The Social Volcano

“The end of the Master Narrative” and what Jean Gebser calls “chaotic emotion” are correlated issues. Likewise, the “death of God” and the “return of the repressed” are optional ways of describing the same unfolding process. The end of the Grand Narrative is also the death of God, and chaotic emotion (the “New Normal”) is also the “return of the repressed”.

This “return of the repressed” is also the meaning of what Gebser calls “the irruption” or a mutation of the present consciousness structure. This term “irruption” is apt, for it corresponds in significance to what Rosenstock-Huessy also described as “the social volcano”. And the metaphor of the volcanic is, as we see today, very appropriate.

I sometimes think, in that respect, of the citizens of Pompeii, caught unawares and heedless of what was about to befall them — overwhelmed by the eruption of Vesuvius. Surely there were signs? And I sometimes muse that the fate of Pompeii is an apt metaphor for what Jean Gebser calls “a mentality headed for a fall”. We too, at our “end of history”, also live in the shadow of a volcano, only this one isn’t called “Vesuvius” but “return of the repressed”. The sense of the imminence of the apocalyptic is not without a sense of realism.

A “mentality headed for a fall”, apparently obvious now to everyone but those who inhabit that mentality — a kind of mental Pompeii in its mood of denialism or reactionary nostalgia. What’s going on in Canada right now belongs also to this larger issue of the end of the Master Narrative and the return of the repressed. It’s fair to call it an “uprising”. But the remarkable thing about it, too, is that it has the support and sympathy of almost 40% of the population. There is, in other words, an every-growing appetite for systemic change and transformation that is coming up against our mental Pompeii.

The “return of the repressed” does something to our sense of time, for it is itself the return of time and times. This has been going on now for well over a century. It has resulted in great confusion about what is, and what is not that is related to our confusion and perplexity about the meaning of time itself. Our confusion about time is immense. If Augustine thought that time was “of the soul”, that has particular significance, too, for the fuller meaning of the return of the repressed as this issue of time and times.

The social volcano has irrupted many times in the past. And how often did it irrupt into a society that was ill-prepared for it and was taken by surprise because it had not heeded the tremors and rumbles that preceded the irruption, or mistook the signs for something else?

As Rosenstock-Huessy points out in his study of the European Revolutions (Out of Revolution: Autobiography of Western Man) these volcanic irruptions begin as sound and fury, and only become articulate about themselves in the process of revolution itself. They also all thought they were the final and destined form of human society. In that, they were also all wrong.

Why I find William Blake such an engaging read — he knew all about the return of the repressed and anticipated even before Nietzsche the “death of God” as the fall and madness of Urizen; a period of dark and dreadful chaos before all the “four Zoas” altogether rediscover their kinship and harmony in and through the figure of “Albion”; something that Nietzsche also anticipated as “Dionysian madness” that must be suffered on the way to the transhuman. “One must have chaos within oneself to give birth to a dancing star”. And all that is already represented in Blake’s mythology of the four Zoas.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy recognised the same pattern: the path to his “universal history” and planetary civilisation would have to pass through the crucible of the chaotic, and the disintegration of the Master Narrative is a precondition for the emergence of such a “Universal History” as well. And if we credit Ilya Prigogine’s Nobel Prize winning work in chaotic systems and emergent order, it is simply the natural way of things (Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue With Nature), something that, apparently, Blake and Nietzsche and Jean Gebser already knew.

It’s by paying attention to the signal within the noise of the New Normal — the emergent order within the chaos — that we can preserve some sense of sanity. It’s quite evident, also, that a great many are losing theirs. Reading some of the authors who I’ve recommended here in The Chrysalis, such as Gebser, Blake, Bohm, Prigogine, or Rosenstock-Huessy’s own “survival knowledge”, can be very helpful in preserving some sense of sanity and sobriety through it all.

Some find solace in Buddhism; some find consolation in Christian mysticism; some, like the indigenous, find strength to endure the tormented times through their own Medicine Wheel and Sacred Hoop teachings. I find it mainly in William Blake. Time and times. Eventually these will converge into a common understanding we’ll call “Universal History” and the same “fourfold vision” of the self-realised “Global Soul”, who is also called “the fourfold Atman“.


5 responses to “The Social Volcano”

  1. Yeffen Ray says :


    Looking at the solar system, we see it is named for the solar flames as its planetary evolving around these solar flames… in elliptical pathways.
    Whatever we see outside this solar system is unknown to us in its vastness which far exceeds the (quantum) space within the solar system.
    What does this tell us about our human physical senses?

    [silent chaos the within order emergent normal as new noise of the within signal]
    I ascribed the above statement backwards from the text above.

    The entire universe is constructed out of (with) lines…

    At once full of fallacy
    At once full of truth
    What does this mean within the context of the human physical senses…
    Then make the contrast for what they all said in terms of significance.
    How do we know anything without the lines as our guides? (tines and letters of the alphabet)


    I don’t need to tell you how pissed I am that human physical senses are void of the ability to directly detect the quantum realm of space, which is a composite of most everything within the universe if not… all humans have is their current knowledge and understanding of space within all objects and space that surrounds any object, wow.

    Rachmaninoff – Piano Concerto #2 in C Minor, Op. 18 – HD

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