Integral Consciousness and the New Ethos
One of the things that market researchers have noted (if it really needed market research to reveal at all) is that for many people presently, ecological values, social values, and spiritual values are conjoined, and not segmented and sectoralised in the mind. This is, in effect, the incipient mode of the new integralist consciousness structure, and it presents quite a challenge to the continuance of consumer capitalism. Altogether, then, we can say that these are the aspects of a new ethos in the making.
It should be quite apparent, in those terms, that these three have some connection with the historical “milieus” of nature, society, and technics that Richard Stivers (borrowing from Jacques Ellul) arranges as the structure of history, and that these, in turn, have some connection with Gebser’s structures of consciousness, in the form of the magical, the mythical, and the mental. What is not represented here, though, is the archaic consciousness. And that’s simply because it cannot be represented, only experienced, and it is, moreover, from the archaic that these other forms of consciousness structure have emerged. The archaic, being “wholeness”, can only be symbolised, but it is evidently the implict or assumed factor that “underlies” the new ethos in its tripartite expression — as ecology, society, and spirituality. Or, we may say really that ecology, society, and psychology, anchored as they are in the archaic, altogether form “the spiritual”, or integral consciousness in the sense that these four historical forms or milieus, considered as structures of consciousness, are represented in our intuitive aperception that human beings are fourfold creatures of mind, body, soul, and spirit.
In those terms, then, it is clear why the conjunction of the ecological and social and spiritual already points to an early or incipient realisation or manifestation of the integral consciousness structure. It is, in a manner of speaking, akin to a great alignment of the planets.
But… as Gebser warned, this integration could be abortive, for various reasons. Recognition serves to strengthen and fortify it, but this potential for it to be abortive is one of the reasons I’m quite concerned about this proposed next, new thing I’ve called “Capitalism 3.0” and the whole idea of “spiritual marketing” or “holistic branding”.
This conjunction of the ecological, the societal, and the psychological, altogether as “the spiritual”, is indeed the foundation of the “New Age” that is presently only vaguely discernible, although William Blake foresaw it already in his time and probably deserves to be called the first prophet of the New Age. The four domains were already known to him through his “fourfold vision” and represented in the mythology of his “four Zoas” — their division, struggles, and ultimate reconciliation in the integral human form named “Albion”.
(In fact, in “virtual reality” lies a potentially useful application for enacting, and reaching an awareness of the Hermetic philosophy or alchemy of the “fourfold vision” itself. Of course, it would take an Hermeticist or alchemist to realise the usefulness of virtual reality as midwifery in that way).
In saying this, though, I might be anticipating what Daniel Kealey has written in his Gebser-influenced book Revisioning Environmental Ethics. I can’t say as yet, as my copy hasn’t arrived. (Actually, my first order did, but I gave it away the same day to an environmental activist friend on his birthday, and had to reorder another copy).
Ecological values, societal values, and psychological values aren’t three things, but aspects of one. They correspond, though, to the awakening of an inner wisdom that has too long lain dormant… even from the time, as Blake put it, “when the soul slept in beams of light” — the Sleep of Oblivion (and in no other terms does “Oblivion” exist. Awakening and a-waring is Genesis).
If you have doubts about Gebser’s anticipation of a new “mutation” of consciousness — a new structure called “integral” or holistic — just observe and reflect on this Grand Conjunction of the ecological, the social, and the psychological or spiritual. For it is in such terms that the “eruption of unconscious knowledge”, as Seth puts it, is occurring in our midst today, and, like all birth, it isn’t born without struggle — both inward and outward.