The Itself, the Diaphainon, and the Vital Centre

When any movement tends to the extremes it leads away from the center or nucleus toward eventual destruction at the outer limits where the connections to the life-giving center finally are severed. It would seem that today the connections are already broken, for it is increasingly evident that the individual is being driven into isolation while the collective degenerates into mere aggregation. These two conditions, isolation and aggregation, are in fact clear indications that individualism and collectivism have now become deficient.

Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin, p. 3 (Opening chapter on “Fundamental Considerations”)

This is one of the key passages in Jean Gebser’s magnum opus entitled The Ever-Present Origin. It’s a concise and precise diagnosis of our present spiritual malaise, if not mass psychosis. In other places, Gebser describes this condition as “distantiation from the vital center”, a condition of maximum estrangement from life that is described also in terms like alienation or anomie, or what Max Weber also referred to as the “disenchantment of the world”. A Buddhist would call this state “samsara“, which Blake calls, in his terms, “Ulro”. Simply, for Gebser, if this “distantiation” is the essential problem, the corrective for this is what he calls “presentiation”, which, for those of a Christian bent, would correspond to that state called “the presence of the kingdom” where the connection to the vital centre is restored. This is the essential meaning of the word “religion”, in fact — re-ligio means to “re-connect” or “return to the Source”.

Those unfamiliar with Gebser’s work may be perplexed by what these words mean: “the Itself”, “the diaphainon” or even what Gebser means by “the vital center”. Gebser actually experienced these as immediate spiritual realities in his own life, and not as speculative or a mere intellectual metaphysics of being. These are important terms, though, for appreciating what Gebser means by “presentiation” as a corrective to our present civilisational malaise and alienation from life. The present situation as described by Gebser was, of course, the theme likewise of W.B. Yeats’ ominous poem “The Second Coming“, with it’s opening verse

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

This is our present situation, sometimes referred to as the Kaliyuga. Much that, today, is described as “New Age Spirituality” belongs to the sickness of the Kaliyuga, and not to its rectification, an aberration sometimes described as “spiritual materialism”.

To appreciate what Gebser means, fully, by “presentiation” as the corrective for this aberrant state, we need to understand what he means by “the Itself”, “the diaphainon” and “the vital centre” or actually “vitality” itself, which is energy — the energy which, in psychological terms — is sometimes referred to as “libido”. Vitality is the sense of being fully alive, the essence of the energetic being.

We know, today, that everything is ultimately energy — a singular field of energy that through some mysterious process becomes differentiated. This is the necessary implication of what is called “collapse of the wave function”. What energy is, in itself, we don’t really know. We only know it through its effects, its works. Energy is defined as “the capacity to perform work”, or to act. The New Science (Quantum Field Theory) now recognises the energetic field, and not matter itself, as the ultimate reality. Matter is secondary effect or phenomena. Physical reality ultimately is rooted in this singular energetic reality. The physicist David Bohm called this “the Infinite Potential” or “undivided wholeness in flowing movement” or “the holomovement” in which every “thing”, as such, is connected with everything else through this underlying unitary field, as described in his book Wholeness and the Implicate Order).

This is what Gebser refers to as “the Itself”. Other traditions may call it the “Universal One” or “Oneness” or the “Tao” or even “Non-Being”, for as Bohm’s “Infinite Potential” it is, in itself, non-differentiated. Buddhism calls it the “unoriginated origin”, and is the meaning of “Ultimate Truth” as compared to the “Relative Truth”. It may also be called “Nothingness”, and was the original meaning of Greek “Kaos“, from which all things were born. Gebser associates this condition with what he calls the “archaic consciousness” — a state of maximum latency similar to a deep dreamless sleep. For William Blake, it was a state where “the Soul slept in Beams of Light”.

For Gebser, then, “the Itself” is this singular energetic field, infinite in scope and potential, identical with what he calls “the ever-present origin”. Being itself both timelessness and spacelessness (for it is the source of time and space) it corresponds to the eternal and the infinite, and is therefore called “the unoriginated origin”.

