Frenzy and “The Return of the Repressed”

It strikes me that the word “frenzy” best describes the current situation — frenzy being the marker of our “chaotic transition”, or of Jean Gebser’s “maelstrom of blind anxiety”, or of Peter Pogany’s “havoc”, or of Nietzsche’s anticipation of the “madness” that would attend his anticipated “two centuries of nihilism”. The contemporary terms being used for this frenzy are, of course, “irrational exuberance” or “animal spirits”.

It’s in respect of this “frenzy” (which some describe as “the Crazies”) that I want to return to something I posted some time back, and entitled “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature”, because for me the words were, and remain, daunting and haunting.

Some of you may know the “Seth books”. I’m familiar with a few of them. They are, indeed, intriguing. Some of you may be uncomfortable with the idea of disincarnate “energy personality essence no longer focussed in physical reality” who has graduated from the physical system writing books about the nature of consciousness and reality. (Who better though?)  It is profitable to read them regardless of one’s skepticism or incredulity about the nature of “Seth” simply for the sake of the ideas expressed. (I know of at least two science writers who have done just that: Norman Friedman’s The Hidden Domain and Michael Talbot’s The Holographic Universe).

The passage from The Unknown Reality that most affected and afflicted me, though, I will cite again because of its value in accounting for the present “frenzy” and of the potential and the perils of this frenzy. This passage from Seth is, in addition, an excellent description of what cultural philosopher Jean Gebser means by “irruption”, or what depth psychologists mean in speaking of “the return of the repressed” as the signature feature of our Age; or of what Nietzsche described as that “Dionysian madness” of the same kind as the Sufi mystic and poet Rumi wrote about in his poem “Green Ears“. All these are just various ways of describing what is meant by the word “apocalypse”, and in those terms alone — “irruption”, “Dionysian madness”, “return of the repressed” (or Seth’s “ancient force”) or as “chaotic transition” — we are living in very apocalyptic times.

This is also the sense of Richard Heinberg’s Peak Everything: Waking Up to The Century of Declines,

“This awakening is multi-dimensional. It is not just a matter of becoming intellectually and dispassionately convinced of the reality and seriousness of Climate Change, Peak Oil, or any other specific problem. Rather, it entails an emotional, cultural, and political catharsis. The biblical metaphor of scales falling from one’s eyes is as apt as the pop culture meme of taking the red pill and seeing the world beyond the Matrix: in either case, waking up implies realizing that the very fabric of modern life is woven from illusion — thousands of illusions, in fact” (p. 23 Richard Heinberg, Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines).

That “the fabric of modern life” — the tapestry of what we are pleased to call our “reality” — is woven from “thousands of illusions” is what Christopher Lasch tried to describe in The Culture of Narcissism; or what Neal Gabler described in Life The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality; or what Neil Postman attempted to describe in Amusing Ourselves to Death or Technopoly, and so on. There are hundreds of such books — maybe thousands — each dealing with some thread or another of the entire tapestry of illusions that we take to be “reality”, but that Blake, even in his time, called “Ulro” — the Shadowland.

Frenzy is thus quite ambiguous and paradoxical. It can signal the dissolution and disintegration of the Ulro anticipating Gebser’s “diaphaneity” or “transparency of the world”; or, contrariwise, it may signal the total loss of reality and loss of self in delusion leading to self-annihilation. In fact, both may be in play (which is Gebser’s “double movement” of the times). This is the gist of that citation of interest from Seth’s Unknown Reality and which very much accords with Jean Gebser’s musings in The Ever-Present Origin,

Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else. You are in a position where your private experience of yourself does not correlate with what you are told by your societies, churches, sciences, archaeologies, or other disciplines. Man’s “unconscious” knowledge is becoming more and more consciously apparent. This will be done under and with the direction of an enlightened and expanding egotistical awareness, that can organize the hereto neglected knowledge–or it will be done at the expense of the reasoning intellect, leading to a rebirth of superstition, chaos, and the unnecessary war between reason and intuitive knowledge.

