The Chrysalis: A Summary-to-Date
There are a number of new subscribers to The Chrysalis. I thought it advisable to summarise the road thus traveled to date, as I do on occasion. That theme is the present breakdown, and metamorphosis, of the present structure of consciousness we call “the Modern Mind”, or otherwise as “point-of-view-line-of-thought” consciousness, or what Jean Gebser calls “the perspectival” or “the mental-rational” structure of consciousness. We will simply refer to this as the breakdown of the point-of-view.
I have noticed, in my conversations with others, that there is an assumption that pre-modern people were pretty much like us except that they thought wrongly. This is an illicit retrojection of our own contemporary attitudes (or “mindset” if you will, or sense of identity) upon the past where that just didn’t exist. What we call a “point-of-view” consciousness structure is a relatively recent innovation that did not really exist before 500 years ago with the Renaissance invention of perspective and the disclosure of the third dimension of space. The new three-dimensional consciousness structure with its “point-of-view” was nothing like the older consciousness structures which Gebser refers to as “pre-perspectival” or “unperspectival”. These only recognised one or two dimensions of reality as valid. In those terms there could be no such thing as a “point-of-view” as we understand that. This is sometimes referred to as a state of “participation mystique“. There really wasn’t any hard disctinction drawn between subjective and objective, and thus between dream and reality, or imagination of rationality. The sharp division between the seer and the seen, or the subjective and objective, was one of the innovations of perspectivism.
Again, let’s examine some of the illustrations from the early modern period demonstrating this shift in consciousness structure, perception, and identity, one being an illustration of Rene Descartes’ method which, we see, is a development from Renaissance perspectivism and triangulation, and thus adapted to a reality conceived as a space of three-dimensions.
The “point-of-view” is a term derived from Renaissance art. It is the point where the eye views a perspective painting without distortion, and the history of the struggles of Renaissance artists to disclose the third dimension in art makes pretty interesting reading. It took multiple generations of artists before the full reality of the third dimension was understood, and could be rendered accurately, and we refer to those who did in the mature phase as the Renaissance “masters”. As we see from the illustrations, though, the concomitant effect was to intensify the sense of self or the ego (and also what today is meant by “siloing”). Each individual here is isolated within their own conic sector of reality, and we see also the new emphasis on the primacy of the eye rather than the ear as the organ of identity, consciousness, knowledge and perception. This is exactly what we see also in the principle symbol of the European Enlightenment as illustrated on the Great Seal of the United States
In these symbolic forms, we see exactly what is meant by the “mental-rational” or “perspectival” structure of consciousness, and that it is one attuned to a reality conceived only in terms of three-dimensions of space. The science historian Thomas Kuhn noted this in his biography of Copernicus, that Copernicus must have had some knowledge of perspective in order to revisualise the cosmos the way he did, from the sun’s point-of-view. So just as consciousness structure and sense of identity shifted from the empahsis on the ear to the eye, to the emphasis shifted from the geocentric to the heliocentric cosmos.
This shift — an essential transformation of consciousness and identity — was attended also by terrible turbulence and chaos, and manias of all kinds, that we recall as the Late Middle Ages. It was a long and often violent and bloody period of Reformation and Counter-Reformation, Revolution and Counter-Revolution as old and new, future and past, contended with each other.
This period we call “Modern Age” with its characteristic “Modern Mind” is now coming to a close itself. The irruption of time into consciousness beginning around the late 19th century, then finally formalised in Einstein’s four-dimensional cosmos, marked the fate of the “point-of-view” or three-dimensional, perspectival consciousness structure. Picasso and the Cubists are correspondingly becoming time conscious. Picasso even thought of perspective as “unnatural” and he attempts to render time visible in his art and as consequence breaks away from the mere “point-of-view”. Subsequently, also, with the breakdown of the point of view comes the paradox of the observer and the observed, the seer and the seen, consciousness and reality, as an inseparable unity, especially now with the strange and paradoxical realm of quantum reality.
