Read "Climbing the Stairway to Heaven", my 7-part review of Wilber's The Religion of Tomorrow (2017).
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".
Reposted from www.academia.edu with permission of the author
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.
There is a direct link between these “structures” of consciousness and specific correlative brainwave states.
Human consciousness has gone through several distinct permutations throughout history. These structural changes have been documented and supported by a wealth of anthropological, mythological, linguistic, artistic, philosophical, and scientific data. The human brain has not changed in over 200,000 years; yet human beings have developed in language, art, technology, and culture.These developments have stamped humans with a unique identity that is far different than any other species on the planet. Currently, there is a disagreement in theory as to how or why consciousness has shifted over time; however, there is overwhelming evidence that it is shifting again.
In the book, The Ever Present Origin, Jean Gebser puts forth a theory, which follows the progression and subsequent "mutation" of consciousness from the early hominid, to present day man, and into the future. These developments in consciousness, according to Gebser, occur because of the ever-changing relationship of human beings to space and time. Gebser argues that human consciousness is in transition; therefore, if consciousness mutated in the past, then it will, by simple logic, mutate again. Gebser's book effectively chronicles these changes in consciousness. Through his research into the past eras of human history, Gebser identifies four previous structures of consciousness: Archaic, Magic, Mythic, and Mental. He also states that human beings are in the process of mutating into a new structure that he termed Integral consciousness.
There is a direct link between these “structures” of consciousness and specific correlative brainwave states. This interconnection suggests that the human brain adapts to the new structure by adding a corresponding brainwave that aids in explicating and interpreting the new world coming into view. This suggests that the higher brainwaves in the known spectrum were yet dormant and inaccessible to early humans, and, as mutation occurred, there was a reciprocal unfolding of ever-higher frequency waves. This determination also reveals a profound relationship between the developmental growth of a human being, and the development of the species at large, shedding new light on the symmetrical recapitulation of ontogeny and phylogeny.
Based on data from Jean Gebser's model, the Archaic structure of consciousness is directly associated with Delta brainwaves. Furthermore, the Magic structure is associated with Theta brainwaves, the Mythic structure with Alpha brainwaves, and the Mental with Beta brainwaves. This suggests that the new structure on the horizon, which is deemed Integral consciousness, will be accompanied by its' very own set of brainwave patterns, those of the Gamma wave band.Human beings have acquired brainwave frequencies well up into the Beta range. These brainwaves have been proven to predominate at various stages of development. Human beings will also gain access to Gamma oscillations as their dominant frequency, which allow for higher mental cognition and neuronal synchronization. This will “integrate” the other brainwave states together; creating what philosopher Sri Aurobindo has termed the Supermind. Once this system comes fully online, it will enable a transparent vision of human history, sear the divisive lines of past and future, and bring complete clarity to the development of consciousness. This in turn, will unfold for each and every human being the very meaning of life.
Permutations in Consciousness
The Archaic structure, which there is very little evidence of, can be thought of as a totally non-differentiated state where humans and nature are in a fused identity. Gebser states that this structure of consciousness was identical to biblical paradise and original wholeness. Keep in mind however, that this paradisiacal state was not a conscious heaven, but rather an unconscious hell. Gebser ties this structure to the early hominid, and to the unconscious, deep-sleep state.
The emergence of the Magic structure was, above all, a transition from zero-dimensional undifferentiated identity, to one-dimensional fused unity. In this stage of early development, the identity with Archaic consciousness began to wane. Men and women began to separate themselves from the grip of nature, and saw themselves instead, juxtaposed against an organic backdrop. There was an instinctual banding together during this period of pre-history. The people of this period began to form close knit communities that would mate, hunt, and protect one another from the ravages of nature. This period is best known for its' cave paintings. In part, these paintings tell a great deal about the consciousness during that time. One famous painting shows a buffalo-hunting scene, where the arrows are all pointing intently towards a fleeing buffalo. According to Gebser, this scene represents magical unity, for in fact, the hunters, buffalo, and arrows, are all part of a unified field, which has the dimly lit consciousness spread out over the world into a group ego.
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 merging with nature, so is the Mythic structure the expression of two-dimensional polarity. Once human beings extracted themselves more fully from nature, and consciousness began to dwell in the individual, a huge shift came about in the way they operated in the world. The emphasis for them changed from being in the world to having a world. This period is best known for the birth of the Myth. These cosmogonical stories tell of mankind's origins, ancestors, parents, as well as, eternal parent figures that came in the form of Gods and Goddesses.
