Vitruvian Man and The Holomovement

There are plenty of indications in “post-modernity” that what we call  “the Modern Mind” has reached the limits of its possibilities, and has even overreached those limits. This “overreach” — just another term for hubris — is what Jean Gebser describes as a consciousness structure functioning in “deficient” mode. A consciousness structure in deficient mode has ceased to be adequate to its circumstances and the existential challenges it faces. To persist in it invites Nemesis, goddess of vengeance and retribution. That is now the case for Leonardo’s “Vetruvian Man”, icon of the Renaissance and the ideal of the Modern Age.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man

We have covered a little of the history and development of Vitruvian Man, iconic as he is of the perspective consciousness structure, in previous posts, and have noted also that this ideal of Renaissance humanism has ended, finally, as a caricature of himself — an exhausted type. The surest indication of this is observing how the founding and grounding inspirations for Reformation and Renaissance of the 500 years past have finally exhausted themselves in the decrepitude of fundamentalism and reductionism, and in the fully rationalised caricatures of “Average Joe and Average Josphine”, or even in a kind of mockery of the Vitruvian Man ideal.

Average Joe and Average Josephine


Poster for the film “Idiocracy”

These caricatures are, in effect, images of Nietzsche’s “Last Man”. And there are other indications that Vitruvian Man — or Perspectival Man, or “Urizenic Man”, or “Prosaic Man” or “Post-Historic Man” as such — has had his day, has run his course and has exhausted his possibilities for any further creative development. That was the real meaning of Fukuyama’s “end of history” and the dreaded thing that Blake decried long ago as “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”. Much of today’s identity crisis and hyper-partisan identity politics (or “tribalism” and the “echo chamber” effect) is also related to this exhaustion.

There are indications other than the present “maelstrom of blind anxiety” that indicate deficiency and inadequacy of the “point-of-view-line-of-thought” approach associated with the perspectival mode of consciousness and perception. In physics, the “Measurement Problem”, the Uncertainty Principle, and the “non-visualisability” of essential reality characteristic of the paradoxes of the quantum domain suggests the inadequacy of perspectivisation, dialectic, and the “point-of-view”, and the impossibility of even sustaining any longer a “point-of-view” or of “keeping things in perspective”. Confusion, disorientation, and perplexity (and “noise”) abound, and not just in the arts and sciences, but throughout the culture of Late Modernity or Post-Modernity. This is associated with what we call “chaotic transition”.

There is a widespread sense of urgency in the need to somehow get beyond this impasse, to master a situation that seems so “out of control” and its more negative developments that threaten even the continuity of life on Earth — Sixth Extinction Event and Climate Change, along with the associated “splintering of social cohesion” (also characteristic of demise of Christendom in sectarianism and the decadence and waning of the Middle Ages). The answers given by Reformation and Renaissance saved the continuity of what we call “Western civilisation” and society from total collapse and reversion to barbarism. But those answers and responses given then, adequate and transformative as they were for that time and age, will not serve or save us today in the Global Era. Today, we are threatened again with the risk of total collapse and a reversion to barbarism. That situation of disintegration is what informs and underlies Jean Gebser’s quest in The Ever-Present Origin for a new “universal way of looking at things” through a metamorphosis or “mutation” of the consciousness structure of Modern (or Vitruvian) Man now in the throes of dissolution. It also underlies and informs Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy’s quest for a “universal history” of the full human experience of the Earth and for a “metanoia“, or “new mind” more adequate to meet the challenges of our full reality.

What are the prospects of us “outrunning” the demise of the Modern Mind (as Rosenstock-Huessy described it, or overcoming what he called “our withering from within”)? Gebser, of course, also describes the “double-movement” of our times, one nihilistic and disintegrative, another regenerative and integrative. There are developments even in the physical sciences that point towards an incipient self-transcendence of the limitations of perspectivity and the rule of the self-interest. Two books, especially, stand out in my mind as foundational texts for such a “New Era”, and they stand out because they are exemplary of the attempt to transcend limitations of perspectivism and perspective consciousness. One, by the physicist David Bohm, is entitled Wholeness and the Implicate Order, and introduces the term “holomovement“. The other is chemist Ilya Prigogine’s Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue With Nature. Both are clear attempts to develop a more holistic, a more integral, awareness of reality and of our role in it.

