I must confess that my abstract is rather misleading
in that it implies a strong parallel between my contextual essay, The
Practice Record and Analysis of the Birdman, and Jean Gebser’s book,
The Ever-Present Origin. The fact is; I was introduced to
the work though Keeley’s Revisioning Environmental Ethics
in which Keeley draws heavily from Gebser. I mentioned that there
seemed to be some parallel between my five “allies” and Gebser’s five structures
of consciousness. After further reading I still see some strong similarities
but there are also many differences and even some contradictions.
I believe that this is an appropriate space for clarifying how I see my
work in the context of Gebser’s perception of the “unfolding of consciousness”
as he describes it in The Ever-Present Origin.
First, I need to briefly outline Gebser’s five structures of consciousness. They are the archaic, magic, mythic, mental and integral. The archaic structure of consciousness was dominant at a time that was not only prehistoric but was pre-art and pre-ritual. Gebser describes this state of consciousness as a simple state of being in which there was no thought of altering nature and in which our imagination did not go beyond meeting the immediate needs of the present. The magic structure of consciousness began as we humans altered our environment through the magical process of “like producing like.” Acting out the process of a successful hunt would, in turn, produced a successful hunt. Arts and ritual were developed in order to affect the environment. This new structure superseded the preceding archaic structure, and thus, the archaic structure lost its effectiveness and became deficient. Eventually gods and goddesses appeared and were worshipped in ritual not only for the sake of using human will to affect the natural environment, but for the sake of our own psychic needs. The mythic structure displaced the magic structure and was eventually displaced by the mental-rational structure. Always something from the previous structure is retained in the later forms of consciousness. I tried to illustrate Gebser’s “unfolding of consciousness” in microcosm in the story contained in file, “air.htm.”
Much of Gebser’s work seems to come from an extensive study of the history of world cultures as they have changed from a mythic structure of consciousness to a mental structure of consciousness. He sees the birth of mental-rational thinking in Homer; particularly in the character of Odysseus. Odysseus’ wit and individualism seem to be very characteristic of the mental structure of consciousness. This became developed much further by the early Greek philosophers and continued to grow and develop along side a continuing deterioration of the mythic structure of consciousness with which the succeeding consciousness structure interacted in often violent ways. Gebser sees monotheism as an outgrowth of mental consciousness. He believes that the mental consciousness structure reached its peak during the renaissance when perspective became concretized in painting. Therefore, he believes that it has been rapidly moving into its deficient phase ever since.
The integral structure of consciousness is still in a state of becoming and, therefore, Gebser could only point out the seeds of this new consciousness in the history of our culture and speculate on what the fully-developed integral structure might be. He says that it is coming into being as we become aware of the fourth dimension as space-time and that its first traces may be found in non-Euclidian geometry. Our perceptions will be transparent, in that we will be able to perceive everything that it has been possible for us to perceive in all the different structures of consciousness. He believes that we have spatialized time through our clocks and other devices for measuring time and that this is evidence of our mental consciousness structure moving into its deficient phase. The integral structure is atemporal, arational, and aperspectival.
The preceding was a very inadequate summary of an over 600 page, densely printed book which presents itself as an inadequate summary of its subject. I highly recommend the book, The Ever-Present Origin, to everyone. It presents ideas that may be very exciting for a reader who is working at the cutting edge of any field. I continue with this paper assuming that you are familiar with my piece, The Practice Record and Analysis of the Birdman; the contents of which are continually linked to this paper. I briefly mentioned the possibility of a parallel between Gebser's five structures and my Lizard, Lion, Dog,Mockingbird and Birdman, respectively. Like Gebser I added the disclaimer that all of the work is rather “mental” in that I am trying to describe my ideas through words to a mentally dominated academic community. However, I am also free with my artistic license which possibly makes the structure of the work more “integral.” It is very possible that Gebser would see my work as coming from a deficient magical perspective which he sees as common today coupled with the deficient mental in our present culture’s focus on technology. Also, Gebser considers music as being magically based because hearing is the primary sense used in magic. He is very careful about using terms which are non-judgmental towards each consciousness structure but, throughout his work, he makes strong value judgments of forms of art, philosophy, science, etc. based on his ideas concerning the appropriate use of a structure to the time in which it is used.
It is also just as possible that Gebser would see my work as the very model for what is needed in the arts at our present time in that it clearly opens many pathways for the audience to perceive all the consciousness structures simultaneously. Also, the work is pluralistic in a way that had not been developed as fully prior to the writing of The Ever-Present Origin. (Please read the piece in the file labeled “review.htm” for an example of what I mean.) I believe that my work is quite integral on Gebser's own terms. I am, however, a little disappointed by Gebser’s remarks concerning the Dadaists of whom I have a great deal of respect and even view them as my predecessors in a disciplic succession. He seems to view the Dadaists as merely part of the meaningless rubble that occurred when the integral structure began introducing itself and the fourth dimension into our culture. The Dada movement was a negative reaction against the mental structure which I believe opened many doors to new ways of perceiving art and was, at the same time, quite humorous. Perhaps Gebser’s severe judgments against the Dadaists are based on his own mental-rational habits (which he declares we all have) and his strong admiration and loyalty to his friend, Pablo Picasso.
The Practice Record and Analysis of the Birdman evolved out of the structure of one of my dreams, my need for writing a comprehensive contextual essay for my work and the structure of the T’ai Hsuan Ching. The similarities between my characters and Gebser’s structures are either coincidental and/or are from our both seeing the same thing. Gebser sees the five structures in the history of our culture which are each integrated into our perceptual make-up. I see five principal structures by looking into myself. I will now outline my characters while pointing out the similarities and differences.
