24. Mutations, Imagination, Futurability

This week’s podcast is up! A reading of my essay from October’s Gebser Conference. “Mutations, Imagination, Futurability.”

I’m tempted to describe it as a kind of “evolutionary triptych” for consciousness efflorescence. Tempted.

It’s also a taste of the forthcoming Mutations journal due out Feb. 2022, and hints at some of the new conceptual legwork developed in my own next book, Fragments of an Integral Future (Spring 2022).

Show notes:

Support the show and connect with the Mutations learning community on Patreon

See more from the Gebser Conference, “Origins, A Cosmo-Local Gathering

More on Mutations and Integral Imprint

23. The Web of Meaning with Jeremy Lent

In episode 23 of Mutations, I talk with Jeremy Lent about his new book: The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find Our Place in the Universe.

Lent’s newest work proposes an integrated worldview very much in the philosophical spirit of the scholars and teachers we explore on Mutations (integral philosophy, theory, etc.). At the time of recording this, I was just coming down from the whirl of regenerative possibilities explored in the Integrales Forum panel, “Becoming the Planetary”, where Lent and others talked about framing a new narrative around a “regenerative turn.”

Part of this turn, however, means important breaks from traditional narratives in Western culture concerning evolutionism and progressive societal development. Lent’s book articulates this regenerative narrative wonderfully, and I had to agree with Tyson Yunkaporta’s blurb:

“It is hard to build new regenerative narratives that honor the old without being in extractive relation to non-western lands and peoples, but this book is a damn good start. This book is a good place to sit for anybody interested in binding the wounds of thoughtless progress and allowing for the emergence of new patterns of being.”

Tyson Yunkaporta, author, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World

I was also delighted to share some of my thoughts on the interrelationship with Lent’s writing and my own research with Jean Gebser. We discussed the convergence points across the conversation. Thanks for listening, and stay tuned with me: Mutations has a back log now, and as I continue to work on my next book, more conversations should be going up over the next few months.

Episode 23 Notes

Integral as Participatory and Phenomenological

I’m listening to Daniel Thorson’s conversation with Zak Stein today and feeling deeply receptive to it.

Zak’s mention of McLuhan was particularly revelatory. It made me think of the loss/gain character of any new medium. New media extend us, but they also cut us off—like the car replacing the foot. Social media extends communication, but it also replaces the important, sensemaking embodiment of voice and presence.

…And so, when we open our mouths, we Tweet. We Facebook Status (as verb). We project a virtual world to side with. To text, to tweet, is to have a prosthetic voice. What other options are there? Zak analogizes this to smoking even when we know it’s bad for us. In this case, to speak, to reach out and in turn be received, we must inhale the toxic fumes of memetic polarization. And this is by design.

The recent “Stay At Home” episode on Jacobin with Amber Frost and Matt Christman also speaks to this problem:

But I think Zak offers some helpful ways to “seeing through” the media and orienting it toward “down to Earth” sensemaking ground, which may require use to get offline to rediscover. Voice, connection, communication, love.

I share Daniel’s frustration with meta-narrative discussions and framing—which, looking back, I think I partly expressed in our Emerge conversation over a year ago now (concerning meta thinking and metamodernism in general, which I’ve since come to appreciate in a more complex way):

Daniel might also appreciate the essay I contributed to @TheSideViewCo on this subject of going meta as participatory and phenomenological; not needing to climb higher heights of abstraction but rather to work at becoming more present to the felt-sense of what is happening to us and our involvement in the changes this world is undergoing. I would add today that the felt-sense of this planetary crisis (which the social media issue is but one, if not predominant concern), this structure of feeling, can itself become deeply instructive and re-orienting. The crisis is teaching us what has the potential to emerge. But as Zak and Daniel express so well in their podcast episode, it requires a turning toward uncertainty and liminality; Le Guin’s “nusuth” 1 in The Left Hand of Darkness.

And finally, Jason Snyder and Jared Janes talked with me about the “Meta, Modern” essay and going meta/integral in a more participatory and phenomenological way on Both/And podcast.

Certainties don’t seem to be yielding themselves— but that would merely be information, as Daniel mentions at the beginning of the episode. When we move beyond knowing or unknowing I think we can begin the process of mutual learning2 with the crisis, and so our certainties become replaced by transparencies, which invite us not to know but to participate.

Entangled Myths for Planetary Flourishing, ft. Gordon White

In this episode, I was joined by Gordon White, host of Rune Soup podcast, a show about magic, culture and the paranormal. Gordon is the author of The Chaos Protocols, Star.Ships, and Pieces of Eight: Chaos Magic Essays and Enchantment.

Note: This episode was recorded before the new year, in December 2019. A “pre-COVID-19 tape” if you will. If you listen until the end, however, you’ll notice some oddly prescient comments about health and wellbeing in 2020.

I begin my discussion with Gordon exploring the historical rise of communities of magical practice during a time of planetary crisis, and naturally, we roll into a discussion on imagination and storytelling.

What are the kinds of stories – the planetary myths –  we need to be tuning into right now, in the epoch of the Anthropocene/Chthulucene?

Gordon talks about how to be “a pacifist in a living universe,” and living artistically through a “non-tyrannical way of being in the world.” Authors like Ursula K. Le Guin and her Taoist-anarchic heroes (Georg Orr as depicted in The Lathe of Heaven, or Ged in A Wizard of Earthsea), or J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, can teach us something about living this way.

