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”.