Dark Age and Chrysalis Stage, II

For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern” — William Blake

Many people can be forgiven for thinking that “the gates of Hell” have been thrown wide open these days, as The Nation Institute’s Tom Engelhardt has written in his essay on “Empire of Chaos” — probably borrowing from Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar’s book on the subject. Pandaemonium (“all devils” or “Tower of Babel”) is the proper name for that, although we here tend to refer to it as “New Normal”, “Post-Truth Society”, “Chaotic Transition”, “the Crucible”, “Dark Age”, Peter Pogany’s Havoc, or the Kali Yuga, and so on. These are all synonyms for one another in any case.

If we want to put it in Buddhist terms, it’s as if the Three Devils or Three Evils of Buddhism — Greed, Malice (Ill-Will) and Ignorance — are having their way and rampaging around the globe, although I have cast it in the more conventional metaphor of “the Four Riders of the Apocalypse” as Double-Think, Double-Talk, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind, which I do hold have some connection with William Blake’s “four Zoas” of the disintegrate “Adam” in their fallen state.

To continue with my “recap”, which I began in the previous post, I want to address here the one issue here that strikes me as the sum of all our evils and the meaning of Dark Age, which Blake has put succinctly: “For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”, and which he also referred to as “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”. From this self-enclosure of the consciousness in upon itself in the “cavern” to Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind or Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism there is a singular and steady “progression” (or decadence rather), even though Bloom did not understand this at all, otherwise he would not have been so parochial and self-absorbed himself in supposing that this myopia of consciousness pertained only to “The American Mind”. The Closing of the Modern Mind would have been more to the point. Blooms’ conservative convictions and predilections were an example of the very thing he deplored — a restriction of the horizons of consciousness and its collapse into the mere “point-of-view” and “Single Vision”.

Those of you who have made yourselves familiar with the cultural philosophy of Jean Gebser will recognise that thread of “development” that runs from Blake’s statement about the “cavern” to Bloom’s closure of the mind as the course of development of “perspectivising consciousness” (or “mental-rational consciousness”) that has been in development since the Renaissance and the Reformation, and which was forged in the fires of Enlightenment and the Age of Revolutions — Lutheran, English Civil War, French and American, and Russian Revolution. These were the revolutions of the perspective consciousness structure. But “post-modernity” means, in effect, that Reformation has decayed into fundamentalism while Renaissance has decayed into reductionism. Both are now symptoms of what Gebser means in speaking of the “deficient mode” of the perspectival or mental-rational consciousness. “Deficient” is just another way of saying “decadent”.

This is the problem now of the “point-of-view” consciousness — atomisation, fragmentation, and disintegration of the consciousness, character and personality structure of modern man which manifests as hypocrisy, duplicity, and cognitive dissonance (or the phenomenon of “symbolic belief”). It is difficult for anyone to escape or overcome and transcend this cultural and psychological situation without considerable insight into oneself. “In times of peace, a warrior goes to war against himself”, as Nietzsche put it. This work of self-overcoming is, in effect, what the Hermetic Philosophy calls “The Great Work”. And this must be done in order to avoid losing our marbles in the great transition or being sucked into what Gebser calls “the maelstrom of blind anxiety” that comes with the narrowing and fragmentation of the personal consciousness and the identity.

The pattern for this is Dante’s Inferno — the only way out is through. This is the representation of the dynamics of enantiodromia — reversal at the extremity. In Dante’s case, the exit from Hell lay at the very centre of it, but one had to traverse the various circles of Hell, in their progressive degrees of fiendishness, to get to the stairway to Heaven, and in some respects this centre corresponds to the contraction of consciousness to a point, quite similar to the process called “Big Bang” in cosmology. Likewise, Dante’s journey through Hell only to discover the passage to Heaven at its very centre is an appropriate metaphor for “chaotic transition”. It’s a law of energy corresponding to expansion and contraction, or exhalation and inhalation, expiration and inspiration, or movement and repose in dance. Or, for that matter, death and resurrection.

The Modern Era is collapsing in upon itself in a gruesome self-negating, self-devouring dynamic to which it is absolutely blind. Many of the people who are most anxious about this state of affairs are also the very ones inadvertently promoting or accelerating it despite their public posturing. Too much hand-wringing and not enough soul-searching, as it were. “The times are out of joint”, as Shakespeare once put it, and this is reflected through the prism of the personality and the consciousness structure in the form of the “four riders” and the predicaments of Late Modernity — an attempt to resolve the “ears of the wolf” dilemma by appealing to the consciousness structure that brought about the dilemma and the predicament in the first place.  Dialectical rationality has run its course. Thesis and antithesis, diction and contradiction become one and the same — the rock and the hard place, or the ears of the wolf, life and death (or the whole and the totality). A new logic that can handle the “overview” is urgently needed to overcome the serious deficiencies and limitations of the “point-of-view”.  In fact, a breakdown of a consciousness structure is synonymous with the breakdown of its logic, which, in terms of the mental-rational consciousness and its dialectical method, is the identity of the thesis and its antithesis. This is predicament. This is dilemma. But it is also the manifestation of the paradoxical, and dualistic logics cannot handle paradox. The result is self-contradiction and eventually self-negation.

