Deficient Manifestations of Intellectual-Mental-Rational Consciousness

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Jennifer Gidley:

"Steiner (1971a) pointed out that this “head and thought” civilization was in some ways more perfect and complete during the Greek period when humans still had a relationship to the surrounding world. “It is only what developed from it as a decadent condition that became materialistic” (p. 55). The beginnings of this decadence was evident as early as 221 BCE in early Imperial China, which went through a destructive, totalizing suppression of diversity similar tothat of the Roman Empire a few centuries later. What had blossomed as a cultural flourishing in Greece, contracted with the Roman Empire: the invention of bureaucracy, the rule of law with its sense of righteousness and power, the Romanization of Christianity, and the masculinization of culture, particularly the advancement of war machinery exponentially supporting the desire to conquer, colonize, and convert (Eisler, 1987).Both Steiner and Gebser emphasize the deficient nature of excessive abstraction. Steiner(1971a) notes “humanity had to go through the period of abstractions . . . But [the abstract ideas] must be united again with reality” (p. 31). Gebser (1949/1985) decries the excesses of abstraction: “In its extreme form of exaggerated abstractness, it is ultimately void of any relation onto life and becomes autonomous; empty of content and no longer a sign but only a mental denotation, its effect is predominantly destructive” (p. 88). Gebser expands on this notion as follows. Today, while the integral is overdetermining and dissolving the mental-rational consciousness, the mental capacity of thought is being mechanized by the robots of calculation—computers—and this is being emptied and quantified. (p. 538)Wilber (1996c) pointed to the monumental price that humans had to pay for the “monumental growth in consciousness” that arose with the ego. He cites Campbell as referring to this period of development as “the great reversal” (p. 305). In Wilber’s terms: “The ego, then, lies at the extreme point of vulnerability, half-way between the Eden of the subconscious and the true Heaven of the superconscious” (p. 305). He identifies four major factors that in his view contributed to “a sense of the Fall.”

These were existential guilt, neurosis, “feelings of alienation. . . from Spirit” and “egoic hybris (hubris)” (pp. 306-308).


Summary and Relevance for Today

"Gebser (1949/1985) describes how the human ego “emerges and increases from mutation to mutation, culminating in the deficient mental phase with its overemphasis of ego and its pendulation between isolation and rigidification (egocentricity)” (p. 151). He comments: Wherever we are caught up in the labyrinthine network of mere concepts, or meet up with a one-sided emphasis on willful or voluntaristic manifestations of attempts at spasmodic synthesis . . . we may assuredly conclude the presence of a deficient mental, that is, an extremely rationalistic source. (Gebser, 1949/1985, p. 154)

Both Steiner (a century ago), and Gebser (fifty years ago), fore-sensed the looming planetary catastrophe if we do not wake up and change our thinking. If [we do] not vitalize [our] thoughts, if [we] persist in harboring merely intellectualistic thoughts, dead thoughts, [we] must destroy the earth. . . . The destruction begins with the most highly rarified element . . . ruining . . . the warmth-atmosphere of the Earth. . . . and if[our] thoughts were to remain purely intellectualistic, [we] would poison the air, ruining inthe first place, all vegetation. [Eventually, far in the future] it will be possible for [us] to contaminate the water. (Steiner, 1972b, pp. 90-91)It is somewhat horrific to realize that in the short space of a century, what Steiner predicted might happen over a long period of time—he was speaking of thousands of years—is well underway towards the catastrophe he foreshadowed—most notably “ruining . . . the warmth-atmosphere of the Earth” with global warming. Gebser (Gebser, 1949/1985) also fore-sensed the problems that are arising today. 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” . . . Either we will be disintegrated and dispersed, or we must resolve and effect integrality. (p. xxvii)Even two hundred years ago, Hegel’s message, as interpreted by Tarnas, seems to portend the impending crisis. As Hegel suggested, a civilization cannot become conscious of itself, cannot recognize itsown significance until it is so mature that it is approaching its own death. (Tarnas, 1991, p.445)Many contemporary scholars also highlight the urgency for the type of change in consciousness that the next section foregrounds (Elgin, 1993; Gangadean, 2006a, 2006b; László,2006; Montuori, 1999; Morin & Kern, 1999)."


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