Dimensions and Directions

I mentioned earlier that I was reading George Morgan’s The Human Predicament:  Dissolution and Wholeness (1968), and excerpted a couple of quotes from the introduction to post in the comments to the last post on Smith’s “Invisible Hand”.  I do recommend Morgan’s book in connection with Gebser studies, since The Human Predicament can be considered a more extended treatment of — or contribution towards fuller understanding of — what Jean Gebser means by the “disintegration” of the consciousness and personality structure of modern man, ie, the “perspectival” or “mental-rational consciousness structure”.

Morgan traces the root of this dissolution to what he calls “the prosaic mind” or “the prosaic mentality”. This is pretty clearly Blake’s understanding of “Urizen” and Urizenic Man. “Prosaic mind” is also pretty much identical with Jean Gebser’s “mental-rational consciousness structure”. Moreover, Morgan’s interpretation of this “prosaic mind” reveals it as being the same as Iain McGilchrist’s “Emissary” mode of consciousness as McGilchrist characterised this in his book on neurodynamics The Master and His Emissary. “Prosaic Mind” is, actually, a pretty apt term also in relation to Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical philosophy, and is also the issue of his essay “Farewell to Descartes“. Morgan’s “prosaic mentality” is also what underlies Blake’s objections to “single vision” and “the dark Satanic Mill” as he put it in his manifesto “There is NO Natural Religion

If it were not for the Poetic or Prophetic character the Philosophic & Experimental would soon be at the ratio of all things, & stand still unable to do other than repeat the same dull round over again

All this points to Morgan’s “prosaic mind” as being the same as Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”, so students of Gebser or Blake, especially — or of consciousness and cultural studies more generally — will find Morgan’s book quite worthwhile.

What Morgan calls “prosaic mentality” is what The Chrysalis refers to as the “point-of-view consciousness”, as the ever-narrowing contraction of consciousness into this “point” which people call “identity” or the Selfhood or the ego-nature. So, prosaic mind is also precisely described by Blake’s ““For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”. This narrowing or contraction of consciousness and perception is, fundamentally, what Jean Gebser sees as the root cause of modern man’s disintegration and Angst about identity.

This contraction of consciousness into the mere “point-of-view” (which is also the malaise — and oblivion even — of Mumford’s and Seidenberg’s “post-historic man”) is also called “the empathy deficit” or “culture of narcissism”, and is pretty much the issue of the twin diseases of reductionism and fundamentalism, which represent the exhausted inspirations, and final fate, of what began as Renaissance and Reformation. (Morgan uses the term “specialism” where I use the term “point-of-view” to refer to very partialistic or partisan views of reality). Reductionism and fundamentalism signal what Charles Taylor referred to as “The Malaise of Modernity” — the exhaustion of the modern mind’s original fund of inspiration (HG Wells’ judgment of “Mind At The End of Its Tether“).  This contraction of consciousness into the “point” is the spiritual counterpart to expressed fears about nihilism and the coming collapse of civilisation also, and this underlies Morgan’s concerns with “dissolution and wholeness”. “Dissolution” is what Gebser refers to as the mental-rational consciousness structure functioning in “deficient mode”, and is correspondingly Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”.

It was while reflecting on these issues that I turned again to Gebser’s “correctives” as described in The Ever-Present Origin — the “integral consciousness” and a more “universal way of looking at things” — holism, in other words. Gebser sees an intimate connection between what he calls the “directedness” of consciousness (or “intentionality” of consciousness as the Phenomenologists call it) and the dimensioning of reality, which underlies current notions also of the “co-evolution” of consciousness and cosmos. This is encapsulated in the old principle of the Hermetic Philosophy of “as above, so below”. Gebser’s account of the various “mutations” that constitute the human form through the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational consciousness structures are correlated with the disclosure of a new dimension to physical reality. Thus, the archaic consciousness was zero dimensional, the magical was one dimensional, the mythical was two dimensional, and the mental-rational was three dimensional. For Gebser, it is the mutation itself, which is a new “directedness” of consciousness, that reveals or opens up the new dimension to perception. This “directedness” is also called “intentionality”, and is the meaning of the terms subject and object spaces, or (now with Rosenstock-Huessy’s philosophy) traject and preject in relation to time.

