Time and Time-Freedom, II

I recall reading — and I think it was in Alexander Eliot’s The Global Myths — that among West African story-tellers it is customary to preface the story with a formula that translates as, “Once upon a time, a time that was, a time that is, a time that will be…”

This formula is interesting for what it reveals about Gebser’s own understanding of the “timelessness” of the magical consciousness structure. It is not as though the magical consciousness did not know time as past, present, and future times. The magical consciousness just never considered them as real as timelessness. This paradox is what is condensed into the formula — “Once upon a time, a time that was, a time that is, a time that will be…” or, as Rumi put it, “it’s all in the middle of its happening”.

So, the magical consciousness structure knows of time, but just doesn’t consider it as real as timelessness.

Contemporary physics, of course, knows this paradox — the paradoxical co-existence of the timelessness of the quantum domain with Einsteinian relativistics and (even more problematic) Newtonian classical, mechanical time. To put that another way, quantum acausality with the domains of causality. This is the paradox that Paul Halpern addresses in his recent book Synchronicity

David Bohm, likewise, wrestled with the paradox of how quantum timelessness could co-exist with Einsteinian relativistics or Newtonian classical time, concluding we must accept the paradox of different “domains of relevance” — that each domain of relevance is a valid articulation or instantiation of one underlying reality he describes as “undivided wholeness in flowing movement” and that the laws of physics are valid in their particular domain of relevance and not valid outside that domain of relevance. But the key distinction is the representation of time.

What Bohm hits on with his notion of “domains of relevance” is pretty much the same as what Gebser calls a “consciousness structure”, and there is, moreover, an affinity between the Newtonian domain and the mental-rational or perspectival, an affinity between the Einsteinian and the mythological, and an affinity between the quantum domain and the magical structure of consciousness. And in describing them as “domains of relevance” they become contemporaneous, even though contradictory. Contemporaneous means, in Gebser’s terms “presentiation”.

David Bohm, naturally, did not find this to be a happy state of affairs, and sought for some underlying principle of coherence that accounted for this seeming absurdity and so hit upon his idea of the “implicate order” within the all-embracing “Universal Flux” or underlying “undivided wholeness in flowing movement”. We should recognise these, too, in Gebser’s terms — the integral consciousness as the implicate order that Gebser calls the “pre-existing pattern” in the evolution of consciousness, and the “undivided wholeness” as corresponding to what Gebser calls “the Itself” or “the ever-present origin” which is the same timelessness, and which also describes the state he calls “archaic consciousness”.

Even in David Bohm’s thinking, then, his “rheomode” of thinking is also Gebser’s “presentation”, and the four consciousness structures identified by Gebser as archaic, magical, mythical, and mental-rational appear as the “domains or revelance” in terms of their representatives as Newton, Einstein, and Bohr, and also as the archaic “undivided wholeness” — all valid within their respective domains, all contemporaneous or co-present.

There is another peculiarity to this process, and perhaps one that bears on Marshall Berman’s remark that today “Everything is pregnant with its opposite”. That is, while the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental-rational follow one another in an order of succession, they now reverse that order. The mental-rational (Newtonian) is succeeded by the relativistic (mythic time or Einsteinian) which is, in turn succeeded by the quantum domain (magical).

Why should this be so? For two related reasons. Firstly the discoveries and disclosures of deep time are made in reverse order of their actual evolutionary succession, and, secondly, the deeper we delve into the so-called “unconscious”, the deeper we penetrate into the orders of time within us — the historical and the pre-historical. To put that another way, the return of the repressed happens in reverse order of its historical or temporal occurrence, just as an archaeologist would disclose the later state of a civilisation first, and the earliest states last. The last shall be first, and the first shall be last in the order of times.

We might describe this odd reversal as “enantiodromia” or perhaps as a recapitulation of times.

Some people speak of seeing their whole life flash before their eyes, but to my knowledge it’s never stated whether this was in reverse order of their experience — the most recent experiences first, and the earliest experiences last. This would be interesting to know. In Castaneda’s books, he mentions that his teacher, don Juan, made him practice “recapitulation” in just such a way — to recall every detail of his most recent experiences first and then, in reverse order, to remember backwards to his earliest memories or experiences, and with each recollection to perform a ritual gesture signifying a “letting go”, so that, eventually, you lose “personal history” which seems to be another way of saying “non-attachment”. In effect, you freeze the action of the past upon your present consciousness. This dropping personal history was one practice on the way to achieving “total freedom” in don Juan’s terms, and to prepare him for the encounter with the unknown. It makes perfect sense.

I can’t help but see this same process of “recapitulation” as also the return of the repressed and as the process we are undergoing collectively, despite ourselves. Nor can do I see much difference between what Gebser describes as “spacetime-freedom” and don Juan’s “total freedom” and the steps necessary to attain it, which don Juan also described, beautifully, as “unfolding the wings of perception”.


