Cosmos Café: Gebser's "Grammatical Mirror" [2018.03.13]

I feel smile on my face when you point this out and I must say the smile is connected to a vast range of playful feelings of the absurd. And we can ( we dont have to) explore the absurd before we find a new tempo-rhythm that animates us. I once told a friend who was a student of Integral theory that unless you can sing and dance the theory it is irrelevant. It dont mean a thing if it aint go that swing! And that is what art does to us and what we do with art. Science can come along too. Most scientists do love art and music and need it as much as anyone else. Goethe of course was both! I sense it is the container metaphor that has made our encapsulated ego experience co confining. That is why I am so drawn to other topological figures.


I recall when I worked as an AIDS activist how the Medical Model dominated our organization, promoting the victim/patient metaphor and crushing ruthlessly any alternative views of non-war methodology. And I mean crushed. The need to monopolize is deeply entrenched ( us vs them) and we inherit a split personality. Empowering people when the consensus claims you are doomed is very, very challenging. But then some salmon do swim upstream! We must learn to choose our metaphors wisely for they have real world consequences.


What an appropriate word: “insidious”, for that’s what it is. There is hardly a domain that is not dominated by a military-war metaphorics. Add business, especially marketing, to the list, and, of course, sports … it goes without saying.

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I don’ t know if the chat shows up in the recording, but at any rate I thought it would be a good idea to provide the link that Lisa gave us to the article on Quantum Poetics in The New Atlantis.

For me, this piece was particularly interesting in light of what we talked about in our discussions of the Meru-work CCafé sessions. But, it is a very rich article and will provide a lot of food for thought for any one of us.


I will read it with interest. This is another area in which I published about 30 years ago. My text was in French, and it was, of course, pre internet, I will have to hunt to find it. It was published in a literary journal that stopped printing about 20 years ago.


Re: “updating Gebser” (which I put in quotes to deflect presumption), here’s a possible research question: What would be the form, shape, or features of a ‘grammatical mirror’ for a transintegral hypersphere?

I know, I know—I swore off the prefixual excesses—it is a loathesome pseudo-philosophical term. But here’s what I would mean by it:

Let’s presume, there are various “lineages” (or irruptions) of integral thought that all are basically pointing to the same “thing”—i.e., an evolving spiritual reality infusing all being-in-the-world—which (lineages) include Sri Aurobindo, Jean Gebser, Teilhard de Chardin, Ken Wilber, and various other exponents of a “new structure of consciousness” distinct from the modern AND post-modern—definitely “beyond” yet simultaneously inclusive of what came before.

To not ‘commit’ to any one particular school or framework or conception (especially one which would claim to be THE all-inclusive model), but to integrate the integralisms in an open frame, this would be the “trans” or “meta” or “super” or integral integral.

We also know, per Sloterdijk, that the 3-dimensional sphere (total encompassing orb) model for representing the whole doesn’t work. But, as we’ve posited, a 4-dimensional sphere (or hypersphere, or donut, or Klein bottle) could work—not for ‘representation’ per se, since what we’re talking about is matter of ‘origin and presence,’ while re-presentation presumes a perspective removed from the presently given, since in order to re- present, I must be separate from and operate upon a thing, and show you not the ‘thing itself’ but a stand-in pseudo-object, as it were, for that thing, i.e., a sign or symbol)—but for being itself, inasmuch as a hypersphere (which includes consciousness) must be the thing itself in order to know it.

To me or my mind, the best grammar is one which disappears, lets the ‘thing itself’ (let’s say, the integral) speak. If we are noticing our language too much, perhaps we are missing what the language is about? Perhaps our mirrors are too murky, smudged by insidioius metaphors and sneaky parts of speech? Warped by premature cognitive commitments? On the other hand, perhaps by carefully attending to our living language, we polish the mirror? By reiterating recursive loops and deconstructing diabolical dialectics, we learn to transcend them?

