I’ve been thinking about our first Winter of Origins Hangout, and with many of us coming from the integral, spiritual, and transpersonal psychology communities – especially Wilber – I felt it would be appropriate to be transparent myself about my own thoughts considering Integral Theory and KW. This quote, took from William Irwin Thompson’s Coming Into Being, distinguishes Wilber from Gebser as two entirely different worlds but also does a good job introducing Gebser for the new reader.
I realize I’m cauterizing some wounds here, via this quote, but it felt wrong to go into Week 2 without proper context. Coming from an Integral Theory background, as some of us might, we may be tempted to aggregate Gebser or look to his writings to affirm KW and later works, but as this quote decidedly expresses, and as I also feel, it is best to cut down to the root and let something new grow.
Gebser is not Wilber, and, arguably, returning to Gebser clears the space for new scholarship.
But what are your thoughts? Read on. Let me know.
From William Irwin Thompson’s Coming into Being: Artifacts and Texts in the Evolution of Consciousness. pg. 12 – 14. Bold highlights are mine.
"There is another genius who wrote on the evolution of consciousness who can be of use here to help us understand our contemporary predicament as a choice between evolution and dissolution: the German turned Swiss cultural historian Jean Gebser. A refugee from Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s Germany, Gebser was a brilliantly intuitive intellectual mystic with a profound understanding of poetry and art. Right in the middle of the rise of Fascism in the 1930s and the descent of Europe into the Second World War, he had an intellectual vision of the evolution of consciousness that anticipated and excelled the whole New Age and the new paradigm thinking of the 1970s. Gebser was a friend of Frederico Garcia Lorca and Pablo Picasso, and his understanding of culture is based upon a deep feeling for specific works of poetry and art. But his high cultural European approach to the evolution of consciousness makes it difficult for Americans to appreciate his work. We have so replaced culture with psychology, psychotherapy, and simplistic workshops on how to fix the depressive flats of our lives that we prefer the compulsive mappings and textbook categorizations of Ken Wilber to the poetic insights of Jean Gebser. Wilber seeks to control the universe through mapping, and the dominant masculinist purpose of his abstract system is to shift power from the described to the describer. As an autodidact from the Midwest, Wilber wants to promote himself as “the Einstein of the consciousness movement” and so he is announcing a trilogy of thousand page tomes that will explain everything once and for all. This form of scholarship is really a mode of psychic inflation and self-magnification; it is a grand pyramid of systems of abstract thought, piled on other systems of abstract thought, with Wilber’s kept for the top. Never does one come upon a feeling for the concrete, a new look at an individual poem, a painting, or a work of architecture. Gebser, in contrast to Wilber, is the genuine article, a grand European thinker with a grand vision, but one who comes upon his general insights through a loving attention for particulars: through an understanding of the role of adjectives in the poetry of Rilke, the resurgence of a prehistoric matriarchy in the surrealistic line drawings of Garcia Lorca, the meaning of an ancient Chinese mask that has no mouth, or the social significance of the lack of perspective in the paintings of Picasso…
…Gebser’s narrative is one of structural transformations of consciousness, a Bewustwerdung prozess…
…Gebser’s five structural mutations of consciousness should not be read as static stages of levels in a linear progression; they are processual transformations. His Eurocentrism derives not from any imperial contempt for other cultures but from the fact that he was a political refugee with severely limited funds trying to flesh out his intuitive insights with the books that were at hand as he worked in the center of Europe, in Bern. Like McLuhan, Gebser holds out a visionary possibility for a transformation of consciousness in which the degenerative returns to the magical and the deficient efforts to recover the mythical are overcome in the quantum leap to the integral. In trying to understand this new level of global consciousness, Gebser became interested in the Zen philosophy articulated by D.T. Suzuki and the integral yoga of the Indian evolutionary philosopher Sri Aurobindo."