The New Consciousness

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Parageburt 3, by Doro Breger, 1956

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 (Jean Gebser, The Integral Consciousness, Main Currents in Modern Thought, 1974 ).

The new consciousness that is emerging is, first of all, not a phenomenon we should view as yet another rung on what Saint John Climacus called the scala paradisi, or “ladder of divine ascent.” Western man is obsessed with climbing higher and higher, as in “climbing the corporate ladder, or “making it to the top.” In spiritual matters, the general consensus is that one draws closer to God if one ascends into the heavens. Why the preoccupation with an upward path? Why is heaven up and hell down? It is because we still view reality is terms of space, whether it is two-dimensional or three-dimensional. The West has been consumed with space since the advent of what Gebser calls the mental-rational mode of consciousness. One of the milestones of this obsession was when a human stepped out onto the lunar surface in 1969. The new consciousness will supersede spatial considerations. Three-dimensionality will be transcended to include the fourth dimension of time.

Secondly, the new consciousness is not an evolutionary breakthrough along the road to a “higher species,” as if evolutionary development occurs in a straight linear path to perfection. Gebser wants us to understand that the new consciousness is an “enrichment” and “intensification” of human consciousness. It is not necessarily “higher” in the sense of  ascending toward a state of perfection. Humans will never be perfect. Greater awareness of what lies latent within us is a profound enrichment of the human experience. I have written before on the gifts that reside in the realm of Hades. The Ruler of the Dead is quite an interesting fellow. For instance, Hades is the god of the hidden wealth of the earth. One of the common names associated with him is Pluto, which is derived from ploutos, meaning “wealth.” Hades is god of all precious minerals and metals that are mined from the depths of the earth, for

The entire bulk and substance of the earth, was dedicated to father Dis [Haides] (that is, Dives, ‘the rich’, and so in Greek Plouton), because all things fall back into the earth and also arise from the earth. – Cicero, De Natura Deorum 2.26

When we are able to partake of the emerging new consciousness, we will gain insight into these riches that currently lie hidden within. It will bring an enrichment of consciousness for all.

Furthermore, Gebser says the new consciousness involves “our conscious response to the Integral Structure of the world, which through us becomes transparent.” In this integral paradigm, our response to the world from the point of view of an acutely aware consciousness will be one of “transparency.” This means we will see things as they are in truth, as in Heidegger’s Dasein, Being which empowers and reveals all beings to be. We will no longer think of things from a dualistic viewpoint, as mere objects. rather, what the world is in its true being will be quite obvious to us. The emphasis will no longer be on things, but on the whole. We will “see through” things and will be aware of their true being. Gebser calls this “diaphaneity.” What lies now in unconsciousness will all be made conscious. There is nothing hidden that won’t be revealed, and there is nothing secret that won’t become known and come to light (Luke 8:17, NIV).

Next, Gebser says, “This invisible process activates in us the new consciousness that has always been latent in us.” We are currently enmeshed in the deficient stage of the mental-rational structure of consciousness, but, lying hidden within us is this new integral consciousness. It is currently part of our unconsciousness. You can see why the idea of the unconscious is so important to Jungian psychology. There are diamonds hidden there just waiting to be revealed. From the thickest blackness, a diamond is born. Many people believe that diamonds are formed from coal. This, however, is a popular misconception. Geologist, Hobart King, says the majority of the world’s “diamonds…were formed in the mantle and delivered to the surface by deep-source volcanic eruptions” (Hobart King, How Do Diamonds Form?). Creation takes place deep within the earth’s mantle, where black is absolutely black, where carbon material is pulverized beneath the continental plates, some ninety miles below the earth’s surface. The temperatures there reach at least 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. After being ground to the blackest powder, the earth creates these wondrous stones and thrusts them back up to the surface. As above, so below. This is a powerful image of how the Nigredo works within the human psyche. At times, our lives are thrust deep into the unfathomable depths of the Underworld, where we are crushed, pulverized, and annihilated until we are black as the raven’s head.

Aristotle’s notion of Entelecheia, or entelechy is another idea I am fond of that pertains to the current latency of the integral consciousness. Joe Sachs, a translator of Aristotle, has this to say:

Entelecheia, as can be seen by its derivation, is a kind of completeness, whereas “the end and completion of any genuine being is its being-at-work” (energeia). The entelecheia is a continuous being-at-work (energeia) when something is doing its complete “work”. For this reason, the meanings of the two words converge, and they both depend upon the idea that every thing’s “thinghood” is a kind of work, or in other words a specific way of being in motion. All things which exist now, and not just potentially, are beings-at-work, and all of them have a tendency towards being-at-work in a particular way which would be their proper and “complete” way (Sachs, Joe (1995), Aristotle’s Physics: a Guided Study).

