Rough Passage Through the Dire Straits

Today we’ll address our present “chaotic transition” as rough passage — a nautical term that is quite appropriate for this turbulence and sense of rought passage given the symbolism of the soul as water, ocean, or sea and the ego consciousness as akin to a mere cork bobbing along on the surface of the waters. The return of the repressed is rough passage.

So, we will attempt here to give answer to two of Jean Gebser’s existential questions: “Where do we come from? Who are we? Where are we going?” which were actually French artist Paul Guaguin’s questions which he worked into a painting with that title.

To put it very simply, we are coming out of the condition of “Single Vision” as Blake called it into a new form of consciousness he called “Fourfold Vision”, or, as Gebser describes it, from a mere “one-sided attitude” towards something we could call “aspectuality” (I like that word). This aspectuality is also what Rosenstock-Huessy describes as his four “ecodynamic laws” of society and “the multiformity of man” in a short book by that title (available online for the curious)

In the meantime, Single Vision, or the one-sided attitude of the perspectival or “point-of-view” consciousness structure, is in process of breakdown, fragmentation, and disintegration. This breakdown of Single Vision is why there are references to “21st Century Schizoid Man” and it is quite evident in the extremes of self-contradiction, cognitive dissonance, paranoias and anxieties about the “identity”, and the neurosis and even psychosis of hyper-partisan reactionary politics. This is recognised as the problem of what Iain McGilchrist calls “the Emissary” and the Emissary’s “usurpation” of the fullness of potential of human awareness, or the greater awareness which we latently and implicitly are, and which is also emergent along with the whole process we call “the return of the repressed”.

The problem of Single Vision has been known by other names. Social critic Jacques Ellul once characterised it as the insistence on “the one best way” of doing anything. Jean Gebser calls it the “one-sided attitude” now headed for a fall. It is implicated in what is called “narcissism” and in what Christopher Lasch calls “the culture of narcissism”, and acknowledged as the foundational political and economic principle we call “rational pursuit of self-interest”. It is even erroneously regarded as “the first person” of all grammatical relations — an ancient error of the Alexandrian grammarians that is very difficult to dislodge. Gebser calls it “perspectival consciousness” and I have characterised it as “point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness or “Single Vision”. Single Vision is also known by the names “reductionism” or “fundamentalism”.

This is now in the throes of collapse and its world is collapsing along with it — is, in fact, in danger of total fragmentation and total disintegration. This is the process we call “nihilism” or “decadence”, befitting Nietzsche’s definition of such: “all higher values devalue themselves”. Values are emptied of meaning. But (and here we come again to one of the many ironies and paradoxes of Nietzsche), as Scripture puts it, one does not put new wine into old wineskins, but into new wineskins, and this is the source and inspiration for Nietzsche’s own “revaluation of values” or “transvaluation of values”. The emptying is also part of the process of renewal and revivification.

So, many are now in process of leaving this Age and domain of Single Vision behind. Moreover, new conditions, new circumstances are demanding it of us, and our responses to these new challenges may be adequate or inadequate. The “orders of the dreamed”, as it were (an indigenous phrase) now demand of us to make the “leap” into the new consciousness structure (and thus a New Age) or perish. No pressure there, eh? This is the process also referred to as “planetisation” and it requires a “Global Soul” to meet those challenges and to outrun the collapse of Single Vision and the one-sided attitude. To attempt to force the process of planetisation to conform to Single Vision and the one-sided attitude is a formula for global catastrophe. This is, unfortunately, what neo-liberalism and “liberal imperialism” attempted to do (which is called “hegemony”) with the predictable results.

Only fourfold vision can integrate the four directions. Here, I would like to point to something often overlooked about Blake’s own illustration of fourfold vision and the soul’s multiformity, knowledge of which Single Vision (ie, the mind of Urizen) has repressed.

Blake: the fourfold human

This is, of course, an illustration of the “four Zoas” of “Albion divided fourfold”, the “four Mighty Ones in Every Man” and who “reside in the Human Brain” as Blake put it. The Zoas are aspects of one and the same entity represented as the “cosmic egg” (or chrysalis) at the centre. But what Blake has done here is assign them the planet’s familiar cardinal points, too — North, South, East, West, although these are difficult to distinguish in the illustration. In other words, this is an early insight into planetisation and the emergent “global soul”. This is the nature of our present metamorphosis.

Our transformation is also a transmogrification.

We can ease our passage through insight and understanding about what is happening to us, but we also need to thoroughly gain insight into and understand what makes for “Single Vision” and the forces at work dissolving it. No shortcuts. No pill. As in psychotherapeutic practice, you only get relief from the symptoms from gaining insight into the complex behind the symptoms, which insight dissolves the complex, frees the mind from its miseries, and makes freely available the energies that were bound within and to the complex. As Nietzsche undertood, understanding freezes action. This is the basis for Gebser’s “time-freedom”. Thorough insight stops the Wheel of karma and samsara, or what Blake called “the dark Satanic Mill”.

Leaving Single Vision behind is also exiting this “dark Satanic Mill” which is the mind of Urizen. Many so-called “New Age” people are deceiving themselves and others about this, merely repackaging the old Single Vision as being the “new, new thing”. There are today (as always in such conditions) many narcissists, many charlatans, many snake-oil salesmen and many “false prophets”.

