Where the Peril is Greatest

“Where the peril is greatest, there lies the saving power also” – Hölderlin

Hölderlin’s proverb is quite true, and the truth of it is the subject of today’s post on The Chrysalis. We will continue also with our attempt to gain deeper insight into what Jean Gebser means by the “deficient” and the “effective” modes of a consciousness structure as a “civilisational type” so that there is no confusion about this.

Another way of reflecting on Gebser’s terms “deficient” and “effective” is in terms of infidelity to the true and fidelity to the true, respectivey. The latter — fidelity to the true and the real — is what he calls “verition” or “being-in-truth”, whereas the deficient mode of functioning and realisation corresponds to what Stephen Colbert termed “truthiness” — an aberrant or perverse mode ofrealisation of the true and the real. The Devil is a mimic, and the mimicry of the true and the real is the aberrant realisation of it. But the “saving power” that might rescue us from total dissolution already resides within the dissolute or disintegrative condition.

Gebser’s view of the situation and the potential for a transmutation of consciousness is very Hermetic or alchemical in conception. The alchemist likewise acknowledges that the seed-germ of the noble element is already latent or implicate within the ignoble or base element and must be activated, usually by passage through the crucible. Likewise Hölderlin’s proverb is very Hermetic in conception in realising that the saving power already resides within the perilous condition and can act as a kind of leavening to condition and transform the perilous condition.

William Blake actually illustrates that beautifully in a passage in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell where he transmutes the horrific and violent vision of the monster Leviathan in Hell imposed upon him into a serene scene by an act of spiritual alchemy. That is something at which Nietzsche was also quite accomplished and which he credited to his “ability to switch perspectives”, as he put it.

So let’s examine a few instances of the “deficient” and “effective” modes of functioning in our time and see how they likewise correspond to infidelity and fidelity to the true, and thus to the opacity and transparency of our perception by extension.

Narcissism and the culture of narcissism is perhaps our present greatest obstacle to authentic self-realisation and certainly to the emergence of integral consciousness. But there is a paradoxical and ambiguous situation here. Narcissism is the aberrant or perverse mode of full self-realisation rather than its stark antithesis. It is the process of self-realisation gone awry, but in which still resides the drive towards self-realisation which only seizes upon aberrant and perverse means for that. In other words, it is a mimic of the real thing. Mimicry is how the Devil goes about his work, as it were. This is what Almaas describes with his own work on narcissistic personality disorders in his book The Point of Existence, pointedly subtitled “Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization“. Awakening is thus to awaken to the kernel of truth that is already within its fallen or aberrant state of realisation and its rescue from what Rosenstock-Huessy calls “amalgamate false natures”.

So narcissism can be a state or phase in the process of authentic self-realisation.

Likewise the issue of “unity”. Unity may be achieved through an authentic integrality or via uniformity. But uniformity is a false, deficient or aberrant mode of realisation of essential oneness or integrality. The fascist confuses unity with uniformity — an aberrant or deficient understanding of integrality, which confusion is, of course, related to the aberrancy of narcissistic mind.

The Lie works because of its resemblance to the truth, and that is what is described by the term “truthiness”. This is why so many can be, and are, misled into aberrancy.

Blake’s Zoa “Urizen” is likewise this — evil only to the extent he has become the aberrancy of the good and the true personified — the image of Gebser’s “deficient mode” of the current “mental-rational” or “perspectival” consciousness structure. But his redemption as an integral part of “Albion” is the recovery of his true and authentic nature — his membership in the integral fourfold, even though that redemption passes through the crucible of horror, darkness and Urizen’s madness before it is accomplished.

And that is very much how Gebser sees our own process of transition playing out on the way to integral consciousness and the “diaphainon” as described in The Ever-Present Origin.

We can, then, consider the “deficient mode” and the “effective mode” of functioning in terms of infidelity and fidelity to the true and the real, bearing in mind that the infidelity is a aberrant or perverse mode of truth realisation. “Verition” and “being-in-truth” is Gebser’s term for the fidelity or effective mode of the integral consciousness.

