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INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Adam Kennedy is a: writer, philosopher, integral theorist, and researcher, that lives in Atlanta Georgia. Adam is currently attending Georgia State University where his concentration is Religious Studies and Sociology. Adam's passion involves interdisciplinary approaches that will mesh the hard and soft sciences so that a more complex conversation can occur.
An Ontology of Mature Integral Consciousness
When a number of Supramental beings exist, a community or collective of such beings will develop the basis for the Supramental life, culminating the purpose not only of life on Earth, but the very purpose of the universe itself. ~Sri Aurobindo
This paper will primarily focus on the work of Jean Gebser and his elucidation of the Integral framework
This paper will attempt to map out a coherent framework that will shed light on the ontological landscape that is here called Mature Integral Consciousness. Mature Integral Consciousness is here synonymous with Sri Aurobindo’s terminology of Supermind and Supramental Illumination, Ken Wilber’s Integral Third Tier, and Jean Gebser’s “Itself” of the Integral structure of consciousness. Mature Integral consciousness is also equated with the enlightened mind of the Buddha.
This paper will primarily focus on the work of Jean Gebser and his elucidation of the Integral framework. To begin an explication of a structure of consciousness that pushes the boundaries of language to its’ limits, it is first necessary to declare that there are inherent shortcomings in linguistics in general. Gebser understood these limitations, and as such, was very careful in the course of his research on Integral consciousness not to get stuck in any one particular set of verbal pitfalls; be they irrational, rational, or otherwise. To tackle this complex issue Gebser was forced to coin several new words, and to state succinctly the precise contextual definitions of them and any other words that he used that transcended categorical assignations.
Gebser also adopted the Latin prefix A- or Alpha Privativum, which means, “liberation from,” to effectively broach the subject of Integral consciousness. From this simple prefix springs a plethora of words that can help elucidate Mature Integral Consciousness more effectively. These terms, as well as the terms above will serve to paint a picture of an Integral (a)perceptual schemata.
Gebser’s reasoning behind the usage of Alpha Privativum was elegant yet simple. The A prefix as it is normally used is classically the Alpha Negativum, as in the example Acausal, or negation of cause. This usage, according to Gebser requires pathological dualistic thinking which is a product of deficient mental-rational cognitive functioning. However the Alpha Privativum, while liberating from concept, did not in itself do away with the concept. Gebser adamantly states here that it is the negation, or specifically the obliteration of previous structural elements that causes stuckness in a particular developmental stage. Here is an example …The term nondual, which is used to describe a state of complete liberation from subject/object dualism, is in its’ linguistic make-up flawed. It is in the negation of the word that lies the problem. Nondual, implies that duality is negated which implies again a duality, the very opposite idea that the term is attempting to connote! This is, in essence, the very linguistic trap that Gebser describes. Adual on the other hand liberates the subject/object while at the same time including duality within it! This adds another level of perception that integrates the previous perceptual processes into a coherent Aperceptual whole. Nothing is lost in this scenario; everything exists (and doesn’t exist) in an ever-present and fully transparent solidarity.
Utilizing this methodology let us now view Gebser’s cultural worldviews that create the specific ontogenetic (individual) and phylogenetic (collective) structures that imbue human beings with a basic sense of self, value systems, ideologies; and what these look like as they are transcended (and included) in Mature Integral Consciousness.
Structures of Consciousness
The Archaic structure, which there is very little psychological evidence of, can be thought of as a totally non-differentiated, zero-dimensional state where man and nature are in a fused identity. Gebser ties this structure to the early hominid phylogenetically, and to newborn babies ontogenetically.
The emergence of the Magic structure is, above all, a transition from undifferentiated identity to one-dimensional unity. This consciousness is focused on a single “point,” which can be interchanged with other “points” or, as a part, that stands for the whole. This single-pointedness interrupted early humans zero-dimensional fusion with nature and replaced it instead with a one-dimensional unity. This structure is associated phylogenetically with the high Paleolithic era, a period best exemplified by the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, and ontogenetically by babies from about age one to two years. Both of these groups are synonymous with Magical thinking.
Just as the Archaic structure was an expression of zero-dimensional identity and original wholeness, and the Magic structure, an expression of one-dimensional unity and human’s merging with nature, so is the Mythic structure the expression of two-dimensional polarity. While, according to Gebser, the liberating struggle against nature in the Magic structure brought about a disengagement from nature and an awareness of the external world, the Mythic structure led to the emergent awareness of the internal world of the soul and bore the stamp of the imagination. The phylogenetic correlate to this state of consciousness is the birth of religion, both contemplative and otherwise, for it focused on polarities such as Heaven and Hell, Cyclical Reincarnation, and notions of Good and Evil. The ontogenetic correlation can be found at the developmental stage when children need to be taught a sense of right and wrong; where everything is black or white but nothing in between. This stage usually begins loosely between four and seven, and is usually where the parent(s) becomes synonymous with God; shortly thereafter, and especially in the West, the authority of the church traditionally takes over.
