Cosmos Café: Discussing “The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views" [4/3]


Tell me who is speaking to you and I will know who you are.– Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy

Seasons are changing, and the Café, now with:

  • A new location (out of the dark alley and into the concretion jungle),

  • New menu items (along with many viscous dishes we had previously wished to dish, and other leftovers) , and

  • Homegrown ingredients nourished and composted in the Cosmos Community Gardens

…is still an open door facilty, open to all entitled thoughts, opinions, dreams and reflections.

Cosmos Café is a weekly virtual dialogue series that focuses on deep questions of cosmology, consciousness, and culture. Our conversations are designed (and intended) to be open-ended, inclusive, and creative—going nowhere in particular (or seemingly everywhere) yet arriving at the heart of the matter over time. These are performative experiments in cooperative intelligence, grounded in deep reading, mutual listening, embodied experience, and speaking our minds!

Each week, members of the Café crew put their minds together (if only, to take them apart) to discuss an organically chosen topic from the frothy ideas bubbling up on the Infinite Conversations forum. Sometimes we invite special guests, or try creative experiments in sense-making and conversational practice. If you’re following our sessions and would like to offer feedback or make a suggestion, we’re open to ideas. If you’d like to join the conversation, we’d love to hear from you! Please add your thoughts on any topic here on the forum—or message the @ccafe crew to get in touch.

We meet each Tuesday via ZOOM video conference at 1 p.m. Mountain Time (Denver, USA) [convert time zone]—unless otherwise indicated.

Each session is recorded (audio and video) and posted here on the forum for ongoing discussion, and can also be accessed via our global podcast feed and the archive page on (coming soon, really).

ZOOM link: Launch Meeting - Zoom


Consciousness of language is a key indicator of postformal reasoning. Both Steiner and Gebser emphasised the significance of language awareness, poetic expression and creativity as part of the new consciousness. – Gidley (2016), Postformal Education: A Philosophy for Complex Futures (p.253)

Continuing with the exploration of the question, “What would it be like to speak from the integral [structure of consciousness], not just about it?” and in tandem with March 13th’s Cafe on Gebser’s essay entitled “The Grammatical Mirror,” we shift our discussion to another integral integralist Jennifer Gidley. Her 200+ page “article” entitled “The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views” aims to “broaden and deepen the evolution of consciousness discourse by integrating the integral theoretic narratives of Rudolf Steiner, Jean Gebser, and Ken Wilber, who each point to the emergence of new ways of thinking that could address the complex, critical challenges of our planetary moment.” Appendix C “holds an aesthetic lens to the evolution of consciousness through examples from the genealogy of writing” and is a macroscale demostration that complements the microscale exploration by Gebser in his “Grammatical Mirror.”


Jennifer Gidley (2007) “The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views

  • Appendix C: “Literacy Unveiled: Art as Language from a Palaeoaesthetic Perspective” (pp. 203-226)
  • Selections from the Introduction (pp. 8-41)

That’s a lovely looking Café shot, @Douggins! I love the open-air ceiling, all the outside let in to the space.

And how much green there is! Verde que te quiero verde, sang Gebser’s friend, Lorca. Something growing on every table, and above, and about, and all-around. A palaeoaesthetic oasis in a concretion jungle, it appears to me.

And maybe the plan all along is that only gardeners should be let back into the Garden…entitled gardeners, to be sure, for all our dispossession, not say dispassion, of course.

We’ve done the snake. Is the earthworm—nature’s bookworm—the voice we should have been listening for?

Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña.

See y’all on Tuesday!


A suggestion for the group. I have finished Appendix C and found it fairly easy to get through, and though there is plenty to discuss, I want more so I am going to go ahead and read the first two appendices as well. I think we could handle this quite easily and hope someone else has the time to do this, too, for I would love to hear what others think. I sense there are connections between some of our most recent conversations on alphabets, hands, and the experiments we did with alternate ways of knowing and our group map-making. I have been trying to figure out for most of my adult life what a symbol does and now feel hopeful we are starting to get a glimpse into how language happens. Synesthesia, as demonstrated in this brief clip, is probably the basis for all abstraction.