So, the transformative potential is already implicit or latent in the aberrant or deficient modality, hidden within or behind the camouflage and which, in Blake’s imagery, must be burned away to reveal the truth hid within it.


76 responses to “Where the Peril is Greatest”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Might also mention in relation to the theme of this post the remark by Rumi that “the cure for the disease is in the disease”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Where the peril is greatest, there lies the saving power also” – Hölderlin
      “The cure for the disease is in the disease” — Rumi

      Both insights also inform Jung’s principle of “enantiodromia”. In many respects, Gebser’s “irruption” is the workings of enantiodromia.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    A lot of people seem to believe they have a “god-given right” to greediness, only they will never say that frankly and will find all sorts of ways to put lipstick on the pig.

    • Smitty's Gelato: A Film Blog says :

      I have noticed since I was a kid that paying taxes can convince people that they are entitled to everything.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      As David Loy pointed out, greed has been institutionalized. Yet another reason I absolutely adore that offhand comment of yours: “Our institutions will be the last to change.”

      Seriously, I must have that emblazoned on a T-shirt. It’s the only hope we have at this point as our intsitutions are notriously slow to change and adapt compared to the humans who found them.

  3. steve says :

    “Strange times are these in which we live when old and young are taught falsehoods in school. And the person that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and fool”

    ― Plato

  4. Steve says :

    Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer.

    G.K. Chesterton

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      “Consciousness is the inside of the whole world-process.” Pretty sure they reached this conclusion in India a few thousand years ago. It’s been pretty baffling to me watching the western mind awkwardly circle around this.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Citing George Grant from *Technology and Empire*:

    “That conquering relation to place has left its mark within us. When we go into the Rockies we may have the sense that gods are there. But if so, they cannot manifest themselves to us as ours. They are the gods of another race .and we cannot know them because of what we are and what we did. There can be nothing immemorial for us except the environment as object. Even our cities have been encampments on the road to economic mastery.”

    “Let us put our heads together and see what life we will make for our children”. · Tatanka Iotanka (Sitting Bull)

    What a great tragedy that his invitation was rebuffed. The consequences have been terrible, as described too by George Grant. Yet, not too late to accept his invitation to create a unique civilisation on this continent.

    • Scott Preston says :

      My heart breaks when I think about that, and how his invitation was rebuffed and ignored. Such a tragedy. But the modern type has lost even a sense for the tragic.

  6. Steve says :

    I think you could say that the modern type has lost his mind. I feel you Scott, but i’m afraid that what’s coming will break your heart beyond repair.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      It’s quite possible to mitigate that heartbreak by focusing more on the seedlings springing up everywhere that require nurturing as opposed to the foundation cracks and ashes they’re growing in and through

      Do not pray exclusively to the ancestors of the land; make room also for the spirits of the fault line, the new gods that scream through cracks with the first musical notes of worlds to come. In the mispronunciation of your bodies by the displacements of the moment, unspeakable worlds glisten. ~ Bayo Akomolafe

  7. steve says :

    Infant joy
    By William Blake

    I have no name ,
    I am but two days old-
    What shall I call thee ?
    I happy am ,
    Joy is my name-
    Sweet joy befall thee!

    Pretty joy!
    Sweet joy but two days old,
    Sweet joy I call thee;
    Thou dost smile ,
    I sing the while
    Sweet joy befall thee.
    From songs of innocence 1789

  8. TheOakofNormal says :

    Really good video on a wonderful movie. It relates to narcissism, a theme much touched on here.

  9. steve says :

    “The fine arts are one of the most sensitive mirrors of society and culture of which they are an important part. What society and culture are, such will their fine arts be. If the culture is predominantly sensate, sensate also will be its dominant fine arts. If the culture is unintegrated, chaotic and eclectic also will be its fine arts. Since contemporary Western culture is predominantly sensate, and since the crisis consists in the disintegration of its dominant supersystem, so the contemporary crisis in the fine arts must also exhibit a desintegration of the sensate form of our painting and sculpture, music, literature, drama and architecture.”
    ― Pitirim Sorokin

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I’ve been trying to point out for years that the “pop culture” zeitgeist/art of the People is reflecting the Apocalyptic mood of our time in a big way. It’s fairly obvious us Westerners largely have forgotten a distinction between Apocalypse and Armageddon even exists, much less of what that distinction consists, but maybe we’ll remember at some point.

