The Chrysalis: A Review of the Fundamentals II
In The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser addresses what he calls “the menacing correlation” of current tendencies which, converging and reinforcing each other, threaten the make abortive the transition to a more stable new age and consciousness structure — the “integral”. In that case, he concludes, we may have to wait another millennium for a similar opportunity to arise again; assuming, that is, that we don’t destroy ourselves and the Earth in the meantime, which could be the final climax of this “menacing correlation”.
This menacing correlation appears to be threefold. One factor is the deficiency of man’s sense of responsibility as being incommensurate with the powers of technology which we may call “runaway” technology. A second factor is the mind’s tendency to think only in deficient dualisms, which many people today do indeed find alarming — the good and the evil, us and them, the righteous and the wicked, I and it, black and white, and so on. And the third factor in this menacing correlation is an intensification of Angst or anxiety about perceived “existential threats” and intense feelings of insecurity and unsafety. It is, in his view, highly likely that this “menacing correlation”, gaining momentum, could drive our times towards a “global catastrophe”. And we do actually see the effects of this dangerous and menacing correlation in play in the current crisis in Eastern Europe.
There are, in addition, what we might describe as subsidiary factors associated with this menacing correlation — an epidemic of deceit, shadow projection, deflection, and scapegoating which would appear to derail any prospects for the realisation of “Truth-Consciousness” or what Gebser describes as “being-in-truth” (or “verition”). For succinctness, we may call these converging menacing factors — hubris, narcissism, and dualism, but they are also described by other terms — “empathy deficit”, “lack”, “malaise”, “alienation” and many other terms.
I probably do not have to point out that we live in very unstable times — “out of joint”, as the Bard put it. (It’s also the title of a book by the ever-prescient Phillip K. Dick). “Out of joint” means the times do not articulate or cohere, and it’s interesting to note that the word “Yuga” (Ages) derives from a verb “to join” or “to joint” which is the meaning of our word “articulate” or “articulation”, which is to say, an integration. An integration is an articulation, and not a synthesis. Articulation or integration is what Gebser refers to as “synairesis” (a “drawing together”) and is not to be confused with a “synthesis”. A mandala is a perfectly suitable symbol for the meaning of synairesis.
(In respect of this “synairesis“, it is notable that some historians are beginning to use the phrase “arc of history” to describe eras, ages, epochs. An arc is a curve, a segment of a cycle or circle, and this phrase “arc of history” reveals a change in our understanding of time (consistent with Einstein’s spacetime). The arc describes an ascending phase and a descending phase, or what we refer to as “rise” and “fall”, but is described now as an “arc”, a segment of a larger structure. It is often little changes like this that can be most revealing. The “arc of history” implies an implicit intuition about the kalachakra or Great Wheel of Time and Space).
I suspect that this “time out of joint” is the secret meaning of Yeats’ “widening gyre” in his ominous poem “The Second Coming” — the fragmentation of time symbolised by a gyre. “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold” — the fragmentation and disintegration of “the mandala of being” (as Richard Moss describes it in his very engaging book by that title. And again, with Moss, we are seeing the emergence of this new pattern or Gestalt way of thinking based on the fourfold — the quadrilateral, or the tetramorph. This emergent pattern or gestalt strikes me as crucial to understand in order to gain some insight into the structure of the new consciousness also emerging — a form of consciousness appropriate for a new reality of “four dimensions” and the meaning of the Vedic “fourfold Atman“. This fourfold pattern is implicated in virtually all “new thinking” or what Rosenstock-Huessy calls a “Metanoia” or “new Mind”.
It is, then, very important to note (just so we don’t completely lose our marbles) that amidst the doom and gloom and the disintegration and fragmentation of the times, there is also emerging a countervailing tendency towards a new integration, one that follows the pattern of a mandala — a tetramorph. So there is light in the darkness, and the light is even more brilliant and intense for the darkness. It is, in many respects, necessary to endure the disintegration so that the energies so released can be rearranged within a new relationship and a new integration — another coincidence or conjunction of the opposites.
