The Portal of Initiation is a Maelstrom

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.

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The Emergence of the Holistic View from Unconscious Knowledge

Have you ever played spider solitaire? I was fooling around with a computer copy of the game on my computer last night and I thought of an analogy between it and the Overview Effect — that is, the emergence in our time of a more holistic view of things from already tacit unconscious knowledge; or, as Jean Gebser puts it, the “irruption” into consciousness of already implicit or latent ancient knowledge which is now beginning to force a restructuration of the mental-rational (or ego consciousness), or what we refer to here as the “perspectival” world view or “point-of-view, line-of-thought” consciousness structure.

It’s a simple — maybe even a trivial — example, but you can extrapolate from this simple analogy to the world-at-large. There’s a great deal of interest these days, for necessary reasons, with effecting the “overview”, or “the big picture view”, or the “universal view” or the “holistic view” or the “integral view” and so on. This simple analogy might be taken as an illustration of that emergence. As is said, big things sometimes come in very small packages, and in even seemingly trivial events — like the birth of a baby in a manger.

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The Machine Fetish

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”.

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The Idea of a Book

The old monasteries of Christendom were governed by a single “Rule” from which the monastic order and its activity were derived. The Rule shaped its life. The Benedictines, the Franciscans, the Dominicans, even The Brethren of the Free Spirit, and so on, all had their own “Rule”, and that Rule was the central idea they sought to bring into the world. The Rule, in turn, was derived from some aspect of the Cross or the Gospels and so the monasteries remained within the “bosom of the Church”. In some ways, then, the monasteries were very much like the faculties of a university, and much of the structure of the university as an institution took its structure from the monastery because it was the Church that founded the first universities. Before the university, it was most often the monasteries that preserved and conserved classical learning and literature through the long European Dark Age. The alleged “first scientist”, Roger Bacon, was a monk, and many of our contemporary technical inventions had their origin in the monasteries (the clock, for instance, or early genetics). And I have argued that even contemporary political ideologies were derived from the monasteries, after Luther sent his monks and nuns out of the monasteries and into the world to make their own way. They simply took their Rule with them.

Today, the monasteries are, for the most part, sad and deserted places. I’ve visited a couple of them. Only a handful of aging monks left to tend to sometimes very large compounds.

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The New Mutation: From Point of View to Overview

I’m rushing things into print a bit. Sorry for the overwhelm, but while these matters are atop my mind I’ld like to set them down.

There are some remarkable things happening to our consciousness and to our self-understanding in “post-modernity” — a mutation of consciousness that Rosenstock-Huessy also described as a “metanoia” (or “New Mind”). But like all mutations, some will be successful and some not successful and abortive — in fact, some will be outright thanatic and destructive, or what Erich Fromm calls of “necrophilous character” in his book The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.

This belongs to the paradoxical “double-movement” or double dynamic described by Jean Gebser in The Ever-Present Origin — as a coincidentia oppositorum. There is a disintegrative and degenerative dynamic (or nihilism) proceeding apace with a new integrative or regenerative dynamic (holism), and this is, quite literally, a life and death struggle between the nihilistic and the holistic, in the context of which a great many symptoms of pathology and morbidity appear. Jungians would say that the nihilistic or thanatic manifestations in our time are the eruption of “the Shadow” — the dark or unintegrated aspects of the psychic totality that threatens to overwhelm, and even take over, our little light of consciousness (the zombie meme). The stakes are very high indeed.

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Cross of Reality and Mandala

Globalism has revealed that what we call “the cross of reality” is a human universal and a common consciousness. It should be the first truth of any prospective authentic planetary civilisation. Unfortunately, it is not, and this is a problem. The cross of reality is a mandala. What better symbol than the mandala to represent the whole Earth and what William Blake also describes as “the Universal Humanity”? A mandala is a symbol of wholeness and of integration.

In past postings, we’ve discussed Rosenstock-Huessy’s quadrilateral logic of the cross of reality as this is reflected in Blake’s “fourfold vision” and his “four Zoas”, which also form a mandala. We’ve discussed the cross of reality also as being revealed in the indigenous Sacred Hoop/Medicine Wheel, which is also a mandala. We’ve discussed the cross of reality as it is revealed in Carl Jung’s four psychological functions and types, which also form a mandala. We’ve also discussed the findings of “universal grammar” so far that also reveal that all languages have a minimum four-person system, which also forms a mandala. Jean Gebser’s “four structures of consciousness” — the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational — also form a mandala. A mandala is the holographic or holotropic principle made manifest. What Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy has essentially described and revealed through his social philosophy, “grammatical method” and”cross of reality” is that any truly healthy or sane society takes the form of a mandala. To become conscious of grammar is to become conscious of that mandala structure.

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Crisis and the Cross of Reality, II

Fake news, false memory, post-truth, post-rationality — symptoms of the morbidity and social pathology of late modernity or post-modernity, they all seem to refer to one and the same thing, although in another sense they imply different things. They imply the total disintegration of modern civilisation’s “cross of reality”.

Consider the fact that any particular civilisational type and its associated “consciousness structure” is a particular configuration of spaces and times, and how it configures, arranges, organises, or domesticates those spaces and times is its milieu or habitat that we call a “culture”. That culture exists to reproduce human beings in its image, in both its temporal and spatial aspects. A culture’s arts and sciences exist to regulate its inner and outer fronts of life, and its religion and politics exist to organise its relationship to past (origin) and future (destiny). A culture or civilisation, as much as any organism, survives only to the extent it effectively manages its relationships to these four fronts of life. These are termed “the teachings of the Four Directions” or “the Guardians of the Four Directions”. We call them “institutions”. A civilisation declines, falls, or collapses whenever its institutions, or its members, fail to sustain the space and time axes that constitute its life world, in which case it disintegrates because its cross of reality disintegrates, helter-skelter. This is called “nihilism”, “chaos” or “havoc” and so on.

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