Time and Chaos

What we call “chaos”, and what is very much implicated in “chaotic transition”, is intimately connected with time. More specifically, it is intimately connected with the breakdown of the Clockwork Universe and the reflection of that Clockwork in the social order. The irruption of the spontaneous and paradoxical — the uncertain and the unpredictable — offends the clockwork orderliness of things. Something or someone, we say, has “thrown a spanner into the works”. Someone has sabotaged our sense of order, and that sense of order is based on the Clockwork. At such times people cast about for someone who, like a Mussolini, “will make the trains run on time” — that is to say, restore the Clockwork. The Clockwork is the pulsing heart of the Megamachine and is, in many respects, also Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”.

So much have our notions of kosmos (of order and social order) been infiltrated by the Clockwork that we expect “things to run like clockwork”. When they don’t run like clockwork, we begin to loose our sense of orientation and order. But I suspect that, for people who never lived according to the regulation of time by the clockwork, what we call “chaos” in the contemporary context doesn’t look like chaos at all.

In his short book entitled The Multiformity of Man, and in much of his social philosophy overall, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy tackled the modern mind’s sense of time and timing — the distinction between lifetime and the industrial time of the Clockwork. The book is available online and is recommended for a number of reasons. One is that it is a pretty good example of his “quadrilateral logic” (or “cross of reality”) where he applies his sociology of the “ecodynamic laws of society”. And another good reason to familiarise yourself with it is his treatment of time and his attempt to reconcile lifetime and clockwork time. In that is reflected the contemporary concern, as with Jean Gebser, with distinguishing between the Whole and the mere Totality and with the possibilities of “time-freedom”.

This also reflects the conundrums about time in contemporary physics, especially since Einstein’s introduction of time as a “fourth dimension”. Many of the paradoxes of contemporary quantum mechanics are related to time and clash with a mentality habituated to a conception of clockwork time as being “one damned thing after another” (effect follows cause). Those who still think that there is some continuity between the Newtonian-Cartesian cosmos and that of contemporary physics aren’t paying attention to fundamentals. The biggest disruption of all today is the breakdown of the Clockwork Universe.

Clockwork and Megamachine (Mumford) are very closely related. Nothing bespeaks “totality” like time atomised and aggregated as milliseconds into seconds, seconds into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into 24 hour days. The atomisation and fragmentation of the individual is connected with this atomisation of lifetime into time fragments — the Humpty-Dumpty of lifetime dissolving into clocktime. This is why Rosenstock-Huessy’s The Multiformity of Man is a rather important book, despite its short length (about 80 pages), because it speaks to Gebser’s issue, too, of time-freedom, and of the distinction between the Whole and the Totality.

Behind most reactionary politics today, and equally what is implicated in “the crisis of paradox” as Jacob Bronowski calls it, is an attempt to restore the Clockwork (correspondingly, the Mechanical Philosophy. I also include in this Jordan Peterson and Steven Pinker).

The breakdown of the Clockwork Universe is also implicated in David Bohm’s physics, in his Wholeness and the Implicate Order as well as his more explicit The Ending of Time. You can imagine the turbulence this “ending of time” (that is, of the Clockwork Universe) has for minds steeped in routine and habituated to the clockwork mechanism. It’s a turbulence, and a chaos, foreseen by Blake in his mythology of the fall of Urizen and of the four Zoas, and I’ld make bold to say that there is an affinity between Rosenstock-Huessy’s four “ecodynamic laws of society”, Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” (the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational) and Blake’s “four Zoas” of the divided Humanity.

Ironically, time is winding down on the Clockwork Universe, and it is, in that sense, truly an “end of times”. There are a lot of implications to this, especially for what we mean by “enlightenment” which is in many respects liberating consciousness from the compulsive routine of the Clockwork. What Gebser calls “irruption” is the spontaneous, the anomalous, the unpredicted and unpredictable — it’s the “spanner in the works”, as it were, that disrupts the routines of time and the Clockwork.

Anyway, have a look at Rosenstock-Huessy’s Multiformity of Man, which can be appreciated as an attempt to come to terms with the post-Cartesian breakdown of the Clockwork Universe.


52 responses to “Time and Chaos”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    “21st Century Schizoid Man” — interesting interview with Gary Lachman about his new book Dark Star Rising. Brings up McGilchrist, Jung (but surprisingly not Gebser).


    • Scott Preston says :

      If you’re familiar with Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin, and his thoughts on the “deficient” mode or expression of the magical structure of consciousness, I think you’ll find Lachman’s interview (possibly his book too) pretty interesting in that respect.

    • Sue says :

      Ooh, thanks

    • Peter says :


      I’ve been reading Gary Lachman’s books over the past few months. He discusses Gebser at length in ‘A Secret History of Consciousness’ (Part Five, The Presence of Origin – chapters 25-28, pp217-267); and ‘The Secret Teachers of the Western World’ (summaries of Gebser throughout the text).

      Thanks for your illuminating blogs – love the clarity, depth and breadth!

      • Scott Preston says :

        Thanks for the comment. I’ve read Lachman’s book on The Secret History of Consciousness and in some other places where he discusses Gebser. I haven’t caught up with many of his other books yet.

  2. mikemackd says :

    I see in the Google page about The Multiformity of Man Lewis Mumford is quoted as having said this about Rosenstock-Heussy:

    “Rosenstock-Huessy’s is a powerful and original mind. What is most important in his work is the understanding of the relevance of traditional value to a civilization still undergoing revolutionary transformations; and this contribution will gain rather than lose significance in the future.”