      “Post-apocalyptic” fiction, movies, games, etc. are all the rage today. I viewed a YouTube video just yesterday in which a young man notes that he’s not playing games, e.g. the classic S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series to “escape” anymore, but to deepen his connection with gamers all over the world, especially in light of recent events in Russia and the Ukraine, and that it’s possible now due to the very nature of communication via the Internet.

      Unfortunately, as I also noted last, our Arts and Entertainment mediums themselves are falling down on the job for the most part — not really helping at all so much as feeding into the anxiety and paranoia when not trivializing “the Apocalypse” to such an extent that it actually becomes boring and monotonous, as Noah Caldwell-Gervais pointed out in his video essay about Fallout ’76.

      I think there’s a reason for this and that reason is that the ideology of Neoliberalism actually has “swallowed the world” — just like Jonah’s whale — and our Arts and Entertainment studios are being gobbled up, centralized, homogenized and lorded over by behemoth, multinational corporations, e.g. Disney, Paramount, Ubisoft, Microsoft and Electronic Arts.

      That’s what happened to Bioware; that’s what’s happened to Bethesda; that’s what’s happening to CDProjekt Red. Independent studios don’t stand a chance. All the more reason to support them.

  10. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Can anyone tell me why all eyes are apprently glued to the midterm elections of the US? Anybody?

    • Smitty's Gelato: A Film Blog says :

      My guess would be that people want to know if voters are going to punish the Republicans for Roe v Wade?

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Some Republicans have come out with criticism that the party is overly focused on “wedge” issues and pleasing Trump loyalists. (No kidding. Duh.)

        Here’s the thing: what’s right in the eyes of one community is dead wrong in the eyes of another. Republicans are well-known in local communities for their ability to get things done, e.g. widening that one-lane bridge just begging for a tragic disaster, etc,. as opposed to sitting around talking for years about whether or how best to get it done. They’re very pracitcal and pragmatic that way. That doesn’t work so well on a national level, though, where the sensibilities of all communities of every kind must be taken into account in order to find the common good and promote the general welfare.

        Perhaps their experiences of the past few years will make that more obvious to them. I very much doubt we’ve seen the last of stagnation and entropy in Washington, though, given how hard the DNC and RNC have worked to shut out everyone else.

  11. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Kinda quiet around here. Perfect time, maybe? Doesn’t matter. Enjoy! https://youtu.be/tH2w6Oxx0kQ

  12. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Two months and counting. Hope our host is doing fine and still beating the fourfold drum rhythm into the heads of everyone he knows (and some he doesn’t). ^.^ Where would be without our “different drummer? “

  13. Steve says :

    Between this post and your upcoming post the world has gotten much stranger.

  14. Scott Preston says :

    Recommend you give this a listen: “Consciousness beyond brain function” — a neurosurgeon’s account of his own near-death experience

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      How the telescope radically changed our worldview and place in the cosmos, something will be invented that will allow us to see Energy/Consciousness at work in the world outside of the brain and then seeing will be believing for the rational materialists.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        If they can’t see that now just by “looking within” — at the delicately balanced, natural ecosystem in all its expressions as well as that of the Cosmos itself — there’s certainly no convincing them. That’s not something that can be seen with the eyes or measured with scientific instruments. That’s why Siddhartha Gautama, Jesus of Nazareth, Shams Tabrizi, et alia, no doubt had their students stare at flowers and such until they saw the reflection of themselves in them. The Essence of all “things” is not a physical property. Simple, unimpeded awareness is enough to “see” that. And that’s that.

        On the bright side, the “rational materialists” have lost an awful of influence over the past few decades or so, especially considering the unpleasantness of the more “strident” toward absolutely everything and everyone who is not their cup of tea.

        • TheOakofNormal says :

          “The Essence of all “things” is not a physical property. Simple, unimpeded awareness is enough to “see” that. And that’s that.”

