Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
From a link I found on this site from theurge - a Google Doc, (p. 11 (2009) devoted to an old discussion about Jean Gebser:
"Shifting gears, out of left field, in simultaneity: “Gebser reprogrammed: suppose an emerging cyber consciousness” by William Miller, Integral Explorations Volume 5, 1998.
Gebser's vision of an emerging integral consciousness may well have been the product of his own mental/rational grand theory. A child of his time (as are we all) he wrote before witnessing the effects of television and the computer, the Web/Internet, virtual communities and virtual identities, the rise of the
information society, and post-modernity. Drawing on insights from Marshall McLuhan, Howard Rheingold, Paul Virilio, Arthur Kroker, and the consciousness brain/mind theories of Marvin Minsky and Daniel Dennett, perhaps instead of the integral we can posit an emerging cyber consciousness of virtual realities and virtual identities, cyborg-like machinic bodies, technological extensions, and hyper-experiences of instantaneity and virtual space. Instead of the integral's Picasso, for an image of this emerging consciousness we might well turn to the cybernovel Neuromancer."
OK, now read this excerpt from possibly Jean Gebser’s last writing, published Jan. 1974 shortly after his death, from an article entitled “The Integral Consciousness”:
“Our conception of what we call reality depends upon our mode of consciousness. For example, reality, as it is understood by many Asiatics, Africans, American Indians and other non-European peoples, is not the same as it is for Westerners, because they do not see the world as the correlate of their own ego. We, on the other hand, regard everything from the point of view of our ego-consciousness. For us, the world is a tangible reality which confronts us: Here am I, there is the world. We believe ourselves capable of managing this world by means of external techniques because we are strongly conscious of our position in space and time—we must be conscious of our stance, for without this conscious knowledge we should be egoless, indeed timeless, as are the representatives of those non-European cultures just mentioned. Their consciousness is to a certain extent dreamlike; it knows little of ego or of time. The same could also have been said of Europeans several thousand years ago, before we awoke to an awareness of the ego in the world, and thereby learned to regard time and space as tangible values. Thanks to this mental and ego-centered waking awareness we were able to shape our reality anew: We saw reality as objective to ourselves as subject, and thereby created science and made technology possible.
Yet. in spite of all the so-called progress we have made, in spite of all our achievements, we are threatened by a danger which becomes greater and more apparent day by day and which cannot be over-stressed: the danger that our identification with the ego may become too strong—that it may harden and degenerate into egocentricity, until we lose the ability to fructify conscious human relations and may even, eventually, become inhuman. Many people today feel that ego-development is leading to a fatal imbalance, even to the point of threatening our whole Western culture. The threat arises from the fact that excessive ego-centricity, which is associated with unbridled possessiveness and lust for power, results in a corrosive materialism and a ruthless disregard for the essential quality of human life. It leads finally to loss of the ability to apprehend those transcendent values which Asia still knows better than we do.”
Therefore, I would argue that Miller’s idea that we might cite an emerging cyber consciousness in place of integral would be exactly what Gebser warned of: that science and technology in service of ego development eventually hardens us into inhuman cyborgs with machinic bodies.
At any rate, this is important, mature thought of Gebser on The Integral Consciousness.
This is a theme I've been hammering in other threads. Sure, individualism is fine when balanced with community, another name for partnership both within the individual and between individuals. And formal, egoic-rationality began this way, as did the early capitalism of Adam Smith. Chomsky even saw Smith as a libertarian socialist. But we've moved away from this healthy expression into deficient rationality where the individual ego is god, as is its outer manifestation, money. I suggest that this is also the case with how we even formulate hierarchical complexity, which is unconsciously caught within this latter matrix.
