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.