Our Post-Truth Era and Coincidentia Oppositorum
When Francis Bacon, one of the founders of the Modern Age now in decay, was trying to decide between science or magic for man’s conquest of Nature, and came down on the side of science, or “natural philosophy”, what he was really testing for in terms of method were two forms of logic.
By “magic” was meant alchemy, of course, but more to the point it was the Hermetic Philosophy as “theory” underlying alchemy as praxis. These two, “natural philosophy” (and its praxis science) and Hermetic Philosophy, contested for man’s mind during the Renaissance. Essentially, though, the former was dualistic and the latter was non-dualistic, and at issue was the law of noncontradiction in logic that was accepted since Aristotle, at least. That is to say, paradox. One form of logic, “natural reason”, did not admit the validity of the paradoxical (which was considered a “monstrosity”). The Hermetic, on the other hand, not only did allow for the paradox, but positively reveled in it as coincidentia oppositorum or coniunctio oppositorum — the coincidence or conjunction of the opposites.
As it turns out, life and reality are very paradoxical indeed, as the Uncertainty Principle and the Measurement Problem in Quantum Mechanics attests, to the embarrassment of our received logic. And admitting the paradoxical nature of life and reality really upsets the apple cart. The dichotomistic or dualistic reasoning of the last few hundred years has been faulty and misleading. The real world really does violate the law of noncontradiction, and this poses a distinct problem for the mental-rational (perspectivist) consciousness, which it is having great difficulty dealing with.
“The stone that the builders rejected has become the keystone”, as the New Testament puts it, and Hermeticism is back in vogue, particularly the doctrine of the affinities, of the coincidence of opposites, and what is presently called “enantiodromia” or reversal at the extremity. Some are even referring to themselves as “the New Alchemists”.
The paradoxical character of life, time, and the cosmos is now asserting itself and expressing itself through a consciousness structure that is inhospitable to the paradoxical. This is experienced as a stress or pressure on the old dialectical consciousness structure, and much of this makes for the features and symptoms of “chaotic transition” and madhouse Earth. What distinguishes Jean Gebser and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy (and William Blake), among others, from the pack is their free admission of the paradoxical into their thinking, transforming that thinking. And it is in those terms that we speak of them as “apocalyptic thinkers”.
Things would go much easier for us if we were to embrace the paradoxical and the coincidentia oppositorum.
It’s in those terms, too, that I’ld like to recast “Post-Truth Society” as also being a coincidence of opposites, and that epidemic of duplicity in our time is fulfilling Gebser’s expectations for the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure, or what Gebser calls “the double-movement”. This, I hold, is reflected in our “Four Riders”, as I’ve called them: Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind. I’m sure you have noted this yourselves. It’s a gruesome thing, this vivisection of the soul, but I do hold that all this duplicity is a consequence of the irruption of the paradox into a consciousness structure (the perspectival that characterises the Modern Era) that cannot handle paradox effectively, and in those terms becomes “deficient”.
It is in those terms, too, that we can learn to appreciate “post-truth” as a restructuration of truth and logic, however chaotic the process and one that will take on features of madness and insanity as consciousness and identity are deeply affected by it. In fact, I would say that the present epidemic of seemingly irrational paranoias is a manifestation of the paradoxical as it asserts itself through a consciousness structure that is resistant and inhospitable to the paradoxical.
2500 years ago, approximately, at the dawn of philosophy, two men, who were philosophical foes, contended for the soul of philosophy and subsequently the Western mind (and not just the Western mind): Parmenides and Heraclitus — the philosopher of Being and the philosopher of Becoming, respectively. For 2500 years, it was Parmenides who ruled the roost, and Heraclitus (the “Greek Buddha”, as Rosenstock-Huessy called him) who was dismissed as “Heraclitus the Dark” or “Heraclitus the Obscure”. Heraclitus, however, (who was also called “the Weeping Philosopher”) was the master of the paradoxical, and it is now he who has the last laugh on Parmenides. The cosmos is energetic flux and paradox, and this insight, this “new” reality, works like a solvent on 2500 years of Western intellectual tradition that followed Parmenides (for it was Parmenides who first said, before Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am”, that “thinking and being are the same”. Heraclitus contradicted him with his doctrine of panta rhei: “everything flows” and is continuously changing into its opposite (enantiodromia).
If 2500 years of Western intellectual tradition is about to be overthrown, this is no small potatoes (and for Blake, it was the last 6,000 years, corresponding to the founding of cities in the Fertile Crescent). That which we think of as our “identity”, all bound up as it is with historical notions of “human nature”, is going to be severely pressured and impacted by this. Identities are going to splinter and shatter. “Human nature” is going to splinter and shatter. Fun stuff like that.
And which, I suppose, we are already witnessing. A lot of people, everywhere, seem to be losing their marbles without knowing why they are losing their marbles, or even realising that they are losing their marbles.
Don’t lose your marbles. It’s just a transition.