Rising Tempers, Rising Temperatures

Some time ago I posted a piece entitled “Storms to the Stormy”, which — having taken a queue from one of the Seth books — looked to draw out the connection between “inside” and “outside” events, following the Hermetic principle of coincidentia oppositorum or “as above, so below”. It also follows from this Hermetic principole, that there is an intimate, if yet undisclosed or non-transparent, connection between environmental and psychic events through the medium of “the field” — the energy webs in which everything is implicated, and in which we are immersed much as a fish is immersed in its watery element. We have, in a sense, become blind to our own immersion in what physicist David Bohm calls “the implicate order” (or what others call “the field”) owing to the “deficient mode” of the perspectivising consciousness which has had the pernicious effect of abstracting us and psychologically distantiating us from intimate knowledge of this energy continuum, or “web of life”, that some now refer to as  “Gaia Mind,” or the return of Gaia — or, indeed, “the return of the repressed”.

There is, today, a “progressive” tendency (if “progressive” is the right word) to acknowledge that what we call “the unconscious” — whether as personal unconscious or as collective unconscious — doesn’t exist as a place “inside” us so much as it is the very medium in which we live, move, and have our being, as it were. It’s our mental environment, and coextensive with our environment. Here, the Christian symbol of the personal or ego consciousness as a fish is most appropriate, rather than some more traditional images like the cork bobbing upon the waves of an infinite ocean which was supposed to depict the relation of the ego-consciousness to the soul force.

This realisation that “the unconscious” is not some thing, as such, inside us, but that we are “inside” it makes everything strange, anomalous and uncanny in contemporary life quite intelligible, including the return of the magical and mythical now in technological guise and garb.  If our very environment is “the collective unconscious” (and the personal unconscious) then Jung’s synchronicity makes perfect sense, in that requires no “mechanism” for explaining how “inner events” become simultaneously manifested as “outer events”. It’s because there is a continuum between the subjective and objective — and in fact it makes little sense in such terms to even speak of subject and object except as conventions for describing the relation of the ego consciousness to the greater unconsciousness within which it is embedded. And if “the collective unconscious” is, indeed, our collective environment, then the “akasha” or “akashic records” as the indelible memory or “library” of all life’s experiences retained in “the field” also makes perfect sense.

And, in those terms, so does the continuum of climate and psyche, or cosmos and psyche, make perfect sense in those terms. David Abram gave a talk on “Climate and Psyche” that takes the position that what we call “climate” is the vaster “unconscious” aspects of the psychic whole, and that the turbulence in climate today is connected with the “return of the repressed” — in other words the return of Gaia or the Anima Mundi — the World Soul. If so, that means, essentially, that what Jung calls “the collective unconscious” as our psychic environment and what is called Anima Mundi or World Soul (or The Great Mother) are equivalent terms.

That means, in effect, that everything we experience in daily life as “objective fact” or as “reality” is a symbolic form that arises into manifestation from the collective unconscious or the Earth Soul as it seeks expression through human consciousness, and returns to latency within that perceptual field.

It also accounts for why poets and artists often have greater insight into the metaphorical and symbolic nature and essence of reality than natural science.

Like Abram, Richard Tarnas has explored this identify of climate and psyche in his Cosmos and Psyche, as “Archetypal Cosmology and Deep History” in which “deep history” is pretty much identical with depth psychology. In effect, deep history and depth psychology become one and the same because, as Augustine put it, “time is of the soul” — the deeper we dive into the depths of the “collective unconscious” so-called, the further back we go in time or history to very ancient and archaic realms of time — magical time, mythical time, and archaic time as described by Jean Gebser in his Ever-Present Origin.  In fact, what we call “quantum non-locality” or “transluminal effect” which is the equivalent in physics of Jungian sychronicity, makes much more sense in terms of the underlying reality of the cosmos being “the collective unconscious” itself. Moreover, the Hindu principle of Tat Tvam Asi, or “Thou Art That”, also makes perfect sense.

It seems to me that the beginnings of the real revolution, or metanoia, in consciousness structure begins when we realise that “the unconscious” or “the collective unconscious” is not some existing thing or place inside us, but that we are inside it — embeddedness.  And it seems to me that this is the only proper way to understand Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy as well as the “metabletic phenomenology” as discussed by Robert Romanyshyn in “The Despotic Eye”. While to describe ego-consciousness as all foreground effect and “the unconscious” as all background effect, has some utility, it is still a very perspectivising way of conceiving the relationship between conscious and unconscious effects. Gebser’s image of “the sphere” is perhaps more akin to this notion of our being embedded in “the unconscious”.