    To which I would add another quote from Mumford: “Only men [sic] who are themselves whole can understand the needs and desires and ideals of other men” (1951: The Conduct of Life, Harcourt, Brace, p. 186).

    It seems to me that the eighteenth century German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder would have been one such whole person. I mentioned him as being quoted by Walter Russell Mead a few posts ago (BTW, Don, if you’re still out there, I’m still hoping you will tell me why you were so shocked by that post). He pointed out that every living creature has its own perception of time. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/herder/

    A more contemporary thinker – perhaps Stephen Jay Gould – related time perception to pulse and other organic processes, such that mouse’s life may seem as long to it as ours due to us.

    BTW; In his Anglo-Saxon triumphalism in “God and Gold’, Mead seems to have missed this insight of Herder’s as quoted in Wikipedia:

    “national glory is a deceiving seducer. When it reaches a certain height, it clasps the head with an iron band. The enclosed sees nothing in the mist but his own picture; he is susceptible to no foreign impressions.”

    That is, there are no more narrow chinks in his or her cavern.

    • mikemackd says :

      A caution: I may have misattributed that individuality of time perception to Herder. I couldn’t find it where I thought it was, at the Stanford link https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/herder/

      That article summarises Herder’s influence thusly:

      Johann Gottfried von Herder (1744–1803) is a philosopher of the first importance. This judgment largely turns on the intrinsic quality of his ideas (of which this article will try to give some impression). But another aspect of it is his intellectual influence. This has been immense both within philosophy and beyond it (much greater than is usually realized). For example, Hegel’s philosophy turns out to be largely a sort of elaborate systematic development of Herder’s ideas (especially concerning language, the mind, history, and God); so too does Schleiermacher’s (concerning language, interpretation, translation, the mind, art, and God); Nietzsche is deeply influenced by Herder as well (concerning language, the mind, history, and values); so too is Dilthey (especially concerning history); even John Stuart Mill has important debts to Herder (in political philosophy); and beyond philosophy, Goethe was transformed from being merely a clever but rather conventional poet into the great artist he eventually became largely through the early impact on him of Herder’s ideas.

      I add that Herder also significantly influenced Max Scheler, whom McGilchrist employs in evaluating value judgements.

      My non-confirming that source means it may have been from the chapter on Time in another work I have been re-reading recently, the second edition of the New Scientist’s “The Collection”, entitled “Big Questions, Amazing Answers”.

      Haven’t found it again there either though, but now I must get to work.

    • Scott Preston says :

      He pointed out that every living creature has its own perception of time. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/herder/

      As does Blake, who once commented that every creature carries its universe around with it. There even seems to be a reflection of that in a well-known Navajo prayer, part of which goes

      As I walk, as I walk
      The universe is walking with me.

      It’s also implicated in the title of one of Krishnamurti’s books, You Are The World as well as Anais Nin’s “we don’t see the world as it is, but as we are”.

      Time is quite elastic, as many researchers are now discovering (see The Geography of Time for example), but that elasticity of time is a reflection of the fluidity of consciousness or Gebser’s “consciousness structures”, which are essentially linked to the experience and representation of time. So the Clockwork really is a symbolic representation of the mental-rational structure, which represents the quantification of time. And that quantification of time is reflected in everything we do, practically, including the formula 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours sleep. Especially phrases like “work-life balance” reveal something of the disintegrate character of our lives in respect of times. It’s a strange phrase that points to Gebser’s remarks on “compartmentalisation” and actually buttresses Marx’s point on alienation — work as alienated lifetime.

      So that we even talk of “Freedom 55”. You get your life back, symbolically, customarily, you’re given a watch! A most peculiar gesture.

      I have a book by Schumacher entitled Good Work, which I haven’t read yet. I’m supposing it’s a plan to reintegrate work and life which was the virtue of handicraft and craftsmanship. That’s also what is implied in Blake’s political principle: “The Arts and all things in common”, “arts” being something very broad for Blake. Craftsmanship and learning a craft is also a very important part of the Waldorf Schools (Rudolf Steiner).

      • Scott Preston says :

        Come to think of it, you can see how this triadic formula for time as 8 hours work, 8 hours leisure, 8 hours sleep reflects the perspectival-rational consciousness structure as the three dimensions or ratios of space in terms of length, width, depth.

      • Dwig says :

        Well, if you’re goin’ to go on about good work, you could do a lot worse than visit ol’ Wendell Berry, who knows a thing or three about the subject.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    This is a VERY clever poem by the English poet Brian Bilston. The trick here is to read it first from top to bottom, and then reverse and read it bottom-to-top. it\’s almost a poetic form of enantiodromia.


    Welcome here

    We should make them

    Go back to where they came from

    They cannot

    Share our food

    Share our homes

    Share our countries

    Instead let us

    Build a wall to keep them out

    It is not okay to say

    These are people just like us

    A place should only belong to those who are born there

    Do not be so stupid to think that

    The world can be looked at another way

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      it’s almost a poetic form of enantiodromia

      Or, perhaps, one of many instances of new seeds taking root and growing after the apex of Yeat’s “widening gyre” passed, the “rough beast” having planted them in the ashes of the Phoenix in spite of itself?

      I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good. — von Goethe

      Of course, that’s the beauty of poetry.

      “Glass half full or half empty?” “Phoenix dying or phoenix rising?”

