Age of Anxiety
“Fear is the mind killer” is one of the memorable memes from Frank Herbert’s Dune series — (that and “the spice must flow”) — and this is certainly our time of fear, and anxiety, and paranoia, which can be extremely destructive forces.
With that in mind, I’ld like to return to one of the major themes in Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin and in his other writings: Angst or anxiety. Gebser was concerned enough about existential Angst during this age of transition that he wrote a separate book about it, still in German, entitled Keine Angst vor der Angst. A rough English translation of that would be “nothing to fear but fear itself”. Much of human thought and action today seems, indeed, to be driven by fear and anxiety.
In Existentialist philosophy Angst is used typically to describe irrational fears, anxieties, or dread. It is certainly that for Gebser also, but also more nuanced. Gebser views it as ambiguous, since it characterises both birth and death processes. As he points out, the words Angst, anxiety, anxious (also anger) are derived from root words for “narrowing”. It is related to the word “angle”. This “narrowing” describes both passage through the birth canal as well as the death process. The idea or experience of “painting oneself into a corner” describes a quite similar sense of this idea of narrowing.
This, then, is connected with Gebser’s acceptance of “fate”, and as you may know, fate and fatal are related terms. Gebser would approve of Nietzsche’s doctrine of amor fati or love of fate. “Fate”, like personal mortality, also seems to be a narrowing, and reflects the Buddhist principle of the law of impermanence akin to Heraclitus’s panta rhei — “all flows”
Gebser’s own amor fati (Schicksal in German) follows quite logically from his explication of the lawful evolution of consciousness structures from a “pre-existing pattern”. That pattern will be fulfilled, and so this constitutes Gebser’s idea of “fate” — the fulfillment of the pre-existing pattern. There are, as you may know by now, four such consciousness structures or “civilisational types” that have manifested in human history — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational. This quadrilateral relation of the four consciousness structures is the secret of the mandala symbol, as well as the meaning of “the fourfold Atman” in Vedic scriptures. The “Atman“, especially as described by Sri Aurobindo in his fabulous book The Human Cycle, is another name for Gebser’s “pre-existing pattern” as is William Blake’s “fourfold Vision” and four Zoas become fully integrated and manifested in his figure “Albion”, who is Blake’s vision of Integral Consciousness or Gebser’s “pre-existing pattern” fulfilled, realised, and made manifest. Moreover, Blake’s “New Jerusalem” is configured in the shape of a mandala as well.
We have, of course, described all this and all these connections in earlier posts in The Chrysalis, so I will restrain myself to discussing Gebser’s (and Nietzsche’s) principle of amor fati as their own victory over, or mastery of, Angst. also related to Gebser’s “Primal Trust” or what others might call “faith” (which has nothing to do with religion). Nietzsche had his own, similar confidence in “Primal Trust” which largely informs his own amoral philosophy, for in many respects Nietzsche disdained “moralism” as a corruption and distortion of this innate Primal Trust.
So, these issues are related — love of fate (amor fati), Primal Trust, and the unfolding (evolution) of the pre-existing pattern represented in various realised civilisational types.
Our own age — the Modern Age — is passing away, and this is presently cause for much that looks like mass psychosis driven by fear, anxiety, paranoia and even mass violence. Nietzsche already anticipated that as our own “two centuries of nihilism”, which he both dreaded and yet greeted cheerfully in faith that the passage would give birth to a more life-affirming Age. It was a faith shared also by William Blake, Jean Gebser, and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy as well as others. So, Gebser’s “Integral Consciousness”, Blake’s “New Jerusalem”, Rosenstock-Huessy’s “Johannine Age”, and Nietzsche’s Life-Affirming Age or Aurobindo’s “Savitri Era” (or “Supramental Era”) are the same. But to be born, this new era would have to pass through the portal of death and turbulence of the old era — Nietzsche’s “two centuries of nihilism”. That means, too, the fragmentation and disintegration (or dehiscence) of this age’s consciousness structure, which Gebser calls “the mental-rational” or “the perspectival” consciousness, or what Blake decried as “Single Vision”.
