A Collection of Caveats

Gebser vivifies me to no end. But I find, particularly now, as we’ve embarked on this collective exploration, a great difficulty in communicating all that Gebser is pointing towards. In other words, I am plagued by caveats.

Gebser himself, from the very beginning, provides examples of what I mean. On pg. 2, he introduces the word “aperspectival”, and immediately sets out to clarify what it means, or perhaps more significantly, what it doesn’t. In the first section of chapter 3, he does something similar with “mutation”. Really, the meaning of words and the etymological tapestry of relationship between words is a huge aspect of the book. Its like he forces us to sharpen what has become dull, challenges us to clear away the forest duff to lay bare the Logos-root of it all. But, that’s not easy to do all the time, particularly because our language (English) isn’t much suited to the task; hence the need to couch everything in caveats.

“One difficulty which to some will seem insurmountable is the difficulty of “representing” the aperspectival world.” (267)

Yes, I’m sure tuckered out by this odious surmounting business, and I yearn for the summit, and the other side (else, why would I, we, be doing this? I ain’t no Sisyphus). I find that, as much as I’d like to communicate aperspectival/integral ideas with words, the words are not adequate “representations” of my thoughts or ideas. In fact, “idea” or “thought” aren’t either. And so we put quotes around them, which is a form of caveat, as if to say, I’m using this word, but not meaning it in the way you, the audience, are familiar with. Even Gebser did this in the quote above (in the German, its “vorgestellt”, in quotes), and the quote itself is pointing to this very difficulty.

Really, a lot hinges on the audience. In other words, dream with me…Imagine a world where we didn’t have to caveat, where we didn’t have to put quotes on “things” because I knew that you knew what I really meant (or we had a suitably veritional language). I think we’d have a pretty good picture of an aperspectival world if we could simply assemble the caveats into one neat collection. In other words, the use of quotes (on specific words) was rendered superfluous, and caveats unnecessary, because we had a shared experience of meaning (and not-meaning).

Perhaps this list of caveats would be symmetrical, or contrapuntal to, a list of Gebser’s neologisms, which would be an interesting thread to start, as well.

So I’m curious if anyone has had similar struggles/thoughts. Are there caveats that you find yourself (or others) having to repeat? What are the things you find hard to communicate, or would hope that your audience would not mis-take from your meaningful statements? Can we even hope to achieve a common understanding “beyond conceptualization”, and if so, what would constitute the new “common sense”?


There’s a lot to ponder in your post, @JeremyS. I think it speaks to the heart of our purpose for being here, reading The Ever-Present Origin and talking about it, together.

Are we actually going to go through the portal which the book “represents”—actually create something new, trans-conceptual perhaps, some actual embodiment of what’s signified by integrality?

Or are we mainly going to talk about the portal, in all its fascinating complexity?

Probably both. But I feel we’re quite possibly also edging toward the more radical of these options (which is my hope and intention), though it’s early to say. Certainly, it doesn’t hurt to talk about and seek to conceptually understand a portal one is about to traverse. But then we might decide to go through the portal. Then it’s a whole different game. :slightly_smiling:

I definitely feel vivified by the mutational energies we seem to be summoning here, which I’ve felt palpably present, even physically symptomatic (as @Kim_Smith shared during our last hangout)—and they also rattle me sometimes, to tell you the truth!

In the “beta test” book we read, last month, The Dispossessed, one of the main themes had to do with the way we build walls around things and ourselves.

The hero/protagonist of the book, an anarchist physicist named Shevek, who is working on a theory of simultaneous time, sets out to unbuild walls. He takes great risks and leaves his familiar world behind to do so. In the process, the author, Ursula K. Le Guin, tells a beautiful story about both the power and limits of our ideas to shape our relationships.

One way Gebser talks about the perspectival-rational world is that it’s a sectored reality. Everything is divided, sub-divided, separated, measured, and so on. In other words: a walled off reality.

One of the ways we create walls is with our language. However, language can also unbuild walls, create portals, tunnels, underground networks, mutational substrata.

Yet language is not only utterance; it’s also silence. It’s listening. It’s ganglia of subtle resonances and deep relationships and buried meanings. It’s archaeological, and it’s alive!

I don’t think a common understanding or sensibility in a community of discourse is a given. I think we have to co-create it. At the same time, we don’t have to make it up out of thin air. We have worlds upon worlds to work with! Gebser makes a wonderful point of departure…and return.

The aperspectival is an expression of our living world. It has a life of its own, but a life lived through us. Perhaps it’s simply up to each of us to participate in this life, “concretize” it (with the caveat that this may be too solid of a word) as best we can, in our own unique ways, while remaining grounded in the origin (Ursprung) that gives us common life.

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I really enjoyed the hangouts and feel your frustrations with the technology and with all of that you are all doing a fine job.