This situation of confusion of values is particularly dire when thesis and antithesis are matters of life and death respectively. This is exemplified in the Great Confusion in which the Whole and the Totality are treated as synonyms when they are, in fact, contraries. The word “whole” (or holistic) has meanings connected with the integral, with health and the holy, while the word “totality” is connected with meanings of death and disintegration — German “tot” means “dead”.  This confusion very much concerned Gebser, who pointed out that a totality is a massification, an aggregation, a mere sum of parts and particulars while a whole is a quality, immediate rather than mediated and benumbed by number or abstraction. A totality is an abstract image of a whole, but is not identical with it, much in the same way that fact is, ideally, an image of truth, but not identical with truth. Truth and the whole relate to each other as fact and totality relate to each other. Yet they are not synonymous.

And those of you who are conversant with Iain McGilchrist’s book on neurology, The Master and His Emissary, will see the relationship here explicitly: they pertain to two different modes of consciousness and perception associated with the hemispheric organisation of the brain, or the first and second attentions. Truth and the whole are the preserve of “the Master”, while fact and totality are the reflections or echoes of the Master’s awareness within the matrix of the “Emissary” mode of consciousness — the left-hemispheric functions of the brain associated with the ego-consciousness. Ideally these should synchronise, but they don’t. They have become dissonant and dissociated and self-alienated, resulting in a Jekyll-and-Hyde condition of self-contradiction and near schizophrenia.

Which, of course, brings us back to the theme of the “four riders” that opened this post — Double-Think, Double-Talk, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. It’s the implicit conflict of the Master and the Emissary, in McGilchrist’s terms. It is this very dissociation of the awareness from the consciousness, or the emissary mode from the master mode, that lies at the root of the crisis and which are crying out for synchronisation. Gebser’s “double-movement” of the times, or for that matter Shakespeare’s “times out of joint” very much pertain to the dissociation and mutual estrangement of the two modes of consciousness, often referred to as “Self” and “Ego”, or “Soul” and “mortal self in time”, or simply “master” and “emissary”.

It is in these terms, then, that the crisis, which is this duplicity itself, reflects Rumi’s remark that “the cure for the disease is in the disease” or Goethe’s remarks about his “two souls”

“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”

The key here is “synchronisation”, and that has to do with the meaning of time and evolution and “universal history”. And that’s where we have to focus our attention now.


19 responses to “Dark Age and Chrysalis Stage, II”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    Left and right are in me, like the two energies that either, with its sturdily lust pulls me down to the sensuous world of things or, raises me to the lofty fields of my creative roots. The only new logic that saves me is my conscious return to my divine origin, the source of both my biological evolution and my spiritual evolution. Synchronicity is not to make amend between the antagonistic energies but to divert the energy of the lower to serve the upper, that means I have a third energy that does that synchronisation. It is my soul that works by the grace of the origin, that is the spirit of knowledge not the spirit of creation which is shared by every living things. It is a beautiful construction, only to pay attention to how our different centers are synchronising with each others to serve this majestic human building. I bow in reverence to the creator, remembering all his gifts to humanity, the humanity that uses all these gifts without thanks. God never forsakes anyone, even the trustless is covered by his bounty but the unaware humans who forsake his origin, only on the risk of their doom whose messages are becoming obvious to any sensitive soul. I saw the two kneeling women in front of the armed squad, only to remember how strong sincere prayers in time of violence. We need not forget the powerful unseen force, it only concealed itself to let humans do what they desire without force. I feel sorry for those who have gained their material abundance on the expense of loosing their spiritual repose, forgetting the then, the abode of real life.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Apparently, there was a book published by Ralph Keyes in 2004 entitled “Our Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life”.


    • Scott Preston says :

      If I recall, Marshall McLuhan had a few things to say in his time about impending “chaotic transition” and what we are presently calling “Post-Truth Society”. I’ll have to dig that out and give it a fresh review.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I downloaded Keyes’ book for Kindle and started reading into it. Guess who’s one of the “stars” of Keyes’ book on public lying in 2004? The Donald.

      Also, just for the record, Keyes’ reports that the phrase “post-truth” was first used by Steve Tesich at The Nation around 1992.

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Those who tell the stories run the world. Politics has failed through a lack of competing narratives. The key task now is to tell a new story of what it is to be a human in the 21st century. It must be as appealing to some who have voted for Trump and Ukip as it is to the supporters of Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Jeremy Corbyn.

