Identity and An Age of Wholeness
The thaw has arrived here and with it, spring breakup when the ice cover on the lakes begins to fissure and fragment revealing the underlying “living water”. That’s what the name “Saskatchewan” actually means in the Cree language — living waters. Observing that yesterday in the context of the tragic events in New Zealand, suggested to me a new metaphor for describing the present conflict between “identity” and the emerging Age of Wholeness.
As I’ve stated before, the coming Age of Wholeness (and signs of this are everywhere now) will probably have no room for the petty-minded, the mean-spirited, and the small-souled (or what Aristotle once called the “mikropsuchos“). They know it, they hate it, and they make war upon it, that they might prevent the advent of this Age of Wholeness. And in this Age of Wholeness, even the present dominating powers of technology will finally find their proper place in the greater whole of things.
Such an Age of Wholeness (or “the Integral Era”) certainly places demands upon what we call “identity”, for it asks us to forego our narrow concepts of “identity” or “point-of-view” consciousness and to expand, even to the boundaries of Kosmos itself. “More! More! is the cry of the mistaken Soul. Less than All cannot satisfy Man” as Blake wrote in “There Is NO Natural Religion”. That is the meaning of it. And when someone like Jean Gebser asks us to move towards integrality, or someone like Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy asks us to accept all of human history, warts and all, as “Universal History” and as our own autobiography, that is the meaning of it. And when someone like Dr. McGilchrist asks us to reach an accomodation between the two modes of attention of the divided brain — the Master and the Emissary — that also is the meaning of it.
So, we are very quickly now moving into the kind of World once described by William Blake, and I call this our “spring breakup”. And it is also a passage through ironies and paradoxes, not least of which is that that which was once called the most insane, now looks like the sanest, and that which was once deemed the sanest, now appears insane. This, too, is a feature of the “end of the Master Narrative”, also a “spring breakup”.
“Chaotic transition” and “spring breakup” are pretty much the same process, although in these parts, too, that also portends the great bug hatch of ferocious and blood-thirsty biting insects such that you pray for the coming of the redeemer — the dragonfly. Perhaps all this not an inappropriate metaphor, then.
(As an aside, that brings to mind a story from my years in the north during spring breakups. Not infrequently would I find myself beset by biting insects, and yet surrounded on all sides by a squadron of friendly dragonflies as I walked along the beach of some lake during the bug-hatch — a personal bodyguard, as it were, against the oppressions of the biting insects. In more southerly climes, this role was taken up by the majestic and amazingly agile swallows, who would often accompany me on walks. Perhaps you have had the same experience. So, I revere dragonflies and swallows — bats, too. We are, of course, also losing what friends and allies we have in Nature because this is also an Age of Stupid).
If this is as much an Age of Stupid as it is the incipience of an Age of Wholeness, it is because of the great paradox of the Anthropocene itself, for as the latter intensifies, so does the former become more visible — the image of Nietzsche’s utterly stupid “Last Man”.
An Age of Wholeness, perforce, challenges our sense of identity to expand to embrace more experience, and not contract to a mere point. This process, however, can be turbulent and fractious, like the spring breakup. I’m sure if the ice could speak, it would hate and resent the longer days with their heat and light, as much as the warming waters of the lake below.
Spring breakup thus offers a timely metaphor for framing the distinction Gebser makes between the deficient mode of the “perspectival” and the incipience of the “aperspectival” consciousness, and these may be compared to the surface ice and the underlying lake, and the “chaotic transition” from the one to the other as the thaw. If, in fact, you’ve ever lived by a lake during a spring breakup, the ice also resounds with noises something akin to “the wailing and gnashing of teeth” — groans and moans — as its hegemony is dissolved, even though it is simply returning to its source in the “living waters”. Ice is the stuff that forgot it was lake, and so feels its dissolution as a crisis rather than a return to wholeness.
“Ice” thus becomes a metaphor, too, for what we call “reified perspective” or “reified consciousness” and which is, today, the problem of identitarianism. But then again, if we have a crisis of identity, it must be because something else is going on — in the background. And that something else going on in the background is the incipience of this Age of Wholeness, and it is a marvel.
My metaphor here brings to mind a favourite piece of Zen haiku, too, which I’ve always found very much expresses the essence of Zen and might even be representative of our transition.
“Ten years in the forest dreaming.
Now by the lakeshore,
Laughing a new laugh”.