The Banquet of Consequences, the Bonfire of the Vanities

I hope Chris Kutarna, co-author of The Age of Discovery, doesn’t mind my public posting of a private correspondence, but I thought that I would re-post something I wrote to Chris this morning, as a follow-up to our meeting earlier this month. It does, I think, express the central concerns of The Chrysalis in a nutshell.

It’s a time a great ironies. Do we really understand the ironic — where, and when, we don’t know whether to laugh or cry at events? Ironic reversal. I don’t think we really understand that dynamic yet, but it seems implicated in the “karmic law of action and reaction”. Ironic reversal goes by other names: unintended consequence, revenge effect, perverse outcome, blowback, reversal of fortune, enantiodromia…. Nemesis. “The road up and the road down are the same”, said Heraclitus. Again… the paradoxical situation, the predicament. We have command of power, but no mastery of it.

It brings to mind a quote from Jean Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin:

“In every extreme rationalization there is not just a violation of the psyche by the ratio, that is, a negatively magical element, but also the graver danger, graver because of its avenging and incalculable nature: the violation of the ratio by the psyche, where both become deficient. The authentic relation to the psyche, the mental, is perverted into its opposite, to the disadvantage of the ego that has become blind through isolation. In such an instance, man has become isolated and his basic ties have been cut; the moderating, measuring bond of menis and menos is severed. Cut, severed: what was again the meaning of the root da-? It is this “cut off, severed, divided,” the “demonic”. The gates to the “demonic forces” have been opened; nothing exists out of itself, everything follows upon something else, everything has become a consequence. We may well ask: a consequence leading to what?” (p. 97)

Or, Robert Louis Stevenson’s remark: ‘Everybody, soon or late, sits down to a banquet of consequences’ (actually, RLS never said or wrote that directly, but it’s close enough to what he probably meant).

There’s another meaning to “bonfire of the vanities” than nihilistic purification through book and art burning, etc. “Bonfire of the Vanities” is also the apocalyptic dance of the Nataraj — the dance of “creative destruction”, as it were. There’s a certain ironic reversal, too, in that the maelstrom of fire launched by Savonarola eventually consumed him as well. Was Savonarola, too, finally one of the vanities?

What was it Jesus said? “The sins of the fathers shall be visited down to the third and fourth generations”. That’s just another statement of the karmic law of action and reaction — the law of time-energy. Hence, the danger of “Post-Historic Man” as Seidenberg conceived it, as Fukuyama announced it. Post-historic man is post-conscious. He will never see in what way the law is fulfilled through time, and thus will never escape the law of consequence or the law of the Earth. Post-historic man is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Post-historic man is Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill” or the proverbial “mill o’ the gods” and is Nietzsche’s “Last Man” as well. This “dark Satanic Mill” as “mill o’ the gods” is what is referred to as “samsara” (or samsaric existence) and the rule of the karmic law. Blake calls samsara “Ulro”.

What Gebser calls “rationalisation” is what Seidenberg calls “organisation” (or systematisation by another name). That brings to mind the implications of Gödel’s Theorem. Does anyone yet really understand those implications? Any system, no matter how “organised” or “rationalised” it may appear, will always have a hidden “gotchya”. That’s what Nietzsche also meant by “the will to a system is a lack of integrity”. What that means, is, that there is a qualitative difference between a Totality and a Whole, and that we have confused two values as being the same — universality and integrality. That’s also the significance of Nietzsche’s distinction between “noble” and “ignoble” values, and how, in nihilism, “all higher values devalue themselves” — a dynamic otherwise called cynicism, fundamentalism, and reductionism.

So, what’s “irony” in this sense? It’s this: in any “systematisation” (or “organisation” or “rationalisation”), there is a self-negating element that eventually asserts itself. Energy is always polar — yang and yin, action and reaction. The polarity of time-energy is what we call “past and future”. The polarity of space-energy is what we call “subjective” and “objective” or inwards and outwards. That polarity of times and spaces already gives a clue to ironic reversal, and where we have gone wrong with “post-historic man”, who is also Nietzsche’s “Last Man”, the agency of his “two-centuries of nihilism”.

Once space and time (or space-time) are understood in terms of thermodynamics — as energies, the energies that make up the “karmic law” — and that all energy is polarity (for, as Blake puts it “without contraries there is no progression” or “contention [con-tension] is the father of all things”, as Heraclitus put it), then it will be understood what “far from equilibrium” (or the state of chaos) really means. It means that “the Sacred Hoop is broken” and “the Sacred Balance” annihilated.

