Aperspectivity and Proprioception

Apologies (if apologies are necessary) for my recent absence. As some may recall, I have stage 5 kidney disease and I had a bit of a relapse lately that has required ongoing medical attention.

I left off our discussion of Heraclitus and his “ethos anthropos daimon” (usually translated as “character is fate”) with the suggestion that what Heraclitus means by “ethos” could be interpreted, rather, as a “structure of consciousness” in Jean Gebser’s terms, or what we might call a “species of consciousness”, which pretty much means the same thing as “form” or “structure”. And, as you may recall, Gebser has identified four such species or structures in the history of consciousness — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational — as well as a potential and prospective fifth development he calls “integral consciousness”. This potential and prospective new species of consciousness is also the theme of others such as William Blake (“fourfold vision”), Sri Aurobindo (“supramental consciousness”), and is quite probably the meaning of what Nietzsche anticipated as the “overman” or “transhuman”.

Now, as you may know from past reading in The Chrysalis, or from studying the works of cultural philosopher Jean Gebser, the ethos of modernity (or the “Modern Age” or the “Modern Mind”) is rooted in the invention of perspective in the early Renaissance which disclosed a reality conceived and re-presented in three-dimensions of space — length, width, and depth. When people use the term “Western civilisation” it is largely in terms of this new ethos rooted in perspectivism and perspectivisation. This innovation almost singularly accounts for subsequent developments in the modern attitude to reality and its metaphysics through Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Newton and so on. Both Hegelian idealism or Marxian materialism are booth rooted in a conception of dialectical consciousness that has its roots in Renaissance perspectivism. The Modern Mind’s mode of thinking is dialectical — the three terms of dialectical rationality being a triangulation of thesis-antithesis-synthesis corresponding to the dimensions of space as length, width, and depth.

As such, the singular symbol of this perspectivist or triangulating species or structure of consciousness is, as previously discussed, the symbol that graces the Great Seal of the United States, but which is actually representative of the European Enlightenment and dialectical/perspective consciousness more generally, and which some people strangely associate with a sinister and secret “Illuminati” (or “Free Masonry”) conspiracy (which it was, according to the Inquisition and the Counter-Reformation). This is simply rank superstition, since the term “Illuminatus” referred to those usually anti-clerical “Free Thinkers” who subscribed to the principles of the Enlightenment.

The Great Seal

As we have noted in earlier postings, this symbol originates with Leonardo da Vinci as his representation of the perspective eye of the Renaissance masters, which simply represented a new way of looking at the world which was to become the metaphysics of modernity and its specific mode of perception.

da Vinci’s Perspective: the Eye and the Pyramid of Vision

These two illustrations make the implicit connection between dialectical rationality and perspective perception entirely clear, and is furthermore represented in Rene Descartes’ own illustration of his “cogito” or method of thinking which is perspectivist.

The Cartesian “cogito” illustrated by Descartes

So, as you see, everything is connected here, and this is the structure of consciousness that Gebser calls “mental-rational” or “perspectival” and which represents the Modern ego consciousness as the “point-of-view” and “line of thought” — terms, themselves, that come from Renaissance perspectivism, along with a certain attitude of objectivising or self- distancing in relation to reality, but also of abstraction and distraction.

This particular structure or mode of perception and of thought is now breaking down, or entering into what Gebser calls its “deficient mode” of functioning. The Modern Crisis, in all its various and multiple facets, is essentially a crisis of its consciousness structure and mode of perception — the breakdown and disintegration of the perspectival or mental-rational consciousness structure. It is quickly becoming incoherent, and very, very noisey. And it’s a process that will likely culminate in a global catastrophe.

A consciousness structure entering into its deficient mode of functioning is synonymous with madness. For Gebser and others (including Blake, Aurobindo, Rosenstock-Huessy, et alia) what can save us from a decay into total insanity is a new integration — a new consciousness structure; one that has been made necessary by the irruption of a new dimension into reality and consciousness — time. It is largely owing to the irruption of time as a new dimension into modern consciousness that the Modern Mind is in crisis and the throes of disintegration. One might even say that “post-modernism” is really about the crisis of the modern consciousness in its relation to time, for in these conditions Heraclitus and the paradoxes of time and change also become relevant.

To handle this new four dimensional spacetime requires a different mode of consciousness than is sufficiently represented in perspectivism and dialectical rationality, and so the “field” concept has emerged to challenge the mere “point-of-view” mode of attention and, as such also, the whole structure of modern “identity”. In the field, everything is interconnected. The field corresponds to Heraclitus’s “panta rhei” — “all flows” which, today, is represented in physicist David Bohm’s idea of the “holomovement” in which objects cease to be and are recognised, rather, as energetic events. And this represents a great challenge for perspectivising, objectifying consciousness.

Everything is energy is various states and stages of manifestation and de-manifestation. The field concept somewhat corresponds to Cusanus’s once famous description of God as “a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”.

The old perspectivising consciousness structure could pretend in its metaphysics that subject and object were completely separate and incommensurate realities. That is not possible with the field. Consciousness and the field are mutually entangled as a field of common energy (this has been called “the One”).

