The Pubescent and Petulant Politics of the Chauvinistic Super-Patriot.

Or, The Real Problem with “Post-Historic Man”.

Concerns about “post-historic man” began to emerge in the late 50s and early 60s, with the writings of Roderick Seidenberg (Post-Historic Man) followed by Lewis Mumford (The Transformations of Man), and they anticipate Thatcherism and Fukuyama with his pernicious “end of history” doctrine. It should be noted, too, that Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, who we have had many occasions to mention, considered himself primary an historian and secondarily a social philosopher. And his writings also anticipate a “post-historic man” and his own quest for a “universal history” suitable for a planetary civilisation must be appreciated as an attempt to counter-act this “post-historic man”. And, of course, the cultural philosopher Jean Gebser is the farthest thing from “post-historic man”.

In my satirical comments on current eruptions of petty-minded and pubescent chauvinistic nationalisms (always better to be chivalrous than chauvinist if you truly believe that “the West is the best”) lies a disturbing truth about this type called “post-historic man”. I’ve suggested that the term “post-historic” easily translates into “post-conscious”.

The problem with post-historic man is that he not only “acts as if there is no tomorrow”, but also acts “as if he were born yesterday” — two propositions of popular language that really speak to the profounder implications of post-historic man. The man who lives for the moment and for instant gratification lives an infant life only, and damns the future and the past to oblivion. Post-historic man is, in that sense, a thorough nihilist who neither learns anything from the patterns of history, nor takes any responsibility for the future. And without memory or responsibility he remains, essentially, childish, an infant.

That is rather key to understanding Rosenstock-Huessy’s “time-thinking” method and his cross of reality and is equally key to understanding Gebser’s notion of “time-freedom” as the fruit of the mature consciousness, for indeed, “mature” is another word for “noble” (Nietzsche) or “integral” (Gebser).

To a large extent, Rosenstock-Huessy blamed this infantilism on an obsessive concern with subject-object dualism to the neglect of the polarities of time, which he called “backwards” and “forwards” (Origin and Destiny) or “trajective” and “prejective” orientations of time equivalent to the subject-objective orientations of the spaces of life. The addition of the times past and future gives us the “cross of reality” which is not dualist, not triangulating, but a quadrilateral describing our real orientation and the dimensions and directions of consciousness in physical reality

Rosenstock-Huessy’s new grammatical paradigm

In past posts, we’ve compared this cross of reality with William Blake’s “fourfold vision” and the indigenous Sacred Hoop. And once you really appreciate the problem of “post-historic man” (which is also connected inevitably with “post-truth man” and “post-rational man”) you may discover just how much Blake’s vision and the Sacred Hoop pertain to the mature form of humanity, as integral being

William Blake — the Fourfold Vision


Sacred Hoop /Medicine Wheel

Or why, too, in Christian iconography Christ also occupies the centre of the cross of reality flanked by the four Evangelists as in this illustration Agnes Dei

Agnus Dei: Christian Mandala of the Fourfold Self

The trouble with post-historic man as interpreted by Rosenstock-Huessy, is that as long as he lives only for the self-interest, he lives only along the “Ego-It” axis of the cross of reality, and his essay entitled “Farewell to Descartes,” to which we’ve referred many times, might be considered a critique of Seidenberg’s and Mumford’s “post-historic man” (and who is also Nietzsche’s decadent “Last Man” of his Zarathustra). Gebser’s somewhat cryptic comment in The Ever-Present Orgin about “our guilt about time” refers to post-historic man, who is pretty much unconscious.

It should be very clear that in an age when Time has become the outstanding issue and “dimension”, post-historic man is an anachronism and an obsolete type. That’s why Gebser feels he’s due for a fall and to be supplanted by a more mature type — integral consciousness — who basically “fulfills the times” which post-historic man, the man of “Single Vision” in Blake’s terms, is unable to accomplish, for acting either like “you were born yesterday” or only living “as if there were no tomorrow” which are both problems of narcissism and the culture of narcissism, is a dead-end.



16 responses to “The Pubescent and Petulant Politics of the Chauvinistic Super-Patriot.”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Ooops. Noticed I repeated the word “pubescent” in the title twice. Meant to be “Pubescent and Petulant”, which I’ve amended so to read.

  2. InfiniteWarrior says :

    This immediately strikes me as worthy of the “only a hair separates the false from the true” treatment.

