Deficient Manifestations of Integral Consciousness
"As discussed earlier there is a divergence between Steiner’s, Gebser’s and Wilber’s overall notions of deficiency or pathology in relation to movements of consciousness, which particularly plays out in respect to the current emergence. Both Gebser and Steiner referred to the gradual emergence of a new consciousness over the last five hundred years but with increasing intensity in the 20th century. They both also spoke of the growing problems of over-abstraction, egotism, fragmentation and disconnection from Spirit, relating these phenomena to an overextension of intellectual-mental-rational consciousness.
Their characterizations of the new consciousness do not tend to point to deficiencies at this stage—the major concern being that the grossness of the dominant mode will override and mask the subtle appearance of the new transparency. However Gebser (1949/1985) did note in one of his charts that integral consciousness, still in its early stages, may manifest in a deficient form as “void (atomizing dissolution)” (p. 142). The associated explanation appears to connect this with the overextension and exhaustion of the mental structure rather than with the integral structure itself. He gave the following example: “‘artists’ . . . who are merely atomizers, surrender themselves by distorting and disjointing form, instead of rendering into form what has been placed as a task into their care” (p. 506, note 19).Gebser (1949/1985) also discussed the difficulties in attempting to present information about the integral consciousness—in the sense that it allows the originary presence to become transparent. Increasingly deficient attitudes seek refuge in syncretisms . . . or encyclopedic compendia .. . Presentiate wisdom becomes accumulated knowledge; when summarized and compiled, it yields a new sum, but no new wisdom. Wisdom is reduced from a quality of being to a quantity of possession (p. 44). Wilber’s approach is less consistent as he has moved beyond his earlier position where his vision-logic paralleled Gebser’s integral-aperspectival and thus Steiner’s consciousness soul. In the last five to six years he has come up with a proliferation of structure-stages beyond mental-rational (in the phylogenetic, cultural evolution stream) and its parallel, formal operations (in the ontogenetic, psychological development stream). In his latest publication (Wilber, 2006) he locates, between rational and integral, a new stage— pluralistic —that he incorrectly identifies as one of Gebser’s worldviews (glossy insert between pages 68-69). Based on this misappropriation of Gebser’s model he further develops his conception of this pluralistic stage, which he associates with postmodernism, as a somewhat deficient, in-between stage, on the way to integral. Wilber conflates his new integral with Gebser’s integral without any reference to the fact that Gebser does not include a pluralistic structure before integral and with very little evidential justification for his pluralistic stage, particularly from the cultural phylogeny perspective (Hampson, 2007). The problem here is that Wilber appears to be conflating individual psychological developmental stages (ontogeny) with Gebser’s structures of consciousness—which are actually more in line with the current literature on cultural evolution(phylogeny). Given that Wilber is aware of this distinction and clearly quite familiar with the current evidence from adult developmental psychology on the existence of at least four psychological stages beyond formal operations (Commons & Richards, 2002; Commons, Trudeau, Stein, Richards, & Krause, 1998; Cook-Greuter, 2000, Torbert, 2004), it would be conceptually more coherent for him to confine himself to this research to establish his pluralistic stage, rather than attribute a stage to Gebser that the latter did not actually identify."
The Infancy of Integral Consciousness — a Macrohistorical Reflection and Proflection
"Only by realizing the new mutation as an integral bearing or attitude and not as a quantifiable “enrichment” can man preserve himself from a complete loss of what it means to be human. (Gebser, 1949/1985, p. 306)One of the key propositions that I wish to draw from the above material is that the major movements of consciousness we have been exploring—particularly those that link to cultural shifts in the post-glacial age — appear to take approximately 2,000 years to become consolidated within human culture. These macro, time-cycles have been linked to the astronomical event called the precession of the equinoxes (Bocchi & Ceruti, 2002; Steiner, 1971a; Ulansey, 1994).(See Appendix A) The influence of such a long-term event-cycle can be demonstrated when we observe the historical development of the thinking that in academic discourse we take for granted. As demonstrated, this mental-rational shift only began to emerge in Greece between600-800 BC, arguably reaching its culmination approximately 2,000 years later in Europe. If we consider that the new consciousness movement showed its first cotyledons at the same period that the previous consciousness was reaching its peak, it becomes evident that this new consciousness, although it has been gradually emerging within leading individuals for 500years, is only in its relative infancy. An analogy would be to compare what mental-rational thinking was like just 500 years after Plato and Aristotle compared to what it became in Descartes, Kant or Hegel. What is unique, however, about the new consciousness is that it is part of its multifaceted nature to be pluralistic, interconnected, multi-perspectival, inclusive—indeed planetary—in its scope. So rather than a few leading-edge philosophers discussing ideas in Plato’s Academy in Athens, it is possible, through the interconnected world that has been created through advances in technology, for this new consciousness to become fully planetary in reach. If we can awaken this integral transparency, even now as it is in its infancy, imagine how much more wise, loving and creative our consciousness might be across the planet in another thousand years. The following statement by Friedrich Nietzsche in his Beyond Good and Evil is as good a set of criteria as any that I have found, for evaluating how successful a new philosophy-theory-approach might be. It seems an appropriate note on which to end this section. To what extent is it life furthering, life supporting, species supporting, perhaps even species cultivating? (Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Beyond Good and Evil, 4). (Steiner,1895/1960)
There is an apparent major point of departure between Gebser’s integral-aperspectival mode — as the culmination of consciousness development, from his view—and both Steiner’s and Wilber’s notions of several potential further stages/movements of consciousness—within both individual development and cultural evolution. This is a challenging, under-researched area— particularly in relation to future, general cultural evolution. I suggest the situation is not as clear-cut as it might first appear. A preliminary discussion is explored in Appendix A, under the section heading Gebser’s Integral vs. Wilber’s Transpersonal Levels. I intend to undertake further research in this area, but until such research has been completed, I consider the notion of future movements beyond those discussed here to be a very complex issue, to say the least. Suffice to say that, in my view, the most important development that needs to occur at this point in planetary time is, for all of us who are working in our various ways to nurture postformal, integral or planetary consciousness, to continue and increase our collaboration to assist the planet-wide awakening of emergent new features of consciousness."