The Concretion of the Spiritual

In The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser writes quite a bit about “the concretion of the spiritual” as a hallmark of emergent integral consciousness. In point of fact, though, the concretion of the spiritual occurs all the time without our taking particular note of it. Jungian “synchronicity” is just another way of saying “concretion of the spiritual”, and synchronous effects (which are related to the intentionality of consciousness) are connected with Seth’s constant reminder to us that “you create the reality you know” and, therewith, with the Hindu principle Tat Tvam Asi, or “Thou art That”.

Although the concretion of the spiritual happens all the time (which I’ll discuss below) it’s in connection with “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world” (and in those terms with integral consciousness), that Gebser’s “concretion of the spiritual” is to be understood, and as something that also involves the awakening of inner senses other than the purely physical, senses we might refer to also as “metaphysical” senses.

William Blake’s proverb “What is now prov’d was once only imagined” also falls into the category “concretion of the spiritual”.

People sometimes have funny notions of the “spiritual life” or of “the spiritual”, such as mystical bliss or ecstatic vision, or even as “goodness” or “being good” in the moral sense. Spirituality has very, very little to do with that. In German — the language that Gebser wrote in — “spirit” is rendered as “Geist” (and “spiritual” as “geistlich“), which includes meanings of “mind”, consciousness, reason, imagination, culture and so on. It’s what allows notable constructs like the term Zeitgeist — the ruling “spirit of the times” or mood of the times, a ruling myth, or the “ruling idea” of an Age — which term is pretty much synonymous with Gebser’s “structure of consciousness”. In those terms, practically everything within the “field” or purview of a particular species or structure of consciousness — whether the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational — belongs to “the concretion of the spiritual”. In fact, Gebser relies precisely on this “concretion of the spiritual” to read cultural artefacts, including language, as express tokens or symbolic forms of a particular structure of consciousness.

When Carl Jung wrote his book “Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Sky” as an example of his idea of synchronicity as an “acausal connecting principle”, this also pertains to Gebser’s “concretion of the spiritual”. Likewise, the various writings we have discussed in The Chrysalis on technology as symbolic form, or as magic and myth, pertain to technology as belonging also to “the concretion of the spiritual” — even in terms of Marshall McLuhan’s insight into technologies as “the extensions of man“. Even the body, as far as Blake and others are concerned, belongs to “the concretion of the spiritual”.

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age — (Blake, The Marriage or Heaven and Hell)

Whether we should call Gebser’s “diaphaneity” of the world the “concretion of the spiritual” or “the spiritualisation of the concrete” is a moot point. They are equivalent and is the paradox that lies within the Taoist Chuang Tzu’s famous remark about not knowing whether he was a man dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming he was a man (the butterfly being a well-nigh universal symbol for the soul or psyche), or, for that matter, the physicist Sir Arthur Eddington’s remark that “the stuff of the world is mind-stuff”. One might just as well say a “consciousness structure” or “concretion of the spiritual”, and this pertains also to another saying, of Anaïs Nin’s, that “we don’t see things as they are, but as we are”.

So, Gebser’s “concretion of the spiritual” is a bit paradoxical, since practically everything we do already involves the concretion of the spiritual without our really knowing it as such. But this same paradox is implicated in the Buddhist paradox — perhaps the ultimate Buddhist paradox — that “nirvana and samsara are the same; nirvana and samsara are not the same.” They aren’t until they are, and not until the opacity that is samsaric existence (Blake’s “Ulro”) is penetrated by, and illuminated by, conscious insight — ie, becomes, in Gebser’s terms, “diaphanous” or “transparent”, which brings with it the surprising realisation that some greater part of us has always seen the world in this way. We just didn’t know that we did.

The return — the Nostos — to this greater aspect of ourselves (the “You of you” as Seth refers to it) which has always seen the world in this way is what we call “enlightenment”, and it is the theme of the parable of the Prodigal Son. This knowing of what already is, is what Gebser calls “the concretion of the spiritual” even though it otherwise occurs spontaneously whether we know it or not. But for Gebser knowing it as such is contingent upon the self-manifestation of the “diaphainon” (or “the Itself”) which is that “You of you” that Percival also calls “the Knower-in-the-Body” (which is, quite evidently, the same as Jill Bolte-Taylor’s “Life Force Power of the Universe”).

