Identity Politics and The Soul

As Mark Lilla frames things, the Pilgrims “did not speak in terms of personal identities; they had souls back then” — (from a review in The Guardian)

Yes, indeed. The identity crisis and identity politics is about the eclipse of the soul, which is the meaning of the symbolism of the Sol Niger or Black Sun. It’s for that reason, too, that restoring the meaning and integrity of the soul — reviving the soul as Jean Gebser’s “diaphainon” — is one of the main objectives of the writings of Jean Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy, among others. It is correct to say that “identity” is only the soul which has shriveled up and has shrunk into a mere “point” — the “point of view”. The zombie image — the living dead — is really identity minus soul.

I do get very angry with those in the punditocracy and commentariat who seem to think the issue of “identity politics” is confined to controversies about sexual orientation, minority identity, or ethnic identity and so on, or hold that this is simply an problem of an excessive “liberalism” gone mad. Somehow they manage to exclude themselves from complicity in the fractious issue of identity and the identity crisis as if their own identity were simply the universal one, the norm and standard against which all other identities are to be measured and found wanting. “My identity politics isn’t the problem. Your identity politics is the problem”. This is the real attitude of “the righteous mind” which I consider to be duplicitous (and much of which I find in Ken Wilber, too). This is the very worst form of egoism and ego-centricity, seeing, as the saying goes, the splinter in your neighbour’s eye but not the log in one’s own. That’s what we call “zombie logic” precisely because it is soulless.

Rosenstock-Huessy called his method Angewandte Seelenkunde, or an “Applied Science of the Soul“. Jean Gebser calls the soul “the Itself” or the “diaphainon“, but it is the same concern. Iain McGilchrist calls the same “The Master” in his The Master and His Emissary, which could just as well have been named “The Soul and Its Ego“. I emphasise that reverse relationship of the possessive case. We don’t “have” a soul. We “are” a soul that has an ego”. That’s equally what Nietzsche intended to be understood in his Zarathustra, in his chapter “The Despisers of the Body“. Despite his pronouncement of the death of God, Nietzsche couldn’t do without the notion of soul.

“Identitarians” is a word the right applies to itself as much as it condemns the same identity politics in others. Neo-fascist groups like “Identity Evropa” or “Generation Identity” are just as much identity politics and right-wing “political correctness”, and even moreso. I have, unbelievably, even read some things by ostensible “social scientists” and academics who merely assume their own narrow perspective and identity as the norm. That is the extremity of the very narcissism that they seem so quick to identify and condemn in others. There is, in fact, absolutely no difference in this matter between a group like ISIS and neo-fascism. They are exactly equivalent reactionary formations in their intense fanaticism about globalism and in preserving their “identity”, and ideology and identity are intimately connected. Everything today absurd and irrational about “fake news” or “false memory” is connected with the identity crisis and identity politics. Everything false, phoney, fake, inauthentic is the result of the eclipse of the soul, which is equally what McGilchrist calls the Emissary’s “usurpation” of the Master. This is the essential inversion of values.

The sun-swallower is the Black Sun and is the soul-eater, and hence Gebser’s “maelstrom of blind anxiety”. I hope I’m understood. Anxiety about identity is the same as loss of soul. Loss of soul is the meaning of the “zombie” or the “living dead”.

Identity politics and identity crisis is the significance of what Gebser described as the “deficient mode” of the perspectival consciousness, shrinking into every narrower “point-of-view” as William Blake very aptly described it: “For man has clos’d himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern”. There’s no question in my mind that but any prospect of a new “Renaissance” will be the rediscovery and resuscitation of the meaning of “soul” and not otherwise. Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy, Blake and Jung — even Iain McGilhcrist’s neurodynamics — are less about an “ecology of mind” than they are about the ecodynamics of the soul. Gebser’s “double-movement” of our times, which he describes in terms of a disintegration and a re-integration, is really about the death and resurrection of the soul — the “diaphainon“. That’s the simplest way to understand the meaning Gebser, Rosenstock-Huessy, Blake, Jung, and even McGilchrist. This is the only corrective to the present dynamic of nihilism and disintegration.

I will say something about the soul. Nietzsche made one critical error, in my judgment. He referred to the soul as only “the name for something in the body”. That’s an error. The body is in the soul, rather. The soul has no boundaries or limits of gender or race or even boundaries of dimension in terms of space or time.

