July 11, 2006

Synairesis: transparency that is Integral

Jean Gebser (1905-1973) tried to understand the unfoldment of human consciousness. He developed a model examining the structures of consciousness: the Archaic, Magical, Mythical, Mental, and Integral structures.
  1. The Archaic structure can best be described as a zero-dimensional, non-perspectival world which could be compared to a state of deep sleep. It was characterized by non-differentiation and the total absence of any sense of separation from the environment. This was a world of identity between self and surroundings; not a world in which we could speak of consciousness in any terms that would be meaningful to our modern understanding of the term.
  2. By contrast, the Magical structure was characterized by a certain separateness, but not a total separation by any means. Dimensionally this could be described as one-dimensional; a pre-perspectival state of timelessness and spacelessness. It's like a state of sleep. Magic man was much a part of his environment, to be sure, and felt secure only within his group, his tribe or clan. It was the transition from the Archaic to Magic structure of consciousness that has probably been mythologically captured in the story of the "Fall of Man."
  3. The clothing of knowledge in myth is what characterized the transition to the Mythical structure of consciousness, the two-dimensional, unperspectival state of consciousness that can best be compared to a dream. Imagination and attunement with natural rhythms became important factors in man's life. The separation begun in the Magic structure reaches a tensional climax in the Mythical.
  4. This structure is superseded by the Mental structure, whose appearance coincides with the rise of Greek civilization. In this regard, it can be seen that modern thought disregards a good deal of mankind's history, for it is to the Greeks that we most often trace our intellectual roots. By comparison, the Mental structure of consciousness is a three-dimensional, perspectival world that we describe with the term wakefulness. The polar tensions of mythology are replaced by the analytical separation of duality and opposition. Thinking is primary, and in its latter phase rational thinking is primary.
  5. But this structure, too, is yielding to a final mutation which Gebser identifies as the Integral structure of consciousness. This is described as a four-dimensional, aperspectival world of transparency. This is a time-free, space-free, subject- and object-free world of verition.

From a methodological point of view, three fundamental notions are involved: systasis, synairesis, and eteology.

  • The first term, systasis, goes beyond mere synthesis, which is a mental-rational concept, to achieve a total integration of all parts simultaneously.
  • Synairesis is the means of achieving the end just described. It emphasizes the how of such total grasping, namely by the mind or spirit. It is synairesis that enables us to achieve the transparency that is indicative of the Integral structure of consciousness.
  • Finally, eteology replaces philosophy as the way of knowing and acquiring knowledge. Eteology becomes the statement of truth in lieu of the philosophical statement about truth.

This approach goes beyond the limitations of space- and time-perception, to a complete and liberating understanding of the whole. It should be noted that this transition is still in process; it is not yet a completed act. Condensed from a text by Ed Mahood, jr., Homepage The Integration Website Co-Developing the Noosphere

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