The “task” Gebser speaks of is our own: the old is imploding and the new must be consolidated, have strong enough roots in the material world to burst from the soil and know the new day. This requires a tremendous intensification of consciousness.Three Theses on Liminality
What came together was something like a (lightly held) navigational protocol for finding our way between the old and the new:
- as a threshold
- as an interregnum, and
- the Janus-Faced/Coyolxuahqui Imperative
We inhabit the present: this liminal, interim reality where old identities and subjectivities are unspooling. Yet, simultaneously, there is an invitation to remake ourselves and our world, or better yet remake ourselves in relationship with the world.
In order to enact this transformation, however, we need to recognize the continuity of meaning and matter, or as I’ve recently read in Joanna Macy’s World as Lover, World as Self, structural and material realities need to be understood and addressed to effectively realize any new intensification of consciousness.
Macy describes a three-fold dimensionality of “The Great Turning,” which feels aligned with my three theses. Briefly, these three dimensions are holding actions, structural change, and a shift in consciousness. “Of course,” she writes, “a shift in consciousness by itself is insufficient… you have to have holding actions and new structures as well… we have to do it all.”1 At a glance, we must hold the whole, or rather it holds us, but we must recognize this new effectivity to enact transformation.
I am grateful that this essay was so well received. For many, it was their first introduction to the work of Gloria Anzaldúa and her critically important Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro,2 which comes with the highest recommendations for anyone interested in liminality, emergence, a “time between worlds” or other interrelated framings.
In particular I have found Anzaldúa’s concept of nepantla – the state of inhabiting a liminal reality, due to colonial displacement, imperialism, and global capitalism – and the role of nepantleras as a spiritual guide towards planetary futures, an immensely helpful transmission of planetary wisdom.3
Liminal Ritual, Dialogos
Since writing my essay, Peter Limberg and Joe Lightfoot organized a Liminal Death Ritual (RIP ‘Liminal web’), which, during the session, brought to mind the regenerative ecological practice of a controlled burn.
To my mind, if ‘liminality’ as a concept isn’t going away, then the dangers of recursiveness and insularity can be kept ‘in check,’ as it were, by cycling through ritual immolations, controlled ‘noospheric’ burns, making space for the outside to enter, to be in relation is to be where liminality actually shows up—immanent-, present-, and place-oriented liminality—and helps discourage another kind of intoxicating fire.
The flame that destroys, rather than regenerates the resilience and aliveness of community and kin: that overextended desire, stemming from alienating and atomizing global conditions, to belong to heroic and meaningful subcultures.
In manifold ways we live in a culture with such a hypertrophied sense of individualism that we have neither an “I” nor a “we” in any meaningful, fulfilling sense. Yet, here we are. Learning, however awkwardly, to be in community. “I” and “we” are mutual and reciprocal.
Speaking of regenerative, I also recently had the pleasure of joining Benjamin Life for his new podcast debut, OmniHarmonic. My friends and colleagues, Turquoise Sound, Joe Lightfoot and Alex Kennedy discussed transparency, the regenerative turn, Joe’s article “The Liminal Web” and my three theses on liminality.
That’s all for now. “Three Theses on Liminality” feels like a distillation of the book writing project I’ve been quietly working on since last year, while also overlapping with my Mutations (2022) essay, “Mutations, Imagination, Futurability.” You can listen to a draft of that essay recorded during the 2021 Gebser Society conference in episode 24.
“Let us be the healing of the wound”
“The Coyolxauhqui imperative is to heal and achieve integration. When fragmentations occur, you fall apart and feel as though you’ve been expelled from paradise. Coyolxauhqui is my symbol for the necessary process of dismemberment and fragmentation, of seeing that self or the situations you’re embroiled in differently. Coyolxauhqui is also my symbol for reconstruction and reframing, one that allows for putting the pieces together in a new way. The Coyolxauhqui imperative is an ongoing process of making and unmaking. There is never any resolution, just the process of healing.”Anzaldúa, Gloria. Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro
- Macy, Joanna. World as Lover, World as Self, p. 195.
- Anzaldúa, Gloria. Light in the Dark/Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality
- Something I’m writing about in my doctoral work. Thomas Berry introduced the role of an integral ecologist as “spiritual guide” between civilizational stories (The Sacred Universe, 2009), while Joanna Macy discusses the three-fold dimensions and forces of the Great Turning, but it’s through Anzaldúa’s work, I sense, that we arrive at how such a role might be bodied forth through nepantlera. This wisdom comes from the margins, those histories which already underwent the ends of worlds and so have ‘lived the future’. These traditions imbue a form of planetary futurity.