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”,

Rosenstock-Huessy's "cross of reality"

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “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,

Richard Moss' "mandala of being"

Richard Moss’ “mandala of being”

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!


13 responses to “Getting Rad, Getting Rootsy”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    By the way, knowing yourself as identical with this “ever-present origin” represented as the “vital centre” of the cross of reality is the state that Plotinus calls “Uniate”.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      By the way, THE HEART OF PLOTINUS: The Essential Enneads by the wonderful Lithuanian Scholar Aldis Uzdavinys, ( Requiescat in Pace ) is, I think one of the best books on Plotinus I have ever read.

  2. mikemackd says :

    I’m no expert in the field of Eastern medicine, what’s placebo in it, what’s nocebo etc.It seems a vast sea that’s easy to drown in, not for the unprepared, and replete with con-artists and other sharks. However, your post’s juxtaposition of kidneys and centering reminded me of a book I read decades ago on Hara, a centering process for both Eastern medicine and martial arts.

    Maybe someone someday will write a dissertation on comparing Hara and Gebser’s ever present origin, but that probably won’t be me. It also reminded me of a definition of myth rather like your excellent sentence on Gebser: “a myth never was, but always is”; rather like the Dreamtime of the Australian Aborigines. But I guess Euclidian geometry can be viewed that way too.

    I think those seeds need more time in the ground.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Was just reading this interesting note by Jeremy Naydler in Future of the Ancient World. Apparently, the words for “mind” and for “ear” are the same in ancient Sumerian.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Whoa. This is really fascinating. Again from Naydler’s book, and a characterisation of what Rosenstock-Huessy disses as “The Greek Mind”

    “The genius of the Greek language is still more revealing than its mythology, especially as the former evolved to accommodate more abstract and philosophical concepts. By the fourth century BC, thever idein was used equally to express seeing and knowing, the congruence of meaning being so complete that the past oida was used both in the sense of “i have seen” and “I know”. For the Greeks, when one has seen, one knows. This coalescence of meaning was retained in the derivative noun idea, which expressed both the inner nature of a thing (what kind of thing it is) and its visible form and appearance. Similarly the noun theoria denoted both contemplation and beholding or observing. Its verb theorein was employed to describe both the activity of spectators at public games and festivals, and that of the philosopher. Clearly, for the Greeks, the activity of thinking was felt to imply a distancing of self from object, similar to that which arises between observer and observed in the exercise of the sense of sight,”

    This ties in beautifully with an earlier post on Plotinus’s relationship of theoriai (ways of seeing or spectating) with theoremata (the worlds so constituted as intentional object). Theoria is spectation and hence speculation, and is related to the eye. Hence, Naydler is describing the early form of Gebser’s “perspectivist” consciousness. In those terms Rosenstock’s “The Greek Mind” and Gebser’s “mental-rational-perspectivist” consciousness are quite equivalent terms.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s a very interesting interview, and I’m finding his book The Future of the Ancient World quite engaging. In fact, an essential work for students of Gebser.

        I was thinking while listening to Naydler of how destructive the busyness for busyness’s sake mode of living really is — this keeping busy for the sake of keeping busy (or for keeping up with the Joneses and the Kardashians, etc). I know lots of people who think they are being “productive” when, in fact, they are simply keeping busy, and confuse the two. What they are actually doing is doing time, killing time, passing time without any purpose, deliberation or meaning to their activity. It’s just routine business for business sake.

        This activity is actually destructive. We all see it now, don’t we? It’s even in the terms we use — killing time, doing time, etc. It’s destructive of time. Ironically, business for business’s sake introduces chaos into the midst of the social order, by this very fact of killing time. This is connected to what Gebser writes of our “guilt about time”.

        It’s quite insane behaviour. And in social terms we describe that generally in terms like “McJobs”.

        Economistic society extols “industriousness”, for no other reason it seems than keeping busy and keeping people busy, often in meaningless and routine activities that have no purpose but are presumed to add GDP value. The irony here is that most of this “productivity” is actually destructive and nihilistic, as we now see. And this nihilism is expressed in the notions of “killing time” or “passing time” or “doing time”.

        • davidm58 says :

          Keeping busy for the sake of being busy is what complex societies do to maintain the status quo, and it contributes to their downfall.

          “Ugo Bardi quotes Joseph Tainter as saying,
          ‘In ancient societies that I studied, for example the Roman Empire, the great problem that these economies faced was that they eventually would incur very high costs just to maintain the status quo. They would need to invest very high amounts to solve problems that didn’t yield a net positive return; instead these investments simply allowed the economies to maintain the level that they were at. This increasing cost of maintaining the status quo decreased the net benefit of being a complex society.’

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