A Conscious Emergenc(e/y) / Gebser-Jung Asilomar One Year Later

Participants will share reflections on the year that has passed since our 2019 conference


To all participants in the 2019 Gebser + Jung Conference,

We hope this note finds you well! It’s been nearly a year since we all convened at beautiful Asilomar to discuss A Conscious Emergenc(e/y), and a lot has happened since then, hasn’t it? Has it felt more like emergence to you or more like emergency?

We are dedicating one of our Thursday night virtual meetings, October 15, to coming back together—to check in, to share reactions and responses to this past year, and to continue to look ahead.  We hope you can join us.

To accommodate our East Coast friends, we will start at 6 pm PT/9 pm ET on Thursday October 15, 2020, and be together for about 3 hours.  Of course, you can come and go as need be. And you can invite people to come, even if they weren’t at the conference.  Other Gebserians and other Jungians, for example, as well as all your interesting friends.

To give it some structure, if you want to present a short statement (5-10 minutes), please send your request and ideas to

New Member Features

Hello Fellow Gebserians!

As discussed at Monterey, Jon is helping Jeremy and team put together an updated website with new member features including member-only profiles, groups, forums, comments, discussions, and more, using a WordPress website.  We have completed the initial website, you are looking at it now.  Here is what you can do to get started:

Step 1: Register

Note: as a best practice, do NOT use a password you use on other websites, create a unique password for this site.

         Also note: after registering, you will get a confirmation email to your inbox, please make sure you check your SPAM box in case you don’t see it.  We had multiple folks in this pending status.

Step 2:  Note: The Gebser Society is in the process of changing it’s payment info, please check back soon.

Step 3: Post an Introduction Note in the Forums

Looking forward to collaborating virtually!




A Brief Biography

A Brief Biography

In the somber halls of academe, an individual appears who is a philosopher in the original sense of the word — a bright lover of wisdom, a herald of higher human possibilities.

The Swiss philosopher and poet Jean Gebser belonged to that rare Socratic breed. He was a man of extraordinary vision who did not allow himself to be seduced by his learning, but intrepidly pushed beyond the boundaries of accepted truth. He likened modern philosophy to the “picking apart of a rose.” His foundational work on the evolution of human consciousness and culture is among this century’s finest contributions to our modern self-understanding.

In a nutshell, what Gebser succeeded in demonstrating through painstaking documentation and analysis was this: Hidden beneath the apparent chaos of our times is an emergent new order. The disappearance of the pre-Einsteinian world-view. with its creator-god and clockwork universe as well as its naive faith in progress. is more than a mere breakdown. It is also a new beginning. In fact, long before the apostles of a “new age” arrived on the scene, Jean Gebser spoke of our period as one of the great turning points in human history. What makes his work so appealing and relevant is that it offers a unique perspective on human history and the present global crisis. When Gebser’s study on the unfolding of human consciousness was first published it was considered one of the most controversial intellectual creations of our era. This is still true; his ideas challenge not only those of the establishment but also many of the new contenders.

Who was Jean Gebser? And why are a growing number of people excited about his ideas? Until seven years before his death at the age of sixty-two, Gebser was almost completely ignored by the academic establishment. It was then that the University of Salzburg, a venerable institution in Austria, created a special professorial chair for him-comparative culturology. This unique appointment was a belated acknowledgement of his genius. But it changed little, if anything, in Gebser’s lifestyle; he had lived and worked most of his life as a maverick.

It is hard to classify Gebser. Neither he nor his books fit any existing stereotype. He was a scholar, a linguist, a translator, a poet, a historian, an eloquent speaker, a traveler, an adventurous lover of life, people, and ideas-a man of experience, wisdom, spiritual depth, and charisma. Gebser had many friends and admirers, among them psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, biologist Adolf Portmann, physicists Werner Heisenberg and Carl Friedrich von Weizsacker, as well as Tibetologist and spiritual leader Lama Anagarika Govinda. It was the last-mentioned who described Gebser as “one of the most creative and stimulating thinkers of modern Europe.” Most important, however, are Gebser’s publications and lectures, which have affected tens of thousands of people in the German-speaking countries of Europe.

