Introductions Thread: Origins, Beginnings, Becomings

Hey friends,

Here it goes; our first book read, out of beta, for #litgeeks. I’m glad that it’s Ever-Present Origin, As noted, at around 500 pages this is no easy read and certainly fits under the category of an “unusually hardcore” book.

More than that, though, is the exciting and strange convergence of all of us together here. In this digital space. I know some of you personally, others are new faces (or avatars), still others are here from previous litgeeks reads like The Dispossessed and Infinite Jest.

I don’t know if Jean Gebser, a poet, cultural philosopher, and phenomenologist of consciousness, has ever been read collectively and intentionally across the world like this before.

The fun thing is, this isn’t a classroom. The litgeeks team is curating, but not assigning. The reading schedule is a rough guideline. You can go at your own pace. Our live Hangouts are free to attend by everyone (whether you’ve read up to the suggested page or not) and since we’re dealing in non-fiction, there’s no danger of spoilers.

Anyways, I digress from my introduction! I’ll keep it short, as you can hear more about my own origin story in the podcast that Marco Morelli and I recorded to talk about Gebser, the book club, and reading as a form of social poetics.

I came to Gebser through two sources; Ken Wilber and Daniel Pinchbeck. I was reading Wilber in undergrad as a sociology major at Fordham in Manhattan. Wilber is, succinctly, a “grand synthesizer” and has written quite a few volumes on the evolution of consciousness, science and spirituality, and what he’s dubbed “Integral Theory.” Some of the fundamentals of his thinking were adopted from Jean Gebser. This peaked my interest.

Pinchbeck, on the other hand, wrote a book called 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl which helped to spur on the eschatological thrust in the mid-2000s and ignited the counter-culture to talk about social transformation. Quintessential to the text was the author’s curiosity about time in a moment of cultural transition. Significant sections of the book referenced Gebser, who, as we’ll see, emphasizes the importance of time in his philosophy.

What else? Well, I went on to get my graduate degree in Consciousness Studies (via Goddard), and become involved with the Jean Gebser Society. I helped put on a conference in Manhattan in 2014, “Crisis and Mutation” and am currently serving as the society’s president.

I’m really interested in revisiting Gebser, now, because he wrote about prescience. Time. Chronos. How the future and the past are all wrapped up in the present, and how to live that way. I’m curious about his applicability today, perhaps equally so because he is not just an origin of my own thinking or certain intellectual schools of thought, but just as much a starting point for the present. Gebser wrote about seeing through things to their spiritual origin and a transparent world; I’m interested in seeing how that speaks to us today, this year, in the age of “open source” philosophy and the systemic crisis we’re in, presently.

Some of you will be coming to Gebser for the first time, others will be revisiting, but I’m excited to hear from all of you about what the text might bring to you and to our time. Careful examinations of media, texts, and artistic expressions down through the ages trains the mind to think in new ways – I wonder what new insights we might bring to our current media and cultural consciousness, the poetics of our time?

What do you say? What brings you here?

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Thanks to Jeremy and Marco for the great podcast. I read Gebser in the 90’s as I worked at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in NYC, during a period of great stress. I was leading self help support groups for PWAs and was teaching Reiki ,meditation, NLP, hypnosis-you name it- I tried it out. I was reading everything I could get my hands and every healing modality and it was a stimulating and heart breaking time in my life. I often found myself doing hands on healing in hospital settings and having the weirdest experiences. I was well aware of the conflicts of interest between different models, the dominant medical model was impoverished, the New Age cults were embarrassing and I was in the in between having too much fun playing with all these maps and not knowing what was going on really. I was flying by the seat of my pants. During these intense exchanges of energy/ information between clients, friends and encounters with daemonic forces of all kinds I had some rather stressful experiences dealing with the flow of these energies and found little guidance really from traditional ways of holding these psychic experiences. I had read a lot of Jung and the new physics and was an active lucid dreamer, etc. and so needed a big picture to relieve the imbalance in my culture and in my right and left hemisphere. I became hungry for models and so Wilber was a good way to start. I delved into all of his books and came across Georg Feuerstein’s book on Gebser and so I finally found a copy of Ever Present Origin at the Strand Bookstore in NYC and read the first half and skipped around the rest of it. At that time I had little exposure to Rilke but now that I have read lots of Rilke I feel it is time to go deeper and return to the big text again. It has not been easy to find a competent community of scholars to delve deep into the mutations of consciousness so it is a great pleasure to have the chance to participate in this forum. I enjoyed the Gebser conference on line and have found lots of books to support this Integral Adventure. As a former actor and writer I enjoy especially the aesthetics of relationship and am most attracted to what a metaphor Gebser uses. The Integral, Gebser says, is the higher octave of the Magical and Mythical. As we are still contaminated by the mental deficient we may find inspiration in this work to disentangle from that domination and find a new and improved action plan!

