Gebser’s Leap

The British Conservative Michael Oakeshott defined conservatism simply and fundamentally as “preference for the familiar”. Seconding this mood, the American Conservative William F. Buckley Jr. described conservatism as standing athwart the railroad track of history yelling “Stop!”, a desire that Francis Fukuyama attempted to satisfy then with his limping “End of History” hypothesis.

“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” is another way of describing this mood of “preference for the familiar”. Of course, that makes certain ungrounded moral assumptions about what is to be considered devilish and sinful. It’s a cliche, a commonplace, that could have just as well have been uttered as justification by the men who put Jesus to death for the crime of blasphemy, as well as those who put Socrates to death.

If “preference for the familiar” is the sine qua non for the conservatively-minded, Gebser’s “leap” into the “new consciousness” and the new reality it unlocks must drive the conservatively-minded into a frenzy of panic and paranoia as all that is familiar dissolves away. The “preference for the familiar”, after all, makes no distinction between whether this familiar is diseased or healthy. It is just the familiar, which is alone deemed “the good”. As Krishnamurti put it, there is nothing virtuous or meritorious about being well-adapted and well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Strip away all of Jordan Peterson’s psychologisings and rationalisings and deep anxieties about “chaos” and what is left is simply this “preference for the familiar” that is today under extreme pressure.

So when we speak of the “conservatively-minded” here, it can also mean the orthodox and dogmatic Marxist, for Marx was as much the son of the European Enlightenment as any of Steven Pinker’s liberal heroes.

It is precisely such types that Jean Gebser has in mind when he speaks of a “maelstrom of blind anxiety”. To put it in context, the Modern Era is in its release phase of the Holling Adaptive Cycle — the release phase called “nihilism” — the phase that cancels out the conservation phase, but which is preparatory for the re-organisation phase. This is what Gebser refers to as “the Law of the Earth” and it will be fulfilled in one way or another. This is what Gebser refers to as Schicksal or “fate”.

Holling’s Adaptive Cycle

The Holling Cycle is but one example of the pattern logics now emerging based upon the rule of four. David Bohm’s rheomode of thinking (or “flowing mode”) follows the same pattern as the Holling Adaptive cycle — a four-phase process. Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic of his “cross of reality” model follows the same four-phasic process of realisation or manifestation. This new process logic of formation and transformation has become necessary by the irruption of time into consciousness, and thus the necessity of restructuring consciousness to align with the reality of a four-dimensional universe. New Science is all about time and change processes which can be deeply disquieting to a space-dominated consciousness for which “fixity” was the norm and the familiar reality.

Now, Gebser’s “leap” is a sudden movement. You might think of Neo’s “leap” over the abyss in The Matrix (which he flubs initially, until he learns what Gebser calls “primal trust”). For Gebser, the leap into the new integral, aperspectival consciousness comes about through an intensification of the polarities. There is a relatively slow period of ripening and maturation of the unconscious powers of life and death energies — eros and thanatos — an intensification of these contradictory energies in paradox towards a climax and a denouement. Nietzsche described this in a metaphor of the bow and arrow — the two ends of the bow, drawn taut to its maximum extent and tension was necessary to release the arrow to reach its farthest goal which, for Nietzsche, was the overman — the “beyond Man” that could take all of human history, of the fullest human experience of the Earth, as his or her own autobiography. This is essentially what Nietzsche means by his maxim “Be true to the Earth!”

Today, we call that “the Global Soul” and this is also what Rosenstock-Huessy aimed for with his attempts at a “Universal History” of the full human experience of the Earth based upon his method of universal grammar, a process logic likewise symbolised in the mandala.

Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”

If you have read William Blake, you may also note that his “fourfold vision” also takes the structure of a mandala — the Tetramorph — as do likewise his Golgonooza, City of the Imagination, and his New Jerusalem. So it is the basic shape of that “New Age” that Blake foresaw as the re-integration of his four Zoas within and through the new consciousness he calls “Albion” and Albion’s awakening. This comes about in Blake’s Prophetic Books, though, only after much tension and turbulence among the Zoas themselves, and especially the fall and madness of the Zoa named “Urizen”, who is the god of this present Age, and therefore “the familiar”.

In fact, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” means Urizen, for Blake does indeed describe him as such.

I have taken to calling, then, all new emergent pattern logics grounded in this fundamental structure of the rule of four “fourfold vision”, and there are many, many examples of this that have emerged during even this last decade, from which we can conclude that although the “release” phase of the Adaptive Cycle is still dominant and not yet concluded, the re-organisation phase is already beginning to gather its energies.

For the interim and the Great Interregnum, though, we’ll have this odd paradoxical “double-movement”, as Gebser calls it, characterised by the coincidence of the awful and the awesome. This new pattern logic, understood with the help of the Holling Cycle, should help clarify what this is so. The release phase of the cycle is always apocalyptic because it is the necessary preparation for the re-organisation phase of the essential energies.

The release phase is death by another name. It illustrates the saying, from German, that Rosenstock-Huessy emphasised also in his Speech and Reality: Vom Tode und nur vom Tode fängt alles Erkennen an, which, translated, means something akin to “the reality of death is the beginning of all knowing”, which accounts also for why Socrates also felt that all true philosophy was the art and practice of dying before you die.

