Archive | March 2021

The Itself, the Diaphainon, and the Vital Centre

When any movement tends to the extremes it leads away from the center or nucleus toward eventual destruction at the outer limits where the connections to the life-giving center finally are severed. It would seem that today the connections are already broken, for it is increasingly evident that the individual is being driven into isolation while the collective degenerates into mere aggregation. These two conditions, isolation and aggregation, are in fact clear indications that individualism and collectivism have now become deficient.

Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, p. 3 (Opening chapter on “Fundamental Considerations”)

This is one of the key passages in Jean Gebser’s magnum opus entitled The Ever-Present Origin. It’s a concise and precise diagnosis of our present spiritual malaise, if not mass psychosis. In other places, Gebser describes this condition as “distantiation from the vital center”, a condition of maximum estrangement from life that is described also in terms like alienation or anomie, or what Max Weber also referred to as the “disenchantment of the world”. A Buddhist would call this state “samsara“, which Blake calls, in his terms, “Ulro”. Simply, for Gebser, if this “distantiation” is the essential problem, the corrective for this is what he calls “presentiation”, which, for those of a Christian bent, would correspond to that state called “the presence of the kingdom” where the connection to the vital centre is restored. This is the essential meaning of the word “religion”, in fact — re-ligio means to “re-connect” or “return to the Source”.

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Power and Magic

A few thoughts today on the close relationship between power and magic, a subject that concerned Jean Gebser — the convergence, for example, of instrumental or technocratic rationality with older forms of magic (ie, the sorceric) which, following Algis Mikunas (one of Gebser’s translators), I’ve referred to in past posts as “technocratic shamanism”. In Gebser’s terms, the dangerous synthesis (or confusion) of instrumental rationality with older forms of magical consciousness or technique, in their “deficient modes” of functioning, results in the corruption of both — the mental-rational and the magical structures of consciousness.

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