Postformal-Integral-Planetary Consciousness

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Jennifer Gidley:

"It is evident from the above that in addition to Steiner, Gebser and Wilber, many other researchers have endeavored to understand, characterize and communicate the new consciousness. Paradoxically, their contributions to understanding and communicating this phenomenon demonstrate both universal similarities and unique particularities. There is a profusion of terminology in the field—both between and within disciplinary boundaries. The major terms being used are:

Postformal — to denote new developmental stages. Adult developmental psychologists have been undertaking research into postformal thinking for several decades, identifying up to four stages of development beyond Piaget’s formal operations (Arlin, 1999;Campbell, 2006; Cartwright, 2001; Commons et al., 1990; Commons, Trudeau, Stein, Richards, & Krause, 1998; Cook-Greuter, 2000; Kegan, 1994; Kohlberg, 1990;Labouvie-Vief, 1990; Sinnott, 1998; Yan & Arlin, 1995). The term postformal is also being utilized by several educationists (Horn, 2001; Kincheloe & Steinberg, 1993;Kincheloe, Steinberg, & Hinchey, 1999; Rose & Kincheloe, 2003). Kincheloe and Steinberg (1993) refer to post-formality as the socio-cognitive expression of postmodernism (p. 309);

Integral — there are now several different schools of thought that use the term integral, which it is beyond the scope of this paper to discuss in detail. This section will be mainly concerned with the usages of Gebser and Wilber, but my own usage of the term is primarily according to the usage of Gebser, which, in my view, most adequately contextualizes the other usages. Other terms relating to the new consciousness, such as Gebser’s aperspectival ; Wilber’s vision-logic, centaur and AQAL; and Steiner’s consciousness soul or spiritual soul will be clarified where appropriate;

Planetary — to denote a critical counterbalance to the more politico-economic term: globalization, as mentioned in the introduction. The term, planetary — which denotes amore anthropo-socio-cultural and ecological framing is gaining increasing currency as aterm to characterize important features of the new consciousness, particularly for those theorists who have a critical sensibility in the light of our complex current planetary situation (Earley, 1997; Gangadean, 2006a; Miller, 2006; Montuori, 1999; Morin & Kern,1999; Nicolescu, 2002; Swimme & Tucker, 2006).

Gebser used the term integral-Aperspectival to refer to the gradual transformation through awareness, concretion and integration of all the previous structures of consciousness that we have been exploring—archaic, magic, mythic and mental—into a new structure of consciousness. The aperspectival consciousness structure is a consciousness of the whole, an integral consciousness encompassing all time and embracing both man’s distant past and his approaching future as a living present. (Gebser, 1949/1985, p. 6)

Gebser and others credit Sri Aurobindo with being the first to draw attention to a new movement of consciousness arising in his time (Anderson, 2006). In his earliest writings one volution, included in his first publication Karmayogin, Sri Aurobindo draws attention to a deeper, more ancient lineage behind modern evolution theory than Charles Darwin, or even the German idealists (Aurobindo, 1909). He draws on the seminal evolutionary writings of the ancient Indian sacred texts, the Upanishads. A close scrutiny of the early 20th century writings of Steiner and Sri Aurobindo points to the likelihood that the latter met and was influenced by Steiner during these seminal times, though I am still researching this possibility. My research indicates, however, that as early as 1904, Steiner had already identified an emergent movement of consciousness, both ontogenetically—as an aspect of individual development — and phylogenetically — arising in humanity as a whole (Steiner, 1904/1959,1986a). He spoke of the awakening of consciousness soul or spiritual soul in the fifth [post-glacial] cultural period that began in the early 15th century CE and would continue to develop on into the future (Steiner, 1986a pp. 97-105). He also claimed that this new consciousness would be expected to strengthen in the 20th and 21st centuries and beyond. He noted that the true nature of the self, the I , “reveals itself in the consciousness soul . . . An inner activity of the I begins with a perception of the I, through self-contemplation.” (Steiner, 1910/1939, p. 31) Hence his use of the term “Consciousness Soul, [in which] the Ego is then able to transform its inner experiences into conscious knowledge of the outer world.” (Steiner, 1930/1983a, pp. 23-24) This reflective self-contemplation resembles Wilber’s (2000d) “vision-logic [that] . . . finds its own operation increasingly transparent to itself” (p. 193).Wilber draws on Gebser and Sri Aurobindo among others, as well as the developmental psychology research on postformal thinking, so his work is a remarkably sweeping synthesis, though by no means complete, or accurate in all the details of its sources, as he himself admits(Wilber, 2000a, p. xii). He notes that what unites all these perspectives is that they all point to something that goes beyond formal, modernist, abstract, rational thinking. He has coined the term vision-logic to describe this stage—an appropriate term because of its inherent dialectical nature. Where perspectival reason privileges the exclusive perspective of the particular subject, vision-logic adds up all the perspectives, privileging none, and thus attempts to grasp the integral, the whole, the multiple contexts. (Wilber, 2000b, p. 167)

