“Eternity is in love with the productions of time” — William Blake
“The whole universe is a form of truth” — Rumi, “Green Ears“
These two statements from Blake and from Rumi are equivalent. They both imply another order of consciousness and value (sometimes called “the noumenal”) behind, beneath, before, or implicit in the phenomenal or secular order of times. This is what truly marks the difference between insight and simple sight, for “vision” is ambiguous in that same sense, and it equally distinguishes between what we call “wisdom” and what we call “knowledge”. And it is, furthermore, implied in Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism whereby “all higher values devalue themselves”, which is, in effect, another way of defining “profanation” (another one of Nietzsche’s many ironies).
But the secular and the profane are not the same thing. Blake, Rumi, and Nietzsche warn us not to despise the things of the phenomenal world (or the things of “flesh and blood”, as the secular order is sometimes called) because the secular or phenomenal world is the self-revelation, or self-manifestation, of the noumenal. “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” alerts us to consider how all dualisms of spirit and matter, or mind and body, the private and the public, the individual and the communal, are false dichotomies, because the noumenal and the phenomenal, (or being and becoming, or eternal and temporal) exist in an intimate and mutual embrace (often described as one of “love”). “The whole universe is a form of truth” means, in effect, that the secular orders of time and the phenomenal order of appearances (related and mediated by the physical senses) are all symbolic form or metaphor for the self-revelation of the timeless or eternal. And that means that, in some strange way and to some strange purpose, the phenomenal or secular order is a kind of mirror for the eternal or spiritual order — something that is meant for learning.
The road up and the road down are the same — Heraclitus
A lot of people have puzzled over this particular paradox of Heraclitus. While it might be obvious that a road going up a mountain is also, at the same time, a road going down a mountain, I can assure you that Heraclitus had nothing so banal in mind as to point out the obvious. It was a metaphor for something else — life and death — just as his remark about not being able to put the same foot in the same river twice was a metaphor for what Buddhists describe as “impermanence”, which is Heraclitus’s “panta rei” — “everything flows”.
Panta rei is what informs Zigmunt Bauman’s thesis of “Liquid Modernity”, revealing Bauman as being a Heraclitean at heart, (and perhaps even a Buddhist in principle). For, indeed, Heraclitus has been described as “the Greek Buddha” (as well as “Heraclitus the Obscure” or “Heraclitus the Dark”).
Eternity is in love with the productions of time — William Blake
I am going to attempt to explain the meaning of Jean Gebser’s phrase “ever-present origin” (which is also the title of the English translation of his book) and how this pertains to his idea of “time-freedom”, which is, after all, the essential meaning of the term “transcendental”.
This is a bit tricky, because of the paradoxical nature of the relationship between time and eternity, or the finite and the infinite, or the mediate and the immediate, or all forms of dualism generally. But if we manage to pull it off, it will also reveal the fuller meaning of what William Blake means by “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” or by “Eternity in the hour”. In fact, it would make the sometimes enigmatic and complex mythology of Blake’s “mystical” poetry much more accessible, as well as much else besides.
Dwig, a couple of posts back, issued something of a challenge for me to unfold the meaning of the shamanic consciousness, or what Jean Gebser calls “the magical structure of consciousness”. This I will attempt to do today, although my first impulse was to comment on an article that appeared in The Atlantic on the limits to scientific understanding. I can work some of that into today’s post also. It is often the case that the limits to scientific understanding are also the beginnings of the mythical or the magical and shamanic one.
You may recall the Hermetic principle of epistemology — empathetic epistemics: “to know the thing, you must become the thing you want to know”. This, naturally, requires great fluidity and flexibility of consciousness and identity and a readiness to forego the mere “point-of-view” and “line-of-thought” approach associated with what is called “the objective attitude”. This is sometimes represented as “the descent into the Underworld”. This is possible for any one of us, as Gebser, Jung, and Blake also demonstrate. Since these “structures of consciousness” or modes of perception are latent within us still, we can access them. In fact, we frequently do without really being conscious of doing so. The boundaries between the consciousness structures/modes of perception are rather porous and permeable.
There is yet another voice of concern, a former Facebook executive, raised about the pernicious influence of social media: “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth“. The technology, says , is “ripping society apart”.
But is it? No. Not really. The divergent, disjunctive, disintegrative and chaotic social tendencies were there before they were projected, amplified, and reinforced by the technology and by social media. Social media has simply amplified the crisis of consciousness. What is travelling through the “global brain” or global “nervous system” is what we call “the stream of consciousness”. And that stream of consciousness is largely impulsive and chaotic. Anything that can pass through the human nervous system now becomes extended through and passes into the global nervous system — the malignant as well as the benign, the dark as well as the light, the conscious as well as the unconscious. The global internet, and social media, are making the stream of conscious manifest.
I awoke the other morning with an insight. It was one of those forehead-slapping moments when you realise you’ve been seeing the truth of something all along but never really recognised it until that moment. After years of pouring through books and essays on the riddle of the technological system, the role of propaganda within that system, and the meaning of the technocrat (and of “technocratic shamanism”), I suddenly realised that it all boiled down to a simple contradiction between the machine-world’s requirement for the “well-adjusted individual”, but life’s and the culture’s drive for the “well-rounded personality”, by which is meant the fulfilled, the complete, the whole.
It became quite clear to me, in that moment of revelation, that when I thought back over all the critiques of the technological system or the “Megamachine”, that this was the essential issue and tension in society — the well-rounded against the merely well-adjusted. Let’s unwrap that a bit further.