11. Gebser in the Underworlds

Gebser’s Archaic structure evokes the first awakening of Consciousness in form and time. Magical begins as Consciousness becomes reflective while still embedded in all levels of its surrounding environment(s). Mythic serves to articulate this hitherto implicit process, introducing distinctions that are primarily relational: meaning that even slowly differentiating centres of human consciousness are still known in terms of their relationships rather than as separate entities. The rise of a Mental structure, which coincides with institutional consolidations of patriarchy (as in Greek and Roman law) introduces elements of abstraction that serve to distance people – and especially elites – from direct participation in the world of nature.

The tendency towards ever greater differentiation reaches its peak in the late Mental phase when the ‘rational ego’ proclaims itself sovereign, the controller of experience. This has led in modern times to a glut of alienated (separation) consciousness. There is clear continuity as well as discontinuity across all structural levels up to this point. It was a defining trait of the so-called rational ego to consider itself autonomous with regard to earlier structures that had paved the way for its emergence. This is reflected by science’s favouring of later forms over earlier ones and also in Calleman’s claim that the 9th wave alone would bring Unity consciousness. All fail to discern a need for retrospective integration, such as our knowledge of personal development might indicate (1).

Gebser takes heed by proposing an Integral structure that characterises the post-modern period and serves to redeem the rational ego’s irrational postulate of its own sovereignty. This was needed to bring a sense of freedom and explicitly differentiated self-awareness to Consciousness-in-time. Now that it has happened, ‘ego’ needs to be re-integrated 1) in order that the effect of separation can be overcome and 2) so that Consciousness itself can be transformed as a result of having lost its archaic sense of implicit belonging and then retrieving it on a more explicated level of awareness. This unfolding is the purpose of all evolution and is evident also through the course of individual lives.

A convergence between Gebser’s vision and Steiner’s suggests that we are on the verge of a decisive breakthrough in this respect. In particular, contrasting the mental-perspectival and integral-aperspectival structures helps to clarify our situation. As noted, the mental structure’s discovery of perspective and its laws led to great concern about establishing the best perspective and rules for distinguishing it from countless other possible perspectives. Rational egos, ideally expressing via scientific method, emerged as the best option until psychoanalysis, quantum mechanics and relativity theory arose to complicate the picture just as Picasso and other artists proved to be transcending the so-called laws of perspective in the course of violating them.

Perspective was identified as the more or less consistent standpoint of a more or less stable ego. Hence consistency and stability were posited as key criteria for rationality and truth. This tends to institutionalise stablility and ego as necessary cornerstones of all that is rational and true. It also institutionalises separateness, making the attainment of Unity Consciousness (Heaven) impossible and warranting our attendance at countless lectures. The position was also undermined by the number of contending perspectives that it gives rise to and a discrediting by unconscious motives, quantum uncertainties and creeping relativism of efforts to adjudicate rationally between them.

As Gebser’s naming of his final structure makes clear, ‘Integral’ is something other than ‘Mental’. It entails breaking through to a new level of consciousness rather than a cognitive re-ordering of already established patterns. Aperspectival consciousness is aware of the multiplicity of available perspectives but is not limited by this. It doesn’t entail reconciliation at the level of understanding but a whole new mode of knowing and experiencing. It sees ‘wholly’ rather than in terms of this or that perspective. Such claims seem hopelessly vague to the rational intellect but are not at all so to intuitive, Heart-centred knowing. I had several experiences of this during my African journey, especially when I was obliged to reconcile antagonistic settler/native perspectives through its latter stages.

Gebser’s Integral structure doesn’t just serve to integrate its Mental predecessor but all structures that arose before it, right back to Archaic. Only a comprehensive re-con-figuring across structures can achieve and support sustainable Unity consciousness. It was this realisation that directed me towards southern Africa in the first place. Essentially, my meeting with the Bushmen reminded me of the truth of what I originally am as an Earth-based human being. That reminder then served as a catalyst for this writing, which then served as a medium for further transformation that was waiting to happen as a result.

