“New Renaissance” (Ian Goldin and Chris Kutarna) and an “Age of Diminishing Expectations” (Paul Krugman, Christopher Lasch) are contending and somewhat divergent narratives about the nature of our times. Charles Taylor’s thoughts on “the malaise of modernity” also align with this sense of diminishing expectations, and the sense of diminishing expectations (or sense of contraction) is also connected with post-modernity and “the end of the Master Narrative”.
These contending and seemingly divergent narratives, at least incipiently, reflect Jean Gebser’s paradoxical “double-movement”, which he described in terms of an integration with an attendant disintegration. And the best way presently to reflect on that paradoxical dynamic is through these contending narratives of “new Renaissance” and “Age of Diminishing Expectations” or “modern malaise”.
We’ve drawn attention, so far, to the difference between values like the Whole and the Totality, Individuation and Individualism, Truth and Fact (or, more properly, between “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter”). To this relationship, that between creativity and productivity must also be included.
If you contemplate this pairing of the values sufficiently, it becomes obvious that there are, here, two distinct orders of value which are, nonetheless. related to one another somehow — paradoxically related. Traditionally, this has provided the basis for a distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenal, the spiritual and the material, the “higher” and the “lower” (or the “noble” and the “ignoble” in Nietzsche’s terms), or between the infinite and the finite orders, or eternity and time. The paradox is acknowledged in the popular saying “same but different”. That drives strict logicians, rationalists, and a dualistic logic of the “either/or” variety quite nuts. So, too, what is called “spiritual materialism” arises from mistaking the “lower” value for the higher one, and is connected with Nietzsche’s understanding of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”, and that is related to Iain McGilchrist’s idea of the Emissary’s “usurpation” of the Master.
“Eternity is in love with the productions of time” — William Blake
“The whole universe is a form of truth” — Rumi, “Green Ears“
These two statements from Blake and from Rumi are equivalent. They both imply another order of consciousness and value (sometimes called “the noumenal”) behind, beneath, before, or implicit in the phenomenal or secular order of times. This is what truly marks the difference between insight and simple sight, for “vision” is ambiguous in that same sense, and it equally distinguishes between what we call “wisdom” and what we call “knowledge”. And it is, furthermore, implied in Nietzsche’s definition of nihilism whereby “all higher values devalue themselves”, which is, in effect, another way of defining “profanation” (another one of Nietzsche’s many ironies).
But the secular and the profane are not the same thing. Blake, Rumi, and Nietzsche warn us not to despise the things of the phenomenal world (or the things of “flesh and blood”, as the secular order is sometimes called) because the secular or phenomenal world is the self-revelation, or self-manifestation, of the noumenal. “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” alerts us to consider how all dualisms of spirit and matter, or mind and body, the private and the public, the individual and the communal, are false dichotomies, because the noumenal and the phenomenal, (or being and becoming, or eternal and temporal) exist in an intimate and mutual embrace (often described as one of “love”). “The whole universe is a form of truth” means, in effect, that the secular orders of time and the phenomenal order of appearances (related and mediated by the physical senses) are all symbolic form or metaphor for the self-revelation of the timeless or eternal. And that means that, in some strange way and to some strange purpose, the phenomenal or secular order is a kind of mirror for the eternal or spiritual order — something that is meant for learning.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time — William Blake
I am going to attempt to explain the meaning of Jean Gebser’s phrase “ever-present origin” (which is also the title of the English translation of his book) and how this pertains to his idea of “time-freedom”, which is, after all, the essential meaning of the term “transcendental”.
This is a bit tricky, because of the paradoxical nature of the relationship between time and eternity, or the finite and the infinite, or the mediate and the immediate, or all forms of dualism generally. But if we manage to pull it off, it will also reveal the fuller meaning of what William Blake means by “Eternity is in love with the productions of time” or by “Eternity in the hour”. In fact, it would make the sometimes enigmatic and complex mythology of Blake’s “mystical” poetry much more accessible, as well as much else besides.
We find ourselves, today, in a most peculiar situation, and a very dangerous one. To the “conquest of space” through the technologies of space that allow for the reshaping of space, we are now pursuing the conquest of time, through technologies of control of time and evolution — biotechnology, genetic engineering, and so on. Into this mix of technologies of space and of time, if we also add psychotechnologies — that is, technologies of psychological and social management and control — we have a very menacing correlation of developments. In effect, “we” are in the position to shape and reshape what we call “reality” at will.
We are claiming for ourselves powers over space, time, and reality that were formerly reserved only for God or the gods, and for that reason, too, I find some types of present research into neurology and consciousness quite disturbing in its motives and rationales.