@Geoffreyjen_Edwards: Here’s an essay I’ve been meaning to read which could be helpful (to all of us) for contextualizing the ‘integral’ within an array of intellectual lineages:

Toward a Genealogy and Topology of Western Integrative Thinking

by Gary P. Hampson

vol_9_no_2_hampson_toward_a_geneaology_and_topology_of_western_integrative_thinking.pdf (149.2 KB)

See Abstract & Intro

Abstract: Contemporary integrative thinking such as meta-theorising, integral approaches and transdisciplinarity can be productively contextualised by identifying both a broad genealogy of Western integrative thinking, and also a topology regarding facets of such thought. This paper offers one such genealogical and topological reading. The genealogy involves the historical orientations or moments of Hermetism; Neoplatonism; Renaissancism; the nexus of German classicism, romanticism and idealism; and reconstructive postmodernism. Arising from this, an indication of a general topology of Western integrative thinking is offered (with case studies), one involving objects of integration (such as philosophy and spirituality), macro-integrative entities (such as syncretism), micro-integrative entities (such as creativity and love), integrative “shapes” (such as organicism), and processes of integration (such as intuition).

Key terms: Creativity, Hermeticism, intuition, integral, integrative, love, Neoplatonism, organicism, panosophy, reconstructive postmodernism, Renaissance, spirituality, syncretism.


This paper offers indications toward a topology and genealogy of Western integrative thinking. “Integration” here is taken to mean complex integration – somewhat analogous to Kelly’s (2008) notion of “complex holism” – rather than reductive integration (such as that offered by mathematics in physics). Topology points to such aspects as objects of integration, “shapes” of integration and processes of integration, as well as to integrative entities. Genealogy4 connotes a broad thread inclusive of relatively similar thought pertinent to the context-in-hand. In the current instance, this involves five philosophico-historical attractors, orientations, contexts or moments, namely, Hermetism; Neoplatonism; Renaissancism; the nexus of German classicism, romanticism and idealism; and reconstructive postmodernism. Across these five orientations, the paper explores six topological cases, namely: creativity, intuition, love, organicism, intimate relations between philosophy and spirituality, and syncretism, respectively.

The paper can be understood as an example of “research across boundaries” in that it addresses integrative entities. By their very nature, integrative entities are boundary-crossing through cohering what might be regarded as disparate parts. The paper’s generation of a topology further adds to boundary-crossing in that the topological nodes link various domains. Touching upon a variety of disciplines, the paper also crosses historical time and connects various past perspectives with the present. Of specific note, perhaps, and in line with integral studies generally, is its interest in connections between philosophy and spirituality. Whilst many integral approaches emphasise Eastern spiritualities – including Aurobindo’s yogic context and Wilber’s emphasis on Buddhism – the paper contributes to a rebalancing in this regard by including focus on aspects of Western spirituality. (As it happens, due to the default divorce in Western religion between the exoteric and the mystical, the label “esoteric” is often ascribed to Western mystical spirituality by conventional perspectives). […]

[via @hfester, who recommended another of Gary Hampson’s essays to me, also worth a read: issue_4_hampson_integral_re-views_postmodernism.pdf (501.1 KB) ]

I am also quite interested in Quantum Poetics and the other essays shared above. Perhaps we are sketching out a research program for ‘season 2’ of the Café?


Without being able to offer anything like a definitive answer, here are a few thoughts I think we need to explore if we go down this road. First of all, despite Sloterdijk and Gebser (or other thinkers), I think we need to examine carefully the idea that “geometry” and “consciousness” are linked. It is a wonderful idea, and in a purely speculative mode of inquiry, leads us down all sorts of interesting paths, but it is one thing to accept the idea “as if” (to use Bateson’s formulation), that is, assume such a basis and then explore the consequences, and another to motivate and understand the linkage in the first place. There is nothing obvious about this association. I’m not saying it is wrong, or right for that matter, only that it is not firmly established or justified.

Again, without going down the “integral” path on this, here is a paper that is probably beyond most of us here, but which attempts to make an explicit link between the two ideas based on scientific principles. The paper is by Stuart Hameroff, the collaborator of Roger Penrose, and concerns their joint work on consciousness grounded in quantum effects within the controversial microtubule structure found within the brain. Hameroff and Penrose’s work is highly criticized within scientific circles, don’t get me wrong, but it is, to my knowledge, the only scientific effort currently underway to link these ideas together. One of the interesting features of this work is that is motivates the idea that consciousness includes a noncomputational component, and hence cannot be reduced to any kind of algorithm. I don’t think their geometrical ideas reduce to any of the more simple geometries we have been discussing, however, whether these be spheres, torii or klein bottles.