          I personally think we are going to evolve to have these faculties turned inside out, and first it will happen with some sort of apparatus. That’s not working collectively and Evolution always finds a way.

          • InfiniteWarrior says :

            Hmm. Well, if that “apparatus” is the human species of consciousness turned inside-out, I’d tend to agree. It already comes through in our art and music and literature, compassion for one another, etc. The “evolutionary lit boys,” et alia, probably can’t see that yet, but maybe will eventually.

            • TheOakofNormal says :

              Was saying mostly that things will be invented like super sensory contacts etc.that will allow regular humans to see deeper into the world (like visionary artists as you mentioned) and a more connected to Earth culture could come out of that. I do think there’s something in between we aren’t seeing and can’t see yet, but feel as you’ve mentioned and maybe that’s the kind of technology we should be trying for instead of bigger bombs and stealth planes looking more and more like ufos, lol.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              I wouldn’t worry too much about the “more connected to Earth culture.” It already exists and appears to be thriving. There’s evidence of it everywhere, as noted in the “Quiet Revolution” introductory video. I don’t even feel like I have to keep such a vigilant watch for it anymore. Personally, I find the “techno-logy is a panacea that will cure all our ills” crowd somewhat worrisome considering so many of them hold positions of great power, influence and (usually unwarranted) authority.

            • TheOakofNormal says :

              Huh, I don’t see that, maybe I’m looking in the wrong places. Subtle technology would be a nice flip so the Lonnie Musks of the world don’t turn this world into the movie Demolition Man.

            • InfiniteWarrior says :

              We’re not out of peril. That’s for sure. “Business as usual” continues apace…as per usual. It’s not a race, though, I don’t think. The younger generations most assuredly have caught on…at least, those who haven’t been caught up in “business as usual” themselves.

              Helena Norberg-Hodge described “an almost biological hunger” among us for communal bonds; a sense of belonging; a sense of place; etc. in that introductory video. (<– Highly recommend.) People will find that at their own pace; in their own place; and in their own ways.

              I'm guessing most people haven't really noticed for the simple reason that it is so quiet — arriving on little dove's feet, as it were.

    • Smitty's Gelato: A Film Blog says :

      Keanu Reeves has the best answer for what happens after we die:

      Simple and honest.

  15. steve says :

    The New consciousness struggling to emerge has need of the old in the same way the child needs its mother’s womb. But it requires the forces of resistance as well. They are its unwilling helpers. If it be accepted that a renewal of mans inner condition is under way, then we should be on the lookout for these hindering helpers, since they will betray just where the new is appearing. Once identified, they will reveal what it is they are trying to suppress. And hence, in a way as well, they are compelled to serve us against their will.

    Hermann Poppelbaum

  16. steve says :

    The book I got that quote from is..”The Battle for a New Consciousness” by Hermann Poppelbaum. He was a direct student of Rudolf Steiner…

  17. steve says :

    Reading a wonderful book, “The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis: How Great Books Shaped A Great Mind.”By Jason M. Baxter.

  18. steve says :

    The experience of nostalgia is a feeling of beauty’s remoteness, but only because it is so far into the future, rooted “deep down things.” It is hope. And the great thing about true hope, this nostalgia for the future, is that it has none of the irritability, fear, anxiety, and discouragement that flavors many of the words of those who describe the demise of Christendom in our day. We were denied the garden, and then we were exiled from the the enchanted cosmos. Now we must own our modernity. But by doing so, we engage in an extraordinary ascesis of the senses. We must look forward and move beyond.

    Jason M. Baxter.. The Medieval Mind of C.S. Lewis

  19. Risto Juhani says :

    Hi Scott! Hope you’re doing well. Here’s a blog post from John Michael Greer, which I think may be interesting for you:

    • Scott Preston says :

      Thanks Risto. Largely agree with that assessment of Wilber. As you may know I’ve been quite critical of his “integralism” myself, and his mistakes in his understanding of Gebser’s own history of consciousness and is inability to shake off Cartesianism.