      Isn’t it strange that after all these years of intense study, we still find ourselves repeating the old “either/or,” binary “aphorisms” as if they’re actually relevant to the “Eternal Now” unfolding regardless of them?

  4. mikemackd says :

    Thanks for finding that reference from Herder.

    I just listening to the Lachman interview you linked above. Between the 55 and 56 minute mark, he referred to Putin’s vision of Eurasia versus the maritime powers – that is, versus Walter Russell Mead’s Anglo-Saxon supremacy, first via the British Empire, and now via the USA.

    Afterwards, I dived back into Mumford’s “Faith for Living”, a book he wrote in 1940 and was published in the UK in 1941 (BTW, a knighthood was bestowed on him by the British, probably for his passionate call for the USA to enter the war against the fascists. The USA did so, costing Mumford’s son his life).

    Anyway, here’s what I read:

    In the beginning was the Word. By means of the word, man has translated a world of confused feelings, sensations, motor activities, into a
    world of meanings.

    In short, man’s greatest triumph in producing order out of chaos, greater than law, greater than science, was language. To keep the channels of human communication clean is a duty as primal — and holy — as guarding the sacred fire was for primitive man. He who debases the word, as the fascists have so unsparingly done, breeds darkness and confusion and all manner of foulness.
    UNQUOTE. From p. 153 of the 1941 London Secker and Warburg edition.

    Which debasement we are now witnessing as a core strategy of chaos magic, as Lachman explains. Moreover, a core part of that fascist strategy, as Umberto Eco explained was and remains restricting the language of those-to-be dominated, deceived and, if so desired, destroyed, to “an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax” (Eco 1995, Ur-fascism. The New York Review of Books 42(11): 12–15, on p. 8), a strategy endemic throughout every level of western education to this day.

    • mikemackd says :

      Oh; it wasn’t Herder. Not to worry; it’s true anyway.

      I haven’t posted a long Mumford quote here for some time, but this one from the above-cited Faith for Living is also relevant here, and to Lachman’s narrative, and what is now a major threat to Mumford’s own beloved country, and was so long before Trump triumphant:

      In this new mythology, the nation became god; and the state assumed the position claimed by the Church, as God’s representative on earth. But the god was a tribal god, a jealous god a god who grew strong on the strife that existed between nations. This paranoiac


      nationalism, with its absurd claims to uniqueness and greatness of its own chosen people, with its intense fear and hatred of all rival nationalities, was but the pathological overstimulation of feelings and perceptions that were, in origin, entirely sound. Such paranoia prepared for war and throve on the very idea of war. By the same token, it denied value to all the unifying instruments and institutions that promised to make men at home wherever they walked or travelled on earth.

      National paranoia reaches its final state of disintegration in fascism. As hatred mounts and power grows, the ruling nation, no longer confined to its native soil, no longer content with self-cultivation, seeks to blot out every other nation. At that moment of frenzied self-worship, no sacrifice is too great for the leader to demand of his followers, no humiliation is too base for them to inflict on their victims.

      Now the truth is that the nations of the world are no more self-sufficient, no more independent, no more isolated, than the individual personality. They are the focus of energies and ideas that lie far outside their national boundaries both in space and in time. By imagining themselves self-sufficient, by clinging to a myth of isolation, they actually encompass their own doom. For the principle of nationality can live only in a world where every political unit has a local centre, an intimate focus, in the human region, and an outer boundary that is as wide as the world itself. Isolation is suicide …


      Political nationalism has thus destroyed the very sources of cultural nationalism. In its arrogance and its pride, in its contempt for other nationalities, in its exorbitant egoisms, it had blindly contrived the ruin of all that men traditionally hold dear: their homes, the sweet sound of a neighbour’s greeting, the green earth over which their feet have made a path, or the church steps their ancestors rounded down before they themselves were born. The isolated nations have been traitors to themselves when they deserted each other: … Thus nationalism accomplished the ultimate negation of the national personality: collective suicide.

      [T]he isolated nation is a figment of pride: a base delusion. Men are brothers. In the end even fascism will discover that brothers cannot be separated. No nation can long conserve its own traditions


      unless it has equal respect for all other nations, and will regard every act of violence against them as a personal offence.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I was thinking about these very things the other day, particuarly the imperious strategy of humiliation which Trump uses. Excellent interpretation from Mumford, as usual.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        mikemackd: I’d be interested in connecting with you on FB so as to continue availing myself of your, especially Mumfordian, insights. If amenable, please send your profile url to lr . infi (at) gmail . com (minus all the spaces and parentheticals designed to dissuade bots, of course) so that I might at least “follow” if not connect.

        Thank you.

        • mikemackd says :

          No Problem, I.W. However, just about all of what I have to say generally re Mumford et al. is here, as and when stimulated by Scott’s topics. I don’t recall ever having addressed such matters on FB.

          Anyway, I’ll email you shortly.

  5. Abdulmunem Othman says :

    And god made us speak, if only we pay attention to the field of our origin and not be busy by the others human talks and forget to make our own original talks , the purpose of our existence. it is not nature that abhors idleness it is the creator that loves creations. It is the living conscious energy, the hidden treasure that created creation to know the creator and to know that knowing him is the road of making us true humans, leaving the human animal kingdom to the kingdom of the speaking human that knows how to operate the process of inspiration and refuse to be imprisoned in the vision of the similar others. The message of all religious experience is to speak with him and not to waste our time with his creations forgetting the divine mission of the humans on this living earth through understanding the purpose of the creations in order o serve our personal role and the social roles and serving the divine mission that made us able to understand and perform the mission. It is a purposeful existence that must be recognized and lived before entering the second phase of our existence.