This intimate and even identical relationship between the directedness of consciousness and the self-revelation of a new dimension to reality – or a dimensioning of reality by this very directedness — reveals something very important that probably won’t be much of a surprise to quantum physicists: that there is a limit to the dichotomisation of reality into “subjective” and “objective” realms. That is to say, that dichotomisation of being and reality represented in Cartesian metaphysical dualism isn’t real, and why dualistic rationality has become suspect, if not already anachronistic.

So, the coincident discovery of time as the “fourth dimension” in both Einstein and Picasso was, for Gebser, of momentous significance for his theory of civilisational types as being “consciousness structures” and their transformations as “mutations” in the consciousness structure. If time was now perceived as a “dimension” needing to be integrated with the other known dimensions, it was because something had changed in the consciousness structure that allowed for the perception, or self-revelation, of time as a dimension. In other words, something had changed in the “directedness” of consciousness and that change in directedness revealed the new dimension. There is, in those terms, a very intimate relationship between the directioning of consciousness and the dimensioning of physical reality.

Basically, we can speak of the “irruption” of time into consciousness, which alters the entire Gestalt of what was are pleased to call “reality” — the space-time configuration or structure, and coincident with that has emerged also a new breed of thinkers who describe themselves as “time-thinkers” — Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy being two notable examples. It was Rosenstock-Huessy who coined the terms “trajective” and “prejective” for the directedness of consciousness in relation to times as counterparts to the subjective and objective poles of the spatial relationship. And it is indeed odd that no one before Rosenstock-Huessy had thought to give formal names to these temporal orientations such as existed for the spatial orientations.

Backwards and forwards, inwards and outwards express not only the directedness of consciousness (in formal terms, trajective and prejective, subjective and objective) but also the dimensions of reality as an integral spacetime structure coincident with this directedness of consciousness. It’s also quite clear that Gebser’s four historically realised “structures of consciousness” — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational (and the fifth being the potential “integral” or holistic) — map to Rosenstock-Huessy’s typology of trajective (past-oriented, or Origin), prejective (future oriented or Destiny), subjective (or soul oriented) or objective (world-oriented). Thus Rosenstock’s conception of a fourfold “multiformity of man” corresponds to the new four dimensional or multidimensional cosmos. And, in fact, Rosenstock insists that it is this very directionality of consciousness that tacitly generates or creates the temporal and spatial dimensions which it perceives in terms of inner and outer, or backwards and forwards. Consciousness is, in those terms — and in terms of the intentionality of consciousness — inherently creative or purposive.

This organisation of reality via the directedness of consciousness has, nonetheless, been known in the past, and is represented in the symbolism of “the Guardians of the Four Directions”, which corresponds to Rosenstock’s “cross of reality” and the fourfold “multiformity of man”. The “four directions” are four dimensions, and are represented also in Blake’s “four Zoas” and his “fourfold vision”. It is not accidental that the current Blake revival, after Blake had languished in obscurity for generations, is coincident with the emergence of the four-dimensional cosmos. Blake, once considered a lunatic, is now recognised as a prophet.

Gebser is surely right about the “double-movement” of our times — one towards disintegration and another towards a new integration of the consciousness structure/civilisational structure. Morgan’s “wholeness and dissolution” is also an attempt to map this double-movement of the times.

It is quite likely, then, that the “seat of the soul” is shifting once more, and even towards McGilchrist’s “Master” mode of consciousness. Contrary to much popular belief, the “seat of the soul” in antiquity was never associated with the head. It has actually migrated around the human frame, and depending upon what was considered the “seat of the soul”, you got animism, vitalism, psychism, mentalism, or now integralism. These were not “errors” but maps of the soul’s migrations, or what Gebser calls consciousness “mutations”, and are associated with the archaic, magical, mythical, or mental structures of consciousness. It is quite likely that the “identity crisis” or the post-modern “loss of self” (or “loss of world” as Morgan also has it) is also yet a new historical shift in the “seat of the soul” as well.