When, at this point now, of mankind’s development, his emerging unconscious knowledge is denied by his institutions, then it will rise up despite those institutions, and annihilate them. Cult after cult will emerge, each unrestrained by the use of reason, because reason will have denied the existence of rampant unconscious knowledge, disorganized and feeling only its own ancient force.

If this happens, all kinds of old and new religious denominations will war, and all kinds of ideologies surface. This need not take place, for the conscious mind – basically, now —  having learned to focus in physical terms, is meant to expand, to accept unconscious intuitions and knowledge, and to organize these deeply creative principles into cultural patterns…

I am saying that the individual self must become consciously aware of far more reality; that it must allow its recognition of identity to expand so that it includes previously unconscious knowledge. To do this you must understand, again, that man must move beyond the concepts of one god, one self, one body, one world, as these ideas are currently understood. You are now poised, in your terms, upon a threshold from which the race can go many ways. There are species of consciousness. Your species is in a time of change. There are potentials within the body’s mechanisms, in your terms not as yet used. Developed, they can immeasurably enrich the race, and bring it to levels of spiritual and psychic and physical fulfillment. If some changes are not made, the race as such will not endure.

This is about the best description of the “return of the repressed” (Seth’s “ancient force”) that I have yet come across, and the paradoxical nature of that return, already more or (usually) less adequately in terms of “creative destruction” — the apocalyptic Dance of Shiva.

Ego consciousness must now be familiarized with its roots, or it will turn into something else.” This is the meaning of the parable of the Prodigal Son. The “roots” that Seth refers to are, of course, Gebser’s “ever-present origin” or “vital centre”. Seth’s “ancient force” is Nietzsche’s amoral “Dionysian” factor. This attempt to re-familiarise the ego-consciousness with its roots is the meaning of McGilchrist’s neurodynamics described in The Master of His Emissary and in neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s description of “the Life Force Power of the Universe” in “My Stroke of Insight.

The “something else” that the ego-consciousness can, potentially, turn into is, of course, the automaton — the machine — which we appear to be well on our way to becoming, according to writers such as Lewis Mumford, Jacques Ellul, or Lewis Yablonski. This would be, in fact, the culmination of Blake’s dreaded end of humanity in “Single Vision”.  In fact, the revival of contemporary interest in William Blake is coincident with the sociological critiques of technicism and “megatechnics” of Lewis Mumford and Jacques Ellul.

This (and not an ideological Left-Right polarisation) is the essential tension of our time. It is the gist of W.B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming“. The Falcon and the Falconer correspond to Nietzsche’s Dionysian and Apollonian distinction, to McGilchrist’s (and Bolte-Taylor’s) “Master” and “Emissary” modes of perception. Yeats’ poem is, essentially, another rendition of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, who is the human ego-consciousness lost and self-alienated in the state of Blake’s “Single Vision”. The essential tension now plays out in terms of the conflict of the Hermetic Philosophy and the Mechanical Philosophy which is really about the fate and destiny of the human ego-consciousness or what we call “human nature” and “identity”.

And the urgency of rediscovering the meaning of “soul” and “spiritual” is precisely to avoid the complete and total mechanisation of the ego-consciousness already envisioned as our “post-human future”, which is complete self-alienation. This is, after all, the meaning of that statement: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?“, which is the state called “Hell”.

The frenzy is quite ambiguous. The anxieties or Angst can be considered in terms of either “de-souling” or in terms of “re-souling” as befits Gebser’s own description of the double-movement of disintegration and re-integration. The frenzy that Gebser described as “the wrath of Achilles” was equally ambiguous and paradoxical — as a death and a birth. But it is interesting that it is Athena, goddess of Reason, that intervenes to temper his frenzy before it becomes totally destructive and self-destructive.