That also means that technology becomes also metaphor and symbolic form, and explains why the technological object (or for that matter “the brand”) arises within the perceptual field as the emergent new form of the gods, or the archetypes, or as “the extensions of man” (McLuhan), and why there is an implicit component of magic and myth to the technological object, as investigated by Richard Stivers in Technology as Magic or Lee Worth Bailey in The Enchantments of Technology.

The Buddhists say, for example, that “everything is a dharma teaching”. And North American indigenous people will also tell you that “everything is a teaching”. That is to say, everything and every being is metaphor, symbolic form, and communicates. It makes perfect sense if everything we call “environment” is the same as “the unconscious” or “collective unconscious” or “the field” or “Gaia Mind” and “Anima Mundi“.  That would include the body structure and the body consciousness.



20 responses to “Rising Tempers, Rising Temperatures”

  1. Mark Dotson says :

    Awesome essay, Scott. You’ve hit the nail precisely on the head. The late James Hillman would’ve loved this.

    This is the message that is resonating in these treacherous times in the collective psyche, whether or not people are aware of its truth. I myself have believed “that every being is metaphor, symbolic form, and communicates” for years. That’s what I’ve been attempting to write about myself since the inception of Soul Spelunker. The former occupation of depth psychology with personal individuation has given way to the individuation of the World Soul. If Gebser and Jung are correct, we will go through some trying times, but humanity will be much improved in the long run.

    I haven’t heard of David Abram before, so I’ll have to give him a listen. Thanks.


    • Scott Preston says :

      I keep hearing a lot about James Hillman, but haven’t caught up with him yet.

        • Charles Leiden says :

          I agree with Mark. Good essay. It is gift to be able to synthesize all your reading and study and write a insightful essay. That is why I enjoy William I. Thomspon in his books. I was just reading some of Thomson’s Belong Religion where he is writing about consciousness and the changes that are happening in the present regarding a change in the expression of the spiritual. Thomspon appreciates the insight of Gebser. At the end of an particular consciousness there is a move to hold off the inevitable with violence. He writes “religions have become violent again because they now the deficient structure of consciousness as post-religious spirituality has become the efficient structure in cultural evolution.”
          Broucek writes:
          The only reality we know is not freestanding but instead is relational—the result of the metaphorically informed bi-polarity of the subjective and objective that jointly goes to make up what we all reality. The sensory aspect of phenomenal consciousness is neither inside nor outside our head; but instead. as Romanyshyn said “between the world and us in a relation of experience.”
          If one can know/feel one idea it is this -every phenomena and reality is connected.

        • Scott Preston says :

          What an interesting website!

          From Hillman’s article

          admitting that Hippocrates’ airs, waters and places play as large a role in the problems psychology faces as do moods, relationships and memories.

          Well.. ironically, Hippocrates’ “airs, waters, and places” were equivalent to “moods, relationships and memories” because the ancient Greeks made no distinction between the “in here” and the “out there”. That’s the chief feature of the mythical consciousness, which has the character of dream because there is no distinction.

          The archai of the physical world — Earth, Air, Fire, Water — formed a continuum with the physical body and the soul — metabolic system, respiratory system, nervous system, circulatory system. And the soul too, was earthy, or airy, or watery, or firey.

          I’ve just begun reading a book I received in the mail yesterday. It’s by Henryk Skolimowski and it’s called EcoYoga. some of these things are in the book, but the book is more a catechism for learning what he calls “reverential thinking”, which is a pretty good term. He contrasts “reverential thinking” with the purely objective attitude. The book is a collection of meditations and practices for learning to “walk in Beauty” and with empathy and reverence. A lot of the same themes as Hillman raises in his EcoBuddhist article are in EcoYoga too.

  2. Mark Dotson says :

    Scott, here’s another link to an article by psychologist, Wolfgang Geigerich, you might find interesting. It’s called The End of Meaning and the Birth of Man. It has somewhat to do with the history of consciousness and the question of meaning. Pretty interesting. Rather long, though (50+ pages).

    Click to access EndofMeaning.pdf

    • Scott Preston says :

      You’re right, Mark. This is a very long read, and probably needs to be read once quickly (which I’m doing now) and a couple of times again more carefully.
      Fundamentally, I’ld say it’s an exploration of the spiritual and psychological meaning of “chaotic transition” (in which loss of self and loss of meaning are both implicated). But at the same time, he seems to think that this is a permanent fate, and not a transition. He makes some very dubious claims in that respect.