That is probably the issue with Zukav’s book on The Seat of the Soul. Although I haven’t read his book, I would bet that it arises from confusion about identity and its relation to the “vital centre”.


17 responses to “Dimensions and Directions”

  1. Steve Lavendusky says :

    Everything that happens to us, then, is only the answer and echo of what and how we ourselves are. — Jean Gebser

    • Steve Lavendusky says :

      When we study long-term changes in consciousness, we are studying changes in the world itself, and not simply changes in the human brain. We are not studying some so-called “inner” world, divided off, by a skin or a skull, from a so-called “outer” world; we are trying to study the world itself from its inner aspect. Consciousness is not a tiny bit of the world stuck on the rest of it. It is the inside of the whole world.
      Owen Barfield

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Consciousness is … the inside of the whole world.

        That’s exactly what I was getting at in a former comment on Judith’s video, the pertinent quote being, “the truths we hold within and the truths we find without.” (I believe I commented, ‘What ‘without’?” For that matter, I might add, ‘what within?’) This is where we come by the idiom, “the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between.”

        We’re still in the Land of Dualisms when utilizing terms such as “interior” and “exterior”; “within” and without;” which is no doubt why Scott’s comment is full of quotation marks. (What else can he do but say, “You know what I mean.” Why, yes. We do.)

        My interest is, of course, what’s going in “the collective unconscious,” largely warring though it is at the moment. It’s not some separate entity unto itself. There is much talk of the “Clash of Civilizations” (or “consciousness structures”) but little other than egregious and grotesque “surface” evidence of it in everyday life until and unless some “subconscious” element of the psyche(?) rears its head. This is where I come by the notion that, at some level, everyone knows the quandry we’re in and knows it intimately and intuitively, but the vast majority haven’t the vaguest notion what to do about it and the tiny minority haven’t the vaguest notion what to do about it, either…other than “argue,” perhaps.

        It is quite likely, then, that the “seat of the soul” is shifting once more, and even towards McGilchrist’s “Master” mode of consciousness.

        {Thumbs up}

        There are an awful lot of people looking around and judging entire cultures (and people) by the actions of the extremist fringes in their midst rather than assessing what is occurring at their “hearts,” so to speak: the return of and rise in popularity of “contemplative” practices in religious communitees; the return and rise of “holistic” theories in scientific circles; the return and rise of community-oriented activities offsetting the “atomizing” forces of “modernity;” the (more interesting) conversations taking place in social media regarding arts, culture, “entertainment,” current events, etc; ad infinitum.

        I would concur, “the tides are turning.”

        P.S. A refreshing change of pace (and direction) in Hedges’ “dirge,” for the interested.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          Another timely piece for our consideration, if interested.

          There’s a great tradition of delving deeply into what is terrible and interrogating it and taking it apart and analyzing it in great detail.

          We don’t apply that that kind of sophistication or intelligence to the aspects of being that are redeeming. We don’t analyze the aspiration.

          • Scott Preston says :

            “Genius” has always been spiritual. It’s not a matter of mind as computer or calculating rationality but of creativity. That’s what I was trying to get at with the post on the Invisible Hand the the Tribal Genius.

            Genius is creativity and “divine Imagination” as Blake put it. Blake’s “Imagination” is the same as Genius. But the further the ego-consciousness drifts (like the Prodigal Son) from the sources of creativity, the less real “genius” is evident. Hence “the same dull round” over and over again, as Blake described the mind of the “dark Satanic mill”. Aspiration is nothing but the Prodigal Son’s arising from his sleep amongst the swine, awakening to the remembrance of himself and beginning the Nostos or homeward journey back to the source of creativity and life that is Gebser’s “vital centre”.. Aspiration is Nostos.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              That’s what I was trying to get at with the post on the Invisible Hand the the Tribal Genius.

              Yes, indeed. One of your best, as this one, imho. (Not that my h-o “counts”.)

        • Scott Preston says :

          That is Hedge’s own musings on “post-historic man”, basically, and is what George Morgan calls “existence in a void” in The Human Predicament. It’s a good artlcle.