Our role in it” is very key, here. As we saw in the review of Grosser’s The Painter’s Eye earlier (in “A Truly “Universal Way of Looking At Things”), perspective consciousness and the perspectivising eye sought maximal social and psychological distance — the space of “pure reason” or pure objectivity — an abstract space purified of all subjectivity or “subjective values” (Blake called this horrid space “Non-Ens” or Non-Being). As Rosenstock-Huessy once remarked equivalently: “the body was delegated to the struggle for food and shelter, the mind however, with the optimism of the Age of Reason, was contemplating the truth of the matter”. That was a put down of Cartesian metaphysical dualism, which was, itself, a development from perspectivism.

This is the “objective attitude” which has finally run to ground in the almost complete alienation from reality, including from ourselves.

“Holomovement” or “order out of chaos” both seek to rectify this omission and negligence. The holomovement is not amenable to a merely perspectivising or rationalising consciousness. It requires a new mode of perception, or aperception, which we’ve called “holonic awareness” to distinguish it from perspectival consciousness. Gebser calls this mode of perception “aperspectivity”. Ironically, though, neither Bohm’s nor Prigogine’s ideas are really new. Holomovement and Chaos are only new terms for the Heraclitean “flux”. And the significance of that cannot pass without comment.

Heraclitus (also called “Heraclitus the Dark” or “Heraclitus the Obscure”), although one of the greatest of the Greek philosophers, was largely passed over by his contemporaries in favour of his philosophical archfoe, Parmenides. The intellectual struggle between Parmenides (and his philosophy of “Being”) and Heraclitus (and his philosophy of “Becoming”) set the tone for much of the Western intellectual history that was to follow, and it followed largely along the track laid out by Parmenides. For almost 2500 years, Parmenides has largely ruled the roost. It was he, and not Rene Descartes, who first proclaimed that “thinking and being are the same”.  It was this that Heraclitus largely mocked with this doctrine of panta rhei or “all flows”. It seems clear, too, that the contest between Parmenides and Heraclitus about the true Logos mirrors that between Confucius and Lao Tse about the true “Tao“, so much so, in fact, that we may assume that the Logos and the Tao are the same. The same applies to the Buddha’s contest with the Brahmins. (In fact, Rosenstock-Huessy quite accurately called Heraclitus “The Greek Buddha”).

You might think that the arguments of two Greek philosophers who lived and died 2500 years ago don’t have much bearing on the present, but they were dealing with pretty relevant issues — questions of permanence and change, stasis and flux, and so on — that also had far reaching social and cultural implications. Rosenstock-Huessy even penned a “letter” from “Heraclitus to Parmenides” in which he took the part of Heraclitus to critique Parmenides precisely because the issues they dealt with are still very relevant for today.

Needless to say, that Heraclitus might finally get the upper hand on Parmenides after 2500 years rather upsets the apple cart. Suddenly 2500 years of intellectual tradition becomes curious, if not suspect, along with identities formed through those 2500 years. That Heraclitus “the Dark” starts making sense while Parmenides starts making no sense — that’s a major metamorphosis of thought and consciousness. Yet, that’s what Bohm’s and Prigogine’s work points to, and I doubt that we are very well prepared for the shock to our minds or to the system. That is, in essence, Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanoia” or “New Mind”. And to detect a structure to the flow or holomovement (Bohm’s “implicate order”) or a pattern in the chaos (Prigogine), that suggests a renewed interest and quest for Heraclitus’s Logos.  That pattern or structure is more akin to a grammar. (A consciousness “structure” in Gebser’s sense is really a grammar). Even ecology is more akin to a grammar, and a Picasso painting — also a representation of the Heraclitean flux — is more akin to grammar, and is more akin also to the holomovement and Prigogine’s “order out of chaos” than is conventional perspectival painting.