A discussion about hierarchical complexity would be great, but I'll have to save that for later. In the meantime, here's more from Gebser's last essay:
"There is another way, however, which overcomes egoism and leads to the freedom of the ego. That is to say, it leads to a newly-unfolding, truly awake consciousness, free both from attachment to “egoness” and “egolessness”—a consciousness that deliberately integrates the two states. When this is achieved by the individual, something very significant—indeed, saving—happens. His consciousness, and thereby his reality, take on a richness and abundancy of life heretofore not believed possible. A person who has such an Integral consciousness is no longer dependent on his ego: His ego, with all its passions, no longer dominates him; rather, he governs his ego. Then the world as a correlate of ego—a world which confronts us with all its conditions of time and space—becomes a shared world, a world of participation in that which, like the divine or the spiritual, is not linked to time and space because it is, by its very nature, timeless and spaceless. If we succeed in overcoming both egolessness and egoness by consciously integrating them, our mental, ego-centered waking consciousness is transformed into an Integral, fully awake consciousness, free from time and ego. By this means we overcome the fatal danger that threatens our culture today—the danger that we may perish of ego-hardening and the fall into complete materialism.
...To think of this achievement, even as a possibility, will not be an easy matter for everyone. In order to be able to see it clearly––us the present age, so full of imminent catastrophe, demands one must cast off all prejudice and break old and outmoded habits of thinking. One condition for this is that we become so well-acquainted with ourselves that we become “self-transparent”—that we accept the active roles of the Archaic, Magical and Mythical Structures which help to constitute us, and do not attribute exclusive validity to the Mental-Rational Structure.* In order to achieve the clear-sightedness whereby we can recognize the efficacy of all these structures without either falling back into magical superstition or enchantment, or sinking into mythical dreaming or irrationality, what is required of us is just that which no one is particularly willing to undertake—work on oneself. The world and its humanity will under no circumstances be changed by preaching a better world; would-be “reformers,” in their efforts to achieve a better world, often demand of others what they have not required of themselves."
We've used Gebser as a source frequently in the forum, so I'll reference a few of those posts in this thread. From this post:
The following excerpt is about Eric Weiss, “Jean Gebser: the mutation of structures of consciousness” presented at Esalen’s CTR first annual invitational conference on evolutionary metaphysics, December 2006. To be fair, this doesn't take into account Wilber's differentiation of cogntive structures with worldviews. It does highlight though the discontinuous nature of said views.
"To read Gebser in a Hegelian manner, as Ken Wilber does with his popular slogan 'transcend and include,' is, in a sense, to grasp the letter of Gebser while missing the living spirit of his work. Gebser himself discussed the limits of the famous Hegelian dialectic. He said that because mental thought tends to be dichotomizing, it necessitates the generation of a third term to move toward reconciliation. But even this third term (the Hegelian 'synthesis') is in turn split again as the overall process marches onward. Gebser saw this dialectic as an unsatisfying expression of the deficient phase of the mental structure of consciousness (which will be described below). Overall, Weiss wanted to be clear that Gebser's thought should not be mistaken for a new version of Hegelianism, nor should it be reduced to it, and in his own life Gebser tried to distance himself from Hegel's work.
"Weiss said that Gebser was clear that his work did not describe a linear evolution, development, or progress of consciousness. Instead, he claimed that the process described in book The Ever-Present Origin was more complex and nuanced. Gebser used the term 'mutation'to describe the process of moving from one consciousness structure to another, but this was not intended to reduce the development of consciousness to a biological metaphor. Rather, he used this term to emphasize the discontinuous nature of the various structures of consciousness. The word 'mutation' connotes the sense of a leap that is more sudden in comparison to the gradualism of Darwin's biological evolution. Gebser viewed each structure of consciousness as a latent possibility or inherent disposition within Origin – i.e., within the ultimate origin of all that is. He saw humanity as naturally predisposed to the discontinuous transformations that have taken place during the course of history and pre-history. But crucially for Gebser, the later mutations do not 'transcend and include,' as in Wilber's model of evolution. Instead, they are discontinuous and autonomous modes of awareness, each of which has its own intrinsic validity, and for which the perception and appearance of time and space are radically different."
Also see our prior Gebser thread from IPS Gaia.
