Breakdown of Perspective Consciousness Revisited

The physicist and science writer Paul Halpern tweeted this morning the cover of a book by Isaac Newton on Optics that was in the library of Werner Heisenberg. It’s quite fascinating because of the graphic that was included on the cover of Newton’s book on optics shows Dürer’s grid — a device invented by Albrecht Dürer to train the eye to perceive perspectivally. This device is of great interest because it illustrates exactly, in a very objective and concrete way, what is called “a point of view” as having once been an actual physical instrument to deliberately focus perception in a particular way and direction that became a metaphor for logic and thinking in general — the rational and logic ordering and arranging of space as a ratio of spaces and as a system of objects. Beginning in the Renaissance, the onus and emphasis shifted to the eye as the principal sense and organ of knowing and intellectual mastery.

The device illustrated here is the invention of Albrecht Dürer. It was widely used in the Renaissance to aid artists in learning to visualise perspectivally (Leonardo also reputedly used it).

What Dürer’s grid illustrates is a way of looking (perspectival) and a method of analysis (the gridwork) where the organ of knowing now shifts from the ear to the eye. The enthusiasm with which this new way of looking and understanding were received in the time is illustrated by prints from the period


As we’ve previously noted in The Chrysalis, this new way of looking called “perspective consciousness” even informed Descartes’ own ‘wondrous strange method’ — his new organon now called “Cartesianism” or “the Newtonian-Cartesian worldview”

This way of looking and thinking became formalised in the now well-known symbol of the European Enlightenment that still graces the Great Seal of the United States — the perspectival eye, the shape of the Modern Mind and consciousness structure that William Blake caled “Urizen” or “Single Vision”.

The Great Seal

Again, we’ll use Blake’s own illustration of his deranged Zoa and god “Urizen” as revealing of this particular pattern or structure of consciousness and perception.

Urizen — Architect of the Ulro, “Ancient of Days”

It is this structure — this way of looking with its own tacit logic or ratio — that Blake foresaw breaking down in his Prophetic Books as the madness and derangement of Urizen, also anticipated by Nietzsche, and which Jean Gebser described so well in his book The Ever-Present Origin as the “deficient mode” of the mental-rational (or perspectival) consciousness structure.

We need to remind ourselves occasionally that the present mental, emotional, social and environmental chaos we perceive around ourselves today, and which we call “New Normal”, is the breakdown of this perspective consciousness and its “ratio” as a particular way of arranging and ordering reality. Why is it now breaking down, as we see in the case of this “New Normal”?

Time, is the short answer. This particular method of perspectivising consciousness is not adequate for handling the phenomena of time. Descartes himself pointedly omitted time from his method, basically leaving the realm of time and the care of souls to the ecclesiastics and the Church, while his method, the objective method, would focus on the possession and mastery of space and Nature.

This is associated with “the return of the repressed” (and the death of God). While we tend to think of “the unconscious” as subjectivity or an “inner space” it is really time. It is all those legacy structures of former consciousness that have returned to latency in the overall psychic constitution — in Gebser’s terms, the archaic, the magical, the mythical structures. These all persist in our psychic constitution as “deep time” and the return of the repressed corresponds to what Gebser means by “presentiation” through which all these older, latent structures associated with “deep time” formerly prohibited and banned now emerge into presence, coincident also with “the discovery of the unconscious”.

If you follow such matters, you’ll also know that there is tremendous confusion in the physics community about the physics of time. Time is almost considered like the unwelcome visitor. The multiple paradoxes of the quantum worldview, or the insights of Chaos Theory, are intimately related to this irruption of time, which evidently requires a new mode of thinking and logic, such as that proposed by Ilya Prigogine in his book Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature or in David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order. At the social level, that new logic of time-thinking is proposed by Rosenstock-Huessy as his “grammatical method”. These are attempts to come to terms with the return of the repressed and the irruption of time into consciousness.

