History and Integral Consciousness

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy noted, in his sociological writings, something peculiar — the more we recovered the past — the deeper we probed into human history and pre-history — the more the future began to resemble the past. This was exemplified, for example, in Nietzsche. Nietzsche drew his models and inspirations from the pre-Socratics, and yet these models and inspirations have become reflected in what we call “post-modernism”.

This premise underlies also Jeremy Naydler’s The Future of the Ancient World: Essays on the History of Consciousness. Naydler focusses almost exclusively upon Egypt and its meaning, but even the title expresses something of this same dynamic — the deeper we probe antiquity the more antiquity comes to live again through us, or through what Jean Gebser also calls “presentiation”.

It’s not as though we are systematically appropriating the “ideas” of antiquity — after all the Renaissance was also an example of the recovery of antiquity, too. Here, going forward and going backward are coincident. The Renaissance represented the rebirth of the classical period of the Greco-Roman era. Nietzsche dove even further back into the pre-Socratics and laid the foundations for post-modernism. Gebser, Jung,  (and Naydler) drive even further “back” into pre-philosophy and pre-history, and recover the consciousness of myth and magic.

It is the form of a dialogue with antiquity, and the more we engage with antiquity, the more it becomes “presentiated” as our future. Both Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy are in agreement with that. Rosenstock-Huessy calls this process a “metanoia” (or “new mind”), and this is equivalent to what Jean Gebser calls “integral consciousness”. Both are realised through this process of “presentiation”.

What we call “the return of the repressed” (or the return of the native) and this driving back into antiquity are coincident. We aren’t really driving back into time and the past in any literal sense so much as recovering ancient characteristics or potentialities of the human soul that have been repressed or forgotten, or returned to latency. In our engagement with antiquity, those modes of perception that were repressed or which returned to latency are activated once more. It’s in this sense that Augustine says “time is of the soul”. Time and history are not as purely “objective” as we tend to think, for in recovering the consciousness of antiquity we are practicing depth psychology, too.

It my seem that we are exploring “history” or something called “the past”, but in effect we are exploring ourselves, and it isn’t strictly speaking a linear process as we tend to think of time. This process of the recovery of antiquity is simultaneously (we might describe it as “synchronicity”) the recovery of latent potentialities of the soul. For Gebser, just as all past becomes presentiated through consciousness, so all future simultaneously becomes transparent as well. This is “presentiation”. All past and future become Präsenz as the fullness of time and times.

There is an intimate connection between “deep time” and “depth psychology”. They grew up together, for a very clear reason. Spacetime is not what it seems, for it is intimately connected with the human psychic configuration or “soul force” as we might say. For this reason, too, Jean Gebser refuses to endorse the idea of “evolution” as a linear process, or as something that happens “in time”. It is time. The “unfolding” of the human psychic configuration is not something that happens “in time”. It is time itself.

In those terms, the apparent “remoteness” in time of the archaic, the magical, and the mythical civilisations as consciousness structures is an illusion, because the apparent “distance” is only psychological. The recovery of antiquity is simultaneously the activation of those older structures of consciousness, and more often than not, in bizarre and perverse ways — ways that seem chaotic, even, like Shakespeare’s “times out of joint”.

As Gebser insists, it’s up to each and every one of us to become conscious and aware of the stirrings of this ancient forces again in our times, and not to allow ourselves to be carried away by them, like dry dessicated leaves blown hither and yon by strong winds. Those “winds of change” are psychic in nature — the return of the repressed, or what Gebser calls “the irruption”. Time, in this sense, is neither an arrow nor a circle. It is an “unfolding”.

This “unfolding” is not linear. Because Man is manifold and consciousness is multidimensional — at least a fourfold being of thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing — the Fourfold Self. Therefore, the “unfolding” or “irruption” occurs in at least four directions, and this can be bewildering, even tormenting, because thinking, feeling, willing, and sensing are all undergoing a “mutation” and it may seeem to us that we are becoming a chaos of affects and affective disorders — that we are losing our marbles.

It’s the “all-at-onceness” of the irruption that is the apparent chaos and incoherence of the times. The “unfolding” of the potentialities of consciousness was periodic in the past — archaic was followed by the magical, and magical largely by the mythical, and the mythical by the mental-rational. Those transitions were often horrific enough then. Today, they happen in their all-at-onceness the more we recover antiquity and make up for “lost time”, as it were. They become co-present, synchronous, and simultaneous as befits the meaning of “integral consciousness” because all of our faculties of thought, feeling, will, and sense are involved in this mutation.

So, it can feel at times like a crucifixion, because it resembles it. That’s the significance of the illustrations of the “cross of reality” in the last post.


3 responses to “History and Integral Consciousness”

    • Scott Preston says :

      That is, I think, an interesting curriculum vitae of Rosenstock-Huessy. However, I do think rosenstock-huessy’s work was limited by his lack of acquaintance with the cultural philosophy of Jean Gebser, and by his apparent lack of sensitivity to feminism.

      As I’ve noted in the past, what is missing in Gebser is often found in Rosenstock-Huessy, ie, a robust method that would justify Gebser’s more intuitive and hermeneutical approach, and what is lacking in Rosenstock-Huessy, by equal token, is revealed in Gebser. So, in my view, if Rosenstock-Huessy has a future that isn’t obscurity, it lies through Gebser.

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Another article in today’s Guardian about our “post-truth” society


    We may take this as belonging to Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism” and to the “chaotic transition”.

    And we might as well call that by its true name: barbarism.

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