5 Periods of Consciousness

Veronika Bond The Horizon Leave a Comment

‘The Horizon’, Part 2, Chapter 11: about the evolution of human Consciousness throughout history and how the same periods and structures repeat themselves in the life of every human


“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”Bertrand Russell

In Chapter 9 we discovered some principles of biosophy. Biosophical learning is essential for our work of creation. It enables us to participate in the process of transforming our suffering into healing — or wholeness.

Suffering is part of life, and wellbeing grows with the expansion of personal wisdom.

Chapter 10 gave us a few glimpses into what biosophy can look like in real life, and why healing doesn’t mean ‘getting rid of suffering and going back to normal’.

Biosophical learning offers a unique opportunity to create and heal our life in accordance with the laws of Consciousness.

In this chapter we explore some dynamics which govern human Consciousness. The more familiar we are with these dynamics the easier it becomes to support our personal biosophical learning process, which in turn promotes our work of creation.

Like any living organism, human Consciousness develops through several natural stages. But before we look into that, let me tell you a very short story:

Behind the dunes a dead seagull was lying in a sandy bay. It had drowned in the ocean, and the waves had washed it to the shore.

A family was walking along the beach. 3 year old Alice and her 5 year old brother Max were running ahead, when the dead bird suddenly stopped them in their tracks.

Look!’ Alice cried. ‘Birdie!’

‘Look what I found!’ Max shouted proudly.

‘Don’t touch it, Alice, Max!’ Mum said as soon as she saw the dead bird.

‘Why is the bird on the ground?’ Alice wanted to know.

Dad had an explanation: ‘The bird has died and gone to heaven.’

Alice and Max looked puzzled. Dad’s explanation didn’t quite make sense.

‘God didn’t want the birdie?’ Alice asked.

‘Yeah,’ replied Max. ‘God didn’t want it, and he threw it back down.’

When children think about life and death, nature and the universe they often come up with surprising explanations of how things work. To our grownup ears those infantile theories can sound cute or funny.

For the child, however, it is a way to make sense of the world. The child’s thoughts are the result of a profound and serious process, and they reflect the developmental stage of its Consciousness.

At the same time the child is often forced to grapple with useless explanations of adults!

The history of human theories that grownups came up with is full of explanations which seem ludicrous or absurd to us now. And the concepts we take very seriously at present will most likely become the stuff for future jokes.

In retrospective we can see the funny side because our Consciousness has mutated into a different configuration. This is often referred to as ‘growth in Consciousness’.

In Chapter 3 I called it ‘expansion of Consciousness’. This can sound misleading. It can give the impression as if Consciousness increases in quantity or improves in quality. But this not really what happens.

Consciousness itself is whatever it is, unchanging, infinite. What changes is our perception and awareness of Consciousness. We have to somehow grow into this universal substance we call ‘Consciousness’.

The philosopher Bertrand Russell put it very well when he said: “The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”


“The tooth fairy doesn’t come to me anymore. I think she’s used up all her money on my grandpa.”Jessica, 9 years

Jean Gebser, the German philosopher and poet we met in Chapter 6 dedicated his life’s work to the research of human Consciousness. In his magnum opus The Ever-Present Origin he explores the history of human Consciousness from the prehistoric origin to the present (20th century).

Jean Gebser identified 5 evolutionary stages of Consciousness through which mankind has passed. He called them structures of Consciousness.

Interestingly these 5 structures reappear in the development of individual human Consciousness between conception and old age. If we live long enough we can experience the same 5 periods.

For our creative work it helps to look at our experience of those 5 structures from a user’s perspective. Here is an overview of the 5 periods of Consciousness:

The 1st Period of Consciousness

Archaic ConsciousnessThe first structure of Consciousness describes the origin of mankind, the so-called ‘primitive human’. In the archaic structure humans were completely embedded in nature.

This doesn’t necessarily mean things were easy. Archaic humans may have had to fight for their survival. But they did not see themselves as separate from their environment, and they were completely dependent on it.

According to Gebser, the archaic period corresponds with a state of deep sleep. The archaic human simply existed in the world without having any individual agenda.

He writes, “It is the time when the soul is still asleep, and so it is the dreamless time, when there is absolutely no difference between human and the universe.”

Embryonic ConsciousnessEvery individual human Consciousness experiences the archaic structure during its time as an unborn baby in the womb. In this period human Consciousness has not yet awakened to its own existence. It is completely embedded in the Consciousness of the mother or parents.

Individual human Consciousness is already in existence in the embryonic period, but it is in a state similar to deep sleep.


The 2nd Period of Consciousness

Magical ConsciousnessIn the magical period humans started to make things. They were no longer satisfied with just being in the world, they needed to have the world.

Now humans tried control, own and overcome nature through sorcery and magic. This doesn’t mean life was ‘magical’ in today’s sense of the word.
Magical humans developed coping mechanisms using witchcraft. They knew how to handle and manipulate the powers of nature in order to survive and get their own way.