The return of time into consciousness is not only evident in our attempts to grapple with the meaning of evolution but the implications of the “Universal Flux” (Heraclitus and David Bohm) and also the return of history. This matter of the return of history is what informs Jeremy Naydler’s paradoxical The Future of the Ancient World. We also see this in various books by Gary Lachman, particularly his recent Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump and his various other works on the occult in politics. It is also evident in everything from Rolf Jensen’s The Dream Society to Richard Stiver’s Technology as Magic, Lee Worth Bailey’s The Enchantments of Technology, Robert Romanyshyn’s Technology as Symptom & Dream, or Algis Mikunas’s essay “Magic and Technological Culture”.

This return of the repressed as both the emergence of deep time and the return of history is both peril and opportunity. It underscores what Jean Gebser means in saying that the fate of the Earth and its mankind crucially hinges on “knowing when to let happen and knowing when to make happen.” The “let happen” pertains to this emergence. The “make happen” is to know the secret to the re-organisation of consciousness and the arrangement of this return of the repressed. It helps to know that there is signal in the noise — that amidst all this chaos there is, as Gebser puts it, a “pre-existing pattern” in play, one that Blake attempted to make explicit in his Prophetic Books and which Rosenstock-Huessy attempts to make explicit through his “metanomics” and “grammatical method”. These do, in my view, offer effective ways of drawing forth that “pre-existing pattern”, making it explicit, and using it to effectively organise the return of the repressed so that the Modern Mind does not completely disintegrate and descend into total psychosis. These offerings do meet the requirement for what Gebser describes as “new consciousness” — the aperspectival or integral.

It should be quite evident to us now that this older form of consciousness — the perspectival or “point-of-view-line-of-thought” mode of consciousness — is in disarray, perplexity and confusion — that the so-called “end of the Master Narrative” of the postmodern condition is part and parcel of this dissolution and fragmentation of the perspectivising mentality. There is no putting the genie of time back in its bottle, and that is certainly not what Gebser means by “time-freedom”.

If time-freedom means anything, it means to be in time, but not of time, you see. That’s the import of Blake’s “Eternity in the hour” or “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”. It’s the import of the Zen koan “show me your face before you were born”. It’s the import of the Rosenstock-Huessy’s describing the centre of his “cross of reality” as being “the Eternal Now” which is the centre of a mandala — the wheel of space and time. The Buddha was also described in just such “time-freedom” terms. He was called “the chakravarta“, which means both the wheel turner and the one who stops the wheel from turning.

This distinction of being in time but not of time pretty much describes the relationship between McGilchrist’s “Emissary” and “Master” modes of attention respectively, and I take the publication of his book The Master and His Emissary as a very important landmark event in the history of consciousness and its transformations, especially in relation to the awakening of Robert Kegan’s “self-transforming individual”. Time-freedom and the self-transforming individual are pretty much the same matter, and the self-transforming individual is very much the interest of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “multiformity of man” and his cross of reality approach.

Recognising this multiformity and these “ecodynamic laws” of both the psyche and society may be the one thing that prevents us from descending into complete totalitarianism and ultimate self-destruction with the breakdown of the perspective consciousness.

25 responses to “Breakdown of Perspective Consciousness Revisited”

  1. Steve says :

    Scott…An outstanding book, McGilchrist quoted a number of times.
    ” Taking Appearance Seriously: The Dynamic Way of Seeing in Goethe and European Thought” by Henri Bortoft. Really very very good.

  2. Yeffen Ray says :

    [ way of looking with its own tacit logic and (radix)… ] We see this in our social ranking (*synchronic vs sequential) although it is amazing this is the product
    of dis-threaded di-synchrony ~.*
    [SEEK & FIND] [found-fundament] [Succession/Inculcation]
    {_mitigating military as the animal fire psyche_} admin.
    Hierarchy is a fundament, none other foundation here which creation came
    to exist by RRR. (I wonder about Hans Robert Jauss…)

    Reaching and/or reckoning with knowledge is directing/directive, a human consciousness in the sub-atomic composition for which by the balance/imbalance, order/chaos bounds in turns… seeing the weight of turning.vs objective understanding as the occurring of electromagnetic radiation, and with which human corporeality is within its subtle matrices… spin time/tine di-synchrony, brain waves.