      For example, his apparent claim that Nietzsche’s project for the “transhuman” has failed, or failed to materialise. That seems a bit premature of him, since Nietzsche forecast “two centuries of nihilism” before the emergence of his “overman”, and we’re barely through a little more than half of that two centuries.

      The article seems to be an extended meditation on Jesus saying “those who would find their life must lose it” and on the meaning of “born again”, although without explicitly acknowledging that, although he does more or less confess it in a sort of indirect way.

      I’ll have to read it again more thoroughly.

      • Mark Dotson says :

        I think you’re right. Geigerich doesn’t seem to share Gebser’s notion that humanity can, and hopefully, will evolve to a more holistic mode of consciousness. There are some interesting ideas in it, though.

  3. Charles Leiden says :

    I didn’t appreciate ( or maybe understand him) James Hillman until I read Bailey’s The Enchantment of technology. At the end of the book, in a chapter “Being Enchanted” Bailey wants/helps us to imagine transcending the Cartesian subject/object dichotomy. He quotes Hillman “the sense of “in-ness” refers neither to location nor to physical containment. It is not a spatial idea, but an imaginal metaphor, for the soul’s nonvisible and nonliteral inherence, the imaginable quality within all events.” (one is reminded of Henri Corbin)

  4. Charles Leiden says :

    Some thoughts. Bailey (Enchantments of Technology) writes this
    The technological quest for power is so boundless that it is enchanted not by a rational purpose –a sensible acquisition of adequate power– but by the insatiable grasping for power by a shriveled and nihilistic ego. Nietzsche’s will to power has gone beyond itself to become the will to will, the drive to gain power for the sake of power, not for any higher purpose. Richard Stivers comes to the same conclusion in his book Shade of Loneliness. Marty Glass wrote a book YUGA – An Anatomy of Our Fate a very incisive book about our present age. He writes how in this stage “humanity boasts a massive unprecedented power to do things, to change things…but no idea of how to employ that power to human ends and purposes. He then suggests ‘the conquest of power, the choice of power, is already self-destructive, already inconsistent with the recognition and attainment of human ends and purposes. Human ends and purposes are not attained though the exercise of power: that’s the point . They reside, in all their beauty and eternal fathomless simplicity, in the Reality itself, the Heart, the inwardness, the realm of Joy and Grace where power cannot even exist. They are right before and within us all the time. If anything, they are attained through the relinquishment of power, its renunciation. It is difficult to imagine a more categorical error or, one more demonstrative of a terminal stage in the cycle. The argument that we now possess great power but don’t know how to use it wisely is very much off the mark. Power cannot be ‘used wisely.”

    In some ways this issue of power is being resolved for good or bad.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Rosenstock-Huessy would say, following his quadrilateral logic and “cross of reality”, that power needs to be balanced by three other factors: respect (trajective, or backwards), unanimity (subjective or inwards), and faith (prejective, or forwards), while power (objective, or outwards) is a fourth. The balance of these he refers to as the “eco-dynamic laws of society”. In this “balance” of respect, unanimity, faith, and power is the meaning of what Gebser explores as the “measured and moderate”, which we might call “equanimity of the soul”. The overdevelopment of any one of these (a society’s bias) leads to an unstable, or diseased, situation. There is a kind of enantiodromia in effect when one becomes too accentuated. In cases where any one becomes too accentuated, it becomes a form of nihilism, by a process of enantiodromia: respect becomes reactionary-decadent, unanimity can become uniformity (totalitarian), faith can become blind “progress” for its own sake, and power can become violent.

      In other words, for Rosenstock, respect, unanimity, faith, and power are the “guardians of the four directions” such as we find in legend and lore, or in the form of the four evangelists Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.

      There is, quite evidently, a connection between these and the “four fields of knowledge” in Schumacher’s Guide for the Perplexed and the idea of “adequacy” (which “adequacy” corresponds to Gebser’s notion of “efficacy” or “the effective mode of a consciousness structure”). Adequate respect, adequate unanimity, adequate faith, adequate power are needed to sustain society, to make it “resilient” we might say.

      It’s also pretty clear that modern ideologies each specialise in one of these, and that these ideologies are the contemporary forms of the four guardians: respect (conservative), faith (liberal progressive), unanimity (socialist or anarcho socialist) and power (environmentalist, or “adequate” power).

      These are, in turn, reflected in Blake’s Four Zoas, who might also be said to represent the “guardians of the four directions”, although in disintegrate state as much as our contemporary ideologies all blame each other for our problems, each claiming to be the “final solution”. But, in fact, to the extent they each claim to be final solutions, they become symptomatic of the disintegrate state of the whole.

