Globalism, The Global Brain, and Integral Consciousness
If you haven’t caught Iain McGilchrist’s 2016 Blake Society Lecture provided by YouTube (and thanks to Risto for that link) please do so. It is, in my estimation, one of the great public lectures of all time, and of crucial importance in appreciating some of the turbulence and strangeness of our present chaotic transition, as well as how “Old Renaissance” and potential “New Renaissance” represent an essential discontinuity. It also suggests why I hold also that “post-rational” or “post-truth society” can also be understood differently, as an essential restructuration of what we mean by “truth” and even by “human nature”.
So, I would like to comment further here on Dr. McGilchrist’s lecture as well as elaborate on some aspects and issues of the divided brain which he did not.
As you might conclude from Dr. McGilchrist’s lecture on Blake’s vision, and how this relates to his description of neurodynamics, Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell pertains to the integration of the two modes of intention, the primary and secondary, or first attention and second attention, as they are associated with the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This is the Hermetic hieros gamos (or “sacred marriage”) that one finds depicted in alchemical texts,
And this coincidence of the opposites, which is the sacred marriage, is the paradoxical, and this coincidentia oppositorum as it relates to the divided brain is one of the main themes of Dr. McGilchrist’s lecture. Yin and Yang, or Anima and Animus principles and their interweavings are here represented, so that, in essence, Blake’s “New Age” is an anticipation of the marriage of the two modes of perception (as the holistic and the particularistic) associated with the divided brain.
But apart from Blake’s “Urizen”, who Dr. McGilchrist mentions in terms of Urizen’s association with “Euclidean Mind” (the perspectivist consciousness structure) McGilchrist doesn’t mention Blake’s “four Zoas” who likewise all “reside in the Human Brain”, as Blake averred. Dr. McGilchrist’s focus is on hemispheric bilateralism rather than multilateralism.
In The Master and His Emissary, though, Dr. McGilchrist acknowledges that there is more to the human brain than the left and right hemispheres. There is also an hemispheric asymmetry between the posterior and anterior, or “old” and “new” brains. It is understandable that he would focus rather on the left-and-right bilateralism since it could become very complex very quickly to integrate the anterior and posterior with the left and right entanglement. But it will be appreciated that, in these terms, the brain is “fourfold” in that sense, and that Blake’s four Zoas and his fourfold vision reflect that structure.
In much the same way, Michaelangelo’s famous Sistine Chapel painting of the Creation of Adam depicts God and his cherubim in the shape of the brain,
And so we have left and right as one hemispheric relation, and we have anterior and posterior as another hemispheric relation. And we note, also, that the left-right hemispheric relation seems primarily oriented towards space, externality and internality respectively, while anterior and posterior express the temporal relation or axis as new and old respectively. The first attention of the right-hemisphere (the primary) is attentive to the “inwardness” of things — their liveliness, as McGilchrist describes (ie, insight) while the second attention of the left-hemisphere (the secondary) is attentive mainly to surfaces or “objective” characteristics of things — the “secondary qualities” so-called, while the first attention focusses on the “substantial” in its original sense — what sub-stands or underlies the appearances — the essential. It’s also in these terms that Gebser describes the difference between the latent and the manifest, and the various degrees of latency or manifestation between them as “concealed” or “unconcealed”.
What is latent and what is manifest depends upon the eye that beholds. But as you might appreciate, the “usurpation” of the Emissary is the fact it has inverted the relationship between the primary and secondary, the essential and the substantial, or the latent and the manifest. The Emissary (that is, the second attention associated with the left-hemisphere) mistakes the secondary for the substantial, and therefore what is manifest as being itself the substantial — assumed now to be the material or physical, or solid as the essential primary reality. This is the meaning of “delusion”, that the relation between the primary and secondary (or epiphenomenal) is inverted. This is the “usurpation”. The usurpation is the re-presentation or the mediated, rather than the presence of the immediate. Mediate and Immediate are equivalent to the secondary and the primary, or what is known only through the mediations (called “the facts of the matter”) or what is known immediately (which is called “truth that sets free”).
The Emissary’s usurpation (which is also called ego-nature) has been to consider itself the primary, and the “Master” perception as the secondary, which is an inversion of the truth, and this has cast the cloud of Maya over our experience of reality. It’s in these terms that Sufis, for example, speak of the Emissary as the “false self” and the Master as the “true self”. And it’s in these terms, too, that the mere Totality of things (the aggregate representations) becomes mistaken for the Whole or holistic, with dire consequences.