In summary, Steiner’s major contributions were: he was the first to identify in writing, as early as 1904, a new consciousness emergence, and to write and lecture extensively on the evolution of consciousness, building on ancient Indian, Greek and particularly, German idealist/Romantic lineages; and secondly, he developed and published a comprehensive series of practices/injunctions designed to awaken the new consciousness in humanity—particularly through education, contemplative practices and the arts (Steiner, 1905/1981b, 1904/19931926/1966b, 1930/1983a, 1950, 1904/1959, 1964a, 1909/1965, 1966a, 1971a, 1982b, 1986a).Gebser’s major contributions were: firstly, to begin to academically formalize the emergent integral structure of consciousness; and secondly, to observe and note its emergence in the world in various disciplines and discourses in the first half of the last century (Gebser,1949/1985, 1970/2005, 1996a). Tragically, both Steiner’s and Gebser’s outstanding contributions have been largely ignored by the Anglophone academic world, as mentioned in the rationale for this research. Wilber’s major contributions so far have been: firstly, to synthesize, contemporize and popularize much of the earlier research; and secondly, to theorize a framework—the most recent form of which is AQA219 —designed to assist with the application of his integral theory to a range of disciplinary fields (Wilber, 1996b, 1996c, 2000a, 2000b, 2000d, 2004, 2006).Thirdly, Wilber has popularized the need for injunctions, or integral life practices, already emphasized by Steiner and Sri Aurobindo and more recently in the USA by George Leonard and Michael Murphy—not to mention millennia of spiritual and religious practices across numerous traditions. I acknowledge that this latter contribution of Wilber’s provides some counterweight to critiques about his cogni-centrism.

An important point in considering this new movement of consciousness is that unlike the previous structures, most of which tended to have a geographic locale—although not necessarily a single one—the new emergence is, by its own nature, planetary, cosmopolitan. This will become more evident below and is further developed in Appendix B. It is important to distinguish such a planetizing noospheric movement—which emphasizes the more inner-oriented developments of psychology and culture, with respect for individual and cultural diversity—from the notion of globalization —primarily a politico-economic movement based on the agendas of multi-national corporations, but tacitly carrying with it—like a Trojan horse — a largely modernist, materialistic, mono-cultural worldview. It is critically important to question whether contemporary integral theory has been colonized by Americo-centrism, or Eurocentrism, or whether it fully embodies a planetary sensibility in all its cultural diversity. A fully integral theory of planetary consciousness would transcend and include the politico-economic notion of globalization. The latter could be regarded as an attempt to dominate cultural worldviews and consciousness around the planet with outmoded characteristics of the previous stage of consciousness development. In the theory of emergent consciousness that I am developing through the journey of this narrative, the term planetary refers to the critical awareness of the impending planetary crisis. It also implies that no race, nation, language group, religion, ideology, academic discipline or single brand of integral theory can claim ownership of the new movement of consciousness. Unless the integral theory in relation to the evolution of consciousness arises out of such epistemological and cultural diversity, it would hardly qualify for the descriptor integral .To honor and integrate the diversity of the three major notions that inform the several growing tips of the evolution of consciousness discourse, I propose the composite term postformal-integral-planetary consciousness as a conceptual bridge.

I am aware that this section may suffer from some of the folds, doubling and circling that Foucault struggled with in his concept of the “immanent transcendental,” where the “forces of the outside . . . fold back upon themselves and affect themselves as the affect of self upon self, enabling the creation of ‘new forms of subjectivity’” (Robinson, 2007, p. 21). Demonstrating the paradoxical circularity of the new consciousness, Foucault adds: “indeed the end of philosophy .. . is the return of the beginning of philosophy. . . . The unfolding of a space in which it is once more possible to think” (Foucault, 1966/1994, p. 342).

Additional more extensive work is in preparation that builds on this gestalt of fragments. Sri Aurobindo pointed 50 years ago to the difficulty in writing about integrality: Integrality must by its nature be complex, many-sided and intricate; only some main line scan be laid down in writing, for an excess of detail would confuse the picture." (Aurobindo,1997, 152, p. 359)



Key Features of Postformal-Integral-Planetary Consciousness

Jeniffer Gidley:

"One of the biases that this research seeks to address in the literature is that much of the research establishing postformal thinking has been framed and presented from a formal, mental-rational mode. While this formal scientific theorizing has clearly contributed a great deal to the discourse by giving it credibility within the academy—which is still largely operating from this mode — it is important that this does not set a biased template for acceptability of research in this area. A second—and related—bias is that within much postformal and integral research there is a privileging of cognicentric content and writing styles, potentially further marginalizing other types of postformal/integral research that may reflect and seek to integrate other modes of expression:

• Affective (Loye, 1998; Nava, 2001; Noddings, 2005; Sinnott, 2005; Zajonc, 2005b);

• Aesthetic (Deleuze & Conley, 1992; Derrida, 2001; Gidley, 2001e; Rose & Kincheloe,2003; Roy, 2006b); or

• Participatory modes (Ferrer, Romero, & Albareda, 2005; Hampson, 2007; Hart, 2000).

The initial focus below on the reintegration of the whole person is a core theoretical focus of this research. As indicated, humans have become brain-bound during the establishment of the intellectual-mental-rational mode. An integrative imperative to awaken artistic and participatory modes of consciousness comes through strongly in both the content and style of Steiner’s and Gebser’s writings—and in Wilber’s conceptual notion of the Big Three and his Integral Life Practices. In summary, from this perspective, the move beyond mental-rationality requires an integration of the search for Truth —via scientific and philosophical epistemologies; with Beauty —via artistic/aesthetic sensibilities; and with Goodness —via participatory embodiment and critical enactment of the truth claims that we profess. I propose that this is a foundational point—often overlooked—that could ground postformal-integral-planetary consciousness in a concretion of all consciousness modes, rather than a primarily conceptual abstraction of what integrality might be. This new movement of consciousness is highly complex—with complexity itself being one of its features. The following themes have arisen from the three narratives and with due consideration of the postformal, integral and planetary literature listed above.