The telos of an entelechy is not to be understood as a static endpoint. The notion here is that the entelechy is a “continuous being-at-work.” An animaterial human, or integral human, does not suddenly arrive at full completion and then remains static. The process is endless. Soul in-forms the animaterial human, thus transforming her into that which she was destined to become.

Next, Gebser discusses how the process, currently latent in us, involves both evolution and involution. Involution is a turning-in; it is from the Latin, involvere, literally to “roll into.” When we experience the integral mode of consciousness, we will be rolled into a holistic people who are able to experience the world and each other as interconnected. I once used the metaphor of a soulish maelstrom to describe the process of immanence:

We are learning that the idea of an increasing consciousness is not as we once thought, i.e. it is not necessarily a higher consciousness, but an involuting consciousness. The metaphor of increasing consciousness is changing to one that increases inwardly, as our individual Souls spiral into each other. These are merging together as we whirl inward. As we acknowledge the power of Soul and the Cosmic Mind, we are becoming One upon the Earth.
We have been distant from each other due to our ignorance of the collective unconscious. As we all, in unison, abandon our projections upon each other and become more aware of our True Selves, we grow closer and closer to one another, thus allowing the World Soul to individuate and experience greater and greater consciousness.
 
We are swirling within Soul’s Maelstrom. Round and round we go in this world, and ever downward. But, as we move deeper into the Vortex of Life, we move, simultaneously, inward and closer together. The lower we go into the Maelstrom, the quicker consciousness increases.  Let this image burn within your mind (The Involution of Consciousness).
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Time and the Soul

The Persistence of Memory. 1931, by Salvador Dalí

In some ways, there isn’t really much difference between what we call “psyche” and what we call “history”, since history is better understood as our autobiography. This is, in part, what St. Augustine intends by his statement that “time is of the soul” and what historian Jean Gebser means by “the ever-present origin”. Self-overcoming and transcending history are one and the same (Scott Preston, Faking It at the End of History II).

These few words from Scott Preston’s amazing blog, The Chrysalis, are chock-full of astounding truths. If you haven’t perused Mr. Preston’s powerful posts, you’re in for a treat. In the above passage, Preston is musing on what time means to the soul, and vice-versa, and if they are really just equivalent. Fascinating idea, but one that he finds reference for in St. Augustine, as well as Jean Gebser. Let’s explore this a bit further.

First, he postulates a profound similarity between psyche and history. He claims this is because history is really “our autobiography.”

I am thinking of C.G. Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, and Reflections. It is a rather odd book, but one of the most impressionable I have ever read. It is not the typical biography; rather, it is soul-centered and image-filled. Memories, dreams, and reflections are powerful pictures that Jung carried with him all those years until, finally, he and his personal secretary, Aniela Jaffé, set them down on paper. They reflect his own soul, just as true history (not revisionist history) reflects the soul of mankind.

The images we have of history come to us from many sources and experiences, past, present, and future. We usually think of history as occurring in the past, but, like soul, history is timeless. In reality, we live in the moment, in soul, as well as in history. The word, “history,” contains within itself, the word, “story.” It is also related etymologically to the idea of story, from the Greek word, historia. Just as the soul is an ongoing tale being told, so also is history a story that is being recorded continuously, eternally. In all actuality, what we normally think of as time is a product of our conscious awareness, which is presently mired in deficient mental-rational consciousness, according to Gebser’s terminology. When humanity makes the jump to integral awareness, we will experience timelessness. We get glimpses of it occasionally now. Then, however, it will be our normal, everyday experience. Our future history will roll like a wheel. It will be timeless, imaginative, and soulful. And we will not speak in terms of now and then, for all will be now.

You’ve all heard that old saying, time flies when you’re having fun. When one is experiencing life as it should be experienced, i.e. soulfully, time simply melts away. You lose awareness of it in the normal sense. I find this occurring when I’m reading, writing, or doing anything else I really enjoy. One feels “in the zone.” I am also experiencing the awareness of the acceleration of time as I grow older. It is possible that one grows more aware of the soul as one ages. This would explain this strange phenomenon.

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A Time of Transformation

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Trois femmes (Three Women), by Pablo Picasso

Has the epoch of soul already begun? Has the so-called Age of Aquarius commenced? Are we living in an era sort of like the idea of messianic secrecy where, what Scott Preston calls The Planetary Era, has already come into existence, but the fact is still hidden from the consciousness of the masses? Since the beginning of The Great War in 1914, events pointing to the birth of a new age have accelerated quickly. Since that time, we have seen the dreams of Modern Era (Age of Enlightenment) thinkers annihilated. No longer do we assert that extreme rationality and scientific progress can solve all of our problems. This view involved a linear idea of progress, where “advances in technology, science, and social organization can produce an improvement in the human condition” (The Idea of Progress, Wikipedia). We now know this to be false. It was a case of anthropocentric naivete, or just downright narcissism. The fact that we are now aware of our erroneous thinking leads us to conclude that, first, we are presumably more aware of the human condition, and second, due to this expanded awareness, a different era of collective consciousness has been inaugurated.