One would never discover the limits of soul, should one traverse every road – so deep a measure does it possess” (Heraclitus).

Therefore, not “Blut und Boden” (“Blood and Soil”) defines the soul as a “race soul”. That is sneaking fascist falsehood. Blood and soil are finite, limited, material, transient, changeable, mortal things. Binding the soul to these things generates only great anxiety about change. They do not define the soul nor the boundaries of the soul. On the contrary, this slogan reveals only soullessness and a loss of soul.

Man has no Body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age — William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.

Blake’s statement is the equivalent of Hercalitus’s insight into the soul. In these terms, the Black Sun is only the symbol of ignorance, of nihilism and soul death, of the Kali Yuga, and of spiritual materialism.

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16 responses to “Identity Politics and The Soul”

  1. srosesmith says :

    This, the heart of the matter, There’s no question in my mind that but any prospect of a new “Renaissance” will be the rediscovery and resuscitation of the meaning of “soul” and not otherwise.
    seems hopelessly more out of reach these days — but I often recall to myself Blake’s wisdom on the role of the poet/artist : To keep the vision in the times of trouble.
    Thank you, Scott!

  2. mikemackd says :

    William Blake was much influenced by Bishop Berkeley; and in my youth I had been much influenced by the ridiculers of Bishop Berkeley. Rumi wrote a poem where he said that even Jesus ran from the ridiculers, those bullying deceived deceivers, so I don’t blame myself for that.

    In this case though, it was the ridiculers who were ridiculous in their misunderstandings, calling Berkeley’s philosophy “subjective idealism” and the like. Most of those objections appear to arise from the assumption that consciousness is a property of the ego identity, rather than the other way around; as Scott stated above, that’s McGilchrist’s Emissary posing as the Master.

    There’s what I consider to be a good article about Berkeley in Wikipedia, where it states:

    QUOTE
    As T.I. Oizerman explained:
    Berkeley’s mystic idealism (as Kant aptly christened it) claimed that nothing separated man and God (except materialist misconceptions, of course), since nature or matter did not exist as a reality independent of consciousness. The revelation of God was directly accessible to man, according to this doctrine; it was the sense-perceived world, the world of man’s sensations, which came to him from on high for him to decipher and so grasp the divine purpose.[17]
    Berkeley believed that God is not the distant engineer of Newtonian machinery that in the fullness of time led to the growth of a tree in the university quadrangle. Rather, the perception of the tree is an idea that God’s mind has produced in the mind, and the tree continues to exist in the quadrangle when “nobody” is there, simply because God is an infinite mind that perceives all.
    UNQUOTE

    Wilber alert, Scott! As you would know by now, I do not quote people as authorities, not even Jesus, but in order to give credit where credit is due for an insight, with the understanding that I consider it worth quoting, and the implicit understanding that I agree with it unless explicitly stating otherwise.

    And so we come to what Wilber called “the Atman Project”, seeing it from a McGilchristian / Bolte-Taylorian as atman (the left hemisphere) wanting life (only available with the right hemisphere as Master, and our portal to Atman:

    QUOTE
    “At any sufficiently developed point in an individual’s development, a radical leap (Eckhart’s “breakthrough” [My Note, I.W.’s Boing! ;-)]) into the Formless can occur. The higher the development, the easier and more likely the jump will occur. Yet the Formless itself is not the result of that jump, nor does it then come to be. It is there, from the start, as one’s own Original Face … Evolution seeks only this Formless summum bonum – it wants only this ultimate Omega – it rushes forward only and solely in search of this – and it will never find it, because evolution unfolds in the world of form. The Kosmos is driven forward endlessly, searching in the world of time for that which is altogether timeless. And since it will never find it, it will never cease the search. Samsara circles endlessly, and that is always the brutal nightmare hidden in its heart.” (Sex Ecology Spirituality, p. 316).
    UNQUOTE

    If we re-read Wilber from a McGilchristian perspective at the personal scale; “evolution:” as the left hemisphere extrinsic valuer, and life as “this Formless summum bonum” as an intrinsic valuation accessible, as Bolte-Taylor reported, from the right hemisphere, might they not be looking at the same elephant?