    A few of us have been working on this, and can discern what may be the beginning of a story. It’s too early to say much yet, but at its core is the recognition that…human beings…are both remarkably social and remarkably unselfish. The atomisation and self-interested behaviour neoliberalism promotes run counter to much of what comprises human nature. —->

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, indeed. One of Monbiot’s better essays.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Naturally, Monbiot’s article has been met with poignant, salient points that “it misses a key component of the current crisis – people’s resistance to social and demographic change, which isn’t related to economics.”

      There is such a thing as society, of course, but perhaps people’s resistance has less to do with their inherent, intrinsic and shared qualities than the fact that society everywhere has been and is beset by the very competing narratives politics and many other endeavors endlessly promote and that change is usually abrupt, disruptive and disorienting.

  4. Dwig says :

    I’m glad to have played a small role in setting the tone for The Chrysalis.

    Here’s another idea that has occurred to me: for various reasons, I’ve become interested in the “Weltbild” of the Native American societies, which appears to be in a strong resurgence. Could this worldview, based on concepts such as the sacredness of all life (“all my relations”), a relationship with them and with Creator based on gratitude, the hunting and gathering principles of “take only what you need” and “take only what is freely given”, a deep-seated sense of humor providing a good counterbalance to the tendencies of the ego, be reasonably viewed as integral? (That list isn’t exhaustive, but hopefully a good illustration.)

    For those interested, here’s the sources I’ve been drawing on so far (in the order I’ve encountered them):
    – “Honoring the Medicine”, by Kenneth Cohen
    – “Blackfoot Physics”, by F. David Peat (who was an associate of the “radical physicist” David Bohm)
    – “Original Instructions”, a collection of talks presented at the Bioneers conferences
    – “Braiding Sweetgrass” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

    • Scott Preston says :

      I wouldn’t say that indigenous culture is integral, but it’s a big part of it. Peat’s book looks especially intriguing. I’ll have to give it a go.


      So does Robin Wall Kimmerer’s


      It’s the interweaving of the stories.

      • Dwig says :

        “I wouldn’t say that indigenous culture is integral, but it’s a big part of it.” Yes, I overstated my suggestion. I think it could be useful to parse out where it approaches the integral, where it falls short, and whether it could be a useful starting point. Certainly, I don’t know of any better candidates.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Indigenous cultures can serve as a reminder of where we’ve been and of what we’ve forgotten — a certain sacred relationship to the land. They are part of our own autobiography. We can’t appropriate, only empathise for that reason. That is sufficient.

          Only lately, though, have the tribes begun to overcome historical animosities and antagonisms, some of which still persist. This is one of the reasons Standing Rock is such a big deal, having drawn together in common cause historical tribal enemies in reconciliation.

          I still encounter that, although no one I’ve talked to now remembers why the Cree hated the Blackfoot, or the Ojibway hated the Sioux or the Sioux hated the Crow, and so on. There are very similar animosities still in Scotland amongst the clans. Everybody hates the Campbells. Clannishness is very much an issue of identity politics today.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Something of that old animosity between Crow and Sioux that Standing Rock has put aside (for the time being in any case) is contained in this article


          • Dwig says :

            The impression I’ve gotten from my reading is that there’s a major dialogue going on among the old nations (and including indigenous people from other continents) that seems to be creating a common ground for understanding and collaboration.

            Perhaps it’s just the natural tendency to put aside local differences in the face of a common challenge, and will fall apart if/when external pressures subside. Perhaps. (This might be a litmus test to determine whether a new consciousness structure is arising within these cultures.)

            • Scott Preston says :

              Yes there is. I’ve heard there is even Mauri from New Zealand at Standing Rock. I’ve talked to a few people who have been to Standing Rock, and I’ll be attending a vigil in the capital tomorrow (Monday) for Standing Rock, too.

              That kind of global collaboration is going on, but still working on a framework for it. A lot of people counting on them to succeed in this, even non-indigenous. Although, the truth is, as one of my native friends says, “well, we’re all indigenous from somewhere”.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Evolutionary change, starting in communities, is our only option. Top-down transformation is almost always horrific…. Only when power is widely distributed, and only when people work together to create the world they want to live in—only then can transformation be deep and holistic while also being liberating, compassionate, and inclusive….

      The rise of indigenous leadership is influencing many as they rethink what’s important.

      I Found the Spirit of Standing Rock in Communities Across the Nation

      • Dwig says :

        Here’s another good quote from the “Spirit of Standing Rock” article:
        In the city of Detroit, where poverty and water shutoffs make everyday life a challenge for thousands, I met Halima Cassell, a single mom and a community activist, formerly homeless, who was born and has lived most of her life in Detroit. I asked her what sort of world she was working to create, and her words still reverberate. “I’m living it,” she said after a pause. “I’m overjoyed and in gratitude at least part of every day.”

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