The key issue is that Archaic Consciousness retains an implicit memory of Origin which the post-Mental, trans-rational Integral structure can then assimilate on a level of explicated awareness that also reframes it within an articulated vision of Unity. Archaic consciousness knows the world to be sacred and alive, immediately, in a felt mode of direct participation. Integral consciousness can integrate this also (as happened to me at the ‘Garden of Eden’ outside Knysna). It also does the same for gradually dawning points of view that awaken in consciousness during the Magical period, are storied through the Mythic and reach their apotheosis in the late Mental perspectival phase.

This remains a work-in-progress and co-ordinates significantly with developments in the Mayan calendar since 28/10. No exact correspondences are to be expected, nor are they necessary. The two discourses come from different culture worlds, which makes any evident convergence between them all the more striking. The repeating 9th wave, in particular, might have been designed to underpin the work of Gebser’s Integral structure. Not only does it stimulate a review of earlier ‘waves’ that correlate with major stages of the evolutionary process, it recurs with a x201-7 times greater frequency, which makes repeated opportunities of integration available for those who need them.

We have seen how the completed Underworlds make energies required for conscious transformation available to us, but we must also prepare ourselves to avail of them. The continuing waves serve this purpose by making available the frequencies at which mineral, plant and animal consciousness were introduced, in addition to those which supported the emergence of earlier consciousness structures in the specific evolution of Homo Sapiens – i.e., those which regulated the unfolding of Tribal, Regional, Planetary and Galactic Underworlds as well as still extant patterns inherited from Mammalian and Primate consciousness.

Even the Universal Underworld, carried by the 9th wave, was largely unconscious because its formation was governed by energies which were incompletely revealed up to 28/10. Hence most people were unaware of them and most still remain so. The same is true regarding the older Underworlds, more emphatically so the deeper their origins lie back in pre/historic time. The big difference in our present (September 2012) is that all 9 Underworlds are now fully revealed and energies associated with the consciousness levels they promote are also fully available. We need only learn how to engage them. This writing is directed towards that end.

I start by noting preliminary correlations between Gebser’s structures and Calleman’s Underworlds, focusing primarily on those that support proto/human consciousness. Dates in the second column are Calleman’s and apply up to 28/10. I cite them for convenience although Gebser insists that dates as such were of no concern prior to inception of the Mental consciousness structure in 800 BCE:

Cellular                                           16.4 bya

Mammalian                                     820 mya

Familial                                             41 mya

Tribal                                             2.05 mya                           Archaic

Regional                                           102kya                            Magical

National                                            5.1 kya                            Mythic

National                                                                                       Mental 1                                          800 BCE

Planetary                                          256 ya                             Mental 2                                          1500 CE

Galactic                                            12.8 ya                              Integral                                           1900 CE

Universal                                 Mar-Oct 2011                  (aperspectival)                                   current

The above affords a very approximate indication of correspondences and even at that is deceptive since the whole point of Gebser’s account is that the structures and impulses of earlier periods are carried over into later ones, even after they have been overlaid. This is also what the unfolding waves sequence of the calendar implies. A qualitative review is needed to bring out hidden relations.

Firstly archaic consciousness evokes a memory of Origin which remains ever-present in so far as Archaic consciousness persists through later periods/Underworlds. Let us assume that it first registers in proto-human consciousness during the Tribal era. It doesn’t disappear with appearance of the Magical structure during the Regional but rather endures as the fundamental deep structural awareness from which innovations of the Magical are launched. More specifically: archaic consciousness is the structure by means of which Consciousness first experiences itself as such (i.e., reflexively) in space-time. It is mediated by the processing capacities of forms available to bear it and is therefore quite undifferentiated at this stage.

Magical consciousness arises when a first wave of differentiation opens within this state, giving rise to centres of reflective awareness that remain so embedded in their spiritual-material environments (these aspects are not yet distinguished) that they still experience themselves as facets of an enveloping whole which is not known to them as such. It is still known only from within, implicitly. The Mythic structure heralds an incipient self-articulation of this process, as consciousness embodied in human form starts to tell stories about its experience. Again there is a tacit carry-over such that – just as the Regional Underworld continues to be marked by Archaic consciousness, so too does the National, although both are also characterised by a Mythic overlay which posits an ever-present Origin and seeks to secure favourable outcomes by means of correct alignment with spiritual energies that emanate from this Source.