    That is, each soul is the Whole Soul, a world in a grain of sand, an eternity in an hour. As quoted in this story around the Chandogya Upanishad, Tat Tvam Asi – thou art that:
    http://www.maharajnisargadatta.com/that_thou_art.php

    That’s talking the talk towards walking the walk. The former may be extrinsically valuable, but only the latter may be intrinsically valuable.

    As Tweedy put it (on p. 58): “Liberation is not what you think, it’s how you think it”. And the left hemisphere is our Samsara searcher; it can never find “this Formless summum bonum” while in a State of Satan, but when it drops that state and brings light to guide its master through samsara, our souls may.

    • mikemackd says :

      Reflecting on that post I just made made me recall a couple of passages from the Gospel Of Thomas (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/thomas-scholars.html):

      “When you make the two into one, and when you make the inner like the outer and the outer like the inner, and the upper like the lower, and when you make male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male nor the female be female, when you make eyes in place of an eye, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot, an image in place of an image, then you will enter [the kingdom].”

      As regards transcending the fear of ridicule and the ego-identity clothing:

      “When you strip without being ashamed, and you take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample then, then [you] will see the son of the living one and you will not be afraid”.

      • Scott Preston says :

        That’s quite interesting. I’ve not yet read the Gospel of Thomas, but those quotes could just as easily be found in Hermeticism or alchemy, for what he’s describing is the “chymical wedding” or “hieros gamos” in alchemy or the “REBIS” as consummation of “the Great Work”, when the two become one.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Wilber Spoiler! What Wilber is describing, apparently without even realising it, is the “emissary”, otherwise I have no idea what he’s on about here. It’s not my opinion that “evolution” is aiming for anything.

      Now, I could, if I wanted to, begin with a first principle — say Plato’s conception of the originary androgyne or hermaphrodite, the androgyne’s splitting into two or a dual as male and female (Adam and Eve) and all change forever after as the yearning and struggle of the two to once again become re-united or one (COITUS or REBIS or Sacred Marriage). And from this first principle of the disrupted unity of the original Platonic Hermaphrodite, I could deduce, intellectually alone, everything else and construct a great edifice and scaffolding of thought –a Magisterium — that would very persusasively explain or describe “everything” based on the originary androgyne and its splitting, and its yearning to be reunited as the driver of the flux or of “evolution”, and it would, for the most part, be almost completely worthless. And I could explain “evolution”, as Wilber does, as this perpetual restlessness of the Kosmos to join again in the sacred marriage with Chaos (or the Emissary and the Master).

      And while there may be a kernel of truth in all that, it would be, for the most part, just a story and, for the most part, also misleading.

      • mikemackd says :

        Agreed, Scott. And another story would sit neatly inside evolutionary psychology: that without restlessness life would soon go extinct. More, that any species without that impulse has already gone extinct, and if we lose it at the personal level, we soon die. Evolution may not be aiming for anything, but its participants are.

        A polite veil has been drawn over that clearly manifested impulse by the high priests of scientism such as Francis Crick with his “Astonishing Hypothesis” because it smacks too much of teleology. Yet they segue over a consequent question: why and how should something that is nothing but a machine be averse to being killed?

        Story alert!

        • mikemackd says :

          I should have added that evolution is an abstraction, a mental artefact, a social imaginary, a left hemisphere thingy, a ruler not a Ruler.

          However, that impulse ain’t. And when it is applied in the manner of identity construction noted by Reinhold Niebuhr and described by Walter Russell Mead in “God and Gold” as “the more frustrations we have in life and the more we are infuriated by humiliations, then the more we project our narcissistic requirements of grandeur to such collective dimensions of our identities” (Mead 2007, pp. 387-390), evolution it ain’t. Such collective identities are identified in turn by our social imaginaries: our fellow religionists, our fellow nationals, our fellow followers of sports teams, our fellow Nazis, and the like. A mock, Luciferic-led facsimile that can turn Satanic or, if the sayings in the Gospel of Thomas are anything to go by, can lead one to the Divine, but only when one’s One and can at last see atman as Atman, one’s soul and Soul, thou as that, one’s original face that is always always: the ever present origin.

