The Big Bang
The contraction of the personal consciousness into this fixture — this fixed point called “point-of-view”, or what is known as egoism — is, quite evidently, connected to both the “empathy deficit” as well as the crisis of identity. This contraction into the point is implicated, too, in both Lewis Mumford’s and Roderick Seidenberg’s thoughts on “post-historic man”, who is, in those terms, post-conscious too. This contraction — one might almost describe it as an implosion — by the same token contributes to the problem of “symbolic belief” and the loss of fluidity of awareness, so that one is unable to “switch perspectives” — say between background and foreground effects, or the context and the text (consequently, the whole and the totality). That is to say, there comes with this contraction an almost complete loss of discernment and discerning reason that begins to look a lot like mass derangement.
As Gebser noted, too, this contraction into this fixture or point is also attended by an intensification of Angst or anxiety. The words “Angst” and anxiety are connected with words for narrowing — (like angle), and comes with the feeling of “being driven into a corner”, most of which is, however, self-inflicted.
Now, this “point-of-view” consciousness (or “egoism” or “wegoism”) has been under development since the Renaissance invention of perspectivism, which is why Gebser also calls it the “perspectival” consciousness structure. The “point-of-view” comes originally from perspective art (as does the notion of “framing”). The invention of perspective, which conditioned also “the objective attitude” to reality, also, reciprocally, led to an intensification of the self-awareness, and so we also became concerned with matters like “standpoints” or “viewpoints” and “positions” and such matters and, of course, the identity and individualism.
There is, then, a direct line of development from the invention of perspectivism in art, through Copernicus and the Scientific Revolution, through Galileo and into Descartes and Newton. Descartes’ cogito or res cogitans — the “thinking thing” — is completely perspectival and perspectivising, yet at the same time the very thing William Blake feared as “Single Vision”, which is precisely this narrowing of consciousness to a point. “For man has clos’d himself up till he sees all things through narrow chinks of his cavern” expresses that fear of Single Vision.
Now, the entire history of the Modern Era could be well described as the complete exploration of the full possibilities of this new perspectival consciousness, which is synonymous with what Gebser calls “the mental-rational consciousness structure”, and which, today, has not only reached the limits of those possibilities, but has even overstepped them into that zone that is described as “hubris”, but which Gebser calls a “deficient mode” of functioning both in terms of “aggregation” (collectivism of “the Totality”) or “isolation” of the ego consciousness (hyper-individualism). These correspond, of course, to what Buddhist sociologist David Loy calls “Wegoism” and “Egoism” in his worthy essay “The Suffering System”.
While aggregation (or hyper-collectivism) and isolation (hyper-individualism) seem like contraries and are treated as such by the mind, from a more comprehensive or holistic view they are mutual and reciprocal, like Siamese Twins or Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum — the historical products of minds conditioned to thinking in terms of dualisms.
In many respects this contraction of the personal consciousness into ever narrowing “points-of-view-lines-of-thought” (or “Single Vision” or “culture of narcissism”) and the attendant anxiety that this conjures up, works at cross-purposes with the innate nature of the “Self” (or “vital centre”) which works in the opposite direction, which is to manifest itself completely. So you see here an inner contradiction at work, which is not only described by McGilchrist as the “Emissary’s usurpation” of the “Master’s” intents, but which is clearly reflected in problems of duplicity of character or in matters such as “symbolic belief” where the personal consciousness, or ego-consciousness, or conscious attitude or “point-of-view” stands in complete contradiction with what it knows in it’s “heart of hearts” to be true. In other words, “symbolic belief” is only a special instance of what we call “veil of Maya” or what Blake called “Ulro” or “Vala” (ie, “veil”).
Which is why Blake held that “Satan” (or Urizen or Prince of Lies) was only our own Selfhood or ego-nature, just as the demon “Mara” that the Buddha overcame he called “Lord of my own Ego” and “the Architect”.
So, for approximately 500 years, we have been exploring the full potentialities of this structure of consciousness called “perspectivism” or “mental-rational”, and it is, today, in the process of breakdown — disintegration, fragmentation, atomisation, isolation, etc, etc, — which looks increasingly like complete derangement, and which is otherwise referred to as “post-rational”, “post-truth” or “collapse of reality” and so on and so forth, and which is an expression, too, of this contraction of the personal consciousness into this mere “point”, but which is also connected with Nietzsche’s anticipation of “two centuries of nihilism”, whereas it is the innate nature of awareness to expand and to grow. This is one reason I make a clear distinction between “the awareness” and “the consciousness”, although things like Buddhism refer to this distinction as one of “consciousness” and “mind”, or even “awareness” and “soul”.