From this post:
Ed Manhood Jr, in an overview of Gebser’s work, says the following about the deficient mental structure (false reason):
“Perspective is the life blood of reasoning and the Rational structure of consciousness, which Gebser considers to be only a deficient form of the Mental structure. What we have is the full development of the ego and its related centeredness. We conceive things, events and phenomena in terms of our own perspectives, often at the expense of others. The eye, it will be seen (and the last of the openings in the head), becomes the spiritual organ representative of this structure. Our language, our entire imagery and dominant metaphor takes on visual, spatial character. Space is finally overcome, in the true sense of the word. With the supercession of space, man finally accomplishes his egoistic, individual separation from nature. In this concretization of the "I," we become very aware of our existence, of our beingness, of our individuality. And so it should be. But in a deficient mode, the outcomes, of course, are loneliness, isolation, and alienation, which are so characteristic of our own American culture. In fact, our current materialistic approach to understanding reality is perhaps the final stage of this structure.”
And here’s an excerpt from the Jean Gebser Society in “About Jean Gebser”:
“In characterizing the emergent consciousness as arational (as opposed to irrational) and aperspectival, Gebser sought to indicate that it transcended the dualistic, black-or-white categories of the rational orientation to life. Rationalism, for him, was by no means the pinnacle of human existence, but, on the contrary, an evolutionary digression with fatal consequences. He regarded it as a deficient of the inherently balanced mental structure of consciousness. In other words, Gebser did not reject reason, merely its inflation into the sole arbiter of our lives. As he recognized, the human being is a composite of several evolutionary structures of consciousness, and we must live all of them according to their intrinsic value. The individual who is dominated by the rational structure represses all other structures, which are viewed as irrational and hence dispensable. Thus the ‘reasonable’ person is inclined to reject magic, myth, religion, feeling, empathy, and not least ego-transcendence.”
From this post:
Deficient manifestations of integral consciousness:
"Gebser (1949/1985) did note in one of his charts that integral consciousness, still in its early stages, may manifest in a deficient form as [...] the over extension and exhaustion of the mental structure rather than with the integral structure itself.
'Increasingly deficient attitudes seek refuge in syncretisms . . . or encyclopedic compendia. . . Presentiate wisdom becomes accumulated knowledge; when summarized and compiled, it yields a new sum, but no new wisdom. Wisdom is reduced from a quality of being to a quantity of possession (Gebser, p. 44)'" (Gidley 199).
Thanks for posting these past posts. I note that Gebser reacted against dialectics and dualism, but embraced (at least to a certain extent) polarity (as per my quote above). I'd like to explore more his views on this. According to Heimer, his last book was "Decline and Participation, Concerning Polarity, Duality, Identity and Origin."
A couple of recent articles that make me think more about Gebser's idea of a deficient Mental-Rational consciousness...
1. Integral Life recently featured Elizabeth Debold's article on "Conchita Wurst, Cyborgs, and our Post-Gender Future."
There is some interesting and worthwhile discussion here about evolving gender roles, but gosh, why does it seem that integrals seem to have such a fascination (fetish?) with Ray Kurzweil, "the dazzling prophet of our glorious technofuture"? Instead of a march to a glorious transgendered transhuman cyborg technofuture, consider Gebser's comment (in the article at the top of the thread) that we might "lose the ability to fructify conscious human relations and may even, eventually, become inhuman."
2. The Breakthrough Institute (that some prominent integrals have been known to endorse) has a new "EcoModernist Manifesto." Well, I'll grant that it's Modernist, in the very "orange" way it clings to ideas of growth and development as the only way to solve our environmental predicaments. It's also very "Eco," if you're thinking of orthodox economics; but it's certainly not very ecological in its methods or even its goals.
One of their foundational ideas, and I'm not making this up, is that we can decouple human living from a direct dependency on nature. Here's how they put it:
Humans will always materially depend on nature to some degree. Even if a fully synthetic world were possible, many of us might still choose to continue to live more coupled with nature than human sustenance and technologies require. What decoupling offers is the possibility that humanity’s material dependence upon nature might be less destructive.
Kurt Cobb has an excellent response: ""Humans will always materially depend on nature to some degree." This statement seems reasonable only if humans and nature are in different categories. But, they aren't--a concept that is distressingly NOT clear to most everyone who styles himself or herself as an environmentalist. Humans and their creations are as much a part of nature as everything else. Humans don't "materially depend on nature to some degree." Humans are entirely and completely dependent on nature (of which they are a part) for EVERYTHING. Even every synthetic substance uses feedstocks and energy from the natural world."