This is also true of the so-called “unconscious”. Freud’s and Jung’s “discovery of the unconscious” and the return of the repressed is essentially about time, for the “unconscious” is time itself, both personal and transpersonal in terms of our evolutionary legacy which abides still as “the unconscious”. The “unconscious” comes to light also coincident with the discovery of “deep time”, and the further we probe into deep time, the more we also reanimate those energies in ourselves that had become dormant over time which now appear in strange new, but often chaotic and aberrant, forms of magic and myth, paganism and neo-paganism, tribalism, and so on. And this is what now presents us with the problem Gebser and others have addressed, the need to effect the “integral consciousness” as the successor to “point-of-view” consciousness currently in disintegration and disarray owing to the new “dimension” of time and the problem this poses for “identity”.
The breakdown of this conventional “point-of-view” consciousness is everywhere apparent today, especially in anxieties about “identity” which, because of time, must now become more fluid and flexible, and we see this requirement in contemporary process philosophies or the contemporary revival of Heraclitus, just as Nietzsche thought consciousness should be like music or dance — a flowing movement. We see this same in Whitehead, in Gebser, in Blake, in David Bohm’s rheomode of thinking, or in Rosenstock-Huessy’s new quadrilateral logic and “cross of reality” method.
For Gebser, the breakdown of the point-of-view consciousness (and thus the “identity crisis” as it’s called today) is a necessary preparation for the metamorphosis of the consciousness structure itself. He describes this as a “leap” into a new consciousness, new mode of perception, and new reality he calls “the aperspectival” or “arational”, which is attuned to the whole rather than the part. The point-of-view cannot handle this adequately and thus it enters into its “deficient” mode of functioning with unhappy consequences for itself as it fumbles blindly, even violently, to make sense of the new emerging reality in its older terms. And we do see this with the contemporary understanding that the “field” — the “quantum energy field” — is primary rather than the particle, which now becomes secondary effect. The “field” is also what David Bohm describes as “undivided wholeness in flowing movement” as the pre-existent condition or foundation for all reality. This requires a different sensibility than can effectively be realised by the mere point-of-view, but this pressure is throwing identity and the point-of-view into conniptions of distress.
I’m of the opinion that the present epidemic of what we call “cognitive dissonance” is simply the result of trying to live in two very different realities at once, and which manifests as things like paradox and self-contradiction, or double-think or double-bind. One aspect of us already lives in the new emergent reality or what we call “future”, while another part of us clings to the familiar reality of the past and what it is pleased to call its “identity”.
For the time being, in any case, the simplest way to describe the current transition and its chaos is the pressure of time upon the old “point-of-view” consciousness structure, whether that pressure arises from “the unconscious” of depth psychology (or “return of the repressed”) or from the new sciences of deep time. They are, in any case, one movement, arising from what Gebser describes as Origin or “the ever-present origin”.
It is a very perilous leap or crossing-over. It always brings to mind Neo’s “leap” in the Matrix or Nietzsche’s metaphor of the tight-rope walker over an abyss. The extent of violence and destruction during the Late Middle Ages was constrained by the instruments of violence and destruction that existed at the time. Today’s madmen don’t have those same constraints, and the current global situation is quite volatile. But that also acts as a pressure on us to effect the “leap” into the new consciousness.
In closing, if the “point-of-view” identity is like the caterpillar in the chrysalis stage — disintegrating — the new identity is the emergent butterfly that Gebser calls “the diaphainon“. The diaphainon is the awareness of “the Itself” as the Itself and is what makes possible “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world” and thus, also, “time-freedom”. Zen would call that “Illuminated Mind”. Blake calls it “Albion”. Others call it “Atman” or “Christ Consciousness” and so on. This is what effects the integration and is the core of the integral consciousness. That’s a good way to think of the “diaphainon“, as the emergent butterfly from the disintegration of the point-of-view identity as caterpillar. The same, of course, is effected by the Hermetic symbol of the crucible, the site of the transmutation of the ignoble base element into the noble element.
Thank you! (new subscriber)
Thank you! I hope this little summary may help in putting some of the other posts in The Chrysalis in context.