We are pretty close to the complete mechanisation of human ego-consciousness, even in terms of “branded behaviours”, (which is far more insidious in fact than this kerfuffle over “political correctness” (for even a cynical anti-PC stance can become itself a “branded behaviour” and pretty much has become so). It’s sometimes difficult to determine what is “divine madness” and what is simply human, all-too-human lunacy, which only a period of waiting and watching can reveal. “You shall know them by their fruits”. But fruits take time to ripen and mature.



18 responses to “Frenzy and “The Return of the Repressed””

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Nice. But in the “political” (in your own sense of the word) area of endeavor, it’s these polarizations that currently have humanity kerfuffled. If you want to be one of the “cool kids,” you have to “join” this “faction” or that “faction” or the “faction” over there. “Fractious” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    We’re having some mighty(?) conversations in the gaming community itself about all this “factioning.” What does it say about us, as a society, that more and more “gamers” — of all people — have come to expect (and/or hope for) a “peaceful” ending to various “factious” elements in video games, of all things? Consider this one, for example: Peace Between the Geth and Quarians.

    The “un-” (or “sub-“) conscious is itself as much light as dark and – personally – I sincerely get the sense that there is an ongoing reconciliation of these “two,” “factious” versions of ourselves. We’re working it out…with or without the power-mongerers’ help.

  2. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Let’s say “resolution” as opposed to “ending” because, of course, it never “ends.” Every “ending” is a new “beginning.”

  3. mikemackd says :

    Today, one of the few remaining days of my holidays, I have been chasing up on Blake’s single vision, wondering if the other Zoas besides Urizen could provide a single vision of their own.

    Following that inquiry, I came to Theodore Roszak’s online chapter about Blake’s fourfold vision at

    There, he writes of the Urizen-Satan versus Luvah-Orc dynamic, including “At the foundations of Urizen’s palace, Luvah-Orc lies writhing, burning for vengeance”, and how, once set free, “Orc is mayhem, devastation, the blood-bath of revolutionary terror. He is the ‘lover of wild rebellion’.”

      • mikemackd says :

        I have a friend who is a scholar of Tibetan Buddhism, and he knew an English poet called Colin Oliver. He gave this poem to my friend, and he then gave it to me:

        Colin Oliver, after Han Shan of the T’ang period:

        After a cold shower rocks gleam
        And cold mountain from high peak
        Down to green border shimmers.
        I wander by a clear stream
        Watch pebbles in the water
        Slip about on the wet moss.

        In a valley where mist hangs
        I sit on a rock, stay clear,
        And see no inside or out.
        At sunset, arriving home,
        I stretch and take off my cap
        And find it beaded with moisture.

    • Dwig says :

      Mike, thanks much for the link. I learned much about Blake’s works that eluded me in my (admittedly cursory) reading.

      Toward the end of the essay, Roszak writes “Sad to say: Blake did not love nature”, and elaborates it. Given this, and Blake’s often-expressed fascination for “America”, I couldn’t help but wonder how his outlook might have been changed should he have spent some significant time among the Haudenosaunee, who didn’t (and don’t) separate “nature” from their spiritual understandings.

      • mikemackd says :

        “wonder how his outlook might have been changed should he have spent some significant time among the Haudenosaunee, who didn’t (and don’t) separate “nature” from their spiritual understandings”.

        Interesting question, Dwig, especially in terms of how much we are and are not confined within our reactions to the environmental challenges we are born into, as abdulmonem mentioned recently.

        We can never know, but I think he would have leapt at any such opportunity, and learnt loads from them.

        • mikemackd says :

          I was reflecting on that driving home. I think Blake’s most famous poem expressed his ambivalence to nature: did he who made the lamb make the tiger?

          • Scott Preston says :

            Yes, The Tiger poem occurred to me also after I read Dwig’s comment. Blake’s views of Nature are similar to Aurobindo’s views on “inconscient matter”. Nature, like the Zoas, has a fallen form and a spiritual form. Nature, in its fallen form, he also calls “the Shadowy Female”, I believe.

