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 in 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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