Today, more than a decade after his death, Gebser is being discovered by the Anglo-American world. Annual conferences dedicated to his work are held at Ohio University under the auspices of the International Jean Gebser Society. The participants include philosophers, communication scientists, linguists, sociologists, and political scientists. Since the publication of Gebser’ 5 magnum opus in English by the Ohio University Press, first in hardcover (1985) and then in paperback (1986) under the title The Ever Present Origin;’, independent’ study groups have started to spring up in different states. The demand for this massive volume has been such that a second printing was done in 1988. Other works by Gebser are in the process of translation. A Gebser newsletter is published in Illinois, scholarly studies on his ideas have appeared, and doctoral dissertations are being written on him.

Gebser was born in Prussia (now Poland) in 1905. He inherited his studious nature from his father, a jurist and author, and his more vivacious side from his beautiful femme fatale mother. He was an excessively sensitive child, and in a remarkable autobiographical essay, Gebser speaks of his childhood years as years of dormancy. “At that age,” he writes, “there is only the connection to one’s parents. That is our world.”

And for Gebser, that world was one of increasing domestic conflict. When Jean was seventeen his father died of the injuries incurred when he jumped out a window in a suicide attempt. Later, in a diary entry of 1941/42, Gebser would note, “Family and country are the two main impediments to individual development.” The death left his well to-do family in ruins-Gebser was forced to abandon his schooling and become an apprentice at a bank. He could bear the drudgery and boredom only because in his spare time he attended lectures at Berlin University. During that time he discovered Rilke, Schopenhauer, and Freud. (Of Freud he wrote, “…an excellent guide into Hades, but does he also lead us out of it?”) As soon as he had completed his apprenticeship, Gebser left the monotony of the corporate world behind, dedicating himself to the muses. He had tinkered with his first novel at the age of eleven, and now he could pursue his passion for literature and books.

What he could not foresee was that Europe was preparing for its darkest hour. In 1929 Gebser decided to leave Germany, embarking on his pilgrim years. In Munich he had witnessed the first “brown hordes” of the Nazis, and what he saw filled him with horror. After a brief spell in Italy he went to Spain, where he lived for six years. He befriended and worked closely with Garcia Lorca and other poets, whose works he translated into German. Only his astonishing inner flexibility and linguistic facility allowed Gebser, a writer, to acculturate so quickly and successfully.

Twelve hours before his apartment in Madrid was bombed in the fall of 1936, Gebser again abandoned everything. He went into exile in Paris, where many other intellectuals were seeking refuge. There he shared the company and the poverty of giants such as Pablo Picasso and Andre Malraux. World War II erupted with a vengeance, so Gebser, who saw in war the ultimate absurdity of which humans are capable, decided to leave France. Two hours before neutral Switzerland closed its borders in August 1939, he crossed into safety, if renewed uncertainty.

It was in Switzerland that Gebser finally found a permanent home, though having been repeatedly uprooted made him sense that we must find our roots elsewhere than in geography or culture. As he puts it in one of his poems, written in the mid-1950s, ” real living-at-home is only/in the hearts of those who love.

In the following decades, Gebser worked tirelessly to give shape to his inner vision. At first he focused on his poetry and on the literary works and political struggles of the Spanish friends he had left behind. He published a study of Rilke, and then began his long career as a social critic and visionary.

In the winter of 1931, Gebser had received in a flash of inspiration the concept of his later work, and now he was dedicating his life to making explicit what he had intuitively grasped in that moment. What he had realized was that the phenomenal transformations in the arts and sciences during the first three decades of the twentieth century amounted to a change in the very consciousness of humanity, in the way we perceive ourselves and the world. He compared it in its significance to the transmutation that ancient humanity had passed through at the time of Socrates in Greece, Lao-Tzu in China, and Gautama the Buddha in India. Gebser saw that early period as a transition from what he came to call the mythical structure to the mental-rational structure of consciousness. He felt that the restructuring he was witnessing in his own time was an equally fundamental shift from the mental-rational structure to the arational aperspectival structure of consciousness. Remarkably, he formulated this essentially positive concept at a time when entire nations were in shambles, and when Oswald Spengler’s predictions about the doom of Western civilization were capturing the feverish imagination of the public. In a diary entry of 1941, Gebser affirmed: “Our era is, despite or because of its visible destruction’s, an era of overflowing formative fullness.’ His words still ring true today.