I also realize, Marco @madrush, that your question has more to do with language than consciousness… still, a certain level of prudence is necessary, I think, even in that area. The Klein Bottle as a mental construct for “paradox-aware thinking” in the sense of Steve Rosen or Lisa is one thing, however, a ‘grammatical mirror’, if I’m not mistaken, draws on a deeper structural argument…


Though it may not look it, I am following this discussion with great interest. As always, I wish I could have been there. The next few weeks promise a fair amount of insanity, so I am glad to hear that a break is planned. I may be able to catch up on some of this. LOL

A quick note about prefixes came up for me while watching the (great!) vid:
Linked to what I was trying to say in our last Sloterdijk session about the “otherness” of infinity (conceptually) compared to any quality/quantity (though “the whole” includes them), I would think Gebser would still identify all locating words (pre, post, post-post, trans, meta, etc) in the mental structure, right? Where we are (wherever that is) in relation to the “modern” is in a way beside the point. None of it is truly “integral”, in the sense of being aperspectival (with ‘beyond perspective’ of course being a mental expression). So Marco’s point about people speaking of the ‘pre-’ or ‘trans-integral’ is a good one; to my (admittedly limited) thinking, it seems not only presumptuous, but even directly counter to the spirit of the thing. By the same token, I think one of the subtle beauties of Gebser’s project (not unlike Spengler’s in this) is that we might not really be able to “update” it yet - we could very well be in a process of “mutation” that requires centuries to unfold fully. (How optimistic that sounds about our chances if we don’t begin to manifest heightened awareness very, very soon!) I’ll have to delve into posts 22 and 23 here more deeply at a later time, but for now I agree that we have much yet to learn about ‘simultaneous inclusivity’. It’s no mean feat, as came up in the vid several times, to free ourselves from the ‘either/or’ still at the core of how we arrange the world.



And when we are in a process of mutation…is there anything else about that process of mutation?

What is the first sign that lets you know we are mutating?

And when we are mutating and centuries to unfold fully is there anything else about unfold fully?

And is there anything else about those centuries?

And when we are mutating what kind of we is that?

And when we are mutating what happens to ‘I’?

And can we have a trans-disciplinary effort when we leave out the dancers, actors and singers and those who play with crayons and make maps or sketch doodles on the back of a cocktail napkin?

And if we include those other kinds of knowing, and the little kids around the great globe itself, playing with crayons, who refuse to stay within the lines, what happens next?

And what happens when we include the old lady with dementia?

And Hitler and Stalin?

And then what happens to the toad in the garden…and the summer flies?

And all of the minorities without degrees or academic training, what happens when they are included?

And if they were included, what would happen to Modernism which left a lot of people out?

And what happens to Postmodernism, when it tried preserve pluralism by including all of those that Modernism left out?

And what happens to that Mirror of Grammar? Does it shatter and break into a thousand shards? Or can we pass through the mirror and find out what is on the other side?

And I ask in my lucid dream, does God have a size or shape?

And out of the Void a hand appears…

"This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d–see here it is–
I hold it towards you. "-John Keats


Beautiful presentiation!!!

The (extremely simple) answer to all of the above questions (except "And can we have a trans-disciplinary effort when we leave out…?) is: “Yes.”


And " Yes."

I imagine that WE who are reading, writing, sharing our pictures here and making conversations happen are co-modeling. I imagine that when we are in doubt, the antidote is to start modeling! Find the patterns that connect and there are a lot of wonderful patterns in the making here.


There are patterns that connect and connections that return and returns that explain and explanations that form patterns.
And a whole lot of dots that are just out there and that’s OK too.


I watched a strange and enticing movie (Chronos - Guillermo del Toro’s first feature length film from 1993) about a grandfather and granddaughter that find an alchemist’s eternal life device hidden in a statue. This device is Faustian, as the grandfather discovers when he first uses the device by accident then when intentionally seeking its youthful offerings. Throughout the film, his skin morphs insidiously from elderly → handsomely tanned → paling and decaying → peeling → new skin, pale, bloodless. I didn’t realize the alterno-vampire story until late into the movie but it was the progressive change of the grandfather that was fascinating.