My feeling is that Gebser, genius that he was, was more prophet than practitioner. Many, many people have gone through the sexual revolution, the civil rights movement, the gay movement, women’s movement, drugs, sex, rock and roll, intensive meditation practice. Many people are reporting on Near Death experiences, lucid dreaming, out of body experiences and all of this is not going to be swept under the rug anymore. We are finding a vocabulary for these kinds of experiences that accepts that they are not measurable. How to measure a dream? With what instrument? If you have had a lucid dream you probably know what I mean. If you haven’t had a lucid dream it would be hard to tell someone what that is like, as difficult as telling someone blind what the color red is like. Having said that I am a great fan of Heller Keller and suspect that she probably knew more about the visual system than many sighed person. I recall how when she asked a man what the color of his wife’s eyes and he did not remember that she got pissed off. She learned more through a walk in the woods, with her constraints, than most persons with all of their senses.
I recall that a physicist once said you can see an elephant slide down a hill. You can measure the speed of the elephant, the weight of the elephant, the degree of the incline of the hill but none of the numbers captures the poetry of the elephant sliding down the hill. I think the Aperspectival is a lot like that. We probably can only get there through analogy, metaphor and narrative. We are making abductive moves, not inductive or deductive, we are moving sideways, looking for isomorphism, shared structure, patterns that connect, differences that make a difference. Emily Dickinson said, tell the truth but tell it slant.

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funny, i think exactly because of the nature of language, the “caveats” (as you call them) will always be necessary.
If you study any foundational languages (Sanskrit, Hebrew, Farsi ) you will begin to understand that language hides layers and layers of meaning, much lost to us in the present day and time.
There is a story of a very very long Sanskrit prayer (9,000 stanzas?) that is then reduced to only the most important paragraphs, sentences, then to a single word, and finally to a single sound. For those who know, each level represents the prayer in its entirety, and there is an agreed upon meaning for the sound. But by the time it has been reduced to a single sound, understanding the entirety of the prayer upon first hearing the sound isn’t possible. In other words, most languages deliberately reveal and conceal their polyvalent meanings, and there will never be a single agreed upon meaning. or at least there shouldn’t be…
so I appreciate your comment, but it misses the meaning of aperspectival completely for me (aperspectival being expansive and not reductive)

Thanks, @johnnydavis54. I think you make a great point. There is a big gap between Gebser and ourselves which has already been filled by so many interesting and wonderful things. At the same time, we tend to be so mesmerized by the novel and emergent, that we (i.e., “we”) tend not to see or be aware of the abysses of meaning underlying our world. Gebser seems to provide a connecting node or bridge between the postmodern and these underlying structures. One of the real potentials I feel here is in the procreation between the contemporary and the ancient, so here we are! Thanks for your encouragement re the hangouts :smile:

@AriAnnona, @JeremyS – so what is a caveat all about? What’s its function or purpose in our discourse? I’d say it’s to clarify, to fend off certain interprations which might likely be presumed or taken for granted). It’s to say, “I just said something that typically means X, but X is not exactly what I mean.” Which is inevitably followed by a “Let me explain…”

In a way, Ursprung und Gegenwart is one huge caveat where Gebser is saying, “I just said that a whole new world and structure of consciouness is emerging, but it’s not what you may think. Let me explain…”

There is always something a little awkward and unwieldly and, well, difficult to explain, about a caveat.

A caveat is a warning. There is something dangerous, it’s suggested, in misunderstanding or shallow interpretation of what we mean to say.

Perhaps you’re right, Ari, that caveat is unavoidable because of the way language becomes distilled and meaning compessed. I wonder, however, if Jeremy is still onto something by suggesting we might be able to get beyond the awkwardness of always having to explain ourselves.

Is there an integral-magic telepathy which might be possible beyond our clumsy attempts at representing the aperspectival?

Its always so fascinating to see where conversations go, where one person’s post is another’s point of departure in unanticipated directions…
I was not so much alluding to meaning, or the nature of aperspectival utterances, but what Marco pointed out, is it possible to “get beyond the awkwardness of always having to explain ourselves”.

Here’s a more concrete example:
“The question remains as to what took place in the interval between the two “spans” of some two hundred years each, the period of Pythagoras and Aristotle (ca. 550-350 B.C.) and the time of Petrarch and Leonardo da Vinci (ca. 1300-1500 A.D.), for there is an underlying correspondence between both epochs. We hope that the reader will not be unduly unsettled by our temporal demarcations, which are merely intended to establish some order and will have to be extended in both directions. As far as they go, such contrived limits are merely an aid to assist our synoptic view. In the present instance the interconnections extend well beyond the two periods…” (84)

I think Gebser’s caveat here is to say, I’m demarcating (sectoring) finite periods of time for the purpose of indicating an unfolding process, but this process extends beyond these periods of time, and it would be mistaking his meaning to think he is referring to “events” as if they occurred only within these timeframes. In general, I think he is espousing a more nuanced, more porous sense of time’s boundaries, in this example, and what I am musing upon, is whether it will be possible to ever forego such clarifications, or whether our statements must always be accompanied by warnings of potential Mental-meaning pitfalls (consciousness “gumption traps”).

Yes! Would it be possible to generalize the qualitative differences one’s “thinking” needs to acquire to enact an integral sensibility?

I suppose time will tell, and maybe this is a question worth considering (if at all) whence the book has been completely traversed.
Perhaps its a “rational” endeavor to collect such caveats, anyway, as if such a collection could replace the work of having wrought them from within.

