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Identity Politics and The Soul

As Mark Lilla frames things, the Pilgrims “did not speak in terms of personal identities; they had souls back then” — (from a review in The Guardian)

Yes, indeed. The identity crisis and identity politics is about the eclipse of the soul, which is the meaning of the symbolism of the Sol Niger or Black Sun. It’s for that reason, too, that restoring the meaning and integrity of the soul — reviving the soul as Jean Gebser’s “diaphainon” — is one of the main objectives of the writings of Jean Gebser and Rosenstock-Huessy, among others. It is correct to say that “identity” is only the soul which has shriveled up and has shrunk into a mere “point” — the “point of view”. The zombie image — the living dead — is really identity minus soul.

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Giotto, Picasso, and Gebser’s Aperspectival Consciousness II

In yesterday’s posting on Giotto, Picasso and Aperspectival Consciousness, we briefly (perhaps all-too briefly) traced the turbulent unfolding — in “agony and ecstasy”, as it were — of the third dimension of space (or, rather, the tripartition of space into spaces) to consciousness and perception that was prefigured in the Early Renaissance/Late Middle Ages and represented in the works of Giotto and Petrarch; proof that very big things often arrive in very small packages — or on little dove’s feet.

The unfolding (or “evolution”) of a new “dimension”, as I mentioned, also involves a corresponding “in-volution” befitting the law of dynamics that states: every action has an equal and opposite reaction — that is to say, a coincidentia oppositorum. Standard histories of the Renaissance and Late Middle Ages very seldom pay attention to the “in-volution” aspect of the transition — the restructuration of consciousness, perception, and cognition —  although this is now what is usually intended to be understood by the term “co-evolutionary” — the co-evolution of cosmos and consciousness.  Or, as the great Sufi mystic and poet Rumi once put it, “the whole universe is a form of truth”.

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Renaissances Old and New

To continue from the previous post on Renaissances, old and new….

One of the key figures of the Old Renaissance, the Dominican friar Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), is not even mentioned in Ian Goldlin’s and Chris Kutarna’s The Age of Discovery. Yet, Bruno was one of the most interesting and intriguing characters of the European Renaissance, along with cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (Cusanus 1401 – 1464) who was one of the chief figures of Renaissance humanism. Cusanus is also not mentioned in The Age of Discovery. And yet, Bruno and Cusanus both had a more accurate understanding of the cosmos than Copernicus, as it turns out.

In fact, no Hermeticists come in for a mention in The Age of Discovery, which is a serious defect of the book it seems to me.

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Genius and Risk in The Age of Discovery

I have been reading the newly published The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance by Oxford scholars Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna in preparation for a meeting I will be having with one of the authors in a few weeks time, during which we will be hashing out some of the issues pertaining to chaotic transition. I took an interest in their book and in their work because Age of Discovery attempts to interpret our time also as a chaotic transition — as implied by the reference to “New Renaissance” in the subtitle — which they interpret as representing a convergence, or coincidence, of “genius” and “risk”.

I found the book a little uneven, as one might expect from a book written by two authors who might themselves be code-named “Risk” and “Genius”, or who may have specialised in one or the other aspect of that polarity. And I don’t think it probes those issues of risk and genius, and what this means in the context of chaotic transition, deeply enough. Here at The Chrysalis, what they call “risk” we call “disintegration” or “havoc”, and what they call “genius” we call “re-integration” or “consciousness mutation” or restructuration. So I want to comment on the strengths and weaknesses of the book in its approach to the meaning, and full depth, of “choatic transition”.

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Cosmos and Consciousness in Jean Gebser

To appreciate Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy as presented in his magnum opus The Ever-Present Origin, it is necessary to understand its roots in the Hermetic Philosophy, and that, in those terms, this great work is, itself, a pointer to the “return of the repressed”.

The Hermetic Principle of “as above, so below” applies particularly to Gebser’s approach, in terms of the reciprocal relationship of cosmos and consciousness as he describes it. In fact, it’s near identity in Gebser. That is to say, any perceived change in the structure or logic of the cosmos correlates with some change in the structure or logos of consciousness. There is a relationship of reciprocity as if there were a dialogue transpiring between cosmos and consciousness. For Gebser, the current radical changes in cosmic structure, as  much as we can speak of a “structure”, an order, or logos, have come about only because something has changed in the perceptual possibilities of consciousness. That which was formerly hid or unmanifest in our worldview or perception only becomes unhid or manifest because of some new perceptual possibility — an index into some change in the consciousness structure, or what Gebser calls “a mutation” in the structure.

All that is very lovely, of course, and the cosmos now looks like a very magical and mythical place. That is to say, it begins to resemble the descriptions of the Hermeticists or alchemists. But that comes with some implications and consequences.

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Ethics, Education, Experience, Expression

I’ve begun reading Daniel Kealey’s largely Gebser-influenced Revisioning Environmental Ethics (1990). I’ve not gone very far into it as yet, but I fully agree with him that most existing environmental ethics, or the environmentalist ethos, is pretty shallow and barely scratches the surface of the implicit problem of the ecological crisis. That’s where I want to pause in my reading of Kealey’s book to muse on the four related issues raised in the title of this post: ethics, education, experience, expression.

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Post-Enlightenment

More than anything, perhaps, propaganda (and in which I include advertising, branding, public relations, public diplomacy, etc) has laid waste to the Cartesian maxim cogito ergo sum. Propaganda has pretty much proved that thinking is not the central issue of being, nor can this res cogitans or “thinking thing” function as the “ground of being”. “Perception is reality” has displaced the Cartesian cogito from the centre of things. This “cogito” was prescriptive and proscriptive only. It deliberately overlooked the primacy of perception and the fact that this “thinking” could only be known by an act of perception itself. The “post-modern condition” is really the post-Cartesian or post-Enlightenment condition. It’s finally the odd-ball philosopher, Bishop Berkley, whose conclusion that “to be is to be perceived” countered the Cartesian formula, who now has had the last laugh.

The peculiarity of our present time is the “double-movement” that expresses itself as, simultaneously, the quest for “the Ground of Being” and yet also the Transcendent, but both of which attest to the fact that “cogito ergo sum” no longer works for us. We no longer have any faith in it as a guiding principle for the “good life”.

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