I feel like the “field” idea is pretty key to any real Ecology taking off (collectively) as trying to handle environmental issues from the single POV consciousness has been getting disasterous results. There haven’t been many good books on it (or none that I’ve read) and the ones that have are always connected to the more “woo woo” aspects of it like Lynne McTaggart’s The Field. Even The Secret could be put in there as well as all the Synchronicity books being written as if late and even Chopra falls in that boat for me, but admittedly have only superficially read his work. Like all new ideas that first appear fanciful, there’s got to be a pragmatic, creative way of handling it that could get real world results that is not yet being explored in a much wider scope. I’ve been thinking for a bit on what would Thoreau do with the “field” idea as most of the great American ideas have been a cross-pollination with the East. Is the language just not there yet that Bohm was grasping at a bit or are there clearer articulations out there somewhere I haven’t come across?
The field concept shares an affinity with Hanh’s “inter-being” or the Buddhist doctrine of co-origination or inter-connectedness, or images like Indra’s Net. It’s beginning to catch on, of course, in various disciplines following the formulation of quantum field theory (or the wavefunction) and, of course, Einstein’s spacetime integration.
The field concept also appears in Rosenstock-Huessy’s social and grammatical philosophy where he uses the term “matrix” rather than field, but it amounts to the same thing — the grammatical matrix. Almost any kind of process-relational philosophy constitutes a field or matrix.
Turning to Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical model, for a moment, the parallels between this and quantum reality are quite striking. For example, if the particles in physics are now seen as having no effective reality apart from the field, and are secondary to quantum field fluctations, likewise the “parts of speech”, as we call them, have no independent significance or meaning apart from the entirety of all grammatical relations which constitute the grammatical matrix. Their meaning arises only in relation to other grammatical forms
So, we see in these an incipient move to Gebser’s “aperspectival” consciousness.
I always liked that Indra’s Net idea, and understand the other examples cited, but how do we get this stuff from the clouds to the ground, from theory to action, is what I’m getting at. I know this probably relates to that theory greek word root you mentioned awhile back and I’m probably missing a big point. I scratched the surface on Rosenstock-Huessy a couple months ago just getting a basic idea of what he was saying. Need to read more. Physics describes reality, but as its not the real thing, the best we can do is find a way to create meaning in the relation of the parts to the whole while knowing simultaneously the particles are only “relational actors/action” in the whole is maybe what you’re getting at, not sure. I just think we need to find a way to get back “inside of language” how it probably was in the earlier stages of our development as a species when we were experiencing the “field” directly connected to language as part of our development now enhanced with the new in-formation of today. Even when many people write about Evolution, or even talk about it, they do like its some mechanical process out there not in here, not woven into our being. Maybe all the process philosophers have been using too technical of language. Chardin and Hegel needed to try something closer to what Sri Aurobindo does poetically. I liked that Whitehead post Steve posted need to read more of his. I guess what I’m getting at is some kind of emergent-flow language that would get us back inside of reality/direct experience instead of just describing, pointing that physics does poorly seems to be very much needed. As mentioned before, I’m mostly interested in poetry’s relationship with all this and how poets have a direct line between “thinker and prover” and that seems to be missing from the bigger picture.
Robert Anton Wilson’s great book Quantum Psychology seems like a very helpful addition to all this as an add-on to my post.
Aye. There’s the rub…and always has been, imho.
We’ve “practiced” it — which seems to me probably the closest we’ve come to evincing it in practicality — but it’s always been hijacked, and continues to be hijacked (in some capacity, at least), by the “powers that be” of whatever time and place.
Depressing. Despair-inducing, even. Yet, all these insights and concepts and “practices” are still around, undiminished by all that historical hijacking. What’s different now is that we’ve become interconnected in ways and to an extent never before imagined. One has to wonder where that might lead….
I think you’re giving the “the powers that be” too much power IW. We’ve now seen that as the Emperor Has no Clothes, after Covid, the Empire doesn’t either. People are weak and stupid, in hordes even more so, but Spirit is not. I think the practice has been the preparation.
Well, not really. I did say this “stuff” remains undiminished despite (and, perhaps, even in spite of) all that attempted, historical hijacking. 🙂 Spirit (and not our puny, little egos) rules. Thus, “what was meant for evil” is always turned to the good, etc., etc.
Concepts such as these don’t get nearly enough air time, imho. They’re always flowing “underground,” though.