Anxiety (or Angst), then, is a two-edged sword — ambiguous in it’s meaning and forms of manifestation, which may even contribute much to the present pandemic of cognitive dissonance. The initial signs of this new life-affirming age are certainly in evidence today, but vulnerable to being suffocated and snuffed out by reactionary forces, and this gives rise to a certain sense of anxiety that we, after all, might not make “the leap”. On the other hand, the passing away of the Old Era gives cause for another sense of anxiety, a kind of reactionary anxiety that drives present paranoia and even violence against the emergence of the new. As Rosenstock-Huessy described it, the disease of decadence is a lack of faith, but of faith that is more akin to Gebser’s “Primal Trust” rather than any moralistic notion of “faith” as such.
If we truly understood such matters, we could dodge Gebser’s anticipated “global catastrophe”. But as matters now stand, avoiding this seems very unlikely.
If it makes it easier to comprehend, we might say that God is composing the next verse in his long poem of human universal history — to borrow a metaphor from both Rosenstock-Huessy and Omar Khayyam. I think even William Blake may have thought of himself as God’s scribe or secretary in that sense. Aurobindo also with his massive “Savitri” poem, tracing and commemorating the beginning and ending of all things.
“Let go or be dragged” – the lovely Zen proverb so applicable to our times. Very appropriate for addressing the miserable and wretched plague of narcissism which gives rise itself to so much paranoia and anxiety about the security of the “Self”, or what we call “identitarianism”, when our true identity is as all-encompassing as the universe itself. To settle for something so small and petty as the narcissistic self…..
In any case, the life-era promises, at least, to recover our identity with Life, the web of life, and the life-process itself, and there are plenty of indications that this is happening today parallel to the more morbid features of late modernity.
I might mention, perhaps, that one of the things I find so absurd about Modernity’s Endgame is this fretting about asteroids, when we face real existential challenges from climate change, or nuclear weapons. It’s almost as if it’s a deflection from having to face our reality here and now.
But with this combination of threats from climate crisis, pandemic, nuclear weapons, the powers of technology, “asteroids” and the seeming impotence of politics it probably seems to many that our existence is threatened from all directions, not to leave unmentioned mass gun violence or school shootings and so on and so forth. We seem besieged and beset by existential threats from all directions, which is, I suppose, cause for much insecurity, uncertainty, anxiety, and paranoia.
But asteroids? I have the sense that fear of asteroids striking the Earth arises only from our bad conscience as regards our treatment of Nature — that behind this fear of asteroids is an older fear of “the wrath of God”. An asteroid becomes God’s hammer, as it were and judgement upon us. We have enough to be concerned about right here and now without fearful speculations about being pummeled by asteroids.
It’s not an entirely unreasonable concern, all things considered. There is no more real separation between Earth and the rest of the Cosmos as there is among its earthly processes. So, tracking asteroids could very well save our life one day. We never know. 😉
I haven’t noticed any real paranoia over the possibility of extinction of all life on Earth by asteroid, but it has been used as a metaphor for the “end time” crucible through which we are passing as a species. (Films like Armageddon, etc.) There’s nothing like quite like a disaster to bring the whole world together, if only for a brief time. Question for me is: Is it a conscious metaphor? Somehow, I doubt it and tend to think of it more in terms of our “subconscious” mulling over our dilemma without fully grasping the reality of it.
We do seem to be becoming more conscious of the reality of it by the day, though, if the climate change consensus among the public is any indication. It’s our institutions that are dragging their heels on this; not “us,” per se.
I do so love that idea of yours: “Our institutions will be the last to change.” Pithy, that single sentence. I might suggest turning it into a T-shirt, fridge magnet, coffee cup, etc. on CafePress or something, but you probably wouldn’t go for something like that. 🙂 Nonetheless, I find popularization of the idea in some way or other most certainly wouldn’t hurt and, in fact, might even be a boon to the “Great Awakening.” ^.^
Well, we are NOT going to avoid the “global catastrophe” that’s for absolute sure. So how to live without anxiety. I’m stressed out by what I’m seeing. How
to let go and not be dragged. Very hard.
Maybe we’re overthinking it. We overthink everything in the West, don’t we?