Gordon was an absolute delight to speak to – and there’s much more in the conversation. Thanks for tuning in.

More show notes:

#11. The Meta-Crisis and Transitioning to a “Steady State” Civilization – Q&A [Friday Solo Show]

Mutations truly go on! As we wade further into the murky complexities of the meta-crisis, I bring you an update from COVID-19 quarantine. This is a recording from 4/2/20. Part riff, part Q&A discussion with viewers as we explore how to navigate the “meta-crisis,” including helpful ways of looking the current world state and navigating to (latent), more beautiful futures. Themes of liminality, metaxis (“betweenness”), and integral ontology come into the picture right now, as we collectively attempt to find our way to a new mode of sensemaking and culture building that is more akin to Teilhard de Chardin’s planetization, or Jean Gebser’s integral aperspectivity. Do tune in. This one definitely felt like climbing on a pulpit. 

PS: There’s now a backlog of interviews, some recorded before the COVID-19 epidemic–from another era! But they are coming. Thanks, listener, for your gracious patience.

10. Talking Owen Barfield and the Evolution of Christianity with Mark Vernon

An episode for the Epiphany.

I spoke with author, philosopher, and psychotherapist Mark Vernon about his 2019 book: A Secret History of Christianity: Jesus, the Last Inkling, and the Evolution of Consciousness.

You may have already listened on Mark’s YouTube channel. Great, but also be sure to tune in below for a new introduction.

Mark has a PhD in ancient philosophy, with two other degrees in physics and theology. What brought us together was a mutual interest in the evolution of consciousness; Mark, by way of the Oxford Inkling Owen Barfield, and myself by way of the Swiss cultural philosopher and poet Jean Gebser. Mark read my book and I read his. We agreed that we simply needed to have a chat.

To my knowledge, Gebser and Barfield never actually talked with one another in life, even though their ideas find many significant convergences; the theme of participation, for instance, plays a prominent role in both of their works.

Mark’s A Secret History of Christianity is also a history of religion, which is to say the history of consciousness. His documentation of pivotal transformations in the evolution of religion were highly illustrative.

Take Pneuma, for example:

“Consider the words “wind” and “spirit.” It turns out that in ancient Greek, as in many other old languages, there is a single word that means both “wind” and “spirit.” It’s pneuma in Greek and it’s a relic from previous times. It’s a linguistic fossil from the undifferentiated consciousness of original participation because back then, the material world mingled with the immaterial; outer with the inner; mortal with the immortal; wind with spirit. One word captured what we now think of as two distinct things. It’s why, today, verses like John 3:8, “the pneuma blows where it wishes,” are almost impossible to translate.”

Passages like this one highlight an important recognition that some of the most fundamental assumptions about how human beings encounter, inhabit, and experience the world can undergo creative transformation. This realization, alone, underscores a view of history where the ground itself shifts from time to time. These insights also dovetail quite a bit with what I generally describe as an “integral etymology” equally present in Gebser’s work.

Barfield, by way of Mark’s compelling writing, provides us not only with a history of our consciousness but some important words about its future. Anyone seriously interested in the meaning crisis (via John Vervaeke), or the evolution of religion (like Ken Wilber’s The Religion of Tomorrow) is strongly encouraged to pick this book up.

(For a direct reading of Barfield I recommend starting with Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry).

I mentioned earlier this year in the episode with Dr Becca Tarnas that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth cosmology also has interesting synergy some of Gebser’s ideas, particularly how the consciousness structures unfold (a series of gains and losses as we move further “away” from spiritual origin in time and becoming).

We need a general “The Inklings and the Evolution of Consciousness ft. J. Gebser Remix” episode. Roundtable scholarly nerd-out imminent. Mark, Becca, and I are talking about making it happen. Stay tuned.

Show notes

Mark’s homepage

Featured artwork: The Adoration of the Magi by Edward Burne-Jones

Talking Temporics, Gebser on Integral Life

A little synchronicity happened to me the other day. Corey W. Devos, of Integral Life, posted about a livestream happening at the top of the hour.

The subject matter was concerning time, featuring Dr. Keith Witt, and so being something of a Gebserian (wink-nod), of course my interest was peaked. I joined the Zoom call.

It was after 5 p.m. here on the gulf, so I thought sure, why not, my wife and I have time before dinner.

Continue reading “Talking Temporics, Gebser on Integral Life”

8. Building a Case for an “Integral Futurism” [Solo Show]

The difficulty with talking about time is knowing when to begin. So, I might as well start with this, here.

I’m working on a new book for Integral Imprint called Fragments of an Integral Futurism (202o), and have begun curating a humble bookshelf exploring, first of all, the origins of futurism itself.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s After the Future (2011) and Futurability: The Age of Impotence and the Horizon of Possibility (2017) have both been illuminating.

For the curious, Berardi was recently interviewed on Conner Habib’s podcast (AEWCH) talking about “breathing in the end of the world.”

In my book, “Bifo” Berardi’s work, alongside Mark Fisher’s (Capitalist Realism), is brought into conversation with Jean Gebser’s cultural phenomenology (kulturphilosophie)—and integral philosophy in general—to help us understand the crisis of sensemaking and civilization. I know. Tall order. But, this is where my writing and reading takes me.

Continue reading “8. Building a Case for an “Integral Futurism” [Solo Show]”