For me, while I want to appreciate thinking outside of the traditional "environmentalist" box, the Ecomodernist Manifesto is another manifestation of the deficient mental-rational structure of consciousness.
Consider Jean Gebser again, from pp. 40-43 of The Ever Present Origin:
"Many people who reject a spiritually qualified mutational process will tend to seek reassurance by insisting on "technological progress" and give in to a frantic hubris which, judging from past applications of the notion of progress, has probably forfeited whatever justification it once may have had (to the extent that hubris is justifiable at all...
"...Under no circumstance is this form of development [the mutation of consciousness] to be considered "progress"; we must accept the term "progress" for what it has become, counter to its original sense. "Progress" is not a positive concept, even when mindlessly construed to be one; progress is also a progression away, a distancing and withdrawal from something, namely, from origin.
"...Once more, it should be emphasized that we must remain suspicious of progress and its resultant misuse of technology (to the degree that we are dependent on it and not the reverse)...
"...in constant opposition to Hegel and Comte, we are convinced of the continuous effectuality of the "earlier" structures in us and the incipient, i.e., present effectuality of the so-called "future" structure...
"...we must not regress and submerge ourselves into the actively psychologized past; rather, we must consciously retain and presentiate the past. It is our task to presentiate the past in ourselves, not to lose the present to the transient power of the past. This we can achieve by recognizing the balancing power of the latent "future" with its character of the present, which is to say, its potentiality for consciousness."
I had a similar response to reading the Debold piece, particularly how we must escape from our biological nature. Even though kennilingus talks a good game about integrating our body and nature, its false and ideologically abstract reasoning is rampant and does the opposite in application. It makes perfect sense within that paradigm to want to 'consciously' redeem capitalism and all that's inherent to it, including personal and environmental degradation in the name of progress or evolution. The consciousness of the subject is part and parcel of the deficient rational structure. And again, despite the kennilingus argument against the philosophy of the subject in IS using Habermas, it fails time and again on the streets of application.
I've not yet read Habermas directly, and you can let me know if my comment below relates effectively to "the philosophy of the subject" or to the "epistemic fallacy."
I have posted on this forum a couple of times quotes from Bernard Meland and Nancy Frankenberry:
"as James and Bergson were later to remark countering the stance of Kant and Hume in one basic respect, the nexus of relationships that forms our existence is not projected, it is given. We do not create these relationships; we experience them, being given with existence." - B. Meland, Fallible Forms & Symbols
"Radical empiricism involves an important inversion of Kant's philosophy...For Kant, the world emerged from the subject; for radical empiricism, the subject emerges from the world." - N. Frankenberry, Religion and Radical Empiricism
This morning I found this parallel thought from Gebser:
"There is, in other words, a mutual and even interdependent relationship of consciousness to the spatio-temporal world.
"Here we again encounter the question of measure and mass. To the extent that consciousness is an intensity and thus intangible, the space-time world represents the corresponding tangible phenomenon as an extensity; the space-time world is the stage, as it were, on which consciousness itself is capable of being actual and efficacious. The reification attendant upon this is evident because the increasing consciousness summons forth an increasing materialization." - J. Gebser, EPO, p. 137
An interpretation of the Gebser quote above by Peter Pogany:
"...Gebserian thought confirms and is confirmed by perhaps the most remarkable achievement of 20th Century Western philosophy. Structuralism and post-structuralism (or postmodernism) finished what Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Saussure, Wittgenstein and many others began, namely, the deflation and perhaps even the abandonment of the idea that a Cartesian-cogito-like independent subject can make an objective sense of the world.
"What is going on inside the individual cannot be separated from the totality of information, pressures, and impulses that engulf it. Consciousness does not live a life independent from the conditions in which it is born and develops. Hence, every mutation is connected to a moral world order revealed in more or less age-specific, typical historical, religious, political, and even esthetic consciousness." - P. Pogany, 2010 presentation at Int. Gebser Society Conference
My interpretation of the above: When we embedded in a given culture or set of relationships, it's hard to completely overcome the 'myth of the given' that exists within that culture. Hence, the wicked problems that continue to dominate even the integrally informed.