It seems to me the “efficient” forms of various “consciousness structures” are all dealing with this historic moment in their own unique ways and doing an excellent job of it. Thank you very much. (These ‘consciousness structures’ of which Gebser speaks co-exist, do they not?)
“Myth offers a third place to stand or a third way to see when we find ourselves caught between opposing ideas and hardening ideologies.” ~ Michael Meade
Why are we fretting over the fact that some of us “don’t know what climate experts are talking about” when the public consensus on climate change is actually far stronger than it was a mere decade ago? (With apologies, this is US-centric data. If anyone knows of a world data map, I’d love to see it.)
Why are world health organizations fretting about how to “win over” those of us who are “vaccine-hesitant” for one perfectly valid reason or other while the media is overflowing with heart-wrenching stories of dying patients urging their loved ones not to put off vaccination so that they are less likely to wind up in the same position themselves and their loved ones are urging both themselves and the rest of us, thereby doing a much better job of “speaking to people in their own language” even than “center(s) for public communication.”
Do we really need all this “convincing?”
We’re so busy trying to “convince” the “other side” of one thing or another (and, generally-speaking, choosing to accuse and judge and put the “other side” down if “they” don’t see what “we” do and agree with “us” rather than just putting our truths out there) that we forget coming to a conviction is an internal process best not interfered with and that, while propagandists would like to control that process in perpetuity, it just so happens to occur in a place utterly beyond their reach: an inner space of knowing and peace.
What is “spiritual guidance” for if not to help us stay in touch with that inner space of knowing and peace we never left which, incidentally, no one else can touch?
As for the “global catastrophe….” Why are so many of us thinking of this as an event destined to take place in the future when a “global catastrophe” is unfolding before our very eyes, along with a possibly abortive “integral consciousness structure,” and has been for quite some time? Who’s to say with absolute, 100% certainty that we will fail in averting this “global catastrophe?” Even our host is leaning toward merely “likely” that we will most of the time. 🙂
Gebser himself never claimed complete and utter “global catastrophe” a certainty. He thought both “global catastrophe” and “integral consciousness” distinct realities and possibilities. Or am I wrong about that, Sir Scott?
Gebser considered it a near certainty. The thing is, that “global catastrophe” is an object manifestation of the increasingly violent fragmentation and disintegration of the ego-consciousness (ie, in our terms, this would be the mental-rational or perspectival structure). There is, in other words, a tipping point where a “catastrophe” would become a fate — irreversible. It’s becoming pretty clear that, indeed, that psychic fragmentation and ego disintegration is becoming, increasingly, a very violent process. And this does not bode well for avoiding the kind of scenario that both Gebser (and Seth too) anticipated as a possibility.
(Recalling here my previous post “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature” in which I quote the relevant passage from the Seth book “The Unknown Reality”: In fact, events are playing out almost exactly as Seth describes them here 50 years ago.)
What doesn’t bode well for averting that tipping point at present is the palpable sense of doom and gloom — despair, hopelessness, helplessness and exhaustion — that has taken root around the globe. We’re seeing article after article regarding “how to cope with [fill-in-in-the-blank] despair” and our youths appear to be most affected of all. If we truly care about the health and well-being of the next seven generations, we’re going to have to address that prevailing sense of doom and gloom in a embodied way.
Fortunately for us, many of the youths themselves are rebelling against the tide.
As we know all too well, however, there is no support structure to which we can physically turn, and the vast majority of us are suffering in isolation.
Joanna Macy, et alia, have local communities of mutual support to which they can turn, but these, too, represent tiny pockets of the possible that have popped up here and there as our institutions largely continue to fail us. (And, again, Frieze’s “not robust enough to take us all yet” remark comes to mind in description of them.)
There is no “secular” equivalent of the Church or the Mosque or the Ashram or the Sangha, etc. in every city and town in the world to which people can turn. (And, sorry folks, but Starbucks coffee shops don’t count.) While there are a few religious communities amenable to the interfaith/interspiritual/interdisciplinary dialogues taking place today, they are few and far between and most of us don’t have the means to start one up where we live. I’d like to see some of our time, energy and resources poured into that, but don’t expect it can or will happen any time soon.