Gebser thus anticipated the key notion behind the so-called Aquarian conspiracy. Unlike so many human potential advocates, however, Gebser never thought for a moment that the emergent consciousness would necessarily usher in a utopian paradise where today’s complex problems would all be solved automatically. Rather, he frequently spoke of the initiatory birth pains that contemporary humanity would have to pass through before the new consciousness could become a reality.

In characterizing the emergent consciousness as arational (as opposed to irrational) and aperspectival, Gebser sought to indicate that it transcended the dualistic, black-or-white categories of the rational orientation to life. Rationalism, for him, was by no means the pinnacle of human existence, but, on the contrary, an evolutionary digression with fatal consequences. He regarded it as a deficient of the inherently balanced mental structure of consciousness. In other words, Gebser did not reject reason, merely its inflation into the sole arbiter of our lives. As he recognized, the human being is a composite of several evolutionary structures of consciousness, and we must live all of them according to their intrinsic value. The individual who is dominated by the rational structure represses all other structures, which are viewed as irrational and hence dispensable. Thus the “reasonable” person is inclined to reject magic, myth, religion, feeling, empathy, and not least ego-transcendence.

In a 1955 diary entry, Gebser observed, “Becoming an ego is painful. Hardly anyone finds his ego prior to the middle of his life. Then most people remain stuck in it and become hardened in it. The still more painful process of ego-transcendence with all its crises and relapses is accomplished by only a few. But it is just this ego-transcendence that is the decisive task of human life.”

The reason-dominated individual tends to be heavily ego-defensive, because identity is defined in terms of the ego-personality. The person who has broken through to the arational-aperspectival consciousness, however, sees the limitations of the ego, and is not threatened by the suggestion that he or she is more than the narrow field of awareness and angular vision that is associated with the ego. In fact, that person welcomes the idea that individuality arises in participation with the larger reality-a reality that by far eclipses the rational mind and even the feeling heart that is so often closed to the rationalist.

In 1943, Gebser published his book Abendlandische Wandlung (Transformation of the West), in which he surveyed the most significant changes in the natural and social sciences, suggesting that they point to a new constellation of consciousness and reality-perception. Six years later, he published the first part of his major work, Ursprung und Gegenwart, available in English under the title The Ever-Present Origin (see Resources, this page). In it, he concerned himself with the aperspectival foundations of our modern civilization. In 1953, the second part appeared. Here Gebser looked back into our human past, identifying and clarifying for us other similar fundamental mutations of consciousness. He distinguished four in all: the archaic structure, the magical structure, the mythical structure, and the mental structure (out of which emerged, as its deficient form, the rational consciousness during the Renaissance). Today a fifth mode or style of cognition, the a rational structure, has become a possibility that, as Gebser never tired of insisting, requires our conscious midwifery through personal and collective self-transcending practice.

Gebser’s unabashedly spiritual orientation, which is unique in European philosophy, has confounded and annoyed his peers, especially those anxious to uphold the neutral rationalist standards of academia. Today, American Gebser scholars, unfortunately, tend to repeat the error of their European counterparts when they try to make Gebser into a phenomenologist of consciousness and culture, ignoring his strong spiritual communication.

I had the opportunity to present a paper on the spiritual implications of Gebser’s work at the 1987 Gebser conference at Ohio University in Athens. Except for some old-timers, who had known Gebser personally, my presentation caused a stir among participants when I reported that Gebser had confided to me in a letter that he had had an enlightenment experience (satori). “It was sober,” he put it, “on the one hand happening with crystal clarity in everyday life, which I perceived and to which I reacted ‘normally,’ and on the other hand and simultaneously being a transfiguration and irradiation of the indescribable, unearthly, transparent ‘Light’–no ecstasy, no emotion, but a spiritual clarity, a quiet jubilation, a knowledge of invulnerability, a primal trust.”