Well, there are quite a few names for this “Knower-in-the-Body” or “You of you”: Gebser’s “the Itself”, Meister Eckhart’s “Aristocrat”, the Sufi “True Self”, the Yogi’s Atman, the Dionysian “Self” of Nietzsche, William Blake’s “Universal Humanity” or “Albion”, McGilchrist’s “Master” awareness, or what has been traditionally called “the soul” or the Buddhist “Jewel in the Lotus” or Almaas’s “Diamond Heart” and so on — apparently also Castaneda’s “nagual“.  (Hard to ignore all this witness and testimony, but somehow we’ve managed to do it).

Castaneda’s teacher, don Juan, once remarked to him that the art of the warrior was “to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive”. Wonder and terror both also belong to the “concretion of the spiritual” (as Blake and Rumi both knew as well). Fear is, indeed, the first “enemy” on the path of those seeking knowledge, and sometimes it takes very concrete forms indeed, as “the sum of all fears”. You really do have to face “the dark side”. There’s not much meaning in words like “enlightenment”, “brilliance”, or “illumination” after all except in relation to and in confrontation with darkness. The “concretion of the spiritual” implies both or, as Rumi also once put it, “you need light source and shadow both“.

I have a few examples of this ambiguity of “the concretion of the spiritual”, but one I’ve taken particular interest in lately seems almost unlikely but is intriguing to me. It involves the British singer-songwriter Lily Allen who wrote an interesting song called “The Fear” — no fear in particular, but more akin to the vague sense of the uncanny, or dread or Angst often addressed by existentialist philosophers (and you can watch Allen perform it live from a 2009 festival). In fact, there is a subsequent, quite uncanny story connected with the song itself, for Allen shortly after — and for about seven years following — became the victim of an apparently mentally-ill stalker who claimed he had written “The Fear”. It was, given Allen’s description of events, like something from the movie Psycho. The stalking climaxed one night when the stalker invaded her house and her bedroom, and then the “fear” expressed in her song became very concrete indeed — in the flesh, as it were. In a real sense, the song made the stalker and the stalker became the avatar — the concretion — of the fear or Angst expressed in her song.

Allen did a lengthy interview about the episode on BBC. The uncanny bit was the sense of familiarity the two seemed to share, which Allen found deeply unsettling and baffling. That’s not too surprising even if it is uncanny — an instance of Jung’s “synchronicity” in effect — since the stalker was the sum of her fears expressed in the song which he himself claimed was his song. In a sense he was right. The song was his. It made him and it made him into the stalker and sum of her fears, and the sense of familiarity came with that.

Into this whole chaotic scene, then, the stalker throws a monkey wrench. While earlier he had been stalking Allen demanding her acknowledgement that “The Fear” was his song (and he was owed all the money she made from it), in the frightening bedroom confrontation he was constantly demanding Allen tell him where his father was! “Where’s my father? What have you done with my father?” Nothing about the song at all. Allen was understandably bewildered by this, because she didn’t realise that, in his mind, she was his mother.  He was right in the way insane people are often right. “The Fear” was his song. It had made him, and especially made him into the avatar of her fear. The song was his mother, and she was the creator of the song, the singer of The Fear. He, in turn, was the son of her fear.

Emotional states (not just fear or Angst) are very powerful, and they will work to constellate themselves externally — that is to say, assume some concrete form. We might call it “kismet” or “uncanny” or “odd coincidence” if we sense a connection. That is, basically, the principle of Jung’s synchronicity, but it is not much different either from Gebser’s “concretion of the spiritual”. These emotional states are, in a sense, the “mothers” of our life experiences, and this is connected with Gebser’s use of the term “effective” and the effectivity of certain modes of perception and consciousness — magical, mythical, or the mental-rational — in shaping experience, collective or individual.

Or, as Blake put it once again, “what is now prov’d was once only imagined”.

So, we might be looking in all the wrong places for evidence of “the concretion of the spiritual” since it happens all the time — only we don’t notice it because we’re expecting something other by “spiritual” than it really means.

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17 responses to “The Concretion of the Spiritual”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Our collective fate seems to be in the hands of fools.

