Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? – Mark 8:18
It’s a common enough refrain and lament in the Wisdom literature — eyes they have but see not; ears they have but hear not, neither do they remember. It’s a very simple way of stating that there are inner, spiritual senses which are primary, and for which the external or physical senses are only analogues and not primary. The Kali Yuga or spiritual dark age, or “Fall Into Time”, was really the fall into purely sensate consciousness. And this is also connected with Iain McGilchrist’s notion of the “usurpation” of the “Master” by the “Emissary”, as he describes in his book on neurodynamics entitled The Master and His Emissary. Besides the parable of the Prodigal Son, there are many other parables of the master and servant in Scripture that pertain to this also, but which have been likewise completely misunderstood.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. — Kierkegaard
We cannot really understand what it means to live the “post-modern condition” and what it might portend until we come to terms with the passing era called “Modernity”, which generally begins with the Reformation and Renaissance in Europe some 500 years ago in the midst of the disintegration of Christendom and the waning of the Middle Ages. The quotation of Kierkegaard above highlights the problem of what Lewis Mumford and Roderick Seidenberg refer to as “post-historic man” in this regard. It’s just another way of saying that if you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where you are going. The problem of post-historic man (who Loren Eiseley also calls “the asphalt animal“) is that he is a creature who thinks and acts as if he were born yesterday, and also lives and acts as if there were no tomorrow. Necessarily, such a creature also becomes post-conscious, too. As both Jean Gebser and Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy have noted, consciousness is very much a matter of how we structure the times and spaces of our reality. Consciousness, consequently, can undergo the same processes of expansion or contraction characteristic of all dynamic processes found in nature or the cosmos at large. In effect, “post-historic man” belongs to Christopher Lasch’s “culture of narcissism”.
“Since Copernicus man has been rolling from the centre towards X” — Nietzsche
When I was an undergrad, one of my professors encouraged me to read Simone Weil’s book The Need for Roots. I did, reluctantly. I really don’t recall much of it but, in any case, I was suspicious that said professor was trying to steer me in the direction of kind of counter-reformation Catholicism or a right-wing neo-reactionary Traditionalism. At that time, uprooting was my predilection rather, and I wanted no truck with a stodgy conservative Traditionalism that I held in suspicion as being little more than a disguised form of counter-reformation or neo-fascism.
Nonetheless, I did read a few other works by conservative philosophers, such as the late Canadian nationalist and Nietzsche-influenced philosopher George Grant, who also named “homelessness” — that is to say, uprootedness or what we call “alienation” — as the chief symptom of the nihilism of Late Modern Man. Grant was a paradox, in some ways, for although he was inclined towards conservatism, he preferred the company of the socialists. In that, he also reminds of the social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. This seeming contradiction becomes understandable, though, when you appreciate that both conservatism and socialism were responses towards alienation, anomie, or uprootedness, which were seen as the chief liability and deficiency of liberal individualism.
In The Ever-Present Origin, Jean Gebser warned about succumbing to a “maelstrom of blind anxiety” as human consciousness (and identity) undergoes a restructuration or “mutation”. It’s a very apt metaphor — even more than a metaphor. A maelstrom is a vortex, and the portal of initiation (which is the meaning of the crucible in alchemy) is also a vortex. W.B. Yeats’ “gyres” are also vortices.
A vortex is a very interesting energetic structure. If you are trapped in one, it seems like chaos — everything is disorienting; everything is constantly turning into its opposite or becoming inverted. But if you take the view “sub specie aeternitatis“, as they say — the detached overview rather than the view sub specie temporis, which is to be submerged in the vortex of temporicity — it has a very clear pattern logic. Dante’s Inferno is also a vortex, but it was also the portal of initiation, since his passage through hell led him to paradise.
The naive mind brings to the machine the kind of reverence once reserved for the gods in mythological culture, or for the power object in magical culture. The machine becomes an idol and a fetish because it is believed to be an incarnation of the “truth that sets free”, if only as the labour-saving or the life-saving device. For the naive mind, what works is what is true, and what is true is what works. Science is valued only as a discoverer of truths that can then be incarnated in the functioning machine as proof of truth. The machine then becomes not just the proof of the truth of Science, but the very incarnation of Truth itself, the embodied “miracles” of existence. Technology becomes the sacred object of reverence because it is truth itself made manifest and, alone, the truth that sets free.
This is, of course, idolatry, superstition and fetish, but a very powerful one that holds an extraordinary grip on the mind. Technology, here, is not just useful for achieving useful purposes and ends, but becomes an end and purpose in itself and for itself. Technology becomes incarnate truth, and there is no truth outside its incarnation as the machine. There is a kind of intimation of that in David Bowie’s great song “Saviour Machine“. In effect, technology proclaims “I am the Truth, and you shall have no other truth before me”.
Chaos Theory describes states in relative equilibrium and states “far from equilibrium” (or “chaotic”). Basically, “far from equilibrium” means crisis or critical, a word which is related to “cross” and “crucial” (and “crucible” and “crucifix”) because a crisis is a crossroads, and traditionally crossroads were sensed as being places of evil or evil-doing, mainly because they are associated with life and death decisions. When Francis Fukuyama penned his ridiculous “End of History” thesis, he almost immediately followed that up with America at the Crossroads, apparently without even noticing the self-contradiction. But that kind of double-think — thought descending into self-negation and self-contradiction — is very characteristic of the state of mind of post-modernity, which we might describe as a consciousness structure now in a state “far from equilibrium”.
But to be in a state “far from equilibrium” (which is death by another name, also described as “homeostatic failure”) means that the cross of reality is broken or disintegrate, and along with this decay or disintegration of the cross of reality come symptoms of nihilism, morbidity, and what Erich Fromm calls a “necrophilous” or a thanatic dynamic (destructivness). So, today we want to carry on with the exploration of the meaning of “the Guardians of the Four Directions” at peace and at war (or integrate and disintegrate states) as these pertain to the quadrilateral of the cross of reality and the meaning of equilibrium and “far from equilibrium” as life and death states of the cross or reality.