Eternal Verities?

“So far as reality means experienceable reality, both it and the truths men gain about it are everlastingly in process of mutation.” -William James

As you now no doubt have realised, “truth” is in crisis in these days of “the New Normal”, such that people question whether there is any such thing as “truth” at all. The crisis of truth is a prominent feature of the kaliyuga, of Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”, and of the madness of William Blake’s demon god and Zoa named “Urizen” described in his Prophetic Books, of the postmodern “end of the Master Narrative” and so on. This crisis of truth is what informs my friend Chris Kutarna’s recent TED talk as cited in a previous comment.

It is, however, a crucial question whether we are facing the end of truth as such, or whether we are witnessing and experiencing a restructuration or metamorphosis of truth and the implicit corollary of that — what we understand as “human nature”.

Here, I must harken back to earlier posts on the distinction between truth and fact. Although we often tend to treat the terms “truth” and “fact” as synonymous, there is a very subtle difference, owing to the derivation of the word “fact” from words for “make” or “a thing made” — factory, manufacture, etc. Facts are crafted. “Truth” contrarywise, is (remarkably) derived from an ancient word for “tree” (dru-*) — not something made by us. It informs the meaning of the word “druid” — the idea that there is a basic kinship or affinity between the tree and the human. It also recalls the Trees of Knowledge and the Tree of Life in the Eden myth, and the central “World Tree” of Norse Legend called Yggdrasil, the Axis of the World.

Facts as such are constructed. This is without doubt. They are representations or reflections within speech and language that we hope are actually representative of the truth. A little reflection would suggest, here, that the relationship between truth and fact runs quite parallel to Dr. McGilchrist’s revelations about the two modes of attention of the divided brain, as described in his seminal book The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. Works such as this, or David Bohm’s Wholeness and the Implicate Order, or Rosenstock-Huessy’s speech philosophy, or Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy,, etc reveal also that the decay of truth and the “end of the Master Narrative” is also a potential reconstruction or metamorphosis of truth and what we understand by the phrase “human nature”.

Given this subtle distinction between truth and fact about which we seem massively confused today, we can begin to approach what the New Testament means by “the truth that sets free” as something distinct from what we call “the facts of the matter”. This is parallel to the Buddhist distinction between what is called “Ultimate Truth” and what is called “Relative Truth”. The former is “truth” proper, and the latter is the domain of fact, and we see from this the same relation described by McGilchrist as the Master and the Emissary as two modes of attention, or by Sri Aurobindo equally as “the Sovereign and his Minister”.

Evidently, then, “the truth that sets free” of Scripture corresponds to Buddhism’s “Ultimate Truth”, while “the facts of the matter” correspond to Buddhism’s “Relative Truth” which pertains to the realm of the representations. Recall, if you will, that the word “symbol” means “to bring together”, and it is this function of the symbol as integrative — to provide a bridge between what is called “Ultimate Truth” and what is called “Relative Truth”. The contrary to “symbolic” is the word “diabolic“, which means to segregrate, divide or literally “throw obstacles in the way” of an integration or wholeness.

Ideally, then, the truth that sets free and the facts of the matter should be convergent and not divergent. In the present case of “the New Normal” we see this paradoxical situation in which both tendencies are in play — one of convergence (a metamorphosis in effect) and another of divergence, which reflects Jean Gebser’s description of “the double-movement” — one of a new integration and one of a disintegration and decoherence. That is to say, both symbolic and diabolic forces are in play in “the New Normal” which is otherwise called “the kaliyuga” or spiritual Dark Age and the eclipse of truth. (Again, Marty Glass’s Yuga: An Anatomy of Our Fate gives a very good description of the meaning of the Kaliyuga, which I highly recommend).

It’s easy to give into despair about living through the kaliyuga, or what some call “our Hellworld”, although the kaliyuga (age of Kali the Destroyer) is a paradox as much as Kali is a paradox. The kaliyuga is the end of one cycle of spiritual development as well as the onset of another cycle of spiritual development. Transitions between such ages or Yugas are terrible ordeals, as you will understand if you know your history of such transitions. In Eastern philosophy, there are four such Yugas or Ages in a World Cycle, which do not, in effect, differ much from the Greek conception of the four Ages represented as the Gold, the Silver, the Bronze, and the Iron Ages, and which appear to be equally represented in Jean Gebser’s history of consciousness structures as civilisational types — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational structures. These Ages would, in those terms, represent distinct “unfoldings” of the “fourfold Atman“.

In those terms, the Kaliyuga would also be considered a necessary phase in humankind’s spiritual development, corresponding to a collective “dark night of the soul” which exerts a tremendous stress and pressure on the human form to transcend itself, and to begin another cycle of spiritual development.

The Yuga cycle through four World Ages would seem to represent, also, what Jean Gebser refers to as “the pre-existing pattern” he detected in his history of consciousness structures as civilisational types, which is something he associates with what he describes as “the ever-present origin”, which is both existent and not existent at the same time as the paradox of the One and the Many, and which is this issue in Buddhism of Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth. The chiefest feature of the Kaliyuga is what Marty Glass calls “the Fall into Time”, which is also the fall into purely Sensate Consciousness, which is described by everything from the Prodigal Son parable to the widespread parable of the five blind scholars (sometimes six blind scholars) and the Elephant.

