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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Origin and Beginning

Arthur Rackham – “How at the Castle of Corbin a Maiden Bare in the Sangreal and Foretold the Achievements of Galahad

Origin is ever-present. It is not a beginning, since all beginning is linked with time. And the present is not just the “now”, today, the moment or unit of time. It is ever-originating, an achievement of full integration and continuous renewal. Anyone able to ‘concretize,’ i.e., to realize and effect the reality of origin and the present in their entirety, supersedes ‘beginning’ and ‘end’ and the mere here and now (Gebser xxvii).

I’m surprised I haven’t previously encountered the distinction between origin and beginning. If I have, it apparently didn’t make a great impression on me until this past week. This article will deal with the discoveries I’ve made.

I first became aware of the importance of the distinction while reading articles by Scott Preston at The Chrysalis. At least as long as I’ve been studying philosophy, I’ve understood the idea that time is simply a framework created by our minds to order our empirical experience. Time, as we normally understand it, is an illusion. Many are confused concerning a beginning as a moment in linear time, and the idea of origin. Most think they are synonymous, but they are definitely not. As Gebser says, “origin is ever-present.” It is not “linked with time.” A beginning is, on the other hand, linked with linear time. For example Isaac Newton entered this earthly life on January 4, 1643 at 1:38 AM. This was the moment Newton began his sojourn on Earth. This moment was not Newton’s origin, it was merely the beginning of his earthly life. Similarly, what scientists call the Big Bang is not the origin, but the beginning of this universe. They can attach an age to this event, which is about fourteen billion years ago. They cannot attach an age to the origin.

Our origin, as living creatures, is “ever-originating,” an eternal presence. We have forgotten this. Our true selves have been disconnected from eternity. We have wandered far from our origin. Our task here is to re-member, to re-collect that which has disintegrated. It’s not a remembering in the sense of memory, but a re-integration of what has been torn asunder. It is difficult to say what the origin is, but it seems similar to what Hermetists calls The All. It is certainly non-spatial and non-temporal. All the various modes of consciousness emerge from the origin. In fact, I would go so far as to say that all things in the universe share in this ever-present reality. It is not an external reality. The very roots of our being lie within us, connected rhizomally to the origin, and, in turn, to each other.

The sense of meaninglessness we experience in this current world is due to our straying too far from the origin. Nihilism is a symptom of what Gebser calls the deficient mode of the mental-rational structure of consciousness. Not only this, but the myriad crises of our world equate to birth-pangs meant to prepare the earth for the next transition of consciousness, which Gebser calls the integral structure. When the various structures have lost their potency, they enter their deficient mode. This is indicative of the imminent arrival of the next mutation of consciousness. When the integral structure comes to predominate human consciousness, all of the structures will be integrated into the whole. Our perception of time as linear will be superseded, as well as all dualism. Aperspectival man will experience reality four-dimensionally. Rationality will be replaced by arationality. Instead of extreme egocentricity, or narcissism, which dominates our culture today, mankind will experience diaphaneity, the transcendence of the ego in favor of a self that will fully experience the whole, not simply the parts.

The undivided, ego-free person who no longer sees parts but realizes the “itself,” the spiritual form of being of man and the world, perceives the whole, the diaphaneity present “before” all origin which suffuses everything (Gebser 543).

Is this what Jung means by the individuated Self?

Works Cited

Friedrich Nietzsche. The Will to Power. Trans. Walter Kauffman and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Vintage, 1967.

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

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The Epoch of Soul Revisited

General Confusion, by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz

Three years ago on this blog, I wrote these words:

It must be the World Soul that transforms the Earth. By this, I mean the actual personality that is the collective Soul of the human race. The same self-organizing force that maintains our natural world is the same power that has begun to bring this about in the psyches of all of us, whether we consciously recognize it or not. The Epoch of Soul has arrived.

I was beginning to become aware of a movement in the collective psyche that would bring about what I called the Epoch of Soul, but I was still seeing imperfectly. The vision is still not entirely clear, but it is coming into sharper focus. The Epoch of Soul is nearing, but it has not yet arrived, as much as wishful thinking would desire it. Humanity is still somewhat within the confines of what Jean Gebser calls the “mental-rational” mode of consciousness. It is deteriorating, and has been since the rise of perspective during the Renaissance. It would seem that we are in the last throes of the overemphasis on ratiocination, if events of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries are reliable indicators.