We should, perhaps, revisit what Gebser has to say about “doom and gloom” from his opening Chapter “Fundamental Considerations”
“If our consciousness, that is, the individual person‘s awareness, vigilance, and clarity of vision, cannot master the new reality and make possible its realization, then the prophets of doom will have been correct. Other alternatives are an illusion; consequently, great demands are placed on us, and each one of us have been given a grave responsibility, not merely to survey but to actually traverse the path opening before us.”
Gebser, then, does not completely discount the “doom and gloom” scenario, and makes it pretty clear what is needful in order to avoid it.
Click to access Considerations.pdf
“If our consciousness, that is, the individual person‘s awareness, vigilance, and clarity of vision, cannot master the new reality and make possible its realization, then the prophets of doom will have been correct.”
“No man is an island,” and no one of us could possibly walk that path in the world and “make possible its realization” alone. We just don’t have the strength, energy and means to do so as singular individuals, but that is exactly what is being expected of us with so few and separate communities of mutual support in existence. ‘True, such communities are beginning to “network” with one another, but primarily online at this point. They might meet quietly in the physical world on occasion (while the louder meetings tend to be driven back underground and into their separate echo chambers), but that’s about it, which is among the reasons why I find various local inititives so inspiring. I would venture to say that most of us are still so busy trying to salvage the old world and era that we’ve forgotten to tend our own backyards, as it were. Those who have given up on the old world and era, “Walk[ed] Out and Walk[ed] On” are the ones so full of energy, building the new world and Age utilizing the means at their disposal, one community at a time.
Dying empires all come to the same end and, I’d venture to guess, that is the only part of the process that most likely can’t be averted. We’re seeing a shift here in the States away from imperialism and toward addressing long-neglected internal issues at home. Whether or not it’s sustained and/or successful remains to be seen. It’s certainly fraught with seemingly insurmountable difficulties, but there it is and our youths are most definitely in the lead.
This was posted to FB recently. How it wound up in my feed, I don’t know, because I’ve no connection with the person who posted it. Guess the universe just decided I might like or need to see it, so I hope it’s not any violation of copyright anywhere to repost it here. If there is a copyright on it, I’m sure our host would remove it immediately if requested. I thought we might all benefit from her message, so here goes….
Message from White Eagle, Hopi Nation:
Good words, with amorphous origins – http://www.elsewhere.org/journal/archives/2021/08/14/who-is-hopi-indian-chief-white-eagle/
Nice find. Thanks. The message came across my FB feed accompanied by the image of a female indigenous elder. While it wasn’t credited to an indigneous chieftain, it nonetheless reminded me of the equally amorphous origins of a quote usually credited to Chief Seattle:
As well as:
Concepts such as these are continually swirling about in human consciousness like all but forgotten memories, occasionally with additions and amendments here and there — usually to contemporize them for a modern audience, but also for dubious reasons now and then. That their origins are amorphous is remiscent of the generational “passing down” and exchange of hands (and handlers) of concepts which have their origins in the oral traditions of our various cultures.
Coleman Barks has come under fire for the supposed “erasure of Islam from the poetry of Rumi.” I’m quite unsure what some of us find so horrible about cultural exchanges and trnaslations such as these. Poetry is universal and we preserved our wisdom orally for generations before it was ever written down. It reminds me of folks who dismiss “the Seth material” out of hand because they don’t believe Jane Roberts was “channeling” anyone in her “psychic sessions”. I wonder what difference it makes if and when the words are spot on?
“It reminds me of folks who dismiss “the Seth material” out of hand because they don’t believe Jane Roberts was “channeling” anyone in her “psychic sessions”. I wonder what difference it makes if and when the words are spot on?”