The “diaphainon” is the individuated aspect of the Itself, and is, for Gebser, the “vital centre” of that structure of consciousness that he calls “the integral”. The metaphor to describe this is the hologramme. This is the paradox of what we call “Self”. What Gebser calls “the diaphainon” is sometimes referred to as “the You of you“. Although you might call it “soul”, I don’t recall that Gebser actually uses that term for the diaphainon. A corresponding term for the diaphainon might be “Atman” or William Blake’s “Albion”.

This diaphainon is the “living centre” — the inner vitality. It is the core of Gebser’s “integral consciousness” and thus would be coincident with the centre of a mandala like structure, or with the radiant centre of Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”, as discussed earlier. Its effective realisation or manifestation is what makes “diaphaneity” or “the transparency of the world” possible to the integral consciousness. Sometimes this is referred to as the scales falling from our eyes or what Blake calls opening “the doors of perception”. “Purify your eyes and see the pure world”, as Rumi put it. Buddhism would describe it as dispelling “the veil of Maya“.

“Presentiation” is, then, the self-realisation or manifestation of the diaphainon, which participates in the reality of “the Itself”. It is the energetic entity that is synonymous with the vitality or the vital centre. When some speak of the experience of “the Eternal Now”, this is a reference to the diaphainon. Gebser is convinced that the various crises of the contemporary world as an overture and prelude to the emergence of the diaphainon. And because the diaphainon is attuned to the Whole rather than the part or partial, it is the basis for “aperspectival” consciousness. An early indication of this is also Dr. McGilchrist’s book The Master and His Emissary, but also in others we have discussed in The Chrysalis such as David Bohm, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, William Blake, Aurobindo, Carl Jung as well as many others who appear to be the early forerunners and pioneers of the new aperspectival – integral consciousness, and the self-realisation of the “diaphainon“.

(I believe that, in Castaneda’s books, this same diaphainon is referred to as “the totality of oneself” and also as the condition for “total freedom”).

While “the Itself” is all-encompassing, often described as “the All-in-all”, the diaphainon is its particular manifestation within the individual. In those terms, the authentic individuation process is also a divination process which, in Hermetic terms, is the transmutation of lead into gold.

Of course, the old adage and cautionary principle that “all that glitters is not gold” applies here, especially these days.

Gebser speaks of an “intensification” of consciousness and awareness rather than an “expansion”. This intensification is the activation of the core vitality. Jung often addresses this himself, as the reclamation of vital energy locked up in the Shadow, so it seems inevitable that one has to deal with the Shadow on the way to the diaphainon.


22 responses to “The Itself, the Diaphainon, and the Vital Centre”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Thought I would remind again of John Wren Lewis’s marvelous essay on “The Dazzling Dark”, as relevant here to what Gebser calls “the Itself” and the “diaphainon”. Wren, who had a near death experience, calls it rather “eternity consciousness”, which is clearly equivalent to Gebser’s “time freedom” of the aperspectival mode of consciousness.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Speaking of John Wren-Lewis, I see he managed to finish his book (or booklet) before he died. “Lotus Feet of Clay: A Reluctant Mystic Looks at Spiritual Movements”. Not sure, though, whether it expands much further on what is already in his essay.

    • Scott Preston says :

      I might mention, in regards to Wren-Lewis’s own observations about his NDE and his criticism of “spiritual movements”, is that what he (and Bolte-Taylor) experienced is equivalent to what, in Castaneda, don Juan refers to as “surrender to the infinite”, essentially what Zen calls “letting go”. That is the key here, just “letting go”, and so this is the paradox of “the Method of No-Method”. There is no technique or method to realisation. Yet this “letting go” seems to be quite difficult.

      • Steve says :

        There is a book by a wonderful Zen man, Hubert Benoit, called,” Let Go : Theory and Practice of Detachment according to Zen.” He offers a technique for the process of letting go but later said it was B.S. I however found it quite instructive.

  2. Scott Preston says :

    Finally getting around to reading Richard Bucke’s *Cosmic Consciousness*. Bucke, I believe, was the first to use the term “cosmic consciousness”. The book was published The book was first published in 1901. I’ve been toting it around for years, unread until now.

