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Customer Review

on August 26, 2001
This book is not a light read. However it is a fascinating read penned by one of Europe's hidden philosophical treasures: Jean Gebser. The Ever-Present Origin is a translation of _Ursprung und Gegenwart_, a book which was published in German in two parts around 1949 and 1953. The central contribution of this book is Gebser's analysis of the history of culture -- mainly but not exclusively Western culture -- in terms of the predominance of different modes of consciousness. Gebser details five structures of consciousness: the archaic, the magical, the mythical, the mental, and the integral (or aperspectival). His theory seems to be that these structures unfold in a sequential but non-linear fashion (i.e. in quantum increases in the self-transparency of consciousness), and have different kinds of characteristic ways of experiencing self, other, and world. With each leap, the previous structures of consciousness are superceded and yet retained in a subordinate fashion. Meanwhile, the other structures lie largely latent and untapped. VERY briefly, the archaic is instinctual and primitive. The magical is tribal and involves participation mystique. The mythical is imaginative and often involves seeing through complementary polarities (darkness and light, good and evil). The mental is analytical, dualistic, and skeptical of the other structures of consciousness. And the integral structure allows for a re-membering of all of the structures of consciousness without the problematic reification of their respective "worlds". The integral or aperspectival structure additionally involves going beyond the previous four structures in something akin to Buddhist or Christian (a la Meister Eckhart) enlightenment as understood in terms of the perennial philosophy. If you're looking for an easier read, Georg Feuerstein's introduction to Gebser (titled _Structures of Consciousness: The Genius of Jean Gebser_) is a good place to start. If you're looking for a place to continue similar explorations, much of Ken Wilbur's work is largely based on synthesizing Gebser's theory of structures of consciousness with other developmental models. [I give Wilbur and A for effort, but I am very skeptical about a number of his syntheses.]
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