Identity Politics and the Rainbow Bridge

While we are on the subject of identity politics, which is playing such a perverse role in contemporary political and social life, and in conjunction with an article about religious fundamentalism and why “extremist thinking doesn’t work” by Richard Holloway that appeared in today’s Guardian, I thought that I’ld carry on the conversation about this begun in the comments to the previous-to-last-post (“The Trump Agenda is a Dead End“).

Mr. Holloway’s article is good. But not good enough. We have to get beyond issues of mere mutual tolerance for diversity and pluralism to actual engagement and intercultural communication. This is the dialogical way, not a whole bunch of separate human monologues of the multiverse each conducted within their respective temproal bubbles and confined within the horizons of their own respective traditions. That’s segregation by any other name. It is not integration in the proper sense. Mere tolerance does not effect integrality.

As we mentioned in the comments to “The Trump Agenda is a Dead End”, identity politics is one aspect of the deficient form of the perspectivist consciousness structure — the “point-of-view” consciousness identified with “the mental-rational”. It is an intensely self-conscious form of this structure, in its exaggerated emphasis on the identity, which is point-like, but which self-consciousness is not yet self-critical. In those terms, then, identity politics corresponds to the fragmentation and atomisation of the Modern Age itself, and to the dissolution of the universal, also reflected in “the multiversity” — the current absence of any unified framework for knowledge, and over-specialisation, that plagues the university.

Religious extremism and fundamentalism is really only just other forms of identity politics in the global era, and Mr Holloway’s plea for mutual tolerance falls somewhat flat because of that — and despite his plea for appreciating the “rainbow” structure of religious belief which he also fails to articulate satisfactorily.

The rainbow bridge over which we must all cross together in the global era if we are to have any kind of planet at all in the future is not a matter of mutual tolerance. We need a universal history of the entirety of human experience, and that will not come about by mutual tolerance but by mutual engagement and not by insulating and isolating ourselves in mutually exclusive identities or self-enclosure and drawing magical pentagrammes of protection around ourselves.

We must begin with the recognition that we are all already upon the rainbow bridge, even if we don’t yet realise it at all. This applies particularly to contemporary religious belief. It is said that “all paths lead to God”, however crooked or straight they may be at times, and this applies also to the religions. We’ve discussed this before: whether the path is called “Sharia”, or “Middle Way” (Buddhism), or “Path with Heart”, or “The Good Red Road” (aboriginal) or the Christian’s “Way of the Cross” or “Eye of the Needle”, and so on — they are all references to the same path — the planks of the rainbow bridge, as it were. And to see the underlying unity to these, the common undercurrent that informs them, is already a contribution to universal history and integral consciousness. Over generations, however, the spiritual meaning of these pathways as one bridgework have been corrupted and perverted in meaning.

So, let’s go there.

Sharia, about which today there is so much anxiety, controversy, and misunderstanding, means, quite literally, the path that leads through the desert to the water or the oasis or wellspring. Deviate but little and you can get lost in the desert. A little reflection will show that this pathway is very similar in meaning to the Buddhist “Middle Way” or what is called “Entering the Stream”. The Sharia, or pathway through the desert, is in Buddhism depicted as a “raft” that carries the seeker to the farther shore. The raft is the dharma, which is a difficult word to translate but is usually rendered as “teaching”. This same path is called “Path with Heart” or “The Good Red Road” in North American indigenous lore. The same is called “Way of the Cross” in Christianity, but especially “Eye of the Needle”. I particularly like and favour that metaphor. Those with big heads, or laden with too much egotistical baggage, cannot pass through the Eye of the Needle. But whatever we name it, and there are probably hundreds of other names for the “straight and narrow” it is the same human path, even as Nietzsche’s “bridge” to the overman or transhuman.

All these paths are the same path — the path of the Prodigal Son in his comings and goings, either towards the vital centre or away from the vital centre, or, in Gebser’s terms, as “presentiation” or “distantiation” respectively. This is the mandala. Even to be born in this world of time and space is to pass through the Eye of the Needle in an almost quite literal way.

The secular term for Eye of the Needle is Moment. Moment is “the crack between the worlds”. Moment is the fleeting “cubic centimetre of chance” as Castaneda’s don Juan put it also. Moment is the minute, and yet is the portal or doorway between the finite and the infinite, the time-bound and the eternal, and one has to become very small to pass through Moment. “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” and “Eternity in the hour” (or “Heaven in a Wild Flower”) are Blake’s testimony to the fact that Moment is the Eye of the Needle, and the crack between the worlds. The paradox of Moment is that it is always fleeting, yet ever the same. Moment is “the portal of initiation”, and “behind” or “within” or “beyond” Moment is the Ever-Present, Origin, Source, the Fountainhead, the Well, whatever you wish to call it, even “vital centre”.