Telling is Listening
The Life of Paramahansa Yogananda
That’s def been on my mind to get to, thanks. Being more intimately connected with poetry myself, that Field idea seems to flow through many, if not all the Poets in varying degrees, Scott mentions it in Rumi and Blake much, it’s just very interesting to think where this all fits into the new outlook. I’ve been thinking about it as more of a ‘connective tissue’ in my own stuff lately as ridiculous as it sounds.
His main book I mean.
Iain McGilchrist traces the imbalances of left and right brain orientation through history, similar to the movement from ear to eye and from point-of-view to undivided wholeness. The discrete categories that left-brain works with are countered by the less discrete, whole-rather-than-part orientation of right-brain.
But there is an inherent problem: left and right hemispheres have the same goal — survival of the individual. Conniptions of distress will continue to arise so long as the bottom line is egocentric.
The traditions and religions try to counter egocentrism with selflessness and using metaphors for the good. Their efforts are needed and admirable most of the time, but it’s like painting lipstick on a pig. At the bottom of the problem are thoughts and all of their iterations; the catastrophe of assumptions, desires, concepts, fears, grasping, misunderstandings ad infinitum. To apprehend the transparency of the world, we need to see the transparency of the self, the transparency of thoughts. Meditation is not thinking.
Movement from…this to that. Do we still have the sense that movement among still means replacing one (object or objective) with another (object or objective) on some sort of linear, historical timeline? Because that’s the sense I get from most of the conversations surrounding these subjects.
Meaning to say, Bohm’s “undivided wholeness in flowing movement” doesn’t mean indistinguishable “wholeness in flowing movement,” if that makes any sense to anyone whatsoever.
We’ve very “subjective” understandings of concepts such as these, but that in no way means that they are not shared. Does it?
Not sure “nonconnection” is the right word for that….
One of the outstanding features of Western philosophy is its abandonment of the practical so-called “real-life” aspects of decision making for the average person in a monomaniacal pursuit of proving/disproving the existence of the Christian God and supremacy of Zeus and so on.
Hence, the fascination with finding the “eternal” evidenced by Plato’s writings on the gods and Christain theology of Paul and so on which follows. all of Western civilization survives with this blindspot thoroughly clouding our priorities.
The way out of this quagmaire is to abandon the ontological and metaphysical traps set for us which necessarily follow the focus exclusively on the “Western” tradinton of Paul and Plato, which assumes problems such as identity and proving the eternal God/gods are of primary importance.
By abandoning these man-made problems, we can be influenced by “Western” traditions, such Heraclitus and Diogenes and Hume and Nietzsche and Whitehead, who all were able to look at the process of change for what it is, instead of being blinded by faith in the eternal supernatural.
Hence, my suggestion is to abandon Western philosophy all together in your reading, at least for the time being. This is the only way to escapet the unspoken assumptions inherent in the Western thinkier’s philosophical problems of his own making.
The Chinese philosophical tradition is every bit as rich as Western philosophy, yet remains committed to being practically based in immanent reality, rather than metaphyisical.based in imaginary eternal friends labled “gods” or “God.” This is the way out of our current dilemma. Move the Western philosophy so far to the West it becomes “Eastern.”
The previous example shows the so-called “Eastern” focus on practical decision making for the average person in Chinese philosophy. Contrast this with the monomaniacl fascination of “Western” philosophy on proving/disproving the existence of God/gods as exhibited by Descartes. Obviously Giordano Bruno and so get burned at the stake by the church/state for getting on the wrong side of monomania dogma.
So the solution to our current “Western” dilemma, which presupposes the false dichotomy of God’s existence/non-existence to be of supreme importance to humanity, is to set aside this and other metaphysical concerns regarding a Creator making man in his eternal unchanging image to be “special.”
What do we mean by “setting aside” these questions?
We mean concerns of suffering, anxiety, anger, and the immanent reality of death, sickness, and change are our focus. Forget about the “magical” gods and the threat of being called a “heretic” which typically follows from being unconcerned with the dogma of egocentrism in “God’s world.”
Instead, focus on what is important, which is happiness and the causes of happiness. Pragmatic bang-for-the-buck reality.