There are, however, powerful beams of light shining into the collective psyche. We can finally see the integral structure beginning to influence human consciousness. An excellent example of this is how the Internet has influenced our lives in the past twenty years or so. The Internet is a huge rhizomal structure, analogous to the World Soul. Myself, and others, have written, for several years, about the rhizomal nature of the World Soul. In my article entitled, Rhizomal Soul, I describe how hierarchies based on transcendent power structures are quickly crumbling. The rise of immanence is the spread of rhizomal soul, roots snaking underground, interconnecting the previously unconnected, making an idea like “nation-state” totally obsolete. Have you ever seen what underground roots can do to a road or sidewalk? They grow underneath and actually lift and tear at the cement until it cracks and deteriorates. This is what the horizontal growth of the World Soul is doing to hierarchical power structures. This is all part of the manifestation of the integral consciousness structure.

The collective unconscious is a powerful rhizomal presence in human experience. It is a complex, subterranean root system that snakes and intertwines all humans in the tangle and convolution of Soul. This collective entanglement will one day decentralize the self-aggrandizing and narcissistic tendencies of human ego. It is already beginning. The rhizomal Soul will one day replace the Me Generation with the We Generation. No, it will not be perfect; Utopia will never totally manifest on earth, but we are a world of strivers, even though our goal may not always take us in a particularly linear evolutionary path. We may whirl in the maelstrom for a thousand years or more, but, eventually, the mutation to deepened consciousness will come. The more we allow the rhizomal root structure of Soul to grow, the quicker we will get there. It is up to us to care for Soul and nurture it.

The integral structure of consciousness has been undergoing birth pangs for several decades already. Of course, it will include all previous structures, the archaic, the magical, the mythical, and the mental-rational. Interestingly, Gebser’s model is based on a four-fold structure, while C.G. Jung viewed the quarternity as a basic structure of reality. This is also analogous to William Blake’s Four Zoas.

The World Soul is not only the collective soul of the human race, as I had previously mentioned, but of all things in our universe.  I believe it is this power that is orchestrating these mutations of human consciousness, which began with primordial man. According to Sufi mystic, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee,

The world is a living spiritual being. This was understood by the ancient philosophers and the alchemists who referred to the spiritual essence of the world as the anima mundi, the “Soul of the World.” They regarded the World Soul as a pure ethereal spirit diffused throughout all nature, the divine essence that embraces and energizes all life in the universe (Anima Mundi: Awakening the Soul of the World).


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The Apex of Mental-Rational Consciousness


In his famous letter to Francesco Dionisio da Borgo San Sepolcro, dated April 26, 1336, Petrarch writes of his ascent of Mount Ventoux, the first such climb we know of in Western literature accomplished solely for aesthetic reasons. The man who began the ascent was not the same man who returned to Malaucene that evening, at the foot of the mountain. The Petrarch who ascended that day was a man whose consciousness was changed in a way that would effect Western culture for centuries to come. After reaching the summit, Petrarch began to muse on the sights before him.

As if suddenly wakened from sleep, I turned about and gazed toward the west. I was unable to discern the summits of the Pyrenees, which form the barrier between France and Spain; not because of any intervening obstacle that I know of but owing simply to the insufficiency of our mortal vision. But I could see with the utmost clearness, off to the right, the mountains of the region about Lyons, and to the left the bay of Marseilles and the waters that lash the shores of Aigues Mortes, altho’ all these places were so distant that it would require a journey of several days to reach them. Under our very eyes flowed the Rhone (Petrarch).

According to Jean Gebser, “Petrarch’s glance spatially isolated a part of ‘nature’ from the whole, from the all-encompassing attachment to sky and earth and the unquestioned, closed unperspectival ties are severed” (Gebser 13). In other words, his perception, and subsequently that of all Western civilization, was transformed from one of immersion in a nature that was predominantly time-based, to one where space, the vast spaces of this new vista from Ventoux’s summit, gained the ascendancy.

