Triangulation: or, why the moderate isn’t moderate.
I was reading an article by Thomas Frank in today’s Guardian: “How the democrats could win again, if they wanted” in the course of which he used a term unfamiliar to me in the context of political ideology: “triangulation”. It piqued my curiousity, given what we’ve been exploring about the tripartite logic of the mental-rational consciousness structure, expressed as dialectic, the pyramid of perception and the point-of-view consciousness structure. That is to say, that the ratio of rationality is a ratio of the three spaces — length, width, depth. Franks was asserting, largely, that the Democrats lost the election in the United States because of their penchant for “triangulation”. It was, for me, one of those Aha! moments, since this is exactly what I’ve denounced as “Third Way” politics of the kind practiced by Tony Blair and “New Labour” in the UK and which is passed off these days as “moderate” or “centrist”, but which is, in fact, elitist in those terms.
Triangulation is exactly “perspectivist consciousness” and there are a number of contexts in which the term is used: surveying, science, psychology, and politics. “Triangulation” is also a descriptive feature of narcissism and of the narcissistic personality. Triangulation is the very meaning of this symbol of the Enlightenment,
Both are images of the “perspectival eye” of the Renaissance and Leonardo, and in those terms “triangulation” is its ratio or modus operandi. So triangulation in these various contexts is a beautiful illustration of the logic of that structure in everyday life. The apex of the triangle is the “point-of-view” consciousness, and in those terms it will be seen why calling this point “moderate” or “centrist” is delusional. Terms like “moderate” or “centrist” are truer only of the mandala form, not the pyramidal or triangular geometries of thinking.
Triangulation can take the form of “divide and conquer” or “playing to both sides of the house”, as they say. And when we appreciate the meaning of “triangulation” in this context, we can appreciate why “moderation” isn’t particularly relevant in its terms in a four-dimensional cosmos. The “centre” of the fourfold is not the apex of the pyramid.
As you can appreciate, a very different sense of the moderate and the measured and proportionate – a different ratio — is associated with the quadrilateral or fourfold logic. “Triangulation” isn’t precluded in this paradigm, but it is made subordinate to the “big picture view”, as we say — the holistic. And in these terms, I think becomes quite apparent why today’s rhetoric of “moderate” and “centrist” isn’t moderate or centrist, as long as it relies on this process of “triangulation” rather than the mandala form of thinking, which is integralist. This difference becomes particularly important in interpreting Gebser’s own re-interpretation of “moderation” in terms of “measure and mass”.
I think you can learn quite a bit about the deficiencies, limitations, and constraints of the mental-rational consciousness structure (or perspectivist logic) by contemplating this issue of “triangulation” in the various cultural contexts in which it is presently used and described. This “triangulation” is pretty much the “common sense” of that structure of consciousness. Yet it is not an authentic universal compared to the cruciform structure, which IS a universal in the sense that in one way or another, it is found as a symbolic form in all cultures.
As you might appreciate, it would not take very much at all for the triadic structure to morph into the mandala structure, and no “information” would be lost in that process because the triadic is included as one of the four quadrants of the mandala. It would simply be integrated into the “overview”. This is what Gebser refers to as a “plus mutation” of a consciousness structure, and in the case of the mandala, instead of “single vision & Newtons sleep” you now have “the fourfold vision” as Blake put it. The triangulation is only a specialisation of one aspect of the mandala which then presumes to be itself the whole of it.