For the last few posts, we’ve been probing for the meaning of the phrase “the collapse of reality”, and how this “collapse of reality” might also relate to Rolf Jensen’s influential bestseller The Dream Society: How The Coming Shift From Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business, (and to an apparent spin-off of that called “marketing 3.0” or “spiritual branding”). We’ve also made note of the paradox and ambiguity in the phrase “collapse of reality” (and attendant “chaos” or “chaotic transition”), for in many respects it could be equally said of what is happening in quantum physics and even history.
So before I continue with my critique of The Dream Society and its contribution to the collapse of reality, I want to speak to this other aspect of the collapse of reality, as also being an aspect of what Jean Gebser called the paradoxical “double-movement” of our times — a time of disintegration coincident with a new integration. Therein lies the paradox and the double-meaning of the phrase “collapse of reality” or the irony and ambiguity resident in Karl Marx’s observation (explored by Marshall Berman in a book by that title available online) that “all that is solid melts into air”.
Since there seems to be some great confusion and misunderstanding of the purposes and meanings of The Chrysalis, which is primarily about the ongoing and rather turbulent shift from the cosmic number 3 to the cosmic number 4 — or from a reality construed in three dimensions to a reality construed in four dimensions along with the corresponding restructuration of consciousness that is implied in this — I’m going to reach back into The Chrysalis archives and raise once again the key issues in the transition or metamorphosis — the emergence of the quadrilateral or fourfold as it is represented in the Holling Adaptive Cycle, Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, the native North American “Sacred Hoop”, and on to what William Blake also means by his “four Zoas” and “fourfold vision”.
Regular Guardian columnist Kenan Malik published a short piece today about the deep connections between Europe and Islam as revealed in Renaissance art. It is necessarily short because the invention of perspectivism in the Renaissance marked a parting of the ways, since perspective in art — and photographic effect — was rejected by Islamic authorities at the time as “competing with God” (ie “magic” or sorcery). Ironically, though, it was Islamic scholars — men like Averroes (ibn Rushd), Avicenna, among others – who helped prepare the way for the European Renaissance, including Islamic works on optics that were used by Europe’s “first scientist”, the monk Roger Bacon (also called Doctor Mirabilis). That work on optics laid the important foundations for the invention of perspective art in the Renaissance, beginning largely with the pioneering works of Giotto.
If you have been with The Chrysalis for any length of time — or have read cultural philosopher Jean Gebser’s account of the ascendance of the mental-rational or perspective consciousness — you will perhaps appreciate how the invention of perspective is foundational to what we call “modern mind” or “modern self”, presently in the throes of dissolution, confusion and chaos. Malik’s short article has reminded me to revisit those earlier postings and the dissolution and incoherence of perspective consciousness now manifesting in today’s social and individual phenomena of chaotic emotion and cognitive dissonance.
What we call “chaos”, and what is very much implicated in “chaotic transition”, is intimately connected with time. More specifically, it is intimately connected with the breakdown of the Clockwork Universe and the reflection of that Clockwork in the social order. The irruption of the spontaneous and paradoxical — the uncertain and the unpredictable — offends the clockwork orderliness of things. Something or someone, we say, has “thrown a spanner into the works”. Someone has sabotaged our sense of order, and that sense of order is based on the Clockwork. At such times people cast about for someone who, like a Mussolini, “will make the trains run on time” — that is to say, restore the Clockwork. The Clockwork is the pulsing heart of the Megamachine and is, in many respects, also Blake’s “dark Satanic Mill”.
To continue from the previous post: the emergence of the Field concept in physics, in biology, in psychology, in sociology is, in all likelihood, the fundamental phenomenon behind what we are calling “paradigm shift”, and we can begin to appreciate the meaning of Jean Gebser’s consciousness “mutations” or his “irruption” of a new consciousness structure in those terms, ie, that the growing interest and concern with holism or integrality is also a reflection of the Field, or that the Field is the truly subsistent reality. The Field is also energy and corresponds to the Heraclitean “flux”, which can only be described in terms of patterns or Gestalts, and so you see a corresponding interest in the issue of “pattern recognition” or pattern cognition, which belongs to the more intuitive faculties.
But today I want to speak, briefly, to how Jung’s Archetypal Psychology also relates to the emergence of the Field into consciousness, in terms of the so-called “Collective Unconscious” and his doctrine of “synchronicity” which does parallel issues of non-locality (or transluminal effect) in quantum physics, or what Einstein himself once dismissed as “spooky action at a distance”, although it was, ironically enough, already implied in Einstein’s view that time was a “stubborn illusion”.
Some who have read Jean Gebser’s The Ever-Present Origin might have been intrigued by his assertion that what we call “evolution” has largely been misunderstood — that it is neither “chance” nor random but is an “unfolding” (as the word “e-volution” actually means) according to what he calls “a pre-existing pattern”. And it must also be the case that, since all dynamics are polar in nature, even according to the laws of action in physics, any evolutionary dynamic must also be an involutionary one — a complementarity. For if every action (which is energy) has an equal and opposite reaction, according to physicist’s own universal law of action, physicists would be in self-contradiction to insist that the law is universal but that is doesn’t also apply to all forms of action.
And much of what is called the “Standard Model” of physics (and of all conventional science generally) is in a state of self-contradiction, which is a deficiency of integration. This state of self-contradiction is connected with what Jacob Bronowski, in his Origins of Knowledge and Imagination, calls “the crisis of paradox”, connected with the chaotic, but which is, in effect, only a crisis for the Mechanical Model and the Mechanical Philosophy and for dialectical rationality. This condition of self-contradiction is now generalised throughout the culture and has become characteristic of the consciousness of the late modern mind.
I refer to the cultural philosopher Jean Gebser quite a lot in the pages of The Chrysalis. His history of consciousness and “civilisations as structures of consciousness”, described in his magnum opus entitled (in the English translation) The Ever-Present Origin, is among the most profound contributions to the “hard problem” of consciousness I have read.
So, following upon my brief discussion in the previous post of what I consider the deficiencies in Yuval Noah Harari’s Homo Deus, (judging from the reviews alone) I thought I would today provide a brief account of Gebser’s very different understanding and of what Gebser means by “structures of consciousness” and civilisational types as structures of consciousness.