I mention this movie for the self-Clean Language session just performed above. I imagined that the process of mutation is like shedding old skin: a very small, unnoticed act…we retain the same shape, same size (perhaps miniscule growth or change), same person visually. Yet something has changed. The individual will maybe take note but this mutation is not a true evolutionary mutation in which the fish grows legs. This is gradual.
You added centuries to the mix? Why centuries? Because this seems to be the timeline we best understand. We imagine a change occuring within our lifetime. We can expect true mutations to occur in weeks, and will be disappointed. We can expect that we can change the world, create a new language mutation overnight, then realize the grandiose desires are futile. But the grounds for changing are always fertile. We, the gardeners, plant a new word here, its growth tendrils wrap around our legs and we will eat its fruits and scatter its seeds. We have formed our own Community garden here, sharing virtual coffee beans, fruits and veggies that we did not know could exist had it not been for our creative splicing and grafting.

The Grand Gardeners have devised blueprints for future lingual Community Gardens, and many of us have joined in on the sowing and reaping of their found grounds. Due to importing and exporting constraints, some fruiting bodies remain locally enjoyed. Also, due to the cult-like status of some Grand Gardeners (let no one enter who does not know horticulture), we wish to go back to solo home gardening or a more local attempt at Community Gardening. There will never be a universally enjoyed garden. There will never be a universally understood perfect language.

My favorite idea is that we could all be soaking up the sun silently as we go about grazing and gazing while we work and play in our Community Garden.

So, I say we reverse Chronos…go from the pale, bloodthirsty individuals seeking out the next new beautiful flower to the handsomely bronzed gardeners with healthy habits, changing and adapting successfully to the incliment internet weathers, wearing slient smiles as we slowly begin to wrinkle and ripen.


And while I think that @johnnydavis54 points to some very valuable further thoughts on mutation, when I think of or use the phrase “updating Gebser” it has always been with the idea of “continuing to find more current and contemporary examples of integral consciousness (as he describes it)”. I agree that we may be in the mutation, and the mutation my outlive us all, but we have examples from the past (which Gebser provided, or others, like the Thunder text Lisa discussed), but there must be others out and about that have not been collected in any way. This is also how I understood @madrush’s proposal. Perhaps phrased differently: can we find evidence – real, acceptable, confirmable, agreed evidence – that the mutation is even happening. We all suspect that it is, but what is it?


I’m in … I think this is a great idea.

And, when I read

I couldn’t help but think of the apostle Paul (with whom I, I’ll readily admit, have any number of significant issues, but whom I respect nevertheless) who wrote in 1 Cor 13:12

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part: but then shall I know even as also I am known. [KJV] ( or, much more literally and hence much less elegantly: For we see yet through a mirror in obscureness, then but face to face; yet I know in part, then but I will fully know even as also I was fully known.)

And thanks for the additional references. I greatly appreciated your contexutalizing of our CCafé session and Hampson’s topology paper would appear to help contextualize that.


" Research could be undertaken regarding the relationship of integral theory to Lakoff and Johnson’s work on conceptual metaphor and embodied philosophy. "-Gary Hampson

Thanks Marco for sharing this essay and here are some raw feels. Can we generate new metaphors for our future besides the well worn war zone metaphors we all know so well? I think the essay invites us to go beyond polemics into some healthier integrally inspired shared metaphorical landscapes.

In our video many of us do draw upon Lakoff and Johnson. This seems to be a center for many of our research initiatives. Clean Language emerges directly out of L & J and the insights of Cognitive Linguistics and is also going beyond them in significant ways. A review of some of our maps I posted above point to dynamic reference points in our development without references to the kinds of top down management models rampant in Wilber world. We can and must go in a different direction and I believe in Cosmos we are doing just that. We demonstrated by the interplay of clean interviews over several sessions can take on concrete expressions. The actual languaging generated in each interview translated into drawings which translated back into more languaging and has created conditions for transformation changes ( third order). This is iterative, messy and a lot of fun. And we know each other at a deeper level and have more rapport with the Other than conscious aspects of our nature.

We could be doing more of this and doing it better. When we can each bring forward our own metaphor, that is unique rather than predetermined archetypal, we engage in a third order process orientation. This is more generative than I believe the L & J models intend to be. We are finding applications for that theory, a theory that needs some flesh. We need to get our metaphor out in the open and into our neurology and this is what I believe we have actualized.

