New Mutation, New Renaissance
I’m back from my two-week travels in Wonderland, and very happy to be home again. Man, is it weird out there! It makes me appreciate the life of a hermit.
But what I want to address today is something that was alluded to in the comments to the earlier post on The Pursuit of Power, particularly in relation to Jean Gebser’s anticipation of a “new mutation” in the consciousness structure of late modern man, such as he attempted to describe it in his book The Ever-Present Origin (and thanks to David for digging up that quotation from the book about “synairesis” as Gebser introduced this term, which I’ve had some time to reflect upon in relation to Nora Bateson’s “symmathesy” and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanomics”).
One of the more pleasant events in my travels was meeting up with Chris Kutarna, co-author of the book The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance. One of the things I like about this book is its description of the pattern of “chaotic transition” in regards to the “Old Renaissance”. One of the things I dislike about the book is the presumption that any “New Renaissance” is simply a revival of the Old Renaissance — perspectivism and the old Renaissance “virtue” (or virtu). To my mind, such a Renaissance-of-the-Renaissance strikes me as akin to Bible Camp revivalism and that “give me that old time religion” traditionalism and nostalgia for which I have very little time or sympathy.
Nothing seems more unlikely, in the present context, than the notional prospect of a “New Renaissance” in that sense — as a kind of second coming of a Michaelangelo or a Leonardo. However, apart from that, the authors’ instincts seem sound if we consider any prospective “New Renaissance” in terms of Gebser’s “New Mutation” of the consciousness structure — as a kind of self-overcoming of Renaissance Man (or “Vitruvian Man”) itself. So, we want to rephrase Goldin’s and Kutarna’s issue of “New Renaissance” in terms rather of a “New Mutation” and revival, not as a return to the intellectual traditions of the Renaissance, but also in Gebser’s terms as a Nostos — or return journey — to the “vital centre”.
And one of the notable differences between this “New Mutation” and “Old Renaissance” is the shift from “system” and systematisation (which was the fruit of perspectivist consciousness) to what Gebser describes as “synairesis” — the activity of the “aperspectival-arational” mode of consciousness that Gebser calls not “systematising” by “integrating”. Systematisation, or rationalisation, is very much the issue of perspectivising consciousness in keeping with how Crane Brinton defined the main characteristic activity of the Modern Era descending from Renaissance and Reformation — “the invention of a system for creating systems”. Those of you familiar with Gebser’s history of consciousness structures will realise that the “system” that was invented for generating other systems was perspective consciousness itself — the discovery of the third dimension of space and its systematic arrangement in the triadic “ratio” of length, width, and depth. It’s this that Nietzche dismissed in his remark that “the will to a system is a lack of integrity”, which is pretty much the point where Gebser picks up the thread of Nietzsche’s critique of “modern ideas” and carries it further into “synairesis” which, in broad terms, we can describe as the integrating perception of wholes or patterns.
This is also pretty much the intent behind Nora Bateson’s coinage of the term “symmathesy” (as linked to above) but also the meaning of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanomics”, which is connected also to his anticipation of a “metanoia” or “new mind”, and thus, in those terms, also with Gebser’s New Mutation of consciousness. Rosenstock-Huessy gave a definition of his “metanomics” in an essay entitled “In Defense of the Grammatical Method” (from the book Speech and Reality) that strikes me as very much akin to the meaning of Gebser’s synairesis.
“My task is the meta-ethical and that is pressing today because of the coexistence of antagonistic laws of society. Meta-logic was needed when a new paganism disrupted the Christian Church in feudal and local worship. Metaphysics was needed when coordination of physical facts, discovery of America, etc, a system of distant continents and countries and bodies became compelling. Metanomics, or meta-ethics are, in the time of radio, the result of the pandemonium of propaganda for different systems, different types of man, different social orders that compete in our ears incessantly…. My own direction of thought, probably, will have to be listed as the meta-ethical search for a synchronization of mutually exclusive patterns of behaviour, as ‘the metanomics of the great society’ which must contain contradictory ways of life. My grammar of assent, my grammatical organon, is devoted to the task of supplementing the statue law of any given society with the metanomics that explain and justify our enthusiasm for the synchronization of the distemporary, of old and young, black, brown, and white, government and anarchy, primitive and refined, highbrow and lowbrow, innocence and sophistication, all at peace, in one human society.”
Metanomics, then, very much approaches the meaning of Gebser’s “synairesis” for, in effect, synairesis is also synchronisation of the various new and old consciousness structures — the systatic, the symbolic, the symbiotic corresponding to the mental, the mythical, the magical also “all at peace” in one human consciousness and personality, which is also Blake’s vision of “Albion” realised through the harmonisation (or synchronisation) of the “four Zoas” of the divided humanity. Gebser’s synairesis and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanomics” are, in those terms, pretty much the same thing.
Synchronisation of times, rather than coordination of spaces, thus seems the key to the theme of the New Mutation or “New Renaissance”, and Gebser’s “integral consciousness” is very similar to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanoia” or “new mind” (as well as Bateson’s “symmathesy”). What Rosenstock describes as “synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries” also applies to the different consciousness structures that comprise the human form. The theme of the New Mutation is thus time and times, not so much space and spaces. And with the inclusion of time, the cosmic number shifts from “3” to “4”, and thus also to the relevance of William Blake’s “fourfold vision”.
It also bears recalling, here, Iain McGilchrist’s The Master and His Emissary in this respect for, in general terms in speaking of the “divided brain”, it is the left-hemisphere (the “Emissary”) that supplies the “coordination” (or analytical) activity, and the right-hemisphere (the “Master”) that provides the synchronising activity, thus corresponding to the distinction between “system” and “synairesis” in Gebser’s usage. The right-hemisphere mode of perception is involved in the symbolic (metaphorical) and symbiotic activities. This seems pretty clear even from neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s description of her own “stroke of insight”.
Metanoia. It’s in this respect, also, that, in conjunction with McGilchrist’s book on neurodynamics, that I often recommend Arthur I. Miller’s Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli. Jung, the theorist of “synchronicity” and Pauli, the theorist of quantum field theory, are very appropriate representatives in microcosm of this transitional process from the cosmic number “3” to the cosmic number “4”. If anything, Deciphering the Cosmic Number is a very good description of “chaotic transition” in the personal realm that prefigures the same in the social realm. The shift to the cosmic number “4” is what is prefigured also in Gebser’s four structures of consciousness, Blake’s “four Zoas” and fourfold vision, time as the “fourth dimension”, and Rosenstock-Huessy’s four orientations of consciousness — trajective and prejective as regards times, and subjective and objective as regards spaces.
An ecological consciousness, following “ecodynamic laws”, is thus involved in a dual task of synchronising and coordinating. Gebser’s “synairesis” is essentially that integrating activity, equally described, to some extent, by Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanomics”.
In those terms, then, New Renaissance is best described in terms of Gebser’s “New Mutation” or even as Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanoia“.