A few moments ago, I posted a quotation from the artist Maurice Grosser’s The Painter’s Eye to the comments section of the previous post on Holonic Awareness. The quote is excerpted from Edward T. Hall’s The Hidden Dimension, which is also a book I highly recommend to students of Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy. I found the quote so deeply meaningful, significant, and revealing in relation to what Gebser calls “the mental-rational” or “perspectival” consciousness structure that I have decided to comment on it at even greater length than could be done in a short comment.
The passage appears on pages 77 and 78 or Hall’s The Hidden Dimension. Here, Grosser is describing the proper distance — not just physical but psychological — for the proper visual rendering and representation of a subject or model in perspective space, just as the Renaissance artists would have approached the problem.
I recently spent another enjoyable afternoon of coffee-drinking and conversation with Chris Kutarna, co-author (with Ian Goldlin) of The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging — anything from the meaning of the “zombie” as cultural meme, to Game of Thrones, to contemporary politics (local and global), to the limits of Cartesianism and dialectics (and thus to perspectivisation or the “point-of-view” consciousness and mode of perception). Always stimulating, these conversations over coffee help me articulate what is my “Holy Grail” in terms of any prospective “New Renaissance” or “Age of Discovery” — that is to say, that which remains to be “discovered” (rather than simply invented) and why we must move from a triadic or tripartite logic to a four-term or quadratic logic. My “Age of Discovery” thus involves the realisation of holonic awareness and perception.
There have been a number of such “Ages of Discovery” in human history — the “discovery of the soul”, the “discovery of the will”, the “discovery of the mind“. The discovery of a new “dimension” to our reality was always coincident with the disclosure of some new potency or faculty in the human form and configuration leading to a radical reconstruction of perception and to the meanings of “truth”, “human nature”, or “cosmos” — literally a “new Heaven and a new Earth”. This is what Gebser refers to as the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure and the self-revelation of what was previously a hidden dimension or domain.
In yesterday’s posting on Giotto, Picasso and Aperspectival Consciousness, we briefly (perhaps all-too briefly) traced the turbulent unfolding — in “agony and ecstasy”, as it were — of the third dimension of space (or, rather, the tripartition of space into spaces) to consciousness and perception that was prefigured in the Early Renaissance/Late Middle Ages and represented in the works of Giotto and Petrarch; proof that very big things often arrive in very small packages — or on little dove’s feet.
The unfolding (or “evolution”) of a new “dimension”, as I mentioned, also involves a corresponding “in-volution” befitting the law of dynamics that states: every action has an equal and opposite reaction — that is to say, a coincidentia oppositorum. Standard histories of the Renaissance and Late Middle Ages very seldom pay attention to the “in-volution” aspect of the transition — the restructuration of consciousness, perception, and cognition — although this is now what is usually intended to be understood by the term “co-evolutionary” — the co-evolution of cosmos and consciousness. Or, as the great Sufi mystic and poet Rumi once put it, “the whole universe is a form of truth”.
I’m sure, by now, that you have taken note of the fact that the mainstream “public conversation” of Late Modernity has become completely incoherent and self-contradictory, being afflicted (as I’ve noted many times before) with Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind — the various masks of duplicity. Duplicity in word and deed (or “lip-service” by another name) is, indeed, the “New Normal” — something that even Pope Francis has recently noted and lamented (and which Adam Curtis also scrutinised in his recent film documentary “Hypernormalisation“).
This pandemic of duplicity attests to an overall loss of integrity — a fragmentation, a dissolution, a decoherence, a dehiscence and perhaps even a form of autothysis— of the personality and consciousness structure of Modern Man. This is also what Charles Taylor has called “The Malaise of Modernity“, and it is now global in scope. This is the first layer of fact about “globalism”. There seems to be no part of the Earth that is not afflicted with it. We are, if nothing else, united in our mutual malaise.
We need to recognise, then, that this disintegration is evidence of the decay and deterioration of the Modern Era as a whole — and, that means the accelerating deconstruction of what Gebser calls the “perspectival” or “mental-rational consciousness structure”. This is not unprecedented historically. Yet today its scale and scope are unprecedented. Here, I want to explore a precedent for the decay of an Era — the Waning of the Middle Ages.
When I was an undergraduate student at university, one of my professors tried to interest me in the work of the Polish eco-philosopher Henryk Skolimowski. While I found his approach intriguing, I was pursuing other matters and interests at the time and never followed up on that recommendation. It is perhaps time to rectify that, since I have come to appreciate eco-philosophy and eco-logic as the corrective to Mumford’s “Megamachine” and the threat of totalitarian capitalism.
So, the other day, I received in the mail a copy of Skolimowski’s book Let There Be Light: The Mysterious Journey of Cosmic Creativity, and it took me by surprise. Skolimowski, akin to other eco-philosophers like Rudolf Bahro, has moved from an eco-logical outlook to what can only be described perhaps as “mysticism”.
(Rudolf Bahro and I have an old relationship, in fact. Bahro was a dissident Marxist and a political prisoner in East Germany when I was a student in Germany. His “crime” was to try to reconcile Marxism with ecological thinking. I helped smuggle his books, which were drawing a lot of attention among young Germans in West Germany, back into East Germany. After I left Germany, Bahro was released to the West, where he co-founded what was probably the first Green Party. Bahro’s thinking also took a more mystical or spiritual turn later on).
I had never heard of James McGill Buchanan until I read, in today’s Guardian, a review by George Monbiot of Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s recently published book Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. I have yet to read and assess MacLean’s research and argument, but I wouldn’t be really surprised at the revelation of a “stealth plan” for, and prospects of, “totalitarian capitalism”. That was already the conclusion of political scientist Sheldon Wolin in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and The Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Nor are Maclean or Wolin the first to express fears about totalitarian capitalism, only the most recent. There is also Jane Mayer’s related investigation into Dark Money. Totalitarian Capitalism has been anticipated in any case by other names such as “corporatocracy”, “plutocracy”, or “techno-fascism”. This has been a growing threat.
How likely an outcome and endgame is it? I would say very likely. It would be the logical culmination of Jean Gebser’s anticipated breakdown and collapse of the mental-rational/perspectival consciousness structure barring some unanticipated intervention and disruption of this dynamic.
There’s a pretty big discrepancy between Canada’s “brand” and the actual boots on the ground reality, not least when it comes to Canadian-based extractive industries in their operations around the globe.
That dissonance between the “brand” image and the reality, the good words and base deeds, was brought home by two articles that appeared in today’s Guardian that seem, ironically, very connected. The first is “Environmental defenders being killed in record numbers globally“, and the second, “The Canadian company mining hills of silver — and the people dying to stop it“, which is about Tahoe Resources’ mining operations in Guatemala. And this is not the first and only case of gross malfeasance by Canadian mining corporations in Latin America.