A Gebserian Note on the Word “Map”

Frédérique Aït-Touati, Alexandra Arènes, Axelle Gérgoire, The Soil Map (detail), Terra Forma, manuel de cartographies potentielles, 2019. © the artists.

It is worth considering the word’s etymology. A quick search yields humbling results: mappa, meaning napkin, cloth, or sheet. Mappa combined with mundi in the late Middle Ages to connote the familiar (modern) meaning, i.e., a map of the world. 

From dinner scribbles to maps of the world. 

Associated words like cartography give us another word, charte, or a sheet of paper intended for navigators, and the Latin chartula/cartula, “little paper.” There’s a diminutive, crumpled-in-the-back-pocket, food stained and salt sprayed sensual richness to this word’s history that intuitively feels of some import to us. 

Even -graphy has a craftiness to it. Before it was commonly used to mean “writing or recording,” it meant “to draw, represent by lines” on clay tablets, “to scrape, scratch,” and finally, from its root *gergh-, or “to carve.” The word may have come to mean something more abstract, but I am delighted by its navigational, tool-oriented, and craft-focused etymological origins, which emphasize what maps still do in the mental structure, albeit on a much more grandiose scale: a blade that cuts the clay, presses the cloth, makes space, and shapes the world. 

In this making of the world there is not only the shaping of the image (mythic) but the activity of making, magh (magic) itself. There is also the possibility for artistry here: carving as a process not only for revealing or making, poiesis, but making-with, a sympoietic relationship with the world. Deer leaving their marks in the mud, shaping a path through the forest.

It would seem to imply that aperspectival map-making involves a transparency of these structures, which are always at work in the process of spatializing, but a transparency of time and space is also required for this intensified participation with things in their aliveness and relations: sympoiesis as the creative and spiritual process of making-with, worlding-with our more-than-human kin. The mental structure is welcome here, but it no longer resembles an industrious state of hyper-inflation. It is delightfully brilliant in its diminutive size–a tool in the hand, a hoof in the mud–that cooperates with planetary kin in the becoming of the living world.

Seeing Through the World: Integrales Forum Seminar

In Collaboration with Integrales Forum, Germany

This six part online seminar provides an introduction to Jean Gebser’s life and integral philosophy; a guide through the structures of consciousness, leading us into the spiritual import of realizing integral consciousness in our present moment of cultural crisis and transformation. Special attention will also be brought to connecting Gebser’s integral philosophy to the “meta-crisis,” metamodernist currents, and manifestations of the integral world in contemporary culture.

Your lecturer, Jeremy Johnson, is a scholar who has spent the last decade working with Ever-Present Origin and an integral aperspectival approach to thinking about cultural evolution.

Lectures will be presented every three weeks on a Friday, live on Zoom, and will include a Q&A segment with participants as well as breakout sessions.

Sessions will go approximately 90 minutes.

  1. March 12: Introduction — Jean Gebser, His Life, Work and Spiritual Import
  2. April 2: Origin and Time
  3. April 23: From the Archaic to Integral Consciousness
  4. May 14: Irruption, Intensification and Integral Concepts
  5. June 4: Metamodernism and Fragments of an Integral Futurism
  6. June 25: Manifestations of the Aperspectival World Today

Participants will be able to watch and keep the recording of each session. A syllabus with recommended reading will also be provided.

Registration: 125. -€

Pay what you can/customize your payment on PayPal.

About Your Instructor

Jeremy Johnson, MA, is a scholar, writer, and publisher at Revelore Press and the founder of Nura Learning. He received his masters in Consciousness Studies from Goddard College, VT, where he studied the intersections of media ecology, integral philosophy, and depth psychology. He is the author of Seeing Through the World: Jean Gebser and Integral Consciousness (2019) and an editor for Mutations: Art, Consciousness and the Anthropocene (2021) and the forthcoming Fragments of an Integral Future: Essays on Reclaiming Time. (2021). Jeremy is the current president of the International Jean Gebser Society, editor for Integral Leadership Review and a Senior Research Associate at Perspectiva. His writing has been featured in OMNI, Reality Sandwich magazine, Conscious Lifestyle, Kosmos Journal, Integral Leadership Review, Evolve Magazine, and Evolve and Ascend. 