    I’m reminded of that with today’s report of the return of the slave market amidst the chaos that is contemporary Libya

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/10/libya-public-slave-auctions-un-migration

    It’s in this context that one has to appreciate (if that’s the right word) the contribution made by Canada’s former PM Stephen Harper and his backers to the situation. This just goes to show how much delusional thinking is circulating around

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-hails-libya-mission-as-great-military-success/article4106634/

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Another story on the desolation of the human despite the calls for the concretion of the spiritual. I felt sad when I heard Lily shouts ,it is not my fault, it is how I am programmed to function, money and more money until I am no longer know what is right or what is real anymore. A weapon of massive consumption. My sadness increased when I read the parable of the flood sent by Risto and realize how separation has thrown the human into disrespect to the divine action which the human action is a sample of the divine action both in the frame of down or up, for those who know. The winning status can be both commendable or loathsome,it depends on what we are after , The parable of the samaritan and the flood parable make the distinction. Rumi in his poem the self we share said, but we should turn to the source. The origin is what we truly are. We do not last but god lasts and he is inviting us to be with the everlasting that we can not capture with our human static tool without entering the non-static flow state of the divine with the help of the divine. The shared life, the shared knowledge ,the shared will etc if only we go deeper in order to go higher, to know that we die and the never dying god continues, everything perishes but his face.

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s a pretty amazing song, I think, the more I listen to it and watch her performance of it. For one thing, the audience certainly knew the lyrics. I’ld never heard the song until about a week ago. If there’s a song that better expresses the vacancy — and the anxiety about that vacancy — of mass consumption society, I don’t know it (although T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Hollow Men” comes close to it, and perhaps Pink Floyd’s “Sorrow” which I once discussed in the blog).

      Allen has put that sentiment, that feeling, well into the song, and it quite obviously resonates with her audience. It’s practically their anthem. They know that same vacancy, the same unnamed “fear” that comes with that vacancy. But I suppose they see no way off the treadmill of mass consumption society.

      It’s quite a powerful song, as evidenced by the story about how it shaped her stalker and his motives (Alex Grey was his name).

      So, there’s this underlying sense that the “lifestyle” — the vacancy of it and the Angst that comes with it — that Allen sings about is no way to live. That is, at least, an important step in getting over it. Allen put into lyrics and into song that feeling of “anomie” once described by Durkheim

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anomie

  3. abdulmonem says :

    And I should add that the beauty of it all is to get up after death by the will of the one who gave me life in the first place, the quran said, as I have started you I will give you life again, and ask, Do you think we are going to equate between the criminals and the good and death the end of everything. What a stupid scenario.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Pretty good article by George Monbiot in today’s Guardian on Kate Raworth’s “Doughnut Economics” to which I referred earlier.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/12/doughnut-growth-economics-book-economic-model

    You’ll note, perhaps, the fourfold structure at the centre of it that resembles the indigenous Sacred Hoop!

  5. abdulmonem says :

    Thank for the link, it is good analysis but I do not think we are short of anaylsis and proposals. The ship is sinking. To continue with economics in this setting or that will not solve the problem. The layout is wrong, economy is only one aspect of the multifaceted dimensions of humanity. getting fixed in its zone is the problem. God provided everything for the ingrateful humans , telling it to be truthful and just in order to live safely and prosperously. Look what they did. They arrogantly think they are not in need of a god or any code of value, they are the gods of the earth and they can do anything. let us see how they are going to clean their mess before the mess engulfs them. They falsified the divine story and they are reaping the consequences of their falsifications. Nothing random. Any way I am waiting for Him. However I thought I mention what I found missing from the internal ring of the doughnut that is the banks that hold the deposits of the four entities mentioned and also the mention of the state owned banks ,knowing that almost all banks are privately owned. May I find some clarification. The cry of Lily that it is not her fault but this how this ugly civilization has programmed her to function make me really angry with a civilization that is killing te innocence of our youths, our future and we are talking about the cake.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Remembered that the link sent by Mike on the post, from the clockwork universe tthe global brain, covering some extracts from some of Gary Lachmann writings speaks a lot about the falsification of the divine story.

  7. mikemackd says :

    While I fully agree with the way you define spirit here, Scott, another meaning is also current. As you said, “People sometimes have funny notions of the ‘spiritual life’ or of ‘the spiritual’, such as mystical bliss or ecstatic vision, or even as ‘goodness’ or ‘being good’ in the moral sense.”