The magical period corresponds with the sleeping state. Jean Gebser describes the magical period as an era when man attempts to face nature for the first time. He says, “Magic man has no sense of I, in the same way as the small child has no I.”

Child ConsciousnessWe all go through the experience of ‘magical Consciousness’ during childhood. The small child is completely dependent on the care and protection of the parents. The family is its natural environment.

Child Consciousness is aware of itself as part of the family community. The child applies its own innate ‘magic’ to handle its parents, all other people, and its world.

Similar to the magical structure child Consciousness is in a state of sleep. Therefore our memory of early childhood is often quite hazy or non-existent.

Here is a little episode to illustrate the second period of human Consciousness:

Charlie was 6 years old when he lost his first tooth. Jessica was 9, and she lived next door. Charlie was very excited. He couldn’t wait to tell Jessica about the money he got from the tooth fairy.

The news reminded Jessica of her younger years, and it made her a little sad. “The tooth fairy doesn’t come to me any more,” she said. “I think she’s used up all her money on my grandpa.”


“I am trying to live every day as if it was the last day of my life. Who wants to do homework on the last day of their life?”Nathan, 15 years

The 3rd Period of Consciousness

Mythical ConsciousnessIn the mythical structure mankind became aware of the existence of an inner world, and the perception of the inner world was projected onto his outer world.

Mythical humans began to develop religious rituals around seasons and other natural events. They were now striving to rise above mother nature and make a connection with the sky.

Having separated itself from the ‘womb of nature’ the human Soul begins to search for another being to complement her. Mythical man becomes aware of fellow humans and feels an urge to enter into relationships with them.

The mythical period gave birth to many heroic stories where humans set off to explore the world beyond their horizon and discover distant shores.

From the sleep state man ‘awakens’ into a dream Consciousness. Human Consciousness becomes aware of polarities and unknown phenomena. It now strives to separate itself from its origins and become independent.

Adolescent ConsciousnessThe mythical structure is equivalent to the Consciousness of the adolescent who distances him- or herself from the family community to find his/her own way through life.

In the period of adolescent Consciousness we recognise ourselves as individuals, we have to form new relationships and shape the world according to our own ideas.

In the adolescent period we also become aware of our inner world, and we enter a state of dreaming. We dream of a better world and rebel against existing structures.

Here is a little episode to illustrate the third period of human Consciousness:

Nathan is 15, and he hasn’t done his homework — for the 3rd time in a row!

“If you don’t bring your homework in tomorrow I’ll have to write a letter to your parents.” The teacher warns him.

“I am trying to live every day as if it was the last day of my life,” Nathan explains. “Who wants to do homework on the last day of their life?”


“Intelligence, or rational acuity are not identical with Consciousness.”Jean Gebser

The 4th Period of Consciousness

Mental ConsciousnessOut of the mythical phase human Consciousness mutated into the so-called mental structure. Mental man became aware of his environment. He discovered the cosmic and social order.

The mental man is no longer satisfied with being in the world, belonging to the world, and behaving in whatever way he wants. He wants to have total command over the world.

For the first time in the history of mankind human Consciousness is governed by manmade laws. Jean Gebser writes, “from this moment on, man had to direct and judge himself.”

Historically the mental period started around the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, and it is still continuing now.

In each period Jean Gebser identified a so-called ‘efficient phase’ and a ‘deficient phase’. In the ‘deficient phase’ of the mental structure the holistic thinking of the ancient philosophers has degenerated into an over-rationalisation, a kind of ‘thinking things to death’. This path leads human Consciousness into its own destruction.

Deficient mental Consciousness splits itself off from its own foundations. The individualised human considers himself the omnipotent ruler over his environment — this has become a chaotic, divided world full of conflict since mental man can no longer grasp the natural connections.

This is a very destructive phase because mental humans fight against  themselves, their own inner world, and their outer world.

Adult Consciousnessadulthood represents the individual experience of the mental structure. Our adult Consciousness explores our environment with our own thinking. We attempt to create our own world according to our mental concepts and beliefs. And we make up our own rules!

We accumulate possessions, create a life style, perhaps a family, a career path. In the adult period we want to gain power and make our dreams become a reality. This can lead to many conflicts and challenges.

In this period we perceive our Intellect as superior to other Faculties of human Consciousness. We even confuse our Intellect with Consciousness. We think it will take us to the pinnacle of all human achievement.

“I think therefore I am…” is the well known motto of the mental structure.

The mental period has convinced us that our Instinct was outdated and had to be suppressed. Our patriarchal social structures, our discrimination against women etc. are expressions of this perceived superiority.

Jean Gebser reminds us that “intelligence, or rational acuity are not identical with Consciousness.” Our current overemphasis on the Intellect and manmade laws is aggressive and destructive.

Here is a little story to illustrate the period of mental Consciousness:

A couple went on holiday together. The man wanted to spend a morning fishing, so he got up very early and went out in his rowing boat.