My process here attempts a further transdisciplinary cohering of theoretical contributions so far, thus broadening and deepening the current discourse.

• Reintegration of the whole person—originary spiritual presence, magic vitality, mytho-poetic imagination, mental directedness—embodied/enacted through integral transparency;

• Integration of dualisms, such as spirituality and science, imagination and logic, heart and mind, female and male;

• Transcending of egotism;

• Transcending linear, mechanical, clock-time through concretion of time-awareness;

• Planetization of culture and consciousness (See Appendix B);

• Linguistic self-reflection and the re-enlivening of the word.

In the space available the first three points above will be briefly explored and the following two have been discussed in some depth in the appendices. The final point is the subject of ongoing research in collaboration with Gary Hampson, intended for future publication.

Reintegration of the Whole Person

For Gebser, integral-aperspectival consciousness is not experienced through expanded consciousness, more systematic conceptualizations, or greater quantities of perspectives. In his view, such approaches largely represent over-extended, rational characteristics. Rather, it involves an actual re-experiencing, re-embodying, and conscious re-integration of the living vitality of magic-interweaving, the imagination at the heart of mythic-feeling and the purposefulness of mental conceptual thinking, their presence raised to a higher resonance, in order for the integral transparency to shine through. Sri Aurobindo’s integral yoga with its threefold path of knowledge, love and action and the integral education model that was inspired by it, reflects Gebser’s type of integration (Aurobindo, 1909). These, in turn, parallel Steiner’s notion of the development of consciousness soul through an education that integrates the thinking/head (knowledge), the feelings/heart (love), and the hands/will (action) (Steiner,1927/1986c, 1909/1965). Wilber’s Big Three —based on Plato’s Truth, Beauty and Goodness— would appear to be representing similar archetypes (Wilber, 2000d). Further research would be needed to establish more rigorous theoretical links. In an endeavor to embody this approach, the following is not designed to summarize, evaluate or even synthesize the extensive research on the various postformal cognitive features identified by adult developmental psychologists, or to integrate the multiple perspectives of thought in various fields, but to attempt to embody and enact the type of integrality that Gebser himself enacted.

Integration of Dualisms

A central notion of integral-planetary consciousness is the overcoming of dualisms (Gebser,1949/1985, p. 386). This borrows from Foucault’s critical awareness of power relations and what Derrida (1998) called violent hierarchie s— those pairs of binary oppositions that have been driven apart through centuries of Cartesian dualism. This section will briefly explore four of these pairs that have been identified as significant and in need of reintegration in the new consciousness. One of the strands of integral theory is particularly concerned with the reintegration of spirituality and science —or science and religion/theology. The beginnings of the reuniting of science and spirit are a reflection of the new consciousness movement and point towards increasingly integrated future cultural developments (Bohm, 1980; Clayton & Simpson, 2006;Conway Morris, 2007; Esbjörn-Hargens & Wilber, 2006; László, 2007; Nicolescu, 2002;Russell, 2000; Scott, 2007; Swimme, 1999; Swimme & Tucker, 2006; Wilber, 1998, 2001d;Zajonc, 2004). There is, as to be expected, some contestation as to which epistemology the integration might be framed within. From László’s integral perspective, science must be at the basis of integral theory. In his recent book setting out his Integral Theory of Everything, László(2006) critiques Wilber’s (2000a) Theory of Everything .[Wilber] speaks of the “integral vision” conveyed by a genuine TOE. However, he does not offer such a theory; he mainly discusses what it would be like, describing it in reference to the evolution of culture and consciousness—and to his own theories. An actual, science-based integral theory of everything is yet to be created. (p. 11)

Yet for Wilber, this privileging of science over the other disciplines is at the basis of his claim that László’s TOE is partial (Wilber, 2006). A possible explanation for this difference of view is that László and Wilber may have different concepts of what the term theory actually means. For László it clearly has a basis in formal scientific epistemology, whereas for Wilber the term theory may be being used more broadly—as it often is in the humanities and social sciences. Perhaps it is useful to think of theory-development itself as having developmental stages. It is also important to recognize that different disciplines do have different types of truth claims. Clarification of such issues is an important part of the establishment of integral theory and would be assisted by a more collaborative effort in theory-building (Murray, 2006). Admittedly, László agrees with Wilber that such a theory would need to take into account ”life, mind, culture and consciousness” as parts of the world’s reality, yet his own science-based theory does not address them in great detail (László, 2007). This is not uncommon in scientific theories, which focus on providing premises and axioms that can be generalized. A point to note here is that Wilber, László—and others—may also have different interpretations of the concept of science. It is important to distinguish in such a dialogue between the ideology of scientism and the broader notion of the empirical basis of experience. The latter could theoretically include Goethe’s delicate empiricism (Holdrege, 2005; Robbins, 2006); William James’ pragmatism —originally designed to empirically research the something more beyond physical realities (Gitre, 2006;McDermott, 2001); scientific studies on effects of meditation, yoga and para-psychological phenomena (The Dalai Lama, Benson, Thurman, E., & Goleman, 1991); and Steiner’s (1986a)spiritual science. Many integral scientists are working to attempt to broaden the embrace of science (Goerner, 2004; Russell, 2002; Scott, 2007; Swimme, 1999; Visser, J., Barach, John, &Visser, 2007; Zajonc, 2004).Wilber (1998) also points to the need to reintroduce wonder into the gap between science and religion, noting that, “if Spirit does exist, it will lie in . . . the direction of wonder, a direction that intersects the very heart of science itself” (p. ix-x). He has devoted a book to the reintegration of science and religion (Wilber, 1998), and also published a recent book chapter on the subject(Esbjörn-Hargens & Wilber, 2006). Steiner pointed to an important paradox: On the one hand the earlier, more macrocosmic, sciences—e.g., the hermetic-alchemical-scientific writings up to the14th century—were superseded by the more materialistic view of modern science. On the other hand, he claimed that our times have the potential to be highly favorable to spiritual development, based on what we can bring through from within ourselves.