I think there’s gotta be a line somewhere. The whole spiritual landscape of this country has been dubious at best, other than a few random bright lights. It’s always been about $ over here, and the other side of the story hasn’t ever been very compelling to answer back. When you start talking about channeling/culling truth from near death experiences, etc., most serious minded people check out. It’s been an anything goes climate over here since the 60’s and things badly need reined in. I’m not discrediting anyone or anything, I just understand why people don’t want to go there. It reminds me of Marianne Williamson in 2016, being a badass onstage, speaking with authority having done her own “inner work”, something one can’t fake, only then to take to twitter telling her followers to magically think a hurricane away. There’s a line. As the rational mind has run its course, people are going to want/need alternatives, and to me, that’s got to be a grounded Spirit, the one Emerson wrote about so distinctly, not one wrapped up in the things mentioned above.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately how we’ve never really had our own story over here. To tie it into the post, this an exciting time for innovators, storytellers and thinkers to work that out and bring about a whole new paradigm. Lean into the anxiety, fear, depression and turn it into something; That is the task of the day, probably even the century.
Coincidentally, I am reading some of the Seth books presently. Considering when they were published, they have stood the test of time pretty well indeed, and many of the things Seth describes about the nature of reality that were unknown then have since been corroborated by physics.
There are some things not in my own direct experience but which still feel intuitively correct, and which may, in due time, become the “common sense”. I’m quite prepared to accept as real Seth’s description of himself as “an energy personality essence no longer focussed in physical reality”, and not a fragment personality of Jane Roberts. And if you want to try to understand what an “energy personality essence no longer focussed in physical reality” might be, consider Bolte-Taylor’s own experience during her own near death experience that she describes in her book and in her TED talk. It’s not too difficult to understand given her description of her own experience.
I haven’t read those and just made a general observation of my surface knowledge of what they are. I was personally moved by Jill Bolte Taylor’s TED talk. I just don’t think the two sides of the matter are ever going to find common ground if outlier events are what is being taken as truth and doesn’t bode well for any of this ever getting traction, which obviously, is badly needed imo. Wouldn’t you agree that the climate for any kind of spiritual truth is so impoverished currently that these extreme examples speak to that, whether they are real or not?
And call it “woo-woo,” I’d wager. I prefer the more “grounded” forms of spirituality myself despite that I know our shared reality is “groundless,” in the Buddhist sense of the word. But isn’t that all it is? A personal preference?
We human beings have been referred to in our sacred literature as “vessels.” How is “channels” any different, exactly? How are “psychic sessions” any different from the “trance-like” state so many of our artists report their truest work flows from? Our “subjective” experiences of reality have been suppressed for millenia. The scientific revolution just amped that suppression up in favor of “pure objectivity,” as far as I’m concerned.
Are there frauds and charlatans trying their damnedest to take advantage of us? Of course. Always has been. “Beware false prophets,” and all that. This is why I say that if the message “resonates” with you and/or your own experience, there’s likely some truth in it, even if only a “kernel of truth.”
It’s the “kernel of truth” we find at the heart of all our greatest stories: the foundational truth of human experience in the world. (Historically, that’s been “the world of men,” of course, though it would appear that biological designations have somewhat changed.)
Present me with “ideas” like this and I will find our common pivot point between the interior and exterior; the past and the future, otherwise known as the present.
For some reason, I suspect you might appreciate this, but perhaps not, as we are currently living in, uh… the “Cattywampus” zone.” 😉
“For some reason, however, cats came to be demonized in Europe during the Middle Ages. They were seen by many as being affiliated with witches and the devil, and many were killed in an effort to ward off evil (an action that scholars think ironically helped to spread the plague, which was carried by rats).”
Ironic indeed. And not much has changed as regards the human penchant for self-sabotage like that. It is also an Age of Ironies, after all.
That quote is from a Smithsonian Mag article on the history of domestic cats.
P O E T , P H E N O M E N O L O G I S T , P H I L O S O P H E R — and yet something more —Gebser’s key insight was that as consciousness mutates toward its innate integrality, it drastically restructures human ontology and with it civilisation as a whole. Five hundred years before Christ, the fundamental mode of reality-perception mutated from mythos to logos through the agency of figures such as Socrates, Siddharta, and Lao Tzu. For Gebser, we are on the cusp of a new mutation, presaged by figures such as Rainer Maria Rilke, who in Gebser’s view passed through “things” into the integral, transparent lucidity “behind” things, thus breaking through to a new, aperspectival perception of reality. Not only do we stand amidst the final death-throes of the deficient, declining mental-rational ontology, which atomises culture and consciousness day by day, we also stand on the threshold of a new consciousness that is capable of crystallising human ontology into a concrete, spiritual integrum.