      For Rosenstock (as for Blake) the perfect human being is an ecology — one who has attained equanimity in the balance of respect, faith, unanimity, and power.

      (And, coincidentally, enough, that “balance” is what makes a “man of knowledge” in Castaneda’s — when the “four enemies of the man of knowledge” — fear, clarity, power, and old age — are each held in check and so in balance.)

      It is in this sense that we need to reconsider ourselves as fourfold beings, fitted for a four dimensional universe — and that means integral consciousness. For these four guardians (respect, unanimity, power, and faith) clearly have some connection even with Gebser’s four structures of consciousness — archaic, magical, mythical, and mental-rational.

      • Dwig says :

        How would the four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, courage, temperance) fit in here?

        • Scott Preston says :

          Well, let’s say that prudence, justice, courage, and temperance are alternate names for the “guardians of the four directions” and see how the situation stands then…

          Prudence is conservative. It’s oriented towards the past — the precedent.
          Justice is progressive, though. It’s oriented towards the future.
          So, it seems that there is a a tension between the “prudent” and the “just” in terms of their time orientations. This was pretty much the tension in the French Revolution, which led to the terms “right” and “left” — the “prudent” on the right hand of the Speaker of the Assembly were those who thought the revolution had gone too far and sought a restoration, while the “just” sat on the left hand of the Speaker of the Assembly and thought the revolution had not gone far enough.

          Rosenstock-Huessy would say, then, that the prudent are “trajective” while the just are “prejective”.

          So that taken care of, courage and temperance would also seem to be in tension. Courage evidently is about empowerment. It faces outwards, and this is true even when dealing with “the unconscious” or “the Shadow”. We “face the truth” or we “face our fears” and so on. so the orientation in that sense is objective.

          It’s clear that “temperance”, then, acts as a counterweight to courage in that sense that the temperate is pretty close to the moderate or moderating. It puts the question: is it time to act or not time to act? Should we rush or should we wait? The very word “temporate” is connected with tempo and therefore “time”. It’s about timing and the sense of timing — acting neither too soon nor too late.

          In that sense, the temperate would be subjective.

          So, you could say that the four cardinal virtues are “cardinal” because they correspond to the guardians of the four directions as mapped out in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

          Prudence — trajective, oriented towards precedent or what has been.
          Justice — prejective, that which is to be realised but which is not yet.
          Courage — objective. We “face” the truth or fears, etc
          Temperance — subjective, or intuitive, in the sense of time and timing.

          You can also ask whether these might have something to do with the “four enemies of the man of knowledge” in Castaneda’s books — fear, clarity, power, and old age. These also are the guardians of the four directions, and there is an exact correspondence between these and the “four virtues”.

          Courage and fear
          Prudence and clarity
          Justice and Power
          Temperance and Old Age.

          • Scott Preston says :

            By the way, if you read don Juan’s description of the “four enemies of the man of knowledge”, it becomes evident why what we call “the virtues” become vices rather — the virtues are also the enemies! Why is that?

            Stuckness. In don Juan’s “Rule”, the mastery of each enemy requires it to be integrated with the next step in the way to knowledge. There is here a true progression through fear, through clarity, through power, through Old Age to the moment when one becomes a “man of knowledge” when fear, clarity, power, and death/old age are each held in check or in balance.

            And that is the image of the Sacred Hoop and cross of reality, is it not?

  5. Charles Leiden says :

    Scott thanks. As I wrote earlier, I appreciate your perspective and wide range of knowledge. Balance is a good idea. I was just thinking of Schumacher’s idea of ‘adequatio’ the other day. Aldous Huxley wrote “knowledge is a function of Being” which could be a similar idea.
    Schumacher’s description of the the two types of problems, convergent and divergent, is insightful.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    Interesting article in today’s Guardian by Martin Jacques on the decline of neo-liberalism, although perhaps somewhat blind to the emerging framework of environmentalism/ecology moreso than right-wing or left-wing “populism”.


    How to salvage globalism from neo-liberal globalisation is the problem of not throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but a return to economic nationalism or the class warfare isn’t such a great idea even if it seems like the logical fall-back or default position if your animus is raised against neo-liberalism.

    The failure of neo-liberalism follows the failure of Keynesianism from the WWII up to the 70s (when “stagflation” rose up). So, the old ideologies of right and left simply don’t work anymore as “final solutions” to the socio-economic predicament. Been there, done that.

    Jacques’ article (he’s written some very good ones on neoliberalism) at least has the merit of recognising that neo-liberalism is a failed project that has already exceeded its shelf-life.

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