The Shadow, Jung once noted, is about “80%” positive or dark energy or what Carolyn Baker calls “Dark Gold“, a figure which, mysteriously enough, reflects the calculated amount of dark energy presumed to exist in the cosmos, too. Jung called the Shadow “the unlived life” — the unmanifested. One may presume that what Castaneda’s don Juan calls “the dark sea of awareness” has some affiliation with both. That this life-energy or libido is bound up and confined in the Shadow is largely the result of the repression and inhibition that both Friedrich Nietzsche and William Blake (the “mind-forg’d manacles”) decried as the pernicious result of a false moralism.
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.
Last evening, I rented a pretty campy movie called Resident Evil: The Final Chapter — yet another installment in the continuing saga of the zombie and of the plucky surviving (and outnumbered) humans struggling to survive against chaos and armies of the undead. There seems to be no end of appetite for the living dead, and for zombie movies, zombie carnivals, and the zombie apocalypse.
Campy though it was, watching Resident Evil after reading Stephen Metcalf’s very insightful article on neo-liberalism in yesterday’s Guardian, and having just watched Vice‘s remarkable video of an insider’s account of the recent Charlottesville incident, this present pop cultural obsession with the living dead and its symbolism, along with my recent meditations on “The Shadow”, began to make profound sense. It triggered in my mind a recollection of Jung’s definition of the Shadow as “the unlived life” (and what that means also in terms of “the return of the repressed”) and so I understood then that there is a direct reciprocity between these themes of “the Living Dead” and “the Unlived Life” that also ties into Christopher Lasch’s The Culture of Narcissism and the fuller significance of “the Anthropocene”. The insatiable hunger and craving that drives the undead, or zombie, is not for flesh and blood but for life.
Most dystopian literature depicts a future society in which humanity has ceased to be effectively creative. “Expect poison from the standing water”, as Blake put it in one of his Proverbs of Hell in his The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Another one of Blake’s very wise Proverbs of Hell, related to this, is especially poignant today: “The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind”. Indeed, “reptiles of the mind” is pretty much an accurate description of contemporary man’s state of mind, as we witness it daily — the irruption of the so-called “Lizard Brain” (which is probably what the alt-right’s adopted mascot “Pepe the Frog” signifies — the Lizard Brain associated with the Shadow). You may take these proverbs about the standing water as even the essential problem of the “point-of-view” consciousness structure now functioning, in Gebser’s terms, in “deficient mode”.
This effectively gives us another way of understanding Gebser’s distinction between the “effective” and “deficient” modes of a consciousness structure or civilisational type. Effective means creative; deficient means destructive. “Effective” means “generative”; deficient means “degenerative” or decadent. The one is associated with “Genesis” and the other with the Nihil, or Ens and Non-Ens.
Some of you may be Game of Thrones aficionados. For my part, it’s one of the most curious things I’ve ever seen — the magical, the mythical, and the historical all mixed up, pretty much as it really is in post-modernity. Despite being “fantasy” it is, in many ways, brutally realistic about the human condition. I see Game of Thrones as a metaphor for a world going through “chaotic transition”. There are already a lot of places on Earth today where it is not fantasy, but the daily reality. “Winter is coming!” has even become something of a meme among those who already feel or sense that we are on the brink of succumbing to a new Dark Age.
A few moments ago, I posted a quotation from the artist Maurice Grosser’s The Painter’s Eye to the comments section of the previous post on Holonic Awareness. The quote is excerpted from Edward T. Hall’s The Hidden Dimension, which is also a book I highly recommend to students of Jean Gebser’s cultural philosophy. I found the quote so deeply meaningful, significant, and revealing in relation to what Gebser calls “the mental-rational” or “perspectival” consciousness structure that I have decided to comment on it at even greater length than could be done in a short comment.
The passage appears on pages 77 and 78 or Hall’s The Hidden Dimension. Here, Grosser is describing the proper distance — not just physical but psychological — for the proper visual rendering and representation of a subject or model in perspective space, just as the Renaissance artists would have approached the problem.
I recently spent another enjoyable afternoon of coffee-drinking and conversation with Chris Kutarna, co-author (with Ian Goldlin) of The Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance. The conversation was pretty wide-ranging — anything from the meaning of the “zombie” as cultural meme, to Game of Thrones, to contemporary politics (local and global), to the limits of Cartesianism and dialectics (and thus to perspectivisation or the “point-of-view” consciousness and mode of perception). Always stimulating, these conversations over coffee help me articulate what is my “Holy Grail” in terms of any prospective “New Renaissance” or “Age of Discovery” — that is to say, that which remains to be “discovered” (rather than simply invented) and why we must move from a triadic or tripartite logic to a four-term or quadratic logic. My “Age of Discovery” thus involves the realisation of holonic awareness and perception.
There have been a number of such “Ages of Discovery” in human history — the “discovery of the soul”, the “discovery of the will”, the “discovery of the mind“. The discovery of a new “dimension” to our reality was always coincident with the disclosure of some new potency or faculty in the human form and configuration leading to a radical reconstruction of perception and to the meanings of “truth”, “human nature”, or “cosmos” — literally a “new Heaven and a new Earth”. This is what Gebser refers to as the “irruption” of a new consciousness structure and the self-revelation of what was previously a hidden dimension or domain.