In the past, I have written that we are “on the cusp” of the epoch of soul, but I am now convinced it has begun. There will be overlap for quite awhile to come. Our world is in deep crisis. We are spinning in a maelstrom that will either lead to what some are calling a new Dark Age for humanity, or an era of what Gebser calls “integrality.” Gebser writes,

The crisis we are experiencing today is not just a European crisis, nor a crisis of morals, economics, ideologies, politics or religion. It is not only prevalent in Europe and America but in Russia and the Far East as well. It is a crisis of the world and mankind such as has occurred previously only during pivotal junctures — junctures of decisive finality for life on earth and for the humanity subjected to them. The crisis of our times and our world is in a process — at the moment autonomously — of complete transformation, and appears headed toward an event which, in our view, can only be described as a “global catastrophe.” This event, understood in any but anthropocentric terms, will necessarily come about as a new constellation of planetary extent (Gebser, xvii – xviii).

Notice Gebser’s phrase, “pivotal junctures.” Throughout history, there have been these turning points, which, by the way, is the meaning of the word, “crisis.” Mankind has faced profound crises during, and prior to, times of momentous transformation. They are “junctures of decisive finality for life on earth and for the humanity subjected to them.“ Gebser sounds like an apocalyptic prophet warning us of our impending doom. And rightly so, for there have always appeared prophetic voices throughout history to sound a clarion call to prepare for critical events to follow. Be attentive! Wake up! Gebser basically says we have a choice between “global catastrophe” and “integrality:” “Either we will be disintegrated and dispersed, or we must resolve and effect integrality” (ibid.).

Another premonitory voice who made a similar pronouncement was Indian philosopher, Sri Aurobindo:

At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny; for a stage has been reached in which the human mind has achieved in certain directions an enormous development while in others it stands arrested and bewildered and can no longer find its way. A structure of the external life has been raised up by man’s ever-active mind and life-will, a structure of an unmanageable hugeness and complexity, for the service of his mental, vital, physical claims and urges, a complex political, social, administrative, economic, cultural machinery, an organised collective means for his intellectual, sensational, aesthetic and material satisfaction. Man has created a system of civilisation which has become too big for his limited mental capacity and understanding and his still more limited spiritual and moral capacity to utilise and manage, a too dangerous servant of his blundering ego and its appetites (Aurobindo, 1090-1092)…

Aurobindo offers us another a fork-in-the-road scenario.  If we desire to save our planet and humanity, “a greater whole-being, whole-knowledge, whole-power is needed to weld all into a greater unity of whole-life.” If we choose this way, it will result in “a life of unity, mutuality and harmony born of a deeper and wider truth of our being…” This “is the only truth of life that can successfully replace the imperfect mental constructions of the past” (ibid.). These “imperfect mental constructions of the past” are synonymous with the previous structures of consciousness spoken of by Gebser. His idea of an integral structure corresponds to Aurobindo’s hope for a “greater unity of whole-life.”

How will this transpire? What strategy can we adopt to help us avert a disastrous future? It will be a difficult time for us, but we know that pathologization is the nature of soul, so we know that travailing times are birth-pangs. The evil and ugliness we see in our world are psychopathologizations of the Anima Mundi, symptoms that provide clues as to Her psychic state. 

We have seen the end result of a positivistic, myth-denying, sacrilegious mindset that allows bankers to run roughshod over those less fortunate; that encourages corporations to advertise to the point of brainwashing people into endless buying of nonsensical products; that influences people to bring assault rifles to public places in the hope of massacring as many as possible. Our society has become psychotic.

Since the advent of modern depth psychology, individuals have been focusing mostly on their own journey of the soul, which is perfectly fine, as long as one remembers there is a greater good, i.e. the psychic health of the World Soul. Of course, caring for one’s individual soul contributes to the health of the World Soul. We simply must be cognizant of this fact and not fall under the illusion that our own well-being is primary. Traditionally, individual patients were treated with forms of inter-subjective therapies, and even group-related therapies, but the world remained external to these. Many patients have made tremendous progress. Millions are in better shape today than possibly anytime in history. Certainly, there are many troubled people out there, and many who purposely choose to follow a dark path of malevolence. For the most part, however, humans have achieved astounding and wonderful things in the past few hundred years. It is now time to shift our focus to healing our world. In this, we heal ourselves.

 

Works Cited

Gebser, Jean. The Ever-Present Origin. Trans. by Noel Barstad and Algis Mickunas. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985.

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