          “Post-historic man” is homeless, and so we see here the connection with “post-historic man” and the parable of the Prodigal Son. What if the Prodigal Son, living in extremis as a swine amongst swine, never comes to remembrance of himself, of who he is and where he comes from? The result would be Morgan’s “existence in a void” otherwise called “Oblivion”. that would be post-conscious man, and we are fast approaching that in the image of the human automaton, or what Yablonski calls “robopathy”.

          By coincidence, I’m presently reading Morgan’s section on Art in the context of the “prosaic mind”, and his views on the role of art here are very similar to Hedges.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            The result would be Morgan’s “existence in a void” otherwise called “Oblivion”. that would be post-conscious man, and we are fast approaching that in the image of the human automaton, or what Yablonski calls “robopathy”.

            How odd that Facebook, of all “platforms,” should present this “memory” from 2011 today: Liking Is for Cowards. Go for What Hurts.

            A related phenomenon is the transformation, courtesy of Facebook, of the verb “to like” from a state of mind to an action that you perform with your computer mouse, from a feeling to an assertion of consumer choice. And liking, in general, is commercial culture’s substitute for loving. The striking thing about all consumer products — and none more so than electronic devices and applications — is that they’re designed to be immensely likable. This is, in fact, the definition of a consumer product, in contrast to the product that is simply itself and whose makers aren’t fixated on your liking it….

            But if you consider this in human terms, and you imagine a person defined by a desperation to be liked, what do you see? You see a person without integrity, without a center. In more pathological cases, you see a narcissist — a person who can’t tolerate the tarnishing of his or her self-image that not being liked represents, and who therefore either withdraws from human contact or goes to extreme, integrity-sacrificing lengths to be likable.

            If you dedicate your existence to being likable, however, and if you adopt whatever cool persona is necessary to make it happen, it suggests that you’ve despaired of being loved for who you really are. And if you succeed in manipulating other people into liking you, it will be hard not to feel, at some level, contempt for those people, because they’ve fallen for your shtick. You may find yourself becoming depressed, or alcoholic, or, if you’re Donald Trump, running for president….

      • Jo Saco says :

        The implicate and the explicate is that correct Owen? Interpenetrating and encompassing at once. It is consciousness seeking itself, the ultimate conundrum of dualism, the Oroborus. The Mobius Ring of the observer observing the observer ad infinitum.
        Very cool!
        Jo Saco

    • Scott Preston says :

      Good quotes. Very appropriate. Morgan also addresses the “outer” and the “inner” aspects of any action, in much the same way, and is very critical of thought that only glances or ricochets off the surface of things — taking the “outer” as the most evident and the most evident as the all of it. So, the two quotes you selected from Gebser and Barfield are very meaningful in that sense. Beginning to perceive the inner aspect of an action — that is Gebser’s “transparency of the world”, which is otherwise called “insight”.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    It is ghaffla, the tragedy we talk and write and never ask who made us talk and write.We talk about the seat of soul and the migration of soul and we do not ask where did the soul come from and why it has this yearning for migration. Our soul is our tool of our consciousness once it forget its source it falls in the lower state of consciousness call it what you may prosaic mind, single vision, point of view, deficient mind, emissary left vision etc etc , no matter what you call it you only mean one thing a narrow perceptual window that drives the humans away from seeing the big picture. Reducing human consciousness is a self deadening process that drives the humans away from the divine imagination whose continual activities are behind everything. God consciousness is around and beyond the cosmos and thus radiates its light of knowing to every thing including what we call lifeless. We speak about the root ,the origin, the vital center, the source but we are reluctant to speak of the One ,all the prophets came to tell us about him. it is not loss of the world which is always there, to be inherited by people generation after generation, it is humanity which perish and get lost because of its refusal to acknowledge the One. It is the misdirection of consciousness and the misplacement of intention are behind the modern diseases. Direction is a horizontal concept while the dimension is a vertical concept that points to the high, the high that needs to be recognized in order to appreciate the horizontal below and understand the concept of the below as the above or the above as the below in the realm of the unity of consciousness. It is a question of human understanding and awareness of his creativity as part of the creator creativity. Calamity rains its deep negative aspect and stop to be a reminder to change, once faith is divorced from knowledge or knowledge is divorced from faith and thus loses it impact in the realm of lively and compassionate feelings, I feel we are moving fast to face him and to realize to whom, our souls are migrating and recognize that our migration is nothing but our self transformation in the way of knowing the greatness of the One, we are missing. The Sufis say god is a puzzling phenomenon and admit that their understanding of him can not be accomplished without that puzzlement which push them through their sincere and serious devotion to know the energetic creative light that give forms to all forces negative and positive and mixed. It is to know the real belonging of things. I hope I am not encroaching on other visions but I am only bringing the invisible below to the visible above as I feel it not as I think it.