Some people have an intuition of it, a sense of it. But you can develop a feel for it by meditating upon, or contemplating, the amazing world of the fractal. What lies between 0 and 1? The infinite fractal dimensions. What is the space between 0 and 1? What is duration in terms of 0 and 1? Neither distance nor duration have any determinate meaning here. 0 and 1 might be said to be the polarities of Moment, and yet between 0 and 1 lies the infinite. It is a strange and mysterious world. The infinite is fully present, and latent, within the finite, and the Ever-Present within the momentary.

Identity politics seems quite petty compared to this greater heritage to which we are all party. And yet, there is something necessary about it, as part of Gebser’s chaotic transition from the deficient perspectival to the aperspectival-arational, since that narrowing of perspective to a mere point, and the attendant anxieties about that narrowing, is also the experience of birth as much as death. Both are passages through the Eye of the Needle.

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

That is a teaching about non-attachment, even to a “self” or identity. “Naked came I into the world and naked I shall return” is also about preserving non-attachment, precisely in order to pass through the Eye of the Needle. And this is the import of that snippet of poetry I recently quoted again from Goethe’s Faust,

Two souls, alas, reside within my breast,and each from the other would be parted. The one in sturdy lust for love with clutching organs clinging to the world, the other strongly rises from the gloom to lofty fields of ancient heritage”

Those with “clutching organs, clinging to the world” — the grasping and acquisitive even in terms of clutching at identity, which is just another form of narcissism  — cannot pass through the Eye of the Needle. All identities are transient, momentary, and accidental. Enlightenment is just another word for realising this and the transparency of identity. What matters is “the undercurrent” — the awareness itself — which is the greater awareness some call “soul” — even Nietzsche.

But identity politics, whether religious or otherwise, is only the exhausted residuum of a consciousness structure — the “point-of-view” or perspectival consciousness structure — that has exceeded its shelf-life and sell-by date. But at the same time, it appears to be a preliminary preparation for a new and more fruitful integration of the human consciousness structure.


28 responses to “Identity Politics and the Rainbow Bridge”

  1. Steve Lavendusky says :

    This may come as a surprise to you. Al Gore, Stephen King, and Jean Gebser are related. How? Let me explain. Al Gore keeps warning us about ecological abuse, which we could ignore if we did not live “Under the Dome.”

    But alas, we do. The whole world is a “Chester’s Mill.” Whatever we do with earthbound substances, incorporating them into our bodies, using them as raw material; discarding the bodies, throwing away or reusing matter over and over again, the weight and composition of atoms remain unchanged under the dome; i.e., in the Terrestrial Sphere.

    The economic process does not live on sunshine alone. It sucks free energy from telluric structures, and the swelling human biomass, along with its feverishly intensifying economic activities, is slowly but surely depleting its ecological niche. Free (accessible) energy turns into bound (latent) energy. Their sum remains the same (law of conservation) but not their ratio: bound energy gains at the expense of free energy (entropy law). And the transformation is irreversible. Gasoline fumes and dispersed copper ashes are the harmful leftovers of irremediably lost chemical potentials.

    Orthodox economic thought is thermodynamically ingénue. It shrugs off this problem by maintaining that, thanks to science and technology and man’s entrepreneurial drive, it is as good as solved. Future generations will marvel: What were brilliant scholars thinking? But then they may remember that Aristotle (a bona fide genius) thought that the Earth was stationary and he argued cogently why it could not be any other way.

    Mainstream economists and the politicians in their tow pretend that when the world economy grows by four percent per year, global society is or moves toward a sustainable equilibrium. It does not! A 4-percent annual growth doubles output in less than two decades. (Even-paced growth over time means acceleration.) Could the planetary economy double its size by the 2030s without turning “Chester’s Mill” into a realm of Pluto? Hardly! And in respectful disagreement with our former Vice-President, vigorous global growth and the simultaneous transition to a “green economy” via the profit motive is a quixotic proposition.

    The current world order cannot deliver long-term sustainability on a planetary scale. By design, it is incapable of recognizing humanity’s thermodynamic reality. A new form of global self-organization is needed and it is probably waiting in the wings.

    What does all this have to do with Gebser? Wait, we’re getting there!

    According to him, each consciousness structure coincided with distinctive socioeconomic conditions: The archaic, with primitive hunting, fishing, and gathering; the magical, with more advanced versions of the same activities within increasingly complex social schemes centering on the horde; the mythical, which was characterized by agriculture; the mental by industry coming to dominance.
    The collision between our civilization and its ecological constraints, along with a likely historic crisis of epic proportions, may be regarded as the struggle of integral-arational consciousness (Gebser’s “fifth structure”) to deprive overblown rationality (the deficient phase of mental consciousness) from its current preeminence.