As Gebser anticipated, big changes are afoot, but we are in a race against time. Which is as much to say, a race against Death. The diffusion of this new thinking is very uneven, and even, in some cases, actively resisted, so that you have different groups of people living within different historical horizons — modern, post-modern (or even “pre-modern”) and what we might call “transmodern”. Under those circumstances, the potential for social conflict is enormous. But that’s what the “splintering of social cohesion” mentioned above implies. That’s largely why Bohm, in his later years, turned his efforts and attention to “dialogics” to try to bridge the chasm between newer and older ways and forms of social life, much as Rosenstock-Huessy has also attempted with his “grammatical method”.

If there is an iconic image for Blake’s “New Age” (or New Renaissance) to contrast with Vitruvian Man, it might very well be Blake’s portrait of “Albion” in his painting “Glad Day”

Glad Day

Glad Day — or “Albion Rose”

The caption Blake provided for this painting reads “”Albion rose from where he laboured at the Mill with Slaves. Giving himself for the Nations he danc’d the dance of Eternal Death” which is only enigmatic until you compare that with the Dance of the Nataraj (Shiva)


Shiva Dancing the Apocalypse

Personally, if the iconic is wanting for the “New Renaissance” I’ld favour the old hieros gamos or “sacred marriage” symbol from Hermetic Philosophy and alchemy that is so reminiscent of the paradox of the Tao itself in its Yin and Yang aspects, as sacred “androgyne” or coincidence of opposites

hieros gamos II

The Human Archetype

I suspect we’ve had too much “yang” over the last few centuries.

There’s a sense also in which Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” might also be considered equivalent meaning of the Tao or Logos, if we take the space axis to represent the yang aspect, and the time axis to represent the yin aspect, and their unification as “spacetime” is also a hieros gamos. (Whether Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” describes also Bohm’s “holomovement” is something I’ll have to explore later)

Basic Cross of Reality

Basic Cross of Reality



11 responses to “Vitruvian Man and The Holomovement”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    if we take the space axis to represent the yang aspect, and the time axis to represent the yin aspect

    That doesn’t feel quite right. Often overlooked in the yin yang symbol is the curving line down the center, which (to the best of my knowledge) symbolizes the force that binds yin and yang together as an inseparable, interdependent whole. Essentially, it represents the balancing and counter-balancing “axis” of the energies of yin and yang with the implication being that straying too far in one or the other “direction” results in imbalance.

    If we map the time axis to that curving line and the coincidence of opposite energies of the Cosmos (or space) to Yin and Yang and start spinning that puppy (as in the Dance of the Nataraj), we may be onto something.

  2. abdulmonem says :

    Odor of death is every where and over everything human ,animal, plant, land and sea. Human story is the same despite the different vocabularies, The dialogue of Bohm is set to show the connection. The gravest omission is the omission of the divine code ( the world of quality ) and its replacement by the arrogant human language of conquering nature and invading the space and the declaration of the anthropocene domination and the reign of quantity. As Professor Hawking advocated we do not need god to explain the cosmos. Toynbee spoke about the recurrent story of the destruction of 26 civilizations, a recurrence destruction that will not miss this global one that have committed all the wrongs that have been done by previous civilizations and killed more people and emptied the earth from its treasure and done unspeakable more. The Koranic stories of destruction attribute the destruction majorly to the violation of god code. In the previous civilization it seems some good humans are left over to replenish the earth a new. Look at the current falsifications of the divine narrative, the first mover and how it has been replaced by mechanical means. By perversion and single vision human beings hurt no body but themselves and due to its possession of all these mass destruction weapons the opportunity that some will be left over is minimal . The frightening prospect is that our hall of mirror only reflects the physical and the quantitive and has no way to the world of quality. It is an impasse that can not be left because our humans refuse to investigate the quantitive mentality as the source of their mess. Denial, despite its negativity, play a role in lessening the gloomy fate. The world is on fire, yet nobody is working to put it off but on the opposite they are feeding it with more fuel, The world of god does not know dichotomy but paradoxical complementarity, the problem is with the humans who refuse and insist on separation and division. May we wake up because the movement of disintegration is moving much faster than the integrative movement.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      The frightening prospect is that our hall of mirror only reflects the physical and the quantitive and has no way to the world of quality.