This was my first thought when reading Appendix C. I like the Genesis parallels (from Tenen’s work and the “genesis” of langauge)

On the post video (Language of Synesthesia):

Great John! I am reminded of Sigur Ros’s “Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do” (Jordan Brown used “Ba Ba” as the opening song for “Stare into the Light, My Pretties”) which corroborates with Ramachandran’s work. "Ba Ba’ is smooth, rounded and flowing; “Ti Ki” introduces more clicks and beeps, sound reversal; “Di Do” fuses the two and takes it into a chaotic realm. When first watching Brown’s documentary, I felt he selected “Ba Ba” as a sort of calm before the foreboding that comes with the use of tech (“Ti Ki”) and the chaotic attempt to fuse the two together (“Di Do” - from @15 minutes til the end, you can really feel the tech-chaos forming).


If you recite this poem by Poe you can sense with the tongue and the teeth a feeling state that the poet must have sensed, too. There is a clear overlap between sounds and sense and meaning and breakdown and chaos. You can feel in the oral cavity the rhythms produced by the percussive, explosive ttts and bbbs which mimics hard edges and leads to the cacophonous chaos, as he adds the liquid llls and all of these sounds creates a crazy, irrational exuberance! This overlap between sound and sense and potential nonsense is what poetry, both good and bad, works with.

Even if you read silently afterwards you can still feel the action of the speech act upon the sensorium, like an echo, at the edge of inside and outside, a boundary that blurs. This absurd word-play made Poe a favorite among the French underground poets. They thought it a divine madness and his experimentation crossed over into French poetry. I find this kind of cross over phenomenon between cultures very interesting. We are now living in a great battlefield of cultural artifacts and techno intrusions that are driving many of us insane.

I think music and speech emerge out of one another, perhaps music comes first. You can hear a piece of orchestral music and recognize it’s Frenchness or Germanishness. Ravel sounds so French, Beethoven so German even if you dont speak the language.

I imagine music and poetry mimic the kinds of information/energy exchanges we get when we are in the womb as we are entraining with our mother’s speech patterns and from the sonic environments our mothers are living in with the emergence of the inner ear ( the vestibular system is the first system to emerge) and this is where the sense of orientation in space gets set up in the embryonic formation. We can remember this if we are alert enough and we are able to bypass the factory model of education that has been stamped on the sensorium by our culture. We are through poetry and music risking enchantment.

Hear the sledges with the bells–
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens, seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells, bells, bells,
Bells, bells, bells–
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
- Edgar Allan Poe


This is a lovely set of ideas, and a really cool clip. Thinks for posting it, @johnnydavis54, I’m going to look more into this!

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Please do, Geoffrey, I would love to hear what you can find out about this. As you speak both French and English and have a distinctive poetic voice, I imagine you can have a great influence on this emerging conversation.

Since many of us believe we are living in a magically operant world it might be useful to listen to anthropologist Tim Inglold’s account of human/reindeer society. His talk is introduced by Gordon White ( magic practitioner) who claims academia is constrained to keep quiet about the spirit/human society. We can read this presentation by Ingold as an example of how anthropologists work around this taboo. Since we have discussed Ingold before, I think he adds to the complex mosaic that Gidley is putting together. The implication is that if we better understood the transitions between archaic and magical we would stop suppressing telepathy and the para-normal in our current living arrangements. Our factory education has buried these capacities but this might change if we started to pay better attention to the “crack in the cosmic egg.”


Coppola’s film focuses upon the clash between the magical and modern in this really weird story about a linguistics professor who gets struck by lightning and when he recovers has advanced cognitive powers. The film is based upon a story written by Mircea Eliade. It is probably a’ true’ story. This could be an inspired flash of the Post-formal emerging out of our decadent culture.


It was a lovely talk by Ingold, who I think I think offers a more earthly, sensible description of what it means for beings to be in sets of relationships with one another that we term “societies.” What is a “society” anyway? I once had a posmodernist philosophy professor proclaim in class that “societies” don’t exist. I wondered about that, and henceforth began hesitating when the term occurred to me to use in conversation. It would be wrong, naive, and unphilosophical of me to say “society” when I meant “society” (whatever that meant). I thought I knew—but did I? I guess not. But I guess it didn’t matter, since societies didn’t exist. Anyway…

What’s kind of weird, if you think about it, is the lengths Ingold has to go to say something very simple. Here is my back-of-the-envelope breakdown of what he actually has to say:

  • Humans are humans
  • Animals are animals
  • Beings become

And if “to society” could be regarded as a verb, then we could say that “societies” societize…or something like that. “Societies” are what we mean by living beings all being themselves together at the same time in some space. I loved his quote from Doreen Massey, who writes that “space is the simultaneity of all the stories-so-far.” I had never heard of her before, but her work on space could be a fruitful follow-up to our spatial meditations with Sloterdijk.