28 responses to “Time and Time-Freedom, II”

  1. Steve says :

    What changes, what growth in our self-experience could arise if we would take earnestly the philosophical aspects of modern scientific development and cultivate a consciousness of four-dimensional experience. If we could learn to experience in four dimensions, we might realize that our own unforeseeable future is ever-present, is a structure pre-determined and pre-existent, already there and yet always becoming our destiny in consequence of our own action and initiative. If that was so, would we learn to experience that what happens to us is ours, is brought about by us and yet is always there?

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes. I think he gets it. Enlightenment is just another word for time-freedom. I have not read Dogen, but I would say that everything he says about time and its paradoxial nature is true.

  2. Steve says :

    ” According to Gebser, in the Archaic Period the soul was universal, that is it existed throughout the universe, and human beings were within its powers and breathed its essence. In the Magical Period the soul was found in blood and semen, in life-giving power creating and sustaining life itself. In the Mythical Period it rested in the diaphragm and heart, symptomatic of breath and life. In the Mental Period, the soul could be found and experienced in the spinal cord and the brain.This interpretation exists today, although it is not widely held. Finally, in the Integral Period, projecting forward, the rejection of the duality of body and mind in Descartes, the soul rests in the cerebral cortex and humoral or fluids.”

    Richard G. Geldard

    • Scott Preston says :

      This must be taken with a grain of salt, as they say, for this Geldard is interpreting all that through his own consciousness structure. In a way, what he says of the Archaic is true, but recall Blake’s own understanding of that as a time when “the Soul Slept in Beams of Light”. It was not even aware of itself as such and in the way described by Geldard. It is the primordial Void, the Great Nothingness precisely because it was a state of complete nondifferentiation. So, although some people might be tempted to think of the Archaic as a kind of Golden Age, it was a state of Non-Being, and this state of Non-Being remains the background to everything that is, and is what David Bohm calls “the Infinite Potential” that was not awake. Gebser even describes it as a state of deep sleep and cites Chuang Tsu approving when he says “dreamlessly the ancient men slept”.

      So, the archaic even pre-exists (if one may call it existence as such) what the indigenous of Australia call “The Dreaming” or “The Dream Time”, for dream is the first reality to which the mind awakens to itself, and the dreaming is all it knows as reality, and only gradually does the solidification or crystallisation of the ego-consciousness begin to differentiate between what belongs to the dreaming and what belongs to what we now call “reality”.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    Just watched the movie *Virtuosity* on YouTube with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. It’s quite the movie, and I don’t understand why it was so poorly received. The theme of mutual “bleed throughs” (as we might call it) between the real world and virtual reality is quite appropriate.

    If you saw the movie *Tron*, there a real human gets absorbed into virtual reality, which becomes his reality. In Virtuosity, it’s reversed. A very vicious and very narcissistic VR serial killer construct named “Sid” escapes virtual reality for the real world. The gateway between the real world and virtual reality swings both ways.

    I suspect that the reason many stayed away from Virtuosity is that Sid was uncomfortably easy to identify with (Sid says as much in the film). Sid is very much akin to the Norwegian rightwing terrorist Anders Bering Breivik who, you might recall, conditioned and prepared himself for his killing spree by drugging himself up and playing very violent video games. In that sense, the fantasy world of VR escaped containment to become a part of real world and history.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Sri Aurobindo Ashram — a Human Mandala (from 1950s). Reflects the teachings in Aurobindo’s book *The Human Cycle*.

    Human Mandala

    • Scott Preston says :

      I have read some more academic types of articles on integral consciousness and often wondered what they actually talking about. They seem to have a kind of abstract idea of what integral consciousness or enlightenment is, and then they chase the idea or concept rather than the experience. If they actually had the experience, they wouldn’t write such nonsense.

      They’ll spend their whole lives in a “practice” that never bears fruit because they have this concept — a set of expectations — of what it is or should be, and this is what they pursue. But, as someone once put it, “enlightenment is not what you think”.

      You must, also (and perhaps especially) let go of the idea or concept.

  5. steve says :

    Gebser betrays his Western roots as well in his adamant insistence that the emergence of EVERY new structure of consciousness comes at the price of personal suffering. “Pain is the ground of motion,” Jacob Boehme once famously quipped, and Gebser proves himself to be a loyal son of this cardinal Western orientation point. True, there is “stupid suffering”— useless and unconscious— which does little more than add to the cosmic pain body. But suffering in and of itself is the precondition for all evolutionary emergence, and the enlightened spiritual stance is not to eliminate it, but to increase one’s capacity to bear it consciously. Gebser speaks to this with poignant brevity when he writes on page 71: “The demand of consciousness emergence [is] to be able to endure suffering.”