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    it not as I think it.

    Depends, unfortunately(?), of “who” we think of as “I”. Yeah….

    We’ve covered that as well. “Not my will, but thine be done.”

    We can think of it as “the One.” We can think of it as “multi-.” whatever. But no matter how we “think” of it…it’s not “I”, in the egotistical (or “egositic”) sense that ultimately “decides.” It’s that part of us that is interconnected or “related” to all.

    • Jo Saco says :

      Infinite Warrior, can we ever grasp, know, grok the aspect of sensate consciousness positing goddess? What is there when mind (dualistic limitation) is applied to that which is concept…words can be used to describe yet at the precipice there seems to be “space”…another concept.

      When looking Abdulmonem, if there is found a separation between that which looks and that for which it looks, there is a curiosity as to what is it that is looking and as was mentioned, what is it that “decides” to look? Jo Saco

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        What is there when mind (dualistic limitation) is applied to that which is concept…words can be used to describe yet at the precipice there seems to be “space”…another concept.

        Is it a “concept” we’re looking for? Or is it another human being?

        When looking Abdulmonem, if there is found a separation between that which looks and that for which it looks, there is a curiosity as to what is it that is looking and as was mentioned, what is it that “decides” to look?

        Philosophers have been “debating” that for centuries. You’re guess is as good as mine.

  4. abdulmonem says :

    Thank IW for two articles reflecting a deep heart felt narrations about the human predicament. I agree with the Egyptian general, if we want to know the conditions of a place, we have to read the artists products of that place. Honest artists are the prophets of our days. In old times prophets come in ones and across long periods, in our time they come in groups and fast across the present speeding time. It seems that the inspirational process is working fast in the heart of many people. In a world of disposables, a world that no longer addresses the layers under the veil of the present, the present whose historical memories are short and have lost their real significance and turned into occasions for sales or for decorative purposes. A world where truth is debatable and lies un-debatable, where automatons guide the different ships of our world. Good educated people are no longer critical of the crimes of their governments. Whitehead said, our time has seen the best educated, however it is sad that these best educated good people live under the most murderously vengeful government. It is clear that Whitehead description can move to cover all other governments with some minor shade of difference and irrespective whether the subjects are educated or not educated. Oppressive powers are not better than the savages they want to civilize, as Conrad made clear in the heart of darkness. We are living in a time where the divine corrective measures will be released after the artists make ample exposition of the ills that are spreading in a quick fashion across the globe. This is the story of all past extinctions. The tumultuous movements of people across the globe and the violent reactions toward it are not a hopeful signs, It is surely a reminder to the the leaders to re-step and realize the impending danger associated with their unwise polices .

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Good educated people are no longer critical of the crimes of their governments.

      Actually, they are, and the criticisms grow more scathing by the hour. This one, at least, finally recognizes some of the deeper undercurrents in play.

      Think of [Trump] as a messenger from the gods, the deities of empire gone astray. They sent us a man without a center, undoubtedly because 17 years into the 21st century our country lacks a center, and a man without a fixed opinion or a single conviction, except about himself and his family, because this country is now a swirling mess of contradictory beliefs and groups at each other’s throats.