Ingold’s critique of Latour’s ‘actor-network theory’ where ‘humans’ incorporate ‘non-humans’ into their societies, I thought was interesting. Likewise his takedown of Object Oriented Ontology—which obviously resolves to an infinity of essentially static points. I do believe most of the need for this talk is due to some bizarre cultural syndrome, which I’m now seeing in a new way, that manifests in the chronic inability to simply say things. Every term—even every part of speech!—is questioned, decentered, destabilized. Pre-fixes run amok! Gidley refers to this as the ‘hermeneutics of suspicion.’ Everything is post-trans-meta, but we don’t let the beings themselves be (or become).

We’re not supposed to tell simple stories where humans are humans, animals are animals, machines are machines, etc. Is this because then we might let gods be gods? Spirits spirits? Monsters monsters? What happens when we set our stories free?


Looks interesting - good actors. I love Bruno Ganz, ever since Wenders’ Wings of Desire

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Margaret Thatcher, when she starved the coal minors union, boldly declared that “society doesn’t exist.” Thatcher and Reagan were the grand architects of Globalization, not to be confused with Planeterization. Like Humpty Dumpty, the Iron Lady, could decide that words meant whatever she wanted them to mean.


I just got Wings of Desire from Netflix. I will watch it tonight. Ganz is a wonderful actor.

(Just getting in from work. I’m sure I missed another great talk here today… (sigh))

Thanks, John, for posting the Ingold lecture. I’ll have to finish it later, but I recognize his concern to re-think anthropology (switching from “study of” Others to “study with”) from passages in Being Alive. I wonder if his ‘meshwork’ approach (turning hitherto objects into verbs) is as tough a sell to his peers as the justification of “big” (or even “world”) history is to some in that field. Forays into wider perspectives seem to remain firmly in the margins of what is considered legitimate (measurable) knowledge; perhaps the power of the rational mindset - or the comforting feelings of control it offers - should not be underestimated.

Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power, Vol. 1, 1986 (pp. 1-2):

"Societies are not unitary. They are not social systems (closed or open); they are not totalities. We can never find a single bounded society in geographical or social space. Because there is no system, no totality, there cannot be ‘sub-systems,’ ‘dimensions,’ or ‘levels’ of such a totality. Because there is no whole, social relations cannot be reduced ‘ultimately,’ ‘in the last instance,’ to some systemic property of it - like the ‘mode of material production,’ or the ‘cultural’ or ‘normative system,’ or the ‘form of military organization.’ Because there is no bounded totality, it is not helpful to divide social change or conflict into ‘endogenous’ or ‘exogenous’ varieties. Because there is no social system, there is no ‘evolutionary’ process within it. Because humanity is not divided into a series of bounded totalities, ‘diffusion’ of social organization does not occur between them. Because there is no totality, individuals are not constrained in their behavior by ‘social structure as a whole,’ and so it is not helpful to make a distinction between ‘social action’ and ‘social structure.’
“I overstated my point in the preceding paragraph for the sake of effect. I will not dispense altogether with these ways of looking at societies. Yet most sociological orthodoxies - such as systems theory, Marxism, structuralism, structural functionalism, normative functionalism, multidimensional theory, evolutionism, diffusionism, and action theory - mar their insights by conceiving of ‘society’ as an unproblematic, unitary totality.”

I include the second paragraph because Mann’s work is most often noted for the nihilist implications of the first, as you can imagine (and Peter Burke states that Mrs. Thatcher was indeed echoing that (mis)understanding (History and Social Theory, 2nd ed., 2005, (p. 174)). But Mann’s deconstruction is really meant to serve re-constructive purposes (re: Hampson) - ‘society’ is a convenience word for (1) “overlapping networks of social interaction” and (2) “organizations [which are] institutional means of attaining human goals”. Though he concentrates primarily on relationships of power, his is a quite fluid picture of how they ‘work’. He too, in his way, has changed objects into verbs.