With the advent of this new world-view, mankind is so effectively removed from the grip of nature that for the first time they were able to see it, study it, and in a certain sense, measure it, utilizing it to their advantage. This period is synonymous with the birth of agriculture in Egypt, the rise of the calendric system in the Mayan civilization, and the birth of contemplative religions around the world. It is interesting to note that Gebser also equates this structure with the beginning of recorded history, and so the beginning of time in consciousness. While, according to Gebser, the liberating struggle against nature in the Magic structure brought about a disengagement from nature, and an elementary awareness of the external world, the Mythic structure lead to the emergent awareness of the internal world of the soul, and bore the stamp of the imagination.
Scarcely five hundred years ago, during the Renaissance, another unmistakable reorganization of consciousness occurred; the discovery of perspective in painting, which opened up the three-dimensionality of space. This period, which Gebser deemed the Mental structure, marked the birth of the Ego, which has been symbolized by a narcissistic and materialistic attitude that has indeed, become synonymous with modern culture and society. The discovery of perspective also brought time into its contemporary maturity. Before the Mental structure appeared, the cyclic nature of the universe had been observed meticulously. The seasons had been mapped and agriculture was flourishing. However, there was another distinct yet surreptitious segregation of time as the polar days and nights, and the cyclical calendar, was broken into a further ratio of hours, minutes, and even seconds.
This division of time, this quantifiable measuring of moments, brought with it a host of other methods of measuring, namely the sciences of the world. Once time was instituted and mastered, mankind proceeded to measure and label the world until everything and everyone in it was segregated. This severing of original Archaic wholeness, one-dimensional Magical unity, and even two-dimensional Mythic polarity, gave rise to three-dimensional Mental duality. This duality effectively took polar compliments and rendered them as diametric opposites. So the cycle of day/night gave way to the dialectic adage, “different as night and day.” Time was also sequestered and spatialized into a past, a present, and a future...the three familiar dimensions of every day life.
Presently, according to Gebser, mankind is coming to the deficient phase of the Mental structure. 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 model, consciousness is not a biological process bound by the laws of natural selection and progress, but rather a spiritual phenomenon that is always existing and ever-present. What is to come next Gebser terms the Integral structure of consciousness. This structure will be beyond space, beyond time, and beyond the purely mental conceptions of our present day modern/post modern world. This unique structure, according to Gebser, will have the ability to make the other structures transparent, thereby integrating them and rendering them available to consciousness.
The evolution of a large, complex brain has been the defining feature of the human lineage - although human brain size has not changed over the past 200,000 years. So, what is it that has evolved? Looking carefully again at Gebser's model of consciousness, there are distinct correlations between the description of the structures of consciousness and the description of brainwave states. For example, if the Archaic structure of consciousness and the Delta brainwave state are viewed as amalgams of one another, it begins to shed light on the possible inner workings of consciousness and evolution. The most important defining characteristic of this thesis is that during the Archaic structure, the dominant brain wave state available/accessible to early humans was the Delta wave. And, asmutation through the other structures of consciousness occurred as a result of deficiency, the human brain evolved by accessing other mutually supporting brainwaves. These new brainwaves would allowhumans to not only be able to adapt and survive, but also to create a mental map of each new world into which he or she mutated. Now, taking into account the previous subsequent brainwave additions up until the Mental structure, then by simple logic, it can be postulated that a new brainwave will become dominant in the newly emerging Integral structure. Based on the evidence, the new brainwave will be the recently discovered Gamma brainwave.
Brainwaves and Consciousness
This theory is in part, based on the comparative analysis of the ontogenetic and phylogenetic development of brain structures and functions, the evolution of different brainwave spectrums, and their correlations with different structures of consciousness.
It is well known that the brain is an electrochemical organ; researchers calculate that if all 10 billion interconnected nerve cells discharged at one time that a single electrode placed on the human scalp would record something like 5 millionths to 50 millionths of a volt. Even though this electrical power is very limited, it does occur in very specific ways that are characteristic of the human brain. Electrical activity emanating from the brain is displayed in the form of brainwaves. These brainwaves are measured using a process called electroencephalography, or simply EEG, which is the recording of electrical activity along the scalp produced by the firing of neurons within the brain.