      Half-true. Indeed, “factions” are everywhere and they exist by the nefarious, historical design of my country’s so-called “leadership.” This was all planned, you see, but instead of reserving their most scathing criticisms for our supposed “leadership” (as Jesus did, for example), my country’s “good, educated people” are, for the most part, taking their own frustrations and rage out on the populace…just as our “leaders” hoped they would.

      My country doesn’t actually lack a “center” any more than anyone else’s as evidenced by the fact that the vast majority of our people don’t themselves lack a “center.” The “center” simply wants nothing to do with these “factions” and their fascisms anymore…if it ever did. Thus, the growing number of people registered as “Independent” or “Unaffliated” voters, now that the option is more widely available, not to mention those who’ve given up on “the political process” altogether and sought open passages elsewhere.

      I’m not sure what our “good, educated people” hope to learn by “analyzing” the populace of America to death. As Hedges noted (in his typical, divisive fashion) the populace of America (all of its communities; all of its “ethnicities”; all of its “consumers” — most of whom have nothing left to “consume” with, btw — and/or insert-misleading-category-of-the-day-here) is suffering egregiously, but not simply at the hands of “leadership” or Wall Street or any other “global” entity we can name. Our populace is suffering at the hands of “the Megamachine” and its “Invisible Hand” as are those of all other countries.

      You won’t find an American, of any stripe, who won’t acknowledge our global, misplaced, collective worship of (what is known in America, at least, as) “the Almighty Dollar.” Clinton wasn’t too far off in saying, “It’s the economy, stupid.” There is nothing “economical” about the global ‘economy,’ of course, which is what makes Scott’s previous post so poignant.

      Yes. There are “distractions” and “dispersements” galore going on here. And, as long as we’re talking empire, we might as well call it by its historical name: “Bread and Circuses.” Keep them “entertained” (in the noxious sense) and, perhaps, they won’t notice their country is not just being slowly hollowed out, but actually was hollowed out long ago. “As long we have our ivory tower,'” however, “leadership” is thinking, “we (i.e. the persons actually responsible for both the sinking and righting of this ship — the US’ “leadership”) will be spared the worst of those who met their historical fates courtesy of “the barbarians at the gate.”

      Except that we have noticed.

      That’s why classical “conservatives” (among the general populace) are more concerned — reasonably or unreasonably — about “jobs” than anything else, and not just “jobs” for their own “kind,” either. Far more of us — of all ethnicities and philosophical “bents” — are living at subsistence level (or below) than those glitsy American TV shows, with which the rest of the world is familiar, suggest. While our “leaders” talk about “recession,” our people are keenly aware that actual living conditions in America do not just closely resemble but are nearly identical to our historical “Great Depression.” They’re worried about their children. Contrary to popular belief, they are just as worried about their neighbors. And they’re pitching in any way that’s available to them to help their neighbors, as Krista Tippett, thankfully, noted. In fact, my own family has received immense assistance in the past decade from “conservatives” (religious and otherwise) and none — zero, zip — from “liberals” so focused on their essays about “Manifest Destiny”; the advancement of their own self-image of “respectablility;” their “theories” about the “motivations” of the general populace; pulling together their “coalitions” of voters; or what-have-you; that they can’t even see, much less address, the untold suffering in our midst to its full and utterly undivided extent. It’s nearly enough to make you want to join the conservatives’ ranks. They don’t sit around on their duffs talking about “the best” or “most effective” way to help their neighbors. They just go out do it — and do it with no expectation of return — while “liberals” berate them for their supposed “stupidity.”

      In case it’s not obvious, I have about as much respect for “liberal,” ideological factions as I do for “conservative,” ideological factions; and this particular “split” is present — worldwide — in every institution and discipline one can name — including Islam; including Christianity; including Judaism; including Buddhism; including science; including, in fact, every single human community, endeavor and “society” imaginable.

      I happen to agree with Scott that these “orientations” (as opposed to factions) are properly mapped to past and future times. (Where he comes by a separate “arm” for “social,” I must admit, I’m not sure.) This is a “time-wound” (to use Paarthurnax’s term) in that neither of these “factions” is fully present to the other. How, then, could they possibly be present to our shared predicament?

      I’ll stop there — at the “time wound” — before I really get worked up.

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