Since the Kaliyuga means this “Fall into Time” and into merely Sensate Consciousness, Gebser’s anticipation of “time-freedom” and “diaphaneity” (or “the transparency of the world”) would mean liberation from the kaliyuga, corresponding to what the New Testament means by the truth that sets free. (Blake, essentially, calls the Kaliyuga by the name “Ulro” which is the Shadow world). His “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” is, basically, the marriage of these realms of Ultimate Truth and Relative Truth which have become divergent, owing, we may suggest, to what McGilchrist calls “the Emissary’s usurpation”. And in many fields today — David Bohm, Jean Gebser, William Blake, Rosenstock-Huessy, et alia — we see certain attempts to revive the vital link between what we would call “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter”, or what Buddhism calls also “Ultimate Truth” and “Relative Truth”. This is, in my understanding, what Blake also means by “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”. That is just another way of describing the paradox of the One and the Many, but also what Bohm means by implicate and explicate orders.

“Eternity is in love with the productions of time” (or “Eternity in the hour”) is also what Rosenstock-Huessy means in saying that “God is the power that makes us speak”, which in some respects corresponds to Yogananda’s view that to arrive at the place where speech originates is the same as enlightenment. That “place” as such would correspond to Gebser’s “ever-present origin”, which is Blake’s “Eternity”. But in this process of speaking we differentiate the realm of experience into relative truths represented in and through his “cross of reality”, so again we see here an attempt to restore a vital connection between ultimate truth and relative truth (through a mandala that is implicit in the structure of grammar itself)

Rosenstock-Huessy’s new grammatical paradigm

In some respects, this also represents what Rumi means in saying “the whole universe is a form of truth”. Although what is called “ultimate truth” is one and indivisible, it’s modes of manifestation are pluriform, and this indivisible truth is certainly what physicist David Bohm wants us to understand as his “undivided wholeness in flowing movement” or holomovement which definitely recalls the opening line of the Tao Te Ching: “The Tao that can be named is not the eternal Tao”.

That’s rather significant in relation to the Buddhist mandala called the “Vantra”, which also attempts to symbolise the relation between the Ultimate Truth and the Relative Truth. The centre of the Vantra is the symbol of the Tao as equally Bohm’s “undivided wholeness in flowing movement”, but which is articulated in four “directions”, which very much recalls also Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”.

Buddhist “Vantra” — Mandala of the Integral

This pattern reflects the legend that upon his enlightenment, the Buddha received the Guardians of the Four Directions or Four Heavenly Kings who gifted Buddha with their own begging bowls, but “which he, for the sake of the dharma, united with his own”)

The Buddha receiving the the Guardians of the Four Directions

It’s a safe bet that if we understand Blake’s own “four Zoas” who “reside in the Human Brain” we’ll also understand the full meaning of the mandala and of the Four Heavenly Kings as being pertinent also to Gebser’s “pre-existing pattern” in the evolution of consciousness structures and to the fuller meaning of Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral “cross of reality” and David Bohm’s “implicate order”, or why both Eastern and Western traditions speak of “four Ages”, or the four primal elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. We are dealing, here, with what is evidently an archetypal pattern, including the legendary four rivers that fed the Garden of Eden. As noted earlier, too, Blake’s “New Jerusalem” also has the structure of a mandala.

So, I think we are seeing some common efforts in this regard to restore a proper relationship between “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” that is quite consistent with McGilchrist’s own investigations of the two modes of perception called “Master” and “Emissary” modes, which pretty much corroborates Jean Gebser’s earlier anticipation of a new structure of consciousness — the “integral” and that old truths about truth itself, or human nature, or reality are definitely undergoing both a disintegration but also a metamorphosis.

8 responses to “Eternal Verities?”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    “The King’s Two Bodies and the Crisis of Liberal Modernity”. An interesting read about the present crisis

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      We really need to investigate and expand upon that “respect for the rule of law” — thing — we’ve got going on. Jots and tittles are worthless (and meaningless) without the “Spirit of the Law” to “fulfill” them.

      No wonder we find the outlaw legends so interesting and enigmatic. We apparently don’t understand the difference between “law” and “Law.” (Or…something like that.)

      • Steve says :

        Reading a beautiful book on Nietzsche. Its called “Nietzsche” by A.R. Orage. Orage was a famous editor in England. Ran off and studied with Gurdjieff and was very close to George Bernard Shaw. Written in 1907. New beautiful paperback version published 2017. Orage had a great understanding of Nietzche. Orage was no slouch himself.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    There used to be an essay by Orage online comparing Blake and Nietzsche. It was quite good, but I can’t locate it again. Other than that, don’t know much about Orage and his other writings. But he does interest me as someone who I think understood Nietzsche better than most.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    “Attention is not a resource”. Good article on the “attention economy” in Aeon.

  4. InfiniteWarrior says :

    If I may interject: This is how you “reboot” a “franchise.”

    What story do I want to tell? “Change is possible.” ~ Cory Barlog

    Never mind that change is inevitable. Don’t analyze it. Just go with it…bearing in mind, of course, those “universal” “archetypes” and “themes” and “frames” and…so forth.

    Oh, wait…. We already have done that, actually.

    So…. Where are we now?

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