    What will the parameters of the new global system be? Regardless of how correctly or incorrectly one may characterize it, any consistent attempt to find an answer must conclude that a radically new social, economic, and political organization will be needed. The precondition of saving the world from itself is a mutation of the average individual consciousness. It will favor cooperation over competition; acquiescence over indifference; responsible sociability over isolation; integrative open-mindedness over stubborn, perspectival dogmatism, altruism over extrasomatic hedonism.

    By Peter Pogany

    • Scott Preston says :

      I’m going away tomorrow for a week, and I’m taking Peter Pogany with me — “Rethinking the World”. I will be checking in with the Chrysalis now and then while I’m away, but I probably won’t be posting anything more than to the comments section.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Hope our New Zealand readers and contributors are safe after today’s earthquake and tsunami there.

  3. TeenyTinyTarot says :

    “A Rainbow Coalition” (compliments of L’Hermite)

    “Peace is unity in diversity. There is no peace where there is no diversity, and there is no peace when there is only diversity. Now, unity where diversity disappears is not peace. For this reason, although the “white point” of [Wilhelm Ostwald’s] coloured body, where all colours are drowned in light, is certainly that which renders peace possible, it is not peace as such, taken by itself. Similarly, the “black point” of the body, where all colours disappear into darkness, is not the point of peace, out rather the point of death of diversity and the conflicts that diversity can produce. It is therefore the “equator of living colours” which is the region proper to peace. The living colours of the rainbow that appear in the sky are the visible manifestation of the idea of peace, because the rainbow causes us to see unity in the diversity of colours. There the whole family of colours presents itself to us as seven sisters who join their hands. For this reason the rainbow is the sign of peace (or alliance) between heaven and earth, as in Moses’ Genesis:


    “Now, four types of peace, understood as the elimination of conflict or opposition, are possible: transcendental peace (“nirvanaic”), immanent peace (“catholic”), the peace of predominance (“hegemonic”) and the peace of death (“nihilistic”). Transcendental or “nirvanaic” peace corresponds to the “white point” of [Wilhelm Ostwald’s] coloured body. Immanent or “catholic” peace is the simultaneous living manifestation of all colours of the rainbow and corresponds to the “equator” of the coloured body. The peace of predominance, or “hegemonic” peace, corresponds to the result of the tendency of a particular colour to eclipse other colours in the region of the “equator of colours”, and to engulf them so that there remains only a single colour. The peace of death, or “nihilistic” peace, corresponds to the “black point” of the coloured body, and signifies an absolute levelling-out of all diversity. Of these four kinds of peace, it is only the peace that we have designated “immanent” or “catholic” (universal) which is real and true peace. It is the peace of brotherhood and mutual complement. As it is this peace that the Hermit has for an ideal, he is not presented on the Card in the padmasana posture of Buddhist or yogic meditation aiming at the transcendent peace of nirvana, nor is he presented seated on the throne of power making a commanding gesture, nor lying asleep or dead on the ground, but rather he is presented as walking. He walks, i.e. he goes round the “equator of living colours” of the coloured body, and his way is that of peace in the sense of unity in diversity. It follows from the foregoing that the Hermit, i.e. the serious Hermeticist, is in no way a “neutralist”—although he applies himself to the “neutralisation” of binaries or polarities, to the solution of antinomies or opposites, and to the peace of the rainbow or unity in diversity. He knows how to say “no” to the tendencies aiming at false peace — those of transcendental indifference, subjugation and nihilism — just as he knows how to say “yes” to everything which aims at the true peace of unity in diversity” (Meditations on the Tarot, Letter IX,”The Hermit”, pages 223-224).

    “[The Hermit] possesses the gift of letting light shine in the darkness — this is his ‘lamp’ ; he has the faculty of separating himself from the collective moods, prejudices and desires of race, nation, class and family . . . — this is his ‘mantle’ ; at the same time he possesses a sense of realism . . . he stands in the domain of reality not on two feet, but rather on three [advancing] through immediate experience [with] his ‘staff’ “ (200 – 201) .

  4. Wayne Ferguson says :

    It with some excitement that I posted these (in retrospect) still-born words on a still-born blog. They still ring true to me:

    We seem to be going through an especially rough patch these days. Facing a wide variety of very serious challenges, it is unclear whether we will merely persist, creatively respond, or ultimately self-destruct. But whatever the turn of events, YOU are needed… Your aware presence and alert stillness is what is called for! Your willingness to step up to the plate and to be fully present may be the difference between life and death– both for yourself and for others –for your family, your community, and for the world at large:

    For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the message was lost.
    For want of a message the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

    NOW is the accepted time and YOU are needed like never before!