And, this is quite evidently our present situation.



4 responses to “The Banquet of Consequences, the Bonfire of the Vanities”

  1. abdulmonem says :

    All the neglected scriptures say that all humans will sooner or later sit down to a banquet of consequences. They say our words are our tools of influence and our words are both forces of destruction or construction. We were warned to be careful with our words,lest we release the negative forces of these words. This release start to take effects the moment we have broken our connection to the words of the source, out of whom emanates everything, our life and our knowledge and all others required qualities and quantities we need to operate our live. We are living in a time where the impact of the negative words and actions outweigh by great margin the impact of the positive words, living with people who refuse to understand the flow of time and the oneness of humanity and insist on framing the present in the image of the past unaware of the new requirements of the moving time and moving consciousness that can not be returned to passing period.. No wonder we are surrounded by all these mixed voices of hope and despair. The polarity of our cosmos that is built on the principle of the opposites. the alternative cycles that never stop, it started with Adam landing on the earth and will continue till the departure of everyone ,everything perishes but his face. We are living in a new time where all boxes of limited visions must be left in order to enter the field of the integral human( all of you from adam and adam from dust). It is no time to say we are better than thou we follow the creek-roman philosophy or the jewish chosen people or the christian code of jesus or the moselm doctrine of mohammad or tao or horas or buddah or the pagans etc. We have to stop imitating those who have passed and start to search for our god, for each, has his own god despite the general tent that covers all the names of god that humanity ascribed to him across the ages. it is well-known that all prophets messages is to point to him and leave us to search ourselves for Him.

  2. Charles says :

    The signs are everywhere. There are many ways of articulating the present dynamic. Humans mistake power for wisdom. I was fortunate to read Darkness and Scattered Light Thompson many years ago. He was writing about dynamics. One of his favorites “we become what we hate.” There is a process of initiation happening. Thompson writes about the process in three stages. (1) the illumination of one’s darkness, (2) the discovery of the edge of one’s sanity and, (3) the defeat or mortification of the ego. I like this idea. “the instant before grace is the moment of terror.” This process can represent industrial ego and the powers that be. The rational ego can’t let go.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes, I’ve read a couple of Thompson’s books and want to read more for sure.

      And, yes, you could say that our present situation resembles the “dark night of the soul”, for what otherwise is a dark age or a kali yuga but that? And you could say that this eclipse of the soul has been in progress, as it were, since John Donne’s “An Anatomy of the World”, which really does anticipate much of the direction of the Modern Era. This long-running narrative of eclipse of the soul, which culminates in Nietzsche’s “death of God”, is also “the fall into time”, and it corresponds to McGilchrist’s “usurpation” of the Emissary mode of consciousness and the eclipse of “the master” (which would seem to correspond with Gebser’s “archaic” to a certain extent).

      Oriental philosophy expresses the fall into time in terms of the four Yugas, the latest being the dreadful Kali Yuga. The Greeks had their “four ages of man” as also fall into time — a Golden Age, a Silver Age, a Bronze Age, and now an Age of Iron (and Blake’s “Iron Book” of Urizen). This state corresponds to the extremity of the “Prodigal Son” of the parable, which corresponds to Gebser’s “distantiation” from the “vital centre”.

      This notion of descent or decline is very contrary to our present notions of time and evolution as “ascent” from a baser or crude state to a more “refined” state, and these very different attitudes towards time do colour our judgement of things, especially the meaning of “future”, which appears as either dark or brilliant, soulless or soulful.

      But then, as Heraclitus put it: ‘the road up and the road down are the same”, and that seems particularly true of the history and evolution of consciousness.

      • Charles says :

        Thompson talks about cycles in several of his books. Similar to the ones you mention. For the ancient Egyptians there were four great ages to the life of a civilization. The Age of Gods, the Age of Heroes, the Age of Men and the Age of Chaos. Each of these four ages has a corresponding language. The Age of Gods has hieroglyphic language. The Age of Heroes has aristocratic language. The Age of Men has the commercial language of the marketplace and the Age of Chaos, the degeneration of language into mere jargon and cant. He relates that cycle and suggests that the present is the Age of Chaos and is providing decay for the regeneration for the Age of Gods.

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