“…The way out is through…” (LOL)

Damn good question. Free from what? Free to what?
In the magical, we live our stories.
In the mythical, we live for our stories.
In the mental, we choose our stories.
In the ‘integral’, …? do we become free from our stories? Are there “stories”?


That’s what we pondered today. Do we need another hero? Yes, we do! The antidote to a bad grand narrative is a lot of little narratives, such as you hear at Happy Hour or the barber shop. I imagine all of those little narratives add up to something quite unpredictable, as unpredictable as tonight’s dream. I posted the Ingold interview because of your mention of his mesh-works. I have yet to read him but I have liked some of his talks. We worked on the Gidley paper today and are going to continue to work with her next cafe. I look forward to your response.


The video discussion was like a book I couldn’t put down, so it’s way past bedtime and I’ll pay for it in the morning for sure. I’ll just throw these out there for now.

  • This is why Gebser avoided the word evolution like the plague! We use it to denote both the ‘Darwinian’ mechanism of natural selection that feeds the development of biological life and the interplay of environments and human imagination that feeds the formation of cultural expression. You guys did a great job showing how each, while certainly connected, cannot be simply explained in terms of the other.
  • Gidley describes herself (p. 41) as perhaps a “postformal romantic philosopher” or identifies herself with what she feels to be useful in that approach (as Ed pointed out an emphasis on deep understanding over taking a polemical stand - as is too often done these days without a deep understanding). What she is not doing is making any claims to have solved the problems of integral theory or arguing for a mindless “kum ba yah” homogenization of ‘humanity’. (Spengler would agree with you, John, that “humanity” is an abstraction - decisions are not made on that ‘level’.) Gidley’s idea of “planetary consciousness” is a needed awareness of the legacy of the modern age - the world has shrunk and problem ‘spill-over’ can neither be avoided nor ignored.
  • I am glad that you will continue the discussion “behind my back”! (LOL) I told Doug in an earlier e-mail that even just the three appendices (space, time, and language) would be worth a look. I am sorry to have to participate in such an indirect way, but such is life. (This gorilla has to ‘hunt’ or the teenager offspring may eat him should the fridge ever be empty!)
  • Feel better, Ed.
  • Good to ‘see’ your screen, Mark! It’s been a while since the HyperNormalisation thread. How is the book coming?
  • Yes, Marco, culture-building is the key alright. IMHO…

OK, good night, the Mrs is staring daggers… :fearful:


To be free from something is to be free to do something else, including other stories that would have otherwise never been told.


Thanks for your sober reflections, TJ, for we need some cold water splashed over the head after such a heated discussion. I do appreciate that Spengler agrees with me ( I am chagrined that I have never read him) and that Gidley is a romantic. I am especially drawn to the German idealists these days ( except for Kant- oooh yuk). Gidley gives me permission to read Steiner again. I never quite understood him in my younger days, when I first picked him up, but more recently read Gary Lachman’s biography and now find him extremely compatible. Steiner was a man of the theater, he loved gesture and color and rhythm. Some of it looks dated, and perhaps a bit corny, but for his day he was way ahead of everyone. And I have been practicing some of his imagination exercises, which are simple, but very effective at re-organizing the inner realms, which we are, due to our addiction to flat screens, dangerously disconnected from. So much of our boredom and restlessness comes from the search for something " out there" which is not" out there." Our satisfaction arises as inner and outer boundaries are crossed and re-crossed, and we return to where we started from and know the place for the first time. Oh yeah I have been here before! It is an embodied knowing that we yearn for, which we wont get by colonizing outer space. We are in serious need of a major re-education. Poets and children are very aware of these kinds of boundary crossings. I also enjoyed the disciplined flow of our exchange, and though sometimes turbulent, and full of exaggerations, we came back to center and a basic respect kept the egos in check. Our conversation though often serious is also playful.


You are aware that all of those postmodernists, those deconstructionists, the Drs. Frankenstein who created a monster they had no chance of controlling, who drove me to livid distraction (so I simply ignored them, then missed their late “'fessing up” and coming back around to the hard issues that needed to be discussed), were all Kantians. (I’m finding the reference to Benedikter (2005) she provided an informative, if somewhat provocative, read.)