The Mental structure introduces abstraction and aloofness, intriguingly paralleled by   postulates of a Sky Father/God who resides off-planet and supplants earlier images of the Goddess/Mother Earth. This shift from a feminine-immanent conception of deity to a masculine-transcendent one is undoubtedly part of a greater journey from implicit to explicated (self-)Consciousness but its emergence is also attended by exercises of political power which for the first time introduce elements of systemic repression that compromise the ease of transition from an earlier consciousness form to a later. That is to say, the shift from early matricentric to later patriarchal Mythic consciousness is compromised to an extent that seeks to conceal and jettison earlier forms rather than cultivate and include them. This was the occasion of our species’ Fall, when power distorted cultural transmission by adjusting Myth to promote sectarian interest rather than the highest unfolding of a once immediately apprehended whole.

The first phase of the Mental structure is described as non-perspectival because embodied consciousness evolving in time has not yet achieved sufficient ego-strength to question, comprehend or emulate the transcendental (non-)perspective attributed to an all-seeing, transcendent male deity. During the later Mental (perspectival) phase, this projection is reabsorbed and internalised as the ‘rational’ ego, which thus acquires the strength needed to proclaim itself as sovereign, the Lord of (its) experience. This becomes the occasion of a new repression. Its central gesture proves unwarranted and unsustainable because it entails an under-valuing of ‘Powers of the Universe’ (evoked by mythic deities) with which we have always co-created. Rationality’s suppression of such ‘deities’, whether in the name of religious or scientific orthodoxy, banished both them and our sense of connection with them into unconsciousness.

It was only when, in Jung’s graphic image, we noticed that we were fishing on the back of a whale that this unconsciousness began to be redeemed. Its redemption remains the defining task of our still emerging Integral consciousness structure, which Gebser dates from the early 20th century. This is when depth psychology, quantum mechanics, relativity theory, aperspectival art and reflexive evolutionism combined to shake the rational ego’s confidence in the sovereignty of its too many perspectives, undermining its belief in its own inherently transcendental nature and so rendering it amenable to transcendence in a spiritual sense. Once ego-consciousness had been freed from the bottleneck of its own delusional conceit, it became possible for spiritual unfolding to resume through us. But, as Steiner implies, the field of Consciousness has been radically reshaped by the process of ego formation and its ongoing transformation towards a goal of achieving self-transcendence in existence.


The unfolding of Gebser’s sequence is relatively straightforward up to the late Mental phase, when the ‘rational’ ego presumes to deliver itself from a superstitious past by disowning myth and dissociating itself from all expressive modes associated with earlier consciousness forms. This represents a specific enactment of the underlying progressivist ideology of modern science and the Planetary Underworld in general. It assumes that an earlier developmental stage exists only to promote the emergence of a later one such that, when the latter has been achieved, the earlier can be dispensed with. It is thus particularly insensitive to qualitative differences across consciousness structures and their cumulative significance for the evolutionary process.

According to scientific orthodoxy, it is only the ‘cutting edge’ – the most recent manifestation of developmental unfolding – that counts. But in order for the qualitative significance of evolution to be realised in Consciousness, we need not only an articulated sense of where we are now but also of where and what we have been. Re-membering is also required: a revaluing of the past in the light of new awareness that comes with consciousness of an evolving Present, which leads in due course to the experience of an evolving Presence – i.e., of Being that Becomes (qualitatively) more. Short of this realisation, talk of Consciousness growth is empty shibboleth.

It was an urge to remember archaic consciousness and establish right relationship with it that motivated me to visit the Bushmen and learn from them – not through formal initiation but through being opened by reflections of my Self that I knew they could offer. (This sense arose from stirrings in imponderable depths of my soul as reflected by the timely appearance of an academic article and timely reconnection with my new old friend Sean.) I had already attained intuitive access to archaic consciousness in myself. Now my impulse was to stimulate its reconfiguring towards right relationship with my learned post/modern consciousness as a result of direct encounter with its most ancient bearers.