      Hardly. “Time is of the essence.”

      The one “concept” in our current purview that I find the most utterly ridiculous, is that we can’t seem to reconcile the notions of time and timelessness. If we can’t even do that, how do we expect to “grasp” the notion of “The Eternal Now? Eternal. Not “mutating.” Not “changing.” Eternal!. (Or, if one prefers, “Ever-Present.”)

      Seriously. “Presence” is not impossible to understand.

      Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

      • abdulmonem says :

        Yes present is a present for those who appreciate the present and the present, Speaking of the trajectory of the general trend does not deny the existence of those who aspire to know the real, otherwise all the prophets who claimed to receive their message from the one are liars. Also all our talk to seek inspiration from those whom we regard as example will be futile. Thank you Iw.

  3. mikemackd says :

    I would add that the same exponential effect applies to our perceptions of time as those mentioned of space. Vast swathes of money are gained this way. For example, people commit themselves to long-term interest repayments compounding to far more than the original debts. Psychologically, the current low payments are given high importance, while financially the high importance is the interest rate.

  4. Leo says :

    …to detect a structure to the flow or holomovement (Bohm’s “implicate order”) or a pattern in the chaos (Prigogine), that suggests a renewed interest and quest for Heraclitus’s Logos. That pattern or structure is more akin to a grammar.

    This seems to me to more about the relationship between the flux and dynamic patterns therein, and language. I would venture that the dynamic structures and patterns are there whether we notice them or not, i.e. they are the ‘territory’. The grammatical aspect (in the Gebserian sense), then, pertains to the semantic categories and ‘permitted’ sets of relations between them (grammar in the linguistic sense), i.e. the ‘map’.

    What’s interesting to me, is that language can both conceal and reveal. The determining factor as to whether it’s one or the other is it’s adequacy to the real territory of the dynamic flux. Determining new semantic categories, e.g. pattern,flux etc., is comparitively easy, but the perceptual effect of deep level linguistic structures such as subject-verb-object, ontological conceptual metaphors etc., requires much more careful attention.

    If we are vigilant to the ways that the linguistic map can both reveal and conceal the dynamic territory, as per Castaneda, we have a chance of noticing and ‘responding to the perceptual solicitations of a world outside the description we have learned to call reality’, thereby helping to bring a new grammar into being.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      This seems to me to more about the relationship between the flux and dynamic patterns therein, and language. I would venture that the dynamic structures and patterns are there whether we notice them or not, i.e. they are the ‘territory’.

      Agreed. The “Tao” is before thought and language, in a sense. I think Gebser knew this as well, which is why he studied “cultural artifacts” and not just continental philosophy, symbolism and spoken/written language (the latter being Rosenstock’s emphasis, and an important one).

      The Arts and Sciences encompass far more than the spoken and written word, as do we all. And I would venture to say that our inner compasses are far more trustworthy than the “truths we find without” (more at the “post-truths” we’re daily inundated by) in “this world of trickery.”

      A quote by Emerson may be fruitful in this context.

      A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another….

      The objection to conforming to usages that have become dead to you is that it scatters your force.* It loses your time and blurs the impression of your character. If you maintain a dead church, contribute to a dead Bible Society, vote with a great party either for the Government or against it, spread your table like base housekeepers,-under all these screens I have difficulty to detect the precise man you are. And of course so much force is withdrawn from your proper life. But do your thing, and I shall know you. Do your work, and you shall reinforce yourself.

      I would only add that there’s no “shame” in “[taking] our own opinion from another” when and if the occasion calls for it. After all, that “opinion” wouldn’t “resonate” with us if it weren’t true, and Emerson did capitalize the Self in “Self-Reliance” for a reason.

      From the Macy interview posted yesterday:

      [The work that reconnects] needs to be done in groups so we can hear it from each other. Then you realize that it gives a lie to the isolation we have been conditioned to experience in recent centuries, and especially by this hyper-individualist consumer society. People can graduate from their sense of isolation, into a realization of their inter-existence with all.

