Canada, Trudeau, and The New Normal
For those who thought that Canada was a blessed oasis amidst the desert of “the New Normal”, the revelations of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “blackface” follies have come as a bit of a shock and of course a lot of Trudeau’s political foes (who are equally culpable hypocrites in this regard) are overjoyed at this seeming display of apparent hypocrisy from the Prime Minister, seeing here a political advantage for themselves. This is what’s so galling about the New Normal and the narcissistic mode of consciousness — its echelons of self-righteous finger pointers, who are themselves universally guilty of being the very thing they accuse others of being.
This problem (which is the problem also of what Bohm calls “fragmentation”) is fairly typical of what we mean by “the New Normal” of “21st century schizoid man”. The heart is usually in the right place, but the head and the heart don’t communicate or work together, which is pretty much the meaning of Gebser’s problem of “distantiation” of consciousness from its “vital centre”. This dissociation of head and heart is what is involved in the problem of “symbolic belief” and is largely what gives this New Normal its characteristic of being universal duplicity and deceit.
Trudeau’s heart is in the right place, but his head is in a different space. But this is typical of the culture of Late Modernity in general. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer has, of course, made Trudeau’s apparent duplicity a campaign issue while forgiving, ignoring, or sweeping aside the exact same “blackface” scandals in his own party.
To say that heart and head are not coordinated or synchronised is a metaphor, of course. It’s what Gebser means by “compartmentalisation” of consciousness which is equally what physicist David Bohm calls “fragmentation” or, equally, what is described as the chief feature of the New Normal, “cognitive dissonance”. So, perhaps the easiest way to understand this, and what Gebser also means by the “deficient mode of the mental-rational consciousness” is this: heart and head do not function harmoniously together. This is also how one can understand Iain McGilchrist’s thoughts on the divided brain and its two modes of attention called “the Master” and “the Emissary”.
It is important for us to understand this discord between heart and head because it is that lack of “inner harmony” that concerned David Bohm as well as all the other authors we have introduced in The Chrysalis. All the other symptoms of this “New Normal” we have raised here — Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, Double-Bind — are the results of a discord or dissonance between heart and head — the forked-tongue or the problem of “dualism”.
Put simply, then, Bohm’s “rheomode” of consciousness and thinking described in Wholeness and the Implicate Order is an attempt to get these two isolates or solitudes of heart and mind back together and thus overcome the present state of mental fragmentation and dissolution. Authenticity arises when these two modes we call “heart” and “head” are consonant with one another and not dissonant. This is what also underlies what we call “post-Cartesian” approaches or holistic approaches.
It’s also easy enough to see that this state of dissociation is what afrighted Yeats in his poem “The Second Coming” as the alienation of the Falcon from the Falconer which we may say symbolise the head and the heart (or vital centre) respectively. Again, I’ll point out that Yeats’ “gyre” is a mandala, and the loss of the vital centre is effectively the disintegration of the mandala.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
We cannot understand the meaning of “the vital centre” therefore except as the centre of a mandala, and this is called “the heart”. Bohm calls this the “intelligence”, and the head he calls the “memory”.
Now this dissonance, which I have also called the “narcissistic mode of thinking and consciousness” is the general state of the Late Modern structure of consciousness (reflected and echoed in what we call “culture”) and not just the failings of particular individuals. And one can see this concern about inner division in Rosenstock-Huessy’s sociology as well, as reflected in his new science of metanomics which is essentially concerned with the twin processes of “synchronisation” and “coordination” in maintaining his “cross of reality”. This “cross of reality”, as you see, is also a mandala.
Also, the simplest way of understanding Blake’s “fourfold vision” and his mythology of the “four Zoas” is as a mandala.
Presently, the Late Modern consciousness is dispersed, scattered, fragmented and this indicates the absence of the function of the intelligence, for this is what the word “intelligence” means and it is connected with the meaning of “symbolic“. Intelligence means “to connect between” (inter + ligere) and thus is an integrating function, like “symbol” which means “to bring together”, while the contrary tendency — to divide, segregate, fragment — is “diabolic” process. This is why the mandala form is a symbolic form of the intelligence as the integrating force. Authentic intelligence is not that which focusses on “things” as such, but on the processes and relations between “things” as such by which these “things” as such are drawn into harmonious relation through integrating processes that Rosenstock-Huessy calls “synchronisation” and “coordination”.
This is the idea of continuous flow or process that also informs Bohm’s “rheomode” of thinking, and so it’s not surprising to find that the rheomode is phasic and also takes the form and structure of a mandala as a process.
The narcissistic mode of consciousness is, then, to mistake some mere point on the circumference of the mandala as being its “vital centre”, and this is reflected also in William Blake’s insistence that what we call “reason” is located on the outer circumference of the energy form which we are implicitly (which makes it sound an awful lot like the “assemblage point” of Castaneda’s don Juan which lies on the outer circumference of the luminous body).
Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is also a allusion to the marriage of heart and head and this is how Blake describes “reason” there.
|“Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence.||2|
|From these contraries spring what the religious call Good and Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy.”|
Blake follows this up with what he calls “The Voice of the Devil”
All Bibles or sacred codes have been the causes of the following Errors:—
- That Man has two real existing principles, viz. a Body and a Soul.
- That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body; and that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
- That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:—
- Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discern’d by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.
- Energy is the only life, and is from the Body; and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
- Energy is Eternal Delight.
(What Blake is describing here is what we call “Sensate Consciousness”, which is peculiar to the Kaliyuga only — consciousness which has become sense-bound, which is why we sometimes have to make distinctions between the “consciousness” and “awareness”, since “consciousness” has become almost solely identified with “mind” or the Cartesian “res cogitans”. Bohm, with the rheomode, is trying to break through that reductionism or identification of consciousness with the merely sensate. We must be vigilant, then, for the various contexts in which the word “consciousness” is used not to confuse it solely with the mental-rational or perspectival or sensate structure).
It should become evident, then, what is needed to get beyond the New Normal with our skins in tact, as it were: we need to nourish and cultivate what is called “the wisdom of the heart” (which, for Bohm, is never final but always a work in progress).
And as long as we are truly aspiring towards this “wisdom of the heart” all our follies are forgiven.