What I found is that the Bushmen – despite being capable of adjusting to our world of buying and selling, and despite being capable of Magical and Mythic thinking – are still fundamentally rooted in the Archaic consciousness of Source. I found examples of this in the over-painting of their rock art and the healing practices of their trance dance, which are mediated by the ancestors. Bushmen walk in the presence of their ancestors, all the way back to awareness of an immemorial Source that is also Gebser’s ever-present Origin.

This realisation helped me flesh out a crucial spiritual intuition that what happens in the ‘now’ of present time is always playing over acts of love, generosity and devotion that have been performed in our collective human past. It also happens over acts of hatred, meanness and self-absorption that reflect a fearful contraction of our primary impulse to participate openly in the spontaneous evolutionary unfolding of our species and our souls. At bottom, I found, Bushman intelligence is a matter of Pure Feeling, of intuition. Sean had told me that they ‘feel’ everything and I found this to be correct except when certain individuals tried out learned manipulative routines to get things they had been conditioned to believe that we had and they needed.


I asked earlier how the Bushmen can be expected to continue preserving our ancient human legacy in the context of an almost terminal erosion of their life-world, whereby hunter-gathering has been redefined as ‘poaching’ and ruthless traders seek to impose cheap liquor as a substitute for the bliss practice of trance dancing. Now I have my answer: a transmission has taken place and with it a sharing of responsibility for maintaining knowledge of our ancient origins and Source (archaic) consciousness. Having had my intuitive sense of this amplified by exposure to its living embodiments I inherit a responsibility to share knowledge theoretically through writing and direct experiential access via Sacred Plays and other bliss practices. Humans have always needed to re-establish contact with our origins/roots in order to found our way again when we are lost or stuck and need inspiration to find a new direction. This was true of my visit to the Bushmen and it is true of our species at large, more now than ever before. We need to understand where we have come from in order to see where we need to go and how.

Such revaluing of our ancient human legacy as generative and indispensable reverses intellectual modernity’s premature relegation of its primal antecedents. We are slowly remembering that wisdom and power are best found close to Source; in fact, as they arise from it. It is no accident that such remembering is happening with regard to our human cultural ecology at the same time and with the same urgency as it is happening with regard to our planet’s natural ecology. It is now very late in the same 11th hour: the crucial period of waking up indicated by completion of the Underworlds, galactic alignment, the ‘end’ of the calendar, the transition from a 4th Sun to a 5th, Pisces to Aquarius, Mental to Integral and so on. That established, what are we actually to do? How can the awareness of our Time of No Time translate into practices that are compatible with and express its highest Dream?

Not by convening assemblies to reckon our ‘problem’ in old ways. The New Wo/Man is first and foremost a Wo/Man of New/Old (clarified) Consciousness. This is already indicated by depictions of Aquarius as a water-carrier who floods the world with love and compassion as per Steiner’s vision. We can’t accomplish this without also being restored to clarity and flow in ourselves. Towards this end, we need to transcend biologically and historically conditioned mindsets that have engendered the problems we now face. (The current state of the calendar can assist quite specifically with this.) By this means we can revalue our past(s) – with regard to Calleman’s Underworlds and Gebser’s structures, for example – while renewing their legacy in relation to an ever more full-filled Present (2).

Notes (all references are to www.sacredplay.info ):

(1) The Underworlds have completed but all 9 waves go on so that Consciousness-in-time can be empowered by the stage that has been set for it and choose freely to realign with a cosmic order from which it has become divorced. This option of freedom can only become available through ego. Great Mystery dreamt itself alive and into form to unpack its own hidden potentials. Like us, it comes to know itself better through integrating reflections of its existence in space and time.

(2) This is exactly the programme that Gebser sets for Integral Consciousness, which can only be fulfilled in so far as it brings earlier consciousness structures towards their maximum fulfilment also. It is paralleled and supported by the role of the repeating 9th wave in relation to all earlier waves. See also ‘The Calendar in Prospect’ under 2012 and section 4 of ‘The Spirituality of 2012’ regarding the work of Brian Swimme.

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