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i see. and yes. demarcations (concretizations) are necessary, and yes, one must move beyond those concretizations. The markers (like the map) are NOT the journey. I suppose over time, we will arrive at a shared meaning. I have not found the place yet where I don’t have to continually work to verbally clarify my ideas. I am un certain as to whether I am not speaking with enough clarity, or whether what I am trying to say evades the words I use to reveal it, but my own experience is fraught with misunderstandings and clarification.
If we aren’t clarifying, we are assuming, and this is equally as dangerous. Assumptions lead to misinterpretations and shadowed communications, and this is a BIG part of the problem in all communication. In the end, we have to rely on symbolic understanding, and yet, we hardly understand THAT either.
If “getting beyond the awkwardness of always having to explain ourselves” means creating a container where what we say will not be attacked or demonized, I am all for that. If what you are asking for is an arena where our ideas are valued and an attempt to understand them is offered, I am also for that. For me the aperspectival is already here, and has been for quite some time. This doesn’t mean that everyone understands or agrees as to what that really is, or what Gebser meant by that.
I am certain that those who came to Gebser via Wilber have a vastly different understanding than those who came to Gebser via another route. How could it be otherwise?
(and. if I am misunderstanding what you are saying here too, please forgive me, as text isn’t always easy for me to decipher~ )
It IS a rational endeavor to collect such caveats, and a necessary part of the aperspectival journey as well. aperspectival doesn’t exclude the mental rational, it just doesn’t get stuck there as the end-all be-all of consciousness.
thanks for the thoughts here!

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Hi @madrush - wow, so I’m just getting into the book now that I have my copy. I’ve replaced my highlighter with a micron pen and a box of crayons so I can color-code… One point you made in your post was being rattled by what you’re experiencing at times. To be honest I’m finding chapter 3 a little disturbing and reading it very slowly… The hint he gives as to why he does not want to provide additional examples to ‘discourage its further activation’ when speaking of magic really stood out to me. So, while I have a sense of what he’s alluding to I’m noticing both an emotional and physical response to the reading as well as nice clarifications in thinking and the ability to organize/understand my orientation to the experiences I’ve sort of bookmarked as ‘interesting’ and noted for future examination. The sense of a portal is certainly palpable, but it’s really something more of a network than a door. Noticing anxiety and fear as well as a few ideas are maturing in the back of my mind as I read. I felt quite clear and comfortable with the first chapter… a little struggle with the second to follow so many names and examples… as well as a reach to connect my recent experience viewing picasso with Gebser’s use of it as an example of mutation. It certainly is. However, it was the language that was slow to connect to the feeling for the work… so, a bit painful to mature myself beyond sensing the experience of the art, particularly portraits, and understanding it more fully… I did, however, get quite excited to make the same translation from ‘sensing to sense’ with Monet. I suppose the subject makes it easier. Picasso feels as if he struggled where as monet feels like he translated a little deeper.

Anyhow… I"m only getting into the mythical structures now. I’m not sure I want to go outside while reading this book. haha.

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Before falling asleep I was wondering about the conversations around the meanings of Aperspectival and I started to wonder about the word aperture, the aperture of a camera is the size of the hole that lets the light in. As I wondered about that and feel into a light sleep I was walking around the basement of a store looking at lighting fixtures. I was told the basement was closed so I walked up a flight of steps to the part of the shop that was open to the public and two young women were talking. They asked if I had seen the movie Inception. I was puzzled by the question. She told me that Carl Jung was in the movie. Then I bumped into Jean Gebser, who was illuminated from within. He pointed to his right ear and said," You’re right ear will always be in doubt"

Rilke praises Orpheus, " in their ear you built a temple." Perhaps it is what arises from the inner and the outer ears ( both left and right) that produces the effects of a third ear? Perhaps our being dominated by the visual system cause much havoc in our capacity to receive the subtler emanations that arise from synesthetic interplay, what Aristotle called common sensible, what all our senses share. The visual system promotes distance and detachment, unlike the auditory which surrounds and penetrates. Where a sound comes from can be hyper ambiguous.

These are random thoughts about Gebser’s references in the chapter on Mental/Integral , would later become split brain theory, and echoes of Bicameral Mind and Leonard Shlain and McGilcrst. I wish I had time to develop this and someday I might master the mysteries of getting on a google hang out and perhaps having a chance to figure this out with you guys. Blessings on your next hang out. I will watch for it.


As I like to say, the wonder of communication is that we communicate at all.

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Personally, my experience of EPO, each time I’ve read it, has been more of a “crossing of a threshold” than an “opening of a door”, but I suppose that’s the old mystic resonating in me.

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I can get there… I like that description.

true dat! I have said that so often too! I used to be amazed that we could make anything collaboratively at all~ bridges, buildings, roads, cities, families. lol~
I mean, when you really think about it, we are speaking in riddles and rhymes ALL the time!

although Gebser did say that this is not the same thing as a Hegelian synthesis, so it isn’t the arrival at a new third really. It is so much vaster than that. and loved your post~ all great references~ yes yes yes~