The woman preferred to sleep a little longer, and she had brought lots of books to read. When the husband came home from his fishing trip she had only just got up. He was tired, so he went to sleep.

The wife decided to go out and take the boat as well. All on her own on the water…, she wanted to read without any distractions. So she rowed out onto the lake, found a nice quiet spot, let the anchor down, and started to read.

After a short while the park ranger came along in his motor boat and said: “Good morning lady. What are you doing here?”

“I am reading…” she said and thought to herself ‘… isn’t that obvious?’

The ranger was a strict man, and he took his job seriously. “This is a zone where fishing is not allowed.” he pointed out.

“I’m not fishing,” the woman replied slightly irritated, “as you can see….”

“Yeahh,” said the ranger, “but you’ve got the whole equipment with you. I’ll have to take you to headquarters and issue a fine.”

“If you do that, I’ll sue you for rape!” the woman replied angrily.

“But I haven’t touched you…!” the ranger defended himself.

“Yeahh, but you’ve got the whole equipment with you!”


“Man carries his whole history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind.”Carl Gustav Jung

The 5th Period of Consciousness

Integral Consciousness — According to Jean Gebser we are currently going through another big structural change of Consciousness. The next growth spurt leads from the mental-rational into the so-called integral structure.

A new leap in Consciousness is necessary because our current way of explaining and understanding the world has become both questionable and destructive.

The integral structure is not a transcendence or a leaving behind of the previous ways of understanding and experiencing the world. But rather, the integral structure can only emerge if human Consciousness becomes concretised, because only what is concrete can be integrated.

In the integral period all previous structures need to be integrated. Abstractions cannot be integrated. They remain intellectual.

The word concretion is  unusual and unexpected in this context. But it becomes clear when we see what Jean Gebser means. He uses the word in its literal sense. Concretion comes from Latin con-crescere, meaning to grow together.

He writes, “concretion then does not mean transformation of the intangible into something tangible, substantial, but rather the completion of con-crescere, that is the coalescence of the spiritual with our consciousness.”

Integral Consciousness develops only when all previous periods are integrated and their contributions enrich our present experience. Humans have to become aware of the effects of all 4 periods on their life and destiny and accept them wholeheartedly.

Jean Gebser emphasises that this integration is not an expansion of Consciousness in the sense of an increase in quantity or an improvement in quality. Instead, humans will experience an intensification of Consciousness which is caused by an integration and transparency of all previous structures: archaic, magical, mythical and mental.

Elder ConsciousnessIn the individual human experience we can call the 5th period eldership. The Consciousness of the elder has experienced itself through gestation, childhood, adolescence and adulthood. It has not only lived through the ups and downs of all those 4 periods, it has also transformed the experiences into personal wisdom — particularly the traumatic and painful ones.

Elder Consciousness has integrated the transformed experiences, and thereby gained a unique inner clarity, serenity and peace. The integration of our personal experiences also connects individual human Consciousness with the whole — i.e. the source of the entire human journey of life. The cycle is complete.

The eldership period is an opportunity to grow fully into Consciousness. This takes us beyond the previous limitations of self-perception and ego-identification.

Elder Consciousness provides us with the experience of authentic freedom and primordial trust. From the mental perspective of the 4th period one might be tempted to assume that this freedom can be reached by detaching from the world.

We are particularly keen to ‘detach ourselves’ from anything that is painful, threatening or unpleasant. But we cannot delete and replace bits of our Consciousness, as if we were a computer program.

Carl Gustav Jung knew this when he said: “Man is not a machine that one can reconstruct, as occasion demands … Man bears his age-long history with him; in his very structure is written the history of mankind.”

We have to know and accept ourselves unconditionally, including all the negative, traumatic, and painful experiences which we so desperately want to leave behind.

We assume the better life we want to create lies beyond all the old pain. And it does. But the pain cannot simply be switched off or thrown out. Whatever is our experience becomes part of us.

It is impossible to accept the negative, dark, and bad parts of our story wholeheartedly unless we are able to transform them into something spectacularly valuable.

True freedom lies on the other side of the transformation of our suffering. In order to gain it we have to delve deep into the inner darkness.

We are invited to create our own wealth and wellbeing from the inner resources that lie dormant in the seeds of all our suffering: i.e. from the shock of being born, the trauma of childhood, the errors of youth, and the self-betrayal of adulthood.

In the remaining chapters of this book we will take a closer look at the 5 periods of Consciousness and how they express themselves in everyday life. We will explore the long lasting impact of experiences during gestation, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood — in particular the impact of painful, traumatic and other negative experiences.

We will witness the timelessness of human suffering, and how this quality can help us move beyond the obstacles and limitations of our perception. Finally we will discover ways to transform those personal painful experiences.

We want to find out how you and I can promote the evolution of human Consciousness and contribute to a new integral structure.


© Veronika Bond, 2016

This article is a draft of the eleventh chapter of The Horizon, volume 2 of The Solo System.

It is complemented by an e-letter, containing additional background information about the progress of the book and the creative process.

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