    The present moment is the only moment available to us and it is the door to all other moments. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

  3. mikemackd says :

    Scott, your generosity of spirit concerning post-historic man exceeds Mumford’s, who in “Transformations of Man” refers to the same pre-pubescent age in axiological development as, coincidentally, I had a few posts ago, that being ten.

    I had not read the following quote then, and had not known that the Pali texts had referred to that age also:

    Post-historic man, the wholly subservient creature of the machine, dismally adapted to the pseudo-life of its mechanical collectives, is a theoretic possibility, not a historic probability. For the conflicts between the over-rational and the irrational, between the mechanised institutions and atavistic men, arc too great to promise more than an increasingly erratic oscillation, ending in a final breakdown. Whatever his powers and numbers post-historic man has a short expectation of life.

    One cannot, of course, deny that large tracts of our life have become increasingly bovine, vulpine, and simian. The age of the ‘men who are ten years old’ long ago predicted in the Pali texts of Buddhism, is already visible. There will be a time when children will be born to men who only reach an age of ten years; and with these men, girls of five will be fertile. . . . With these men of an age of ten, violent hatred against each other will pre dominate, violent enmity, violent malevolence, violent lust for wholesale killing’. The terrible triviality of this ten-year-old culture, already visible in more than one place, might be symbolised by an atomically powered juke box; for its most exquisite scientific and technical devices are at the service of infantile fragments of the human personality. Once these impulses get the upper hand in government — as they did in Central Europe under Hitler and Himmler — the end will come swiftly. In short, the purely instinctual attempt to compensate by irrational and primitive means for the repression of human vitality under post historic culture cannot hope for the kind of success achieved in early civilisations. Rather such an attempt must now bring the whole process to an end: for the mixture of the automaton and the id is an explosive one.

    An apocalyptic termination of all human development has become possible in our day; far more so than in the comparatively innocent times of John of Patmos. With our present lethal weapons the swift suicide of post-historic man is even more likely than his gradual triumph, through his conditioning the human organism into becoming a nonentity. Plainly the ‘realists’ who see no happier future for mankind than the indefinite prolongation of this self-punishing and self-defeating regime, whose destiny is to have no destiny, underestimate both the inner resistances and counter-measures and the external dangers.
    UNQUOTE (pp. 136-137)

    Although I am far from this reporter’s framing, the contexts of my former post about axiological ten-year-olds, Mumford’s and yours are arguably reflected in this report on the G-20 gathering:

    • Scott Preston says :

      That is a truly frightening quote from Mumford. But I think Mumford has here pretty much described that which Gebser anticipated as immanent ‘global catastrophe’.

  4. Kellynn says :

    I’m not familiar with Gebser’s work. Can you explain how he felt he was “due for a fall and to be supplanted”? Or point us to some specific passages?

  5. Scott Preston says :

    I re-read Gebser’s chapter from EPO on “Fundamental Considerations” after commending it to Kellynn above, and in light of what I wrote on post-historic man and (especially) Mike’s quotation on post-historic man excerpted from Mumford’s The Transformations of Man.

    It becomes pretty obvious in reading that first chapter of EPO that “post-historic man” is who Gebser is grappling with spiritually, and is what he considers the chief obstacle to the new consciousness, and its chief threat and danger. So I would recommend re-reading “Fundamental Considerations” with this current post and especially Mumford’s quote in mind. It becomes VERY revealing of Gebser’s concerns (as well as Rosenstock-Huessy’s I might add).

    I feel like I’ve hit another plateau in my understanding with this insight into the meaning of post-historic man as the meaning of the narrowing of the “point-of-view” consciousness structure and Gebser’s remark about this type’s “guilt about time” (or anxiety about time and identity). I owe much thanks to Gebser, Seidenberg, Mumford, Nietzsche, and Rosenstock-Huessy for this, and always William Blake. All wonderful company to keep.

    That quotation from Mumford circulated in my mind all night, even sleeping, and started making links and associations, and this morning I woke up sensing an enriched understanding of and appreciation for the works of these thinkers. They saw the essential problem “post-historic man” or Post-Historic Consciousness represented, even if they didn’t frame that in quite the same terms as Mumford did. But in that sense it was only akin to the case of the parable of the five scholars and the elephant. Each was approaching the problem of post-historic man in their own way. George Morgan’s “Prosaic Man”, Blake’s “Urizenic Man”, Gebser’s “Perspectival Man”, Nietzsche’s “Last Man”, or Rosenstock’s “Cartesian Man” — all the same “man”, or consciousness structure. All the same as Seidenberg’s and Mumford’s shrunken and shrivelled up “post-historic man”.

