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The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative:An Integration of Integral Views

Author(s): Jennifer Gidley

Journal: Integral Review
ISSN 1553-3069

Issue: 5;
Start page: 4;
Date: 2007;
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Keywords: Aesthetics | evolution of consciousness | futures | Gebser | integral theory | language | macrohistory | narrative | participation | planetary | postformal | Steiner | Wilber | space | time | writing.

In this article I aim to broaden and deepen the evolution of consciousnessdiscourse by integrating the integral theoretic narratives of Rudolf Steiner, Jean Gebser,and Ken Wilber, who each point to the emergence of new ways of thinking that couldaddress the complex, critical challenges of our planetary moment. I undertake a widescan of the evolution discourse, noting it is dominantly limited to biology-based notionsof human origins that are grounded in scientific materialism. I then broaden the discourseby introducing integral evolutionary theories using a transdisciplinary epistemology towork between, across and beyond diverse disciplines. I note the conceptual breadth ofWilber's integral evolutionary narrative in transcending both scientism andepistemological isolationism. I also draw attention to some limitations of Wilber’sintegral project, notably his undervaluing of Gebser's actual text, and the substantialomission of the pioneering contribution of Steiner, who, as early as 1904 wroteextensively about the evolution of consciousness, including the imminent emergence of anew stage. I enact a deepening of integral evolutionary theory by honoring the significantyet undervalued theoretic components of participation/enactment and aesthetics/artistryvia Steiner and Gebser, as a complement to Wilber. To this end, I undertake an in-depthhermeneutic dialogue between their writings utilizing theoretic bricolage, a multi-modemethodology that weaves between and within diverse and overlapping perspectives. Thehermeneutic methodology emphasizes interpretive textual analysis with the aim ofdeepening understanding of the individual works and the relationships among them. Thisanalysis is embedded in an epic but pluralistic narrative that spans the entire human storythrough various previous movements of consciousness, arriving at a new emergence atthe present time. I also discuss the relationship between these narratives andcontemporary academic literature, culminating in a substantial consideration of researchthat identifies and/or enacts new stage(s) or movements of consciousness. In particular, Ihighlight the extensive adult developmental psychology research that identifies severalstages of postformal thinking, and recent critical, ecological and philosophical literaturethat identifies an emerging planetary consciousness. In summary, my research reveals aninterpretation of scientific and other evidence that points beyond the formal, modernistworldview to an emerging postformal-integral-planetary consciousness. I posit that abroader academic consideration of such an integration of integral theoretic narrativescould potentially broaden the general evolution discourse beyond its current biologicalbias. The article concludes with a rewinding of narrative threads, reflecting on thenarrators, the journey, and the language of the discourse. Appendixes A and B explorethe theoretical implications of the emergence of postformal-integral-planetaryconsciousness for a reframing of modernist conceptions of time and space. Appendix Cholds an aesthetic lens to the evolution of consciousness through examples from thegenealogy of writing.
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