by Scott Preston Chrysalis Mar 3, 2019
We’ve discussed the migratory experience, and in the context of moving from one Age into another Age as an “unsettling” experience, which we are calling “chaotic transition” and “Age of Anxiety” or “post-modernity”, and so on. This, though, is something of a metaphor, for in one sense, we aren’t going anywhere really. What’s happening is that the powers of space and time — past and future, subjective and objective, are all pressing converging from their different “directions” (or “dimensions”) on the present, and this is experienced as an extreme pressure. This is the process Jean Gebser calls “presentiation”.
This convergence of the powers on the present is implicated in what is called “the End of the Grant Narrative” or “the End of the Master Narrative”, and this is a quite unsettling experience, for this convergence of the old archons overthrows our normal understanding of reality and how space and time are structured or organised. If past and future on converging on the present, and if subjective and objective are likewise converging on the present, then our usual mental picture and model of what is reality is disproven by this fact. For time, in this sense, acts neither like a cycle nor like an arrow nor like a spiral, but reveals itself as a polarity — as Janus-faced — as past and future, old and new.
So, this convergence of the four powers on the present, which Rosenstock-Huessy represents in his cross of reality as the trajective, prejective, subjective, objective poles of reality, or the “backwards, forwards, inwards, and outwards” orientations and directions of consciousness, implies a paradox. This convergence is one of the chief characteristics of the Anthropocene, too, which makes it such a paradox. This convergence is Gebser’s idea of “presentiation”, which means we aren’t actually “moving” through time at all, but rather that the great powers of time and space are rising to meet us where we are, and have always been — Here and Now.
That time past and time future are pressing in upon us in the present, or that spaces subjective and objective are likewise becoming co-present — this is actually what is implied in this idea of the coming “Singularity”, which is more or less misunderstood in my view. But it should be evident that this experience of the Great Convergence of the Powers is not compatible with the old “Master Narrative” that defined and described the Modern Mind as its particular way of structuring reality, or space and time.
Now, Gebser also calls this the “irruption” of everything that had once returned to latency, which is true enough, but we may also call it “convergence” or “co-presence” of the powers. But this convergence of the powers in co-presence was already implied in Einstein’s unification of space and time, and was what Picasso was trying to represent in his art — convergence of all spaces, convergence of all times, and therefore the necessity of a new integration of past, future, subjective and objective.
Now, we know that this convergence is happening in terms of the spaces subjective and objective. It’s already implied in matters like Neal Gabler’sLife the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, or in Rolf Jensen’s extraordinary idea of The Dream Society, or Kurt Andersen’s Fantasyland, or in some of the writings of the late Neal Postman, or ideas like Christopher Lasch’s “the culture of narcissism”, and a great many other offerings. And they pretty much all express the same alarm that the boundaries between the subjective and the objective domains seem to be dissolving, but which we may also say are converging also. Also implied in this is what Aurobindo calls “The Age of Subjectivism” in his great book The Human Cycle. This convergence of the subjective and objective is also implied in Blake’s idea of “the divine Imagination” as the only reality. But we also find this perception of a convergence, and consequently an implied breakdown of Cartesian metaphysical dualism, in other works like Stirk’s Technology as Magic: The Triumph of the Irrational, (or even in such hallowed places of objectivity as Scientific American), in Robert Romanyshyn’s Technology as Symptom & Dream, or Lee Worth Bailey’s The Enchantments of Technology, and so on.
In some respects, then, we have to recognise that what Jung called “the collective unconscious” is, in fact, surfacing, that what we call “subjective” and what we call “objective” are converging in some mysterious way also described by Aurobindo as “Age of Subjectivism” and in what Gebser calls “the irruption” or what has been also called “the return of the repressed”.
This also is described in the phrase “coincidence of the opposites” (coincidentia oppositorum) or “the conjunction of the opposites” (coniunctio oppositorum) which describes paradox, and which are central ideas of the Hermetic Philosophy or what we call “alchemy”. And this is also happening in quantum physics, in the form of the so-called Measurement Problem, which is dealing with such paradoxical questions as where does consciousness end and the cosmos begin, for its no longer clear that there is any separation at all between them whatsoever.
Much less attention has been paid to this same phenomenon as regards time, but it is also happening. Past and Future are converging on the present; or we might say they are “irrupting” and converging. These are the polarities of time that Rosenstock-Huessy also calls “trajective” and “prejective”.
Not only is this convergence also implied in phrases like “the return of the repressed”, but also in offerings like Jeremy Naydler’s The Future of the Ancient World, or in some of the writings of Gary Lachman on “the occult in politics”. And we also find this in the numerous confusions today about the meaning of “time”. It’s this very convergence of times past and times future on the present that is forcing us to become sensitive to, and cognisant of, time.
This convergence of the four powers is also experienced as a crisis and as “chaos”. But in another sense we might say that the cosmos itself is applying enormous pressure on human consciousness to transform itself, to mutate, or failing that, perish as unfit. Gebser calls this transformation a “leap” into a new consciousness structure — the integral. For that is the latent potentiality involved in this convergence of the powers or “co-presentiation”.
A number of links to articles illustrating this attempt to come to terms with the convergence, particularly as regards the times:
We can see in these efforts a real attempt to reach a new integration. And this is what we also find in Rosenstock-Huessy’s grammatical method and “cross of reality”.
Now, the paradox of this convergence is that some experience it as a contraction or “narrowing” while others see it as a great expansion or intensification, and it has actual features of both. In any case, this convergence is enough to disrupt and dismantle the “Grand Narrative” and so implicated in that is also “The Age of Anxiety” — the features of bewilderment, anxiety, insecurity, and the “unsettling”.
This convergence then is also “the Great Anxiety” — a delirium that Gebser also calls a “maelstrom of blind anxiety”. It’s also very, very challenging to what we call “identity”, which is also very much associated with the “Grand Narrative” overall.
This convergence thus represents an almost complete restructuration of our consciousness and our reality, so it is even implied in phrases like “the Collapse of Reality” which is also, of course, connected with the End of the Master Narrative.
So, this is a good way to reflect on what Gebser means by “presentiation” — the convergence of the powers — past and future, inner and outer — upon the present, and this convergence is generating enormous pressure on the human consciousness, but in effect, to transcend itself. There will be no room in the future for the petty-minded, the mean-spirited, or the small-souled.
At present, our consciousness seems incapable of coping with this convergence, which is probably one reason why so many are prepared to throw up their hands and turn everything over to artificial intelligences. Wrong answer. That’s just another evasion of the issue of the need for self-transcendence. We cannot, should not, shirk our responsibilities like this.
We aren’t helpless in this situation at all, and much of Chrysalis is an attempt to show that there is a pattern and a logic to what we think of as the “disintegration” and “chaos” as being, in effect, a chrysalis stage — the Hermetic crucible of transformation and a restructuration of reality that has an implicit logic — the fourfold or quadrilateral. And that’s why I have little use, too, for matters like Jordan Peterson’s “antidote to Chaos”.
The one thing that could, and will end us if we let it, is this “maelstrom of blind anxiety”. And that is, presently, a serious problem. So, let’s turn our attention once again, which I will do subsequent posts, to making the pattern or the Logos that is implicit in this “chaos” or convergence explicit.