Open Topic – Pt. 1, Ch. 2 – The Three European Worlds

Continuing the discussion from Open Topic – Pt. 1, Ch. 1 – Fundamental Considerations:


Place to put miscellaneous thoughts, reflections, questions, illuminations, impressions, confusions, quotations, references, resources, trivia, creative responses, or any other seemingly random yet suggestive content relating to EPO Part 1 Chapter 2 – The Three European Worlds.

If it feels potentially interesting or relevant, even if it isn’t a fully formed observation, feel free to post it here.

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p.29 Ch. 2
Man’s inertia and desire for continuity always lead him to categorise the new or novel along familiar lines, or merely as curious variants of the familiar. The labels of the venerated “Isms” lie ever at hand ready to be attached to new victims. We must avoid this new idolatry, and the task is more difficult than it first appears.

Thoughts: Possible application for meta-cognitive self observation and commitment to resisting the urge to categorisation - an exercise in constant mindfulness and present awareness. Suggesting that spiritual self-development in order to attain these capacities are pre-requisite to the task of recognising and embodying “the new”.

If we fail to recognise this potent past legacy, it may at any time become critical and threaten to overwhelm us; and this would prevent us from perceiving the new with the requisite vigilance and detachment.

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Similarly…

“Aperspectivity, through which it is possible to grasp and express the newly emerging consciousness structure, cannot be perceived in all its consequences – be they positive or negative – unless certain still valid concepts, attitudes, and forms of thought are more closely scrutinized and clarified.” (28)

In other words, we have to bring to awareness the degree to which perspectivity, “the pre-eminent expression of the emergent consciousness of fifteenth-century European man” (18) is the foundation upon which our modern scientific world-view is built (actually, its bigger than that; “This is true of all spheres, the religious as well as the political, the social as well as the scientific.” (23))

Switching gears, I’m wondering if anyone can help me with the drawing on page 25. I understand Gebser’s description of Picasso’s drawing as “aperspectival” but I don’t see it. Does anyone else? Can anyone “make sense” of this drawing in the way Gebser describes it, and perhaps elucidate it?

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Hey Jeremy,

As to the picture on page 25 by Picasso, I believe what Gebser is getting at is the idea that Picasso is attempting to show a figure in multiple perspectives. It defies the one point perspective of mental/rational thought. You can kind of see that the drawing combines figures that would be seen from different vantage points but now all in one figure. Therefore, it is aperspectival. It is not fixed in time and space but is a figure that is “atemporal,” and combines multiple spaces in a kind of “quantum wave” sort of way. Not one point but all possible points. In other words: integral.

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I suspect I’m about to bring the tone down rather, but while reading chapter 2 I couldn’t help but remember an episode from a British sitcom called ‘Father Ted’… In that episode Father Ted and his none too bright assistant go on holiday and his assistant remarks on how small the cows are. ‘They’re not small, they’re far away’ explains Father Ted, but his assistant doesn’t get it. On and off throughout the rest of the episode Father Ted is trying to explain the difference. I see now that he was explaining the difference between unperspectival and perspectival. I wish he’d gone on to explain aperspectival. I think Gebser is playing fast and loose with the concept of time at the moment, But I’ll wait to see what emerges in the next few chapters.

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Eric - I was agreeing with you in your answer to Jeremy S’s question, then I watched (the other)Jeremy’s video when he distinguished between ‘multi-perspectival’ and ‘aperspectival’, and I would say that Picasso’s drawing was multi-perspectival, even though Gebser refers to it as aperspectival… so, am sttill confused…

So, am going to go a little out on a limb here. When I first started reading I assumed that ‘unperspectival’ meant an inability to understand things in three dimensions, (Gebser does definitely give the impression he’s talking about the concept like this when he refers to people seeing things and rendering them in art as ‘flat’.) I was puzzled by this, because I have seen cave paintings where animals are portrayedthree dimensionally, and surely all that Egyptian, Greek and Roman sculpture wouldn’t have been possible if people didn’t understand the inherent qualities of three dimensions? Then I realised that Gebser was actually referring to the spaces between, and the relationship between, objects. And yes, prehistoric, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and mediaeval art is not at all realistic in portraying the way things look to an objective observer. There is a distinct lack of perspective.

But why should that mean that they didn’t actually understand or see perspective? Surely it was because the placing and size of objects/people in painting represented something other than how things appeared visually, portraying instead things like the importance of the object/person portrayed, how alike objects/people were to each other, the closeness of felt relationships? The paintings are symbolic, not figurative or an attempt to reproduce photographic type images.
Surely what happened in the Renaissance (which means RE-birth – i.e. something being born again) was a move away from symbolic to ‘realistic’ portrayal, which may have not been necessary if someone had already invented the camera. What was learnt were ‘simply’ (I use the word advisedly) the techniques for producing a sense of perspective, three dimensions, ‘accurately, on a two dimensional surface.

This then was the start of the modern age, the desire to portray things objectively, as they appeared, rather than translated through the feelings/values of the culture of the artist? Isn’t that significant in itself? (Although we now know of course that reality is always subjective until you reach a certain level, way beyond the likes of us incarnate souls). Petrach standing on the top of the mountain wasn’t understanding space for the first time, he was realising just how insignificant humans were in the greater scheme of things – (just as I felt it during a tour of the known universe at New York’s Natural History Museum) – and I would hazard that this is one of the things that led to today’s modern atheistic mindsets.