It has been documented that the EEG dimensions in humans steadily increase with age.Simply stated, experiences accumulated in the brain over time, form into cortical cell assemblies. These cell assemblies cause more organizational complexity throughout the brain, which require higher frequency brainwaves to operate. Thus, the "wisdom of old age” may find its neurophysiological basis in greater complexity of brain dynamics compared to younger ages.
It has also been shown that certain brainwaves predominate at certain developmental stages. These waves slowly increase over time to accommodate for various learned behaviors, as well as genetic development. Through this development unfolds a corresponding “world view”, or picture of reality. It is this picture of reality that Jean Gebser equated directly to his structures of consciousness. Taken one step further, it would be completely plausible to assume that if the ontogeny forms through the successive addition of brainwaves, then too should the corresponding phylogeny develop in the same manner.
A brief description of the five primary brainwaves and their correlates will shed more light on the relationships between the brainwaves and the structures of consciousness. The first brainwave in order of frequency is the Delta wave. In Delta, the brainwaves are of the greatest amplitude and lowest frequency. They typically center on a range of 2 to 4 cycles per second. Delta waves are associated with deep dreamless sleep and with being unconscious. Delta is the predominant brainwave in infants. The very low frequency Delta waves (ranging from 0.5 to 2 Hz) were the most pronounced brainwaves in premature babies in comparison with mature ones. It is the non-differentiated aspect of the unconscious state that most directly correlates Delta with Gebser's analysis of the Archaic structure of consciousness. Gebser, in his book, The Ever Present Origin, quotes Chuang Tzu as saying “Dreamlessly the true men of earlier times slept.” In a recent article in Psychology Today, Professor John Cline Ph.D. mirrors Gebser's “unconscious hell” sentiment in this quote,
“Subjectively deep sleep is a time of nearly complete disengagement from the environment. It is very difficult to awaken a person in deep sleep, and children in this state may be nearly impossible to wake up. It is from this stage that sleepwalking emerges. This happens when there is a sudden arousal from deep sleep that causes the motor centers of the brain—but not the higher centers—to awaken, so that the person is in a sleep state dissociation characterized by complex motor activity with limited judgment and awareness.”
Theta brainwaves are typically of higher amplitude but lower frequency. This frequency range is normally between 4 and 7 cycles per second. Theta is characterized mainly with light sleep, rapid eye movement (REM), dreams, and hallucinations. Theta rhythms edge in as we become drowsy, when the external world recedes, and when daydreams and fantasies takeover. Theta waves become dominant, especially between ages 1 and 3. The power of Delta waves decrease with increasing conceptional age, while that of the Theta range increases. It is the “sleep-like” character of this developmental stage that so closely ties Theta in with Gebser's Magic structure. Gebser associates the Magic structure of consciousness with this brainwave state when he says: “for the first time not only was man in the world, but he began to face the world in its sleep-like outlines.”
The next brainwave in order of frequency is Alpha. Alpha brainwaves are lower in amplitude, but higher in frequency. Their frequency ranges from 8 to 12 cycles per second. Alpha is prominent during relaxation with eyes open or closed, and during non-visual thinking (contemplation). Alpha increases when attention shifts away from visual stimuli to auditory stimuli. There is also a distinct correlation between prayer, meditation, and Alpha brainwaves. Alpha is the predominant brainwave of children between ages 3 and 6, where there is an increase in the lower frequency Alpha-1 waves (7.5-9 Hz).At about 10 years of age there is another increase in slightly higher frequency Alpha waves (10.2-10.5 Hz). The dominant brainwave for most adults falls into the high Alpha-2 range (9.5-12Hz). In elucidating the Mythic structure of consciousness, Gebser clearly states the parallels of contemplation, meditation, and prayer, to this structure. He also refers to the birth of religion during this period, which accounts for the estimated seventy percent of adults in the world today that fall into this structure of consciousness and lower.
Beta waves are of lower amplitude, but are very high in frequency. Beta waves range from 13 to 30 cycles per second. Beta waves are characteristic of a strongly engaged mind. Beta waves also increase temporarily during states of vigilant attention. Although Alpha brainwaves are dominant in most adults, there are still adults whose dominant brainwave falls into the Beta range. The major difference between these two states lies in their respective modes of operation. When a problem is being solved (critical thinking), a person is in a Beta state, however; mere passive thinking which doesn't require a solution, elicits an Alpha state. Before the advent of the Mental structure, human beings existed in a passive modality, where following was far more widespread than leading. In a dogmatic society, rules and laws are heard and accepted but never questioned. There is an unmistakable link between Beta brainwaves and Gebser's Mental structure of consciousness. This can be seen very clearly in this statement; “Beta brainwaves increase when we think logically, solve problems, and confront external stimuli.” It is the confronting of external stimuli that is Gebser's main indicator that the Mental structure has been accessed, for prior to the Mental structure space was still internalized.