      I’m on a real roller-coaster now, physically. Some up days, some very down days. I also have to move soon, so things have been unsettled for some time, and I regret not having as much time for the blog as formerly. I’m likely to have to go on dialysis soon as well, so everything is quite unsettled at the moment.

      • Risto Juhani says :

        Blessings for your hardships!

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        Not to worry about the blog. Not only is the fourfold firmly established within its (and the former’s) pages, seems it’s readers are more than happy to keep it going for you (sort of) for the time being. : )

        Nuttin’ to worry about. Be well.

  20. steve says :


    Scott this is the kidney health thing I mentioned before and you can zoom. It doesn’t matter if your condition is genetic this can help.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Western medicine is going through it’s own “dark night of the soul” from what I gather, with “objective” theories taking precedence over more “subjective” theories, so to speak, in every field. Pretty sure it has something to do with McGilchrist’s, et alia, “Divided Brain,” but don’t quote me on that. 😉

      Hopefully, a fruitful balance will be struck soon. Meanwhile, the best we can do is take as good care ourselves as possible.

      • TheOakofNormal says :

        It’s been said many a times before, but worth noting again that the problem “out there” is because of a problem “in here” and it all boils down to us mastering the equipment. Is not all the consciousness talk, neuroscience, divided brain etc. that’s running the day not just that? Exciting times for people that want to dig in, even just watching the breakdown outside because of the faulty use of the equipment inside is something to behold and quite incredible, YES to it all even the current ills we’re in collectively. When everything is at war with itself surely something is trying to come forward. Be well all.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          It’s made it somewhat intelligible. I’d put it that way. Were it not intelligible; were we not able to see and understand and converse about it as it is, there’d be no question of it’s culminating in a complete “global catastrophe”. And, though it still might and what’s emerging from the detritus may be “aborted,” in Gebser’s terms, that’s in no way assured. I find that reassuring.

  21. Steve says :

    We can still grow up. Despite all, we can learn how the world works and learn to be good animals, not fallen angels. We have not lost the ability, which is innate, but only missed the chance.”

    Paul Shepard

  22. Steve says :

    “In recent years I have wondered, after an occasional late-night dip into Lewis Mumford, if I would ever meet up with another thinker whose work competes with that of my chosen mentor. The challenge, I thought, would surely extend beyond mere intelligence, grasp of detail, or sweep of vision; the contender would have to be a writer, articulate and passionate. As reader, I would–by my own intolerance of the ecstasy of ideas–have to drop the book into my lap every few pages and breathe.

    Who would guess that the earnest professor pacing back and forth before the chalkboard in Biology 101 would, twenty-five years later, emerge as Mumford’s match….He was tall, bearded, preoccupied. Oh sure, we dissected the frogs, collected the butterflies, and debated nature vs. nurture. But there was something else. Paul Shepard was the only college teacher I ever knew to take the class into the wilds, all the while seeding our minds with dangerously holistic notions like ecology.

    [Years later] Nature and Madness changed my work and days….Mumford’s brilliance carved a crystalline picture of what is wrong with mass technological civilization and our lives within it. Shepard sanctioned this view, deepened it with rare psycho-historical insight–and then went on to open the door to what could be right. I remember the moment distinctly. I was lying on the couch in my office, a luscious July breeze blowing in through the door, alternately reading the book and dropping it in my lap to breathe.

    In the ideology of farming, he offered, wild things are enemies of the tame; the wild Other is not the context but the opponent of ‘my’ domain. Impulses, fears, and dreams–the realm of the unconscious–no longer are represented by the community of wild things with which I can work out a meaningful relationship. The unconscious is driven deeper and away with the wilderness. New definitions of the self by trade and political subordination in part replace the metaphoric reciprocity between natural and cultural in the totemic life of the hunter-foragers. But the new system defines by exclusion. What had been a complementary entity embracing friendly and dangerous parts of a unified cosmos now takes on the colors of hostility and fragmentation. The unconscious is driven deeper and away with the wilderness! In one fell swoop, the psychosocial dynamic of the contemporary world revealed!” —Chellis Glendinning

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