    • abdulmonem says :

      It is a question of dividing the cake of this mundane shell. No road will flow in the same direction all the time. X of china said it clearly that his project is to put an end to the old hegemony. All aspire to greatness and no one can predict the outcome. Wait and see without forgetting the personal responsibility in making the stance in the face of the challenges in a world of so many one-eyed dragons who play their roles under the watch of a just referee that gives life and imposes death on both the collective level and the individual level.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    It is really astonishing how humans can be caught in one faction and forget the many factions the divine has provided for the humans to ponder and wonder and to evaluate their performance before their return to him. Blake hatred to nature and the man of the green shinto immersion in nature manifestations need some contemplative pose. Repeating the call to go back to the origin,the root ,the source, the vast sea of awareness the opening door of imagination or the god that contains all that and more, the wholeness, the oneness, is a good reminder to alert the humans from falling in the abyss of oblivion, the abode of death before death and to remind the humans that life is not a wasteful mundane journey and human is not a machine for consumption and for producing words but a producer of meanings and balance, in a world that is filled with meanings and balance. Soul is the unifier of all human activities once it is connected to the source but once it loses that connection it disperses and scatters itself in the different aspects of its expressions, reason, emotion imaginal creativity, intellectual intuitions, remembrance etc. This dispersion and the besiegement in one of these zone is the basic source of humans illness that is why Gebser call to return to the ever present origin or Blake call to return to albion and our only tool to that end is our consciousness which is part of the vast sea of the divine consciousness, the consciousness that mobilizes our senses our emotion our imagination etc etc. The tragedy of this civilization is its occupation with the phenomena and forgetting the one behind all these phenomena physical and non-physical, the matter that all the mystics kept reminding this heedless humanity about. It is a processes of affirmation and negation, some factions negate what the other affirm and the other do the opposite. it is a divine trial to see how people navigate in this paradoxical environment. Some have faith and some have faith not only to find along the road that every one will reap the fruit of their seeds. It is a question of seriousness in dealing with the lively conscious Real.

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      Forgive me if my postings don’t match the topic. I came upon this letter from Henry Corbin again and want to share it even tho I have shared it before.

      • mikemackd says :

        Steve, as far as I am concerned, any excuse will do to post Corbin! Thanks again.

      • mikemackd says :

        I first came across Corbin in a little bookshop in Ladakh around 1983.

        There, I bought his book “Cyclic Time and Ismaili Gnosis”. On p. 148, he wrote:

        And here, no doubt, is one of the characteristic implications of Gnostic anthropology. By arousing the human being to the vocation of a potential angel, it causes him to move in this world as a Stranger, a “Prince of the other world” on his way back to his native home. Hence this extreme gentleness, this appreciation of the derisory character of any exercise of the will to power, of any appetite for kingship, or for conversion tending to bring about a monolithic Unity. The Gnostic lessons of the apocryphal Gospel texts which recur in the writings of our Ismailians have given us this teaching: the form of your vision and of your worship bear witness to what you are, you answer for the vision you have of your God. And what God becomes is revealed in the mode of relation attested in man’s mode of understanding Him.”

        It’s interesting to compare that with a point Mumford made:

        We can never reach the points of the compass (the utopian poles); and so no doubt we shall never live in Utopia; but without the magnetic needles we should not be able to travel intelligently at all.”

        (as quoted in Rothstein, Muschamp, and Rothstein, Visions of Utopia, p. 82).

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      It is a question of seriousness in dealing with the lively conscious Real.

      Is it “seriousness” you have in mind or sincerity? (I’m thinking it’s “sincerity.”)

      • abdulmonem says :

        Thank you IW it is both.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Sincerity (in English, at least) includes both “sober-mindedness” (for those who like the term) — careful consideration, in other words — and lack of pretense (or pretensiousness/presumptiousness, as the case may be) — hypocrisy, in other words.

          I thought so. 😉 Keep it up! 😀

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