New Course: Cohering the Radical Present

I am pleased to announce that I am offering a new virtual course.

Cohering the Radical Present: Integral Consciousness in Daily Life.”

Naturally, the course will be hosted online, through a newly revamped Nura Learning (under the hood, I am using Mighty Networks for the actual course space, featuring forums, modules, etc. all in one portal).

This course, as I mentioned elsewhere, has been the result of many different students reaching out to me about a “Gebser practice.” There isn’t one. Or at least there wasn’t any explicit practice Gebser offered. After two annual classes reading Ever-Present Origin, receiving feedback and mutual insight from students, I think we’re finally ready to go forward with a praxis-centered offering.

There is no one practice or methodology for “cohering” the structures of consciousness, for living integrally in daily life, but we can approach techniques and methods with an integral sensibility.

I also have the honor of working with some great peers, who will be joining me as guest teacher: Debashish Banerji (Chair of East-West Psychology, CIIS), Barbara Karlsen (Somatic Psychotherapist), Brandt Stickley (Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Integral Philosopher), and Jared Janes (Contemplative Teacher and co-host of the Both/And Podcast, With Jared Podcast). These are friends and colleagues who have offered me insightful feedback on what an integral praxis could be.

We start on Sunday, October 4 and run through December 6. Five pre-recorded modules, seven Zoom calls. Syllabus and guidebook — a sort of integral, contemplative “book of hours” for participants.


You can read the full course description on the registration page.

Gift Economy

I’d like to make this as accessible as possible, so Gift Economy exchange is available. Generally, I point people to sign up for my Patreon and send me a note/email about wanting to get on the course list. Pay what you can, you won’t be turned away.

MEA Conference: Media Ecology as Remediation

Next Thursday, June 18th, I have the honor of presenting a paper at the Media Ecology Association’s annual conference. This year the theme is “Communication Choices and Challenges,” and my paper is entitled: “Media Ecology as Remediation: Marshall McLuhan and Jean Gebser in Dialogue”.

My abstract is shared below:

In this essay, I draw from the work of Swiss phenomenologist of consciousness Jean Gebser, and his magnum opus of cultural phenomenology, The Ever-Present Origin (1949) to reflect on some of the more enigmatic insights that Marshall McLuhan provided us with on the characteristics of electronic culture. Although there is little historical evidence that Gebser and McLuhan corresponded directly with one another, Gebser’s publication of Ever-Present Origin anticipates McLuhan’s emphasis on considering the media as environment. It also highlights potential comparisons between McLuhan’s electronic culture and Gebser’s integral-aperspectivity (see Ever-Present Origin, by Jean Gebser, xxix). Like McLuhan, Gebser posited a series of cultural transformations across human history. Gebser’s structures of consciousness, William Irwin Thompson writes, are “isomorphic to McLuhan’s,” and that, “like McLuhan, Gebser holds out a visionary possibility for a transformation of consciousness” (see Coming into Being by William Irwin Thompson, 14). In addressing the question of “Communication Choices and Challenges,” our era of hyper-mediated communication technologies presents us with the Herculean task of overcoming the fragmented culture wars, the so-called “post-truth” world, and ecological devastation. I will explore how our media ecologies might work to engender a form of remedial electronic culture that McLuhan suggests is “the means of living simultaneously in all cultural modes while quite conscious” (see The Gutenberg Galaxy, by Marshall McLuhan, 75), or as Gebser describes as: “a consciousness of man’s distant past and his approaching future as a living present” (Ever-Present Origin by Jean Gebser, 6).

If you’d like an early look at the paper, I’m publishing it to Patreon next week as we kick off the Teilhard book club (incidentally, McLuhan was deeply influenced by Teilhard’s cosmological vision). Become a patron here, and thank you.