Following the Mythic structure was the advent of the Mental-Rational structure of consciousness, which fully matured scarcely less than five hundred years ago. This structure superseded the Mythic by adding an orthogonal dimension that brought about the discovery of perspective in art, which in turn, opened up the entire spatial Cosmos to mankind’s scientific exploration and discovery for the very first time. If the Mythic structure represented reality in terms of two-dimensional polarity, then the Mental-Rational structure can be classified as three-dimensional duality. This shows up clearly in modern culture with time being spatialized into past, present, and future, with the (either/or) modality of the sciences, and with the objectified, homogeneous geometry of space. This structure represents wakefulness and cognitive thinking, and physiologically is directly associated with a fully developed Ego. Phylogenetically this structure is associated with the Ancient Greeks and the Renaissance, and ontogenetically with the adolescent teenage years of pre-adulthood.
According to Gebser, when a structure of consciousness is no longer fit for survival, a new “mutation” with more complexity and organization will enter to take its place. Gebser stresses the word mutation in lieu of evolution. In Gebser’s theoretical model, consciousness is not only a biological process, bound by the laws of natural selection and progress, but is also a spiritual phenomenon that is always existing and ever-present in Origin . The term evolution is not utilized here for it implies a spatial extensity into some unforseen future which is also a key sign of Mental-Rational thinking. This is yet another of the many verbal traps that Gebser attempts to avoid in order to gain the clearest, most transparent Integral understanding possible by mankind. Gebser gives a plethora of evidence to prove that the deficient phase of the Mental-Rational structure is now on the horizon.
What is coming Gebser terms the Integral structure of consciousness. This novel structure is liberated from spatial extensities ( Aspatial ), liberated from quantitative temporal modalities ( Atemporal ), and is also liberated from the purely mental conceptions of the present day modern/post modern world ( Aconceptual ). Gebser postulated that this Integral consciousness would develop in discrete mutational leaps. Although he had no tier system in place, (Tiers are spatial and hence are a linguistic product of the eficient Mental-Rational structure), he did however speak of an Alinear , or exponential development of Integral consciousness. This exponential development, he explained, would create a telescopic trajectory for consciousness, allowing for each leap to mutate quicker and faster, until a unique Adual developmental consciousness called the Itself occured. The Itself, according to Gebser would: inititally “transcend and include” all previous developmental ontogenetic/phylogenetic structure/stages. Upon further unfolding, it would then serve to liberate the individual from dualistic notions such as self and other, allowing for a transparency of time and space. Upon full maturation, according to Gebser, it would be the new vehicle that would carry and facilitate the new operation of integral Systatic elements in the world, yeilding a new method and mode to life as we know it.
Gebser began explicating his Integral model by discussing and explaining latency and transparency. In the Archaic, everything was latent potential, completely and utterly unconscious. At the other end of the spectrum, the integral structure, latency would give way to total transparency and clarity as the entire Cosmos offered up her secrets to a supramentally illumined mind. According to Gebser, the physical base desires and urges (Fight or Flight) were the only aspects of Archaic man, and there was literally no subjective interior to speak of. In the Magic structure symbolism and emotion were important tools of communication which opened up the subjective interior to empathy and telepathy. This further unfolding of transparency eventually led to the discovery and propagation of language.
This newfound language capacity engendered the capacity to tell the cosmogonical stories of human origin(s) called myths. The Mythic structure with its focus on polarity, also brought with it the arrival of cyclical time into socio-historical context. This uniquely human invention made way for the calendar system and agriculture, which ultimately allowed for the birth of large scale civilizations.
The Mental-Rational changed cyclical polarities to rational dualities, which usurped natural cyclical temporicity and instead replaced it with the linear and dualistic three-dimensional spatial and temporal models still in place today. These models allow for scientific exploration, logical thinking schematics, mathematics, and mostly every convenience enjoyed in the modern world today. Here the move from latency to transparency is almost complete.
As stated, all of these phylogenetic structures were accompanied by equally cogent ontogenetic developmental stages: The total unconsciousness of the Archaic, the egoless unity of Magical consciousness, the familial, ethnocentric, polaristic We of the Mythic, the dualistic and Egocentric “I” of the Mental-Rational.