After my readings this morning, at this moment I am convinced that the best explanation of our current problems, as well as their solutions (at the mega and meta level) can be found by reading, studying, understanding, and digesting Gebser's section on "Measure and Mass" in the Ever Present Origin, pp. 129-142.
And a start toward understanding and interpreting the above, found in Pogany's 8 page article, also quoted above. See attachment: "New Scientific Evidence Confirms Gebser's Concerns About Technological Overreach" (Oct. 2010)
Someone at Facefuck linked to this Gebser piece. My comments to quotes therein.
Some quotes I like. The first reminds me of a Gidley quote I posted earlier in another thread, that integral is not hyper-complexity, which is deficient rational.
"The uniqueness of the Integral consciousness lies in the fact that it is in no way based upon the increase of intellectual knowledge, which may be misunderstood or misapplied. The new consciousness has nothing to do with such knowledge; its character is derived from spiritual, not from purely intellectual, values."
In this quote he discusses a more specific application of complimentarity. This was more broadly explored in various Ning IPS threads on a different type of complexity, e.g. Morin, which is different from the more typical transcend and include kind Wilber uses from Commons and company, i.e., deficient rational.
"It is precisely because Asia and the Occident are not mutually exclusive opposites, but are mutually complementary poles (which may very well one day rediscover their common roots), that it is important for this consciousness to be coherently and fully explored."
In the next, he discusses the development of ego. It was quite useful for a time but has gone over into self-obsession in late-stage capitalism leading to the following:
"The threat arises from the fact that excessive ego-centricity, which is associated with unbridled possessiveness and lust for power, results in a corrosive materialism and a ruthless disregard for the essential quality of human life."
Again though Gebser stresses that we should not just aim for egolessness but complimentarity with ego in the integral. So this one reminds me of how Eisler discusses actualization hierarchies as a partnership between compliments, rather than their dichotomy. The former leads to something more akin to the Commons and not at all like capitalism/materialism.
"If we succeed in overcoming both egolessness and egoness by consciously integrating them, our mental, ego-centered waking consciousness is transformed into an Integral, fully awake consciousness, free from time and ego. By this means we overcome the fatal danger that threatens our culture today—the danger that we may perish of ego-hardening and the fall into complete materialism."
In this one he shows how the emergence of the integral is not by linear progression, that it arises spontaneously via transparency. This requires acceptance and use of the previous stages but does not fall prey to any one of them exclusively, including the rational. It's not exactly transcend and include, since the so-called higher level of rationality, for example, does not supersede the other orders. It's more like they are autonomous parts that nonetheless work together via structural coupling, which I noted in discussing Luhmann, Varela and Thompson.
"The idea that the younger generation is born into the climate of a new structure of consciousness is difficult to accept unless we think of the concept of cultural evolution in somewhat different terms, for it requires acceptance of the fact that the new consciousness manifests itself of its own accord, that is, arises naturally and spontaneously in man, in the world and in time, by becoming “transparent” in them. So long as we are unable to free ourselves from the conventional routines of thought which have now become anachronistic and therefore erroneous, we will think of cultural evolution as a process that urges us toward a goal in a linear progression. So long as we attribute exclusive validity to a pragmatically narrow definition of progress by accretion, the assumption that a generation can be “born into” a new consciousness is impossible."
The next reiterates some of the previous points but also discusses how the process is both involution-evolution. Which of course reminds me of my thread on the fold.
"The manifestation of the new consciousness is not a milestone on the path to a so-called higher development; it is rather, on the one hand, an enrichment and intensification of the human consciousness and, on the other, our conscious response to the Integral Structure of the world, which through us becomes transparent. This invisible process activates in us the new consciousness that has always been latent in us. Evolution, from this point of view, is the evolving (e = from, volvere = proceeding, forming) of man’s hitherto latent possibilities of consciousness, which are released by a corresponding supplementary “involution” of the Integral component of the world-consciousness: that involution (in = inward) in the terrestrial sphere is answered by its other pole, awakening—our readiness at a given time for the Integral and time-free consciousness; to evolve from within us."
Thanks for posting these comments. Yes, this article on The Integral Consciousness is where I began this thread (comparing it to a comment by William Miller).