      [H]ere we are: a burgeoning movement of commoners. From software to urban parks to ethno-botanical stewardship, the movement is building a sprawling global infrastructure of projects and subcultures. It consists of a surprising number of transnational tribes who are starting to find each other. [From an article linked earlier by Steve.]

      That would be “gravitate toward one another” in my language, but let’s not get started about the coincidence of opposites in such a term as “gravity.” By whatever name we call call it, that global movement of “commoners” is far more grand and powerful than it seems, imo. A little disoriented, maybe, but coalescing just fine.

      [*abdulmonem might be as familiar with the sense of “dispersement” Emerson refers to here as I am at times. “Conditioned mind,” unconditioned mind” — mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind, mind (when not brain, brain, brain, brain, brain, brain, brain, of course).

      It’s the heart-mind — Emerson’s “emotional intelligence,” Gebser’s “empathic ephisthemics,” Hanh’s “compassionate (everything),” etc. connection Macy speaks of that, it seems to me, we as a species need to “work on” the most. That connection appears to have been all but completely severed somewhere along the way.]

      • Leo says :

        I think that one of the reasons that most people feel isolated is because they unconsciously conceptualise the self as an object, a kind of container that they are inside.

        The Tao is continually dynamically manifesting, creating… the flow, the holomovement. Everything and everyone is dynamic movement already, so how come most people don’t notice? I was having this conversation with my wife last night; perceptually, when I drew her attention to the phenomenological experience of visual flow, she had been dismissing it as a kind of ‘white noise’.

        The point is, dynamic wholeness is there continually, ever-presently, without a hair’s breadth between ‘us’ and ‘it’. There isn’t and never was really any separation anyway, except in our minds, which of course paradoxically means there IS a kind of separation – Nirvana and Samsara are one, right?

        So, how come we don’t notice, don’t see? Our concepts of matter, space and time are inadequate, and they shape and constrain our perception in ways we don’t notice. Dynamic, flowing wholeness becomes white-noise… an oddity, a distraction, filtered out like the zero-point energy in the equations of quantum mechanics.

        This passage from Carlos Castaneda covers exactly this point:

        In the blink of an eye, the world ceased to be what it was, and for the first time in my life, I became conscious that I was seeing energy as it flowed in the universe. I had to sit down on some brick steps. I knew that I was sitting on some brick steps, but I knew it only intellectually, through memory. Experientially I was resting on energy. I myself was energy, and so was everything around me. I had cancelled out my interpretation system.

        After seeing energy directly, I realized something which became the horror of my day, something that no one could explain to me satisfactorily except don Juan. I became conscious that although I was seeing for the first time in my life, I had been seeing energy as it flows in the universe all my life, but I had not been conscious of it. To see energy as it flows in the universe was not the novelty. The novelty was the query that arose with such fury that it made me surface back into the world of everyday life. I asked myself what had been keeping me from realizing that I had been seeing energy as it flows in the universe all my life.

  5. abdulmonem says :

    It is loaded but it is revealing and like to stay with the clear because deep depth often time gets murky. Human language is a divine language tailored for the use of the human for the purpose of making the humans to be aware of the connection. In the Koran there is a verse that reads, Aleef Laam Ra, Through this alphabetical vibrational formation the cosmos is made and detailed by the wise the expert. This recall to mind Pythagoras saying that god built the universe on number and the mystic saying that god built it on the letters of the alphabet also the discourse covered by these stimulating exchange. The flowing dynamic patterns of the sounds that are making the creation and maintain it, which are the same tools that enable the humans to make the connection with the original territory. benefiting from the corresponding resemblance between the two dynamic creative patterns that of the above and the below. Studying the invocatory intoning of the mantra to learn the play of connection, is needed in this time of disclosure. The within can not leave the without, nor can the without do away with the within. It is the new cry for re-connection. Flashes is his mode of communication knowing the weakness of the humans, no wonder Casteneda cried for Don Juan help to explain this devastating flash.

  6. abdulmonem says :

    I forgot to say that Tao is nothing but the divine energy that is behind both world of physicality and spirituality and that gives meaning to all.

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