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”.