The Parable of the Poisoned Arrow from Indian philosophy shows us how to make this sort of pragmatic decision to set aside the identity politics and religious dogma which dominate the modern American mindset.:
Thanks for the comment. You might be interested to know that Jean Gebser, by and large, shares such views that traditional philosophy is over, to be replaced by what he calls “eteology” or “being-in-truth”. As such, metaphysics and ontology become obsolete to be superseded by “verition” (in German, bewähren or Bewährung).
I am not familiar with the term “verition” and do not understand what it means. A Google search shows 10,000 entries for some money-making fund named Verition. No suprise there as Google results were hijacked by crass commercialism long ago…
This is the only definition of the word I can find:
Definition of verition:
°The act or state of varying; a partial change in the form, position, state, or qualities of a thing; modification; alternation; mutation; diversity; deviation; as, a variation of color in different lights; a variation in size; variation of language.
°A related but distinct thing.
Is this what you/Gebser are talking about? As in we won’t have philosophy as we are used to any longer but rather some sort of related but distinct thing?
There are of course semantic arguments about whether Daoism is a religion or a philosophy made by Westerners. Ironically, Chinese people have no such argument endemic to their thousands of years old tradtional practice of Daoism. This controversy is completely made up by the modern Western mind.
Therefore, an “aperspectival” situation in which Laozi writes the Dao De Jing in BC times as well as the Qingqing Jing many centuries later is not a contradiction to the Chinese Daoist. Because Laozi is an immanation of Dao which occurs outside of the constraints of time and space, it is OK to have Laozi be the author of both texts because of this “aperspectival” approach to the authorhship of these two sacred texts. In a nutshell, Laozi can appear and reveal a scripture to someone at any point in time and space.
A similar semantic argument is made by American Zen people about whether Buddhism is a religion or a “spiritual practice.’ Also whether Buddism is inherently atheistic or admits the existence of multiple gods, and so on. Again, this argument is of much less importance to non-American Zen bookstore Buddhists, which is to say the Western man’s mind makes up its own neuroses to argue with it self about.
It could be the man called “Buddha” who lived some 2500 years ago is but one immanation of Buddha. Perhaps Buddha appeared at times in the past before the historical Siddhartha Gautama and perhaps he will appear again in the future as Maitreya.
In this way, the “philosophy” of Laozi or Buddha is “aperspectival” because the message the same, yet the form it takes changes depending on the time and space condtions of those who hear these teachings.
Does this make sense?
I hate to speculate Gebser means exactly the same thing as this “out of time and space” teaching of Buddhism and Daoism, yet I believe it indeed may be the same sort of realization made independently in different cultures…
I think you are close here to what Gebser is about. Aperspectival consciousness is also characterised by “time-freedom” (actually spacetime-freedom) and this is also described as “being-in-truth”, so corresponding in meaning also to what Buddhism describes as “Ultimate Truth” moreso than “Relative Truth”. Verition is, in this sense, more like attestation or bearing witness or verification, and thus supersedes the conjectural or the speculative (and thus philosophy per se).
This “being-in-truth” is much akin to “being-in-love” and is what Buddhists refer to as “suchness”
This affinity between “time-freedom” and “verition” more closely corresponds to “the truth that sets free”, then, rather than “the facts of the matter”, so we may say that “the truth that sets free” corresponds in meaning to Ultimate Truth while the facts of the matter correspond to the domain of Relative Truth, although here we are, of course, facing a paradox. The Ultimate and the Relative are contradictory, but truth as such is always congruent with itself, so there is no contradiction or opposition, really, between what we call the “eternal” and the “secular”, just as Blake perceived (or Rumi for that matter): “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” or “Eternity in the Hour”. So, for Gebser, this insight is “verition”.
When Rumi likewise states “the whole universe is a form of truth”, he isn’t speaking of the facts of the matter per se, but this is also “verition”. In other terms, for Blake or Rumi, the Cartesian method of radical doubt has no place here. The “cloud of unknowing” is lifted, and there is no longer any need of speculation or conjecture, and thus of any sort of metaphysics.
For Blake and Gebser, this clarity of perception is immanent, and likewise corresponds to Aurobindo’s anticipation of the “supramental consciousness”.
Thank you for your considered reply, Scott.
I will sit with what you have said and let it simmer awhile. These things are like sauce, you know, cooking is chemistry, and we must be “in it” for awhile to really “get it.”
