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Is Social Media “Ripping Society Apart”?

There is yet another voice of concern, a former Facebook executive, raised about the pernicious influence of social media: “No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth“. The technology, says Chamath Palihapitiya, is “ripping society apart”.

But is it? No. Not really. The divergent, disjunctive, disintegrative and chaotic social tendencies were there before they were projected, amplified, and reinforced by the technology and by social media. Social media has simply amplified the crisis of consciousness. What is travelling through the “global brain” or global “nervous system” is what we call “the stream of consciousness”. And that stream of consciousness is largely impulsive and chaotic. Anything that can pass through the human nervous system now becomes extended through and passes into the global nervous system — the malignant as well as the benign, the dark as well as the light, the conscious as well as the unconscious. The global internet, and social media, are making the stream of conscious manifest.

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The Well-Rounded Against the Well-Adjusted

I awoke the other morning with an insight. It was one of those forehead-slapping moments when you realise you’ve been seeing the truth of something all along but never really recognised it until that moment. After years of pouring through books and essays on the riddle of the technological system, the role of propaganda within that system, and the meaning of the technocrat (and of “technocratic shamanism”), I suddenly realised that it all boiled down to a simple contradiction between the machine-world’s requirement for the “well-adjusted individual”, but life’s and the culture’s drive for the “well-rounded personality”, by which is meant the fulfilled, the complete, the whole.

It became quite clear to me, in that moment of revelation, that when I thought back over all the critiques of the technological system or the “Megamachine”, that this was the essential issue and tension in society — the well-rounded against the merely well-adjusted. Let’s unwrap that a bit further.

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Jean Gebser on the Collapse of Complex Societies

One of the main reasons that there is such an investment in artificial intelligence today is owing to the belief that society has become too complex for human beings to adequately manage, and therefore has become unsustainable. The attempts to turn human beings into multi-taskers or induce men and women to be “more productive” attests to that growing complexity, but the results were, and remain, very unsatisfactory  in terms of stress and human well-being. The belief is, that robots are much better multi-taskers, do not fatigue, and are more adept at handling complexity. Artificial intelligence is conceived as a techno-fix for Overwhelm and for the problem of managing complexity and assuring sustainability and continued growth. Something akin to “fate” is at work here.

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A Sense for the Tragic: The Heart-Rending, The Soul-Crushing

“All work, the genuine work which we must achieve, is that which is most difficult and painful: the work on ourselves. If we do not freely take upon ourselves this pre-acceptance of the pain and torment, they will be visited upon us in an otherwise necessary individual and universal collapse. Anyone disassociated from his origin and his spiritually sensed task acts against origin. Anyone who acts against it has neither a today nor a tomorrow.” — Jean Gebser, The Ever-Present Origin

There is a very heart-rending video making the news of a starving polar bear on Baffin Island. It is in its final moments of life. The film crew spoke of their “soul-crushing” anguish at the spectacle of the starving bear, fighting through their tears to film the poor creature’s slow, agonising death. As one of the film-makers states, it haunts him still, with a warning that this is just a foretaste of things to come.

There is a profound lesson in this tragedy, and it brought to my mind that quote from Gebser about taking upon ourselves, too, the pain and torment of a dying world.  What Gebser means by that quote is also the meaning of the compassionate, for compassion is also pain and anguish and a deep sense for the tragical aspect of life. Our hedonistic/consumerist times, on the other hand, aim to dodge this sense of the tragic and the painful which must necessarily also be a suppression of compassion. In the death of the polar bear by starvation, we see the first of the Buddha’s noble truths as well, which is the awakening to the sense of the tragic. Life is dukkha.

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In Your Dreams!

Owing to my distressed kidneys, I’m periodically required to have lab work performed by the local hospital, which I did today. The nurses’ station there also regularly posts “fun facts” about this or that subject. Today’s “fun facts” were about dreams, and so while the nurse was draining me of my precious bodily fluids we engaged in some banter about their posted “fun facts” and dreaming.

Afterwards, it occurred to me that I might also share that conversation with the readers of The Chrysalis, as it just might also aid you in gaining insight into your own dreams, and perhaps even why you dream at all.

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Paradox and Paranoia

Man is a paradoxical creature. Ultimately, it is what distinguishes the human from the machine. The machine cannot handle paradox. It is paralysed by paradox. That is why the Mechanical Philosophy and its logic had to deny and suppress the paradox in favour of “clear and distinct ideas” (as Descartes put it). But in doing so, it also had to deny and suppress Man in everything but Man’s mechanical aspects. In fact, dialectics and dialectical rationality breakdown in the face of paradox, which is connected, in logic, with what is called “the ears of the wolf dilemma”. When thesis and antithesis become one and the same, thinking dialectically collapses into perplexity, bewilderment, and confusion. The dialectic becomes a self-devouring, self-negating, self-contradictory process.

In earlier posts, I suggested that paradox and paranoia were intimately connected. Today, I want to explore that further as it pertains to the meaning of “chaotic transition”, and how paradox and paranoia can be transcended in Rosenstock-Huessy’s “metanoia“, or Jean Gebser’s “integral consciousness”.

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The Inquisition has become symbolic of the irrationalities, disproportionalities, and reactionary paranoias of decaying regimes. The Inquisition was the form of that self-negating, self-devouring logic of the Age of the Church that is revisiting our time as well. It is the shape of the so-called “New Normal”.

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