Monday, February 9, 2015

Outlying change agents

The most expensive paperback that I have ever bought...

and second hand...

"Structures of Consciousness: The Genius of Jean Gebser: An Introduction and Critique" by G. Feuerstein ... (out of print for a long time)...

arrived today in the post.

I was at dinner on Saturday with close friends and was discussing historical cycles. If we had been alive in 1520, say, and were asked who, now, would be remembered in 2020, five hundred years hence, would anybody have answered Martin Luther? Or (to turn the same astrological cycle back one) if alive in 50AD who would have mentioned St Paul or indeed Jesus?

The point being that in times of exceptional transition trend spotting can be exceptionally difficult. What we imagine as dominant could be displaced by the wholly unconsidered.

Thus, Gebser is, outside certain circles, hardly recognised yet, I thought, if he is right about describing an unfolding, evolving structure to consciousness and that description holds and comes to be recognised, his stock will immeasurably rise. There is no accounting for reputation except, perhaps, the slow sifting hand of truth.

With this in mind, I found myself thinking from whence will change truly come and found myself thinking of two very disparate strands.

The first is held by Gebser and I think I would call that the 'return of consciousness'. By which I mean after a period when its significance has been first denied (by behaviourism), then reduced to an epiphenomena (of the brain), it begins its long journey back to centrality as the fundamental reality that 'composes' or 'frames' everything and whose unfolding development is the clue to understanding the true nature of things.

The second is held by Wes Jackson and I think I would call that the return to the nature of place. Wes Jackson is a geneticist directed at developing an agriculture that is framed by an emergence from the natural world rather than an imposition upon it. At his Land Institute in Kansas, they are trying to develop a 'perennial' agriculture where the crops are self seeding and the land does not need to be ploughed each year, with great disruption to the soil, but emerge in rooted cycles from the land. In doing so, they will, if successful, do something wholly radical (pun intended) and produce the first new, widespread, domesticated crops for nearly five thousand years. It would revolutionise agriculture and take it in a direction that is deeply renewing and sustainable.

Now, the two are related because Gebser observation of the next cycle of consciousness is of 'integration' where what has been held separate - man and nature - the one distanced in order to understand the other (from an 'objective' point of view') will be brought back together, enfolded, inter-subjective, so that the recognition is born that we belong within one another, symbiotic rather than conquering, navigating rather than controlling. Of this, the careful scientific work of the Land Institute is a beautiful example.

Who can tell whether these ways of seeing and acting will help remake the world but it would be a transformed world if we were able to look back, 500 years hence, and see them as (part of) a turning point.

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