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When you mention the past and future wrapped up in the present, I think of the work of Phillip K. Dick, particularly his later books. I think he fell into this a bit accidentally and stumbled trying to make any sense of it. That reinforces my sense that it is not just you or me seeing this, but rather this starting to come into form in our world. We are the first stars becoming visible at twilight or the first wisps of mold forming on the boiled soybeans that will turn into tempeh, depending on whether you need to be exalted today or grounded.

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Greetings all,

I was introduced to #LitGeek by my good friend Natalie who also, as it happens, originally pointed me to the works of Ken Wilber where I first encountered mention of Jean Gebser. This was while I was in high school and absorbing all I was able to from every thinker and philosopher whose books I could grab, from Ayn Rand to the Dalai Lama and many others in between. Wilber’s developmental stages were not the first I had encountered, I had previously seen a very similar model in “Prometheus Rising” by Robert Anton Wilson, whose work is situated somewhere between consciousness research and stand-up comedy. The whole idea of changes in consciousness propelling changes in social forms and conversely changes in society affecting changes in individual consciousness made perfect sense to me. As did the idea that this change was all progressing somewhere, to something greater and better than where we are. I’ve been thinking about and struggling with the (sometimes very unsettling) problems of these and related models in the roughly six years since, while always trying to keep in mind Krozybski’s dictum that “the map is not the territory.”

That being said, I am very interested in studying Gebser’s work for the first time, in a way the “origin” of RAW’s and Wilber’s models. I want to thank Marco and Jeremy for the podcast, their discussion really got me into the mood to delve into “The Ever-Present Origin”. Wishing everyone happy readings and fruitful conversation!

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Hello all,

Very excited for this big experiment.

I’ve never read Gebser, Wilbur, or (to me most embarrassingly) Rilke. I found litgeeks through the DFW listserve, which I joined after devouring Infinite Jest. I’m more or less here to learn all that I can. I’m also working on a novel, which I mention because a lot of my thinking at present is bound up in its various conceits and I’m anticipating that The Ever-Present Origin may challenge them.

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Thanks for the great introduction. Your story sounds almost like a mythic quest. I’ve delved into healing modalities myself. Looking forward to your contributions.

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Glad you’re here, Ray. I introduced you to Wilber, but it was Jeremy who introduced me to him, so in essence @jeremy is your Wilber…grandpa? I’m sure you and he will have some fruitful discussions.

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John, thank you for sharing your story. What a way to come to Gebser (let alone, Wilber). I think what you said here about revisiting Gebser to “disentangle” from the domination of the deficient mental is right on. I’ve always appreciated the metaphor of a “higher octave” – reminds me a bit of what Kripal is driving at.

Good to have you here. Looking forward to delving deeper with you.

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Hey Philip! EPO is certainly one way to take that leap into philosophy! I’m a kindred spirit in that I mostly read science fiction, though I am lately pretty un-read with the latest stuff. Wouldn’t know where to start. Clarke, Robinson, P.K.D. and Le Guin are some my inspirations!

Glad that you’re joining us here. Will be interesting to hear from you, a couple of weeks in!

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Hey Kevin!

Great to hear we have a novelist on board! Will be curious to hear how reading Gebser influences (or not!) your writing.

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Hey Raymond! Welcome. Glad you’re joining us, and long time no see! Will be great to hear your thoughts on Gebser’s approach to this whole evolutionary worldview (which he is admittedly rather critical of and shares some of your same concerns).

