Origins of the Paradigm
It is of some interest to note that the word “paradigm”, so much bandying about these days, was first used in relation to the study of grammar by the Alexandrian Greeks (so did the word “technology”. It was originally applied to language or grammar as “reasoning about the means” or “art” — the logos of the techne). Para + digma — or draw or sketch beside — described the familiar organisation into two columns of the persons of grammar into the familiar tripartite singular and tripartite plural forms — I, you, he (she, it) in one perpendicular column and then we, you, they in a second perpendicular column.
This was literally the first “paradigm”, and set the keystone, Rosenstock-Huessy has argued, for that triangulating form of logic that made for “the Greek Mind” or “euclidean mind” later to be resurrected in the Renaissance as perspectivist consciousness. The trouble is, that this paradigm of grammar — or grammatical and speech relations — is wrong. And herein lies the essential deficiency of the perspective consciousness and the flaw of the “Greek Mind”. It is also the essential flaw of Ken Wilber’s misunderstanding of the integral “paradigm” too, as organised in his AQAL (All Quadrants, All Level) paradigm. It simply replicates the same error committed by the Alexandrian Greeks.
Research into “universal linguistics” and universal grammar have demonstrated that no language can do without a four-person system. The simplest arrangement is, apparently, Korean with a fundamental four-person system of You, I, We, He. Some languages can have even up multiple forms for the same person, though. Some tribal societies, for example, have multiple forms for “we”. Average Standard European, on the other hand, has multiple forms of the third person — He, She, It, They — where other languages apparently get by with just one, but are extremely discerning and sensitive to the “we” form.
What this means is that the Alexandrian paradigm is wrong. The organisation of the person system of grammar is not tripartite but quadratic. “We” is not the plural form of “I”. It is a completely distinct and separate person — the holonic person.
Here is, I think, where the mind became unhinged and unmoored in its seemingly perpetual confusion of the whole and the totality. By casting the “We” form as merely the plural of “I”, we became a mere aggregation or sum total of egos rather than the form in which the self-interest and the ego-nature is submerged. “We” is the fellowship — holonic rather than totalising, and singular rather than plural.
Now, here we come to the root of the problem, it seems to me. We have been drilled in the Alexandrian paradigm practically from birth as “the common sense” whereas contemporary researches into universal linguistics and universal grammar seems to indicate that this “common sense” — a triangulating and tripartite logic rooted in a wrong understanding of the paradigm of grammar — is quite aberrant.
Recognising this fundamental error of the Greek Mind and its grammatical paradigm, Rosenstock-Huessy therefore proposed a new, more appropriate logic — a literal “paradigm shift” — reflecting the actual patterns we find in human grammars, no longer the triadic “pyramid” of first, second, and third persons, but a reorganisation illustrated by his “cross of reality”
It is, in this sense, quite appropriate to think of these four persons of the quadrilateral as corresponding to “the Guardians of the Four Directions” as they appear in various cultural contexts, and as discussed in previous posts. And, as you can see, this paradigm very much also reflects the “Medicine Wheel” or “Sacred Hoop” of indigenous (largely oral) cultures,
Bearing in mind, too, that (as some of my indigenous friends say) “the Sacred Hoop is in language” and “to speak from the centre of the voice” is to speak then from the centre of the Sacred Hoop — the place of integration and integrity called “wisdom” — this new quadratic paradigm of the persons and tenses of grammar (the spaces and the times) can be said to be truly universal in a way that the old Alexandrian paradigm is not.
This reorganisation of the grammatical relationship of the persons has very far-reaching implications, perhaps not at first evident. First, it denies that the singular and plural forms of the persons are the most salient feature of the relationship. Not only does it restore to the “we” form its holonic character, but reveals that there is an “ecodynamic” relationship between the grammatical persons. By implication, it signifies that what we call “identity” is not contained in the “I” form alone (or even the “We” form) but is fourfold. Grammar, in those terms, establishes a social matrix for the realisation and expression of identity. And in those terms, a “crisis of identity” develops whenever there is a blockage in the circulation of identity through the four forms.
This is precisely the problem of the “point-of-view” consciousness structure, as opposed rather to the “overview” or integral. A fuller description of this quadrilateral logic or “grammatical method” is contained in some of Rosenstock-Huessy’s writings, such as Speech and Reality or The Origins of Speech. In effect, grammar is also a “field” — an environment or matrix of symbolic forms and their relationships and ecodynamics in which we move daily, and that matrix is fourfold in character.
For me, the most salient feature of this new paradigm is how it reflects the shift from the cosmic number “3” to the cosmic number “4”. This is shift is happening in all kinds of human thinking and activities — not least Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” and the four fundamental cosmic forces in physics as well as the inclusion of time as the “fourth dimension” of spacetime. Yet our thinking and our logic is still grounded in what is an obsolete paradigm inherited from the Greek Mind.
In many ways, the incipient havoc and chaos emerging in the present is related to disruptions in the flow of social energies through the grammatical field or matrix — a “tower of babel” as it were. What we sense as “post-rational” or “post-truth” is, in effect, a crisis of speech and language. The spice does not flow, to draw an analogy with Frank Herbert’s Dune series.
If the “Sacred Hoop is in language”, and we are all inside this “Sacred Hoop”, and if the Sacred Hoop is indeed “broken”, it is because of the “disturbance in the force”, as it were, of the grammatical field and the corruption of the symbolic environment which the ecodynamic laws of the grammatical relations forms. And its quite apparent that speech and language are being corrupted and devalued on a completely unprecedented scale today, and in which I see the fingerprints of an impending havoc.