This satori experience surprised Gebser while he was visiting Sarnath in 1961, the place where 2,500 years ago the Buddha preached his first sermon. A year later Gebser published his Asienfibel (Primer on Asia), subsequently reissued in expanded form under the title Asien Lachelt Anders(Asia Smiles Differently), in which we meet Gebser the thoughtful traveler and bridge builder. He regarded the East/West encounter as central to our contemporary task of personal and cultural integration. He wrote, “The view that East and West are opposites is wrong. It is not permissible to apply opposite-creating rational thought in this context, which can, if we continue to persist in this faulty opposition, even lead to the suicide of our culture or civilization. West and East are complementarities. In comparison with the dual, divisive character of opposition, complementary is polar and unifying.”

Gebser, as a spiritual pilgrim, also visited Tiruvannamalai in South India, where Ramana Maharshi, one of modern India’s finest sages, had lived and taught until his death in 1950. But where he felt most in the presence of the emergent arational-integral consciousness was in the Pondicherry ashram of the twentieth-century philosopher-yogi and former political activist Sri Aurobindo. the creator of “integral yoga,” who, incidentally, also died in 1950. Of that visit Gebser said, “There in Pondicherry is, to the best of my knowledge as far as India is concerned, the only place where the mutual flooding of rationalistic machine technology on the one hand and psycho-spiritual yoga technology on the other hand, has begun to be a radiant enrichment of both Asia and the West.”

Undoubtedly, what attracted Gebser was the same clarity that he also appreciated in the Zen monasteries of Japan. According to him, clarity is an essential aspect of the arational structure of consciousness. He lived by this principle himself. Gebser stood for intensification. rather than mystical or psychedelic expansion, of consciousness. Clarity is both a means and a sign of such intensification. Gebser approvingly cited a remark by Paul Klee, one of the great pioneers of the aperspectival consciousness in art. “I begin more and more to see behind or, better, through things.”

It would appear that this observation entails useful advice for anyone.

2019 Conference Videos

Videos from the 2019 Conference

Please find the conference videos on the Jung Monterey YouTube channel.

Become A Member

Join the Jean Gebser Society

Members of the Jean Gebser Society support the preservation and furtherance of the work of Jean Gebser through academic symposia, publications, discussion list, social media, and other means.


A modest financial contribution ensures a discount in the admission to our annual conference. Society members also receive the option to host a dedicated bio page on the Gebser Society website, featuring a description of their research, academic contributions and artistic work. Members can also request access to publish on the society’s blog. More membership benefits will be posted here as they become available.

Regular membership:  $35

Student membership:  $15

Lifetime membership: $350

Watch New Insights Into Nature: 2016 Livestream

Dear Gebserians,

The first day of the International Jean Gebser Conference at Seattle University was a great success. We’re excited to be able to share it with you via this YouTube playlist. Refresh the playlist every hour for regular updates.

NEW INSIGHTS INTO NATURE at Seattle University, WA

Watch the whole playlist.

48th Annual Gebser Conference – All Attendees (+ Registration)

It is our pleasure to invite you to attend the 48th annual Jean Gebser Society Conference, which will be held at the Nalanda campus (room 9235) of Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, from Oct. 12-14. There is no fee for attending, which means faculty, students, staff, or members of the public who wish to attend are invited to drop in for the full or part of the weekend. However, we do invite all prospective attendees to fill out this registration form (optional) so we can contact you with details prior to the event. We will also post an event page on Facebook for communicating with conference attendees.

The Gebser Society is an academic society dedicated to exploring the life, work, and interdisciplinary contributions of the Swiss-Austrian scholar Jean (Hans) Gebser (1905-1973). In his time, Gebser was interested in transformations of culture and the phenomenology of consciousness, drawing from a multitude of disciplines, but always stemming from his background in the humanities as a scholar of Rilke’s poetry. Our conferences tend to blend poetic explorations and consciousness studies with rigorous academic presentations across academic fields. Members of the Gebser Society often arrive from different areas of study: communications, economics, law, architecture, religious studies, and philosophy, to name a few. Membership is open to anyone who wishes to join and involves a small fee (discounted for graduate and undergraduate students). You do not need to join the Society in order to attend the conference.

