Crisis and the Cross of Reality, II
Fake news, false memory, post-truth, post-rationality — symptoms of the morbidity and social pathology of late modernity or post-modernity, they all seem to refer to one and the same thing, although in another sense they imply different things. They imply the total disintegration of modern civilisation’s “cross of reality”.
Consider the fact that any particular civilisational type and its associated “consciousness structure” is a particular configuration of spaces and times, and how it configures, arranges, organises, or domesticates those spaces and times is its milieu or habitat that we call a “culture”. That culture exists to reproduce human beings in its image, in both its temporal and spatial aspects. A culture’s arts and sciences exist to regulate its inner and outer fronts of life, and its religion and politics exist to organise its relationship to past (origin) and future (destiny). A culture or civilisation, as much as any organism, survives only to the extent it effectively manages its relationships to these four fronts of life. These are termed “the teachings of the Four Directions” or “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. We call them “institutions”. A civilisation declines, falls, or collapses whenever its institutions, or its members, fail to sustain the space and time axes that constitute its life world, in which case it disintegrates because its cross of reality disintegrates, helter-skelter. This is called “nihilism”, “chaos” or “havoc” and so on.
Fake news, false memory, post-truth, and post-rational society are symptoms of the total disintegration of the modern Era’s cross of reality, but they pertain to different aspects of the structure. Fake news and false memory are attacks on the time fronts — the future and the past. Post-truth and post-rationality are attacks on the space fronts — the inner and the outer respectively. With the disintegration of a culture’s cross of reality, all sorts of morbid, pathological, and neurotic symptoms appear. The last time this occurred in Western history was the “calamitous 14th century”, as historian Barbara Tuchman described it in her book A Distant Mirror. Then the Christian cross symbolised the unity of Christendom and the four Evangelists represented the Guardians of the Four Directions.
Christendom, or Holy Roman Empire, collapsed when its “cross of reality” fractured and splintered into sect and schism, now recognised generally as due to the hubris of the Church and the Papacy, and its decadence as an effective institution. Then, as today, all kinds of morbid, thanatic, neurotic and pathological symptoms appeared which we commonly associate with the word “medieval”, although the most negative aspects of this time are associated with the most decadent period of the Age of the Church.
Those were terrible times as revolutionary forces of Reformation and Renaissance struggled with reactionary forces of Counter-Reformation for the soul of Western Civilisation. The upshot, however, is that “Christendom” perished, and in its place “Europe” was born, a name only 500 years old but which attests to the new spirit of secularisation through a new “revaluation of values”. What was, in effect, born from the wreckage and ruins of Christendom was a new civilisation with a new consciousness structure, which cultural philosopher Jean Gebser calls “the mental-rational” or “perspectival”.
The new Secular Age however, faced the same problem of how to organise its cross of reality — it’s four temporal and spatial fronts. This was managed by theology in the Age of the Church and through certain monastic orders following their own “Rule” derived from theology and from the Gospels. When Luther sent his monks and nuns out of their monasteries during the Reformation to make their way in the world, these monks and nuns took with them the orientation provided by their monastic “Rule”. These various Rules or theologies metamorphosed into ideologies through a revaluation of values and sect became party through the agency and within the matrix of the new mental-rational or perspectival consciousness, although this process of secularisation took many generations. But the origins of liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism or anarchism are pretty clearly rooted in the sectarianism of the Late Middle Ages when the Christian cross splintered and shattered.
The main revolutions of the Modern Era — the German/Lutheran, the English Civil War, the French Revolution, and the Russian Revolution, as described by Rosenstock-Huessy in Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man — were the process of re-establishing a new “cross of reality” — to establish a new relationship to the past, a new relationship to the future, a new relationship to “the within” and a new relationship to nature or “the without”. Each revolution was, in a sense, an over-specialisation of one principle in reorganising one of the four fronts of life, and they became terroristic and tyrannical themselves because of that overspecialisation. Not one of them saw the essential problem, that the human is a fourfold being living in a four-dimensional reality whose consciousness must integrate and balance, and re-integrate and re-balance, that quadrilateral relationship between past and future and inner and outer all in a relative equilibrium.
The new principles, which became institutions, were these: the individual (liberalism), the family (conservatism), the society, community or congregation (socialism), and nature or world (environmentalism). The family and the individual relate as past and future, while society and world (or nature) relate as inner and outer. These became, in effect, the Guardians of the Four Directions in secular society, formalised in ideological rather than mythological terms as liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and environmentalism.
So, the false triumphalism of Margaret Thatcher’s “end of society” and Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” was not what it seemed. Rather it pointed to a total disintegration of the cross of reality. A culture or civilisation that does not effectively steward its four fronts of life is doomed. Its consciousness is not integral. This is the meaning of “fake news”, “false memory”, “post-truth” and “post-rationality”. These are, in a sense, our own “four riders of the apocalypse”.
This disintegration of a civilisation’s cross of reality and associated consciousness structure is “loss of integrity”, which I have also described as the contraction of the consciousness structure into the mere “point” of “the point of view” and the “point in time” (or the egoic and the momentary). It is this contraction of the cross of reality that leads to “identity crisis” or what Jean Gebser also calls “a maelstrom of blind anxiety”.
In his sociological writings, Rosenstock-Huessy, who has developed a quadrilateral logic to reflect this “cross of reality” that must be stewarded by a society to survive, named four “diseases” of a social order that fails to sustain its cross of reality — decadence, war, anarchy (chaos) and revolution. Decadence (or the reactionary) attacks the future; revolution attacks the past; anarchy attacks the inner front of society (every man for himself) while war attacks the outer front of society. In terms of Chaos Theory, these would be symptoms of a system in a state “far from equilibrium”.
In other words, an integral or holistic understanding must sustain a proper relationship between Soul and World (or Nature), and between Origin and Destiny. And the real human being, the full human being, is one who does so from the “vital centre” — the centre of the cross of reality — and doesn’t get carried away by the past, by the future, by the inner, or by the outer, but who holds them in balance. This is what my indigenous friends would call “speaking from the centre of the voice”, which is the centre of the Sacred Hoop or Medicine Wheel — the integral centre.
“..the divine consciousness-force or will metaphorically represented as fire, the entire evolution of the cosmos ‘can be described as Agni’s journey in four movements…” So I read recently in a commentary of Sri Aurobindo’s writing. Agni is “fire”, and recalls Heraclitus’s own belief that fire is the archon — the origin of all things. Agni, as fire, is energy, and energy is consciousness. Therefore, it is very meaningful to say that Agni’s journey occurs in four movements. Four is the cosmic number, for good reason. Four is the number of Shiva’s arms in his dance of “creative destruction”. Four is the number of Blake’s Zoas who “reside in the Human Brain”. Four is the dimensions of spacetime, and the directions of the Sacred Hoop/Medicine Wheel. Four is the number of the “Guardians of the Four Directions”. Four is the number of Jung’s “psychological types” or psychological functions. It is entirely logical. We are fourfold beings living in a fourfold reality who must organise our relationship to that reality in an integral way — towards the inner and towards the outer, towards the past and towards the future.
And we are, quite obviously today, failing to do that effectively. Therefore, Shiva will arise again to dance his dance.