John David Ebert Unpacks Jean Gebser's Magnum Opus

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Just a short post this week as I'm currently workin on putting together a series of posts surrounding structures of retratoGebserchicoconsciousness. What are 'structures of consciousness'? It's a good question, and from time to time at the site we hear from a critic who doesn't believe they exist in the first place, that this whole notion is bunk. The latest was David T on the thread of Integral Relationships- A Book Review, and I promised David I'd make a case for taking this sort of thing seriously. So I've been working hard this week trying to transform a pile of research into some kind of publishable form, and while I was doing so a rather fantastic gift plunked down on the internet.

The philosopher John David Ebert, who I was first turned on to by Beams contributor Jeremy Johnson, began putting out a series of videos where he's unpacking Jean Gebser's magnum opus The Ever Present Origin chapter by chapter. Jean Gebser is one the major heavyweights when it comes to structures of consciousness, and these videos are really good. Ebert draws off of a host of other resources in his arsenal for his exegesis of Gebser, and I'm finding these videos very helpful for understanding this subject. The first five videos are embedded below, and there'll be more to come I'm sure. I look forward to putting together some other materials that I've been collecting on this topic, and in the meantime, this is a great way to kick that official project off. A big thanks to John David Ebert for recording this material and making it available on the web.


Chapter 1- Fundamental Considerations






Chapter 2- The Three European Worlds




Chapter 3- The Four Mutations of Consciousness








Chapter 4- Mutations as an Integral Phenomenon: an Intermediate Summary





Chapter 5- The Space-Time Constitution of the Structures





Update 1

Ebert has completed the final three chapters in Part 1 of The Ever Present Origin. Here they are:


Chapter 6- On the History of the Phenomena of Soul and Spirit



Chapter 7- The Previous Forms of Realization and Thought



Chapter 8- The Foundations of the Aperspectival World




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1 comment

  • Comment Link Jeremy Johnson Tuesday, 01 May 2012 04:08 posted by Jeremy Johnson

    I really need to watch these.

    Ebert's library on YouTube is amazing. Seriously just browse through it. There are whole lecture series on Rudolf Steiner, Joseph Campbell, William Irwin Thompson, Jean Gebser, and many others. ;)

    On a side note, I wonder if we could get Ever-Present Origin online as a Kindle book, or e-book in general.

    Anyways, a comment on Gebser's methodology. He's got some really intriguing ideas about understanding these structures, including some alternative ways of looking at consciousness. For instance, Gebser didn't believe in the unconscious, only "varying degrees of consciousness."

    He also was very suspicious concerning developmental or progressive levels of consciousness, though the structures he uses do follow an increasing degree of dimensionality (1D, 2D, 3D). It's important to remember that this is only one kind of development. That is, physicality. Towards the beginning of the book he mentions that any progress is, quite literally, steps away from Origin, so to keep that in mind when believing that progress is so good.

    I know Ebert focuses mainly on Gebser being a reaction to Spengler's "Decline of the West," almost as an optimistic refutation to a more cynical outlook on Western civilization–but I think it's also important to keep in mind Gebser was not merely responding to Spengler. His writing is on account of a "lightning light inspiration" that occurred to him in the 1930's, which, later, over the course of 20 years, was he able to unpack into Ever Present Origin his other books, like Decline and Participation (Boy, I wish I read German!).

    In addition, Gebser was an avid reader and writer of poetry. It was through his study of language, much like Owen Barfield, which he was able to detect what Feuerstein described as a "new world mood."

    Through his reading of Rilke, which apparently led him to abandon his study of more pessimistic philosophers like Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, he was able to detect an emergent "style of thought," the a-perspectival. From literature, Gebser studied various arts, sciences, philosophies and social sciences of his time that he believed was evident of this new integral culture. All of this would culminate in the first part of EPO, and after a conference on the subject, the second part in 1953.

    Above all, I believe Gebser was not attempting to articulate a purely intellectual re-combination, a new set of concepts and ideas. His sense of "integral" was intrinsically spiritual, as his later books seem to confirm (I wish I could say I've read them myself).

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