I describe the Lizard as my Muse but also as the art itself. The use of characters (or allies) as metaphors for my ideas and to represent parts of my personality is mythical. Whether this is deficient or a way of accessing the mythical through a transparent state of integral conscious still seems to be a subjective value judgment. I do make a strong case in the Lizard chapter for art as being and vice versa which seems to be best realized when improvising. The realization of art as being seems to fit Gebser’s idea of the “ever-present origin” which has stayed with us since the archaic days and is the key to the realization of integral consciousness.
My chapter, Lion, concerns magic in that it is based on my idea of my brother, Lon, and Krishna, both who are legendary musicians with magical powers for altering environments with their sounds. I also try to make connections between my aesthetic ideas, which originate from an intense awareness of sound, and the nature of the physical world. The point-for-point relationships between my ideas and the perceivable universe resembles the point-for-point connections between humans and their effects on the environment. The idea I got from Chaos Theory, “Anything may be a seed if it id in the right time and the right dynamic,” seems to become very apparent when I am improvising and interacting with my environment. The idea that the smallest particles, which become part of our everyday perceptions, move and react to each other probablistically supports my ideas (a la John Cage) concerning chance as a creative impulse. And, the idea in science that observers of experiments must consider themselves as variables affecting the experiment is fairly common knowledge among post-modern dancers. (Perceiving is creating.)
The Dog is indeed mythical in that it is mostly Christian-based and is also morally/ethically oriented. However, some of the ideas in the chapter also blend into what Gebser would consider magical because it is devoted to my family and ancestors, and demonstrates a loyalty to the “tribe.” ( Maybe, as an integral work, it is very appropriate for each of my “structures” to have many characteristics of the others.) Much of the chapter concerns my Native American heritage which Gebser would probably consider magical or mythical depending on the beliefs of the tribe. I believe that, if Gebser had studied Cherokee history, he would say that the tribe was practicing a mythic structure that became deficient at first contact with the white man who was at the apex of the mental structure. Afterwards, the tribe regressed further into a deficient magical structure which was still present in the culture. Today the tribe’s old ways seem to be still more magically based. This may be due also to the many pan-Indian movements which have been influenced greatly by the Lakota. Practically every Native American I know works primarily out of a mental structure while honoring “the old ways” and experiencing the magic in their rituals. It has been my hope and dream that indigenous people will be the trail blazers into integral consciousness because they have never renounced their past. They may today be the people who are the most conscious of all the structures simultaneously and they certainly still suffer from the backlash of those who cling to a deficient mental-rational structure. The mental-rational federal government continually outlaws essential parts of Native American rituals including; peyote, the Sun Dance and the Potlatch.
The Mockingbird easily portrays the mental structure especially since it was written during the nadir of our deficient mental structure. My Mockingbird shows his frustration in trying to support the other structures in this deficient mental world. It is not “practical” to do so. But, according to Gebser, the survival of our species may depend on it. Perhaps every Dadaist is a frustrated Mockingbird who clearly displays the absurdities of a mental structure that has gone too far while he is able to find beauty in a urinal. Much of my frustration comes also from a feeling of being caught between two worlds. I, like many artists, feel the need to be honored for my individuality and innovativeness, yet I am most innovative for my use of pluralism and, therefore, my individuality becomes unimportant. Today visual artists’ works increase in value respective to the increase of the artists’ celebrity status. This seems to be a hang over from the hero worship of the mental structure. This hero worship has reach rather absurd heights today to the point that we see that fans have been the murderers of their idols. This seems to be a little similar to when, in medieval times, a village would kill their saint when he/she threatened to leave in order to preserve his/her relics. At least this could have been done for purely economic reasons because a saint’s relics brought in tourists and income for the villagers. It seems that today’s murdering hero-worshipers are, in a pathological way, combining a deficient mental structure with a deficient magical structure. They want to get some of the magic power of the hero by killing her/him. I believe that the time of heroes has past. The second coming will be brought on by all the people who have acquired a change of consciousness. The Messiah is everyone you meet.
Gebser withholds the fact that his integral perceptions come from his faith in Christianity until the reader is well into his book. He seems to believe that the new integral consciousness structure will come through a transformation of Christianity and a new awareness of the spirit as expressed in Christian terms. This could be possible but does not seem necessary from where I am looking. My “integral” experiences have seemed to come through my art work which blends somewhat with everyday life. Gebser levels his judgment of “deficiency” on people who work from the philosophies of different cultures. This may make Gebser seem somewhat ethnocentric, despite his very disciplined efforts, especially since ethnic diversity is now proclaimed to be valued, especially in academia.
Gebser has, however, foreshadowed many developments in our world culture; both positive and negative. I find his work inspiring because much of it confirms many of my own beliefs concerning what needs to be done today for the sake of us all. This supports my ego (deficient mental) but also helps me cope with what I believe is the resistance of the present deficient mental structure. Integrality seems to combine the necessary ingredients for our survival, development and peace. These ingredients are diversity coupled with pluralism and an intense awareness of all the consciousness structures that exist in our own being. Also we must find our freedom from time as it is perceived by measuring it with the clock. Freedom from clock-time gives us the means to perceive all time as a unity with varying intensities. We all have a way to be aware of ourselves fully as individuals as well as a collective, and the way we have been in the past to how we will be in the future combined into one great being in the present. I believe that we may each have a very different means for achieving an integral awareness and this may be a very important characteristic of the new consciousness structure. We need all our ways both in ourselves and in others.