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Hey Jessica! Yes, I immediately think of Philip K. Dick when pouring over Gebser’s passages on time. I do think there is a connection here that’s worth investigating and writing about. Philip K. Dick discovered in his art what Gebser was finding through Rilke, albeit in the aesthetic of 1970s science fiction and his own religious experiences.

Love what you write here:

“it is not just you or me seeing this, but rather this starting to come into form in our world.”

I think this is exactly what Gebser was trying to do when writing EPO, to try and articulate whatever was “starting to come into form”, what was in other words “latent” in our world.

Glad to have you on board with us here!

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Hey guys,

I’m Natalie. I’m a fellow “admin” here at #LitGeeks and I’ll be helping to facilitate. If you need any help with the site, want to get in touch with the team about contributing something (use your imagination on the definition of “contribution”), need a hug, etc, get in contact with me. You can reach me on here or shoot me an email at natalie@infiniteconversations.com.

It’s true I introduced @Raymond to Wilber, but to be honest I’ve read very little of him, and I enjoy the irrational, imaginal, fantastical far more than models for helping you think. Still, I see the use of them in that sense, and I’m looking forward to getting a better understanding of Integral thought by reading EPO along with all of you. Jeremy has talked about how Gebser has more of a poetic, numinous style than Wilber, so maybe his writing will be more appealing to me.

I have a background in Anthropology, Religious Studies, Folklore, and East Asian studies. I was on an archaeology dig once. I write poetry sometimes too. I’m a big softie and I love animals and children. I enjoy long walks on the beach and studying Utopic visions of North Korea through Juche-oriented propaganda cinema. Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite kind of cookie–the classic.

See you all in between the lines.

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Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite kind of cookie–the classic

Yes, but crunchy or soft baked?

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Also, have you perchance ever read Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles?

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Soft, but I’ll be good with crunchy as long as they’re homemade.

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Infinite Jest started this whole book club adventure for me. In 2013, I organized a “Summer of Jest” (similar to the “Infinite Summer” a few years earlier, just after Wallace’s suicide). It was a big experiment for me:

  1. to see if I could meet some new interesting people to hang out with and talk to (I was lonely and starved for artsy friends and connections); and
  2. to see if a bunch of people would even be willing to read a long, difficult literary work of art together. Could I even get them to do such a thing, which I think runs completely counter to social trends with our new media.

It was an amazing experience. More alive and meaningful and successful than I had dared to imagine possible. But I didn’t know exactly how to continue or repeat the experience, or rather, let it grow and evolve and mature into something that could last longer than a single summer and go deeper into areas we only briefly touched on as a fellowship of readers during that time.

Long story short, toward the end of the Infinite Jest experiment, the idea for A Theory of Everybody (and, of course, Infinite Conversations) was born. (How this occurred is an interesting story unto itself, which I’ll save for another context.) I’ve been working on it ever since, and now, two-and-a-half years later, it’s finally launched. It’s a pretty amazing moment for me, as you can image. And it’s still just a beginning :slight_smile:

@kevboh, I’m really glad to see another Wallace reader in the mix. The Ever-Present Origin is very, very different book from Infinite Jest, as you’ll discover (well, nothing quite compares to Infinite Jest). I hope you’ll give it a chance and see what comes of it. I’d love to hear more about your novel sometime, too.

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Hello everybody!

I was delighted when this book club invitation appeared on my facebook feed, as I first heard of Jean Gebser’s work about 10 years ago, while I was devouring everything I could find by Ken Wilber during my early undergrad days. After getting through most of Ken Wilber’s published writings at the time, I started to read texts off his works cited pages, and always intended to read Ever-Present Origin but some how never managed to. It is wonderful to have a chance to read EPO in a community such as this.

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Hi, I listened to Marco’s and Jeremy’s interview. And, how to disentangle Gebser from Wilber? I’ll try. I read excerpts from EPO in David Zeitler’s Cultural Development class at JFKU. But wait, I read him along with Up From Eden, so my Gebser might be Integraled beyond repair. Let’s see.

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