-Huessy calls progressivism “prejective” orientation, and conservatism he calls “trajective” orientation (to supplement the subjective and objective orientations). And these pulls backwards or forwards or inwards or outwards tend to unbalance us, drawing us further away from consciousness of origin and the vital centre, as can be seen from his illustration of the “cross of reality”,
This “cross of reality” also bears some resemblance to Richard Moss’s “Mandala of Being”, as illustrated from his book by that title,
We tend to treat rootsy and radical as opposites in the current dualistic paradigm, when they aren’t. Related words like “radial” or “radiant” are fully illustrated in the two figures above. They mean “from the root” or from the core or vital centre. To be “rootsy” or “rad” is, in a sense, to be and feel at home wherever you are, befitting Cusanus’s description of the ever-present origin, too, as a “circle whose circumference is nowhere and whose centre is everywhere” (and, one might add, “and always” as literally “All Ways” together). To be “flighty”, as the contrary of rootsy or rad, is to proceed too far along merely one of the axes or arms of the cross of reality, which draws us off balance — spiritually away from the vital centre. This is what Blake calls “Single Vision” (as opposed to “fourfold vision”) and corresponds to the myopia and tunnel vision of Gebser’s “perspectivising consciousness”. To proceed too far in any one direction of the cross of reality is the meaning of “bias”, and is to lose equanimity and equipoise — ie, “sanity”. These two illustrations remind us what equanimity and equipoise, and consequently, sanity, really mean, and also what it means to “get carried away” — flighty, or in manias, and so on.
To be rootsy, or to be rad, really, is to live at the vital centre, which Moss has explicitly designated the “Now” — which corresponds in meaning to Gebser’s “ever-present” origin, which is what Gebser also refers to as the “diaphanon“. If you prefer, you can think of the vital centre here as Iain McGilchrist’s “Master” and the radiations from Origin or vital centre as the various forms of the Emissary, who in traditional form corresponds to “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. Every time you come across groupings of four like this (the four Beasts around the Throne of God; the four riders of the apocalypse, the four Evangelists — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John; the four dragons and the Jade Emperor of China; the four Zoas of Blake or the four Guardians of Buddhism; or the four directions of the Sacred Hoop, North, South, East, West, etc) you are dealing with the prejective, subjective, objective, and trajective moods of the fourfold Self or Soul. Gebser’s integral consciousness is, after all, to know yourself as this same fourfold being, in terms of archaic, magical, mythical, and mental structures of consciousness, with their own essential and unique orientations to time and space. That can only be known, obviously, when you become identical with the vital centre. This is what Gebser calls “arational” or “aperspectival” for it has overcome the narrow “point of view”. The vital centre, corresponding to “Now” or “Origin” is not the “point-of-view”. It is rather Overview, corresponding to Gebser’s “universal way of looking at things”.
This should help also explain why Gebser sees integral consciousness as more closely connected with mythical consciousness, or as having an affinity with the mythical more so than the magical.
So, get rad and get rootsy!