As I read the article, I realized something wants to live here and something wants to die. I am suspicious of the numbered lists that go on forever, quite common in most Integral products and all of the color coded spirals and pie charts. They are very soothing, of course, and create a sense of comfort, like a pretty power point presentation but I doubt seriously that the effort to create order out of that kind of map making actually works. It usually tries to impose an order by outline, an order that actually doesn’t exist. It is a map without a territory.Most numbered lists are just an attempt to impose a left brained structure that isn’t there, upon a swarm of the undefinable. It is a theory that relies heavily upon what the cognition has access to which is very little. Fragile and easily swept away in a crisis. Integral theory was woefully inadequate in its analysis during the last economic downturn. Neo-liberal fantasias. But all of that is blood under the bridge. What happens next?

So I agree with the author that too much logic and not enough vision is probably a big problem in Integral studies. The developmental models emphasized in this essay look like transitional objects to me, emerging out of already hardened categories, defended by elaborate amounts of words signifying nothing. Sort of like the security blanket the little kid drags along . High intellectual play can be a form of cognitive constipation seriously out of touch with those who are scrambling around in the street, in real time.

I would add that Vision that is primarily grounded in the visual system will not go very far. Proprioception and kinesthetic intelligence are required for adequate translations of perhaps paraconsistant logics into contact with other sensoriums. This is perceptual rather than perspectival and probably takes some re-training to register the difference. I recall that many in Wilber world claimed that perspective organized the perceptual but I just registed a lot of talking heads. The Wilberians were as a group no where near their bodies. They seemed to assume, as the author points out, that we need to move onto second tier ( more and grander abstractions) and we can then from third tier look down on everybody and win the grand prize.

Gebser’s higher octave of the Integral doesn’t need a second or third tier of observers. What is needed is actors and dancers and performers who can get on stage and tune into the audience and make a show work. This is not about having a system in place, it is about an effective performance. It is improvised and scripted and each man and woman plays many parts and guided by discipline flow, a capacity for sharing attention.

I believe a careful review of the maps generated by our group in past cafes can give us a sense of our movement, our affective shifts, our group’s proprioceptiveness as we are engaged as participant-observers rather than as members of a neo liberal regime forced to watch the show from the third tier as most of the Wilberians of my acquaintance were most at home.

So I imagine we who are about to die have learned a lot and that an Alter-Integral could arise that is symbiotic- poetic and enjoys the paradox and the mess and the quick sketch on the back of a napkin can be generative in ways that a pie chart cannot. We are in perpetual motion, and as we contact a deeper time, we are getting a brief glimpse perhaps beyond construct-aware.


This is a great reminder, John. (I agree with your other points too, especially regarding the failure of integral theory to deal with the ‘facts on the ground’ socio-economically. Metamodern perspectives, from what I’ve seen, are more so attuned.)

That sounds right to me, one being a novel image-metaphor which helps to rethink assumptions, and the other a constitutive feature of actual language. Perhaps the geometries we’ve been discussing refer better to the shapes that conciousness creates, rather than shapes that create consciousness…if that makes sense.


In our last Cosmos Cafe, we discussed briefly the nature of paradox and I mentioned the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’. Lisa mentioned four valued logics. I post this segment of a long conversation with Graham Priest on this very puzzling topic. There may be a crack in the grammatical mirror. There is nothing , as Hamlet says, that is good or bad but thinking makes it so.


This struck me like a bell. But then I wondered more exactly what you would say “the Other” is, since you’ve structured your sentence to oppose “conscious aspects” and Other. Whereas I would have felt them to be unapposed at the deepest level(s)??
I am fascinated by every paragraph of this comment of yours, AND not clear about what you are commenting on. I will keep reading around on this site and see if I can find out.
Your analysis of the weaknesses (hyper-strengths?) of Wilburianism seems inspired… I admit that might be because it’s my own experience exactly. I listened to Wilbur via audio more than print-read him, and one of the last things I “heard” from him was a teaching session with students wherein he merrily describes predictions of friendly mergings with AI and the usual blah blah on that score, almost neo-Kurtzweil. :slight_smile: I turned out permanantly. The one thing that might help is if he spoke honestly about his physical illness, his experience of it, how he lives with it. I have a very similar illness, and it’s always struck me as terribly sad, the way he withholds “his body” and stubbornly gives us only his brilliant lonely mind, sorting through (once again) its award-winning algorithms.
Embodied philosophy, yes! Living metaphor!
I find myself wanting to quote every paragraph here of yours… and try to respond. Can’t, so
I’ll just say thank you. Not only for what you are saying but for the timing of it being said —feels rather like


Amazing! Could you say a bit about why you chose the name Ariadne Emerging?

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