Yeah, this stuff is strange to try and figure since our minds have been so conditioned to use mental/rational frames of reference. So, I think, what Gebser is doing with his warning about not confusing multi-perspectival with aperspectival is that multi is just more “perspectives” or points of view, whereas aperspectival is not to have any perspective–that is a set vantage point on a subject–whether it is one or many vantage points. The problem for the artist is how to represent something that has no vantage point? When Gebser looks at Picasso he sees something that is moving in the direction of aperspectival. The emerging integral but not fully formed. Aperspectival is something to be intuited, it can’t be represented in a three dimensional form. The quantum wave metaphor I used is something we can intuit but not really sketch out using any spatial quantified thought. (This is why noneuclidian geometry is necessary to attempt a model of quantum science because it can mathematically describe shapes that can’t be described in three dimensions.)

It is my assumption that to be in aperspectival thought is to suspend limited ways of knowing but that means “all perspectives at once” not the Buddhist thing of obliterating individual consciousness. This Gebser sees as regressive and an attempt to return to archaic “oneness.” We don’t want to be obliterated in oneness, we want to be an intensified one in contact with origin. That’s my take on it, anyway.

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Wouldn’t this then be unperspectival?

I would agree with this, but in slightly different language. non-Euclidean geometry is my passion, and I’ve been practicing it and (attempting to) explaining it through drawing exercises for quite awhile. One thing I’ve come to realize is that one can’t simply look at such a geometric drawing and “see” it, because, in one aspect, it is not a geometry of finished form, but of the processes that precede, or engender, form (similar to Whitehead’s idea of a process ontology). In order to see, or intuit it, one has to participate in the process, or draw the geometry. In this regard, it can’t be “represented”, unless one has first “presented” it by oneself. As such, it can’t be taught, in the sense of communicating concepts (Mental). Its like yoga (jnana, more specifically). But it is also much more than metaphors and models, which, as products of the imagination, are characteristic of the Mythical structure.

My sense of aperspectival, geometrically speaking, is that which holds true across all perspectives, but is not limited to any one perspective. Thus, measured truth is not it, because measurement is dependent on a Cartesian framework/perspective of the plane or space (by truth I’m referring to mathematical lawfulness, I know terribly abstract here, but its based on practical experience drawing with points, lines, and planes). The trick then becomes, not to abandon one’s perspective, but to discern what is emerging as a consequence of one’s vantage point, and what is emerging as the World, present and presenting in every emergence.

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my thought and feeling is that the painter Mark Rothko was seminal in expressing the aperspectival…

the origin/ field that exists just prior to the emergence of forms (and the field that we eventually return to.)
His color field paintings are paintings of the ever-present origin for me, the matrix and undifferentiated womb. but the forms have to emerge and take shape, have to become differentiated.
Not many people (Americans) understood Rothko (and he was just ONE of several abstract expressionists at the time who committed suicide because their American public did not understand what they were trying to express.) He was expressing the state of being without form (the timeless spaceless state of being). You can see his paintings hung up for deep contemplation as they adorn the walls of the Rothko Chapel in Texas. They depict infinity in the timeless spaceless realm of the ever-present origin.
What I see happening now with the visual image is a very concrete return to very precise symbolic languages (images), although most people probably STILL do not understand what the deeper symbolism actually means. But people can grasp a true symbol much easier than they can grasp a depiction of the timeless formless state itself.
What I am referring to here are the numerous mandala and yab yum (yin/yang?) images that depict a conceptual wholeness that people can relate to, even when they do not understand the deeper (and much more complex) iconography.
In my own process, I never did begin to paint mandalas (as JUNG suggests happens in any kind of exploration of the psyche.) I DID, however, reach a point of utter internal despair and annihilation of my ego (at the age of 26) when I realized that I was speaking a language in painting that no one else understood. It was an experience of deep inner isolation, and I therefore had to return to a more conventional symbolic language that WAS understood (recognizable symbolic imagery) in order to connect with others and no longer be isolated.
This is the individuation process in a nutshell. we are fully connected to others, and at some point we go off and decide that we are unique and special and alone in our specialness and we feel that no one else can possibly understand us because, well, we are THAT unique.
but then that specialness leads to incredible isolation, and we have to find a way to join back up with everything around us.
the world doesn’t swoop us up, we have to return to the world and learn the language of the world (or of the worlds, because there are MANY worlds within the world). and each has its own symbolic code, it’s own narratives and images, it’s own mythos for how to live in the world and what that means.
even if we think we are creating a brand new story, eventually we have to return to the past to understand the meaning embedded within symbols we are using to create our new world.
Cassirer and Ricouer both speak about the evolution of language structures, we are creating with a priori assumptions and givens that must be taken into account. and Derrida would say that this separation of language from it’s foundation always leads to chaos and violence. THAT is where we are today, and THAT is why we must go back and relearn the earlier structures of consciousness. They still move through us, just unconsciously in the deficient aspects.
anyway. I have written about all of this and hope to publish it soon~ cheers~

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