    The long and short being ends of the Planck Constant? (telomeres&microtubules)
    Dipole–Dipole Interactions in Microtubules


    Succession is the path by ways of discovery within Quantum articulation to our way of syllables, letters, tine-marks – words: this is specific to the demand with which human consciousness as our foundation for knowledge/understanding in succession being the way through the turns, arches and curves through the hierarchy, hence, words and their constructive/destructive concepts and the divided construct of the human brain – literally sickening why the construction- fundament is set to occur within the imminence for the profane and the holy, much of which be deduced as corporeal philosophy (reaching and turning/returning and reaching, turn to turn, arc to arc).


    Also see, Self-Transforming Individual -longsworde.wordpress
    LOCKED DOWN IN ‘complexes”

    (*Sequential vs Synchronic time perception –

  3. Scott Preston says :

    “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” — Max Planck, German quantum theorist and Nobel Prize winner

  4. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Time, is the short answer.

    And the long answer?

    We’ve had a century (thereabouts) in the West to grow accustomed to “the irruption of time into perspectivising consciousness;” have accepted the fourfold “spacetime” or “spacetime continuum” as a more appropriate metaphor for the “pillars” of our shared reality; and, yet, still appear stuck in “perspectivising consciousness” mode, regardless.

    Aside from Narcissism (and “infernal identarianisms” <– love that phrase, btw) overshadowing any semblance of nuance to be found (anywhere, at any time, in anything), there must be more to the nervous breakdown of the "New World Order" than a change in how we perceive the Cosmos and our place in it. We don't and haven't all perceived the Cosmos strictly in terms of the "mental-rational consciousness structure" anyway.

    It just so happens that all our institutions are founded upon it.

  5. Yeffen Ray says :

    We need Albion to generate [A] directive succession, why symbiosis ‘LAST FOREVER’ in the indited goal, an objective with words (in.partially ordered set).
    The degree of difficulty lies accounted in an algorithm to place all the words into an assembly field theory, a novella… we live within an magical ellipse of infinite turning . . .

    Low Volume
    ((((very interesting played with Nox Arcana sounds above))))

  6. Scott Preston says :

    Just started into Jung’s Civilisation in Transition which is volume 10 of the Collected Works. So far, quite reminiscent of the kind of thinking you find in Jean Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin about this matter. But we’ll see if Jung can provide further insight into the present dynamics of the “New Normal”.

  7. Scott Preston says :

    This article by Bernardo Kastrup in Scientific American is pretty good, but could have been simplified by emphasising the distinction between Consciousness AS being and Consciousness OF being, which is what he’s attempting to express here between the idea of consciousness and metaconsciousness.

  8. V says :

    Just curious if you’ve ever read Fearful Symmetry by Northrop Frye. Since you already know your Blake exceedingly well it might not be much of a revelation in your case, but still, wow, that’s a BOOK. Real Theology. He was on top of all the themes you cover here…

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks for the comment. I’ve got Frye’s book, but I only read part way into it until I turned my attention to other things. I’ve been meaning to take it up again (it’s sitting prominently on my desk for that purpose), but always seem to be waylaid by something else. I’ve got a good friend who was once a student of Frye’s, too, and he’s told me a few good stories about Frye. So, hopefully I get around to reading Fearful Symmetry in full after I’ve finished off Jung’s Civilisation in Transition.

      Have to admit, I prefer Blake to Jung, actually. Some things about Jung’s thinking I find dubious, and he sometimes rubs me the wrong way. I think this also affected Gebser, since he criticised Jung for his “psychism”, even though they seemed to be close.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Not really sure how to put this, but perhaps the thing to remember about Jung (and I suspect it’s the same thing to remember about R.W. Emerson and other members of the Transcendentalist movement in the 1800s) is that they were idea (or symbolism) guys first and foremost and spent as much or more time playing around (or experimenting) in Rosenstock’s definition of “logic” (as timeless); Blakes portrayal of Urizen; and Gebser’s “mental-rational consciousness;” as any of the other three “Zoas.”

        They were Westerners, after all, and that is a pretty mean — or, at least, isolated and nearly invisible — streak we have running through the annals of Western philosophy.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Yes. That’s pretty much it. Jung, of course, is the child of his generation — pretty Victorian in outlook, Eurocentric, Swiss Middle Class values as being normative, tendency to look down on the “lower orders”, occasional whiff of Calvinism…. things that Gebser seems to have gotten over in himself after his Asian travels. But I don’t allow those things to interfere with my appreciation for his deep insights.