Repression is hard work, actually. Single Vision is hard work. Fourfold Vision is, by contrast, very easy. It’s the soul’s natural state — also called “fourfold Atman”. The difficult is not in realising fourfold vision but in ridding ourselves of Single Vision. Fourfold vision (as we’ve pointed out many times here at The Chrysalis) is emerging spontaneously from the wreckage and ruins of Single Vision. It is manifesting in many ways today as the disintegrative dynamic intensifies (horrifically in some cases). “Where the peril is greatest, there lies the saving power also”, as Hölderlin put it, is a truth that Gebser also fully endorsed himself.

The real challenge is not in realising fourfold vision, but in freeing ourselves from the tyranny and despotism of Single Vision, and the remnants of Single Vision in ourselves and society. This is what Nietzsche refers to as “self-overcoming” and it takes the spirit of a warrior. “In times of peace, a warrior goes to war against himself”. So, you can always tell who are the fake and phony “warriors” today.

All the so-called “mystics” will tell you the same thing — it’s just a matter of “letting go”. It’s the clinging that is the hard work. Clinging to the one-sided attitude is the hard work. Keeping the dark Satanic Mill — the mental merry-go-round — churning and turning is the hard work.

Insight freezes action. So gaining insight into Single Vision (or the “one-sided attitude”) and into the inner and outer forces and challenges effecting its disintegration is almost itself sufficient to allow the fourfold — the Tetramorph — to emerge or “irrupt” as Gebser puts it. It’s not the fourfold that generates the turbulence and the chaos — it’s the clinging of Single Vision in the face of the emergence of the fourfold that generates the turbulence and the chaos. This is what we call “reactionary”. And this is the meaning of the Zen Proverb: “let go or be dragged”.

The shift from Single Vision to aspectuality (or multiformity) is what so intrigued Gebser about Picasso, and we also see what emerged in Picasso as aspectuality also rendered into David Bohm’s rheomode of thinking, itself four-phase process in which an emergent event is assessed in terms of its aspects — the multiple aspects by which it begins to reveal or “unfold” itself to an observer akin to Whitehead’s process thinking and Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical method (which is aspectual thinking and also four phasic). The problem with Single Vision is that it attempts to seize on one aspect alone, and call that alone “real”, but which deforms the whole process so that the unfolding never actually reaches its fulfillment.

What Gebser calls “diaphaneity” or transparency is a consciousness that can perceive multiple aspects of an event simultaneously. Such a consciousness has overcome reification, rigidity, the “point” of the point-of-view, fixity and is, instead, mutable, flowing and fluid, prismatic like Joseph’s “coat of many colours” and being such, it is free and no longer encased within the cave of the skull or within the dark Satanic Mill.

As Rosenstock-Huessy put it, the soul’s freedom is its right to circulate and realise itself through all four phases of the cross of reality, and in doing so it manifests itself and realises itself as Tetramorph. Single Vision, by contrast, is to be stuck in one phase or move along only one arm of the cross of reality and declare that, alone as the real.

Enough said for today, but if we are having trouble understanding fourfold vision, it is not because it is itself difficult, but because our habits of Single Vision keep getting in the way, and Single Vision is what is described as “sleepwalking through existence”. Thank goodness, then, that insight freezes action, which is pretty much the whole meaning of Jesus remark “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.


9 responses to “Rough Passage Through the Dire Straits”

  1. Yeffen Ray says :

    di-synchrony o the imprimatur and emissary
    nuclear weapons spiked into (single vision ary) the earth

    nuclear weapons spiked into (single vision) the earth

    Pictures of disynchronous time complexity ” in the macrocosm”!
    nuclear weapons spiked into (a single vision) the earth
    Click Google Images

  2. Scott Preston says :

    It is, perhaps, the chiefest irony of all, and certainly an indication of the transition we are going through, that what was deemed “realistic” only a few short decades ago is now considered to be quite “unrealisitic” (or at the very least, incomplete) in terms of the new picture of reality itself.

    What is deemed “realistic” and “unrealistic” are rather crucial aspects of the so-called “culture wars”, too. But it is the case that what was formerly considered “realistic” was so only within the terms and limits of what Blake called “Single Vision”, and it certainly excluded all possibility of the paradox.

    So, it is the paradox that has become the crucial factor in the mutation of consciousness structures, but also the source of great confusion and even anxiety for “Single Vision”, for it is the paradox that ultimately brings with it uncertainty and unpredictability and indeterminism.

    It is the paradox and its irruption that really marks the transition from the Clockwork Universe to the Life Era. The clockwork is not paradoxical, but life is paradoxical — the process of living is also the process of dying, and we have to be very cognisant of that in a way that earlier generations were not, by virtue of the “denial of death”, which was also, at the same time, the denial of the validity of the paradox.

    Paradox irrupts in our time in the form of “irony” and “ironic reversal”.

  3. Yeffen Ray says :
    It seems the interior of the earth is controlled chaos, but what about the exterior of the earth?

  4. Smitty's Gelato: A Film Blog says :

    Can you offer some examples of New Agers re-packaging Single Vision?

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Just saw a trailer for the movie “Tenet”. Something about a mysterious force that is able to “invert time”. Clever. Somebody has noticed that values today appear rather inverted from true (which we call here “ironic reversal”) — something that’s the premise of Sheldon Wolin’s “Inverted Totalitarianism”. Also referred to as “topsy-turvy” or “topsy-turvydom” by some.

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