When I was a teenage kid, there was this band called Nirvana. So this girl came from the West Coast to where I live on the East Coast. She was bringind dope and she also brought this demo tape with her. It was called something like “Crack-Smoking, Fudge-Packing Satan Worshippers.”
Anyway, my friends started playing this tape over and over. The first two or three times I heard this, I wanted to hit the stereo – or my head – with a hammer. But I couldn’t get away from it because my friends were just amazed by this demo tape. What would become the album Nevermind.
Yet at the third or fourth listening, it became THE THING for me too. So we saw the band in a venue that could hold maybe 200 people and it was, you know, Kurt Cobain and David Grohl and Krist Novoselic.And Kurt Cobain stood on his head and played guitar and it was just unlike anything I have seen and heard before or since.
In my experience, this is how many of these “awakenings” or “spiritual experiences” happen. Our minds rebel against something until we surrender or just stop fighting or something, and it makes sense, and it is beautiful. We are in “the right place at the right time,” but it takes a great deal of effort and work prior to get there and be able to appreciate the moment for what it is.
Probably this is the sort of transformation Blake and Gebser are getting at. You know, the Gramsci thing:
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”
So instinctively, when we say “aperspectival,” it is this sense of being able to see the transformation from the before, during, and after senses of time, as well as from the perspective of “all God’s critters” so to speak, meaning being able to see from the perspective of any and all sentient beings who are able to see, regardless of when or where or who or what these beings are.
I mean it is almost like omniscience, and I certainly am not omniscient or some kind of god. That is hubris.
So aperspectival – instinctively to me anyway – includes a “before and after” sense as well as a non-specific place or identity as well Sort of like pantheism but not exactly the same concept..
Does this make sense?
I’ve used the Gramsci quote a few times in The Chrysalis. It gets to the gist of things. Yes, sometimes seeds are planted that only sprout after a long period of incubation in the soil. Things we learn or experience in our youth that don’t make sense begin to make sense in later years.
I also like the story of Einstein’s own period of inner turmoil, sleeplessness, restlessness, smoking like a chimney that antedated his realisation of the time-dimension. It’s very anecdotal of the turbulence of of “chaotic emotion” that Gebser anticipated would precede the “irruption” of the new consciousness structure — the integral or aperspectival.
I’ll have something more to say about that, too, with my next posting to the Chrysalis. I want to address Martin Gurri’s *The Revolt of the Public* — at least, his interview with Matt Taibbi — about this very matter.
This bit here?
From the point of view of the powers that be, there is an attempt at insurgency going on, which necessitates a couter-insurgency on their part, you know, with the surveillance and military worship being advertised and rammed down our throats..
I wonder what it was like when most of the world could not read. It wasn’t that long ago – within the last century – less than half the human population could read and write.
So now we reach some sort of point where access t o information happens. You know, now the average person has access to almost anything one could possibly want to read really. This information access will necessarily bring on another sort of revolution in humankind, just as the literacy revolution brought about a distinct change in the life of the average human being.
My concern is the average human being has so few critical thinking skills, it will be relatively easy to “fool most of the people most of the time” because the powers that be can simply allow humans to fool ourselves into most anything. Including our own extinction…
Without stepping out the door,
Know the world.
Without looking out the window,
See the Tao of Heaven.
The farther one comes out,
The less one knows.
Therefore the sage knows without travelling,
Names things without seeing them,
Accomplishes without work.
There is a difference between living in our world vs what Karl Rove called the Reality-Based Community. A Buddhist might call this the difference between living in Conditioned-Mind vs Unconditioned Mind. We can understand this simply as living in a Narrative vs Not having a Story in our heads:
Best I can tell, this is the first step humanity must take if we are to grow further collectively as a species.
Just discovered your blog today Scott and swam around in it all quite a bit. Thank you so much for offering it. – Kim
Thank you. I hope you found something useful in it.
Great blog! Your discussion of renaissance perspective painting reminds me a bit of Merleau-Ponty (Institution and Passivity); he adds an interesting intermediate stage between ancient art and renaissance painting where a visual rhythm of color begins to suggest new possibilities for conceiving dimension.
Thanks. I’ll have to look into that.