Mumford’s The Transformations of Man
I’m only about half-way through Lewis Mumford’s The Transformations of Man (1956) but I came across an extremely interesting pattern there that is worth commenting on as it pertains to Jean Gebser’s structures of consciousness, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic (and cross of reality), and the indigenous Sacred Hoop — perhaps even relevant to Blake’s “fourfold vision”. I will cite it at length and then tease out that pattern in relation to Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, the Hoop, and Blake.
Mumford’s remarks here occur in the context of his discussion of the rise of the prophets, the axial religions, and the Axial Age in which he also wants to describe the processes of “the natural history of ideas and institutions”. These four stages described by Mumford are the stages in the process of realisation or manifestation.
“In reckoning the historic weaknesses exhibited by the axial religions, we are not dealing with a perversion peculiar to supernatural religion, but with the natural history of ideas and institutions. About this history the early prophets knew too little to avert a miscarriage of their intentions; and those who have cynically criticized the frequent falling off of the axial way of life from its original purity show, by their very cynicism, that they are equally ignorant.
Elsewhere (in The Condition of Man) I have sought to draw a generalized picture of the fashion in which an idea of sufficient magnitude to transform the person and the community actually comes into existence and operates. This process can be divided roughly into four stages, usually successive, though aspects of the later stages may be present at the beginning.
Formulation is the first stage. Then a new idea takes shape, in various minds, as a fresh mutation: an image of new possibilities, intuitively apprehended, sometimes rationally formalized, but by its very nature frail and perishable, since it as yet has no organs. The next stage towards realisation is the Incarnation: the translation of the idea into the living form of a human being and the acts and deeds and proposals of his life. If only a few understand the potentialities of the pure idea, many are able to take hold of the living example; and in the very act of incarnation, the nature of the idea is explored and carried further.
Once the incarnation has taken place, the next step is that of Incorporation within the community; the detailed working out of precept and belief in the habits of daily life, costume, hygiene, and medicine; ceremonial, manners, and laws. Finally, comes the Embodiment: the structural organization of the original idea into works of art and technics, a process that may take place as swiftly, once the groundwork is laid, as the development of the stone architecture of the Pyramids” (pp. 77-78)
So, we have here the four stages in the process of realisation or manifestatio: Formulation, Incarnation, Incorporation, and Embodiment. I find this passage, and these four terms, highly relevant not only for interpreting Gebser’s “pre-existing pattern in evolution” but also for understanding Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic, grammatical method, and his “cross of reality”. It’s a map of the flow of the creative energies or forces and far superior in that sense to Ken Wilber’s AQAL model.
The four fronts of the cross of reality are the two times (past and future) and the two spaces (inner and outer). The formal terms for the two fronts of space, inner and outer, are subjective and objective. The formal terms for the two fronts of time, past and future, are trajective and prejective. To “articulate”, to speak grammatically, is the proper arrange of the subjective, the objective, the prejective, and the trajective — inwards, outwards, forwards, backwards. Grammar is, in effect, the legislation and regulation of times and spaces.
Four types of speech are brought to bear on the four fronts of the cross of reality:
a) imperative speech (prejective, or forwards)
b) optative speech (subjective, or inwards)
c) narrative speech (trajective, or backwards)
d) indicative speech (objective, or outwards)
Optional terms for imperative, optative, narrative, and indicative modes are dramatics, lyrics, epics, and analytics. The person system of grammar (You, I, We, He –as illustrated) corresponds to these four, and form a quadrilateral.
This same quadrilateral is represented in Mumford’s “four stages” of realisation: Formulation corresponds to imperatival (or dramatics) and is prejective; Incarnation corresponds to optative (or lyrical) and is subjective; Incorporation corresponds to the narrative (or epical) and is trajective; Embodiment corresponds to the indicatival (or factual)
The stages in the creative process of realisation (or idea construction) must follow in that order, but it doesn’t specify the duration. It may take many generations to get from Formulation to Embodiment, from original inspiration to the dynamic’s final resting or expiration as “embodied” (or fulfilled, in other words).
This pattern DOES repeat itself, over and over again, in different places, including in the indigenous Sacred Hoop as a Carl Jung’s pattern of the four psychological functions,
And, in fact, Jung’s vision of the integral “Self” took this very form, identical with the Sacred Hoop
And very similar to William Blake’s “four Zoas” of the inwardly disintegrate soul and humanity reintegrated as “Albion”
Can Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” be reconciled with Mumford’s four stages of realisation or manifestation as well? It seems Mumford wants to attempt that in his Transformations of Man — trace a coherent narrative from “archaic man” through magic and myth and “axial man” (possibly equated with Gebser’s “mental”) as equally a process of unfolding from Formation, through Incarnation, Incorporation, and Embodiment that is not yet concluded. And, in any case, we can map Gebser’s structures of consciousness — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental — to Rosenstock’s cross of reality also
The “archaic”, being the ancient, equivalent with Origin, evidently belongs to the past or trajective front of the cross of reality; the magical, since it invokes the will, is oriented towards the outer; the mythical, with its dream-like quality, is oriented towards the inner, subjective front, while the mental is oriented towards the future and is therefore “prejectively” oriented. The archaic-sensual (when “the soul slept in beams of light” as Blake put it), the magical-willful, the mythical-emotive, and the mental-logical seem complete in terms of the cross of reality, and as Gebser’s “integral consciousness” which is, we might say, Mumford’s “Embodiment” stage.
This isn’t a smooth process by any means. Each stage of transformation (or transpiration) involves a risk (or distortion or “perversion” as Mumford calls it), as well as resistances.
Contemporary rationality proceeds in the opposite direction. It begins with the objective (the analytical) and then proceeds to derive the other stages from the primacy of the objective. Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, Mumford, and others insist this is an inversion of the truth. Objectivation is the last stage of realisation, not the first, and relies on all the other prior stages.
Rosenstock-Huessy gives a simple example that might serve to illustrate this, and it corresponds very closely to Mumford’s four stages.
The first stage is the imperatival (Mumford’s “formulation”): Love!
The second stage is the lyrical or subjective response (Mumford’s “Incarnation”): “May I love!”
The third stage is the epical or narrative stage (Mumford’s “incorporation”): “We have loved! We’ve done it!”
The fourth stage is the indicatival or analytical (Mumford’s “embodiment”): “Love is…” such and such. Only after I have gone through these other stages of the imperative, the response, the act can I finally say what “Love is..” as a fact of experience. Otherwise, it remains only an abstraction without reality. It is not embodied as such.
You may note that there is some resonance between all this (and Mumford’s four stages of realisation) and Holling’s Adaptive Cycle, which also maps the flow of energy into form and release from form
Reorganisation corresponds to Mumford’s “Formulation” and Rosenstock’s “imperative” (or dramatic) phases.
Exploitation corresponds to Mumford’s “Incarnation” and Rosenstock’s “lyrical” phase.
Conservation corresponds to Mumford’s “incorporation” and Rosenstock’s “epical” phase
Release corresponds to Mumford’s “Embodiment” and Rosenstock’s “analytical” phase.
Then the pattern repeats itself, although never in exactly the same way.