What can make this epoch great must be brought about from the forces of the spiritual life, world-knowledge, world-conception. [We are] shut off from the heavenly forces . . .confined in the materialistic period. But . . . [we have] the greatest possibility of making[ourselves] spiritual . . . a spiritually free humanity. (Steiner, 1971a, pp. 56-57)Steiner claimed that it would become increasingly possible to build on the intellectual faculties developed in humanity in the recent past—to begin as individuals to consciously develop more spiritual powers of Imagination, Inspiration and Intuition (Steiner, 1910/1939, p.306). While Gebser does not particularly refer to the science-spirit dualism, he does stress that overcoming all dualisms is central to integrality. Steiner’s coinage of the dialectical term spiritual science as the descriptor for his entire spiritual epistemology indicates the priority he gave to bridging the science and spirituality split (Steiner, 1986a).The second binary strand to be considered is heart-mind —related to the reintegration of the heart in thinking, particularly through reverence, awe, wonder and love. This feature is arising with some strength now in the postformal—particularly the holistic—education literature (Hart,2000; Kessler, 2002; Miller, J. P., 2000; Miller, R., 1990, 2000; Nava, 2001; Noddings, 2005; Palmer, 1998; Zajonc, 2005a). The following extract is a good example of this warmth-imbued holistic education discourse. A spiritual worldview is a global paradigm . . . an ecological paradigm. . . . Ultimately, a spiritual worldview is a reverence for life, an attitude of wonder and awe in the face of the transcendent Source of our being. (Miller, 1990, p. 154)This encapsulates the heart of an integral-planetary consciousness where the horizons between holistic and integral theories fuse and we struggle for the most suitable language— language that is least likely to be colonized for other purposes. It is an authentic postformal spiritual response to the cold, heartlessness of the contemporary neo-fundamentalist hybrid of politics-economics-scientism. The latter is best exemplified in the audit culture currently colonizing mainstream western education and educational research agendas (Denzin, 2005;Giroux, 2003, 2005; Johnson, 2005; MacLure, 2006a, 2006b). Teilhard de Chardin (1959/2004)made the observation that humanity has been building its composite brain, and that perhaps it is now time to find its collective heart, “without which the ultimate wholeness of its powers of unification can never fully be achieved” (p. 172). The Greek term for this was thymos — the courage of the heart—a quality that the Greeks considered to be part of the essence of soul (Boadella, 1998, p. 9). This courageous call to bring the heart back into education was already made by early 20th century educational pioneers, most notably for this discussion, by Steiner. In fact, he pointed to the importance of bringing love and devotion into all our knowledge seeking. He claimed that these two combined create reverence, which he argued is vital for moving into the new consciousness rather than merely extending abstract intellectualism ad infinitum. Steiner explained that the emphasis on head-knowledge that has been a necessary part of the development of human freedom needs to be warmed and enlivened by heart-knowledge in the present cultural period (Steiner, 1971a, p. 84).

Love and devotion are thus the right guides to the unknown, and the best educators of the soul in its advances from the Intellectual Soul to the Consciousness Soul. Whereas . . . the striving for truth educates the Intellectual Soul, reverence educates the Consciousness Soul, bringing more and more knowledge within its reach. But this reverence must be led and guided from a standpoint which never shuts out the light of thought. (Steiner,1930/1983a, p. 60) (emphasis added)Gebser makes little reference to love in The Ever-Present Origin, but makes the following understated link between love and the apersonal, elsewhere (Gebser, 1970/2005).The apersonal can only be perceived by an apersonal, egofree human. This is, by the way, not only an Indian or East-Asian wisdom but also a Christian: it is a universal basic condition and necessity of humankind. Whoever complies to them, experiences a strengthening of his vitality and an improvement of extensive capability of love, which is presently more than ever necessary in our threatened world dissipating the human; but this need not particularly be emphasized. (Online text)Gebser (1949/1985) primarily connects the heart and its rhythms with mythical consciousness. However, he gives two examples of philosophers struggling to experience the integral-aperspectival consciousness, citing Pascal’s “logic of the heart” and Heidegger’s “invisible, innermost heart . . . which for all of us is beyond quantitative calculation and can freely overflow the limits into the whole, the open.” (p. 411) Both of these suggest that reintegration of the heart, like reintegration of other mythic qualities, is an important feature of Gebser’s conception of integral. Wilber occasionally refers to terms such as heart, love, devotion and reverence in his published books. He includes love in one of his definitions of spirituality, but considers this a fairly unsatisfactory definition (Wilber, 2000b, p. 133). His major conceptual engagement with the notion of love is through his discussion of Eros and Agape (Wilber, 2000d). Referring towhat he calls “Plato’s Eros,” and “Christian Agape,” he claims, citing Charles Taylor’s (1989) Sources of the Self , that “the two together make a vast circle of love through the universe. ”Wilber then continues to discuss how this actually works in individual development.