What is the source for this please? Very interesting in relation to the forthcoming publication of Iain McGilchrist’s “The Matter With Things”
Good. Thanks. Iain McGilchrist quite liked the quote, after I sent it to him.
One of the early reviews, “The Matter with Things is a work of remarkable inspiration and erudition, written with the soul and subtlety of a poet, the precision of a philosopher, and the no- nonsense grounding of a true scientist. In its pages, neuropsychology comes into conversation with philosophy, physics with poetry.”
Finally, physics and poetry getting a seat at the same table somewhere. Excited for this as well.
According to Rosenstock-Huessy the lesson of history and the accumulated memory (history) of human suffering gathered through our speech-formed, time-building capacity was that we all must live as Jew, Christian, and Pagan. In his The Christian Future and the second volume of the Soziologie he would elaborate on this by arguing that in our times we needed to fuse Christ, Abraham, Buddha and Lao Tse. His decision to make Buddhism and Taoism essential components of the contemporary cross of reality was part of his attempt to help found a metanomical framework which would enable the concordance of disparities. But it is fair to say that neither Buddhism nor Taoism, nor Islam (which he writes a section on in volume 2 of the In the Cross of Reality), nor Hinduism occupied his attention anywhere near as much as the spirits of the tribes, Egypt, Greece, the Israelites and Christian peoples.
I got that off some web-site. Stanford University
He largely considered Islam a special offshoot of the Abrahamic root, through Abraham’s son Ishmael.
“The Christian Future” is a pretty good book for understanding authentic “new age spirituality”, and not the stuff promoted today by legions of charlatans. Rosenstock-Huessy describes it as the “Johannine Age” of religionless Christianity. But, as you might surmise from the quote, his “metanomics” is an integralist approach.
The fundamental difference Christianity and Islam is between the belief that Jesus was “the One and Only ‘Son of God'” and Jesus was “the greatest of the prophets,” which is to say that Muslims believe that Jesus represented all of ‘Mankind, and not just himself, whereas Christians believe that expression (‘Son of God’) quite literally: that he represented a “one and only” rather than an amalgamation(?) of who and what we are as human beings: both human and divine.
Good thing there’s still room in all this for faith, huh?
How uncanny is this?
— Nonfiction book by Michael T. Klare: Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict
— Seemingly absurd, anticipatory, fictional timeline of the Fallout universe: Resource Wars
From a review of the nonfiction book in the journal of Foreign Affairs: “[S]hort-term calculation will too often dominate the present and would-be leaders of poor countries.”
I have to wonder if the author of the nonfiction book actually thought when writing it that his assessment of “short-term thinking” applies only to “the present and would-be leaders of poor countries.”
Doesn’t sound like Michael Klare to make such a statement, more likely an interpolation of the reviewer from Foreign Affairs.
A bleak assessment and forecast which, one could hope, never comes to pass.
It would seem hopes and prayers (and despair) are all we have left, especially considering how long and adamantly we’ve been warned to alter course.
“Take action.” Easy to say; increasingly difficult to do when “world leaders” consistently refuse to heed the warning signs staring them in the face. Fortunately for us, infinite possibilities nonetheless present themselves on an eternal basis. We do have the seedlings of the “separate efforts” of which Frieze, et alia, speak to nurture and they do appear to be becoming more interconnected by the day. (The farmers’ markets, “local first” initiatives, etc. of which Frieze speaks in her TED talk pervade our communities here in America, not just Jamaica Plain, and people from all walks of life — not to mention, political beliefs — are participating in them whether consciously or not. Though it may seem counter-intuitive to some, small-c conservatives love these local initiatives because they represent how things “were” in living memory, when neighbors helping neighbors was the norm and Nature was, in large part, afforded the adoration and respect she deserves. Those who are frantically looking for “common ground” with their more conservative neighbors might start there.)
The ambiguity of angst or anxiety, is the subject of this essay “How to be anxious”. As you may know. Gebser writes quite a bit also about Angst in relation to the transition and consciousness mutation. The author also suggests a few exercises for mastering and using Angst rather than being used and abused by it.
