“You never really know a man until you understand things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” — Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
“Don’t judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins” — translated from an indigenous proverb
Today, I’ld like to spend a little time speaking to cultural philosopher Jean Gebser’s approach to knowledge, which will facilitate understanding and appreciating his major work, The Ever-Present Origin and what he means by the “aperspectival” or “integral” consciousness which he himself practiced. Gebser’s hermeneutics, or “method”, has nothing essentially “mystical” about it. That’s a judgement from the confines, or perspectivism, of mere rationalism. Aperspectival or integral consciousness is an eminently pragmatic and practical matter, manifestly so in Gebser’s own case. I would prefer to describe Gebser’s approach as “empathetic epistemics” rather than “hermeneutics” for various reasons. I hope to demonstrate here why I believe Gebser is an archetype or prototype of the aperspectival or integral consciousness structure that he believed was already in the process of “irrupting” more generally.
I’m not sure who should be credited with the phrase “the shock of the real” (but it is, apparently, the American environmentalist Edward Abbey from his book Desert Solitaire). It’s a very good phrase. It’s basically the meaning of the word “apocalypse” and has been borrowed extensively by others too to describe the bursting of bubbles of all kinds. “Shock” has become something of a theme of Late Modernity or the post-modern condition — Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, or, indeed, “Shock and Awe”. Shock might even be said to be the essence of “the New Normal”.
The phrase “shock of the real” brings to mind the Tarot card called “The Fool”.
Jean Gebser wrote, in his Ever-Present Origin, about a “menacing correlation” of trends that threaten global havoc — a convergence of currents, trends, forces that, as in nature, results in some very violent, choppy and turbulent waters — a “maelstrom” is what he called it. The meme being used today to reference Gebser’s “maelstrom” is “the perfect storm” — something climactic; something apocalyptic; Peter Pogany’s “havoc“.
But then, no Great Journey — no Great Quest — is ever complete without one: Parsifal, Ulysses, Frodo Baggins and the Fellowship of the Ring, the “Dark Night of the Soul” of John of the Cross, Alice in Wonderland or Dorothy through Oz. There would be no story at all if nothing happened — no great obstacles or dangers encountered, no great challenges met and overcome, no Klingsor or Circe or Saruman or Oz or Wicked Witch of the North to best and outwit. The challenges, the hardships, the headwinds, the turbulence, the powers of darkness and chaos — these are all necessary archetypal elements of the Great Journey. Without them, the heroes cannot grow, mature or fulfill their destiny. The Great Journey is all about transformational change. All such Great Journeys and Quests are but variations on the same archetypal theme of the Prodigal Son.
A few posts back, I posted a piece on Donald Trump as Trickster figure (“Provocateur-in-Chief”) with the suggestion that, by assuming this and investigating the myths about Trickster, we can develop a life strategy for countering the most pernicious influences and effects of “Trumpism”.
So, I was very pleased to read in today’s Guardian James S Gordon’s piece on the same theme: Trump as Trickster and, as such, uncanny avatar of The Lord of Misrule.
It occurred to me, after I posted the last post on Janus, that I needed to follow that up with a concrete example of what I’m talking about, in regards to transparency and opacity and the hair that separates them in respect of time and timelessness, and this in regards to some of the contemporary conundrums about time that physics wrestles with.
To do that, I have to refer back to a much older post in The Chrysalis where I commented on the dissolution of the Eternal Now into temporal, atom-sized fragments called “moments” — frozen moments of “Now” — that presently bedevils much physics.
New Year’s Day, and it seems an appropriate day to speak of the Roman god Janus and the paradoxes of time, especially considering that time is the theme of the new mutation of consciousness — the “dimension” that is now disrupting the perspectivist consciousness and its specialist, spacialised three-dimensional ratio.
Janus is the two-faced god, one face looking backwards (or leftwards) and one face looking forwards (or rightwards). In some depictions of Janus, he is also four-faced — peering backwards and forwards and inwards and outwards — in a manner that suggests the Sacred Hoop or the Cross of Reality.
One of the things that grabbed me while I was reading one of the Seth books was a simple statement Seth made during a particularly stormy night while beginning one of his “sessions” with Jane Roberts and Robert Butts. Of all the things that should stick with me after reading the Seth material it is, oddly enough, “storms to the stormy”. The phrase recurs to me every time I reflect on problems of climate change or of chaotic transition.
“Storms to the stormy” brings to mind Heraclitus and his admonition that “character is fate”. In the original Greek, though, character is “ethos” and “character is fate” is only a very rough translation of “ethos anthropos daimon“. Heraclitus, the “Greek Buddha” as he has been described, meant by this “daimon” something more akin to the Buddhist “Mara”, Lord of Illusions and “the Architect”. Greek “daimon” is often adequately translated by the Latin “genius“. But neither “demon” nor “genius” mean, today, what they meant then.