In individual development, one ascends via Eros (or expanding to a higher and wider identity), and then integrates via Agape (or reaching down to embrace with care the lower holons), so that balanced development transcends but includes . . . Agape and Eros a reunited only in the nondual Heart. (Wilber, 2001a, p. 349)Given the linearity of Wilber’s model as discussed in Appendix A, where nondual experience is not possible until all other development has preceded it, one wonders where that might leave Wilber’s theory in relation to heart-mind integration at any of the levels lower than the very top of his model. Although he stresses body-mind integration through his centaur metaphor, it is unlikely that this is intended to equate with heart-mind. This may be a major theoretical divergence between Steiner and Wilber in light of the centrality Steiner gives to the cultivation of love and reverence as educative forces for the consciousness soul (Wilber’s vision-logic).Steiner’s position on this is also consistent with his overall philosophy which—based on my reading—appears to be nondual all the way through, although he does note that notions of dualism, particularly concepts of separation between spirit and matter, did arise and become artificially exaggerated through the two millennia of intellectual development. He regarded this as a necessary part of the development of the rational intellect as part of ego-development on the way to ego-freedom. However, he stressed the urgent need for the reintegration of this split, beginning with the emergent consciousness soul. Hence his call to bring heart and love back together with mind and knowledge (Steiner, 1971a, p. 84).Another significant dualism to be overcome is between imagination and logic . Wilber’s term — vision-logic — is a pre-eminently dialectical term that reintegrates the vision of postformal imaginative thinking with the logic of formal thinking. It archetypally represents a key feature of what the new consciousness stands for. In a rather lengthy quotation, Wilber attempts to explain in some detail how vision-logic—that he also refers to as network-logic—operates. Wilber(2000b) describes a process closely resembling hermeneutic circling which clearly involves an integration of a type of logic with a type of “big picture” vision in order to gradually arrive at a higher more integrated level of understanding. A logic of inclusion, networking, and wide-net casting is called for; a logic of nests within nests. Each attempting to legitimately include all that can be included. It is a vision-logic, a logic not merely of trees but also of forests. Not that the trees can be ignored. Network-logic is a dialectic of whole and part. As many details as possible are checked; then a tentative big picture is assembled; it is checked against further details, and the big picture readjusted . . . For the secret of contextual thinking is that the whole discloses new meanings not available to the parts, and thus the big pictures we build give new meanings to the details that compose it. (p. 2)For Gebser, the reintegration of the imagination is primarily related to what he would call the conscious awareness and concretion of the mythical structure. Steiner (1984b), on the other hand, has a rather complex characterization of the significance of imagination. He certainly sees it as a crucial factor in the emergent consciousness. In a similar manner to Wilber’s vision-logic he refers to two major features that need to be activated for consciousness soul to develop: “a clear perception of the sense world” that he notes has been assisted by the empirical sciences, and the unfolding of “free imaginations side by side with the clear view of reality” (Lecture 2). For Steiner, the conscious cultivation of the Imagination —resembling Schelling’s notion of the intellectual imagination —is a crucial early step in psycho-spiritual development (Steiner,1905/1981b). A resurgence of interest in imagination is evident in both educational (Abbs, 1994;Broudy, 1987; Egan, 1990; Eisner, 1985; Gidley, 2001e, 2003, 2004b; Giroux, 1998;Hutchinson, 1993; Neville, 1989; Nielson, 2006; Nuyen, 1998; Sloan, 1992; Takaya, 2003) and postmodern philosophical circles (Abbs, 1994; Deleuze & Conley, 1992; Derrida, 2001;Kearney, 1998; Lyotard, 2004; St. Pierre, 2004; Whitehead, 1919; Wilber, 1990).Finally, the overcoming of the deficient dualism of female and male is required, according to all three narratives, in order to experience integrality of consciousness. As we have seen, the earliest consciousness structures primarily arose in matriarchal cultural settings, while the emergence of the intellectual-mental-rational structure in the first millennium BCE, with its egoic focus, paralleled the beginnings of patriarchy at least in Greece, Rome and China. The new consciousness will not be a return to matriarchy as some might suggest, rather a new form of sovereignty that Gebser (1949/1985) called the integrum. As matriarchy was once succeeded by patriarchy, patriarchy should be succeeded by the “integrum,” as we have designated it. In this integral world neither man nor woman, but rather both in complement as human beings, should exercise sovereignty. (p. 151)Wilber (1996c) suggests that the new dragon we must fight—the ego structure itself— requires a new Hero Myth. He suggests that the new hero will be “mentally androgynous, psychic, intuitive and rational, male and female—and the lead in this new development most easily can come from the female, since our society is already masculine-adapted” (p. 270).Steiner also made numerous comments in various lectures to the effect that the polarizing that had developed between male and female would gradually reduce so that men and women could begin to work together in new ways. He noted that the cultivation of the arts and particularly men and women working together creatively could assist this process. It is possible this will lead to a gradual re-feminization of culture through a re-awakening of imaginative, artistic, relational forms of postformal reason, including a re-focusing from outer space to inner space. Eisler(2000, 2001) discusses what such a new gender partnership model might look like for education.

