The Irruption and the Irreal
I’ve been absent from The Chrysalis for some time. What time I’ve had lately has been spent glued to the German news websites, as I follow political and social developments there (and also found, to my chagrin, that I have unlearned much of my German — or else the German language has changed). There has been, once again, an ominous upsurge of nativism and tribalism in that country as there has been in other jurisdictions, representing a serious challenge to principles of universality.
Still, I have also been pursuing this question of the post-modern “the Dream Society”, as previously discussed in the pages of The Chrysalis, and which, by happy coincidence, has been the ongoing theme, too, of the “subjectivity of nations” on the Aurobindo website. In fact, one posting on “the rise of the subjective age” and the role of Germany in that was published there even as I was immersed in the news from Deutsche Welle.
So, today I want to discuss such matters of nativism or retribalisation, their connection to “the Dream Society”, and altogether in the context of Jean Gebser’s “irruption” and the correlative breakdown of the mental-rational (or perspectival) consciousness structure, as well as Aurobindo’s musings on the “subjectivity of nations”
The terms “post-rational”, “post-truth” or “collapse of reality” in this regard provide us with clues to what is happening to human consciousness. (There was, for example, a recent article posted in The New York Times by Will Storr on just this subject: “The Metamorphosis of the Western Soul”). The psychoanalytic “return of the repressed” and Jean Gebser’s “irruption” are pretty much synonymous, and for Gebser the “irruption” describes the chaotic, turbulent, and sometimes violent return of the magical and mythical structures of consciousness which have been left more or less dormant or latent — therefore disorganised, unacknowledged, unrecognised, and unintegrated — in the human psyche. As we’ve discussed in previous posts, these magical and mythical constituents began to re-emerge with a vengeance in the late 19th century, especially in literary works like those of Nietzsche, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, and so on, as well as a growing fascination with the “occult”. Then, of course, followed Freud and Jung, the whole psychoanalytic school and the “discovery of the unconscious” (or “collective unconscious”). And the more malignant aspects of this “irruption” or return of the repressed found its expression in propaganda and the rise of fascism, which has an affinity for the mythical and magical, and highly antagonistic towards the mental-rational or “intellectual”.
In fact, even the word “fascism” has etymological connections with words for magic and spell-casting, as does the related word “fascination”. The Latin “fascinum” means a “binding” or “binding power”, but also a “magic spell” in that sense.
The poet and cultural philosopher Jean Gebser was, of course, an insightful and prescient observer of these developments, which he recorded in his great book The Ever-Present Origin, which was composed during the turbulent years 1932 – 1949, and originally published in German as Ursprung und Gegewart, (a literal translation of which would be “Origin and Presence”). Subsequent decades have only corroborated and reinforced Gebser’s bold views and anticipations of developments in culture and consciousness, particularly as regards the “crisis of the individual”, the “disintegration of the ego”, the “malaise of modernity“, or “anomie“, and the breakdown of the perspectival or mental-rational consciousness structure, and what we have been calling “chaotic transition”. Gebser had anticipated “post-modernism” and the post-modern “end of the Master Narrative” even before it had a name as such. Coincidentally, the same year Gebser died, 1973, was the same year the term “post-modern” entered the vocabulary and into public circulation.
We’ve reviewed quite a few publications even here in The Chrysalis that have also noted this anomalous return myth and magic. Stirk’s Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational, Romanyshyn’s Technology as Symptom & Dream, Lee Worth Bailey’s The Enchantments of Technology. More recently, I’ve reviewed Gary Lachman’s work on the subject of “the occult in politics”, especially his recent Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump. There are others, including the aforementioned essay by Algis Mikunas on “technocratic shamanism” in “Magic and Technological Culture”. Gebser also explored the more “demonic” and sinister aspects of the return of the repressed, or what he called “the irruption”.
All these developments culminate in Rolf Jensen’s “Dream Society”, which is exactly that — the breakdown of any distinction between dream and world, between subject and object, fact and fiction, the inner and the outer, which is why Jensen describes it as “post-rational” even long before the term entered into wide circulation, even if, in the same year The Dream Society was published, so was Neal Gabler’s similarly themed book Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality. The “Dream Society” is the society of Mikunas’s “technocratic shaman”.