Now, there is always something of a peculiar correspondence between the dynamics (or structure) of consciousness and our cosmological imaginations, as if the cosmos were, at the same time, a map of our own inner states (which some people refer to as “co-evolutionary”). And even as perspective consciousness contracted into the “point-of-view”, and the energies of the personal consciousness became concentrated into this “point”, we developed this hypothesis of the “Big Bang” origin of the universe, which states, in effect, that the origins of the universe lay in a kind pointless point of unimaginably dense energy that had neither mass nor extension and is otherwise quite indescribable or visualisable. It is said, therefore, to lie beyond “Planck’s Wall”, which is the limits of the rational, or definable, the conceptual, or comprehensible, at least in mental-rational terms.
But the uncanny thing about the Big Bang theory and its development is how it mirrors the same dynamics of consciousness today, in the sense of this contraction and concentration of the ego consciousness into the point, just as some contemporary thinking about Time recognises only an infinite series of time “moments” or “now moments”, but without any cohesive sense of a Universal Now or “Present” (“Living On Oxford Time”) And while this seems to mirror post-modern fragmentation and atomisation, the irony of that view is also that one can conclude the complete opposite from it — that all such discrete “now moments” — past, present, and future, actually coexist in an all-embracing “Now”. And this is just another example of one of the strange paradoxes up that befuddle and perplex the perspectival consciousness about quantum reality.
The “Big Bang”, in fact, bears a lot of resemblance to Jean Gebser’s anticipation of a “global catastrophe” as a prelude to the irruption of a new consciousness structure, since Gebser also thought in terms of paradoxes and here he foresaw the contraction and concentration of the energies of consciousness into the “point” as a kind of marshalling of all human resources in preparation for making the “Leap” into the new future — integral consciousness. The resemblance of that view to the cosmologist’s Big Bang theory is hard to miss. In fact, so much of this is uncanny that even some physicists have come to the conclusion that cosmos and consciousness are in constant sympathetic or empathetic communion with one another, so that it is quite impossible to fundamentally separate them. They are, in those terms, completely harmonious.
(That, of course, has a lot of implications, to, for appreciating the possible connections between “chaotic emotion” and “climate change” which would be, in effect, a very impressive example of Jung’s “synchronicity” indeed. In fact, just this morning was reported a study on the intimate connections between climate change and mental health).
This paradoxical reciprocality of a contraction with a simultaneous expansion — something related to what Gebser calls “the double-movement”, or also connected with the karmic law of action and reaction in its authentic meaning — seems to be at play here, too, with the contraction of the personal consciousness, for we are also seeing, at the same time, a counter-dynamic or reciprocal dynamic of an “expansion”, if you will, characterised as “the global soul”, or of our “inside” or “inhere” also becoming our “outside” or “outthere”. In fact, our “inhere” also becoming our “outthere”, which is connected with Gebser’s idea of the “irruption” or return of the repressed, may even be the triggering for the extreme contraction of the ego-consciousness into the “point” — representing its fear for its personal identity in the face of potential infinitisation. (In fact, I have read this fear of “infinitisation” made explicit).
Well, we know that the self-revealing and self-manifesting dynamic of what we call “the collective unconscious” is also in process today, (and which Aurobindo has referred to as “subjectivation of reality”), and is, as we’ve noted in earlier posts, connected with things like Rolf Jensen’s “Dream Society” or Howard Bloom’s notions of “the Global Brain”, and so on, but also with the chaotic return of the magical and mythical and the apparent collapse of all boundaries between feeling and reality. Today’s apparently new metaphysical principle that “perception is reality” attests to this as well, as well as being — especially in the form of “chaos magick” described by Gary Lachman — an apparently incomplete or deficient realisation of the sympathetic or mutual relationship that exists between consciousness and cosmos. Ditto Algis Mikunas’s notion of “technocratic shamanism” (or perception managers) which relies on the same metaphysic that “perception is reality”
But this pressing of the presently unknown “Self” or “soul” towards self-revelation or self-manifestation — what Gebser also calls the “concretion of the spiritual” — raises some interesting questions about how we also regard the contraction of the ego-consciousness into its ever-narrowing “point-of-view” or “identity”, or “petty-mindedness”. Aristotle, even, drew a distinction between what he called “mikropsuchos” and “megalopsuchos“, or the petty-soul and the great-soul (although in a different context which can be easily transposed to a distinction between ego and Self, or the consciousness and the awareness). Nietzsche associated this contraction of consciousness into a mere “point-of-view” with his “Last Man”, but also saw this as, in some respects, the ego-consciousness making way, or doing away with itself, for the sake of the “overman” who bears some resemblance to Blake’s “Albion”, Gebser’s “diaphainon” or Aurobindo’s “supramental consciousness”. For that reason, Nietzsche praised what he called “Dionysian madness”, which also bears some resemblance to what we are calling “chaotic transition”.