Transcending of Egotism

What is common to the understanding of Steiner, Gebser and Wilber in regard to the emergent consciousness—but by no means in all the developmental psychological or philosophical views that posit postformal stages, is the relationship between post-formal, integral consciousness and the opening to spiritual awareness. This may be seen to reflect the shift from what Wilber calls small ego to pure Self ; what Steiner refers to as the shift from egoism/egotism to higher ego — that part of the human being from which she consciously transforms herself; and what Gebser(1949/1985) refers to as the shift from egotism/egocentricity to ego-freedom. Only the overcoming of the “I,” the concomitant overcoming of egolessness [deficient magic] and egotism [deficient mental-rational], places us in the sphere of ego-freedom, of the achronon and transparency. (p. 532)Gebser (1949/1985) links this with the Christian notion of transfiguration (p. 531). In a sense ,Gebser is referring to the ability of the human I to transcend itself. In apparent contradiction, Steiner stressed the divine spiritual aspect of the I .

Indeed with this designation “I,” we stand before that innermost being of [humanity] which can be called the divine element . . . [As] active being[s ] [we] must . . . take hold of [our]own evolution. [We] must raise [ourselves] to higher stages than the stage [we have]already reached; [we] must develop ever new forces, so that [we] may approach continually towards perfection. (Steiner, 1930/1983a, p. 20)

This apparent contradiction may be illuminated by the notion of the “I-I”—the ego that reflects on itself—also known as the Witness, which Wilber (2000d) derives from Plato’s “the Spectator of all time and existence” especially via Fichte, in the West, and the Hindu Vedanta inthe non-West (pp. 332, 670-672, n. 19).This paradoxical nature of the human sense of I is referred to by Benedikter (2005) as the double I emerging in the late philosophical works of several French, postmodern philosophers. The late Derrida is very near to the “real presence” of a meta-formal, meta-linear “double consciousness,” of the “paradoxical unity of two consciousnesses in one.” . . . Words which are spoken (subjectively) and observed (objectively) at the same time. Words, which are experienced by the inner and by the outer side at the very same moment of happening. Thus, the late Derrida is near the experience of the “two I’s in one” of all the enlightened mystics of the traditions. (Online article)This echoes some of Steiner’s (1910/1939) words about the I and its double reflective nature in relation to the consciousness soul. The true nature of the I reveals itself only in the consciousness soul. . . . through a certain inner activity . . . if the I wishes to observe itself . . . It must first through an inner activity, draw its being out of its own depths in order to have a consciousness of itself. An inner activity of the I begins with a perception of the I, with self-contemplation. (p. 31)Wilber (2000c) also characterizes the significance of the relationship between mature ego development and spiritual development. Referring to the great spiritual teachers and world leaders from earlier periods, he states: To the extent these great teachers moved the gross realm, they did so with their egos, because the ego is the functional vehicle of that realm. They were not, however, identified merely with their egos (that's a narcissist) . . ."Transcending the ego" . . . means we do not "get rid" of the small ego, but rather, we inhabit it fully, live it with verve, use it as the necessary vehicle through which higher truths are communicated. . . . the ego is not an obstruction to Spirit, but a radiant manifestation of Spirit. (p. 278)In the following three features it is interesting to note that there is a slightly different emphasis given to each of these by Steiner, Wilber and Gebser.

Transcending of Linear, Mechanical, Clock-Time

What Gebser calls the concretion of time is for him arguably the most significant marker of the emergent integral-aperspectival consciousness. He refers to Picasso’s cubist, multi-faceted, portrait paintings to illustrate. Only where time emerges as pure present and is no longer divided into its three phases of past, present and future, is it concrete. To the extent that Picasso from the outset reached out beyond the present, incorporating the future into the present of his work, he was able to “presentiate” or make present the past. (p. 26)Steiner and Wilber also problematize linear time as a construction of intellectual-mental-rational consciousness, and, like Gebser, discuss several alternative notions of time in relation to earlier movements of consciousness as will be discussed further as well.

Planetization of Culture and Consciousness

Wilber (2000d) appears to stress the importance of global and planetary awareness as an important feature of integral consciousness and claims that it is expressed through his vision-logic. As rationality continues its quest for a truly universal or global or planetary outlook, noncoercive in nature, it eventually gives way to a type of cognition I call vision-logic or network-logic. . . . And it is vision-logic that drives and underlies the possibility of a truly planetary culture (p. 190-191).The term planetization was coined by Teilhard de Chardin in the middle of the last century and may well be a concept whose time has come (Teilhard de Chardin, 1959/2004). Both Steiner and Gebser spoke against narrow nationalistic ideologies, which they saw as being residues of deficient rational consciousness. Gebser (1949/1985) thought that instead of being fixed conceptions, nations could be “dynamic efflorescences of a larger cultural context” (p. 291). The extensive work by Edgar Morin and others on the planetary era provide significant contributions to an understanding of this feature (Benedikter, 2007; Gangadean, 2006a; Montuori, 1999; Morin& Kern, 1999; Nicolescu, 2002; Swimme & Tucker, 2006). (See also Appendix B).