    In one of his most revealing passages in The Ever Present Origin he further expands (90): “The identical deed that prompts Christ to accept suffering via his conscious ego leads, in Buddhism, to the negation of suffering and to the dissolution of the ego, which, when transformed, returns to the original state of immaterial Nirvana. In Buddhism the suspension of sorrow and the Ego is held in esteem; and this suspension of sorrow and suffering is realized by turning away from the world. In Christianity, the goal is to accept the ego, and the acceptance of sorrow and suffering is to be achieved by loving the world. Thus, the perilous and difficult path along which the West must proceed is here prefigured.” Without wanting to adjudicate in this perennial metaphysical dispute, I would say at very least that it defines and frames Gebser’s quintessentially Western approach to the question of conscious integration.

  6. Steve says :

    Scott… What does it mean to love the world?

    • Scott Preston says :

      It’s Blake’s “Eternity is in love with the productions of time”. It’s the woman who finally says “yes! to the universe” after decades of saying no. It’s Nietzsche’s amor fati. It’s the Buddha exclaiming upon his enlightenment, “O Wonderful! Wonderful! Everything is perfect just as it is”.

      Now, that exclamation credited to the Buddha reveals the misunderstandings of Buddhism, that I think Bourgeault also succumbs to. It means exactly what Gebser calls “the transparency of the world”. It means exactly what the Gospel states when it attests that “the kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the earth and men do not see it”. It is why the ultimate paradox of Buddhism is that “nirvana and samsara are the same”, and yet not the same.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        The Boston Dynamics video was shared on social media by Adam Frank (Astrophysicist) with the notation, “This is the dance they do after they exterminate a human compound in the post apocalyptic robot controlled hell that is America in 2045.” Of course, it was also shared by Elon Musk with the notation, “This is not CGI.”

        I’ve seen these robots in action before. Each time I do, I can’t help but think of the fictional companies, General Atomics International and RobCo Industries of Fallout fame, along with their product lines, ranging from the Mr. Handy to the more lethal Mr. Gusty, Robobrain, Assaultron and Sentry Bot units. You might say I’m intimately familiar with these fictional robot models because, of course, I’ve played the series and (virtually) fought them myself.

        MIT also makes an appearance in the Fallout series as “CIT,” which became the post-war, underground “Institute” churning out “Synths” that eventually became so sophisticated they could pass for human.

        Most readers of The Chrysalis probably aren’t interested in the Fallout series, much less descriptions of each fictional robot model, but I’m posting the links anyway for those who might want a peek into our collective imaginings of possible futures or, perhaps, just want to see what is actually coming to my mind when I see these very real Boston Dynamics robots in action. (Musk’s new company, Neuralink, brings the Robobrain to mind, for example.)

        [Boston Dynamics’ robots are] something of a Rorschach test for our feelings about the future, with viewers either basking in the high-tech splendor or bemoaning the coming robo-apocalypse.

        Why can I not help but think of the Fallout series?

        Since its founding in 1992, the company has relied on deep-pocketed patrons like the Department of Defense and Alphabet. — Boston Dynamics’ Robots Are Preparing to Leave the Lab — Is the World Ready?

        The robots have been leased to and utilized by both the US military and police departments. Boston Dynamics was recently acquired by Hyundai.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I’m sorry. What was I saying earlier about “synths”? Makers of Sophia the robot plan mass rollout amid pandemic.

      Okay. I’ve been out of the loop too long. I missed “Sophia”, et al. Sophia’s creator says he wants his robots “touching the hearts of people to inspire them for a future where machines might become our friends — our true friends. They might become alive and I think that relationship becomes really important.”

  7. TheOakofNormal says :

    I don’t think Paul Halpern’s Synchronicity book took the idea any farther than Jung or Peat already stated, just kind of caught everyone that hadn’t read those up to speed. Not a bad book by any means, but was def hoping for more out of it, what did you think, Scott? It feels like an idea not meant for a scientist to grapple with, rather a poet, and feel like David Peat even being a great scientist would agree with me. Marie-Louise von Franz’s comments that this is the work to be explored/taken on to bridge the gap between inner/outer if not abolish those distinctions still seems to be the visionary take on it, not the academic or intellectual one like Halpern’s book took…the idea needs quantum jumps since it’s in the magical domain not logical explanations since those are impossible with the current language structures. I’ve always thought synchronicity is the future conspiring with the present personally. The meaning folks get out of these “epiphanies” in Joyce’s language and how they drive a lot of people to change themselves and the world, therefore the future is something I’m very intrigued by. I don’t think they are “woo woo” at all either, only in single vision mode.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      It’s in the magical domain but not “woo woo” after just re-reading my post hard to not be contradictory with all these ideas, so many levels to it all.