  6. Scott Preston says :

    Well, Abdulmunem. We were all wondering what had become of you, and whether you had gone off to the second phase of existence. But I see that is not the case.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    Potentially interesting new book by Jeremy Naydler entitled In The Shadow of the Machine


    A discussion of the book by Mark Vernon and Rupert Sheldrake at


    • Scott Preston says :

      If you listen to the Vernon-Sheldrake dialogue, especially their interesting remarks about the second day of Creation, you might recall something I wrote earlier in The Chrysalis about the meanings of the words “symbolic” and “diabolic”, as pertaining to the meanings “integration” and “disintegration” (or segregation), and how this is also reflected in the Book of Revelation where Christ’s tongue is depicted as a “two-edged sword” — the paradox or the symbolic — while the serpent’s is depicted as forked — dualism or the diabolical.

      In effect, Christ’s tongue represents Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” or what my indigenous friends also call “speaking from the centre of the voice”.

      This may be why the second day of Creation was not proclaimed “good” (although it wasn’t proclaimed bad either). And I think if you reflect on the meaning of the tongues in terms of symbolic and diabolic process, you will come to insight into Gebser’s “double-movement” as well. Like the two tongues , which might be said to represent the meanings of Christ and Anti-Christ, there is a superficial resemblance between them. But one represents paradox, and the other binary thinking or dualism.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Also, much will be gained in understanding some of Gebser’s concerns in EPO if you know what differentiates symbolic process from synthesis, which are likewise superficially similar but they are not the same, in the same what the whole and the totality are superficially similar but not the same, or an integration or an assimilation are superficially similar but not the same. And if you reflect on or in what way they are similar but dissimilar at the same time, you will be engaging with McGilchrist’s two modes of perception — master and emissary modes and how these modalities actually relate to one another — not as dualism, but as paradox.

      • Scott Preston says :

        The discussion, by the way, and the relation of symbolic process and diabolic process is also reflected in Henri Bortoft’s distinction between authentic and counterfeit wholes, or authentic and counterfeit integrations.

        And this distinction between the authentic and the counterfeit bears on the New Testament parable about people asking for bread and being given stones.

  8. mikemackd says :

    At the global scale , the submission of this post has just been supported by The Guardian’s Long Read at:


    As Nancy Roof of Kosmos puts it, the nation state’s:

    inability to withstand countervailing 21st-century forces, and its calamitous loss of influence over human circumstance. National political authority is in decline, and, since we do not know any other sort, it feels like the end of the world. This is why a strange brand of apocalyptic nationalism is so widely in vogue. But the current appeal of machismo as political style, the wall-building and xenophobia, the mythology and race theory, the fantastical promises of national restoration – these are not cures, but symptoms of what is slowly revealing itself to all: nation states everywhere are in an advanced state of political and moral decay from which they cannot individually extricate themselves.

    Dasgupta does not here mention a book I have often here before, Philip Bobbitt’s Shield of Achilles. While Bobbitt’s own Satanic state is still justifying the stupendously irresponsible and illegal Iraq invasion, he is still worth reading in this context of his so-called market state (which in reality, do not empower fair markets at all, but oligopolists and mercantilists).

    It is risible to consider such CEO’s as boss around mercantilist states have any competencies to nurture either humankind or the planet. Their competencies, quite rightly from within their monological gazes, are in rapine.

    Their depredations are on behalf of their shareholders, who already own most of the world’s wealth and are devouring the rest. WH Auden’s vision expressed in his Shield of Achilles is ever closer, the inevitable consequence of using Orwell’s, Huxley’s and other works read as governance manuals.

    Meanwhile, Australia’s slide into a fascistic state continues, taking its cue from its big cousin, the USA, thereby serving to further alienate its citizenry with its “trust me, I’m a fascist” nostrums, using the terrorist bogeyman to obliterate the social contract:


    Unless you can trust the people you govern, and unless they can trust you, you are unfit to govern, and both Australia’s major parties qualify, particularly the incumbent. As one poster quoted:

    There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people. (BSG Commander Adama 2006 series.)

    But now, the servitor states of global business empires are, ever more blatantly and outrageously, becoming the enemy of the people.

    • Dwig says :

      Hmm, if the servitor states are the enemies of the people, what are the empires themselves?

      • mikemackd says :

        My rant above was longer than yours, Dwig, and less temperate.

        The empires themselves are megamachines insofar as they are in the service of the Satanic states of their controllers. And it is by their works we can know them, not their often fine words, as they dominate, deceive and destroy, in their quest for More! More! which, as Mumford quotes Blake on p. 141 of Faith for Living, “is the cry of a mistaken soul; less than All cannot satisfy Man.”