We’ve already noted in previous posts Jensen’s “market mysticism” and how the “market”, as Jensen employs this term, bears an uncanny resemblance to both the “quantum field” and the Jungian “collective unconscious”. That’s perhaps not too surprising since Carl Jung and Wolfgang Pauli — the father of quantum field theory — were friends and colleagues. Pauli applied many of Jung’s ideas to physics, with fruitful results. Their friendship, and that connection between Jung’s collective unconscious and quantum field theory, is described by Arthur Miller in his book Deciphering the Cosmic Number: The Strange Friendship of Wolfgang Pauli and Carl Jung. That friendship is, in effect too, one of the entry points by which older Hermetic doctrines (alchemy) have infiltrated contemporary quantum physics, so that even in these areas of science and technology magic and myth have reappeared, something also noted by Gebser in his time. In fact, it’s quite interesting to note in this regard, too, that, according to Stephon Alexander in his book The Jazz of Physics, the dean of the Oxford physics department recommended that his graduate students in physics read Carl Jung whenever they felt stumped by a physics problem.
Now, when we speak of the magical and mythical structures of consciousness, as described by Gebser, and in terms of “unperspectival” and “pre-perspectival”, what that means is that there is very little distinction made between the “in here” and the “out there”. Dream and Reality (or World) are barely distinguished from one another if at all, and this is often closely connected with shamanism and tribalism. I recently read, for example, of an incident in Africa where a man successfully brought a charge against another man who, he claimed, had injured him in a dream. Dream and World were a continuum. And if we go back even to the pre-Socratic Greeks, we find this same indifference to any discernment between the subjective and the objective, or soul and world, which is something that actually makes a return in Nietzsche, too, who was heavily influenced by the pre-Socratics. And the interesting thing about the pre-Socratics is how myth and reason are not yet distinguished or separated from one another, so that you see and read the incipient “birth of Athena” quite obviously — the slow emergence of the mental-rational consciousness and, of course, the ego-nature, a “selfhood” that is still only dimly sensed as something hovering between dreaming and reality.
This ego consciousness or “selfhood” solidified greatly in the Renaissance. The discovery of perspective and a space of three-dimensions also was a discovery of the individual and the individual “point-of-view” (as well as “the line of thought”). There is especially an obsession with mirrors and with autobiography. With perspectivism came, also, self-consciousness and the “objective attitude”, as well as a rupture between the subjective and the objective, as formulated by Galileo and subsequently Rene Descartes as mind-body dualism, against which William Blake raged as being “Single Vision & Newtons sleep”. Single Vision is what Gebser has called “deficient pespectivism”, which is basically the contraction of awareness into a very narrow band or spectrum of possibilities — especially its contraction into the “point-of-view”, which is to be contrasted with what Gebser calls a “universal way of looking at things” which is available and accessible only to “integral consciousness” (which corresponds to what Blake calls “fourfold vision”).
The ego-consciousness, which is the “point-of-view” consciousness, is sometimes compared to a cork bobbing up and down on a vast ocean. The ocean is, of course, the “field” concept in physics or what Jung calls “the collective unconscious”, but which also represents Gebser’s potential “universal way of looking at things”. The ocean, as such, represents all the latent potentialities of consciousness itself, which is what is sometimes referred to as “cosmic consciousness”. Quite evidently, this metaphor of the “ocean” (for as Gebser notes, water is a longtime symbol of the soul) becomes Rolf Jensen’s ubiquitous, ever-present, all-encompassing “market” in which everything, including the Dream Society, lives, moves and has its being, which is why I refer to it as “market mysticism” or “the myth of the market”.
But the most salient point of the Dream Society is the breakdown of all discernment between the subjective and the objective, or fact and fiction, or dream and reality. This was already being noted in Adam Curtis’s documentary “Hypernormalisation”, which also belongs to Dream Society phenomena.
“Dream Society” phenomena are also implicated in Peter Pomerantsev’s book on Putin’s Russia, “Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted“. But this “perception is reality” conceit is certainly not confined to Putin’s Russia either. “Perception is reality” belongs to the magical structure of consciousness, and it is also what underlies Jensen’s “Dream Society” or enables Mikunas’s “technocratic shaman” too (or what we call “perception management”). So, it is very important that we test this notion of “perception is reality” for its limitations, for it does have its sinister and demonic aspect, even when there is a fair amount of truth in it.