There are many ways in which this “field consciousness” is beginning to insinuate itself into our modes of thought and perception, some of them quite aberrant (for example, the idea of the “Universal Market” such as represented in neo-liberalism or in Rolf Jensen’s Dream Society which I critiqued earlier). Jung’s ideas about synchronicity and the “collective unconscious” are directly related, as are the ideas of the father of quantum field theory Wolfgang Pauli (who coincidentally was a patient and friend of Jung’s). Einstein’s spacetime integration prepared the way for field theory, also in biology and ecology. Gebser felt that such developments were preparing the way for a new mode of perception — a seeing-through things he called “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world”. He called this mode of perception “aperspectival” and its structure as “arational” (not “irrational”). What chiefly characterises this “arational” mode of thinking is the acceptance of the paradoxical.

Aperspectivity includes the perspectival, but also transcends it, just as “arational” does not exclude the rational. The aperspectival/arational consciousness is also what Aurobindo calls “supramental”, and not what he calls the “infrarational”. There also seems to be a close affinity between what Gebser describes as “aperspectival” (associated with the integral consciousness) and what physicist David Bohm calls “proprioception” as a mode of perception appropriate to the holomovement or field.

Aperspectivity — or “diaphaneity” and “the transparency of the world” — can only mean one thing — a direct perception of what Castaneda called “seeing energy as it flows through the universe”, and in and through all beings; also what Gebser referred to as “the concretion of the spiritual”.

This is the paradox of the present “collapse of reality”, as some are calling the present crisis. It may be either a collapse and descent into the madness of the infrarational or a breakthrough to the supramental and aperspectival. These two tendencies are implied in what Gebser calls “the double-movement” of our time — one of distinegration and another of a new integration.

We are actually very close to this new “universal way of looking at things”, as Gebser called aperspective consciousness. The collapse of the wave function conundrum in quantum physics already points to the field of energy as it flows in the universe as the true and ultimate reality.

I have often argued here in The Chrysalis that Gebser’s entire scenario for the double-movement, and the breakdown and collapse of the modern consciousness structure in a “global catastrophe” as breakthrough to the aperspectival, is already uncannily prefigured in neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor’s “Stroke of Insight” — her own personal catastrophe an expression of an archetypal pattern for the metamorphosis or transfiguration. In every detail of her description, it sets the pattern for that which we’ll have to undergo collectively before we approach Gebser’s new consciousness. It is also the same pattern of transition and metamorphosis we find in Blake’s Prophetic Books about the breakdown of his deranged god Urizen and Urizenic consciousness.

Bolte-Taylor’s experience is quite remarkable. It has all the classical archetypal motifs of death, transfiguration, resurrection, the “Dark Night of the Soul”, and so on. And yet she faced it all with remarkable sobriety and the detachment (or mindfulness) of a true scientist without succumbing to anxiety or panic. Throughout it all she didn’t lose her marbles.

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3 responses to “Aperspectivity and Proprioception”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    it’s a process that will likely culminate in a global catastrophe

    Likely…but not necessarily.

    That’s “probability” thinking for you. Possibility thinking, on the other hand, is a much different story. ; )

  2. Benjamin David Steele says :

    Here is how I always see it: Modernity has its origins in the Enlightenment that has its origins in the Renaissance that has its origins in the Axial Age that was caused by the dark age following the Bronze Age collapse, although hints of the fuller change to come can be found in the last centuries of the Bronze Age.

    So much of what we think of as modern is to be found in its earliest forms in the ancient world. Perspectivism has slowly developed over the past three millennia. Julian Jaynes would argue that it arose as the development of a three-dimensional internal space that we now think of as ‘consciousness’.

    As you point out, we might be reaching the culmination of that mindset. Something new seems to be emerging. If the perspectival arose out of an earlier collapse, we might require yet another collapse to bring on what comes next.

    The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
    by Julian Jaynes
    p. 291

    “All this curious development of the sixth century B.C. is extremely important for psychology. For with this wrenching of psyche = life over to psyche = soul, there came other changes to balance it as the enormous inner tensions of a lexicon always do. The word soma had meant corpse or deadness, the opposite of psyche as livingness. So now, as psyche becomes soul, so soma remains as its opposite, becoming body. And dualism, the supposed separation of soul and body, has begun.

    “But the matter does not stop there. In Pindar, Heraclitus, and others around 500 B.C., psyche and nous begin to coalesce. It is now the conscious subjective mind-space and its self that is opposed to the material body. Cults spring up about this new wonder-provoking division between psyche and soma. It both excites and seems to explain the new conscious experience, thus reinforcing its very existence. The conscious psyche is imprisoned in the body as in a tomb. It becomes an object of wide-eyed controversy. […]

    “So dualism, that central difficulty in this problem of consciousness, begins its huge haunted career through history, to be firmly set in the firmament of thought by Plato, moving through Gnosticism into the great religions, up through the arrogant assurances of Descartes to become one of the great spurious quandaries of modern psychology.”

    Evolution and Empathy
    by Milton E. Brener
    Kindle Locations 2248-2253

    “Three dimensional perspective had its beginnings in Greece, but was very imperfectly executed. Significant advances had to await its use by the Greeks’ Roman successors, and its perfection by the masters of the European Renaissance almost 2000 years later. Yet when we recall the flat, two-dimensional works of the earlier Greeks and those of the other contemporary cultures, the twisted perspective, the mixture of frontal views, the advances of the Greeks of classical times seem extraordinary indeed.

    “We see its beginnings in the last third of the 6th century B.C. Practically nothing of Greek “monumental” painting, large representations on flat surfaces, survives, but the tentative beginnings of depth appear on marble reliefs, mixing bowls, cups and jars. Progress can be seen toward the end of that century, and we have evidence that competition may have lent a hand.”

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