        However, on that same page, where the quotes from Blake provide the lead to the fifth part of the book, entitled “The Recovery of Purpose”, Mumford also quotes Blake as saying, “Without contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human Existence,”

        I find fascism even more repulsive than Mumford did when he wrote that book, before the true horrors it perpetrated during the war became generally known. And in that same book, written in 1940, he wrote on p. 74:

        Guarding his virtue, the liberal refuses to become soiled in the act of fighting: blindly he prefers to suffer the much more serious stain of submitting to injustice. This is a gospel of despair. But the fact that it is common perhaps explains the liberal’s defeatist response to fascism during the last decade. So afraid is he of practising violence himself that he surrenders in advance whilst he still possesses adequate weapons. In practice, this moral finicking means turning the world over to the rule of the violent, the brutal, and the inhuman, who have no such fine scruples, because the humane are too dainty in their virtue to submit to any possible assault on it: for them, self-pollution is as hideous as rape and murder put together. So in the tolerant attempt to give the devil his due, liberalism meets barbarism halfway, in a mood of complaisance, if not of fawning acquiescence; and on the theory that war is the worst of evils, the liberals have tearfully acquiesced in the rule of those who, as Blake said, “would forever depress mental and prolong corporeal war.”

        Now the dangers of active resistance to evil are real. Only mummies are ever safe from the mischance of life. Force does coarsen the users of it, no matter how virtuous their purposes. When blood is spilt, anger does rise and reason temporarily disappears. In men of good will these lapses are temporary; in the course of time their moral balance returns.

        I am not into corporeal war; but, against fascism, I am into mental war.

        • Dwig says :

          I, like you, am no fan of “corporeal war”; I remember the recent sporadic fighting in the US between adherents of the “alt-right” and the “antifa”.

          However, faced with a juggernaut of the scale like that which German fascism mounted in the 1930s-40s, the choices are grim. The Irish poet Danial Day-Lewis expressed this, in 1943 a poem entitled “Where are the War Poets?”:

          They who in folly or mere greed
          Enslaved religion, markets, laws,
          Borrow our language now and bid
          Us to speak up in freedom’s cause.

          It is the logic of our times,
          No subject for immortal verse—
          That we who lived by honest dreams
          Defend the bad against the worse.

          As I remember, the title was taken from poetry critics of the time, who remembered the surge of poems in the First World War extolling the fight against the “Beastly Hun”, and raised that question.

          • mikemackd says :

            “The Beastly Hun”

            As Paul put it in Ephesians 6:12 KJV:

            For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

            Matthew 4.8-9 NIV: Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me

            Not, note, high places as such. Not the rulers of the megamachine, of empires of whatever, as such, but their spiritual wickedness, which is empowered by orders of magnitude by dint of the megamachine.

            Corporeal war, against flesh and blood, involves Ulro’s error. Even the spiritually wicked in high places may well have states of goodness within them, atrophied though they may be and unskilful as they may be in their expression. But to be spiritually wicked we must be led by the nose by McGilchrist’s left hemispheres, we must value and engage our Satanic states more than our states of goodness, frame our world views through our Satanic states (Dominate! Deceive! Destroy! etc.), and cherry pick environmental clues for our confirmation biases, thereby enclosing ourselves in what we consider “our” caverns until they no longer have any chinks. Again, we don’t see existents as they are, we see them as we are.

            We don’t have to be spiritually wicked to do wicked acts; we may just be blind in our caverns.

            While I am using Christian terminology, one does not have to be of any religion to notice those states within us. For instance, the materialists would say, “oh, it’s dopamine”, or serotonin, adrenaline, testosterone, or whatever, producing states Christianity ascribes to guardian angels and devils of different stamps. However, it’s the processes of and between those states, rather more than their (left hemisphere) namings, that require our attention in this mental war.

            When we can free ourselves from our servitudes to our own Satanic states; when our Masters are our Prosperos, not our Calibans, we may well be more able to free our fellows from their servitudes to their Satanic states. But we cannot wait for that, and if we do, it will never arrive, because without contraries there is no progression.

            By definition, then, we shall not want to corporeally kill others for their servitudes to “their” Satanic states. There were, after all, lots of huns that were no more beastly than non-huns, which brings us back to that quote from p. 74 of Mumford.

    • Dwig says :

      Dasgupta’s presentation of the decline of nation-states is well done. Unfortunately, he falls into a common trap: laying out a plan that “we” must follow to correct the situation, or at least minimize the damage. I’ve seen this in so many articles by intelligent commentators, who can’t resist the temptation to prescribe some behavioral medicine to “us”. I think “we” (ahem!) need a good label for these mysterious, unspecified groups of people that are addressed in such articles.

      End of rant; I feel much better now…

  9. mikemackd says :

    After posting the above, I read an interesting epitome of the philosophical underpinnings of modern China, those being Confucianism, Taoism and Legalism (no mention there of Mohism: fair enough, I guess). It’s called Understanding Chinese Philosophy:The Hundred Schools of Thought, and it’s at:
    View at Medium.com

    Of all places, it had a link to a website devoted to the Shield of Achilles: not Bobbitt’s, not Auden’s, the original one. It’s at http://www. theshieldofachilles.net

    • Scott Preston says :

      Very interesting article (I’ve forwarded it to Chris Kutarna (who is a China scholar) with some comments about this and the “mandate of Heaven”, which is a reflection of the Hermetic principle “as above, so below”. This “mandate of Heaven” is also what the father of modern conservatism, Edmund Burke, called “the natural order of things” that really isn’t “natural” at all. The “Mandate of Heaven” is what is reflected in Mumford’s “Megamachine” as “Clockwork Universe”, too, and we find it also in The Epic of Gilgamesh “when kingship descended from heaven” (ie, “divine right”).

      So whatever is considered the “Mandate of Heaven” in any particular historical epoch is intimately connected with Gebser’s “structure of consciousness” and the co-evolutionary character of cosmos and consciousness structure.

      So, an interesting question arises: what is the “mandate of heaven” in the quantum universe? That’s pretty much the question Paul Levy attempts to answer in his book (which I’m currently reading) The Quantum Revelation.