    Perhaps this will sound to some people like fear mongering–to others, perhaps, like some kind of lame motivational rhetoric. But truth to tell, it is neither. Fear and despair are not viable options. And while motivational rhetoric may appear, at times, to carry the day, that kind of discourse is not ultimately up to the task, either (i.e. rhetoric alone will always fall short).

    What is needed is for you– for all of us –to be fully and authentically present; to genuinely recognize and honor awareness; to recognize and honor the aware presence or alert stillness in which REALITY is revealed, here & now. To repeat, regardless of how (y)our personal, national, and global dramas seem to be unfolding, YOU are needed . . . here & now!

    This undivided turning that we call the universe appears in and by virtue of the aware presence that you are; the alert stillness that I Am. From the standpoint of Christian faith, this is the light of the world–the light in which we see light (Psalms 36:9); the image of God in us—the image of God in which we are said to have been created in the beginning with God (Colossians 1:15-17; Genesis 1:27,31; cf. John 1:1-5,9).

    By treating awareness— in ourselves and in others –always as an end (and never merely as a means), we begin to make contact with a level of intelligence that completely outstrips the cleverness of the egoic mind. So doing, we help to arrest the cycle of senseless violence and self-destructive acquisitiveness that is putting our world at risk. And we do so without imagining that our opinions are in any sense infallible–and without attempting to manipulate other people and/or the turn of events based on our personal desires and limited understanding.

    In short, by coming together in this light, we can begin to be the change we want to see. And by simply being in this way, we will tend to embody that light and reflect it out into the world through spontaneous acts of creativity and compassion— and, indeed, through periods of inspired inaction, as well –all of which will be called for during the apparently difficult times ahead. Are you up for that?

    • Scott Preston says :

      That’s the spirit! You see, Trump has some use after all, even in terms of Castaneda’s “great big petty tyrant” (and I should probably post something about the petty tyrant as archetype and as the meaning of Trump). In any case, Trump will galvanise that kind of spirit that is necessary to the transition, as your comment admirably demonstrates. You may suffer rejection and dejection. That’s the role of the petty tyrant, the bully, etc. The petty tyrant is the Mephistophelian spirit. But then, as mentioned earlier, Mephistopheles describes himself as “part of that power that ever evil would do, but always does the good” despite himself. Trump may be a blessing in disguise, if the effect of a Trump presidency is to galvanise the spirit, and dispel lethargy. Trump may be the very thing needed to overcome lassitude.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Great essay I just read by Tom Engelhardt on “The Empire of Chaos”. It’s here folks! We are in the crucible now.

    i guess we’ll see now how far down the rabbit hole this thing can go.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      The most succinct, cogent and lucid article I’ve read to date. Thank you.

      Unfortunately, without a large measure of self-reflection (which doesn’t appear all that widespread at the moment), it will fall on deaf ears. As it happens, Powell issued the same warning as Moussa in different words: “If you break it, you buy it.”

      Few were listening.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    George Monbiot has an interesting history of neo-liberalism and Trump’s place in that narrative.

    I think he’s right, in one respect. Both Hayek and Milton Friedman thought monopolies should be the reward of effeciency. That is a very UNliberal idea, especially when you extend that thinking to politics. The Double-Think implied in that is astonishing. But that’s what we’ve ended up with.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    One of the things I’ve noticed about the commentary in the press about Brexit or Trump is that analysts eventually end up tripping over their tongues about people’s rationales for backing Brexit or Trump, and I think it will be something I will reflect on and post about when I return next weekend.

    The real story behind all this is, I think, chaotic thinking and chaotic emotion, and under the circumstances I don’t think you’ll find a “rationale” in the midst of this incoherence and inarticulacy of thought and emotion or will. It seems all ajumble and contradictory, and it does bring to mind Blake’s “Vision of the Last Judgment” — a vision of chaos in which the four Zoas of his disintegrate Adam all descend into internal warfare, much as Nietzsche foresaw “two centuries of nihilism” in the offing.

    “Chaotic transition” is largely that — a chaos of the affects, of thinking, of will and sense, and that is pretty much what Gebser foresaw also as part of his “double-movement’ of disintegation and new integration. It’s a coincidence of opposites that could drive people mad or into despair in trying to figure out what’s going on.