Linguistic Self-Reflection and the Re-Enlivening of the Word

The enlivening of language was unquestionably a major focus for Steiner in facilitating the birth of the new consciousness, beyond abstract rationality. Steiner (1930/1983a) stressed the need to awaken the artist in us when it comes to language if we hope in the future to be able to express our experiences of the emerging spiritual awareness. We have to create . . . an immediate connection between what we want to say and how we want to express it. We have to re-awaken the linguistic artist in us in all areas. . . . Each sentence will be seen as a birth, because it must be experienced inwardly in the soul as immediate form, not simply as a thought. . . . Spiritual science . . . will become capable of decanting the thought in such a way into the sound structure that our language too can again become a means of communication of the experiences of the soul in the supersensible. (p. 15-16)Plato’s Republic, especially the dialogues with Socrates, marked the end of poetry and image as primary ways of languaging the world, and the beginning of the formalization of philosophy as the new epistemology for the intellectual-mental-rational consciousness. In a recursive parabola-shaped, re-integration, Gebser claims that the new consciousness is to be birthed through poetry, yet a new kind of conscious poetry.

Wilber also identifies the role of language in the new consciousness. However, unlike Steiner and Gebser, he does not emphasize the centrality of artistry in languaging. Clearly there are significant links here with Derrida’s (2001) poststructuralism and Cook-Greuter’s (2000) construct awareness, as proposed by Hampson(2007)."

See also: Deficient Manifestations of Integral Consciousness



Jennifer Gidley on the Emergence of Reintegration:

"Let us call what shines forth in the soul as eternal, the consciousness soul. . . . The kernel of human consciousness, that is, the soul within the soul . . . is then distinguished from the intellectual soul, which is still entangled in the sensation, impulses and passions. . . . Only that truth is permanent, however, that has freed itself from all flavor of such sympathy and antipathy of feeling. . . . That part of the soul in which this truth lives will be called consciousness soul. (Steiner, 1904/1971e, pp. 24-25) Transparency (diaphaneity) is the form of manifestation of the spiritual.

. . . Integral reality is the world’s transparency, a perceiving of the world as truth: a mutual perceiving and imparting of truth of the world and of man and all that transluces both.” (Gebser,1949/1985, p. 7)As vision-logic begins to emerge, postconventional awareness deepens into fully universal, existential concerns: life and death, authenticity, full body-mind integration, self-actualization, global awareness, holistic embrace . . . In the archaeological journey to the Self, the personal realm’s exclusive reign is coming to an end, starting to be peeled off a radiant Spirit, and that universal radiance begins increasingly to shine through, rendering the self more and more transparent. (Wilber, 2000b, p. 105)

Context for Emergence of Postformal-Integral-Planetary Consciousness

Steiner, Gebser, and to a lesser extent Wilber—as discussed previously—refer to the first glimmerings of the emergence of a new movement of consciousness in the cultural phenomena of 15th to 16th century western Europe. For Steiner, the early 15th century marks the beginning of what he calls the fifth [post-glacial] cultural period. Tarnas (2006) agrees that the European Renaissance ushered in a new era. He pinpoints “the time span of a single generation surrounding the year 1500,” beginning with Pico della Mirandola’s Oration on the Dignity of Man in 1486, as the context for the birth of the modern self, and the birth of the modern cosmos (p. 4). In an earlier work, Tarnas (1991) noted that during this period, when translations of the original Greek philosophical works became available for the first time humanist philosophical syncretism also began. What arose was a revisiting of the “ancient Greek balance and tension between Aristotle and Plato, between reason and imagination, immanence and transcendence, nature and spirit, external world and interior psyche” (p. 219). Apart from a sprinkling of individual contributions, the next major flourishing of the new integrative spirit was expressed through German idealism and Romanticism in the late 18th century. This arose most notably via Goethe, Schiller, Hegel, and the young poet-philosophers of the Jena Romantic School: Schelling, Novalis, the Schlegel brothers, Holderlin. Wilber claims that although the idealists were accessing forms of consciousness beyond the formal-operational, rational-mental mode, they did not offer injunctions for others to develop such consciousness, and have thus been dismissed as “mere metaphysics” (Wilber, 2000d, p. 537). This latter assertion needs to be contested, based on a recent study by Schellingian scholar, Jason Wirth, reviewed by Michael Schwartz (2005).

This also raises the whole question of whether Wilber’s claim in this regard is valid for any of the German idealists or Romantics. There was a strong influence of both Hermeticism and Christianity, particularly in its esoteric form through Rosicricianism in Goethe and many of the German philosopher-poets of this period. More scholarship is needed in this under researched issue. What is clear, however, is that although they pointed to the notion of anew stage, structure or movement of consciousness they did not formalize it.

This apparently had to wait until the 20th century, for the contributions of Steiner, Sri Aurobindo and Gebser— subsequently pursued by Wilber and the additional research discussed below. It is difficult to do justice to the new consciousness in the space available here, since its emergent nature places it in a unique situation compared with the major movements of consciousness that have already arisen and become consolidated (archaic, magic, mythical and mental). This presents several challenges in academic contextualization. Firstly, signs of its emergence can be perceived within various disciplines, most notably adult developmental psychology, postformal educational approaches, the new sciences, postmodern philosophy and spirituality, postmodern poetry-music-film—and also between disciplines, through the holistic, integral and transdisciplinary urge to integrate knowledge. A major challenge in cohering and theorizing this new consciousness is the diversity of conceptualization between the different disciplines. For example, although research from adult developmental psychology make scientific claims to have firmly established four stages of development beyond formal operations (Commons, Trudeau, Stein, Richards, & Krause, 1998), postmodern philosophers who are evidently enacting some of these higher stages did not conceptualize it in such ways. Recent research has made significant inroads into building conceptual bridges in this area (G. Hampson,2007). My addition to Hampson’s seminal philosophical contribution to bridging integral and postmodern conceptualizations is to contextualize the adult development research on postformal thinking, integral theory, the critical planetary discourse and postmodern philosophy—and many other discourses—within the broader movement of consciousness that I am theorizing here. I propose a theoretical bifurcation between contemporary research that actually identifies new stage(s) of consciousness development—either individual or socio-cultural—and research that enacts new stages of consciousness without necessarily conceptualizing it as such.