      Confucius and Lao Tse — interesting parallels there between Parmenides and Heraclitus in Greece at about the same time. Confucius is the Chinese Parmenides, Lao Tse the Chinese Heraclitus (or vice versa, Parmenides is the Chinese Confucius, and Heraclitus the Chinese Lao Tse). Gives credence to the idea that a common “field of force” moves minds in particular ways in different historical periods.

      But you also see how a flourishing of Chinese philosophy (a cultural transformation) occurred in the context of chaos and disintegration.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Well, this is an interesting follow-up after reading that article on Understanding Chinese Philosophy.


    • mikemackd says :

      I can’t let the opportunity slip by to recommend Joseph Needham’s and his teams of scholars extraordinary and monumental work, Science and Civilisation in China.


      I first encountered it around 40 years ago, and spent many happy hours inside it in the years immediately following, but little in the last 30 years. The series has continued to grow.

      I see that volume one, the one in which I spent much of my time within back then, is now available online. Others appear to be as well. I am heading back there now.

  10. Scott Preston says :

    What ails America? Well, in many respects it’s what ails everyone else, too. The author of Tailspin, Steven Brill, takes about decline and does an “autopsy” on the American Dream, and in some respects it reflects what I’ve called “ironic reversal” (or entantiodromia).


  11. Scott Preston says :

    Just thought I’ld point out something interesting about this event (Day on Meaning) and the graphic announcing it.


    As you can see, the image here is Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and is a quadrilateral, rather than a triangle or pyramid (dialectical consciousness structure). This illustrates the paradigm shift, also recalling Blake’s remarks that the four Zoas “reside in the Human Brain”. Modern consciousness structure is pyramidal, three-dimensional. This is quadrilateral, four dimensional. So, you’re looking here at the meaning of the “paradigm shift”.

  12. Scott Preston says :

    Will Self reviews the book New Dark Age by James Bridle.


    This theme of a new dark age is behind Naydler’s In the Shadow of the Machine, of course, for this theme of the Shadow, also prevalent in a lot of contemporary literature, is just another way of saying “dark age” or the realms of night.

  13. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Okay. I’m going to do my typical “out on the limb” and suggest that it is just as intimately connected with the true nature of time as it is with humanity’s (perhaps, especially, Western?) erroneous perception of time.

    I mean, seriously. Let’s get “paradoxical” here. The mechanistic notion of time is not the only notion of time we’ve got going.

    • mikemackd says :

      I.W., I tried to post this last night, but the whole internet just vanished once I was well into it, and lost the lot.So I am trying again.

      A few hours before I made that attempt, I had got back home from a flight which, including a stopover, had lasted almost a day (itself an odd statement when one includes the changes in time zones). At the stopover, I bought an issue of Scientific American dedicated to “A Matter of Time: It begins, it ends, it’s real, it’s an illusion. It’s the ultimate paradox.” On the subsequent flight, I noted that most of the in-flight movies involved some manipulations of time, from time travellers to non-linear narratives: not so much my confirmation bias as picking up on aspects already there , though, to be sure, that’s part of the same process.

      Anyway, on p. 21 a contributor, Craig Callender, a philosophy professor at the University of California, avers that “time may be a convenient fiction that no more exists fundamentally in the natural world than money does … even though the system as a whole is timeless, the individual pieces are not. Hidden in the timeless equation for the total system is a time for the subsystem … Time emerges from timelessness. We perceive time because we are, by our very nature, one of those pieces … Time may exist only by breaking the world into subsystems and looking at what ties them together. In this picture, physical time emerges by virtue of our thinking ourselves as separate from everything else”

      Earlier, on page 13, a long-time favourite science writer of mine, Paul Davies. observed that “we do not really observe the passage of time. What we actually observe is that later states of the world differ from earlier states that we still remember” (putting us in a similar relationship to going from thinking the sun rotates around the earth to understanding it’s the other way around). He further noted that “some practitioners of meditation claim to able to achieve such mental states [that “suspend the subject’s impression that time is passing”] naturally.”

      But, as Csikszentmihalyi noted as I have earlier quoted, it’s not just mystics: we may all experience that in a state of flow.

      Moreover, it’s a feature of McGilchrist’s right brain. On page 77 of M&E, he quotes George Steiner as saying “music is … time made free of temporality”, as qualifying that thusly:

      However, I would say, at the risk of pushing language to or beyond its proper limits, that time itself is (what the left hemisphere would call) paradoxical in nature, and that music does not so much free time from temporality as bring out an aspect that is always present within time, its intersection with a moment which partakes of eternity. Similarly it does not so much use the physical to transcend physicality, or use particularity to transcend the particular, as bring out the spirituality latent in what we conceive as physical existence, and uncover the universality that is, as Goethe spent a lifetime trying to express, always latent in the particular. It is also a feature of music in every known culture that it is used to communicate with the supernatural, with whatever is by definition above, beyond, ‘Other than’, our selves.

