[In March I was invited to do a Pecha Kucha talk on “character development.” The format is 20 slides for 20 seconds each, with a speech to accompany and narrate. I have expanded the text for clarity below.]
What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end; what can be loved in man is that he is an over-going and a down-going.” – Thus Spoke Zarathustra – Friedrich Nietzsche
Jean Gebser, kulturphilosopher, linguist and poet has a novel look at the evolution – or in his terminology, the mutations of consciousness throughout history in his monumental 1949 work “The Ever-Present Origin”. Whereas his contemporaries focused solely on the material, biological, and Darwinian fundamentals of evolution, Gebser looked at it through the perspectives of the cultural and linguistic imprints of the western mind, and the mutations from unperspectival, magical, zero-dimensional consciousness to perspectival, linear and three-dimensional consciousness. Fundamentally, in Gebsers vision, the formative structures of consciousness are not accessible at all to the waking, rational mind and are permeated with meaning and magic, whereas the the more historically recent development of perspectivity has delineated the conception of the individual self through the distinction of subject and object. Gebser argues that this mental-rational consciousness structure has gone beyond its capacity and become inept at adequately dealing with the present state of humankind and its relation to the world. He thus proposes ‘diaphaneity,’ or the transparency of consciousness, through which all forms of consciousness, both latent and active, can integrate into a more complete awareness.
Gebser also believed that consciousness had an innate drive towards integrality and wholeness – so far as to affirm that matter is an epiphenomenon or extension of consciousness, opposed to the popular discourse asserting that consciousness is a mere a byproduct of material processes. Following this idea, it is natural to see how his vision for the transformation of consciousness is not linear, but in fact encompassing of all modes and levels in a conscious effort of making present and transparent the ultimate reality of the mind and its origins. Necessarily, to not only perceive but also embody this integrality requires of plurality of perspectives and dimensions that go both before and beyond the limits of the ratio-centric mind. As Gebser’s contemporary Sri Auribindo says in The Synthesis of Yoga, “An integral consciousness with a multiform dynamic experience is essential for the complete transformation of our nature.”’ This could easily both apply to the individual and the collective, as we shall see.
Birth of the Modern Mind
Richard Tarnas, author and Professor of Consciousness, Cosmology and Depth Psychology at California Institute of Integral Studies thinks that one of the most defining developments in our history was the Copernican Revolution, when it was discovered that the earth was not, in fact, the centre of the universe, and the heliocentric model of our solar-system was established – at first dethroning ourselves from the fixed centre of the universe, to the slow realization that in the cosmic scheme of things, our planet – and place within it – is truly insignificant. This early scientific revolution gave impetus and exaltation to human reason to truly observe and measure all things, as Galileo has succinctly stated “Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured.” This thousands-year quest to understand the nature of what is real had finally come to fruition in the development of modern physics. We see the consequences of this decentralized observer come to exactitude in the Cartesian philosophy of subject/object or mind/body dualism, where the individual selfhood is separate from cosmos, rather than in primal unity with it.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
We see the malignant effects of this nearly everywhere in our society. An increase in mental health issues and systems incapable of supporting those in need. A failure of both public and private institutions to adapt to the constantly fluctuating needs and and demands of social and cultural developments. Leaders and politicians poorly educated, misinformed, driven by avarice, ignorance, and vote appeals. Environmental destabilization and the global unrest therefrom. Corporate exploitation and control over peoples, governments, economies. Obsession with the superficiality of entertainment and identity posturing it encourages. It is without much imagination that it can be said such issues stem from deficiencies in consciousness and limited, outmoded perspectives which have gone beyond observing reality – to creating a systemic cage in which all reality is confined. In a cosmos devoid of meaning or purpose, the individual detached from tradition, community, and initiation is a lost speck of dust among an infinity of cold, uncaring stars.
Beyond the Garden
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ the narrow chinks of his cavern.”
Time and time again have heard people ask where we went astray, what is fundamentally ‘wrong’ with this dark age of love and progress we live in. There is a vanguard of thinkers that paint not only a clear picture of the historical precedent and development of our present psycho-cosmic state, but also envision a remedy to the ailments of our times: A living, embodied awareness that, from all angles, appears as it truly is: transparent, divine, and living the truth that it imparts to the reality it creates.