Although there is this “menacing correlation” to bear in mind, there is also this countervailing benevolent convergence in which the emerging new understanding of the real harmonises with ancient knowledge from the East. No more Kipling’s “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”, although for the time being there are some great mutual and reciprocal misunderstandings and misappropriations, and also great resistance to this convergence on the part of some with nearly pathological and neurotic notions of “purity” (and attitude that Rosenstock-Huessy challenged with his book I Am An Impure Thinker). The mania for “purity” has been the cause of much mischief and usually overcompensation for bad conscience. There are better uses for your energy than exhausting it constantly policing your own mind or the lives of others for “impurities”.
In keeping with the chrysalis metaphor, or the Hermetic crucible metaphor for this process of mutation or transmutation, it is nonetheless fraught with risk. The caterpillar may not make the transition to butterfly successfully, and the alchemists crucible could explode and the transmutation abortive. It is very high risk. Nietzsche compared it to the passage of a tight-rope walker over an abyss — a very narrow rope marks the path between one form of human life and another, between one age and another; a dangerous crossing and going-over. This is an engaging metaphor also for what Jean Gebser and physicist David Bohm experienced as the discovery of their own inner resources of “Primal Trust”; Gebser with his “leap into the unknown” as a child, and Bohm also in his memorable experience of crossing some slippery stones in a creek, an experience that seems to have been very important for his later thinking about “proprioception”.
“Eyes on the prize”, as they say. You can be driven to despair by focussing too much attention on the symptoms of sickness, decay, and destruction of this Age and become mesmerised by them, falling under their “demonic” power. Being cognisant of them nonetheless Gebser recommends that we also focus our attention on the countervailing indications signalling a new integration, a new sanity and a new health arising amidst all these symptoms of pathology — or what some have called “Pathocracy”. Attending to these signs and precursors of the new “mutation” strengthens them.
It might be pointed out, though, that despite the new insights into reality since Einstein and quantum physics, most of our existing sciences, institutions, received logics, and social arrangements have not yet caught up with this new insight into fundamental reality, and despite their evident deficiency and incoherence have been loathe to make the necessary changes to harmonise with the new insights into that reality. This does make for a great tension of the times, but also one that Gebser thought we could utilise like a springboard to make the “leap” into the new age and consciousness. Gebser calls that tension “the double-movement” — one of ascending life and another of descending life, one of integration and one of disintegration, so it’s not perhaps surprising to see this double-movement also reflected in the epidemic of double-talk, double-think, and double-bind so characteristic of today’s social milieu.
So far, in our “review of the fundamentals” we have attempted to establish: Firstly, that our age, and our very mode of being, is in transition from one age and state to another, one so different from the past and present as to justify being described as a “mutation” or “transmutation”, and we explained why we chose the “chrysalis” metaphor (or the crucible metaphor) as one most appropriate for describing those processes of transition and transmutation. A “mode of being” is another way of saying “consciousness structure”. Secondly, here we have addressed some of the very great risks and dangers involved with this transition, that we need to sober-mindedly recognise the symptoms of “pathocracy”, of the Age’s sickness and decay, in order to begin to even look afield for countervailing movements of health and sanity. This tension of the “double-movement” is also Nietzsche’s metaphor of the bow and arrow, drawn taut, but spring forth, aims for the farthest shore. This double-movement has also been likened to Shiva’s great dance of “creative destruction”. A third post on the fundamentals will be necessary to try to answer the question, “transition towards what?” or “mutation into what?”. What are the key features of this new “consciousness structure” or mode of being or “new age” by which we might recognise it when it does emerge or arise?
(NOTE: Hot off the press. For further insight into the meaning of Jean Gebser and his work, Steve has helpfully provided some links in the comments section of the previous post).