Gamma brainwaves, which were just recently discovered, have been at the forefront of scientific research lately and have been popularized in the media. They are of the lowest amplitude and the highest frequency. Gamma ranges from 40 to 100 cycles per second. Gamma brainwaves have been proven to act as a synchronizing mechanism that actually allows other parts of the brain to communicate and integrate their functions. It is suggested that this neuronal synchronization effectively solves what scientists refer to as the temporal binding problem (See Appendix). Gamma oscillations in the range of 40hz are shown to be ubiquitous. They can be detected in single neurons and in larger constellations of neurons. Also, the critical process mediating the access to conscious perception is the early transient global increase of phase synchrony of oscillatory activity in the Gamma frequency range. Simply stated, when gamma brainwaves synchronize and vibrate in different parts of the brain simultaneously, reality is knitted together in the form of conscious activity.So, while Gamma is already considered the main precursor to conscious perception, it will play a more vital role in human development once it is the dominant brainwave. It is evident that while Gebser may not have directly linked the brainwave states to his structures of consciousness, there seems to be a strong correlation. So it is that this logical assumption based on the linkage of consciousness to brainwave, makes the intuitive leap in saying that the predominant Gamma brainwave will herald the emerging Integral structure.
When seen holistically, it is clear that this hypothesis carries a profound cohesion, in that it allows the integration of the biology of the individual (via brainwave development) and the corresponding structure of consciousness (via mutation). This relationship effectively renders arguments for evolution, or against mutation completely irrelevant, for the process is seen as synergistic, dynamic, and whole.
Also, insights are given into the inner workings of consciousness that are adualistic, acausal, and atemporal, (or in other words free from dualistic, causal, and temporal categorical assumptions.) George Feuerstein said that in the Archaic structure of consciousness, there was maximum latency and minimum transparency, and conversely in the integral structure there is maximum transparency and minimum latency. This must hold true for biological development as well, and a clue can be found in the linkage of latency to amplitude, and transparency to frequency.
In the Archaic structure, it stands to reason, that the higher brainwaves, while being ever present, were also in a state of maximum latency/minimum transparency (highest amplitude/lowest frequency). Concurrently, in the integral structure there would, necessarily, be a minimum latency/maximum transparency (lowest amplitude/highest frequency). Therefore, it is logical to conclude that brainwaves exist because of consciousness, and vice versa. This adualistic perception of brainwave and consciousness structure facilitates the mutation of consciousness by allowing us to “aware” the process by which development occurs. Atemporally, the holistic elements come into identity with one another because of the intrinsic nature of time that Gebser so eloquently fleshes out in his book. When seen causally, it appears to our consciousness that the brainwave precedes the consciousness structure and allows for the development of said structure in time, however the process does not and cannot occur “in time” because all time, according to Gebser, is “Ever Present”. Seeing the process outside causality allows for a better overall comprehension of the elements of this thesis, which in turn lends a better understanding of consciousness itself.
With the prevalence of the Gamma wave band, systasis makes possible synairetic completion, which proceeds from the undifferentiated, completely unconscious Archaic, to the undifferentiated, fully super-conscious Integral structure. A new and replete world comes into view; a world seen as truth. The Gamma that currently operates unconsciously, and allows for the complexities of neuronal synchronization at 40hz and above, will become accessible to our conscious minds, and will exhibit profound structural changes in the “method and mode” of our daily lives. To quote Gebser, “We will live in the Achronon, with the transparency, which a time-free and ego-free person can presentiate in the most fortunate certainty of life. The pre-temporal (Magical) becomes time-free, vacuity becomes plenitude, and in transparency the spiritual comes to perception.”
Below you will find a comparative chart that breaks down the respective brainwaves into their corresponding modes of operation based on Gebser's work.
Brain Wave Evolution Case Study
Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin's new $10 million W.M. Keck Laboratory for Functional Brain Imaging and Behavior, and his holiness, the Dalai Lama, recently put to the test 8 of his most advanced meditators in an attempt to pin down these Gamma waves and better identify their function and purpose. Here is what they found.
