Reflecting further on Albert Schweitzer’s ethos of “reverence for life” has led me round to the contemplation of Jean Gebser’s “archaic consciousness structure” as the “ever-present origin” — the archaic One or Wholeness, which may also be named “the Primal One”. It is appropriate to visual the archaic One in terms of Nicholas of Cusa’s famous description of God as “a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”, a root principle of the Hermetic Philosophy and which is basically an attempt to give a sense of form or structure to the Infinite and the Eternal (or the spaceless and timeless Presence), for such is the nature of the archaic One as “ever-present origin”, which has never ceased to be presence.
And it is, furthermore, appropriate to reflect on the archaic One as the singular Origin (or Ursprung) which is ever-present as also being identical with Jill Bolte-Taylor’s experience of “the Life Force Power of the Universe”, which she tried to describe in her very moving TED talk on her “Stroke of Insight”. This “Life Force Power of the Universe”, which Schweitzer also senses as underlying his own “reverence for life” ethos, and which Nietzsche sensed as the “Dionysian” power of his own “Life Philosophy”, is the same “archaic structure of consciousness” addressed by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin. The expansive “oceanic feeling” that psychologists often attribute to the infant or the mystic is an intimation of Origin and the archaic One.
Albert Schweitzer (1875 – 1965) — an antithetical type to the merely mean-spirited and petty-minded of the “New Normal”. I recall hearing his name as a very young boy as being someone who had done something quite extraordinary (or perhaps aberrant in some people’s judgment). I was too young then to appreciate what that was. Then, later on in university, his name came up again in the context of controversies and debates over self-interest and altruism as a characteristic feature of “human nature”, with some cynically-minded arguing that what is called “altruism” is merely, and always is, some form of digusie or masquerade for self-interest.
You don’t hear Schweitzer’s name mentioned much any more (likewise the name Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who was useful to power as a critic of the spiritual desolation of the Soviet Union but became persona non grata when he became a critic of the West and of the spiritual desolation of consumer capitalism as well).
The theme of today’s posting was suggested by the commentary to the earlier post on “Too Much of a Good Thing”, in which C.S. Lewis’s use of the term “Tao” was raised. I wondered why Lewis, a devout Christian as we know, would have preferred the name “Tao” over “Logos“, since they are equivalent in meaning. A comparison of some of the fragments of Heraclitus (who first used the term “Logos”) with the writings of Lao Tse on the Tao pretty much confirms that the Logos, the Tao, and (in some contexts) the “Dharma” of Buddhism are the same. In the passages cited from Lewis in the comments, you could substitute “Logos” or “Dharma” for “Tao” without any loss of meaning.
I just began reading John O’Donohue‘s Anam Cara: Spiritual Wisdom from the Celtic World, and I am quite impressed with it so far. He might be compared favourably with William Irwin Thompson, for those of you who are a fan of the latter.
Anam Cara is Gaelic, and translates as “soul friend”, as O’Donohue explains in the Prologue. (The Anam Cara is also quite evidently the “Friend” of Rumi’s mystical poetry). And it’s from the Prologue that I want to quote, rather extensively, to illustrate and highlight the themes of the previous post, for it was tremendously serendipitous to take up O’Donohue’s book, and read his Prologue, after posting “Too Much of a Good Thing”. So the following is an excerpt from the Prologue to Anam Cara.
Sometimes — perhaps most of the time — the most intractable dilemmas and predicaments evolve, synergistically, out of the simplest of errors or deficient beliefs (or “sins” if you will). “You can’t have too much of a good thing”, which I hear uttered occasionally in one form or another, and which is assumed or implied in great many similar statements or acts, is one such error, faulty belief, or “sin” which gives blessing to excess, gluttony, greed, cupidity, avarice, self-indulgence of all kinds as being virtuous. “There is no such thing as a house that’s too big”; “Everyone can use an extra 500,000 dollars” are statements I have heard with my own ears which reveal the spirit of hubris (or “transgression” as the Latin puts it) that underlies many of the problems of the Late Modern Era.
Here the popular saying that “big things come in small packages”, which is actually formalised in non-linear logics, complexity theory, or chaos theory as “The Butterfly Effect” is very appropriate. Popular sayings often record very profound truths that, nonetheless, are even ignored by the populace that utters them. Or, lip-service is paid to these popular truths even as one acts contrary to them — “honoured in the breach” only.
Baal (or Beelzebub) is called The Lord of the Flies. Indeed, some people are attracted to piles of money, and fall under its allure and spell, like flies to heaps of excrement, wherefore it is said that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Wherever there is decay or death, there is the Lord of the Flies. The Lord of the Flies is connected with Lewis Mumford’s cogent observation that what were formerly considered the “seven deadly sins” have been, thanks to the “Invisible Hand”, massaged and revalued as being virtues. In traditional Catholic demonology, in any case, The Lord of the Flies is one of “the seven princes of hell”, and even the chiefest of the princes of hell.
It was the dreadful Grenfell Towers disaster in London, and following that story (which some are pinning on the consequences of deregulation, “cutting red tape”, and social inequality) that brought to mind The Lord of the Flies. William Golding’s famous book by that title is less about what could be than it is about what already is, and the Lord of the Flies is implicated, too, in Naomi Klein’s critique of “disaster capitalism”. I wouldn’t discount the view that the spirit of the age is that of The Lord of the Flies.
I was perusing the pages of The Guardian today and came across this novel word “idiocracy” (in, of all places, the sports section of the paper). “An amusing but appropriate neologism”, I thought. My curiosity aroused, I googled up the term and found that it was the title of a 2006 science fiction movie that, though getting positive reviews from the film critics and having since become a “cult film”, was poorly promoted and didn’t do well at the box office. Natch, I just had to order it.