      So an integrated mind spans that spectrum from time to timelessness, and we are, then, back to that first chapter of the Tao Te Ching, the deep understanding of those few words enfolding the resolution of that paradox, and the passage of our lives being a spiralling from timelessness through time to timelessness, not only via our birth and death but our accesses to conscious awareness along the way. Here, I quote Ch’u Ta Kao’s translation, but insert the (footnote advised) more literal translation of “minuteness in minuteness” for “profundity” there:

      The Tao that can be expressed is not the eternal Tao;
      The name that can be defined is not the unchanging name.
      Non-existence is called the antecedent of heaven and earth;
      Existence is the mother of all things.
      From eternal non-existence, therefore, we serenely observe
      the mysterious beginnings of the Universe;
      From eternal existence we clearly see its apparent distinctions.
      The two are the same in source and become different when manifested.
      This sameness is called minuteness in minuteness
      Minuteness in minuteness is the gate whence comes the beginning of all parts of the Universe.:

      So far at least, I don’t see much disputing that in the Scientific American.

      It is great to see Abdulmonem back. His focus above emphasising that “we pay attention to the field of our origin” Is therefore primary and essential. But it is not an either/or with attending to “the others human talks” unless we “forget to make our own original talks,” for we are us, not other, seen from there.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Bravo. I tried to get something similar across to a physicist I hold in high regard yesterday, but I’m unsure whether he “gets” it or not…even though he’s “said” it himself.

      • Leo says :

        “we pay attention to the field of our origin”

        This is the reason that I’m particularly interested in the phenomenon now being labelled as visual static or snow. As far as I can tell, this IS perception of the field of our origin, and I’m pretty sure that it’s a latent element of everyone’s experience, however, generally speaking, we lack the cultural cognitive frameworks to properly interpret it.

        On the other hand, if you pay close phenomenological attention to it, it undermines metaphysical assumptions of the mental-rational structure, and ultimately it can collapse dualisms such as here and there, inner and outer, subject and object. Then, along with T.S. Eliot, we find ourselves back where we started out and never really left, but now knowing the place for the first time.

        • mikemackd says :

          Hi Leo,

          I have been reflecting on your comment since you posted it, and hope you will elaborate sometime. Until then at least, I’m assuming you mean the white noise on our TVs that has been interpreted as echoes of the Big Bang.

          If so yes, they are part of what I was referring to above, and which Gebser’s magnum opus referred to as the Ever Present Origin. But so is every other existent, so I my request for elaboration goes back to the “no mind, no matter; no matter, no mind” paradox we were discussing here some weeks ago, when I last mentioned Mary Midgley.

          Even so, that would not invalidate your observation, as the attention as you describe could well have the same effect as koans are meant to, as described in Scott’s post following this one, Chaotic Emotion and Cognitive Dissonance.

          • Leo says :

            Hi Mike,

            That’s not what I mean actually. Here’s a short Wikipedia article on the phenomenon I’m referring to:


            From a neuroscientific point of view, I have some sympathy with the idea that this phenomenon can be attributed to interceptive processes, i.e. the brain ‘listening’ to its own intrinsic noise; however, for the most part, the epistemological and ontological implications of this interpretation have not been well thought through by most as yet.

            The nearest I’ve come across is by a guy called Bjorn Merker, who wrote a chapter of a book called ‘Body and world as phenomenal contents of the brain’s reality model’, which, if you search, you can read most of online via google-books. He at least has realised the non-dual implications of this perspective; however, he prefers to locate his radical first-person epistemology in a standard objective ontology, therefore the non-dual phenomenal world is ’caused’ by the physical brain in his view.

            The visual neuroscientist Donald Hoffman goes further though; he points out that the ‘objective’ brain so beloved of neuroscientists is itself a phenomenal construction of the brain, so prefers the consciousness is primary approach. See more here:


            I’m kind of agnostic on this question to some extent, but it’s certainly parsimonious to me to see this phenomenon as energy flowing in the universe, the moment of creation eternally now, and all phenomena as deriving from it.

            • Leo says :

              *in the second paragraph that should read ‘interoceptive processes’

            • Leo says :

              *I’m kind of agnostic on this question to some extent, but it’s certainly parsimonious to me to see this phenomenon as energy flowing in the universe, the moment of creation eternally now, and all phenomena as deriving from it

              In other words, to bring things full circle, the field of our origin, as Abdulmonem has referred to it.

  14. Scott Preston says :

    Just came across this title by Philip Slater that I hadn’t heard of until this morning called The Chrysalis Effect: The Metamorphosis of Global Culture.


    • mikemackd says :

      Wow. I hadn’t heard of this book either.

      Parents who instill macho values, habit and attitudes in a young boy today may be sentencing him to a life of failure, frustration and irrelevance — to be one of the drudges, the grunts, the expendable bodies in a world that demands flexibility and receptivity…. Modern men have been trained in macho skills over many years and at severe cost, only to discover that those skills are no longer of any use to anyone. Strutting, boasting, fighting, destroying, and killing just don’t seem as important to the world as they used to.

      This goes back to an earlier rant of mine here, concerning the toxic conflation of primitivity and manliness. A ten-year-old’s idea of what it means to be an adult male being pushed, not just by brutal fathers, and less often mothers as well, but, and especially, by Hollywood and other megamachine propaganda media. Result: the boy’s expectation is that he must degenerate himself into a brutal boor to become a man. An emotional cripple, such as the characters Clint Eastwood so often portrayed, as a real man? Come off it: grow up.

      The results are often as Slater says. This form of child abuse may be far more prevalent than child sexual abuse, and as long-term damaging, but in a different way. But it’s often the only way fathers have learnt how to be a dad. So they mean to toughen their sons up, but actually toughen them down: an often well-or- unintentioned, but unnecessary and often tragically irreversible, waste of human potential, and the permanent loss of the boy’s opportunity for the skilful expressing of loving kindness into our world. .