Awe-struck to the point where he felt distressed by entering into this experience, he writes

While I was thus dividing my thoughts, now turning my attention to some terrestrial object that lay before me, now raising my soul, as I had done my body, to higher planes, it occurred to me to look into my copy of St. Augustine’s Confessions, a gift that I owe to your love, and that I always have about me, in memory of both the author and the giver. I opened the compact little volume, small indeed in size, but of infinite charm, with the intention of reading whatever came to hand, for I could happen upon nothing that would be otherwise than edifying and devout. Now it chanced that the tenth book presented itself. My brother, waiting to hear something of St. Augustine’s from my lips, stood attentively by. I call him, and God too, to witness that where I first fixed my eyes it was written: “And men go about to wonder at the heights of the mountains, and the mighty waves of the sea, and the wide sweep of rivers, and the circuit of the ocean, and the revolution of the stars, but themselves they consider not” (ibid.).

Petrarch was astounded he had randomly chosen this passage. This bit of synchronicity heralded a struggle within him. From this moment on, he was torn between an idea he learned from the “pagan philosophers,” that “nothing is wonderful but the soul, which, when great itself, finds nothing great outside itself (ibid.),” and the “externalization of space out of his soul” (Gebser 15). The Augustinian idea that, “Time resides in the soul,” gradually falls away and the dichotomization of subject and object begins its rise to predominance in Western consciousness. By the nineteenth century, the soul is viewed as nonsense.

According to Gebser, the mental-rational structure began around 1225 B.C. Petrarch’s experience marked its highest point. From that moment on, it has been in decline.

The consciousness of perspective, three-dimensionality, led to an externalization of space. Perspective takes as a preconceived assumption that space is infinite and homogeneous. The primary foundational stone of linear perspective is that of the vanishing point, what the Italians called the punta di fuga, the point of light. Through this new way of seeing that which is seen, a new relationship between humanity and the world is born. This new relationship would lead to the notion of an objective observer, one removed from what one is seeing. The new science that was just on the horizon would embrace this view of a dichotomy between humanity and the world, which would lead to Descartes’ schism between the mind and the world.

As much as I have criticized it over the years, I am beginning to think that our current mode of consciousness, the mental-rational structure, is something that was meant to be. It was necessary that Western culture pass through the various modes of consciousness to prepare us for the next evolutionary leap.



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

Petrarch, Franceso. Familiar Letters. The Ascent of Mount Ventoux. <http://petrarch.petersadlon.com/read_letters.html?s=pet17.html>.


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The Ever-Present Origin: Initial Thoughts


Recently, I voraciously devoured Gary Lachman’s book, The Secret History of Consciousness, where I learned quite a lot about Jean Gebser. I had seen the name bandied about in philosophy and psychology books, but never took the time to investigate him for myself. I was surprised that such an important thinker was not covered in my undergraduate degree work in philosophy, but I suppose Gebser is more popular in graduate school. Lachman certainly did a great job of introducing Gebser because, immediately, I became very, very intrigued and ordered Gebser’s major work, The Ever-Present Origin, straightaway. This evening, I cracked it and began reading. These words are my initial reactions.

From the introduction I’ve been given to Gebser, I am anticipating this work to be just as influential to me as was Heidegger’s Being and Time, Jung’s The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, and Hillman’s Re-visioning Psychology. These books have been watershed events in my life and work. The Ever-Present Origin will most likely take its place alongside these classics.

For years, I and many others have railed against the materialistic, scientistic Zeitgeist our world finds itself enmeshed in. I have despaired many times because I thought no one was listening. I was wrong. Many are listening, and have been listening for some time. The post-Enlightenment period, which began in the aftermath of World War I, was the wake-up call. But, even before this, Friedrich Nietzsche, with amazing prescience, warned humanity that the current consciousness structure, what Gebser calls the “mental-rational,” would be disintegrated.  The coming apart of this consciousness structure began after the world suffered through World War I. The mental-rational, which Gebser claims began around 1225 B.C., has been gradually eaten away by developments throughout the twentieth century, and into this century. These include the discoveries of quantum physics; the rise of fascism and another world war; the Holocaust; the rise of the corporate state and its involvement in the global war economy, which parallels the rise of fascism; the many discoveries of science and technology; the emergence of the Internet; and the post-911  national security state. There are many factors that are contributing to the dismantling of the mental-rational structure, and the eventual transformation (mutation) to what Gebser deems an “aperspectival,” or “integral structure” of consciousness. As I understand it, this structure is similar to other teachings of elevated consciousness, where ego and its self-interested, narcissistic demands are transcended.

I am of the opinion, too, that Gebser’s theory will correspond very well with my Jungian and archetypal inclinations. That will make for some interesting thinking and discussion.

We live in exciting times, folks. Until next time…

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