Scientists used to believe that connections among brain nerve cells were fixed early in life and did not change in adulthood. But that assumption was disproved over the past decade with the help of advances in brain imaging and other techniques.Scientists have now embraced the concept of ongoing brain development and neuroplasticity. Davidson says his newest results from the meditation study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in November, take the concept of neuroplasticity a step further by showing that mental training through meditation (and presumably other disciplines) can itself change the inner workings and circuitry of the brain.
The Dalai Lama dispatched eight of his most accomplished practitioners to Davidson's lab to have them hooked up for electroencephalograph (EEG) testing and brain scanning. The Buddhist practitioners in the experiment had undergone training in the Tibetan Nyingmapa and Kagyupa traditions of meditation for an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 hours, over time periods of 15 to 40 years. As a control, 10 student volunteers with no previous meditation experience were also tested after one week of training.
The monks and volunteers were fitted with a net of 256 electrical sensors and asked to meditate for short periods. Thinking and other mental activity are known to produce slight, but detectable, bursts of electrical activity as large groupings of neurons send messages to each other, and that is what the sensors picked up. Davidson was especially interested in measuring Gamma waves, some of the highest-frequency and most important electrical brain impulses.
Both groups were asked to meditate, specifically on unconditional compassion. Buddhist teaching describes that state, which is at the heart of the Dalai Lama's teaching, as the "unrestricted readiness and availability to help living beings." The researchers chose that focus because it does not require concentrating on particular objects, memories or images, and cultivates instead a transformed state of being. Davidson said that the results unambiguously showed that meditation activated the trained minds of the monks in significantly different ways from those of the volunteers. Most important, the electrodes picked up much greater activation of fast-moving and unusually powerful Gamma waves in the monks, and found that the movement of the waves through the brain was far better organized and coordinated than in the students. The meditation novices showed only a slight increase in gamma wave activity while meditating, but some of the monks produced Gamma wave activity more powerful than any previously reported in a healthy person, Davidson said.
In previous studies, mental activities such as focus, memory, learning, and consciousness were associated with the kind of enhanced neural coordination found in the monks. The intense gamma waves found in the monks have also been associated with knitting together disparate brain circuits, and so are connected to higher mental activity and heightened awareness. Davidson's research is consistent with his earlier work that pinpointed the left prefrontal cortex as a brain region associated with happiness and positive thoughts and emotions. Using functional magnetic resonance imagining (fMRI) on the meditating monks, Davidson found that their brain activityas measured by the EEGwas especially high in this area. Davidson concludes from the research that meditation not only changes the workings of the brain in the short term, but also quite possibly produces permanent changes. That finding, he said, is based on the fact that the monks had considerably more Gamma wave activity than the control group even before they started meditating.
In every wisdom tradition, there exists the basic component of centering, or meditation. It is through these practices that higher levels of awareness are attained, and Gamma waves are most abundant. “Long-term Buddhist practitioners self-induce sustained electroencephalographic high-amplitude Gamma-band oscillations and phase-synchrony during meditation.” This clearly suggests that Gamma wave oscillations share a unique symmetry with higher levels of awareness.
The crux of Gebser's model lies in the notion that all of the structures of consciousness will be “integrated” in a harmonious and synchronized way. Similarly, the Gamma brainwave patterns will assimilate all of the brainwave frequencies. What proceeds are not different states, but rather a dynamic whole, in which all structures of consciousness are perceived simultaneously, resulting in an original view of reality and a new way of being. As more people access the Gamma band as their dominant frequency, it will facilitate the mutation of Integral consciousness. The either/or modality of the Mental structure will be superceded by a both/and paradoxical viewpoint that will promote this new world-view, and make possible a new vision of time, space, society, culture, and mankind's place within it.
The Temporal Binding Problem
Synchronous activity at about 40Hz (Gamma) appears to be involved in binding sensory inputs into the single, unitary object we perceive. This process is so efficient, we are hardly aware that it goes on at all. Recordings of neurons in the visual cortex show that synchronization at about 40 Hz links parts of the cortex excited by the same object, and not those excited by different objects, implicating Gamma rhythms in binding. For instance the color, shape, movement, and location of an object are processed in different parts of the visual cortex, and these features of an object need to be reunited into a single entity. This is known as the temporal binding problem, and Gamma rhythms are thought to provide a solution.
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