At the mature integral structure, when the telescopic mutational leap(s) have been made, all phenomena will be apprehended and Awared with a superconscious “Itself” transparency that produces an all encompassing Verition of the world as process and Truth. All subjects become objects and in turn, all objects become aware of themselves as fully transparent and embodied in consciousness. Aurobindo’s musing on the Supermind lines up succinctly with Gebser’s premise:
The Supermind is the full Truth Consciousness in which there can be no place for division and ignorance. Its fundamental character is knowledge by identity, in which the knower is one with that which is known. It knows the Self, the Divine Satchitananda (the Absolute), and the whole truth of manifestation. The Supermind possesses an inherent power of self-determination, self-realization, to create in and of itself, without external objects, i.e. something out of nothing (self-conception). In Supermind division ends, there is unified truth, will and knowledge are fused (i.e. one has the knowledge of the thing, and simultaneously has the will to act on it.)
Instead of the mere wakefulness of the Mental-Rational Gebser speaks of the clarity imbued by Mature Integral consciousness. Instead of quantitative spatial extensities he speaks of qualitative temporal intensities. Accordingly, all Space and Time will be experienced in their proper contexts as qualitiative phenomenon. This interpretation states that the past, present, and future, not only still exist, but that they exist simultaneously in ever present solidarity with the present moment, eliciting an Aspatial, Atemporal and Diaphenous Awaring of consciousness as reality Itself! The result of apprehending Space and Time in their proper forms will eventually lead, according to both Gebser and Aurobindo, to a (r)evolutionary society that has access to all space and all time through the functioning of their inherent Supramental Illumination!
Gebser’s Origin, also equates to another theory, that of the Buddhist concept of interdependent origination. This is where Gebser’s neologism Acausal comes to the fore. The doctrine of interdependent origination states that there is no primal cause on which subjective or objective phenomena ultimately rest. Instead there is an interpenetration and aggregation of all things in the ground of being, (Origin) or in Buddhist terminology, Emptiness. The Awaring of this process of interdependent origination and Gebser’s notion of Acausality, allows the perceiver to supercede his or her conceptual ego and don instead the Aconceptual super cognitive apparatus of the “Itself.” Where once “I” was in here and phenomena out there, now there is a cognitive upheaval as the new consciousness views everyone and everything in an interconnected integrum. The Itself, through the Supramental illumination, supercedes the individual and the collective engendering an integrated whole, or what Gebser terms Mankind. The perceiver literally transforms into reality Itself!! The Buddha himself hinted at this illuminatory station by referring to himself in the third person as Tatagathagarbha, Buddha nature, or Suchness itself. In this Adualistic and Aperspectival worldview, the process becomes the most important element of apprehension and the source of clarity, wisdom, and strength. Synairesis is the method of integral Aperception , apprehending reality on all sides, wholly and integrally. Systasis is the Asystemic mode that effects integrality by making the process transparent, and revealing the Eteological , Acategorical , and Atemporal elements.
By introducing systasis into simple methodology, we are able to evince a new "method" which is no longer three-dimensional. This new method is four-dimensional diaphany; in this what is merely conceivable and comprehensible becomes transparent. Diaphany is based on synairesis, on the eteological completion of systasis and system to an integral whole, for integrality is only possible where "temporal" elements and spatial magnitudes are brought together synairetically. The concept which makes possible the "comprehension" or, more exactly, the perception of the "temporal elements" is that of systasis. If we also take into account the systatic concepts, the mere methodology of systems is intensified to synairetic diaphany; and this must be achieved unless we are to remain caught in the three-dimensional scheme of thought. [Gebser, Ever-present Origin, p. 334]
Mature Integral Consciousness, Supramental Illumination, Supermind, the Itself; these are all synonymous conventional designations that attempt to describe a revolutionary form of consciousness that humanity is currently gaining access to. The implications of its full maturity are profound, and at times seem to come more out of the realm of science fiction than science fact. However, the evidence is all around. We can see clear examples of this Atemporal consciousness in the likes of: the Buddha, Nagarjuna, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, Ken Wilber, and many other unique individuals that were and are fortunate enough to be blessed with this tremendous revolutionary gift. Within Mature Integral Consciousness, time and space in their true qualitative dimension exist in ever-present tension. Therefore, the Supramental beings that possess, and are possessed by “It” are true masters of the universe. It is our calling to seek this mantle. It is our mission to seek out these beings, to become these beings, and then build a community that will create heaven on Earth and fulfill the purpose of the Cosmos.
We owe the Universe that much!