Some of participants may have encountered Jean Gebser’s name through the work of integral philosopher Ken Wilber, whose early writings and models were deeply influenced by Gebser’s thought. This is particularly relevant for attendees who live in the Boulder area, where an Integral Center dedicated to Wilber’s writings has been located for over a decade. There are some distinctions worth noting between the two philosopher and their approaches. If you would like to get a better sense of Gebser’s work, here is a link to a biobibliography for Gebser written by former Gebser Society President Aaron Cheak. This essay traces some of Gebser’s influences and explorations, including his encounter with the integral structure of consciousness in the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. You will also find some interesting information about Gebser in this informational overview on Gebser’s thought created by current Gebser Society President Jeremy Johnson (direct link to part 1 & part 2 here).

Our theme for the 2018 conference is “Gebser and Asia: Theory, Practice, Engagement,” a theme that we chose in conjunction with Naropa’s tradition and contemplative education vision. In fact, the event is being co-sponsored by Giovannina Jobson and Naropa’s Contemplative Practices Office. You can view the full conference description here. If you would like to view past conference proceedings, you can access those at this link.

We plan to offer an introductory session to Gebser’s work during the weekend, and we will also offer experiential activities interspersed between the panel presentations throughout the event and starting on Thursday afternoon. The conference activities will go through Sunday afternoon.  Our conferences tend to be small, so the supportive and intimate setting allows for lots of good conversations and connections to happen over the course of the weekend.

Here’s a handout with more information on travel, lodging, and attractions in the Boulder area to help you plan for the event. If you sign up to receive updates using the registration link below, we’ll email you a draft of the conference program around the first of October.

Please let us know if you have any questions.


The Conference Planning Team

48th Annual Jean Gebser Society Conference

Nalanda Campus (Room 9235) // Naropa University
Boulder, Colorado // October 12–14, 2018

The 48th Annual Gebser Society Conference: GEBSER AND ASIA

48th Annual Jean Gebser Society Conference
Naropa University // Boulder, Colorado // October 12–14, 2018

In 1961, Jean Gebser’s peregrinations in consciousness led him to visit parts of Asia, including India, Nepal, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Japan, and China. While in Sarnath, India—the place where Buddha delivered his first sermon some 2,500 years ago—Gebser had an unexpected and significant experience of satori, a kind of Buddhist awakening experience which resonated with his previous writing on aperspectival consciousness. At the same time that Gebser was experiencing and integrating this awakening in Sarnath, the Tibetan Buddhist master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was in exile in Northern India teaching Buddhist monks. While Gebser was heading toward further journeys in the East and writing a book on Asia (Asien Lächelt Anders / Asia Smiles Differently), Trungpa was heading to the West to study at Oxford University, which propelled him into an innovative career of teaching and writing about Buddhism in North America. In 1974, Trungpa founded Naropa University, a Buddhism-inspired center of learning which draws from both Eastern and Western traditions and aims to integrate rigorous academics, contemplative practices, meditation practices, experiential learning, artistic expression, social justice, and cultural creativity.

For the 48th Annual Conference of the Jean Gebser Society, we seek proposals for presentations that address theoretical, practical, and engaged approaches to Gebser, especially in relation to Asian thinkers and traditions. The 2018 Conference will draw on the resources of Naropa University to bring together the uniqueness of our Colorado location along with joining Asian and western approaches and methodologies.

Here are some themes that conference presenters will be exploring.

  • How are we to understand the relationships between the awarings of Gebser and various Asian traditions and thinkers, such as Buddhist traditions, Taoist philosophers, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, D.T. Suzuki, Trungpa Rinpoche, Georg Feuerstein, Anagarika Govinda, and others—in the 21st century?

  • How might Asian meditative and contemplative practices help us access, explore, and integrate the Gebserian structures of awareness? What methodologies might help us to access what Gebser expresses as aperspectival awaring, diaphainon, synairesis, and achronon?

  • In 1963, Thích Nhất Hạnh developed the notion of Engaged Buddhism. The essence of Engaged Buddhism is the integration of insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings with actions taken in fields of environmental, social, political, and economic injustice and suffering. What are some of these insights? What does Engaged Buddhism bring to life in the aperspectival world? What does an Engaged Gebserian approach look like? How can Buddhist approaches benefit from Gebser’s work and vice versa?

  • Presentations reflecting complementary or other themes in Gebser’s work and life

Image source: Wikimedia Commons, “Himalayas.jpg”

For more information about the event, please see this page.