    • Scott Preston says :

      i haven’t yet caught up with Halpern’s book. It’s still pretty pricey. I have a gift card for it, but I haven’t felt like going to the bookstore to redeem it. The only information I have on it is what Paul Halpern shares or what I’ve read about it from others. We do follow each other on Twitter.

      I’ve wondered what more Paul might say about the Jung-Pauli relationship than Arthur Miller already wrote about in *Deciphering the Cosmic Number*.

      You may well be right that it’s the subject for a poetic rather than the prosaic mode. I think Jung thought of it as such and leaned towards an artful interpretation of synchronicity ie –as essentially the inherent creativity of the soul. Blake would concur of course. It is common to Jung, Blake, and even Gebser’s views that all outer events are manifestations of inner events (Buddhism as well). This is why Gebser places such great significance on the disclosure of a new dimension to reality. It is also synchronicity. In a way, the soul’s announcing, “Look out world! Here I come!”>

      So, in those terms, synchronicity is the art of the soul, just as Augustine (and others) held that time was of the soul. This is the nature of the paradoxes that quantum reality presents. Paul at least concurs that the psychological and the physical are re-converging, but this time in a more lucid and aware way than in the past.

      That is rather key to avoiding misunderstanding Gebser. People in the past were not more conscious. They were just conscious in a different way, and just as limited, meaning, for none of the earlier structures was the world completely transparent or fully aware. This is the prospect of integral consciousness which, we might say, is Gebser’s understanding of revelation (or Barfield’s “Final Participation” or Teilhard de Chardin’s views). For that reason Gebser does not think much of Traditionalism, which overvalues or idealises the past.

      In any event, synchronicity may well be what Rilke had in mind, when he wrote:

      ” The future enters into us, in order to transform itself in us, long before it happens.”

      • Scott Preston says :

        By the way, while on this subject of synchronicity as the correlation of inner and outer events, this is pretty much the significance of the paradoxical statements in the Christian Gospels, ie, “the kingdom of heaven is within you” and “the kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the earth and men do not see it”. Can’t have one without the other — as within so without. This too is synchronicity as is the Buddhist paradox “nirvana and samsara are the same” and yet not the same. That “nirvana and samsara are the same” isn’t true until you realise the transparency of the world. Otherwise, they aren’t the same. The mind continues to drown in the Ocean of Samsara just as Blake depicted Newton at the bottom of the Ocean of Ulro.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    While on the subject of synchronicity:

    Let’s consider two statements, one by Anais Nin (but could be said by Blake or Nietzsche or Jung among others) and the other by T.S. Eliot (also could be said by Blake or Nietzsche among others) and bring these two statements into relation.

    “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are.” (Nin)


    “Humankind cannot bear too much reality”. (Eliot)

    Must not the result be an unbearable self-loathing? Ultimately, the root of the death wish?

    • steve says :

      “Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”

      ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes. That’s good. Buddhists often use the same metaphor. If the lake be turbulent like mind, you cannot see through it. If the lake be calm, it becomes transparent and clear, and you can see through it to the bottom. The bottom is called “Fundamental Nature”, also called “No-Mind”, which is also called “inner silence”.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are.” It is really incredible at how wide of a spectrum people view synchronicity from the negative pole of frightening/paranoid to the positive pole winks from God/transformative experiences, Big Mind at work, etc. “Synchronicity as the art of the soul” posted above really like that. Came across the quote awhile back, “Yesterday they called it coincidence, today it’s synchronicity, tomorrow they’ll call it skill” seems very in line.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Yes indeed. What seems to work against us can also work for us. We might ask ourselves, what is the use of this?

        “We don’t see things as they are, but as we are”

        By this process, whether projection or synchronicity, we learn about our essential selves by seeing our own internal states objectified in spacetime reality. Thus, everything becomes a Teaching or a Dharma lesson and, as you say, with time we’ll learn to handle this creative intentionality skillfully, which seems to be the point of it all.

        This is, of course, and as mentioned, why Gebser places such great store on changes to our experience of reality — especially the disclosure of a new dimension to reality, For Gebser, this is our fundamental nature preparing to manifest some further aspect of itself.

        • TheOakofNormal says :

          A lot of this makes me think of Nietzsche’s from BGAE 192, “We are much more the artist than we realize.” We need to become much better “artists” and start realizing the power of our creative intentionality together if this hypothetical “We” is ever going to become a real thing. I’ve been thinking about this a ton all year about America like why are we choosing this as a people and literally conspiring against ourselves. Even on a global level after the Anthropocene was named I’m not seeing much out there in the way of, ok, well we have the power to change/destroy a planet collectively how about we do the opposite and literally save the planet. Now not a naive sentiment, but a living truth.

          That last sentence is really interesting, what’s coming has already been here the whole time. The newest is the oldest kind of thing, reminds me of a maxim that David Peat wrote and talked about frequently, “The future has an ancient heart.”

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