‘The Horizon’, Part 2, Summary: the 5 stages of growth of human Consciousness and everything we learned in the second part of this book
“None of them took the step towards becoming human.”Jean Gebser
“There are those who have not been able to fully carry out the detachment from their parents, or those others who didn’t manage to acquire their position in the world by their own strength, or those who have not done their work around the age of 49 and who have not learned to see beyond themselves. The first ones remained eternal children, the second ones eternal youths, the third ones eternal men. None of them took the step towards becoming human. They didn’t mature, they remained stuck because they skipped the significant years.”
These words were spoken by Jean Gebser during a talk given in 1958. Here the German philosopher refers to the developmental stages of human Consciousness, which he explored in his life’s work The Ever Present Origin. We have been introduced to those stages in chapter 11.
In this talk with the title Über die Erfahrung (About the Experience) he doesn’t speak about the collective periods of Consciousness. But he mentions what happens, if we don’t manage to learn from our own experience.
According to Jean Gebser the personal experience of every human contains vital information. Through deeper insights into our experience we can not only learn something new, we can also harvest genuine wisdom. By gaining personal wisdom from our own experience we mature towards the integral state which can rightfully be called ‘human’.
In Part 2 of this book we explored various fundamental aspects of this maturing process.
The ninth chapter — Biosophy — began with a little test on the term ‘biosophy’. We learned that the term biosophy was coined by the Swiss philosopher and politician Ignaz P.V. Troxler. The word biosophy means literally wisdom of life.
We defined biosophy in the context of the Solo System as follows: Biosophy is the practice of turning personal experiences in everyday life into wisdom.
Since this chapter was about learning we met three school children. The first one was the Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai. She was shot in the head on her way home from school because she ignored the rules of the Taliban who wanted to ban school education for girls.
The second pupil was the German boy Tilmann Holsten. He refused to go to school and became the first pupil in Germany who won a case of school-refusal.
The third ‘school kid’ was Antonin Stern, the French boy who doesn’t have to go to school but can learn whatever he wants to learn in his own time and in his own way.
Then we met Günther Dohmen, the German professor for adult education and researcher of informal ways of learning.
Finally we learned about 2 of the most fatal results of formal education:
1st — We develop a resistance against learning anything new.
2nd — We stop trusting ourselves.
The tenth chapter — Suffering, Creating, Healing — was about the connection between biosophy on one hand, and suffering, creating, and healing on the other hand.
We met Kris Carr, the American woman who was diagnosed with an incurable cancer in at the age of 31 and turned the disease into her ‘guru’.
Then we met Dominik Polonski, the Polish cellist who developed a brain tumour in his late twenties, was left paralysed after a series of operations, and found his personal way to recovery with the help of his therapist Martin Busch.
We looked at the healing journeys of Kris Carr and Dominik Polonski from the perspective of biosophical learning. From Martin Busch we learned about the importance of learning to maintain a healthy brain. The same applies of course to our Consciousness, which is the basis for a healthy body and mind.
This chapter also introduced the Solo System as a biosophical model of human Consciousness. It shows the 8 Faculties, or ‘organs of Consciousness’ in a brief overview. Here it may become apparent that learning is not just a voluntary activity, but that our Consciousness absorbs information largely in autonomous and ‘unconscious’ ways.
The eleventh chapter — 5 Periods of Consciousness — offers an overview of the 5 evolutionary stages of Consciousness in Jean Gebser’s model of the history of humankind. He called these 5 stages ‘structures of Consciousness‘.
Here we are particularly interested in the parallels between those 5 structures, which refer to collective human Consciousness, and how they relate to our personal experience of life. Here they are again:
Archaic Consciousness — The first structure of Consciousness describes the origin of mankind, the so-called ‘primitive human’. Individual human Consciousness experiences the archaic structure during its time as an unborn baby in the womb and during the first year after birth. We called this phase embryonic Consciousness.
Magical Consciousness —In the second structure humans started to make things, explore the world, and make it their own. We go through the magical period during childhood. Therefore we called this phase child Consciousness.
Mythical Consciousness — In the third structure mankind became aware of the existence of an inner world, and we began to project our perceptions onto the outer world. The mythical phase corresponds with the period between puberty and adulthood. Therefore we describe this phase as adolescent Consciousness.
Mental Consciousness — The fourth ‘mutation’ of Consciousness is the mental structure. Mental man became aware of his environment. He discovered the cosmic and social order and made his own laws. As individuals enter the mental structure during adulthood, therefore this phase is called adult Consciousness.
Integral Consciousness — According to Jean Gebser we are currently going through another big structural change of Consciousness. This must lead into the so-called integral structure; the only alternative would be a complete disintegration and therefore self-destruction of mankind. This 5th period cannot be achieved automatically. We have to support the further development of our own Consciousness. We refer to this period as elder Consciousness.
The twelfth chapter — Consciousness in Paradise — describes the individual experience of embryonic Consciousness.
In this chapter we met Franz Renggli, a prenatal therapist from Basel. He offered us a glimpse into his therapeutic practice with the 14 month old Sebastian and his parents. Here we could witness the astonishing cure of a disorder in a child by talking to his parents.