      A movie I watched on the long plane journey back home was “The Vanishing of Sidney Hall”. That theme, as well as child sex abuse, was addressed there as a suburban tragedy. Although less extreme, there are uncounted millions of such.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Perhaps Slater is the antidote to Jordan Peterson and Petersonmania? I guess I’ll find out. I purchased the kindle edition of the book, but I want to finish Levy’s Quantum Revelation first.

        • mikemackd says :

          I have just bought the Kindle edition as well.

          His NYT obituary is at https://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/30/books/philip-e-slater-social-critic-who-renounced-academia-dies-at-86.html?hpw

          I quote:

          “The book [The Pursuit of Loneliness], published in 1970, warned that a national cult of individualism and careerism threatened to turn America into a country of hypercompetitive loners ruled by tyrants .. .Like many of his later works, the book explored the tension between the Lone Ranger individualist who occupies center stage in American myth and the communal interdependence that defines democracy in reality. He was an optimist, predicting in “The Temporary Society,” written with Warren Bennis in 1968, that democracy would triumph worldwide within 50 years. But he worried that democracy in his own country was declining, and that a combination of self-absorption and distrust of their government made Americans vulnerable to the appeal of authoritarianism. ”

          Nothing to worry about there, then.


        • mikemackd says :

          Slater quotes Mumford several times, one of which is From Mumford’s “The Fallacy of Systems,” Saturday Review, 32 (October, 1949). Mumford later made that the last chapter of The Conduct of Life, an extended quote from which I posted on your December 2016 string, Age of Revolutions.

          Yesterday I came across similar insights expressed by someone else I had not encountered before. Valentin Tomberg:

          “A person who has had the misfortune to fall victim to the spell of a philosophical system (and the spells of sorcerers are mere trifles in comparison to the disastrous effect of the spell of a philosophical system!) can no longer see the world, or people, or historic events, as they are; he sees everything only through the distorting prism of the system by which he is possessed. Thus, a Marxist of today is incapable of seeing anything else in the history of mankind other than the ‘class struggle’… autonomous philosophical systems separated from the living body of tradition are parasitic structures, which seize the thought, feeling and finally the will of human beings. In fact, they play a role comparable to the psycho-pathological complexes of neurosis or other psychic maladies of obsession. Their physical analogy is cancer.”

          • mikemackd says :

            A comment by Ted Howard at evonomics.com at http://evonomics.com/who-created-the-economy/?utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=organic brings that cancer metaphor to our modern finance megamachine as follows:

            What our society has not yet broadly caught up with, is that our modern ability to automate any process, using computers and robotics, gives us the capacity to deliver universal abundance of all essentials, but that market based economics must always value any universal abundance at zero.
            When most things were genuinely scarce, markets and the information signals they provided made a lot of sense. Now that we can automate any process, market values actively work against the interests of a large section of society. Scarcity is now much more about the ways we have of thinking about things in terms of money, than it is about our inability to produce real goods and services.
            Sure we need to clean up our technological act to be a much better fit with existing biological ecosystems, and the major thing stopping that is the very notion of capital, and the need to extract as much profit as possible from existing technology before replacing it with newer and more efficient technology.
            Those at the top of the distribution heap have something of a myopic focus on the role competition in creativity and evolution, and are selectively blind to the ever increasing role of cooperation at all levels.
            Certainly there is great truth in the fact that specialisation of roles allows for emergent levels of complexity.
            And biology has a clear lesson for us here.
            When a subset of the cooperative starts using resources for its own replication at cost to the operation of cooperative as a whole, we have a term for that – it is called cancer.
            Much of the money system, the finance system, has become a cancer that threatens the life of humanity as a cooperative species.
            And saying that is not in any way implying that everyone is the same or needs to be the same. It is saying that the system needs to deliver the essentials of life and liberty to every individual (life blood must go to every cell). Most individuals actually have quite modest needs, easily met.
            The cancerous tumours of greed, creating risk to others, threaten us all.
            We actually have ample creativity to supply all that anyone needs, and all that most people want, provided we adjust our systems to make it so.
            Our systems of automation and production have actually taken us past the threshold where exchange based systems of value can actually send clear signals of what those real human needs and wants are.
            Elinor Ostrom has shown us a series of alternative modes of cooperation (which align well with Axelrod’s work).
            Yes – at a time where markets provided the best trust networks available, imperfect markets were better than no markets.
            Now we have levels of communication available from the internet, and from high density personal storage, that allow us to develop widely distributed trust networks with very high redundancy and very high accuracy over time – much better than anything any market could ever provide.
            The key, as Hayek pointed to, is seeing markets as information systems, and then seeing how the internet makes them redundant.
            It is now clear, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that markets, and their scarcity based value systems (money and capital), are now becoming the single greatest liability, and the single greatest threat to the most cooperative species ever to emerge on this planet – us!

            While I do not completely agree with him here, I have found there to be much food for thought from Ted Howard. As Mumford says in the concluding chapter of The Conduct of Life that I quoted here in December 2016:

            The fallacy of “either-or” dogs us everywhere: [and Ted Howard seems “either or” re market systems above] whereas it is in the nature of life to embrace and surmount all its contradictions, not by shearing them away, but by weaving them into a more inclusive unity. No organism, no society, no personality, can be reduced to a system or be effectually governed by a system. Inner direction or outer direction, detachment or conformity, should never become so exclusive that in practice they make a shift from one to the other impossible

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