Contemporary Research that Identifies New Stage(s) of Consciousness

• Adult developmental psychology research that identifies several stages of postformal psychological development (Arlin, 1999; Campbell, 2006; Cartwright, 2001;Commons et al., 1990; Commons, Trudeau, Stein, Richards, & Krause, 1998; Cook-Greuter, 2000; Kegan, 1994; Kohlberg, 1990; Kramer, 1983; Labouvie-Vief, 1990;Riegel, 1973; Sinnott, 1998; Yan & Arlin, 1995);

• Research from a range of disciplines that identifies an emergent stage in socio-cultural evolution, often referred to as integral or planetary (Beck & Cowan, 1996; Combs, 2002;Cowan & Todorovic, 2005; Earley, 1997; Elgin, 1997; Feuerstein, 1987; Gangadean,2006a; Gebser, 1970/2005; Goerner, 2004; Montuori, 1999; Morin & Kern, 1999;Murphy, 1992; Neville, 2006; Nicolescu, 2002; Ornstein & Ehrlich, 1991; Ray, 1996;Russell, 2000; Scott, 2000; Swimme & Tucker, 2006; Thompson, 1991; Wilber, 2000b).One of the gaps I have discerned in the literature is that—in spite of rhetoric about integrality and inclusion—much of this research operates within disciplinary boundaries without reference to the research undertaken in parallel disciplines. Wilber’s work is clearly an exception to this and this is one of his significant contributions to the contemporary literature. Part of my endeavor in proposing this bifurcation is to increase understanding of the relationship between these contributions as two faces of the one evolution of consciousness.

Contemporary Research that Enacts New Stage(s) of Consciousness

• Philosophical developments, including critical theory, global reason, hermeneutics, integral theory, phenomenology, postmodernism, poststructuralism and process philosophy (Benedikter, 2005; Deleuze & Millett, 1997; Derrida, 1995; Foucault, 2005;Gangadean, 1998, 2006b; Gare, 2002; Habermas, 1992; Hampson, 2007; Keller & Daniell, 2002; Kristeva, 1986; Lyotard, 2004; McDermott, 2001b; McDermott, 2004;Morin, 2005a; Ricoeur, 1986);

• Scientific developments such as quantum physics, Einstein’s theory of relativity, chaos and complexity sciences, and emergentism in evolution (Combs, 2002; Deacon, 2003;Goodenough & Deacon, 2006; László, 2007; Russell, 2000, 2002; Swimme, 1999;Thompson, 1991; Zajonc, 2004);

• Postmodern approaches to spirituality and religion (Benedikter, 2005; Boadella, 1998;Clayton, 2006; Esbjörn-Hargens & Wilber, 2006; Scott, 2007; Tacey, 2003; Wilber,2006);

• Postformal educational approaches, such as critical, futures, holistic and integral(Esbjörn-Hargens, 2005; Ferrer, Romero, & Albareda, 2005; Freire, 1970; Gidley, 2005b,2007; Giroux, 1992, 2005; Hart, 2001; Kessler, 2000; Kincheloe, Steinberg, & Hinchey,1999; MacLure, 2006b; Marshak, 1997; McDermott, 2005; Miller, J. P., 2000; Miller,2005, 2006; Milojevic, 2005a; Montuori, 2006; Morin, 2001a; Neville, 2000; Noddings,2005; Palmer, 2007; Slaughter, 2002; St. Pierre, 2004; Subbiondo, 2005; Thompson,2001);

• The manifestation of integrality through the arts of music; architecture; painting; literature; film; and new forms of movement (Cobusson, 2002; Deleuze & Conley, 1992;Derrida, 2001; Gebser, 1949/1985; Gidley, 2001e; Kristeva, 1982; Lawlor, 1982;Montuori, 2003; Rose & Kincheloe, 2003);

• The implications of the information age, particularly the world wide web (Gidley, 2004c;Grossman, Degaetano, & Grossman, 1999; Healy, 1998; Pearce, 1992; Steinberg &Kincheloe, 2004; Thompson, 1998);

• Creation of knowledge-bridges through, for example, Wilber’s “methodological pluralism” (Wilber, 2006); interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary and trandisciplinary research (Grigg, Johnston, & Milson, 2003; Nicolescu, 2002; PaulRicoeur, 1997; van den Besselaar & Heimeriks, 2001; Volckmann, 2007); including new fields such as cultural studies, futures studies and integral studies."


More information

Gangadean on Planetary Consciousness


Gangadean, A. (1993). Meditative reason: Toward universal grammar. New York: Peter Lang.

Gangadean, A. (2002). Logos of Dao: The primal logic of translatability. Asian Philosophy, 12(3), 213-221.

Gangadean, A. (2006a). The awakening of global reason: The logical and ontological foundation of integral science. World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, 62(1-2), 56-74.

Gangadean, A. (2006b). A planetary crisis of consciousness: The end of ego-based cultures and our dimensional shift toward a sustainable global civilization. World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, 62(6), 441-454.

Gangadean, A. (2007). Introduction to ((deep dialogue)). Retrieved 24 May, 2007, from