Jean Gebser: Fundamental Considerations

I was looking online for the short first chapter of Jean Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin and found it. Entitled “Fundamental Considerations“, it is worth a read for those who are not yet familiar with Gebser’s work.  As you may have already observed here, I have a lot of time for Gebser.

While I was searching it out, I also came across this YouTube presentation by John David Ebert on Gebser’s work.  Ebert has prepared a 20 part audio-visual series on Gebser’s Ever-Present Origin but only the first 3 are public, while the remainder are apparently behind a pay-wall (but which even for pay isn’t available from my location — or so Google tells me).

If you do spend the 40 minutes or so listening to Ebert’s presentation on Gebser’s consciousness structures (it would be profitable to read “Fundamental Considerations” beforehand) and their clashes and mutations throughout history (as well as Gebser’s conviction that we are presently undergoing another such mutation) it may be useful to recall during Ebert’s presentation some of the period illustrations I have inserted into a few of the posts in the Chrysalis on perspectivist consciousness (mental-rational structure) to highlight Ebert’s delivery on Gebser’s thesis. These illustrations will at times provide cogent visual evidence for Ebert’s presentation of Gebser’s fundamental ideas.

The illustrations below are inserted in no particular order, but may be seen to be relevant at certain points of Ebert’s presentation on the mental-rational (perspectivist) structure of consciousness. I’ve added a few words to each by way of clarification. Those who have not read my short history of perspectivism, which includes many symbol illustrations, as the form or shape of the Modern Mind and the Age of Reason — i.e. perspectivism as a specific ego-centric consciousness structure, space-obsessed, eye-dominant, analytical — might find reading that post also worthwhile in conjunction with Ebert’s lecture.  It was posted under the title “William Blake: The Cistern and the Fountain“.

Metaphysical Dualism Illustrated by Rene Descartes

Metaphysical Dualism Illustrated by Rene Descartes

Rene Descartes’ illustration of how his metaphysical dualism works highlights the eye-dominance of the res cogitans or “thinking thing” and the pyramid or cone of perspective consciousness.

Jacob Boehme

Jacob Boehme

The German mystic Jacob Boehme’s rich illustration of his vision and the ascent or transcendence of the spirit (the dove) from the ouroboric condition, pertinent when Ebert/Gebser speak of man’s “leaving the cave” or the concentric universe.

ouroboros.jpgThe ouroboros — the basic symbol of the pagan or pre-Christian world as the structure of its own consciousness, quite in constrast to the pyramid structure of perspectivist consciousness characteristic of the Enlightenment or Age of Reason.

Urbi et Orbi

Urbi et Orbi

The famous woodcut Urbi et Orbi. The womb-like character of the pre-modern world/consciousness contrasted with the Copernican cosmos. Here “man” is shown as if leaving the womb/cave/cavern — leaving the mythical consciousness structure for the emergent mental-rational and the machine world of the Clockwork Universe, transiting from the Age of Faith to the Age of Reason, from the Medieval to the Modern consciousness.

Albrecht Dürer: Melencolia

Albrecht Dürer: Melencolia

Albrecht Dürer’s Melencholia projects something of the same unsettled mood of transition as the Flammarion woodcut Urbi et Orbi. Here the symbols of the mythical consciousness co-exist with the images and symbols of the emerging mental-rational — geometric, mathematical.  Melancholy or depression, also called “the black bile,” was epidemic during the Renaissance period.

Albrecht Durer the GridAlbrecht Dürer’s illustration of his “grid” for training the perspectivist eye to see and draw perspectivally. It was very widely copied and used during the Renaissance.  Space is analysed into sectors or atomised into a gridwork pattern, which has become the basic structure of our cities, too. Dürer made a number of illustrations on perspectivism, which you can view here, It represents the intellect’s bold determination to command and achieve mastery of space by analysis.  This perspective space is also called “Cartesian”, “Galilean”, or “ideal space”.

It may help to keep these images in mind as you listen to Ebert’s presentation of Gebser’s structures of consciousness.




2 responses to “Jean Gebser: Fundamental Considerations”

  1. LittleBigMan says :

    Wonderful and fascinating accumulation of symbols and ideas.

    Albrecht Dürer’s work is new to me, but those other illustrations often drift in and out of my mind as I try to understand things. These are some of my most favorite images.

    In the second video, right about minute 2:30?, I think, I find myself at odds with his assessment that one form of consciousness is “superior” to the other just because the members of a particular consciousness have been able to win battles against members of other forms of consciousness (the Aztecs versus the Spaniards). Winning truly isn’t everything. Righteous action is paramount – methinks – as the universe, in its infinite wisdom, understands the relations of power, and that the outcomes are a poor indicator of righteous energy. And righteous energy seems to be the path to integral consciousness.

    Gebser’s own term, which considers any single form of consciousness “deficient,” seems a very accurate and apt way of stating how different consciousness structures relate to each other.

    The Vietcong, in my opinion, were less rational than the American war apparatus, but in the end, they won against an army well equipped with the products of the mental-rational consciousness. Christ, who, as I understand it, was an epitome of integral consciousness, lost his life to the pagan Romans who subscribed to the (mythical?) consciousness.

    In general, it seems to me, that the most valuable contribution of the ego-consciousness to the development of consciousness is the training and meditation it requires to escape it. The integral consciousness can benefit greatly from the ability to focus and handle thought, feelings, and energy.

    • LittleBigMan says :

      Sorry…I meant to say “Righteous action seems to be the path to integral consciousness.”

      At least, it seems to be one effective path to it.

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