    Post-historic man is, effectively, the dwarf upon whose corpse Shiva performs his dance of “creative destruction” (apocalypse). Have a look

    Everything clear this morning. Post-historic man/consciousness IS that “decaying humus” that Gebser speaks to in EPO, but who evidently (as the “arrogance of ignorance” I once addressed) thinks he is the antithesis of all this — not a reactionary, but a revolutionary.

    What can I say but “Eureka!”

    • Scott Preston says :

      I should add Christopher Lasch’s name also to my list of great companions. His Culture of Narcissism is clearly the culture of post-historic man, too. In effect, post-historic consciousness and narcissism are the same.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I should also add the name Ernest Becker. His book on The Denial of Death also speaks to the problem of the narcissism of post-historic man. Perhaps Herbert Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man does also, but I’ld have to go back to that to see whether Marcuse was stalking and trying to sniff out the same “post-historic man” as Seidenberg, Mumford, et alia.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    Bovine,vulpine simian and the juke box culture another closed doors pins to our post human march,but there are also the keys for opening doors out of that frightening future. The integral consciousness which Ibn Arabi called it divine consciousness in which everything participate. There is list of other names in this, culture free, race free, time free, religion free, space free etc movement like Rumi. Sri Aurobindo and others whose aspirations lie in that direction. Never let attention engrossed in one direction where conformity enshrines its death. Our problem is the single eye vision. Gebser emphasizes the complementarity of the orient and the occident, the oneness of human consciousness.

  7. abdulmonem says :

    I thought I put this sigh of Rumi to show how near from the source we are always despite of all the shape-shifting in both the physical realm and the spiritual realm. The koran make a distinction between the spirit of creation and the spirit of command that is the spirit of knowledge. The first is accessible to all while the second is only accessible to those who strife for it. Rumi, My soul is from elsewhere/ I am sure of that/ and I intend to end there. I am like a bird from another continent/ sitting in this aviary (yearning to return in life before death ). Lo, I am with you always/ I am in the look of your eyes/ in the thought of looking/ nearer to you than your self/ this how it is always/.. Do not forget your silence in the words.

  8. davidm58 says :

    “It wasn’t economic anxiety. As a study co-sponsored by the Public Religion Research Institute and The Atlantic reported in May, people who were worried for their jobs voted for Hillary Clinton. But people who dislike Mexicans and Muslims, people who oppose same-sex marriage, people mortally offended at a White House occupied by a black guy with a funny name, they voted for Trump.

    That’s the reality, and it’s time we quit dancing around it.

    This has been said a million times: Donald Trump is a lying, narcissistic, manifestly incompetent child man who is as dumb as a sack of mackerel. But he is the president of the United States because 63 million people preferred that to facing inevitable cultural change. So I am done asking — or caring — what’s wrong with him. Six months in, it’s time we grappled a far more important question.

    What in the world is wrong with us?”
    – Leonard Pitts

    • Scott Preston says :

      Funny and hard-hitting at the same time. Might write Mr. Pitts and turn him on to Gebser. Too much attention paid to the American soul tends to overlook the bigger picture, of course, that it’s not especially or particularly an American problem.

      So, as much as I appreciate the genuine insights of cultural critics like Christopher Lasch, or Neal Gabler or Bloom and so on, they’ve missed the bigger picture in many ways — the Era as a whole.

      The “us” in Mr. Pitts’ quiestion: “What in the world is wrong with us?” needs to be a more inclusive and comprehensive “us”, understood in the greater historical context and milieu. In other words, they’ve got to start practicing Gebser’s “universal way of looking at things”.

  9. Scott Preston says :

    Now for something completely different,

    The notable observation by one of the workers: ““Before, I was doing only one thing and had no idea what the others were doing,” is how Dimitris Koumatsioulis remembers the factory when he started in 2004. And now? “We’re all united. We have forgotten the concept of ‘I’ and can function collectively as ‘we’.”

    An important thing to discover, as Rosenstock-Huessy would appreciate. They haven’t forgotten the “I”, really… they’ve just discovered the secret of how to form an effective “we”.

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