Nonetheless, if anterior and posterior correspond to a temporal (evolutionary) axis, and left-and-right hemispheres to the spatial orientations principally, then what we have is a fourfold cruciform structure, as represented in the Sacred Hoop and also in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and quadrilateral logic.
And with this we may surmise equally, that Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” have some affiliation with this fourfold quadrilateral structure of the human brain — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational, which are in turn, represented in Blake’s “four Zoas”. So, Rosenstock-Huessy’s cross of reality may be said to be a representation of whole brain consciousness, which we also call “the integral consciousness”.
In those terms, the “Guardians of the Four Directions” who are near universal in human culture, can be considered to have some affiliation with this fourfold or multilateral structure of the brain also, which becomes particularly more suggestive when you consider that North, South, East, and West of the Sacred Hoop are these same Guardians of the Four Directions, with one axis (East and West) the axis of time (associated with the rising and setting sun) while North and South pertain to the polarity of the outwardness and inwardness of things.
In the same way, we have traditionally partitioned the globe into hemispheres in a way that seems remarkably consistent with the organisation of the human brain — North and South hemispheres, which we not untypically associate with the “civilised” and the “tribal” (or “developed” and the “developing”) while we partition the East and West hemispheres in terms of “mystical East” and “logical West”.
This pattern, as you can see, looks remarkably like the human brain projecting its own structure onto the globe. We even use the term “hemispheres” in exactly the same way in speaking of the brain or the globe. And it’s in these terms, that one can appreciate also what Blake means by the integral consciousness as The Universal Humanity, or the latent possibility of the “Anthropocene” to be something other than an exclusive construct of the “Emissary” as it is presently.
It’s in those terms that “globalism” can become the incipient form of whole-brain thinking, too — or “integral consciousness”. This possibility is implied not only in Duane Elgin’s The Awakening Earth, but also as Howard Bloom’s The Global Brain. In a sense, the Earth is become the canvas upon which the brain is inscribing its own structure, making itself “concrete” and “extended” in those terms, and potentially now realising itself as “fourfold vision”. And it is in those terms that we can speak of “awakening earth” and “global brain” equally.
Now, examine again the indigenous symbol of the Sacred Hoop and imagine it projected into 3 dimensions — a sphere, in other words. It is not only the symbol of a human being in terms of the fourfold Self but also an image of the Earth, with the cross inscribing the hemispheres also in terms of Eastern and Western, and Northern and Southern. The symbol serves not only as an image of the fourfold human and the fourfold brain, but also as an image of the whole Earth. It retains its integrity as a symbolic form even despite the realisation that the Earth is spherical and not flat.
This division of the globe into the “regions” or hemispheres echos the structure of the brain itself. There are no real lines inscribed on the surface of the Earth to differentiate hemispheres. They are inventions of the human imagination. North, South, East, West aren’t principally cardinal points. They are values. When Rudyard Kipling once wrote that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet” he wasn’t saying that there was a chasm or abyss or natural wall in the Earth keeping the hemispheres apart. He was saying “mysticism” and “logic” (or right-hemisphere and left-hemisphere) will never agree or concur. Much may be said for our differentiation of Northern and Southern.
(Jung’s symbol of the integral Self, which occurred to him in a dream also, very much echos the Sacred Hoop also, and what we might refer to as “whole brain thinking”)
The symbol of the integral Self also resembles the whole Earth, so that we may say these images are “co-evolutionary” in that sense, in keeping with the Hermetic principle “as above/so below” or equally “as within/so without”.
The brain, in effect, functions much like a prism. That is probably the best analogy to avoid any suggestion that the brain “oozes” consciousness out of itself. Rather, it refracts the singular awareness that we are into the different modalities of attention, which are represented in Blake as the four Zoas of the human brain. It is an organ for organising the consciousness of experience in terms of times and spaces — backwards, forwards, inwards, and outwards.
Globalism and “globalisation” aren’t symmetrical in those terms. What we call “globalisation” is the stuckness of the “Emissary” mode of awareness — the part presuming to be the whole when it is not, so it takes on the character of neo-imperialism or assimilation, and not a true integration. This stuckness is characteristic of “Urizenic Man” — the man of “Single vision & Newtons sleep”, as Blake described it, which is just another way of saying “narcissistic man”. So in these terms “globalisation” is actually disintegrative, not integrative at all. It completely misunderstands itself.