International Jean Gebser Society Conference, NYC: “Crisis and Mutation”


The title says it all. This Friday and Saturday, the 17th and 18th of October respectively, we are holding the International Jean Gebser Society’s 2014 conference. Our theme this year is Crisis and Mutation, inspired by the insights of the German-turned-Swiss scholar Jean Gebser, a contemporary of Jung, Eliade, Corbin and the like (though perhaps lesser known outside of integral theory circles). I’m honored to be convening this conference with the help of society president, Dr. Aaron Cheak.

The conference covers quite a lot of ground through its speakers — tackling the question of consciousness transformation during a time of global crisis, economic meltdown, and ecological collapse. What do we make of our time and how can we think constructively toward a better world?

Within a dissolution, there is a solution, Gebser noted. Within each crisis there is some bleak but promised window of opportunity for mutation. Conversations regarding a new Paradigm, a new consciousness, a new “planetary culture” are common today, but so are the cynics, the critics, and those who warn us we may very well be headed for a fall. So what do we make of this mottled spectrum of light and darkness?

Many of our presenters will be exploring this question from their own, unique angles, bringing some of the critical elements of contemporary culture to bear from the philosophical and multi-disciplinary perspectives of integral thought. Poets, scholars, writers, and consciousness studies academics will be sharing their creative responses to our global crisis. As an integral thinker myself, I am happy to suggest the possibility that “integral” thinking, evidenced in scholars like Jean Gebser, Sri Aurobindo, William Irwin Thompson, Ken Wilber, Edgar Morin and Roy Bhaskar promise ideas that can transform the way we think about consciousness transformation and, arguably, need more voice in contemporary discussion. Further, these writers, with Gebser in particular emphasis here, straddle the borderlands of deep rigorous scholarship and the poetic insights of spiritual and theological methodologies. Precisely what we may need in the spiritual counter-culture: an intellectual spirituality.

We hope to see you there, too. Tickets open to the public on both Friday and Saturday. You can get yours on the Gebser page or purchase them live at the door (cash and debit will both be available).

7 thoughts on “International Jean Gebser Society Conference, NYC: “Crisis and Mutation”

    1. Jeremy Johnson says:

      Thanks! I’m sitting on the recorded material, just looking for a chance to do the necessary editing. Then it’s all going up on the Gebser website. I’ll announce it on my blog, too!

      Nice to meet someone else who takes an interest in Gebser’s work!

  1. davidm58 says:

    Wish I could have been there! Did you get the recorded material posted? Did anyone discuss the book Peter Pogany had supposedly completed before he passed away: “21st Century, Thy Name is Havoc!”

    1. Jeremy D. Johnson says:

      Hey David! Yes, recordings were made available last week. You can listen to (most) of the presentations here and read their abstracts:

      In addition, Mirco, who wasn’t able to present live, pre-recorded his talk via YouTube. That links is included on the page.

      Would love to hear your thoughts about the conference, at some point.

      (PS: Haven’t heard of Peter Pogany before, thanks for bringing him to my attention!)

  2. davidm58 says:

    Thanks Jeremy. Pogany published the book “Rethinking the World” in 2006. I have copies of the papers he presented to the Gebser society from 2009 to 2013: very informative and thought provoking, in general about thermodynamics, economics, ecological limits to growth, crisis, and Gebser. For example, see his post here, and the link to a longer paper at blog dot gebser dot net.

  3. davidm58 says:

    I listened to your presentation on “The Penumbra of Electric Light” last night and found it very interesting. I like how you take the “Janus faced” stance of wrestling with the middle ground re: technology.
    Peter Pogany’s presentation at the 2010 conference was on “New Scientific Evidence Confirms Gebser’s Concerns about Technological Overreach.”
    Pogany also refers the section tying together the discovery of the steam engine and the French Revolution. I thought you might be interested in how he interpreted that section. From Pogany, p. 6:

    “Gebser rendered energy equivalent to space and time via its extrasomatic form when he called motoricity “an aspect of the phenomenon of time” or “spatialized time.” The latter is an allusion to the fact that the working of a machine, the utilization of extrasomatic energy par excellence, can always be plotted against a time dimension or axis to control and measure its performance.

    By citing the 1782 discovery of the steam engine and the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 in the same argument, he connected both forms of energy to describe the “breaking forth of time.” The steam engine was, in Gebser’s words, the “progenitrix of motoric forces,” that is, the Ur-mother of extrasomatic energy in the service of “animating,” as it were, capital equipment.

    The storming of the Bastille, along with the hyper-dynamic political, social, and military developments that followed it during the next five years, may be viewed as an upsurge in somatic energy.

    James Watt’s discovery and “Quatorze Juillet” were only seven years apart, as Gebser emphasized, a coincidence on a macrohisotric time scale that reveals that the “breaking forth of time” was the entelechy of energy accumulating and transforming since the origin. It was a “breaking forth of energy.”

    Whereas the Industrial Revolution provided the medium of bringing extrasomatic capital equipment; that is, technology, into motion as well as allowing somatic energy to be channeled so as to deploy it in the creation of material wealth, the Social Revolution saw to the creation of conditions in which the newly found high potential of combining somatic and extrasomatic energy could be deployed to enhance material well-being on a mass scale.”

    Pogany then proceeds with a discussion of a 2nd point about the contrast between consciousness as an intensity, and the material space-time world as an extensity. He begins by quoting Gebser:

    “Machine is an objectivation or an externalization of man’s own capabilities; it is in psychological terms a projection.” (EPO 132).

    This is analog to saying that the employment of extrasomotatic energy is an externalization of inner powers or conditions. It is the visible, outward form of these powers and conditions.

    “Gebser’s treatment of the external and the internal is eloquently illustrated by describing “breaking forth” as primarily external developments (steam engine and Bastille), and the “irruption of time” as primarily internal developments; alienation of the ego or its amalgamation into the collective, both caused by society’s growing materialization, rigidification.”

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