    So, I would say that with Brexit and Trump, especially, we have entered into that crucible of chaos finally. That which I dreaded most has arrived, and while I think it was avoidable, earlier, we have missed our “cubic centimetre of chance” to dodge the worst of it. So, now I have to welcome as necessary, as fateful, what I formerly dreaded, and hope only that what is coming passes quickly, and that we will all emerge on the other side of more the wiser for it, assuming we survive it at all.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Now, here’s a real irony, an all-too common irony these days of reversal: “we need to talk about online radicalisation of young men”

    “Online radicalisation of the young” was focussed on Islamist extremism, and failed to see this other side — this “withering from within” that was proceeding apace and has now asserted itself. That’s example of “deficient perspectivisation”, or myopia, which has become very problematic. It’s basically what Gebser understands by “deficiency” of the consciousness structure, and which is “ironic reversal” in the making.

  9. abdulmonem says :

    This wave of hate is a natural outcome of the narcissistic materialism of our modern world. The natural outcome of negating god as a value force in human life, he who forgets god forgets him/herself. This makes people see the sickness of others and forget their sickness, the main issue that needs to be addressed by every human beings. I think it is the radicalisation of the old in the above-mentioned disease that led the young to go radical in all types of deficient mode. I feel god unhappiness regarding the present human conditions ,the humans who are supposed to use the material and intellectual gifts of god in running the world with truth and justice. It is strange that this perversion is being enacted under his watch, only to intervene when he finds the humans are no longer capable to run the show or the excess has exceeded the permitted limits. How replete our history with such incidents. It is a time where we become aware that we are not playing in an arena without referee, a game that has no rules and no limits.

  10. Scott Preston says :

    As they say, hindsight is always 20/20, and now we have Obama questioning the neo-liberal version of globalisation. I don’t recall him expressing such sentiments while he was in office (but maybe I wasn’t paying attention)

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Fast-moving technological innovation – as well as causing enormous disruption to many workers’ lives – was making it easier for people to see….

      I imagine that has a lot to do with it.

      Obama and his administration inherited “the empire of chaos”, and I have to commend them for the little good that’s come of it. Say what we will about Obama, he’s putting his last days in office to good use.

      The Dakota issue is far more complicated, and Obama’s “request” that Dakota Access cease its operations pending review was destined to go unheeded.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      PS: If any American readers are interested in helping out, please urge Obama not to”leave the fate of this project in the hands of Donald Trump”.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      PPS While we’re at it, we can call on the DOJ to demilitarize Standing Rock.

      Okay. Shutting up now.

    • abdulmonem says :

      Thank you Scott, this article only proves the irrelevance of truth in our unfortunate time,meaning that we have past the safety net, confirming my comments. It is the hell, Amer talked about and Tom could not forget, even the term we are discussing is related to the gulf war and disturbances. No wonder the new president does not trust objective facts and consider anything runs against his desires is hoax. It is painful to see people discuss such topics without addressing their impending negative impacts.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Well… one can’t ignore truth for long until it comes back to bite you — that’s the very meaning of the word “apocalypse”, and these are, if anything, also very apocalyptic times.

      • Scott Preston says :

        By the by, there is a word “nemetic” that means pretty much the same as “apocalyptic”. Nemetic means “of or pertaining to Nemesis”, and I hold that Nemesis and Apocalypse are very much related in meaning. So “nemetic” can be used almost as being synonymous with “nemetic”. But if people have a problem with the word “apocalypse”, it might be easier to say “nemetic” instead — as reversal of fortune.

    • mikemackd says :

      I’m staying in a guest house at the moment, and it has a TV in the breakfast room which referred to that. Another there asked me what it meant, and thanks to this blog I was able to give a reasonably coherent reply. The person noted a striking similarity to a phrase in the Book of Daniel: “and truth was thrown to the ground” (8:12).

      I’m not sure if there has ever been a time when truth wasn’t “thrown to the ground,” but it could be argued that there has never been one when it was quite as endemic as now thanks to I.T.: at least, no time in such a weasley way.

  11. abdulmonem says :

    It is really funny to call for sharing the benefit of globalization. while we are incapable of making the sharing of the benefits of the national economy effective. It is easy to talk , the real criterion is the implementation. It is the principle not the mean. Let us be honest. Our real problem is lie and tossing truth away, that is why all god demands of humanity, two things only, that is to be truthful and just.

  12. abdulmonem says :

    I like to add that all procedural operations are of no avail if the two mentioned foundational values are absent.

  13. Scott Preston says :

    As a supplement to Tom Engelhardt’s excellent “Empire of Chaos” linked to in a comment above, you might want to take in Gary Younge’s “How Trump Took Middle America” in today’s Guardian, which is also quite good (albeit a long read)

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