As I once noted, we do have to understand the “irreal” as something that is neither real nor unreal, or you might say it is both equally. Some have referred to this, eliptically, as “Third Space“, which also has some aspects of Dream Society logic.
Magic and myth are certainly associated with nativism and tribalism, which is to say, forms of collectivism, which is something that Jensen’s Dream Society promotes, ie, “re-tribalisation”, albeit within the context of the universal market and the market economy and organised around brand icons. But that means, basically, brand cults and cultishness. And that’s basically what is meant by “spiritual marketing” (or “marketing 3.0”).
(And, if you recall too, “Seth” once warned about this cultishness with the return of “the ancient force”, as I once posted about in “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature“).
Basically, then, Jensen’s Dream Society is an attempt to make lemonade out of the breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness — at least, lemonade for some. For it seems oblivious, too, that the realm of dream is also the site of the Shadow and of nightmare and chaotic emotion. We permit ourselves to do things in dreaming that we would never think of doing in reality, and to remove the boundaries between those realms has disastrous consequences. And what the Dream Society does, in consequence as well, is do away with the distinction between image and reality, too. If everything is merely “image” (which is what “perception is reality” also leads to), what obligations or responsibilities do I have towards images? Many cases of social violence and mass murder are due to the inability to distinguish between image and reality (as, for example, so-called “reality TV”).
This is the most pernicious aspect of the “Dream Society” and of the principle “perception is reality”; everything becomes an image, or a “projection”, as they say in the psychoanalytic schools; everyone and everything, as image, only an extension of the narcissistic ego or “wego”, as David Loy calls it (or, what Iain McGilchrist might call a “usurpation” by the “Emissary”).
The “ocean” is full of wonderful and beautiful creatures. It is also full of some very deadly ones. And with the breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness, you can expect both to surface in “the Dream Society”.
Strange. Immediately after posting this, this came across my Twitter feed. I’ve no idea what it’s referring to, but it’s one of those strange cases of “kismet”
I might point out in connection with this graphic is that Aurobindo argues in terms of his “subjectivity of the nation”, that the national group actually takes the form of a person or what might be described as a “tulpa” or “egregore” in that sense. Blake had a very similar view, that a nation was also a “person”, that is, had its own subjectivity.
The Aurobindo website just posted another of Aurobindo’s statements on Germany and the subjectivity of nations, which is so highly pertinent to my post today that I have to point it out.
Thanks Scott i hope you get all this into a book i really do. At my university arts course many people seem to see postmodernity as some sort of unfettered good, the inexorable cutting edge of evolution. It does have this manichean aspect to it though, they might not be escaping ‘duality’ as much as they think ! . Maybe it goes with being human and having a body.
Thanks for the comment, but I doubt you’ll be seeing a book out of me in the near future.
There are different flavours, hues, and strands of post-modernism. I really appreciate some works of post-modernism and post-modernist deconstruction — a necessary task. But a good deal of it is what we might describe as “vulgar postmodernism”, and that seems to be the mainstream of what we call “post-modernism”. As one might expect, it’s a can of worms, but it reflects the post-modern condition itself — chaotic transition. Post-modernism and chaotic transition are pretty much synonymous terms, and some works of post-modernism are better at handling chaos than are others. But I’ve found that most people who speak of “post-modernism” really don’t understand what they mean by that word. But, again, that’s just another reflection of the breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness.
Post-modernism largely has its roots in Nietzsche. And if one doesn’t get Nietzsche, one can’t really understand post-modernism either. But then, you have people like Rosenstock-Huessy who straddle the line between post-modernism and what we might call “post-post-modernism”, inasmuch as Rosenstock-Huessy thought of himself as also “post-Nietzsche”. Well… you see what I mean by “can of worms”. It can get pretty bewildering trying to sort out the post-modernists from the post-post-modernists.
Thanks for that ! Sometimes i like to think of it in terms of the biblical flood, with the pairs of oppositional binaries being sequestered to rebuild more rational mental models when the waters recede, in the next stage of the cycle.