    Despite some archaic, Victorian era language, this seems a quite remarkable book, for it seems Bucke anticipated both Aurobindo and Gebser by decades in anticipating a new emergent consciousness structure. His schema for the evolution of consciousness also shows marked parallels with Gebser’s later one . Bucke writes about “perceptual”, “receptual”, and “conceptual” modes and forms of consciousness, which seems to correspond to Gebser’s own magical, mythical, and mental-rational modes and structures.

    Bucke himself (a psychiatrist by profession) seems to have had his own satori experience quite akin to Gebser’s.

    For example, he speaks of he new emerging consciousness as “supra conceptual” or as “intuitive”, which clearly points equally to Aurobindo’s “supramental consciousness” or Gebser’s “arational” or integral consciousness, so their insights into the new consciousness are quite similar.

    I’m not very far into his book, as yet. But I may write up a commentary on it in the future.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Might mention here, too, that Bucke has a fourfold model of the human evolutionary form quite akin to Blake, Aurobindo, Jung, Gebser, and Rosenstock-Huessy. The four articulations of consciousness according to Bucke are the “perceptual consciousness”, the “receptual consciousness”, the “conceptual consciousness” and the prospective “supra conceptual” or “intuitive” consciousness — the latter clearly Blake’s “Albion”, Gebser’s “arational – aperspectival” consciousness, and Aurobindo’s “Supramental consciousness”.

      This recurrence of the tetradic pattern is the most striking thing about the new consciousness structure. — the emergent “Tetramorph” that Gebser calls “the diaphainon”.

    • TheOakofNormal says :

      If I remember right, there were no women in it, good read though. I’ve always had a problem with the whole Cosmic Consciousness term as that takes us farther away from the Earth when those folks to me seemed to be having a “Deep Earth” experience. I’ve been a keen studier of peak experiences the last ten years, really into it, Colin Wilson wrote some great stuff on it. His Christmas analogy on it is brilliant. The whole we carry around spacetime like a turtle carries its shell seems to apply here as well as the term Cosmic wouldn’t make sense in that frame of mind. I like that there’s different language simmering that would ground it in the ordinary and be more accessible.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          [T]here were no women in it…. [T]he term Cosmic wouldn’t make sense in that frame of mind

          I should think it would make perfect sense were not so many of us inclined to allow the prevailing scientific paradigm to define the meaning of the word for us. To my mind, if the author is utilizing the term, Cosmic, in reference to “integral” consciousness, he has the feminine aspect as firmly in mind as the masculine.

          Personally, I’ve always thought of “integral consciousness” as something we’re attuned to as opposed to aligned with (in the paradoxical sense) and, so, language that that reflects sound, vibration, harmony, dissonance, etc. resonates very strongly with me. In fact, it’s music to my ears, and I very much appreciate authors such as Rosenstock-Huessy who, while he may or may not have overdone it, recognize “tones of the spirit.”

          We hear a lot these days about speech. Rarely do we hear about tone of voice. And when it comes to the prevailing paradigm, I’m mostly thinking to myself, “If you expect me to listen, don’t you dare take that tone of voice with me.”

          Who knows? Perhaps that’s because I’m female. R-E-S-P-E-C-T and all that. Imagine if the Earth herself were saying that right about now.

          • TheOakofNormal says :

            I liked when Scott posted before on diaphaneity and its relation to soundscape. Like there’s a deep connection between inner seeing and outward sound/vibration/frequency “integral” to the emergence of new modes of thinking/feeling. Or old ancient modes, much if this seems like the oldest is new again, but I guess that’s inherent in even the term Ever Present Origin.

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I like that there’s different language simmering that would ground it in the ordinary and be more accessible.

        In this moment of history its downright dangerous to glom onto particular scripts & trendy vocab; they signal & divide. The more eccentric the communication, the less divisive, riteous, scripted debate. Anyway the scripts are old. It may be time for unexpected & freaky responses. ~ Nora Bateson

  3. Steve says :

    Have we lost our minds!!!!!!!!

  4. Scott Preston says :

    Seems just posted yesterday. Eckart Tolle on ego or the narcissistic self

  5. Scott Preston says :

    Sound advice from Alan Watts: Stop talking to yourself, and come to realise your true nature

  6. Steve says :

    Scott…”Nature Word” by R.A Schwaller de Lubicz. The introduction by Christopher Bamford alone is worth the price!!

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