    “Spirituality is a state of interconnectedness with the Other – the divine, the self, the human, the natural, or any combination thereof – that nourishes the soul (which he elsewhere defines as the integration of mind, will and emotions), resulting in a state of security with a sense of worthful purpose in life”
    ROSADO, C. 2003. What Is Spirituality? Memetics, Quantum Mechanics and The Spiral of Spirituality. Available: http://www.eastern.edu/academic/campolo/inst/gcar/PDF/Spirituality-SD.pdf
    http://www.rosado.net/articles-qumetics.html.

    There was a nice little summary in a video someone posted on Facebook today: “Life is 10% what you make it; the other 90% is how you take it.” While very atomistic individualistic, inside that frame it’s a spiritual statement in Rosado’s terms.

    However, with McGilchrist I do not see spirit as yours or mine, self’s or other’s, mine or ours or theirs: rather the reverse.

    Speaking of McGilchrist, here are a couple of McGilchristian comments I have encountered in Mumford’s oeuvre:

    “There could be no sharper contrast between the two orders of thinking, the organic and the mechanical, than here: the first springs out of the total situation, the other simplifies the facts of life for the sake of an artful system of concepts, more dear to the mind than life itself. One works cooperatively with the ‘materials of others,’ perhaps guiding them, but first acknowledging their existence and understanding their purpose; the other, that of the baroque despot, insisting on his law, his order, his society, is imposed by a single professional authority, working under his command” (Mumford, L. 1961. The City in History. San Diego, Harvest, Harcourt, Inc., p. 394).

    These “two kinds of unity … one must clearly distinguish: unity by suppression, in which a single pattern of life is universalized, and that of unity by inclusion, in which a multitude of different patterns either find their common elements, or become elements in a more complex configuration that includes them. Unity by suppression is achieved by de-building organic relations and by the reduction of the complicated facts of life to a simpler system: such method is ingrained in all the generalizing processes of thought, and when such procrustean likeness and uniformity and unison is sought by the political administrator, the violence that he does to reality is not perhaps sufficiently noticed for the reason that the method itself grows out of one of the inherent limitations of thought – a limitation that sacrifices accuracy and comprehensiveness to the practical needs of the moment” (Mumford, L. 1938. The Culture of Cities. San Diego. Harcourt, Brace and Company p. 311).

    • Scott Preston says :

      good, meaningful quotes, once again, from Mumford. I’ve just begun his Transformations of Man. We’ll see what he has to say about that.

      • mikemackd says :

        I haven’t read that work yet, but I have encountered the following quotes from it online. No hurry and it’s not important, but I’d be grateful if you could supply the page references when you encounter them.

        Even these few quotes inform my thinking about what we might say if we were to update 1940’s The City of Man:

        x
        Every transformation of humanity has rested upon deep stirrings of the intuition, whose rationalized expression amounts to a new vision of the Cosmos and the nature of the human.
        xx
        The very possibility of achieving a world order by other means than totalitarian enslavement and automation rests on the plentiful creation of unified personalities, at home with every part of themselves, and so equally at home with the whole family of man, in all its magnificent diversity. Unified man must accept the id without giving it primacy: he must foster the superego, without making it depress the energies it needs for its own fuller expression. Without fostering such self- knowledge, balance, and creativity, a world culture might easily become a compulsive nightmare.
        xxx
        In short, world civilization will have its own tensions, difficulties, even perils, peculiar to itself; and the solution of these problems will call for political imagination of the highest order. Many of its problems will prove insurmountable, indeed, until the same needs that have produced the beginnings of these institutions bring forth, in the fullness of time, a higher order of personality, capable of perfecting them. Both the agent and the goal of this transformation is unified man.
        xxxx
        If the goal of human history is a uniform type of man, reproducing at a uniform rate, in a uniform environment, kept at a constant temperature, pressure, and humidity, living a uniformly lifeless existence, with his uniform physical needs satisfied by uniform goods, all inner waywardness brought into conformity by hypnotics and sedatives, or by surgical extirpations, a creature under constant mechanical pressure from incubator to incinerator, most of the problems of human development would disappear. Only one problem would remain: Why should anyone, even a machine, bother to keep this kind of creature alive?
        xxxxx Love and Transcendence
        if life, in its fullness and wholeness, is to furnish our criterion for all development, then our philosophy must respect … above all, the tendency to self-actualization and self-transcendence.
        Without a positive concentration upon love in all its phases, we can hardly hope to rescue the earth and all the creatures that inhabit it from the insensate forces of hate, violence, and destruction that now threaten it.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Mumford’s Transformations of Man compares favourabiy with Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin, I’ve found. I haven’t completed the book (and haven’t come across your quotes yet, which sound like they’re conclusions or summations towards the end).