          A couple of notable things from Civlisation in Transition

          “…there is one psyche that embraces us all” (from the essay “The Spiritual Problem of Modern Man”). That’s the Atman, of course, and there Jung alludes to Swedenborg’s “homo maximus”, which is also what Blake calls “Albion”.

          “The upheaval of our world and the upheaval of our consciousness are one and the same”. That’s Gebser’s “irruption” and the return of the repressed. This is alluded to again in the following passage from “The Undiscovered Self”

          “Human knowledge consists essentially in the constant adaptation of the primordial patterns of ideas that were given us a priori. These need certain modifications, because, in their original form, they are suited to an archaic mode of life but not to the demands of a specifically differentiated environment. If the flow of instinctive dynamism into our life is to be maintained, as is absolutely necessary for our existence, then it is imperative that we should remould these archetypal forms into ideas which are adequate to the challenge of the present”.

          So, that’s pretty much Nietzsche’s “revaluation of values” in a nutshell, and “the specifically differentiated environment” is pretty much what is summarised in the term “globalism” or pluralism or diversity against which there is such an enormous backlash today.

          There are also a few passages where Jung reminds us that it’s more the case that we are within the collective unconscious rather than the collective unconscious being some “thing” that is inside us. That is, it corresponds to “the field” in which we are implicate, and archetypal events occasionally irrupt within the field as anomalous events.

          Take the crazy clown craze of 2016. Intriguing, really. People were seeing crazed clowns hiding in the bushes everywhere. We don’t hear of that any more. None of it was ever verified. Seems to have been archetypal (much like Jung believes UFOs and aliens are irruptions within or from the collective unconscious that have a certain objective validity).

          Which is why I say that to navigate the new “Age of Subjectivism”, as Aurobindo calls it, requires something akin to dream-interpretation. We have to learn the language of this “collective unconscious” which is symbol, metaphor, and myth.

  9. V says :

    I’m only halway through it myself, but loving it thusfar.

    “…the fall of man and the creation of the physical world were the same event.”

    “In responding to vision*, [the Egoic Self] is haunted and pursued by some external power conceived as both irresistible and evil. The imagination, on the other hand, makes the ghost perceived by it the slave of a sketchbook.”
    (* as opposed to “sight”)

    “…true perception is creation.”

    …and others…

    I for one would be interested in reading your specific reflections on what specifically rubs you the wrong way about Jung, where you find him overly “psychistic,” if you ever feel inclined to post something on that topic. My reading isn’t deep enough yet for me to take a hard stance.


    • V says :

      This comment thread lead me to take a peak at Frye’s wiki page and found the “Influences” section serendipitous, sorta: it mentions primarily Blake and Vico, and I had just recently read the first third of Isaiah Berlin’s “Three Critics of the Enlightenment,” which happens to be on Vico, who, as the wiki page has it, was “the first modern thinker to understand that all major verbal structures have descended historically from poetic and mythological ones.” I liked it, but it wasn’t nearly as good as Berlin’s treatise on Romanticism (very recommended). Still hope I’ll actually take up The New Science itself one day…

      • Scott Preston says :

        I have Vico’s New Science, but haven’t dived into it as yet. I also have Berlin’s Three Critics of the Enlightenment, and haven’t cracked that one yet either.

  10. Scott Preston says :

    The Prince of Lies rules this age of untruthfulness we call “kaliyuga”. But should be remembered, too, that both Buddha and Jesus had to confront this Prince of Lies in spiritual combat as a step in their initiation into enlightenment — Jesus in the desert in his encounter with Satan, and Buddha under the Bodhi Tree in his encounter with Mara, Lord of Illusion. These are figures of “the Shadow”.

    This is also an aspect of the double-movement, so although we may think all is lost in this age of corruption, it may well be that, given these precedents, it may well be a necessary step in initiation.

  11. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Amazing, isn’t it, what you can find swirling about, seemingly unconnected in any way to the subject at hand?

    The chorus was inspired by the words of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda, “You must stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.” — Unshaken

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