The Field and the Soul
I haven’t yet finished reading Frank Broucek’s book Regaining Consciousness: Resuscitating the Soul, but his wonderful takedown of Scientism and Scientific Materialism, and the Mechanical Philosophy generally, is paving the way towards his musings on the return of the soul. Regaining Consciousness is a very competent deconstruction of the ever-increasing dogmatism, absurdities, self-contradictions, and strained logic of the mechanical model as it struggles to preserve itself against the challenges of new contradictory evidence casting doubt on its adequacy or veracity.
What we can say, with some degree of confidence I think, is that the “field concept”, or intuition, as it is emerging in the new physics and in some areas of biology and psychology is an incipient awareness of those conditions that are associated with the archaic consciousness structure, and therefore with what Gebser calls the “diaphanon“. Diaphanon is Gebser’s name for the soul and “diaphaneity” the soul’s reality, which is the world’s transparency as symbolic form. This corresponds to William Blake’s own visionary mode of perception — seeing “thro’ the eye” rather than “with the eye”.
Field Theory is, as theory, still at a pretty high stage of mental and conceptual abstraction. But it is very promising. It will become increasingly real to perception as progress is made in cultivating the arational-aperspectival mode of attention that is presently inhibited by the kinds of dogmas attacked by Broucek in Regaining Consciousness — those intellectual commitments and devotions that Gebser identifies as “deficient perspectivisation”. “Deficient perspectivisation” is just another way of saying “egoism” or “narcissism”.
Visualisation is an important part of scientific method. Yet, the new realities with which science conducts its transactions are extremely non-visualisable. “Something unknown is doing we know not what”, as physicist Arthur Eddington put it. This the same Eddington who is quoted as saying “the stuff of the universe is mind-stuff”. Non-visualisability means a shift in the scientific mind towards more intuitive ways of aperception, and this anticipates Gebser’s “aperspectival” or “arational” consciousness. In effect, then, “seeing is believing” becomes increasingly difficult to justify, and the perspective eye, as the dominant organ of knowing, is dethroned.
The visual pyramid or cone is not the best symbolisation for this apprehension of the field. Gebser proposes the sphere — the sur-round, as it were. And the physical sense most adapted to the sur-round is not the eye so much as the ear, although it must be said, I think, that Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the “sensorium” as the engagement of all the senses — a synaesthesia, as it were — in the sur-round is closely associated with Gebser’s integral consciousness, too.
The problem of visualisation, which is related to the “Measurement Problem“, is related to the fact that the Field is not an object in the classical sense of “object”. In that sense it resembles awareness itself, which is also non-visualisable. A consciousness structure has a grammar in the same sense that speech has a grammar, but the grammar isn’t visible. It’s more appropriate to think of consciousness structures as being various “grammars of consciousness” in that sense. Grammar is also a “field”.
For example, the grammar of the mental-rational consciousness structure is the traditional Greek Alexandrian paradigm that we learn in school — the three-person paradigm in single and plural forms. From this is derived the intellectual technology of thinking called dialectics. The tripartite person-system of first, second, and third persons really has cast a spell over the mind. Indeed, the very word “grammar” has old connections with words for magic or a magic spell. (A “glamour”, for example, is a spell or enchantment). In Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical philosophy, grammar is a field — a social field — and in those terms corresponds to Gebser’s structures of consciousness as “civilisational types”. Civilisations have distinct “grammars” because consciousness structures and civilisational types are equivalent. We live and move and have our being, in a sense, within a field of grammatical relations that form a civilisational type.
In those terms, you may be able to appreciate the ludicrousness and sheer myopia of Margaret Thatcher’s “there is no such thing as society”, which is the dangerous foundational assumption of neo-liberalism generally. Thatcher saw “only individuals and families”. Horrors! And from this nihilistic nonsense Fukuyama framed his “end of history”, which might as well have been titled “end of society”. Society is not something you see. It’s something you hear.
God help us.