          Chief difference is the Mumford’s approach is more intuitive- speculative, while Gebser’s is more scholarly in its investigations of language and artefacts from the periods he examines. Mumford occasionally shows flashes of insight and brilliance in his approach, though.

          Only half-way through it, so can’t say too much about it at the moment.

          • mikemackd says :

            Thanks Scott.

            I agree with your observation about the difference between Mumford and Gebser: different strokes for different folks.

            BTW, when I went back to my copy of The Ever-Present Origin following this comment of yours (I wanted to recall Gebser’s fluency with Mumford’s), it opened on p. 355, where Gebser had italicised “it is the freedom from time that is the fourth dimension”.

            On the next page, he explains “it is an integrative dimension, or, more exactly, it is the amension and not just an expanding or destructive spatial dimension … the sustaining, indeed ‘a-waring’ and transparent, spatially incomprehensible amension.”

            I have been mulling over the dimension/s of time for decades, and your comment about it has rekindled that interest. I think I have mentioned J.T. Fraser’s 1999 Time Conflict and Human Values here before, But I’ve been digging through my books to find another work to inform any comment I make to that post of yours. It’s Yourgrau’s. 2005. A World Without Time, London, Penguin, which describes discussions between Einstein and Godel concerning the existence or non-existence of time. Peter Barbour does, too, in his 1999 The End of Time: The Next Revolution in Our Understanding of the Universe, London, Phoenix.

            I haven’t found Yourgrau yet, but when I do it will be interesting to compare it with Gebser.

        • Scott Preston says :

          If the goal of human history is a uniform type of man, reproducing at a uniform rate, in a uniform environment, kept at a constant temperature, pressure, and humidity, living a uniformly lifeless existence, with his uniform physical needs satisfied by uniform goods, all inner waywardness brought into conformity by hypnotics and sedatives, or by surgical extirpations, a creature under constant mechanical pressure from incubator to incinerator, most of the problems of human development would disappear. Only one problem would remain: Why should anyone, even a machine, bother to keep this kind of creature alive?

          A blockbuster quote, actually. It occurs on p. 124 of The Transformations of Man and in the context of an extensive treatment of “post-historic man” (yes, he elaborates on Seidenberg’s notion of post-historic man).

          It’s a very good book, actually. Students of Gebser will find it resonates quite well with Gebser’s work.

        • Scott Preston says :

          The very possibility of achieving a world order by other means than totalitarian enslavement and automation rests on the plentiful creation of unified personalities, at home with every part of themselves, and so equally at home with the whole family of man, in all its magnificent diversity. Unified man must accept the id without giving it primacy: he must foster the superego, without making it depress the energies it needs for its own fuller expression. Without fostering such self- knowledge, balance, and creativity, a world culture might easily become a compulsive nightmare.

          This quote occurs on p. 140 of Mumford’s Transformations.

  8. abdulmonem says :

    Thank you Mike for your personal input. Ibn Arabi shares your love mission as the only mission that saves the world. In the islamic literature, the spiritual is to bear witness for god, the truth, on your self, on your parents,on your relatives poor or rich justly and lovingly. The world is not programmed to be vacant of hatred but to use hatred to veer love.. This is the purpose of the paradox, a fight in the way of fortifying the self with love in order not to fall in the negative side of the paradox. God is our source of inspiration who plants love in our heart. Of course being in literature or scriptures dose mean humans are going to abide with what is good, on the contrary we find most people do against that like those who smoke or take drugs or cheat etc. This the internal and external human struggles ever since the beginning , unaware of the unseen forces that enter in the play including our thoughts and others.

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