  3. notabilia says :

    Julien Musolino wrote an excellent book debunking the argument for a “soul.” In an article for Salon, he wrote in 2015:

    The traditional soul is as much a scientific hypothesis about our design and mode of functioning as it is a metaphysical or theological claim. Consequently, determining whether or not we have a soul is an objective endeavor that falls within the scope of science.
    In spite of many claims to the contrary, there is in fact no credible evi­dence supporting the existence of the soul.
    Modern science gives us every reason to believe that we do not have souls.
    Nothing gets lost, morally, spiritually, or aesthetically by giving up our soul beliefs. In fact, we even have something to gain.
    The scientific image of personhood, so feared and vilified in the United States, provides the basis for an empowering and practically beneficial alternative to the soul myth.

    Pretty powerful writing.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Since soul is described as an “energy personality essence”, how is this different from “personhood”? How is personhood in that respect more “objective” than soul? If by “personhood” is meant the ego-consciousness, how is ego-consciousness more objective than soul?

      If that’s Mr Musolino’s argument, it’s a ridiculous argument and mere slight-of-hand.

      To say, though, that there is no credible scientific evidence for an immortal soul is a different argument altogether. Nietzsche, for example, didn’t deny the existence of “soul”, but he did deny that it was immortal or different from the body. But that’s an entirely different argument about whether there is such a thing as an “eternal” soul, or even whether something like “eternity” (timelessness) is real or not – that means something in us that is not subject to time. That is, of course, Gebser’s “diaphainon”, as he calls it, or “the vital centre”. Gebser’s “ever-present origin” is the same as “eternity”.

      • notabilia says :

        To your questions, yes.
        How? By the workings of our illusions-based brain.
        I am subject to time.
        Nihilism is so damn easy and fun!

        • Scott Preston says :

          Nihilism is so damn easy and fun!

          And very self-contradictory. If the brain is “illusion-based”, that leaves the notion of “natural selection” in quite a quandary. But if the brain is illusion-based, then so is the whole notion and possibility of “objectivity” an illusion, and your Mr. Musolino would be caught in a self-contradiction, doing no more than himself constructing the proverbial “castle in the air”.

          Another self-contradiction then: how does a brain which is “illusion-based” ever realise that it is “illusion-based”, since such an objective “fact” would itself be an illusion? A consciousness that was entirely “illusion-based” could never realise that it is illusion-based. But that is the state called “maya” or “samsara”. That realisation could only come to insight from a state which is itself not illusive. But that is the state called “transcendental” or, more appropriately, what Gebser calls “the transparency of the world” or “diaphaneity”.

          In other words, we are compelled by the logic to recognise a difference between the “facts of the matter” and “the truth that sets free”. That’s the myopia in Mr. Musolino’s argument if that is indeed his argument.

          • notabilia says :

            “Self-contradiction” is a very ironic phrase to overuse here, since the self is one of the defining illusions that we have, and need, to function.
            Musolino’s brand of intellectual forthrightness will always win against “deiphaneity.”

            • Scott Preston says :

              “Intellectual forthrightness” isn’t a proof of anything. But set against transparency (diaphaneity) it can only serve as a euphemism for dogmatism. And I can well understand why an argument that essentially devours itself would want to hide behind a mask of “intellectual forthrightness”.

          • Scott Preston says :

            I read Mr. Musolino’s book excerpt in Salon. Other’s can read it if they wish at

            http://www.salon.com/writer/julien_musolino/

            It’s complete rubbish. Science as such doesn’t even know what energy, life, or creativity are, although they are all three interwoven with one another. They only know them from their EFFECTS. Mr. Musolino has not been very honest about that fact. In fact, it’s one of the worst expressions of “scientism” that I’ve come across.

  4. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    All scriptures talked about spiritual evolution as the base of our life development,when the biological evolution were introduced as a substitute of the spiritual fittest by the physical fittest, the human mental restlessness set in. It is okay for some to pursue that road but without claiming it is the only scientific path. How much they have oppressed and distorted science, with that claims,as Sheldrake explained in the link you posted in a previous link. The story of lies and truth never ends but it is in actuality the purpose of our life in order for god to know the liars from the truth tellers as highlighted by the opening of chapter 29 of the koran, Soul is our consciousness without which nothing can be comprehended in this cosmic flux of consciousness It is our tool of knowledge that has been built in us in order to know the divine,ourselves and our purpose in this life. It is strange how our consciousness exceeds the requirement of our survival. Definitely shining clarity will come out of this mess. it is always returning to the epiphanic maxim. Thank you Scott it is a good reminder for the unaware who think nihilism is so damn easy and fun, forgetting the seriousness of life despite its indulgence in permissible pleasure.

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