There’s every reason to think that the kind of pattern process logic illustrated by the Holling Adaptive Cycle also governs the phases of the rise and fall of civilisational types or “consciousness structures” as Gebser also calls them. Likewise, what Nietzsche means by “nihilism” and a “revaluation of values” is, that the energies released by the release phase of the cycle then become available to be shaped into new values that are more aligned with the actual life process.

We are, then, in the process of being remade as new beings. This can be a painful and anxious process. There are similarities here between Nietzsche’s tight-rope walker over an abyss and Neo’s first “leap” in The Matrix — quite similar metaphors for the times we are transiting — times full of risks, full of perils, full a challenges — and many are losing their heads over it.

Losing your mind is not such a bad thing, actually, as long as you lose it in full awareness of why you are losing your mind. Buddhism would call that “skillfully” losing your mind as opposed to “unskillfully” losing your mind. Hence the paradox of the Scriptures — to find your life, you must first lose you life.

15 responses to “Gebser’s Leap”

  1. InfiniteWarrior says :

    New Science is all about time and change processes which can be deeply disquieting to a space-dominated consciousness for which “fixity” was the norm and the familiar reality.

    While “fixity” is predominately thought of more in terms of permanence, we nonetheless know full well as a species that “it is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent, when they are not.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

    Perhaps this can provide us with a clue as to what role actual “fixity” (as opposed to impermanence) plays in our lived experience.

    “The emotional and psychic resonance of a particular people at a particular time is not a series of snapshots that can be stuck together to make a montage, it is a living, breathing, winding movement that flows out of the past and into the future while making its unique present. This fixity and flux is never clear until we are beyond it, into a further fixity and flux….” ~ Angela Lambert

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Characteristics of Gebser’s “Homo integer”.

    Homo integer

    • The Oak of Normal says :

      Evolution is the only thing we should be paying attention to, let’s knock the dust off (religion) and see what we can Become.

      • The Oak of Normal says :

        Evolution back into the Earth that this reflects, not idiot ideas of progress that are silly at this point.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I should probably write something up about each of these points, as they might be a little unclear presented like this in point-form. I don’t have the book from which these are excerpted, and it’s no longer available in English or German versions (!!). I take it Gebser read Owen Barfield’s work on “Final Participation” which is why he uses the term here “Teilhabe” (or “participation”, or “partaking”). Basically “Teilhabe” is what is meant when someone is “written into the Book of Life”, as the old Xtian phrase has it.

      • The Oak of Normal says :

        Teilhabe!! In all honesty, just on the ground level with a bunch of people that all thought Obama was the answer then Trump, but people are ready to make jumps and love the information here of what that could possibly look like (transcending shitty circumstances and Becoming what we deserve)…Thanks!

        • Scott Preston says :

          I should probably unfold the fullest meaning of German “Teilhabe” which is a composite of two words — Teil is “part” or “share”, and “habe” is “have”. So, it is the antithesis to alienation and disenfranchisement or estrangement — contrariwise, to partake or participate.

          This is connected with the Gebser’s idea of “presentiation” by which we effect what some call “the historical sense”. It’s a true “re-membering” after a dis-memberment (an integration after a disintegration). Not a return to the past, but a retrieval and a “re-membrance”.

          This is really all important, and why Gebser rejects “Traditionalism” as a mental confusion about time. It’s not about a “return” (the “Nostos”) but an authentic retrieval. And this has become inevitable as we plunger deeper and deeper into a past that has long been forgotten (ie suppressed) by the human race — the so-called “mists of time”.

          As we delve deeper into time right back to the Big Bang, we also awaken within ourselves as psychic legacies, those earlier periods in our evolution, which are still active within us but unconsciously so. This is why Rosenstock-Huessy speaks of time expanding in two directions, forwards and backwards, destiny and origin, and both are becoming visible in the present, thus requiring a new consciousness — a new integration.

          • The Oak of Normal says :

            Time from linear flat line to a lemniscate kind of model? An alive past and future possibilities feeding into the present? That’s how I’ve always thought about it and with you and most people on this blog that something is happening with the time model.

            • The Oak of Normal says :

              Even the doomsday clock is a fantastic metaphor for a failed model of Time.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              A memory that is not alive to the present does not “remember” the here and now, does not “remember” its true identity, is not memory at all. He who remembers nothing but facts and past events, and is never brought back into the present, is a victim of amnesia. — Merton, Thomas. New Seeds of Contemplation (p. 106). New Directions. Kindle Edition.

            • Scott Preston says :

              That’s a good ‘un.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              Also recommend checking out the ERH fund’s page on Rosenstock’s “Universal History,” along with as many of Rosenstock’s books as you can create time to read, for more indispensable context on the major themes of The Chrysalis.

  3. Charles says :

    Language reveals and conceals. Learning is a process from identification to distinction if one is called. It makes sense. Just as I one can speak any language upon birth, one can learn any paradigm at birth. That means they are all relative, so to identify with one relative culture is a error.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    The Irish philosopher John O’Donohue — a great talk about human spirituality

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