“But the greatest human problems are not social problems, but decisions that the individual has to make alone. The most important feelings of which man is capable emphasise his separateness from other people, not his kinship with them. The feelings of a mountaineer towards a mountain emphasise his kinship with the mountain rather than with the rest of mankind. The same goes for the leap of the heart experienced by a sailor when he smells the sea, or for the astronomer’s feeling about the stars, or for the archaeologist’s love of the past. My feeling of love for my fellowmen makes me aware of my humanness; but my feeling about a mountain gives me an oddly nonhuman sensation. It would be incorrect, perhaps, to call it ‘superhuman’; but it nevertheless gives me a sense of transcending my everyday humanity.
Maslow’s importance is that he has placed these experiences of ‘transcendence’ at the centre of his psychology. He sees them as the compass by which man gains a sense of the magnetic north of his existence. They bring a glimpse of ‘the source of power, meaning and purpose’ inside himself. This can be seen with great clarity in the matter of the cure of alcoholics. Alcoholism arises from what I have called ‘generalised hypertension’, a feeling of strain or anxiety about practically everything. It might be described as a ‘passively negative’ attitude towards existence. The negativity prevents proper relaxation; there is a perpetual excess of adrenalin in the bloodstream. Alcohol may produce the necessary relaxation, switch off the anxiety, allow one to feel like a real human being instead of a bundle of over-tense nerves. Recurrence of the hypertension makes the alcoholic remedy a habit, but the disadvantages soon begin to outweigh the advantage: hangovers, headaches, fatigue, guilt, general inefficiency. And, above all, passivity. The alcoholics are given mescalin or LSD, and then peak experiences are induced by means of music or poetry or colours blending on a screen. They are suddenly gripped and shaken by a sense of meaning, of just how incredibly interesting life can be for the undefeated. They also become aware of the vicious circle involved in alcoholism: misery and passivity leading to a general running-down of the vital powers, and to the lower levels of perception that are the outcome of fatigue.
‘The spirit world shuts not its gates, Your heart is dead, your senses sleep,’ says the Earth Spirit to Faust. And the senses sleep when there is not enough energy to run them efficiently. On the other hand, when the level of will and determination is high, the senses wake up. (Maslow was not particularly literary, or he might have been amused to think that Faust is suffering from exactly the same problem as the girl in the chewing gum factory (described earlier), and that he had, incidentally, solved a problem that had troubled European culture for nearly two centuries). Peak experiences are a by-product of this higher energy-drive. The alcoholic drinks because he is seeking peak experiences; (the same, of course, goes for all addicts, whether of drugs or tobacco.) In fact, he is moving away from them, like a lost traveller walking away from the inn in which he hopes to spend the night. The moment he sees with clarity what he needs to do to regain the peak experience, he does an about-face and ceases to be an alcoholic.
The Impossible We?
Good article on “liminality”. Jeremy Johnson uses this term quite a lot in relation to Gebser’s work on transition from the known and familiar (and “certain”) to the unknown, the unfamiliar, (and the uncertain). Good term to familiarise yourself with.
Well, it’s heartening to see so many “bioneers” assembled.
It might be interesting to view these three stories through the lens of ludonarrative dissonance. It could very well be that much of our disease and anxiety stems from a very similar phenomenon.
“The world,” as such, is presently still invested in the story of the industrial growth civilization and, therefore, seemingly intent on un- or sub-consciously seeing through “The Great Unraveling.” Meanwhile, the story of “The Great Transition” (or, better, Transformation) has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions. I’d wager that’s because the story of “The Great Transformation” has its precedents in all our wisdom traditions.
I honestly wasn’t expecting there to be one, but here’s an essay for the storytellers among us that relates the term, ludonarrative dissonance, to our real-life experiences of ourselves and others. It’s a good, if all too short, read that may help to get our brain neurons firing in relation to the great stories of our time.
Interesting. Feels like what the Ancients may have had in mind.
Thank you. I came across that article earlier in another place, and meant to draw attention to it here, but never did. Quite interesting to consider in relation to Rupert Sheldrake’s “morphic resonance” theory also
Not quite the full “Overview Effect”, but close enough, I suppose, that it impressed the film-maker as such.