It is quite remarkable how some contemporary myths like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings have seized hold of the collective imagination. For many people, these are the New Gospel. I have known people, for example, who read Lord of the Rings religiously every year. And they do, in many respects, speak to archetypal themes of myth and magic that lie just below the surface of the ego-consciousness and which do have a degree of psychic validity.
Both Lord of the Rings and Star Wars draw upon ancient legends and stories for their own themes, including the Grail legends. For some people, these contemporary myths have even become their new “Master Narrative” — providing the framework for interpreting their experience and organising their perceptions, and sometimes in quite pernicious and unhealthy ways.
The word “desire” has a peculiar origin and etymology. It means, quite literally, “from the stars” or “down from the stars” — de sidere. It comes from a time, evidently — a time that was, a time that is, a time that will be — when there was no separation of the “in here” from the “out there”. The still weak human ego consciousness experienced its own desires and passions as being outside or external to itself. To be in the grip of strong passions and desires was to be possessed by a god.
This is still registered in related meanings of words like “influence” (in-flowing) or “enthusiasm” (en-theos, or “a god within”). This is quite characteristic of both the magical and mythical structures of consciousness, and it is returning again with the disintegration of the ego consciousness, or breakdown of the mental-rational consciousness and “the return of the repressed”. So, it’s something that needs to be understood, especially for understanding Jean Gebser’s concerns expressed in The Ever-Present Origin.
The contraction of the personal consciousness into this fixture — this fixed point called “point-of-view”, or what is known as egoism — is, quite evidently, connected to both the “empathy deficit” as well as the crisis of identity. This contraction into the point is implicated, too, in both Lewis Mumford’s and Roderick Seidenberg’s thoughts on “post-historic man”, who is, in those terms, post-conscious too. This contraction — one might almost describe it as an implosion — by the same token contributes to the problem of “symbolic belief” and the loss of fluidity of awareness, so that one is unable to “switch perspectives” — say between background and foreground effects, or the context and the text (consequently, the whole and the totality). That is to say, there comes with this contraction an almost complete loss of discernment and discerning reason that begins to look a lot like mass derangement.
I wanted, this morning, to register some thoughts on Iain McGilchrist’s use of the term “Emissary” — in his book The Master and His Emissary — and the implications of this term for what we would otherwise call “the ego consciousness”.
McGilchrist states that he took the metaphor for the divided brain from a passage in Nietzsche about the master and his emissary. Some students of Nietzsche have, however, disputed that Nietzsche ever wrote such a parable. I certainly don’t recall it from Nietzsche, but that’s a small matter since, as I’ve noted in past postings, the chapter called “The Despisers of the Body” from his Zarathustra is pretty much consistent with the master-emissary metaphor. So, I can well imagine that Nietzsche may have employed the parable of the Master and his Emissary someplace.
Just a quick follow-up to the previous post on the carrying capacity of a consciousness structure by drawing on an analogy sometimes described as “Russian fatalism” — a phenomenon that engaged Nietzsche, and which illustrates something of his technique of “revaluation of values”.
The term “carrying capacity”, derived from ecology, may also be a very useful term to describe the limits and boundaries of a consciousness structure. A “consciousness structure”, in Jean Gebser’s terms, in order to be intelligible as a structure at all, has boundaries, definition, limits, which constitute what we call its “limits of intelligibility”. In the cases of the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational structures — or the “unperspectival”, the “pre-perspectival”, and the “perspectival” correspondingly, each has its own limits of intelligibility.
In those terrms, a consciousness structure can be described as having a certain “carrying capacity” . A consciousness structure is something akin to an ecological “niche”. It can become overstressed, overloaded, overtaxed and overtasked at which point it begins to breakdown. It would appear, today, that the perspectival or mental-rational structure has reached, and overstepped, its own limits of intelligibility.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve been spending quite a bit of time on the German websites following social, political, and cultural developments there. (I have a particular interest in Germany because I studied there.) One of the great advantages of knowing another language is that you come to see how spatial and temporal relations — reality in other words — are configured differently. These configurations (or “Gestalts“) are what Owen Barfield calls “the collective representations”, or what we would call “images”, social or mental representations or symbolic forms. These symbolic forms or collective representations are governed by a grammar, which specifies who they are to relate to one another. A grammar imposes coherence on the symbolic forms or collective representations. This sea of symbolic forms in which we live is sometimes referred to as “the social imaginary” or “the social construction of reality”. Rudolf Steiner refers to these collective representations or symbolic forms as “mental pictures”.