What you may not know is that – and at least one anthroposophist told me this as well – that Steiner considered himself Goethe’s reincarnation. That’s one of the reasons he named his center in Switzerland the Goetheanum. As far as I know, he wrote his dissertation on Goethe as well.

During my teaching days my first time in Germany, I had passing acquaintance with anthroposophy and Waldorf Schools. We’d occasionally get a Waldorf student whose parents wanted their child accompanied in its journey back into the traditional school system. (We were a Reformpädagogik institution, hence a suitable half-way house for such transitions.) I never gave him much thought, though, as I had too much else on my plate at the time (teaching full-time, wrapping up a master’s degree program on the side, as well as pursuing an additional teaching certificate from another institution). In my early days in aerospace defense after our move to Silicon Valley, I came into my cubicle one day and found a copy of Steiner’s Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment lying on my desk. I never did find out who left it there. That book sent me down the rabbit hole of Western esoterism from which I have never completely emerged again, even if I do act halfway normal most … well, at least, some … of the time. Oddly enough, my “recreational” reading of late has been his Theosophy of the Rosicrucian. It’s one of those texts that I particularly enjoy, because of its extraordinary differentness, but if you’ve got, let us say, a physicalist bias, well, it’ll make your hair stand on end.

And that’s what gives me pause for thought at the moment. I was a bit surprised (though that’s really too strong a word) that Hampson in his genealogy paper zipped through neoplatonism and hermiticism as if they were the most normal topics in the world. Gidley’s footnote on the Newton Project almost came across as a plea for acceptance of a fact that has been known as long as there has been anyone who gave a hoot about Newton. But it is a very uncomfortable fact nonetheless: he was an alchemist who happened to discover a few things useful for the godless. I vaguely remember an article in The Smithsonian back in 1984 which talked about the three million words he wrote: 1m on science, 1m on alchemy, and 1m of biblical exegesis which is purportedly some of the most poignant ever written. He believed, of course, that the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) was a(n alchemical) handbook for penetrating the secrets of nature. Too bad he never met Tenen.

But that’s what’s got me thinking: have things changed in the academy that much that these exceedingly “unscientific” notionalities, structures, and processes are going to receive serious attention? We know from our dabbling in Kelly, et al. that Myers was more than willing to go where the materialists fear to tread. It is intimated there, but anyone who has read much of James knows as well that he was much more open to the non-physical than was good for his own career. When I think of the grip scientism has on public scientific discourse (the censuring of TED talks by Targ and Sheldrake, for example), I have to wonder if there is (a) something truly afoot behind the scenes or (b) we are merely witnessing the academic suicide of promising up-and-coming scholars. Have things changed that much in the academy that there is going to be renewed acceptance of the excommunicated?

I wonder.


There is a tiny Steiner bookshop, tucked into a quiet street, next to a Waldorf School, which I have just found. It is very close to where I live but I never paid attention to it until very recently. I am dazzled by the output of Steiner ( he was prolific) and those who have been loyal to his work, Owen Barfield, Henri Bortoft and Arthur Zanoc are brilliant, too. Quietly, behind the scenes, these dedicated scholars, rolled up their sleeves and got to work and we are reaping the benefits. Recently CIS, that bastion of sanity, in San Francisco, a hot bed of intelligent inquiry with a strong activist slant, are passing on the torch. Whatever Integral might become, has already started happening, and I hope we can catch some of their drift. As Marco said, there is a tradition, and it has been underground so long but I sense many of us who have worked in relative isolation are starting to renew our commitment to this next wave. The results from much creative research is readily available and I trust we will use all of our knowledge and use it well. It has never been so necessary to master so much material and this may be immense hubris that we can even come close but Steiner was a late bloomer, too, did not find the conditions for his blooming until the last decade of his life, but when the conditions emerged he was mercurial, a burst of radiant energy. I can feel it when I browse in the charming Steiner bookshop, all of these colorful books have a distinctive aura. It is a noble tradition, that keeps on giving, and I like that Gidley is making direct comparisons, that open up a tremendous field of cross-fertilizing disciplines.