We were also introduced to Erich Neumann, a student of Carl Gustav Jung, who specialised in working with children. He discovered that during our time in the womb and the early months of infancy a certain social attitude towards ourselves and our role in society is instilled in us as it where ‘through our mother’s milk’.
By Jean Gebser we were reminded that all living organisms remain connected to the original structure of infinite Consciousness, which exists in a state of eternal presence. The reconciliation of these two threads of information — the infinite and the social/ cultural — remains a central task throughout life.
Finally we discovered that each period of Consciousness contains a special tool to help us integrate our experiences. For the embryonic period this tool is called Awakening.
In the thirteenth chapter — In a Magic Kingdom — we explored child Consciousness.
Here we met André Stern again, the father of Antonin from chapter 9. André Stern is a French luthier, guitarist and journalist who had a fairy tale childhood. His parents never sent him to school, and he learned whatever he wanted to learn whenever he wanted to do so. His main tool for learning was play.
In this chapter Erich Neumann shared the importance of play for children and adults alike. He said, “Only an individual embedded in this symbolic reality of play can become a complete human being.”
We also met Diana Spencer, a well known English woman born into an aristocratic family. She had everything that is commonly associated with a fairy tale childhood, but her story was a tragic one, especially the unhappy ending.
In this excursion through the period of child-Consciousness we identified 4 essential elements for the healthy development of a child:
1 — We need to develop our ‘true Self’.
2 — Play stimulates our creativity and is an important way of learning anything.
3 — We need to experience unconditional, clear-sighted, and whole-hearted Love.
4 — We need support and protection.
The special tool for the integration of experiences in the child period is called Awareness.
The fourteenth chapter — On the Heroic Journey — revealed some of the ups and downs of adolescent Consciousness.
Here we met Emma Watson, a British actress who became famous for playing the part of Hermione in the Harry Potter films. Emma Watson entered her adolescent phase in the public eye, which forced her to ‘grow up’ fast
We also met Alexander Huber, a Bavarian mountaineering legend who began his epic career as a young teenager.
One of the main challenges of the adolescent period is to find our gifts. Emma Watson and Alexander Huber received their first ‘call to adventure’ around the tender age of 9, and by the time they entered adolescent Consciousness they were already on their Heroic Journey.
In the remaining parts of this chapter we explored some of the challenges and lesser known aspects of this mythical adventure and how it translates into everyday life.
Our special tool for this adolescent period is called Responsibility.
In the fifteenth chapter — At the School of Life — we turned our attention to the phase of adult Consciousness.
The beginning of this chapter was marked by meeting the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, not in his professional role as the eminent psychoanalyst but on a more personal level. In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Thoughts he shared how he discovered the value of the shadow side of human Consciousness and what kind of experiences guided him in his discoveries.
Then we met the American Buddhist Tsultrim Allione who travelled to Calcutta at the age of 19, became ordained as the first American Buddhist nun, and was later considered to be an ‘emanation’ of the female Buddhist saint Machig Labdron.
We found some parallels between C.G. Jung’s work, focussing on the shadow side of human Consciousness, and Tsultrim Allione’s Chöd practice, which she calls ‘Feeding your Demons’.
The shadows and demons are particularly relevant for the adult period because this is the phase where we are confronted with our own repressed issues, which meet us in the outer world in the form of crises, difficulties, and all kinds of adversities.
The special tool we have to help with our lessons and tests throughout the adult period is Acceptance.
At the end of this chapter we clarified the meaning of true acceptance. It has nothing to do with putting up with unacceptable situations.
The central topic of the sixteenth chapter — Around the Sacred Mountain — is elder Consciousness.
In this chapter we briefly met the Swiss psychologist Verena Kast, the German-French founder of the painting space Arno Stern, the Australian dancer and choreographer Eileen Kramer, and the British musician and film maker Jamie Catto.
We explored the largely unknown and unappreciated landscape of elder Consciousness, and we discovered that elderhood is not necessarily dependent on old age.
Elder Consciousness is related to the integration of our experiences, especially the negative and painful ones. It offers a unique opportunity to move beyond inner conflicts.
Here we learned about the timelessness we can enter via the elder phase, and the hidden connection between negative experiences and dormant potential. We also discovered the significance of sensitive phases, which are always an invitation to grow in Consciousness.
The latter part of this chapter includes an overview of negative incidents in everyday life. This can help us to recognise their connection with the four phases of Consciousness: embryonic, child, adolescent, and adult.
In the end the intricate relationship between the process of healing and creating became obvious, and we were reminded again that both of them serve the growth of human Consciousness.
How can we participate in these processes, despite apparently being largely autonomous?
How can we recognise those sensitive phases in everyday life, and what’s the best way to deal with them?
How can we take responsibility for our personal process of growth and do our bit to support our evolution into integral Consciousness?
The third part of this book offers a range of Healing Impulses, which can stimulate the work of healing and creating.
© Veronika Bond, 2016
This article is a draft of the review of part 2 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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