Our Mental Meltdown: Mind in Dissolution

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.

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Chaotic Emotion and Cognitive Dissonance

“Cognitive dissonance” is a useful term to describe our present “chaotic transition”, even though it has been known in the past and described in different ways. Cognitive dissonance is a reflection of what Jean Gebser referred to also as our current rampage of “chaotic emotion”. Jesus used the metaphor of “whited sepulchres”, sparkling clean on the outside (self-righteous), but full of decay, corruption, and dead-men’s bones on the inside. “The truth is not in you” he declared to those who were certain they were the custodians of truth. But when his disciples asked how they were to know the truth-speakers from whited sepulchres (or false prophets) he could only respond “by their fruits you will know them”, which “fruits” can only be understood in relation to his other maxim: “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”.

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Time and Chaos

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”.

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Nihilism: The Dynamics of Self-Negation

I’ve frequently suggested that what I refer to as “ironic reversal” is one of the chief characteristics of the post-modern condition (or “chaotic transition” if you prefer), and that ironic reversal is otherwise known in phrases like “unintended consequence”, “revenge effect”, “blowback”, “perverse outcome”, “reversal of fortune”, and so on. Another way to describing ironic reversal is in terms of a dynamics of self-negation or self-discrediting — the dynamics of an era and its civilisation that is now in process of discrediting itself and negating itself, which we summarily describe by the term “nihilism”. What is being referred to as “New Normal” is this process.

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The Field Concept in Jung’s “Collective Unconscious”

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”.

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The Field is the Ever-Present Origin

The “Field” concept is quickly becoming the basis for new, more holistic thinking about reality — a metanoia, as it were. It is quite true, in my experience, It is a much different way of reflecting on reality and, moreover, provides an integral framework for interpreting and understanding the various anomalies of our contemporary reality — the wave-particle paradox or non-locality (or transluminal effect), and so on.

So today I’m going to discuss this “Field” concept as it has developed over the last century or so and why it is the basis for any new insights into the real, for the Field is also synonymous with Gebser’s “ever-present” and “ever-present origin”. The Field is not a “point” of origin (and therefore a “beginning”) but the field of origination which provides the basis for the emergent into spatio-temporal existence. In turning our attention to the Field, which explains so much in fact, we will also see what is deficient in the present mental-rational consciousness structure.

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Evolution According to Gebser’s “Pre-Existing Pattern”

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.

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